Tag Archives: pet

Ball of canine 

It never fails when I’m walking my 8-pound miniature schnauzer in a new place but someone will ask, “Is that a puppy?”

When she sleeps, she curls up like a cat and could fit on a dinner plate, good enough to eat.

My little runt of the litter is as playful as a puppy (and sometimes as misbehaving as one), but she’s getting to be an old lady like her owner (complete with gray hair and a beard). She turns 8 this month. That’s 56 in dog years, ya know. I can’t remember her exact date of birth, and we don’t celebrate it with anything like dog food cake (blech!), but are grateful for her unconditional love and joie de vivre.

Happy birthday, little bundle of canine!

Adorable sleeper

chloe in new bed

The Bearded Lady, otherwise known as The Princess, aka Chloe, got a new bed today.

Why? For some reason, she has no time for the velvet-lined bed we bought to match our living room (yeah, I know, first-world problems). When my Beloved was at Petco picking up Pill Pockets (they’re amazing if your dog takes pills regularly, as our little lady does to treat her epilepsy, but they cost nearly as much as the medicine), he found an alternative bed lined with nubby sheepskin (or a reasonable facsimile).

It’s the time of year for nubby sheepskin, you know.

She adores it.

A story about canines (both the species and the teeth), Rimadyl and patience

Caregiving is stressful.

By telling the story below, I don’t mean to minimize caregivers of human patients who I realize most certainly are far more invested in their patients and the stakes are far higher. I can’t even imagine the stress of a someone whose wife has dementia or whose child is battling cancer.

The past 48 hours around here were tough in a much smaller, 8.4-pound way.

My dog (yes, this is a pet story — if you don’t like domestic animals, you’re hereby excused) had her teeth cleaned Friday.

Apparently, dogs bite when strangers stick their hands in their mouths (who knew?), so veterinarians anesthetize dogs in order to clean their teeth.

(Seriously? Dogs require dental care? Yes, I was incredulous, too. My miniature schnauzer had bad breath for years — literally years — and I came to love her stinky mouth. Yellow teeth? Who cares? She’s a dog, right? That’s what I thought until one of her teeth literally fell out of her mouth in my Beloved’s gentle fingers. It was so decayed, it was rotten. Rotten teeth, as it turns out, not only cause bad breath, they cause gum disease which can lead to terrible things like organ failure and death. It was clear my lame tooth-brushing routine was doing no good, and my sweet dog’s teeth required professional intervention. And so, D-Day, that is, Dental Day, came on Friday.)

She remained at the veterinary clinic all day. Anesthesia is serious business, you know. As this was the first time my dear Chloe was undergoing such a procedure, you can imagine the mess the technician found. Five teeth were so rotten they had to be extracted.

“How will she eat?” I lamented. Even toothless dogs figure out how to consume hard dog food pellets, I was told. Survival instinct, I guess. These creatures sometimes eat rabbit turds and lap up muddy puddles, so they’re not too discerning, I guess.

She was ready for pick-up at 5 p.m. and though she was generally listless, she looked OK. And her teeth were sparkling. I’m not kidding. They’re whiter than my teeth now.

I carefully listened to the after-care instructions, which included doses of pain killer and antibiotics and took her home. She sat on the couch with my Beloved and though she acted weird once, gacking strangely, we simply took her to bed as usual.

Then the horror began.

She started experiencing a seizure every two hours all night long. After the first one, I took her off the bed and put her in her kennel next to the bed, but I woke up every time her little legs violently pummeled the kennel from the inside.

You can’t stop a seizure. You can only speak softly and gently hold the victim (or, if they’re bigger than my little dog, get out of the way) while you wait for the gagging and the foaming and wide eyes and open mouth and kicking to subside. Forty seconds feels like 5 minutes. In the moments after the seizure, the victim still isn’t really there, looking spacy and stumbling around in a haze. I could only hold her sweaty body, feeling her racing heartbeat.

I’ve never had babies, so I don’t know what it’s like caring for a sick child through the night. But I can tell you caring for a sick pet is no walk in the park. Every moment waiting for another seizure was torture.

We stupidly followed the dosing instructions the following morning, giving her 25 mg of the antibiotic Clindamycin and 6.25 mg of Rimadyl, a pain reliever. The seizures occurred less frequently but did not abate.

I finally got in touch with the vet who assured me neither the anesthesia nor the medications could be causing seizures. She wanted to examine her and do more blood work (which they did only 24 hours previously before surgery), and she suggested maybe injecting an anti-seizure medication.

Great. I’d already paid $461 for the tooth cleaning surgery and $343 for the extractions. For that, my sweet little dog with bad breath had turned into a convulsing mess with sparkling teeth.

I should mention my dog continued to eat, drink, pee and poop as usual, so her systems seemed to operating normally except for the occasional brain reboot in the form of an ugly seizure. Seizures are caused by many real ailments and should not be left untreated (I am not a vet and I don’t play one on TV), but they also occur for unknown reasons, and it seemed clear the vet knew no more than I did. Like a lot of doctors, she wanted to do more tests and administer more drugs. Ugh.

Like all modern patients, we resorted to internet diagnosis, and we didn’t like what found online about Rimadyl. Correlation does not imply causation, but what’s the variable here? Chloe was perfectly healthy and seizure-free before surgery.

So we stopped the meds.

And Chloe slept peacefully through the night.

chloe closeupThis morning, we gave her half the antibiotic and no pain medication. She was back to her frisky self, galloping around the house, bounding down the stairs and barking her obnoxious-but-joyful-to-hear bark.

She clearly was not in pain.

I share this story both as a warning (beware of Rimadyl) and as a lesson.

As I waited those long moments through Chloe’s convulsions, I reminded myself of the body’s power to heal, that time heals all wounds, that patience is a virtue. There was no other balm for this chaos and stress but to accept it and embrace it and move through it. My prayers were answered (yes, I wasted God’s time with the health of a dog — what’s time to an eternal being?). And I’m so grateful.

How dogs and cats are different, Conclusion

Having been a long-time cat owner and now a short-time puppy owner, I’ve vividly lived the differences between felines and canines:

  1. Cats shed. Some dogs shed, too, but my miniature schnauzer doesn’t. Instead, she requires periodic grooming. And though I’m loath to bring her to the groomer more often I can cut my hair, it’s still a small price to pay so I can wear black anytime I want. Sollie’s orange hair used to get everywhere. No more.
  2. Dogs bark. A lot. At apparently nothing. I’m learning there are ways to train dogs not to bark unnecessarily, but I know they bark sometimes anyway. There are a couple of hounds down the street that literally scare me almost every time I walk by that house because they bark so loudly and so menacingly. Cats, on the other hand, can’t be heard by the neighbors in most circumstances.
  3. Dogs can be walked. I love walking my little doggie. With her pink, rhinestone-studded collar and pink leash, I’m sure we look a little like Paris Hilton (only fatter) and her dog as we walk down the street. Sollie the cat barely tolerated a collar, let alone a walk down the street. Chloe, like a good little pack animal, follows me or my husband everywhere we go all day long. If you like company, dogs are where it’s at.
  4. Dogs play with toys. Yes, Sollie liked catnip toys and sometimes string, but she tired of her things in minutes. Chloe, by contrast, has a plethora of little toys in a basket in the living room, and she’s not happy unless half of them are spread from the fireplace up to the bedroom closet. She’s got this little stuffed platypus that has become  her “baby.” She’s always got it close by, and she watches it ferociously. Sometimes she drags it upstairs to sleep with it. Like a little kid, it’s fun to watch her play with her toys, but it’s tiresome to pick them up all the time.
  5. Sollie killed birds. It was in his DNA. He was a hunter, and birds were prey. Chloe, on the other hand, is more likely to be carried away by a bird. At seven and half pounds, she’s just the right size for a healthy meal to a big hawk or owl, and we have seen such creatures in our back yard. I don’t leave Chloe outside for too long unattended for fear of having her carried away.

In the end, I have to admit, while I loved my cat dearly, I would be heartbroken if something were to happen to Chloe. She has such a perky personality, and she’s so trusting. She depends on me! I’m not always thrilled to have to rush home to let the dog out of her kennel, but I’ll still take that chore over the cat box any day.

If this cat person can be transformed into a dog person, the dog must be pretty special. She is.

How dogs and cats are the same, Part 3

I lived with Sollie, the orange cat, for 17+ years. I have lived with Chloe, the little black dog, for a little more than a year. Here’s how they’re similar and why I love(d) them so:

1.       As I mentioned yesterday, Sollie was never grotesquely fat, weighing only about 15 pounds at his biggest. After he started spending time outdoors getting exercise, he weighed about 10-12 pounds. Chloe, on the other hand, weighs 7 and half or 8 pounds. Both of them were/are easy to carry around, easy to have on your lap and easy with which to share a bed. Sollie was a good lap cat after he got to know me (oh, about 7 years into our relationship), and Chloe is a great lap dog (for a dog).

2.       The other day, Chloe was barking frantically in the backyard and then got strangely quiet. A few minutes later, she was at the back door waiting to get back into the house. She bounded into the house with something in her mouth and deposited it ritually on the floor. It was a chewed-up mouse, or at least I think it was. The amount of chewing left most of the creature unidentifiable, but it did have a mouse-like tail. Yuk! “Tyler, get down her right now!” I wasn’t going to clean it up! It reminded me when Sollie would leave dead birds on our porch, triumphantly sharing his hunter prowess.

3.       As any cat owner will tell you, meows are different and they mean different things. Sometimes, meows mean “feed me” and sometimes meows mean “feed me now!” Chloe has different vocalizations, too. Sometimes she growls “I hear something.” And sometimes she barks so much no one can hear anything else!

4.       Both Sollie before her and Chloe now love sunshine and being outside. Chloe can find a shaft of sunlight no matter what time of day, even if it means dozing away the morning while hanging halfway on a stairstep. A yard of grass holds mysteries galore for an adventurous pet interested in every leaf, every stick, every insect. With Sollie, no fence was necessary, but not with Chloe. Once, she snuck out the front door and I ran a block in only my bathrobe trying to catch her!

5.    Both dogs and cats do yoga. Really! There’s the cat stretch, where you bend your back up and down like a cat who’s alternating between terrified and being petted. And there’s the up-dog and down-dog, like dogs do in the morning when they’re shaking off the cobwebs of sleep.  


Tomorrow, how dogs and cats are different.

Tribute to Sollie, Part 2

I picked Sollie out of a crowd of orange-and-white kittens at the Humane Society in 1988.

Sollie’s brother was a lick-a-maniac, and he drove me crazy! So I reached for the kitten cowering in the back of the pen.

Sollie was completely orange all over, even his eyes. And I picked him out on a beautiful, sunny October day. So, in honor of the star name for Earth’s sun, I called him Sol. Quite quickly, his moniker became Sollie.

I was a college student, living in an apartment and engaged to the man I would marry a year and a half later.

Sollie moved four states away with us. That journey, made on a stifling June day, almost killed him, since I was driving was a 10-year-old Chevette without air conditioning, but once we figured out how to put him on ice (literally, we put his carrier with him inside it on a block of ice), Sollie rode along happily.

He lived with us in our one-bedroom apartment in Ohio (with his litter box under our bathroom sink — yuck). And he moved back to Minnesota with us, living in increasingly bigger houses over the course of a dozen years (litterboxes in the basements – better, but not much).

Like any cat, he slept a lot and made nests in all kinds of crazy places including a box of my scarves and the folds of my wedding gown hanging in a tent all around him in my closet. Sollie was never one of those grotesquely overweight housecats, but after one too many times of marking his territory in my first husband’s luggage, he became an indoor-outdoor cat and lost a lot weight lurking around untethered in our yard.

I loved his purr and his soft fur, and I put up with his often aloof manner (hey, if I wanted an overly affectionate cat, I should have picked his brother!).

In 2006, I moved out of the house I shared with my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and at that point, the relationship with my cat had outlived my marriage.

By then, Sollie was arthritic, had kidney problems and was the kind of skinny that you get when you’re really old. My soon-to-be-ex refused to keep him, and I couldn’t have him in my new apartment. So the time came to put an unnatural end to his misery.

Sollie was euthanized in August 2006, a few weeks short of his 18th birthday. I will be forever grateful to my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) who dug a grave in the back of his lake lot and had my 7-year-old nephew create a marker for it. The brother-in-law, the 7-year-old and the 4-year-old nephew were solemnly present for the funeral, and then my brother-in-law respectfully buried him.

While his end was very sad, Sollie lived a long, healthy housecat life, and he brought much joy to mine.

I still love cats and I would have gotten another one except that my new husband is allergic to them. Which is why we have a dog.

So now, as both a cat person and a dog person, I think I can draw legitimate comparisons, at least between an orange cat named Sollie and a little black schnauzer named Chloe.

Tomorrow, how dogs and cats are the similar.

How a cat person transformed into a dog person, Part 1

Until about a year ago, I had always considered myself a cat person.

We had a couple of cats when I was little, and I remember the cats of the friends in my youth fondly. My friend, Jill, had a big beautiful white cat named Harold, for example. Another friend, Amy, had a really squirrely weiner dog.

I just never really liked dogs. Especially the ones big enough to say hello by sniffing your crotch. Yuck. Get away from me, Dog.

But my beloved, as persuasive as he is, convinced me to support giving a dog to Caswell for Christmas in 2007. That’s when the seven-and-half pound miniature schnauzer, Chloe, entered my life.

I hated her for three months.

She was a puppy, and puppies need to be housetrained. It was wintertime, Cas and I had no idea what we were doing and Tyler was, shall we say, less than consistent. So, Chloe was an accident waiting to happen every day.

It was a nightmare to which only puppies owners can relate (at least with babies, you’re not usually scrubbing mistakes out of your carpeting or from between your toes).

I got so frustrated, I scoured the internet for tips, consulted with other dog owners and even lamented to my mom, which I usually save for really bad problems. Normally able to pull me out of any funk, she said less than helpful things like, “well, that’s what you get for getting a dog” and “it’ll get better eventually.”

Well, she was right. It did get better. I took charge and exerted responsibility for every feeding and every outdoor outing. For a while, she was going outside every 45 minutes. And the weather got warmer, too. She was pretty dependable by about May.

And then I fell in love with her. Without the baggage of canine excrement, she is adorable! I love going for a walk with her (and thrilled when a walk dependably encourages her to do her business)! I savor having her sleep by my side (and the one time she pooped in our bed, she pooped in Tyler’s pillow, not mine)! It’s so fun watching her play or seek out shafts of sunshine in which to lay or sniff around the yard.

But occasionally, I catch myself calling her Sollie. Sollie was the cat I owned for 17 years when I was in adulthood. And he deserves his own tribute.

Tomorrow, a tribute to Sollie.

Fur coat optional

Puppy soaks up the heat in a shaft of sunshine.

Puppy soaks up the heat in a shaft of sunshine.


My little miniature schnauzer (no, I do mean “little” and “miniature” — she’s that small) got a haircut this week.

I’m far too cheap and selfish to bring her to the groomer more often than I go to the groomer, aka hairstylist, so the last time she saw Jolene, the funky local dog groomer, was December. I love Jolene and her completely pink, inside and out, dog salon.

Last week, Chloe was a shaggy dog who could hardly see through her crazy eyebrows. This week, she is a skinny little chicken who shivers when she even thinks about going outside to pee.



As I write this, she is soaking up the sun’s rays on the chaise lounge in my office. Every 15 minutes or so, she stirs and moves just enough to get back into the shaft of light and heat.

Her coiffure isn’t complete until Jolene adds a little bandana around her tiny neck. Pink, of course!

The bearded lady

Chloe, also known as Puppy
Chloe, also known as Puppy
If I had a beard, I would hope it would be as cute as my 8-pound miniature schnauzer’s.