Shelby the Hairy Tornado

Shelby is 10.5 weeks old now.  She has energy that my ‘closing-in-on-50-years-old’ body isn’t used to (especially with the disabilities I’ve got).  She IS a hairy tornado.  She wakes me up in the morning by pawing at the inside of the tent she sleeps in (on my bed- to keep her contained and safe, but next to me) to go potty.  She has learned how to paw the zipper from the inside and get the door all the way open- well at least enough to poke her head through, so I can’t dawdle.  I’ll carry her to her potty papers, and insist she unloads both tanks before moving on to feed her (I keep a baby gate up until she’s done).  Otherwise, it’s like a Tootsie Roll dispenser malfunctioned and left ‘gifts’ in a trail on the floor.  She’s a mobile pooper.  According to the puppy training information, she’s doing well.  She gets it right about %80 of the time already; the info says that most pups aren’t totally trained until they’re 6 months old.  In the meantime, there are barricades all over my apartment, and I bring her to her papers about every hour, when she wakes up after a nap, or after a period of psychotic playing.

She’s into the piranha-teeth phase now.  One of her favorite activities is to sink those sharp little puppy teeth into the back of my fuzzy slipper and just hang on for a couple of steps. Then she waits to sink those teeth into the other one. Walking (for me) has become a hazardous situation. So, I shuffle.  I look like some sort of deranged Parkinson’s patient with a short,hairy stalker behind me. And she follows me everywhere ! The puppy training info tells me that ‘communicating’ with her as her fur-mom would do is the way to go… growling an intense and definitive ‘no’ growl is what she’ll understand.  What I understand is that I look like an idiot.  I don’t have a good growl. Go figure. I don’t even holler/yell all that well.

Her ‘guard dog’ attributes need a lot of work.  She barks when someone is leaving. When my dad came over yesterday, he took off his coat and hung it on the back of one of my dinette set chairs.  OK. No problem. Once Shelby got some love from her grandpa in the form of ear scratching, she turned around and eyeballed his coat (the only different thing over there), and proceeded to bark at it until she got up enough courage to slowly approach the ‘dangerous’ coat and give it a good sniff. Then she was fine. But barking once someone is already inside and comfortable enough to remove their coat is a bit backwards from alerting me when they’re trying to enter. Granted, I let him in.  But she’s done this with a friend who was here… let her come right in, but then gave her the business when she was getting ready to leave.  Uh huh.  She’s a scary one!  But I can’t bark at all, so I guess she’s one up on me there.

Then there are the times when she is just too sweet for words. She must sleep near me during the day (her ‘rule’, not mine). She has her own recliner with a soft comforter, but she’d rather sleep on the floor under the leg part of my recliner when it’s up, or next to my recliner on the floor.  If my feet are on the floor, she sleeps between them with her head on top of one foot.  When I pick her up to move her, she just lays in my arms, limp, and lets me do whatever I want to her. She’ll sleep on her back like a baby in my arms to the point when she’s dreaming and twitching. She is very trusting, and as long as she’s able to sleep near or on me, she’s content.  During the first part of the day, if I’m still worn out from an interrupted night’s sleep, I’ll let her play like a maniac until she wears herself out, and then haul her fuzzy butt back to my bed, put her back into her tent, and we both get another hour or two of sleep.

Shelby is  a kisser. When she’s on my lap, she loves to stand up and slurp my face.  Her tail is also semi-motorized, and moves so fast it’s hard to see the actual movement.  It’s just a little black blur on her butt.  And it’s in motion a lot!  She seems to be very happy just about all of the time (unless she’s trying to figure out why I’m growling at her).  It’s sweet to see how curious she is about everything, and that simple things give her joy.  All people should be so content with their lives.

The puppy stage lasts a good year to year and a half.  We’re only two months in.  I love her like crazy, and I’m worn out !  I look forward to watching her grow and learn things she needs to know to be a safe, civilized dog.  In the meantime, I am the hairy tornado monitor, pee pad changer, food dispenser, belly scratcher,  and toy cleaner-upper.  And I wouldn’t trade that for anything 🙂

Sleeping in any position

Sleeping in any position

Killing her toys...

Killing her toys…

In one of her toy bins...

In one of her toy bins…

Mandy Meltdowns

My sweet miniature schnauzer Mandy died seven weeks ago yesterday, on December 27th, 2012.  She was my sole companion for all of the years on disability, and absolute joy for the 11.75 years I had her with me.  Most of my human friends are in Texas, and I’ve been pretty much isolated since going on disability in April 2004. But Mandy was always here. We were with each other pretty much 24/7.  The bond was different than with other dogs I’ve had (though I loved them intensely, as well).  She knew my patterns and understood what I told her with an almost creepy accuracy.  My dad commented about that often.  He could tell her to do something, and she stared at him… if I said something, she knew what I wanted her to do and did it.  I miss her little quirks SO much.

The last few days have been really hard for some reason.  I’ve been sobbing when I think about how she just went limp on my lap after a few minutes of altered breathing and periodic looks of confusion. She knew that something wasn’t right. She stopped in her tracks after peeing on her pee pads (this was after she whimpered and had some type of ‘spell’ that was similar to other episodes during her nine months with congestive heart failure).  She actually had the ‘presence of mind’ to go to her pee pads after an episode that was to end her life in the next 15 minutes.  That ‘look’ made me feel that she was confused about what was happening, and so I picked up that sweet dog, and got her situated on her comforter, with a pee pad underneath, and got her onto my lap as I leaned back in my recliner. She had some ‘leakage’ issues when she’d have those spells. I knew that if she was dying, she’d have no control- even though she’d had that brief moment of clarity to run to her pee pads.   She knew something wasn’t right, but she also knew that I was holding her, and wasn’t leaving her to be confused on her own.

That last ‘episode’ was different from others. She’d whimpered and cried when she fainted before, and while that sound was horrific to listen to, she’d snap out of it and become alert fairly quickly. This was different. She woke up, but never seemed to become ‘clear’.  So, I knew that this was going to be the end- whether she died naturally in my arms, or if it went into some prolonged situation that could only be dealt with humanely at the vet’s office. Regardless, I knew I was watching my dog’s final moments.  This was my sole companion.  She was with me every single day during some really lousy stuff, and there was no judgement (about the disability issues) and only love and companionship (during the chemo for leukemia).  My best friend was dying in my arms.

When she had that ‘agonal’ breathing (deep, but very slow, and associated with the dying process), I saw the color of her tongue change.  It became pale.  She was no longer looking at me, but I talked to her and thanked her for being the amazing friend that she had been.  I told her how much I loved her.  But I also told her that it was OK to go.  She’d been through enough.  That’s what I used to do with human patients when I was working as a nurse, and while I’m sure Mandy didn’t understand those words, I had to say them.  I had to let her go.

The previous two weeks had been long and hard, and indicative that things were changing, but she’d been alert, and interested in what was going on.  Even that last morning, she was very eager to get Swedish meatballs for breakfast (she’d become very picky during that last 2 weeks).  But at the very end, I knew I had to say goodbye…to the single being that was with me every single day for nearly 12 years, and the only being that was with me after I ended  up home all day every day on disability.  I have regular phone contact with my dad, but my dog was always by my side.  All other contacts with humans at that point were either medical appointments, pharmacy and grocery clerks once a month, the vet, visits with my dad every couple of weeks or so,   and  package delivery people.  There was also the brief contact with family on Christmas Eve.  That was literally my only contact with people in person…. but Mandy was always there.

When she went limp on my lap, I knew she was gone.  No more struggling. No need to take her to the vet, wondering if she knew what was happening.  And feeling like I was ‘killing’ her (even though I believe in euthanasia for the sake of the dog).  No more of the agonal (or difficult) breathing. No more wondering when enough was enough. No more of the up and down roller coaster of watching her have hard periods of time when she seemed to be going downhill very quickly, but then have her bounce back, and being alert and curious the whole time.

She went naturally. She died in my arms. She knew I was with her.  She didn’t have to endure the stress of a car ride to the vet (it had become difficult for her because the excitement of being in the car made her breathing more labored).  And she would get SO cold, from the marked weight loss of that final few weeks.

 I wanted more time with her.  It was 2:45p.m. when she took her last breath, and the crematory closed at 4:00… I’d called them around 3:00 p.m., and they were waiting. Dad was on his way to drive me over there.  But I just wanted to hold her for a while longer.  She was my only friend that I had contact with other than online.  She was my life.  And she was gone… I just wanted a few more minutes.  Handing her over to the pet crematory staff (who were VERY compassionate and handled her very gently) was horrendous.  Shifting her from my arms to his was agonizing.  She was obviously lifeless, and yet it felt like I was giving part of my life away to death.

I can’t get these last minutes out of my head. I do still remember her quirky, funny times, but losing her hurts like salt in an open wound, in my heart. I knew the end result of canine heart failure, and I knew those last two weeks were winding down to the end… but it also felt like part of me went with her.  Having such little contact with other people (because of the disability and physical limitations) made my relationship with Mandy so different.  And she was special (as I know all pet owners feel about their babies 😉 ). Her understanding of what I told her was eerie and made her like having ‘someone’ here.  Before becoming disabled, my other dogs were amazing parts of my life- and I loved them deeply…yet I had contact with people at school and/or work during their lives.  Maybe I became too dependent on Mandy.  I don’t know.  I just know that this time was different.

I’m going to get another schnauzer; I’ve got a breeder in mind, and am awaiting news that their mama schnauzer is pregnant.  It’s really hard to wait, but I really like the breeder and photo of one of their past puppies.  In the meantime, I’m getting things ready for having a puppy again.  And, I go through ‘Mandy Meltdowns’ – more so the last few days.  Each day, something reminds me of what is missing.  Then I replay those last minutes, then weeks, in my head- and dissolve into tears.  I’ve lost two other schnauzers over the period of time from when I was a kid, through my late 30s… and this is different.  Yes, I missed those dogs a lot, but things got better over time; I’ve never forgotten them or their individual personalities (one was nuts, the other smart and social 🙂 ).  It seems like I’m stuck, even though I’m looking forward to the new puppy.

I just miss my sweet buddy.  She made my life so much better.

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

Mandy at 8 weeks old- summer 2001

Mandy at 8 weeks old- summer 2001

Mandy's final resting place. She is with her 'big sisters' and will be buried with me one day.  I still can't get rid of her pillow bed.

Mandy’s final resting place. She is with her ‘big sisters’ and will be buried with me one day.
I still can’t get rid of her pillow bed.