|Striking a pose.|
October 12th marked the ninth anniversary of Abbey's homecoming, so it's time for the annual "I love my dog" post!
|An "old dog wart" pushing up the fur on Abbey's head.|
While slightly icky, the sebaceous adenomas have the advantage of being external growths and therefore easy to identify. Alas, Abbey's cells have also been busy crafting internal lumps. She is a real expert at creating lipomas, or fatty tumors. She has about half a dozen of them now, some on her neck, one on her side, another on the chest, and a bunch in belly/groin area. So far all of these ones have behaved themselves, not growing much bigger or harder, and again, it's best to leave them alone, as surgery is much harder on a dog than carrying around fat deposits that are each roughly the size of an olive.
|Lolling in her bed after her surgery this June.|
|Basking in the sun while wearing one of my shirts to cover the stitches.|
|Proudly showing off her already well-healed incision|
after the stitches were removed.
|She's back to bouncing and pouncing and twirling and whirling!|
|Abbey posing with her nemesis/new friend.|
|A stressed-out Abbey, clad in her ThunderShirt, anxiously looks to the sky for signs of lightning.|
I couldn't believe it. We were in the midst of a two-hour long storm. Thunder still rolled overhead as she lay there with her head on her pillow, her eyes fluttering closed. I called to her and when she got up, she did start to exhibit some of the same stressed behavior as before. And yet, halfway through the same song, she again settled down, stopped panting, and put her head down. I repeated this experiment three more times with my mother as a witness. Every single time, the same thing happened. We then let the music continue and eventually Abbey fell asleep. I am now a believer! I went right to iTunes and bought the album containing her "favorite" song and then loaded it onto my iPod so if there are storms in the night, I can put the iPod on the dock in my bedroom and let the music lull her into a state of relaxation. We've had another small storm since and she was again able to stop pacing and trying to hide under things and assume a relaxed position with her head down. If you have a dog that's anxious or needs help settling down, I definitely recommend trying music! "Through a Dog's Ear" is one of the main purveyors of dog relaxation music and they have some free, playable tracks on their website as well as downloadable albums. I know someone who just loves their portable music player! RelaxMyDog has an entire YouTube channel of songs set to soothing videos. This is the song that works on Abbey--the track is technically called "Around the Campfire" and is from RelaxMyDog's "Dog Relaxation Music - Music to Help Your Dog to Relax From Stress or Anxiety." We are all so happy to have found something that helps!
|Abbey and her Screamie.|
For me it has been the Year of the Insect (you can see posts on the subject here and here) and Abbey was a big supporter of my desire to photograph them. She loved it when I hunted for insects in the backyard because she could come out with me, sprawling in the sunshine and scanning the trees for squirrels. She was less pleased when I took my camera into the front yard. She'd settle herself by the front windows, woefully watching me stalk critters in the bushes, wagging her tail when I looked her way. I was often rewarded with a yodel for coming back inside!
|Abbey tries to conjure up squirrels by staring intently at the trees.|
|Abbey looks on as I photograph critters in the rhododendrons outside the front windows.|
|Peanut butter tongue.|
When I say treats, I'm usually talking about cereal. We trained her with Cheerios for years (she got her own single-serving bowl of Cheerios in her most recent Christmas stocking) because they're small, crunchy, low in calories, and we usually had some around. She thought they were pretty much as good as treats get (she'd love cheese, of course, but cheese is not on the menu, and peanut butter isn't well suited for the car) until she discovered her true love: Rice Chex. Abbey thinks Rice Chex are amazing. She will do ANYTHING for Rice Chex. Other dogs go nuts for things like bacon; she'd probably got nuts for bacon, too, if we offered it to her. But why give your dog bacon when she's not just willing but clamoring to do whatever you want her to do for something as simple as Rice Chex? We get the store brand variety, so it's a cheap treat, too. In addition to sprucing up some of her other skills, I also taught her to catch with Rice Chex. It seemed a pity that she couldn't nab a flying morsel out of the air, especially since she was capable of amazing catches when it came to balls, but until recently, if you tossed a piece of food her way, she'd look puzzled and let it hit her in the face. Not so with Rice Chex! She immediately grasped the concept (and the fun!) of snatching a piece of cereal out of the air. I've recently been working on photographing her catching Rice Chex, a practice agreeable to both of us. I like it because the resulting photos make me laugh. She likes it because I am terrible at tossing the Rice Chex and taking photos at the same time, so we have to do it over and over again! What a win-win!
|Catch the noms!|
|Abbey working on an antler.|
|If I was going to give Abbey spaghetti, I was definitely going to play "Lady and the Tramp" with her, too!|
Antlers, car training, vacuum training, "go in your house," and Rice Chex aside, what really has made this the Year of the Treat is a shift we made in our philosophy regarding them. We never gave Abbey many treats because she has a sensitive stomach and because she's been so well-behaved and easy to train. A few Cheerios here and there, some tasty things to keep her distracted at the vet, an "all-natural" Cheeto when she came in from going outside, and she was good to go. We never fed her from the table and when you dropped food in the kitchen, with the exception of cheese, she would back away from it and look up at you with worried eyes before the words "Leave it!" could even leave your mouth. She didn't beg and it was nice. But then, one day, while cooking spaghetti, my mother reminisced about how fun it was to give the dog we had when I was growing up a piece of spaghetti. "Could we just give Ab one?" my mom wondered. It was tempting, that's to be sure. It's always funny to watch a dog reel in a long strand of spaghetti. Then my mother reframed the question this way: "Will we be sorry after she's gone that we never gave her a piece of spaghetti?" That settled it. We were both going to be very sorry if Abbey lived her whole life without ever getting the chance to reel in a piece of spaghetti. And not just spaghetti: we're not feeding her off plates or anything, but maybe we'll let something fall on the floor and let her clean it up. In fact, every time I eat sunflower seeds, at least one ALWAYS "accidentally" lands on the floor. It turns out she's as good at catching bow tie pasta as she is at catching Rice Chex. And it turns out that Rice Chex have absolutely nothing on potato chips! She doesn't get treats whenever she asks for them; in fact, the more she boldly she asks (and if she's asking boldly, potato chips are probably involved!), the less likely she is to get a treat. And it's just those little things: a seed or a nut here, a piece of plain pasta there, a dropped fragment of a chip, perhaps a piece of cereal exchanged for a "sit" when the pantry is open. Abbey is extremely happy with this new plan and we are, too, knowing that we won't be sorry that we didn't baby her enough after she's gone.
That last bit, the part about "after she's gone," scares me. I know that Abbey is what people refer to as "the dog of my heart" or "the dog of my life." Of the many dogs I hope to have over the years, she's going to be remain a standout. And it's not just that she's special, it's that she's essential. I must have a dog. And all dogs must die. Maybe I'll get lucky and Abbey will be with me for nine more years. Maybe she'll live for five more. Or two. Or, what really scares me, she'll pass away very suddenly. She's old enough for that to happen and since she's never been one to complain, I can definitely see her hiding signs of growing discomfort and sickness until it's too late. I fervently hope that I have some advance warning, maybe a couple of months, when the time comes. It's not saying good-bye that scares me (although I know it will be heartbreaking) because I've loved her immensely and she has known that love every single day. What terrifies me is the time after, the raw hole with no dog to fill it, right when I need a dog most. A dog isn't optional for me, and yet Abbey must be an only dog. I had been thinking I wanted my next dog to be a service dog, but service dogs involve waiting lists and training times and it could be months, if not longer, before I had a dog at home again. I don't think I can go without a dog for months. I'm trying to work all these things out now, to have a plan in place for Abbey's eventual exit, because that's one of the things that will keep me going when she's gone.
But she's not gone yet, my brindle girl. I have a sense that I need to be paying attention now, to be active in the way that I love her, but aside from a growing collection of lumps and some more gray on the muzzle, Abbey is as she has always been, the imperfectly perfect brindle beauty that we adopted because she was sitting so patiently in her kennel at the shelter nine years ago, not knowing how silly she could be with toys and how much she would make us laugh when we watched her play; not realizing exactly how perfect her deep, plush, soft, and odorless fur was and that she would love to be petted as much as I love to pet her; unable to imagine how much she would love riding in the car or the "go in your house!" game. We didn't know she had food allergies or would get gum disease or be such a prodigious shedder; we were only dimly aware of the amount of joy that the sight of her relaxing in her bed would give us; had no idea how expressive her warm brown eyes and super-soft little ears could be and how much we would love to read her many thoughts and emotions writ by them; and we simply could not have comprehended how essential she would become, my loyal brindle shadow, and how much I would need her, and how being my companion would fill her life with meaning, joy, and purpose.
So here's to my girl, who will carefully back herself into position so she can noisily bang her wagging tail against the armchair and the end table; who likes to wriggle around on a corner of the family room rug after she's had her dinner, snapping her jaws with pleasure; who hates delivery men with a passion and will give a low, warning "wuff" (if not worse) any time she hears a heavy truck in the neighborhood; who likes to ride in the car with one of her forelegs up on the door's armrest; who will try to entice you into following her by repeatedly pausing and looking over her shoulder with a beguiling expression to see if you are following; who, after boinging after squirrels in the yard, always has to sprint over to her bathroom area to take a post-chase poop; whose breath smells like bad salmon; who likes to wait at the top of the stairs with her front paws dangling off the top step; who sneezes when she's excited; who loves picking up family members from the airport; who hates getting her feet wet and going out in the rain but loves to swim; who will not get up on my parents' bed even when invited unless I am on it, but loves nothing more than sitting up there with my mother and me at the end of the day while my dad is getting ready for bed; who doesn't like baths or getting her nails clipped but is patient and resigned about both; who has terrible social skills with dogs and strangers because I have not, to my great regret, been well enough to socialize her; who knows to stay completely still when I point my camera at her; who can hear the sound of the lid on the peanut butter jar being unscrewed from anywhere in the house; who loves to get up on my bed in the morning to hollow out a little spot in the blankets while they are still warm from my body; whose brindle is darker on one side than the other; who loves to sprawl in sunbeams; who, when she spies someone sitting with one leg crossed over the other, can never resist throwing her front half down on the floor and wriggling her raised rump against the dangling shoe in the most undignified manner; whose velvety ears are the softest thing you will ever touch in this life; whose warm, brown eyes contain drifting iridocillary cysts; who is more willing than any dog I've ever met to take "no" for an answer; who wraps a paw around her nose when she's sleeping very hard; who wags her tail every time I look at her; who is the dog of my heart and my life.
|"This is the best day!"|
p.s. If you like Abbey, you should check out her out on Pack! It's a photo-based social network for dogs and I post a new image of Abbey every day. Sign up your dog, track Abbey, and I'll track you back!
I also post non-Abbey photographs every day on my c.creativity Facebook page.