When it gets quiet

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My sisters would often say, “it’s when it gets quiet, really quiet, that is when you know the kids are up to something!”  Yup, that’s when you tip-toe to the door and listen, eavesdropping to hear what they are saying and doing.  Hoping to catch them in the act, and then get ready to bust’em!  I think most parents would agree.

Malcolm and I would do the same.  Quietly investigating whatever the dogs were doing, checking if they were up to any mischief.  Tip-toeing so the girls can’t hear us coming.  Quietly checking out what they were doing. Being sneaky ourselves.

Usually it was Tiamo, our Momma dog, counter surfing the kitchen for food.  We would stand off to the side, out of her line of vision, watching her sniff along the counter edges. Quiet as a mouse, she was smart enough to check to see if we were in the room, her eyes scanning for humans. If the scent was enticing enough, she would balance her front paws on the edge of the granite counter top and start licking up the crumbs.  When the crumbs were out of her reach, a paw would stretch out to snatch the tasty tidbits.  We have lost a several pounds of hamburger to her tactics.  And cheese.  And pumpkin bread.  To be honest, not much was sacred when it came to Tiamo and her paw’s reach onto the counters.  It was a sport for her and she was a crafty bitch.  We would hold back our chuckles at her antics as we reprimanded her.  She knew better, just like my nieces and nephews.

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Tiamo, our Momma

Amore wasn’t quite as subtle as Tiamo.  When Amore ran out to the pen in a hurry, we knew to check out the window to see what was tightly gripped in her muzzle.  She had this belief that if she can’t see us, then we won’t know what she is up to.  Her brand of quiet was “out-of-sight-out-of-mind”.  Socks, shoes, dish towels, hot pads, books,  mail, magazines, packaging, even Malcolm’s heavy winter coat, if she could hold it in her mouth, she could and often would, drag it out to the dog pen.  If you only had one half of a pair, the matching other half was most likely outside.  If it was missing, we checked the pen first.  Amore’s quiet brought us to the pen every time.  She would grin her silly dog grin, her eyes glowing, thinking she had pulled a fast one on us. Ha! I truly don’t think Amore really had a quiet side.  Her nature was more blatant, in your face, silly.  Her love of life was just too loud.

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Our loud, wild girl, Amore

When Malcolm and I reminisce about Tiamo and Amore, we laugh about their escapades.  It’s hard to stay too upset when they got such enjoyment out of their misdeeds.  When their eyes would sparkle over what they thought they were “getting away with”.  Both Tiamo and Amore knew better, but they still tried.  Our quiet-radar got’em every time.

But Dolce’s quiet wasn’t like Tiamo’s or Amore’s.

Dolce’s quiet was different.

Throughout her life, Dolce quietly withstood surgery after surgery. She quietly balanced on three legs as she learned to adapt in a new world without her front leg.  She quietly took her chemo medicine and she quietly accepted she would no longer be able to jump on the couch or the bed.  She knew her days of cuddling with me were over.  Dolce quietly bore the pain of cancer until she couldn’t.   And then, Malcolm and I knew it was time to give her sweet, sweet heart its own quiet.

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Our sweet, sweet Dolce

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Dolce and her apples

Dolce’s quiet hurts. Her quiet squeezes the heart and bleeds it dry. Her quiet is the silence of no longer having her in our lives.  Her quiet is the emptiness of a home without her in it.  Her quiet is this ache in our souls that hasn’t had enough time to ease.

One by one our beautiful girls live’s have  quieted to silence.  The thump of their tails against the wall muted until our memories can’t even recall the sound.  Their loud and noisey barks to announce a car in the driveway have gone mum.  Their paws against the brick floors silenced, the jingle of their dog tags toneless.  We don’t hear the dog door swish, or the sound of their heavy breathing as they sleep.  Anymore.  We don’t hear hear our girls anymore.

Our house is quiet.  Too quiet. Painfully quiet.

And yet, the quiet is pronouncedly loud without our girls in our lives.

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Heading home – together

 

 

God of Frolic

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They say the dog is the God of Frolic.

If you have ever been a parent of a canine, you already know this is true.  Dogs frolic.  They  play, dance, shimmy, romp and rollick.  They tease, joke and prank. They frolic.

Take Amore for instance…..

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It started at a young age!

At a young age, Amore’s sense of frolic made its first appearance.  Amore was born to frolic. Her favorite antic was teasing Malcolm.  That dog was all about Malcolm.

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Amore in the middle – the instigator!

If Malcolm was prepping to sit down on the couch, Amore would quickly jump into his spot.  Refusing to move, rolling over and playing dead.  If Malcolm moved to another spot, Amore would follow.  When  Malcolm finally made it to the couch, Amore was right besides him, playfully pawing his book or newspaper for attention.  Malcolm’s job was to scratch and rub her belly, not read.

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He can have the couch if I’m on top

When Malcolm was ready for bed, Amore would jump up on the mattress to deny access.  She would move to where ever Malcolm stood, interfering with his efforts to pull back the covers.  She would romp back and forth, keeping Malcolm from crawling into bed, this silly grin on her face as she played her game.  Malcolm would dodge to the left, Amore would tag to her right.  A swift bluff around the foot of the bed only encouraged her.  Pillows were squashed, blankets were pawed into a big mess.  Her high jinks were entertaining for me – exasperating for Malcolm. It was a nightly routine until she crashed for the evening.

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Playing is exhausting

Loading up in the SUV – another fun prank for Amore.  Tailgate down, Malcolm would call for the girls to jump up. Dolce, always the sweetheart, would leap right in and head for her fave spot in the car. Amore would come running flat-out and at the last second circumvent the back-end to run around the vehicle.  The chase was on.  Every time.  And Malcolm encouraged it, allowing extra time when leaving the house so Amore could have her joy. Her frolic.  Once in the car, passengers were warned they would be sharing.

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Riding shotgun in the Berner bus!

Amore had no boundaries.  Your lap was her seat.  She didn’t step over you, but on you.  She didn’t run up to you, she ran you over.  Your space was hers.  It was never a dominance issue, she just liked to be on top, milking the love and hugs. Where ever you were, she was.

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100 lbs. of dog

Maddening? Yes.  Tiresome? Absolutely.  But there was no denying the happiness in her eyes as she played us.  The sparkle of fun always shined bright in her eyes.  There was no disputing the joviality she showed or the entertainment she provided.  Amore was the epitome of frolic.

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Amore was that type of dog that just loved life.  Why walk when you can run.  Why do a slow trot, if speeding through the day is more fun.  To Amore, it was all about the fun.  Days were just an euphoria of doggy shenanigans and canine frolic.  Just shy of being naughty, just on the left side of being spoiled, Amore always  ‘got-away’ with it.  She was that dog that lit up a room when she ran in to do her drive-by.  She had a presence you couldn’t deny.  She brought laughter to our hearts. There just wasn’t a serious bone in her, well, unless she was napping.

Hell bent for leather

Hell bent for leather!

 

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goofy girl!

It’s been enlightening to watch her sense of humor develop over the years.   At 9 1/2 years she still loved to tease and taunt Malcolm.  Throughout her years, she badgered him, poking her muzzle and then her paw to get a reaction. She knew which buttons to push, which mischievous ploy to pull on him. Then she would curl up along side of him, content to rest her head on his shoulder as Malcolm took a nap.

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Last month, Amore unexpectedly passed away.  Our little girl, whose life had been so full of fun, so full of frolic, was gone.  Her excited bark silenced.  Her sparkle dimmed. Her silly grin is now a memory, her pranks are now stories told and retold at dinners.  Our hearts hurt. It’s been hard, especially for Malcolm, who had a very special bond with Amore. It’s amazing how tight those paws wrapped around our hearts – we just don’t want to let go.  From day one, Amore stole our hearts as she peaked over the whelping pen, ready to take on Malcolm.

We miss her. We miss the jingle of her dog tags as she ran through the house.  We miss the pitter-patter of her paws across our brick floors.  The rattle of her dog bowl as she licked it clean at chow time.  The swish-swhoosh of the dog door flap as she entered and exited the dog pen.  We miss her 5:00 a.m. breakfast call, her tail whacking the wall as she came up to the bed to wake us. I even miss the muddy floors she bestowed upon us after a summer rain. God, we miss her.  Our Amore.

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After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

When we bring pets into our lives, we do so knowing their life span most likely will be shorter than ours. Especially Berners. I consider these past couple of years with Amore and Dolce bonus years for Malcolm and I.  Overtime.  The 10th inning.  Everyday was a joyful gift.   Everyday we are thankful for her unconditional love and loyalty. Everyday with her was free baseball.

We buried her in our garden under a juniper bush and beneath the stately branches of a  pinon tree.  One of her favorite spots to lay when Malcolm was working outside.  Her shade in the summer where she could watch the birds. Her lookout point while waiting for her opportunity to cause mischief.

I have no doubt Amore is up in Doggy Heaven frolicking in a green field of clover, stealing treats, creating havoc, and grinning with amusement – happy.  She is our God of Frolic.  Her smile will live forever in our hearts.

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The limp

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It started in July with a limp.

Well, a limp is nothing new to Malcolm and I.  Between Amore and a Dolce and all their combined surgeries, a limp is nothing.  When it comes to the girls, a limp can be caused by a multitude of things.  A bad landing when jumping out of the SUV.  An embedded cacti spine.  Arthritis.

It was a slight limp, no biggie.  Dolce still loved her walks, was still jumping up on the couch and scrambling off the bed.  Dolce still ran after Amore and ran in for dinner.  Her eyes still bright and full of life, it was nothing to be concerned over.  It was just a little noticeable.  Really, it was nothing.

It was a persistent limp.  Like a lingering cough, it just wouldn’t go away.  A vet visit determined it was macro-degerative joint disease or in common language, arthritis.  Not an unexpected diagnosis.  Dolce was a month shy of nine years and in Berner years, this is old.  After shoulder and leg surgeries in her puppy days, arthritis seemed not only plausible but a reasonable conclusion.  Nine years of over compensating on her driver’s side had created complications down the road.  Pain meds were prescribed, exercise was ordered, weight loss recommended.  All geared to help with her arthritis.  We were all over it.

But the limp didn’t go away and by the end of August the limp had worsened.  To the point where Dolce wasn’t putting any weight on her left paw.  Her load-bearing front leg was hitched up and held up, she refused to use it.  Her walks were shortened, her running subdued and awkward.  Dolce was hopping, not walking.  She was panting, not breathing normal.  Her eyes dull, not shiny. She was in pain.  Terrible pain.  Worried, Malcolm and I made an appointment for a Canine Physical Therapist.  A rehab specialist for dogs.  We knew how important it was for Dolce to use her leg, and it was obvious the arthritis had advanced.

One look at Dolce’s front paw and we were told to head straight to our vet.  Something wasn’t right.  Our worry turned into panic.  Another set of x-rays showed the bone configuration had changed.  It was time for a biopsy.

Biopsies are never fun. For neither the patient nor the parent.  Dolce needed to spend  time in the vet hospital, Malcolm and I needed to wait for the results.  We had an unknown. Arthritis is much easier to understand and comprehend.  Humans have arthritis.  Berners have bad hips, e.g., Hip Dysplasia. We could deal with arthritis – but this new unknown threw us off kilter.  We were unprepared.  The “what if’s” and “if so’s”  and “how do we’s” swirled in our heads.  Our discussions were geared around quality of life, and costs, and the unacceptable that neither one of us were willing to say out loud, but it stood out there like the ugly pink elephant in the room.  The only one not affected was Amore.  She was soaking up the attention, having us all to herself.  With one less child in the house, Amore was loving the extra love.  No sharing us, the couch and bed just for her.

It was the end of September when Malcolm called me at work.  I remember it was mid-afternoon and I had worked through lunch.  “Hon, you need to come over to Dr. Gruda’s.”  No hello.  Tersely spoken.  “Let me finish up what I’m working on and I’ll meet you over there.”  “No, honey, now!  I’m already there.”  Click.  Dr. Gruda has been the girls’ vet since he removed their dew claws at two days old.  He has been through every surgery, every sickness, every shot Dolce and Amore has had.  I headed his way.

Our waiting was over.  The biopsy confirmed Dolce had a cancerous tumor entwined between the bones of her left front paw.  On the driver’s side.  Our sweet, sweet Dolce had cancer.  The dreaded big “C”.  Our worse fears confirmed. We were devastated.  “Has it spread?”  “What does Dr. Gruda say?”  “What are our options?”

“Honey, we either amputate in the morning and start chemo ASAP, or Dr. Gruda needs to put her down this afternoon. We have to make a decision.  Now.”  There was no question in my heart as to what we should do, but there were so many more concerns to discuss.  Monetary issues being one of them. Surgery and chemo wasn’t going to be cheap.  Less than college but a whole lot more than braces would cost if we had kids. Does anyone want to put a price on a life? When does it become too much? Chemo treatments might only extend her life by 18 months or so. Was it worth the expense? Dolce had just turned nine.  With a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years, we were in her bonus years as it were.  What if her hips go out.  Or her other paw?  What if the cancer had spread? What if? What if? What if?  I was a wreck.  Malcolm was my rock.

With a deep breath and a choking gulp, I told Malcolm I wanted to amputate.  I wasn’t ready to let Dolce go.  I just couldn’t do it. My sweet, sweet baby was still good everywhere else.  She still had heart.  She still had three mostly good legs. We walked inside the vet’s office and signed the release.  I am thankful Malcolm felt the same.  Surgery was scheduled for early the next morning.

And just like that Dolce is now a three-legged canine.  Her limp turned into gimp.  Although in pain from the surgery, Dolce’s breathing evened out, her eyes went back to bright.  Dolce no longer suffered with pain.  My little trooper was a bit unsteady, wrapped in bandages and gauzes, and wobbling on three legs, but was able to come home a week later.

It’s been ten weeks since surgery.  We are on the last leg of chemo treatments and slowly building up Dolce’s stamina.  She is gaining her confidence back, growing stronger, and learning a new kind of balance. Her walks are longer and just this Thanksgiving weekend, she ran past us while out on the trail. A first.  She struggles with stairs with over two steps, and with positioning her back legs.  She still needs assistance getting up on the bed but can jump on the couch like an old pro.

All in all, she’s a healthy canine and is accepting of the circumstance.  We tease her and call her Peggy, Gimpy  and Tripod.  She jokes back with a push between our legs.

Its a new life.  For all of us. But we have our baby.

 

I’m serious here!

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if it falls on the floor, it's mine!

if it falls on the floor, it’s mine!

I often joke about our dogs in the kitchen.  Either their counter-surfing antics in the kitchen or their sneaky stealth of cookies and pumpkin bread off a cooling rack.  I add humor about Tiamo eating and then hiding the cream carton or the butter dish.  I laugh about Dolce doing a “drive-by” in the kitchen, searching for crumbs and tasty treats.  I jest about cooking and nibbles that fall to the floor.  As my cookbook title states, If it falls on the floor, all bets are off and it’s theirs!

My previous blog postings cite humorous and funny stories of Tiamo, Dolce and Amore fighting over food scraps.  I write about our life with three 100 pound Bernese Mountain dogs and attempt to inject humor, entertaining the reader.

But, on a serious note, there are many foods that are detrimental to a dog’s health and life.  I devote a whole page in the front of my cookbook on foods that should never, ever be given to your dog.  Today I want to emphasis the many foods canine need to avoid.   I’m serious here!

Please be careful when you allow your precious pets in the kitchen. With all the tasty treats we receive over the holidays from friends and family, it’s easy to leave something out on the counter, within easy grasp of a greedy muzzle.  Dogs believe in the two second rule.  You have less than two seconds (more like a nano-second) to recover anything that drops to the floor.  Once a dog has fixated on that treat, there is no stopping’em!  The smells, odors and scents of these treats are tantalizing to them.  In spades.  Have pity on our canine friends and remove the temptation.

You have my permission to re-post, and/or copy and paste the chart below.  I’m serious.  Pass it on!

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For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823