Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Goodbye, gentle buddy

Sunday, November 21st, 2010


Today, we accompanied Bo on his final trip to the vet. His condition had been deteriorating ever since he’d been diagnosed with bone cancer, and in recent days he became withdrawn and only a ghost of his normal exuberant self. He couldn’t sleep at night due to the pain. It was time.

Bo actually belonged to our neighbors Tim and Sally, but he always had a special place in our hearts, so we were honored to be invited to come with him today. Shortly after he moved in, a hole was cut in the fence so he could play with Keiko and visit when he wanted. He came over practically every day to play, go on walks, or relax with us in the evening. He looked after us and Powder like his own family, and we always looked forward to seeing him. The house seemed quiet and empty on days when he didn’t come. It seems empty now, and we miss him.

Shirley compiled some of our favorite pictures of Bo. They don’t do him justice, but check them out.

Farewell, my friend

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Today I was heartbroken to hear that tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Melvil. Mel’s been a regular in our house since we moved to Monmouth nine years ago. We’ve walked hundreds of miles together, played every game canines and humans enjoy at home and on the beach, and slept together more times than I can remember.

Shirley is pretty upset that she will miss getting to say goodbye to him by one day. But poor Mel is in pain all the time and just isn’t having any fun. He’s been doing poorly for a long time, so we knew this day was coming. But no matter how much advance warning you have, it still rips your heart out when the time actually comes.

Tonight, I had the privilege of getting to make him something special to eat. Proper dogs are not into fru fru stuff, and Mel is no exception. He dined on lamb shank cooked medium rare and seasoned with nothing more than a little olive oil, garlic, and salt. Mel has always been the canine epicurean, and he was up to the challenge of finishing the whole thing. He enjoyed chewing on the bone afterwards.

Tomorrow, I get to see him one last time. He’ll be at Minto Brown dog park around noon so if you know him, you should go. After that he will go wherever it is that all the best dogs go.

A growing girl

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Powder has really been growing fast. In the short time we’ve had her, she’s gone from being one of the smallest and shyest dogs at puppy class to one of the largest and most rambunctious. In this clip, she roughhouses with her new buddy, a lab/Rott mix named Charley. BTW, don’t be mislead by the still in the video. Charley is really a nice guy…

Winter is the best time for Powder

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

After giving the matter a lot of thought, Shirley and I decided we were finally ready for another dog. No dog will ever replace Keiko, but the house seems terribly empty despite Bo’s nightly visits. It just seems more like home when you have a dog.

We found Powder (shown here with Shirley) at Marion County Animal Control. Some knucklehead left her freezing in a barn covered with mud and fleas.

Since I’m a total sucker for black dogs and plenty of great ones can be found in the shelters, I wasn’t expecting to get a white one. But it was obvious that Powder is a special girl.

I’ve never even heard of a dog that played fetch as well as Keiko. Even after she went blind, she was very good at it if you used a ball with a rattle and used audio signals to guide her.

Despite her young age (animal control estimates her age around 8 weeks), she is off to a spectacular start. As you can see from this video (which was taken immediately before we even entered the house), her fetching skills are way above average.

Powder is a very bright girl. She is not housetrained, but she is already taking care of business outside and eating on command. She’s very sociable. We saw her sniffing a cat (as opposed to chasing it), and we think she’ll do well if we introduce her to lots of people and animals. She did well on her first walk. You can find pictures of her in my photo database if you type in the search “powder.”

Right now, she’s sleeping at my feet. I’m sure she’ll be ready for action very soon.

Keiko’s final trip to the beach

Monday, July 28th, 2008

This weekend, we scattered Keiko’s ashes at her favorite place to play in the whole world. It’s near the end of the beach just north of Manzanita, Oregon at the foot of Neahkannie Mountain. Even though we routinely played fetch until my arm was sore and she couldn’t stand, she always resisted when it was time to go home. Today, I let her stay to play in the sand and waves with all dogs and people who go there.

The walk down to the beach made me a little sad. This is the first time in 11 years that I’ve gone to the beach without Keiko, and I can say that she was with me at least 90% of the times I’ve been at any beach over the course of my entire life. Games of fetch and long walks may have been the highlight of her day, but I’m sure I enjoyed it every bit as much as she did. Saying goodbye to all of that is hard, but I felt a strange weight lift from my shoulders when we let her go for good.

The rest of the weekend went pretty well. I’m preparing for a tough ride next weekend, so I rode just shy of 100 miles along the coast to test my legs and equipment. Bad luck could shut me down, but I’m feeling good about my prospects.

Getting affairs in order

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Even if nothing had happened with Keiko, things would be unusually nutty. I’ve been out of town on work business for half of the past two weeks (with more time away planned), and I have some big rides coming up.

This weekend we’re taking Keiko’s ashes to the beach so she can be at her favorite place in the world. She always loved the beach and never wanted to come back, so we’ll take her to the area shown in this video. I doubt anyone watching it would guess she was 10 years old, blind, and very sick when that was taken unless they were told. On a related note, I’ve redone her slideshow so that it is shorter and has a better soundtrack.

While we’re at the beach, I’ll do a calibration ride for the Shasta Super Century. It will be interesting to see how that works out. On one hand, I’m riding much less than I have in the past and my cruising speeds are way down. However, I actually feel pretty good so I may be fine so long as I’m not in denial.

On weekdays, I try to to do something that will help me prepare, and every Saturday for the past 4 weeks, I’ve been climbing well over 10,000 feet by ascending Mary’s Peak three times. That may sound like a lot, but that level of preparation is barely adequate for the Shasta and marginal at best for the Everest Challenge.

However, I have some new wheels and gearing that should make a significant difference. Plus I have some ideas for how to motivate myself when things get difficult. On these tough rides, you need some strength and endurance, but it’s actually the mental part that’s hardest.

This makes things a little easier to accept

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

As you can imagine, Shirley and I are very upset over losing Keiko. The house is just so empty and it will never be the same again. Today, we don’t feel like doing anything, but one of the things I have been doing is looking at pictures of Keiko as well as the very few video clips of her.

Keiko was an incredibly strong dog, but her decline was gradual enough that we couldn’t see it ourselves. It wasn’t until I saw this video of her opening presents in January that I realized how bad things had gotten.

When this footage was taken, I was depressed because Keiko looked terrible and the energy just wasn’t there. Looking at it today, though, she looks great. She’s not her old wild self, but she’s playful and happy.

A few months earlier, but still after Keiko was given her terminally ill diagnosis, this video was taken. Keep in mind that this is only a short excerpt. No one watching this could guess she were sick or blind.

Especially over the past couple weeks, the spark had just been gone. She wouldn’t even get up when we came home from work or her favorite people visited. But since we’ve been through multiple instances where she recovered from the brink, we felt we had to give her a chance to recover. Seeing that video makes me glad we didn’t wait longer.

People have been very understanding and kind through this situation. Just in case you bump into one of us and aren’t sure what to say or do, just be your normal self. We remember Keiko fondly, and one of our favorite topics hasn’t suddenly become taboo. We want to dogsit for others because the happiness dogs carry with them is contagious.

And if you need us to help you with anything, we’re happy to. The only thing we shouldn’t do is stew in our own juices and go insane. Keiko is not the first dog I’ve lost to cancer. Almost 30 years ago, I was heartbroken when it took Nappy. I still think of her frequently just as I do of anyone or any great dog that’s touched my life.

Goodbye Keiko

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

It’s really late and in a few hours, I have to say goodbye to Keiko forever. I’m not even going to try to explain what that means to me. If you really need to know, one of the neighborhood girls asked me when it would stop hurting when she thought about her dog Squeaker (he passed away a few months ago).

I told her the truth. You get used to things and the past fades with time, but the pain never goes away completely. It’s not a matter living in the past, but understanding that once you lose something special and irreplaceable, all you can do is cherish the experience you had.

I’ve never believed in navigating the highway of life with one hand on the wheel, and Keiko’s full throttle attitude, her enthusiasm, and sense of fun made her popular with almost everyone. Despite being a very playful girl, she could be serious too. I’ve been in some pretty severe dogfights, but I will always be in awe of the raw power and focus she could summon when she thought we were in real danger. As Winston Churchill famously put it, what counts isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Anyway, I know nothing about videos, but here’s my first attempt ever to string together some pictures. The lyrics come from a different context, but if you ignore the first stanza, the message is surprisingly appropriate.

Knowing when to throw in the towel

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I enjoy challenging myself physically, so last weekend I went on a 200 mile bike ride. It just so happens that this ride passed a few blocks from our house so Bryan and I popped by for a short visit around mile 130.

I felt great all day, but around mile 170, one of my knees hurt so bad I couldn’t bend it without causing excruciating pain. I thought about bailing since abusing knees is a great way to permanently injure them, but when you’ve come that far, you really don’t want to quit. I popped some ibuprofen and tried to compensate with the other leg, but within a few miles, the extra strain led to massive cramps which forced me off the bike. Fortunately, it took only a few minutes for me to get a handle on the knee pain and continue to a good finish.

This ride worked out well, but the question still remains on how you know when it’s time to concede things won’t work out they way you hope. Anything worth doing requires perseverance and sacrifice. At the same time, if you refuse to exit with grace when you reach a point where all the willpower and effort in the world can’t help you, the line between dedication and delusion is crossed.

Knowing where these boundaries are is not just an academic exercise. For example, Keiko’s condition has been deteriorating steadily. As recently as a few months ago, we walked 4 miles a day. Now we walk 2 blocks. I’ve been sleeping on the floor with her for the past 2 months because she can’t climb stairs and needs to go out several times each night. She’s lost a huge amount of weight and is in constant pain from a giant and rapidly growing tumor.

You’d think that would make the decision obvious, but it’s not so easy. Her appetite is strong and she enjoys eating. I’ve been feeding her bacon and eggs for breakfast, and at night she’s been eating things like cheeseburgers, pizza, steak, meatballs, etc. She is content when she’s asleep. She’s been a very tough girl her entire life, so we will not give up until she indicates she’s not interested in hanging around anymore.

People who’ve known Keiko become sad when they see the fading shadow she’s become of her former self. At some point, there won’t be enough left for her, and we will have to let her go.

Dr. Lindsay and the other staff at the vet have been truly impressed with Keiko’s resilience, and he tells me that she will let me know when it’s time. I hope he’s right.  Even doing what I know is right will rip my heart out, so it’s really important to get this right.

Keiko’s guardian angel

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Keiko has really had a rough week. She’s had 3 seizures and her condition has deteriorated steadily. When she’s not lying looking only half alive, she wanders aimlessly while bumping into things, and won’t eat. In addition, she spontaneously falls over and doesn’t care about her favorite toys, foods, or activities. Knowing that she can’t possibly be having any fun, I made the heartbreaking decision to schedule her final appointment at the vet.

Despite the fact that I’d already thought a great deal about this before going in, Dr. Lindsay talked me out of it. He explained that the increased dosage of phenobarbital she is taking could also explain her coordination problems. Enzyme levels pointed to pancreatitis which would both make her very sick and not make her want to eat.

It’s possible that the bladder cancer has worked its way to the spine and is interfering with her control of her hind legs, and/or that brain damage from her tumor and the last round of seizures is causing serious problems. However, he thinks there is still real hope that things will improve significantly on their own and that it is too early to throw in the towel.

Dr. Lindsay has been an incredible vet from the very beginning. The first two times he helped us for emergency appointments during off hours, Keiko wasn’t even a patient of his, and he wouldn’t take payment. I once heard someone at a party who knew him personally and professionally describe him as “hard core.” He’s been a vet for over 30 years, but he somehow makes himself available when you can reach no one else. He favors low tech common sense approaches, and his advice has always been good.

Keiko’s a very tough girl and has been beating the odds for some time, but eventually it will be too much for her. However, Dr. Lindsay thinks her chances of having a bit more time are decent. She’s in terrible shape right now so she will spend next week, including Christmas, at his practice where she will rest and be under observation. I’m no fan of aggressive measures (a euphemism for acts of desperation unlikely to lead to success). That being said, if you’re going to lose, it’s better to go down swinging.

Fetch with black dog on the beach in the dark (photo included)

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

blackdogindark.gif November through February has always been my favorite time to go to the beach. The cold and rain drives people away. There’s something about the sounds, smells, and solitude that is very relaxing. The winds and cold water are invigorating.

When Keiko and I go out at this time of year, it’s usually in total darkness. When we played this morning, I couldn’t see the ball I was throwing. Due to the cloud cover, the stars and moon weren’t providing much ambient light so I couldn’t see her either. Nonetheless, she was still fetching just like we were in broad sunlight (it has a rattle in it so she can hear it) — she navigates primarily by hearing and smell.

Unfortunately, after about 20 minutes, Keiko dropped the ball in the ocean. It doesn’t rattle when it’s bobbing about, and I can’t see it when it’s more than about 10 feet away. Consequently, neither one of us could find it, and it floated away. I came back to the house to bring another ball to play with. Without the rattle, she often couldn’t find it even when it was next to her.

What makes this trip especially nice is that I never thought we’d still be bringing Keiko out here in November. She was given a couple months to live near the beginning of this year, and the oncologist said he was very sure of his diagnosis. She bleeds and discharges all kinds of mucus every day, and that’s a bad sign, but frankly she still seems in better shape than she was in February.

A little help is always welcome

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

I’m lazy by disposition, so I like to do things the easy way. For example, every year, Shirley and I paint one side of our house. The idea is simple. If every side gets painted every 4 years, the whole house looks pretty good, and it doesn’t take much time or money to keep it looking that way. All you have to do is be willing to keep things the same color.

Bo helping paint This year, we had a new helper shown here with me. Normally, we don’t borrow other peoples’ dogs for home improvement projects, but Bo’s owners just had a baby so we took care of him for a few days while they got things set up.

While I dealt with the bees’ nests and the painted the high places, Shirley worked on the low places. It was hot that day, so Keiko just rested in the back yard. Bo contributed to the effort by making sure we didn’t have too much leftover paint — about 1/2 hour into the job, he dragged his cable across my paint bucket and dumped it all in the yard.

As you can see, all turned out well. Now I can turn my attention to my next project (which is actually a bike ride in California this weekend). We’ll see how that goes.

No news is good news

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Keiko, so I thought I might explain what’s going on. About three months ago, fiber optic endoscopy and biopsies confirmed that she has transitional cell carcinoma. I was told that she might get a couple months of good quality life, but that her meds would eventually quit working. We were not given any hope that she’ll survive. I saw the pictures from the scope myself. I didn’t need any medical training to understand how hopeless the situation is.

The good news is that she’s still her old playful self. Some of her vision has returned (though she is still mostly blind) — we believe that is because a tumor pressuring the optic nerve has been reduced in size by her meds. She has outlived the expectations of the oncologist. To use his words, “some dogs just surprise you.”

Her prognosis is still hopeless, and we don’t know how much time she has left. Some days are better than others, but she’s starting to pass blood with more regularity and she needs significantly more rest than she used to. Having said that, she’s still a happy girl and she enjoys the same things she always has.

I’m just thankful for getting to spend the extra time with her. We’ve probably been to the beach more times in the past 3 months than we’ve been in the past 3 years. Keiko (and we) have been eating much better than normal. Even ordinary things like playing fetch, going for a walk, or even just sitting around are much more meaningful when you realize you’re on borrowed time. In reality, we’ve been on borrowed time from the very beginning and just didn’t think about it until recently. I’m glad we had a chance to make things right before it was too late.

A good weekend

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Keiko’s condition been a major source of stress lately, but this weekend, a lot of things went right. Most importantly, the meds Keiko takes for her cancer really work. She stopped passing blood, and it is simply amazing how much better she feels. Had I not seen the photos from her exam, I’d have difficulty believing anything was wrong with her. The doc says the effect is only temporary, but it’s still very nice.

Keiko on the beachShirley had to stay in town because she is performing in a play, but Keiko and I spent the weekend at the beach. The beach has always been Keiko’s favorite place, but I wasn’t quite sure how that would work out since she’s never experienced it blind before.

We had a great time. We played fetch for hours on end — we have a way of playing that allows her to locate the ball primarily by sound. We swam in the ocean at least four times. Keiko got multiple compliments, and I doubt that a single person who saw us playing could have possibly guessed that the dog in the picture above is nearly 10 years old, blind, and suffering from a terminal illness.

Kyle and Keiko on the beach

Despite the fact we’ve been spoiling her, she has been behaving perfectly. That she acts as well as she does given how we’ve been treating her lately is a testament to how well-trained she is.

Amazingly, our pampering hasn’t made her sick. She’s had New York steak, ribeye, baby back ribs, brats, and this week she’ll get some salmon and filet mignon later this week. Keiko and I are accustomed to a health nut diet and lifestyle, so I’m surprised eating all this rich food hasn’t wreaked havoc on our digestive systems.

I hope we’ll get other opportunities to return to the beach. Regardless of what happens, I’m really happy about how this trip worked out.

Making peace with the inevitable

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

People say that every cloud has a silver lining, but when the skies are just black, it can be really hard to see. Yesterday, I took Keiko to an emergency vet appointment because she has been passing blood for a few days. Although there are a number of benign potential causes, the vet referred me to a specialist to examine her insides with a fiber optic scope in case a tumor caused the bleeding.

The findings exceeded our worst fears. The scope showed her insides ravaged by cancer. If she responds to treatment, the doctor hopes she might have a couple months left. Otherwise, there will be considerably less time.

We’ve had Keiko since she was a puppy. For almost 10 years, the first thing I’ve done upon waking up and returning from work has been to take her for a walk. She’s slept by my side every night. We play fetch at least twice a day as well as other games. When she is at the kennel even for a day, the house seems empty.

Medically, the only thing we can do at this point is make her as comfortable as possible — the drugs she takes will hopefully reduce tumor size and pain. If there is a silver lining, it is that we can now do some things we always wanted. I’m going to take her to the beach where we’ll play until we’re exhausted, eat steak for dinner, and fall asleep. Many years of good living and discipline will allow us to appreciate a few moments when we can break the normal rules.

Keiko still isn’t too sick to enjoy many of her favorite activities, and the best thing I can do to have as much fun with her as possible — it will be hard for her to enjoy herself if she sees how much this is wrecking me up. In the name of my own sanity, what I need to do for her is good for me too. Hopefully, when the time comes to let her go, we will both be at peace and happy for the times we had together.