Introducing Princess “Shelby” Noel Wigglebutt

I finally found a miniature schnauzer puppy !  After 2 months of looking online and in the local newspaper, I finally found a puppy that was exactly what I was looking for.  I had to do a long day of driving WAY outside of my comfort zone with the dysautonomia and joint/pain issues- and it’s only because it’s winter and cold here that it was even possible.  My knees are still not happy- but she is SO worth it.

Shelby (as I call her) is 9 weeks old. She got a good report from my vet, and has been a joy in the 3 1/2 days that I’ve had her home. She has a lot of energy, and is ‘loose’ in my apartment all day (sleeps in a dog tent at night on my bed with me), and is using more energy than she had been, so is having some mild hypoglycemia symptoms. That is common in puppies, and they generally outgrow it. So, to fix that, she’s getting four meals a day instead of three.  She does have several naps during the day, but if I get up, she wakes up and follows me everywhere… one time I managed to not wake her up initially, but she woke up and found me not around, and cried until I called her (she has no clue what her name is yet, but my voice settled her down).

Shelby’s name comes from Julia Roberts character in ‘Steel Magnolias’. The ‘Princess’ part is what her breeder mom called her.  Noel is for being born on Christmas Eve, and Wigglebutt is what her tail does !

It’s been so lonely since Mandy died.  It’s wonderful to have a lively little being in my life again. She’s got a great temperament (and I met her parents, who are sweet dogs as well).  The drive was really hard on the dysautonomia and arthritis, but I’d do it again if I knew she was the end result.

Meet Shelby:

Princess "Shelby" Noel Wigglebutt

Princess “Shelby” Noel Wigglebutt

Shelby

Shelby asleep….

Shelby in one  of her toy bins :)

Shelby in one of her toy bins 🙂

The Night Before Christmas…

…my new puppy was born, though I didn’t know it until today.  My dad was here, and I was going through online ads for miniature schnauzer puppies. Most were either too far away, had something funky going on with their eyes, or some had disconnected phone numbers. Not a good sign.  Then I found an ad that had been posted just a couple of days ago, and I called the breeder. After a few questions, I asked if I could talk it over with my dad and call her back- no problem.

We talked about it for a few minutes, but his fatigue after driving home from Florida over the last several days was catching up with him.  He said we’d talk later.  I called the lady back, and explained the situation, but said I’d be talking to him about me driving the distance to get the puppy on my own. In the winter, I do better, and have plenty of opportunity to stop and rest if needed.  I’d already decided to go by myself- after all, I’d driven over 1200 miles when I moved back here, and while I’m not able to drive very far in just any weather (i.e. when it’s above 50 degrees outside), 35 degrees should be OK.  I got part of the cash at the ATM (will get the rest tomorrow), and made some plans and got the travel crate together.

I talked to dad later, and he agreed; he’s pooped. I told him how I was getting there, and we double checked to be sure he had my cell phone number.  All was well.

My new puppy (Shelby) was born on Christmas Eve- nearly 9 weeks ago.  That was the same day as my last photo of my dear Mandy who died on December 27, 2012.  I like the information the breeder gave me.  And the photos are adorable. Tomorrow, a new phase of my life starts, that will involve patience, some frustration, but mostly a new little life to love.  I’m so ready.  I’ve got puppy teething toys, a ton of stuffed animals, and a new dog bed, along with many other things.

Tonight is my last night in my bed without my new dog.  I’m not sure I’ll sleep !!

I Just Want What’s Best For Her…

It’s so hard to know how to read what’s going on with Mandy (my 11.75 year old miniature schnauzer with heart failure).  She’s obviously not feeling well judging by her appetite and resistance to taking her medication (one is chewable, and she usually loves it; the others are pills I put in fruit that she usually snarfs right up). Her breathing isn’t ‘right’, and she’s coughing a little. She’s not peeing as much as she should be- but nothing smells funny or has a dark, concentrated color (she’s paper/pad trained, so it’s easy to assess).  And, she’s alert, getting up whenever I move, and doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort. She hasn’t fainted, and her tongue is pink.  Right now, she’s by the front door grumbling about something.  That’s ‘normal’ for her!

I’ve been down this road before. My last schnauzer had heart failure for the last year of her life, and she did quite well until the last couple of days. The only time she didn’t eat was the last 24-36 hours she was alive, and it was horribly obvious that she wasn’t doing well. I tried the extra doses of the medicine to help her get rid of extra fluid, but it was over. (I’d made a mental list of ‘it’s done’ symptoms to watch for).  It was- thankfully- fairly ‘quick’ at the end. The signs were easier to see.  I got her to the vet, who tried to turn things around, but he called me at work to let me know I need to come quickly. With Mandy, it’s harder.  Regardless, she has to go to the vet tomorrow to get checked out.

My dad and I have a ‘plan’  (God bless him – he’s 80 years old, and such a huge support, and he loves his ‘grand-dogger’). If I think I’m going to have to put Mandy to sleep tomorrow (not thinking that at the moment, but things are going back and forth a lot this weekend), he’ll drive and then take me to the pet crematorium.  If she seems like she’s doing fairly well, and just going to be seen by the vet, I’ll take her myself.  She’s good in the car (and loves car rides until she gets where she always goes- the groomer or the vet).  If something happens quickly tonight, and God forbid, she dies, he’ll take me to the pet crematorium. I’ll be a wreck.  The idea of putting her into a box to go to ‘that place’ breaks my heart.  I know she won’t know the difference at that point, but I will.  She’s been too good of a companion to put into a box for any reason. If there’s any way to keep her just wrapped in a blanket, that would be much better.  Even if it’s just for a 4 mile trip.  Even if it’s just because I can’t stand the idea of her being ‘disregarded’ by being in an ordinary box.

I’ve been through this before. I survived, and got another puppy who stole my heart all over again.  I can’t afford a schnauzer (which has been my favorite dog since I was a little kid), but my dad said he’d be sure I got the puppy I want, since he’s very aware that being on disability and having very little contact with people makes the companionship all that more important.  I’ve got my name on a schnauzer rescue list, and got an e-mail with 3 available, and very adorable, puppies just yesterday.  But, I won’t get another one until Mandy is gone- the stress of a rambunctious puppy probably would be too much for her- she’s never interacted much with other dogs (she hides behind my legs when I take her to the groomer), and gets a bit snooty about them sniffing her back door. She almost seems offended at ‘dog’ behavior :D.  I’m just hoping that Mandy does well enough to indicate she’s still enjoying life for a while to come. I know the outcome of canine heart failure.  I just have to be sure I’m reading her well enough to know when enough is enough.

I know other people love their pets as much as I do.  I think it feels ‘worse’ because I’m alone, and really don’t have contact with any other living thing as much as I do her, since I’m home all of the time. In the last 8.5 years on disability, we’ve been together nearly 24/7 unless I’m in the hospital, at some doctor appointment, or brief trips to the grocery store or pharmacy.  I talk to my dad pretty much every day- which is also really important. But Mandy is my primary source of interaction with anything alive and in ‘person’.  She is also really in tune to my routines, and understands a LOT of what I say (it’s kinda creepy sometimes- LOL).  I’ve never had kids or been married, but I think I can relate to the intense love a parent has for a kid, at least to some degree.  I’d do anything I could for Mandy, and if someone ever tried to harm her, I’d go postal.  And have no regrets.

It’s going to be horribly painful when she no longer has any quality of life.  Once it becomes a struggle for her, or there is any indication of suffering, it’s over.  I won’t put my best friend through anything that prolongs her misery to avoid my grief over losing her.  I know I keep writing about this, but it’s just so hard to think of her being gone.  I don’t mean to sound ‘dismissive’ when I talk about another puppy before Mandy is gone, but it’s how I keep my mind from being totally overwhelmed by grief.  The circle of life and all of that.  Knowing I’d get another puppy (Mandy) after my last dog died really helped me look forward, and not stay stuck in the crying part of acute grieving.  I could find some joy in a new ‘baby’.  I bought toys every payday until Mandy was old enough to come home. She  has an obscene number of stuffed animals now, most of which she ignores, so the new puppy will have a lot to play with as well.

Find Mandy !  She has about 10 times more toys now !!

Find Mandy ! She has about 10 times more toys now !!

As with anything in life, I can’t predict when Mandy will be too sick to ‘make’ her keep going, and I’ll have to let her go.  So, I have to keep myself prepared, and try and make her life the best it can be during the time she has left.  I also have to enjoy all of the time she has left.  Yes, I need to keep being realistic, but also can’t have her half gone while she’s still here!  I know I’ll love another puppy intensely, but right now it’s hard to imagine loving anything as much as I love Mandy. She has been such an important part of my life.  My primary goal is to give as much as I can to her for as long as she’s around. And know when the time comes to give her the final gift of no suffering.

Mandy in her sweater- 2012

Mandy in her sweater- 2012

In the meantime, I’ll probably keep writing.  I’ll keep having times when I’m in tears, and standing in the laundry area of my apartment so nobody can hear me cry when the spin cycle is going.  I’ll be a wreck after she’s gone. And I’ll love every minute I can still see her sweet face looking at me while she’s still here. ❤

My Crazy, Amazing Schnauzer Mandy

Since my  11 1/2 year old miniature schnauzer was diagnosed with heart failure about six months ago, I find myself looking at her and thinking how blessed I am to have gotten her. As in the very specific and individual her. When I got her, my previous schnauzer had been gone a relatively short period of time. She too had heart failure, and had been put to sleep while in my arms, after a good year of treatment. But her time had come, and the decision was ‘easy’. She couldn’t go on; she was actively dying and struggling. I had already decided to get another dog; being single, I loved the companionship.  I finally found a breeder a couple of hundred miles away in Houston, TX, and contacted her. The arrangements were made that I’d get a female salt and pepper puppy with her next litter, that was due soon. But she needed to be seven weeks old before the breeder would send any puppies to their new homes. I didn’t get to see Mandy before I made the 9-hour round trip to get her, so had to rely on the breeder to pick out my new ‘baby’.

When I first saw her, the breeder was in her front yard, holding Mandy and talking to some guys working on her roof.  Mandy had a bright pink bandana around her neck, and weighed less than three pounds. She was about 6-7 inches tall when she was sitting.  I was instantly in love 🙂  I had to drive through Houston traffic to get home, and during most of that time while still in Houston, I was trying to keep Mandy in the clothes basket lined with a quilted cat bed. She wanted to be in my lap, but I didn’t want to take the chance of her getting hurt, or deciding to explore the car while on I-10, and in 5 lanes of cars.  Finally, somewhere near Katy, TX she settled down and fell asleep.  The drive home was otherwise uneventful.

From the get-go, she was a mama’s girl.  I’d taken vacation time from work when I got her, so had a week home to get her used to being with me. She slept under a clothes basket, on a waterproofed cloth pad, next to me on my bed. Initially, the clothes basket had been right-side up, but the 3rd morning, I heard a little bark next to the bed. She had jumped off of my bed, and was on the floor looking at me. I was scared she’d get hurt. So, I flipped the basket over, and she’d crawl under it every night. If she needed to use her papers in the middle of the night, she’d cry a little, waking me up.  During the day, she slept between my left shoulder and collarbone, curled up.  She’d suck on my earlobe at times, making weird little puppy noises.

I had a desk job as an RN, so I was able to bring her to the nursing home where I worked for several weeks. She stayed in her crate under my desk, and visited with the residents periodically.  The socialization was good for her, most of the residents loved her,  and I loved knowing she was nearby. The first time I left her home in the kitchen I was so sad. I knew she’d be fine with her bed, toys, pee pads, and food and water bowls, but I hated leaving her. The first time I left her home with the run of the place (after she’d shown consistency with using the pee pads), I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I got home. I have a realistic baby doll collection, and they were on shelves where their feet were very accessible. I feared coming home to toeless dolls. What I found was a pile of baby socks by the back door, and all toes intact. She hadn’t hurt them- just removed ALL of their socks. 🙂

Over the years, I realized that Mandy has some odd quirks.  She loves appliances, especially the dishwasher and clothes dryer. When I remove lint from the lint trap she gets so excited!  She actually pays attention to when the dryer turns off, and gets up to trot on over to where it is, looking at me as if to say “Well, get moving! We have lint!”. She also hates when I sneeze, and if I say I’m going to sneeze, she leaves the room.  She understands an eerie number of words. It freaks my dad out a bit. When he tells her the same things, she blows him off. If I tell her to do something, she’s amazing. She does not like the digital camera at all, and leaves the room if I take it off of the charger.  Taking photos of her is a nightmare. She wasn’t like that with my old 35mm SLR, and I can only think that the little noises the digital camera makes must be what bugs her.

Mandy, age 11
Nothing like some good cataracts !

As she’s gotten older, she’s not as good with ‘hygiene’, so I’ve started getting her groomed in a very short cut, leaving only a schnauzer face. It’s either that or use baby wipes on her girly parts to keep her clean.  She also leaks a bit if she doesn’t use her pee pads before bed, so I tell her to ‘go potty’ before turning in for the night, and she will.  She’s rather private about the whole thing, and it’s good that the linoleum entry way is behind a partial wall, or she’d sulk.  She also farts more as she’s gotten older, and I find it all very amusing. She can be in a nice sleep on one of her many places to nap, and suddenly be airborne, landing on her butt and staring at it as if something must be there violating her back door. Then she looks at me in a somewhat accusatory way.  She is fond of simethicone gas pills (for people), and if I ask her if she needs a gas pill, she very eagerly comes over and gets one. I saw the same ingredient  in dog gas pills at a pet store, so I know it’s safe.

Over the past six months, she’s had some fainting episodes that break my heart. When Mandy gets overly excited, and hyperventilates, she tips over- out cold- and lets out some deep cries that sound just agonizing.  Yet, she recovers quickly and goes on about her day.  Last Friday, she had one of these episodes while moving around in bed, so no activity preceded it. That bothers me a lot.  This week, she went to the vet to get some blood work done to check to see how her kidneys are handling the diuretic (water pills) she needs to keep her lungs less congested.  That came back normal, so there’s a good chance she will do well for many months to years.  Her heart failure was caught earlier than her predecessor, so that is good.  She likes taking her pills, as I stuff them in pieces of freeze dried mandarin oranges. If I ask if she needs her pills, she heads for the kitchen where I keep them.

But I know what’s coming. I know the time will come when her breathing takes too much effort to make it humane to keep her with me, and that breaks my heart. Each of my three dogs (starting when I was an 8 year old kid) has been special in her own way, and I missed the last two terribly when they died. But being home 24/7 because of various disabilities has created a different bond with this one. Mandy is THE living thing I see the most.  She’s the one I communicate with more than any human.  She understands a lot of what I tell her to do, and has the goofy quirks that have endeared her to me very deeply.  I have been making a mental list of things that signal that it’s no longer right or fair to make her keep going.  So far, she’s nowhere close to any of them.  But when the time comes, I must do what is best for her, as much as it will hurt. And I’ll get another schnauzer. NO dog could ever replace Mandy (or the ones before her), but each has soothed the wound of grief a bit, and quickly made her own way into my heart.