I don’t really feel like writing right now. In fact, I don’t really feel like doing anything. My eyes are practically swollen shut, and I’m suffering from a crying hangover. And I haven’t slept hardly at all in the last twenty-four hours. Last night a client’s dog died in my arms.
I’d only known her for a day. Just a day. But she made an impression on me. She was little and sweet and cute and loved to cuddle and liked to lay in the sun. Her tags jingled so we’d know her four-pound body was approaching. And she had a heart condition. We just didn’t know how bad.
She was walking along and she just keeled over. She let out two little yelps. I thought she just passed out, as her owners said she might, so I laid next to her and pet her and told her it would be okay. I didn’t mean to lie. I stroked her head, and she laid there, breathing, and then she seemed to stop breathing. I didn’t think it could be. I told her “no,” but she did not obey. She just kept on not breathing. So I started CPR. And she just kept not breathing. And her heart stopped beating. I picked her up and she twitched. I held her and told her “no” again. She twitched a couple more times, giving me hope, and then she just went limp. And she didn’t come back from that. I tried to breathe into her mouth again, but she didn’t come back. I gave her a pat and a shake and told her “no” once more, but, still, she didn’t listen.
We called the vet, the emergency vet, and my friend and client, who is a vet tech, but there wasn’t an emergency to help with any more because she was gone.
Before I married my husband, I told him “we’re going to have lots of pets, but I can’t do the dying part, so you have to be the one to handle that.” He still married me, thank goodness, and he has kept to his word. He tried CPR, but I told him to stop. So he wrapped her in a soft towel and held her for me while I cried and while the kids cried. And he took care of her body for me while I made the necessary phone calls to her owners, my unbelievably supportive vet tech client friend, and he held her body while I went for a short walk, just to clear my head.
My head is not clear. I still can’t believe it. I want to rewind. I know I can’t change it, but I want a rewind anyway. I always wanted to be a vet but opted out because of the sorrow. As a pet sitter, I didn’t think I’d ever have to hold a client’s dog in her last moments. What are the odds? I only knew her for a day.
All the pictures I took of her yesterday keep popping up. I keep thinking about yesterday, before it was like this.
I’ll never forget Mona Chica and how she died in my arms last night.
I’ve been taking care of Ava almost every weekday for the past two years. Her family adopted her from a local poodle rescue. Huh? Does this look like a poodle?
Since Ava’s ancestry was a complete mystery, her family decided to have a DNA analysis done. Their veterinarian offered the convenience of doing the blood draw for the test during her regular appointment and sent it to Wisdom Panel for analysis. Though there are less expensive options, Ava’s mom, Maura, liked the convenience of doing it right there at the vet. She paid $125.00. Maura explained that there are at-home testing options that use saliva that some people may prefer.
Though DNA testing is not medically necessary, it sure is fun! Ava’s family was simply curious of their rescue dog’s origins so they decided to proceed with the analysis.
Wisdom Panel’s report was nine pages of detailed information about Ava, including “Breed Detection,” “Breed Appearance & Behavior,” “Appearance, Behavior & History,” and “Sharing Your Dog’s Story.”
Ava’s mix was declared to be an “American Eskimo Dog Mix crossed with Yorkshire Terrier/Chihuahua cross.” Huh? The only thing I see in her is possible Chihuahua. Good thing the report goes into detail.
The next page went on to detail what “Mixed Breed” means for Ava:
And there we see the poodle in her! It makes me think that maybe I might have a bit of poodle in me, too! It’s pretty cool to be able to see in such detail what Ava’s background is.
I asked Maura what she thought of the results. She said, “I was surprised that her great grandparents and grandparents could be American Eskimo Dogs. I was not surprised to see Terrier, Chihuahua, or Dachshund in her history.”
I would have to agree with Maura. I was pretty shocked to see the American Eskimo Dog make an appearance.
Ava’s report went on to explain the Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, and American Eskimo Dog breeds in detail and suggested possible traits of these breeds that her family might see in her.
So how does this all work? Wisdom Panel said,
The process started when you sent a sample to our laboratory, where the DNA was extracted from the cells and examined for the 321 markers that are used in the test. The results for these markers were sent to a computer that evaluated them using a program designed to consider all of the pedigree trees that are possible in the last three generations. The trees considered include a simple pedigree with a single breed (a likely pure-bred dog), two different breeds at the parental level (a first-generation cross), all the way up to a complex tree with eight different great-grandparent breeds allowed.
Our computer used information for over 225 breeds, varieties, and types from our breed database to fill these potential pedigrees. For each of the millions of combinations of ancestry trees built and considered, the computer gave each a score representing how well that selected combination of breeds matched to your dog’s data. The pedigree with the overall best score is the one that is shown on the ancestry chart. Only breeds that reached our set confidence threshold for reporting are reported in the ancestry chart.
Maura was really happy that she satisfied her curiosity in having the DNA analysis done. Some may argue “I love my dog. Who cares what she is?” Well, of course we love our dogs no matter what, but knowing what is in their background may give us the opportunity to better care for our pets. And despite even that, it sure is fun!
Report provided by Ava’s family.
Fireworks. Spectacular celebratory tools of our nation’s independence, or an annual source of terror?
Fireworks can be so stressful for some dogs that their owners are house-bound during one of the best get-out-and-enjoy-summer events of the year, the 4th of July. And the fireworks don’t even have to be nearby. Some dogs completely freak out over fireworks miles and miles away that we humans can’t even hear. Remember that their hearing is more sensitive than ours.
I’ve posted first-hand accounts about the success the ThunderShirt had for Jack and Rex. Rex donned his ThunderShirt on the 4th of July last year and slept through a massive fireworks show less than a mile from his home. Jack will try his for the first time this year, but I believe his owner is so thrilled with the results they’ve achieved so far, that she might just dress Jack in his 4th of July party suit and head out for a night on the delta (so we may have to ask the neighbors how he did).
The ThunderShirt calms pet fears by “hugging.” It seems silly and too simple, but it works. Why can’t you just hug your pet and save yourself some money? Because you are anxious when your pet is anxious, and your own anxiety is transferred to your pet. So you’d just be compounding the problem.
Check out this compilation of before & after results…amazing!
Again and again, the steady pressure of the ThunderShirt seems to work for so many. What a wonderful natural alternative to “doggie downers,” which so many pet owners have had to resort to. Considering that the shirt comes with a 100% money-back guarantee, it seems silly not to give it a try this 4th of July.
You can order ThunderShirt online, or you can purchase it in most pet stores in time for the fireworks.
I started my inquiry about the ThunderShirt because I’d simply heard so many positive things about it, and I wanted to see for myself. The more I experience the Thundershirt, the better I feel about it. Have you used ThunderShirt? I’d love to hear about it!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ThunderShirt in exchange for my honest opinion.
After learning how great the ThunderShirt worked for Rex, I had to see for myself. Since my own pooch is anxiety-free unless a butterfly tries to invade the garden, I recruited a helper. My mother-in-law has one of the most anxious dogs I know.
Jack is a four-year-old Queensland Heeler/Short-haired Pointer mix with a difficult past. After being abandoned in a shelter as a pup, he was adopted and abused. He found a new, safer, happier home, but his high energy became a problem for another dog in the house who was suffering with health issues. In addition, gardeners at a neighboring home would tease him with their blowers through an open fence. It just wasn’t a good fit.
Jack finally found his forever home with Tena, who has given him both loving comfort and solid training. She’s spent hours with him in obedience school and has discovered that he’s quite brainy. He passed with flying colors. But, like Rex, though Jack can behave, he still suffers from anxiety.
“Jack is the most loyal, loving, wonderful house dog I have ever had, but his frantic running back and forth along my fence line with incessant, loud barking every time a gardener is in the neighboring yard is a huge problem.”
Since Tena’s property borders a condo complex that requires a lot of maintenance, this gardening occurs four days a week. Soon after Jack arrived at his new home, neighbors started to complain. Tena knew something had to be done, both for the neighbors and for Jack. And for her own sanity.
I suggested the ThunderShirt to Tena because I’d heard great things about it. She was skeptical, naturally, as anyone would be of a daughter-in-law who frequently comes up with hair-brained plans to save animals. Even after I had the ThunderShirt sent to her house, she was hesitant. “I was a doubter,” she now admits. I finally convinced her to give it a shot. “To get Jack used to (the ThunderShirt), I put it next to his blanket on the couch and in the laundry basket with my clothes,” she reported.
Then it got real.
The next door neighbor began mowing his lawn, and Jack exploded into a barking rage. Tena managed to get Jack inside. She put on the ThunderShirt, admittedly too loose. Jack was so out of control that it was extremely difficult to get the shirt on. Still, “Jack immediately calmed down. He stopped panting and pacing and just laid down,” Tena said.
The next time the gardeners came, Tena did a better job of getting the ThunderShirt on, fitting it snugly, as instructed. Tena was amazed:
“Jack went to sleep! When he woke up, I let him outside, and the gardner was still working. Jack barked about two times, then came right back in. I am so impressed! I never thought there would be a solution to this problem.”
Testing fate, the next time the gardeners came, Tena decided to put the shirt on Jack, then take it off a few minutes later. “He went back to panting and pacing!”
Tena plans to keep using the shirt in times of high-anxiety for Jack. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it, and now that I’m convinced that the ThunderShirt really works, I’m curious as to how it works. Stay tuned.
Bonus in all of this: Perhaps Tena will subscribe to more of my hair-brained schemes in the future.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ThunderShirt in exchange for my honest opinion.
There’s a lot to be afraid of in this world.
I have heard amazing things about the ThunderShirt. Though I’m thankful my dog does not suffer from anxiety issues, I really wanted to find out what all the buzz is about. The product line has expanded since the company’s inception, but their flagship product is the ThunderShirt for dogs, which, according to thundershirt.com,
uses gentle hugging to calm your dog or cat. With its patented design, ThunderShirt’s gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs and cats if they are anxious, fearful or overexcited. Based on surveys completed by over two thousand customers, over 80% of dogs and cats show significant improvement in symptoms when using ThunderShirt. ThunderShirt is already helping hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats around the world and is recommended by thousands of veterinarians and trainers. How does ThunderShirt work? Experts believe that pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system, possibly by releasing a calming hormone like endorphins. Using pressure to relieve anxiety in people and animals has been a common practice for years.
Could it be true? I asked around, and one of my clients, Leah, was happy to sing ThunderShirt’s praises. She rescued her pooch, Rex, from a year of neglect, where he had very little contact with people, and no contact with other animals. Since it was the first year of his life, she had to start over with him. “While he is very intelligent,” she explained, “the world doesn’t quite make sense to him.” Leah helped Rex become happier and healthier, but there were still things that scared him and caused him stress. She sought the help of a behaviorist who taught Rex coping techniques that he used–and still uses–to his benefit. The techniques helped Rex work through the stress, but the stress, itself, was still there. Leah decided to try the ThunderShirt to minimize Rex’s stress. She admits that she was skeptical, but was familiar with the use of pressure vests for people with autism, so she was willing to give it a try. She started by putting it on Rex for brief periods absent of stress, and by the second or third time she put it on him (calling it his “shirt” each time), he was comfortable with it. Soon after, a large monsoon–a major stressor for Rex–rolled through. Leah noticed Rex beginning to get anxious, so she asked him if he wanted to wear his “shirt.” He gave her his “yes” response. Leah explained,
He calmed down long enough for me to slip the ThunderShirt onto him…it didn’t seem to be helping. However, when I asked him if he wanted me to take off his ‘shirt’ and started to take it off, he gave me his ‘no’ response…After the storm had passed, he positioned himself as he had when I put the vest on him, clearly ready for it to be removed, so I asked him if he wanted me to take his ‘shirt’ off, and got a ‘yes.’
As monsoon season goes here in the Phoenix area, she soon experienced a similar situation with Rex. She saw even more improvement when using the ThunderShirt.
The third monsoon of the season approached, and, this time, Rex recognized the benefit of the ThunderShirt, himself. He found his “shirt” and brought it to Leah, asking her for help. Leah reported that it didn’t calm him 100%, but she saw definite improvement.
She started putting the ThunderShirt on Rex whenever there was a stress trigger. He really liked wearing his “shirt” at these times, as tightly as Leah could get it. She reported that if it wasn’t tight enough, “he would stay put, waiting for me to fix it.” Smart guy!
Then New Year’s Eve rolled around. Leah recalled,
Fireworks are one of the things that stress him out, and between the various local fireworks (shows) and neighbors with fireworks, there were BOOMS galore. At first, I had forgotten to put his ThunderShirt on him, and he was very stressed. He was running laps of stress through the house, barking and generally agitated. Once I remembered…I asked him if he wanted his ‘shirt’ and got a ‘yes!’ So I grabbed his ThunderShirt and put it on him. He gave me a big kiss and laid down on the sofa next to me, and within a few minutes, he was enjoying a nice calm nap, as the fireworks continued.
Rex continues to have success with his Thundershirt. After hearing his story and others, I decided I wanted to see for myself. Stay tuned.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ThunderShirt in exchange for my honest opinion.
Some animals I meet stay in my heart long after their need for my care is over. I can’t say exactly why. I love all of the animals I see (well, maybe there have been a couple I could have done without), but we all have our favorites, no matter how awful that is to admit. There is just this different kind of bond that occurs with some.
Sadie is one of those for me. She passed away some time ago, but I truly think of her every day.
Sadie was an eleven-year-old Shar-pei when her parents, June and Ron, called upon me to care for her while they would go out of town. Their home was perfectly kept, save for a border of dots and smears about a foot and a half up the wall all around their home. They were the markings Sadie made with her nose as she navigated her surroundings. Sadie was blind.
Sadie’s dad, Ron, told me about how they were reluctant to take Sadie on when they first saw her, and she wasn’t blind then. They were not considering another pet at the time. Isn’t that how it always goes? Ron and June gave in to Sadie’s charms when some friends brought her to them as a six-week-old puppy. “That night little Sadie just snuggled up to June and did not want to leave,” Ron recalled. “We figured this was an omen and agreed to make her part of our family.”
Ron explained that though Sadie was “truly a great dog and caused very little problems,” there was that one incident with his father’s toupée. Oh, and a separate incident with a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. She was special, but not immune to common canine temptations.
Sadie acquired SARDS and lost her eyesight rapidly. She learned to swim out of necessity, after falling in the pool on several occasions. She adapted to new surroundings after a couple of moves, but when the family moved to Estrella, “she was very disoriented most of the time. Sometimes she couldn’t find her way out and had to relieve herself inside. Other times she did find her way out, but could not find her way back in, and the 100+ degree weather would just wear her out,” reflected Ron. “After two months of watching her fade…we decided that the best thing would be to put her down.” Ron and June stayed with her until after she took her final breath. Her ashes were scattered in a field in northern Arizona amongst the flowers “where she could chase butterflies until we join her.”
When I first met Sadie, I didn’t think we’d connect very well. There was no sparkle in her eyes that happy, excited dogs usually get when they meet me. No panting, toothy smile. Just a droopy head and sad face. I thought she was smart and brave, but cautious. She knew where to find her food and water and where her doggie door was. She knew where the main pieces of furniture were, and she could navigate mostly without bumping into much, though it would make me sad if she’d miss a doorway or get stuck in a corner, confused, which would happen on occasion. And I would feel terribly guilty if I pulled a chair out to sit and saw her bump into it.
Sadie taught me how to interact with her, and every time I was with her, I learned a bit more. She loved to be pet, but a sudden pat on the head could be quite startling for her because she couldn’t see it coming. I learned that if I told her I was going to pet her, she wouldn’t flinch quite as bad, and if I kept my hand in contact with her, she quite enjoyed the attention.
Sadie knew where the furniture was, but she didn’t always know where I was, so I learned to talk to her as I went about my business of filling her water bowl or scooping her poop in the back yard. That way, she could stand securely next to me and enjoy the company rather than be apprehensive about the possibility of bumping into me. I’d sound pretty silly chattering on about nothing, but we all act embarrassingly silly around our pets, right? RIGHT? Well, Sadie liked it, anyway.
She knew exactly where her doggie door was. Right next to the master bedroom slider. I would exit out the slider to clean the yard and hang out in the sun with her. Although I’d open the glass door wide and call to her, an opportunity not to be missed by a sighted dog, she’d still use her doggie door, a behavior of hers that always made me giggle.
She seemed to like me more and more as the months passed. She relaxed around me. And though I never saw that happy smile I longed for, she just seemed warmer, like she was smiling on the inside.
My main challenge with Sadie became filling the time. My pet sitting visits are about an hour in length, time usually spent taking a walk or playing fetch, activities too challenging for Sadie’s condition. So I started bringing whatever novel I was reading at the time, and I’d sit and pet her while I read. I noticed that once I became quiet, stopping my chatter to read, Sadie would lose interest in me and wander off to be alone. But there’s only so much you can chat about with a dog. So I started reading to her. I’d sit on the floor and start reading my book out loud. Instead of wandering off, She’d cock her head to the side and settle in next to me, sometimes even putting her head in my lap. The best way I can describe the experience is bonding. Just simple bonding. That type of intimacy is pretty special.
I often think of these reading times with Sadie. She didn’t seem to have a preference for fiction or nonfiction. She didn’t mind crude humor or historical diatribes. She liked it all, as long as she could hear me. Sometimes, now, when I sit down with a good book, I think of Sadie and wish her sweet little wrinkled head would be there to lay my hand upon and not let go.
My husband, (Big) Brennen, is thankful that I am a professional pet sitter because it satisfies my craving to bring all strays home. Before caring for animals was my primary vocation, I wanted to adopt and nurse every living thing I came across, the canine variety being my biggest weakness. Although I still love to help animals, I have become a bit more practical and can now survive without making each one of them mine.
In September of 2005, just two months after we relocated to Phoenix from California, I found a little dog. B, my then-eight-year-old step-son, was my willing accomplice in acquiring her. We entered a local pet store innocently enough. All we needed was food for our dog, Kermit. A rescue group had set up shop, so I couldn’t resist checking out the goods (I’ve since learned not to go to pet stores on adoption days). They had only pit bull terriers, as far as I could see, all sweet as could be. The rescue volunteer explained that all of them had come from the gulf coast area, part of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. During that time and for many months afterward, homeless and displaced animals were sent around the country in search of homes. B and I soaked it in.
There was a sharp, quiet scratching sound that didn’t seem to belong. Something coming from a small crate on the floor. I bent down and was startled to see an adult rat in the crate. A very active rat…bouncing around in a blur. “She came from the gulf, too, with these bigger guys,” explained the volunteer. “She can hold her own, but we have to keep her separate, just in case. She seems to really like you. Would you like to hold her?”
B and I looked at each other. “Okay.” We were unified.
What she pulled out of the crate was not actually a rat, but the smallest, poorest excuse for a dog we had ever seen. She had golden wiry fur and needle claws. She wiggled so much I could hardly hold her. After a brief exchange, we put her back in her crate and thanked the volunteer. Off we went, in search of kibble.
Neither of us could resist one more peek before departing. It was a bit like a circus freak show. Such a tiny little devil, she was. As we approached for the second time, the scratching started again. “She really just sits there, usually,” said the volunteer. “She really likes you.” We observed her, but didn’t take her out again. “It’s like she’s chosen us,” B said.
I told the volunteer that we were interested in adopting her. What? Did that just come out of my mouth? I called Big. “No. No. No. Let’s stop and think about this. No,” is what he said.
I’ve never been one to take no for an answer. On Sunday, I called the volunteer, and she said she’d be back to the pet store on Tuesday, and she’d bring the little rat.
On Tuesday evening, we selected the tiniest collar and thinnest leash (so as not to drag her neck down), and then collected our new dog. “THAT’S IT?” Big said when he saw her for the first time. “No. No. No. That is not a dog. It’s a rat. No.” I reminded him that he’d already said yes. “But that was before I saw it,” was the excuse he gave. “This is insane. No way.”
Yes, way. We drove her home in my lap, Big shaking his head and sighing in disgust the whole way. “Fine. But I get to name her,” he declared. Whatever.
He was decisive. “N.A.S.H.A.”
“No, that’s too princess-y,” I argued. “You want a sissy name for such a little dog?”
“That’s just the point,” he said. “It sounds like a Russian princess, but it means something more. It’s an acronym.”
“Not A Siberian Husky Again.” You see, all my husband ever wanted was a Siberian Husky, and I keep bringing home just the opposite. The uglier and more freakish the dog, the more I like it.
“Okay,” I agreed. “N.A.S.H.A. it is.”
N.A.S.H.A. did have a little bit of the devil in her. She was actually, truly, an ankle-biter. And she actually, truly, drew blood with her needle teeth. So we all went around sopping blood up off the carpet behind us. You could hold her sitting in the palm of your hand, yet she could do more damage to the veins in your feet than a knife attack could. Big hated her, but he bought her a little pink furry coat as winter approached.
And she then acquired a vital accessory: her forever collar.
We were living in a furnished apartment, waiting for our home to be built, when N.A.S.H.A. became part of our family. She was relatively potty trained, thank goodness. Despite this, a few weeks after she came, we kept smelling the very distinct aroma of dog poop in our master bedroom. We searched closets, corners, and under the bed. Sometimes the tide would swell, then fade again, but to some degree, it was always present. Big and I each accused the other of having a medical issue that needed attention, and each of us denied it.
One afternoon while we were making the bed, we lifted the box spring and it sort of fell back down onto the bed frame. We noticed a bit of dried poop under the bed. Unfortunate as it was, we had a sense of relief. At last, some evidence. We weren’t nuts! Big went to dispose of the pile and noticed that there was a small tear in the fabric in the bottom of the box spring. Hm. Odd. He investigated to see how badly it was torn. When he did, another pile of poop appeared on the carpet below the tear. “What the f(¢%?”
He tossed the mattress and turned over the box spring (insert horror movie climax audio track). Our Russian princess had deposited her droppings inside our box spring, climbing up inside through the hole she created each time she felt the urge, then dropping back out, an innocent, for weeks. We both gagged. Words were said. The entire bottom fabric from the box spring was removed. We soon. Moved. Out.
Since that most develish and plotted act, N.A.S.H.A. has improved. In fact, you’d never believe it, but now, at nearly eight years old, she’s become almost angelic.
She was spayed when she came to us, but she’s still a mama. She has the heart of a mother and probably should have had her own litter. Several years ago, she nursed a family friend’s tri-colored Collie. Mr. Shane. He travelled to see us for Thanksgiving, but he couldn’t quite navigate the stairs to sleep with his mom. Though N.A.S.H.A. had never spent the night out of a human bed since she came to us, she chose to stick by him on the lower level, on alert. Whenever Shane tried to get up, she was right there, ready to break his fall, should his comparatively gigantic body falter. She accompanied him outside and to the water bowl. She didn’t leave him alone for a moment. She knew the end was near.
She also attended to the babies when they were born, creating a bolster on their sides so they wouldn’t roll off the couch before they could roll, and making sure they got their share of french kisses, helping to build their immune systems.
And for Kermit, she was a hero. Her older “brother” fell quite ill with Addison’s Disease. She could sense if he was going to pass out, and she’d let us know by frantically scurrying around him moments before. And when Kermit developed a non-specific seizure disorder, she would lick his eyes for about forty-eight hours before his seizure cycle would begin. Her mysterious diagnostic abilities have amazed us.
In general, she’s a ten-pound seven-year-old puppy of unknown terrier lineage. She’s scrappy. She’s yappy. She’ll bark at the wind. She loves sprinklers, waterfalls, and water gun fights, but will only swim if her life depends on it. Her favorite toy is “sock toe,” which is literally a sock toe that was cut off B’s soccer sock for some long-since-forgotten school project. She throws it up in the air to herself and catches it, and the whole family protects it for her as one would a toddler’s blankie. She punches me in the leg when she wants a treat. She always looks dirty and tangled, even if she’s just been groomed. She loves to kiss on the mouth. If you come over, you will be hers. She will insist on laying in your lap or up against your leg, and she will demand to nuzzle in your neck. She prefers males. Especially Big. The guy that got her that furry little pink coat and the forever devil collar.