Merlin.. my love

Merlin was my first APDT/WCRL Rally dog.. Everyone had tried AKC but I gave then APDT Rally a try in March of 2008 with Merlin. He did well his first trial, got his level 1 and I had a lot of fun. It was one of those “and I never looked back” moments. Today he completed his ARCHMX5 for those not in the know. there are 4 championship levels in WCRL Rally ARCH ( 5 double q’s and points from a and b) ARCHX 5 double q’s above 195, ARCHEX , 5 double q’s in levels 2 and 3 195 or better and ARCHMX, the only one you can earn multiples, 10 triple q’s level 1, 2, 3 195 or better at the same trial. Kestrel did this quite handily, ARCHMX6, she got an ARCH and an ARCHX one weekend in maine, she was solid and consistent. Merlin, well, Merlin is Merlin, he’s had times in his life where rally wasn’t his thing, or obedience wasn’t his thing (agility until recently has ALWAYS been his thing, that and the rats in barn hunt) He’s 11 1/2 now, has 133 titles covering all his venues… he’s titled in 5 venues of agility, 3 venues of obedience, 3 venues of rally… He loves to compete, he loves to go on the road on the weekends… However what I will say about Merlin, even if he’s tired, and he’s not really into it, he’ll give it a go because I want to. He’s a GOOD BOY, he always has been. He sleeps in heel position (no kidding, the dog is on my left leg in bed every single night).

Today he retires from upper levels of rally. He slogged through an RAE2 in AKC because I wanted to go to nationals. He finished his ARCHMX5 today because I like to leave no stone unturned. I’m sure when he got up this morning he didn’t say, wow, I would like a really nice ribbon today.. Nope he got up and said, she’s loading the truck and I better be on board!!!! She better not go somewhere without me. He will still have trials to do, veterans, some CDSP obedience, lots of nosework, some barn hunt and perhaps an agility run here and there. He will always “be on the truck”. I partially retire dogs but never retire them because I believe that if they’ve competed all their life, they retire and die. So I find sports that work better for their aging bodies, classes that suit their aging bodies. (and no worries about Merlin’s health, recent blood work shows him in perfect health, he’s just slowing down)

Merlin will still be seen in WCRL Veteran’s (and the occasional level 1 run because its good to heel on leash).. He’s the #1 Veteran for 2016 and may 2017 bring the same…. and if you are at a trial I am at, come say hi to Merlin, he’ll still be “on the truck”

ALCH UCD URO3 ARCHMX5 CT-ATCH Grampian Raptor Mystique, CD, GN, BN, RAE2,NAP,NJP,NFP,RATS,WC,CDX-C,CD-CCH, SPJ,CTL3, CSL2, GV-N, TDI,THDN,CGCA, CC – what a guy!!!!

Not sports equipment, didn’t sign the check

They didn’t sign the check.

I often say this when briefing a rally class. Our dogs don’t sign the checks, mine have a check book, but really, they don’t get to pick when and what they enter. I try to do a mix of things. If I put as much effort into one sport as I do into 5 sports 2-5 venues each. we’d be champions. And in rally we are, RAE2, multiple ARCHMX awards. because the dogs like it as do I.

I see so many handlers disappointed because their dog didn’t do x or y. they ran around a jump, they broke a stay, they didn’t retrieve, and that handler is mad at their dog. Head up, these are dogs, sentient beings doing the best they can for us humans. They are not sports equipment.

A broken stay is not the equivalent of a ski binding that got stuck. A run around the jump is not the same as a stovepipe in a pistol. That drop that didn’t happen, not the same as a broken bat.

If we have issues with our dogs, they are training issues, proofing issues, and method issues. I do know of folks that if the dog can’t do it competitively they get another dog. Really? If my dog can’t do it competitively, I work on my method, am I teaching it clearly and well, can someone else give me some insight into what is going on. Does my dog hate this sport?? Well let’s find one he likes or some other activity that is REWARDING TO THE DOG…

And the drilling. some dogs enjoy drilling, the late Kestrel could have been drilled till the cows come home, “you like this, you like this, you like this” on and on she had more persistence than I did…, other dogs , Merlin and Hawke, I did it twice, I did it right, what’s your issue human?? Did I trade them in on a more driven dog. NO I found what worked best for them. Again they are who they are, they are not sports equipment.

I guess at some point we either have to take ego out of the equation… I trained my dog, this test shows what I need to work better, or admit that the dog is an extension of who we are and how we are valued… and I feel sorry for the dogs in that position.

The best thing about my dogs?? They sleep in heel position, every night, dogs on the left.

Bottom line, you the human entered the show, the dog didn’t sign the check, they really aren’t volunteers in this process. They like to work, and/or they love you but they didn’t get up this morning fill in an entry and sign a check.. respect that. I try to.

2016 In Review, 2017 Goals

Goals for 2016
Merlin: CS-ATCH, ARCHMX4, RLVX7-10, CDX, CDSP Versatility, RATM
Kestrel to enjoy some of 2016
Elf: CDSP Starter, BN, RN, RA, ARCH, CPE level 1 and 2, start AKC agility

How did they do? Kestrel got 14 days of 2016, 13 of which she enjoyed.  Merlin finished his ARCHMX4, his RLVX7-13, and his PSD-NB, His CPE level 3.  Elf got her RN, ARCH, CPE level 1, URO1, CDSP SN and ASN-c.  The scent dog work is new for both Merlin and Elf and they seem to be taking to it.

Goals for 2017.

Merlin: PSD – overall novice, and some advanced titles, RATM, CDX-CCH, ARCHMX5, RLVX14-20, CPE Level 4
ELF: BN, RA, ARCHX, Level 3, ARCHEX, CPE Level 3, start AKC Agility, get some teacup titles, PSD Novice, RATO

Everybody counts or nobody counts

The sun rose this morning. It will rise 1549 times, till inauguration day of the candidate who wins in 2020. Those who are upset, disgusted, shocked, appalled, by the misogyny, xenophobia and hate, the lockstep herd mentality following slogans without solutions, the time is now.

Don’t hate, do better. Work harder for the underdog. Look for opportunity to include. Our pledge of allegiance ends with “liberty and justice for all” – don’t forget the all – everybody counts or nobody counts.

and hug your dog – they don’t know about politics, they only know about love.

Knowing when it’s time

Back in November I posted…“I can’t keep her around longer for me.  I have to “man up” and do what’s best for her, and for her, that is giving her the best last months of her life.

Today I finished that.

I wanted a sign. I really did.
Kestrel and I were so connected I was sure there would be obvious indications. Sometimes its really clearcut, they stop eating (at least in Labradors that’s a big sign).  Sometimes they collapse and their gums are pale and the next steps are clear.  Some folks say there is “the look”, and wait for that look.  Some folks say “you’ll know”.

Sometimes its not clear cut at all.
The eating continues, fueled by the prednisone. They lie down on the floor because they are tired, more tired than usual.  But wag, wag, wag when they see you. They bark to demand breakfast.  They totter out and eat snow. They totter in and demand cookies.  They knock over the trash to eat bacon grease soaked tinfoil Where is my sign?

There are checklists on animal hospice sites.  An excellent one at Quality of Life Scale . But suppose the dog is taking nutrition, hydrating, happy, doesn’t seem to be in pain, has tumors which are cleaned and getting nursing care, the checklists don’t help.  The differences between a good day and a bad day are subtle.  Didn’t bark for breakfast.  Slept more. Didn’t move much.

Green goop in the eyes.
That was my sign.  The sign to look more deeply and consider Kestrel – what does she love most to do? What always made her happiest? I saw the green goop, and cleared it away, and petted her.  She dug up an old busted frisbee and tried to pick it up.  I picked it up for her, and could see she could no longer chase it.  So Kestrel stood and I ran it up to her and she grabbed it with delight. I knew I needed to think harder.

I thought.  I reached out on Facebook and got support and concern and positive energy and compassion and advice when I asked “how do you face the end game”?  And I started to find peace.  I dug around on some pet hospice sites, I reviewed prior CE’s on the Art of Euthanasia. Was I keeping her here just for me, even though she kept eating, kept wagging?  Maybe her end includes eating and wagging.  I pondered more deeply.  She didn’t love the cone, but the cone was essential to keep her from making the ulcerations worse.  Her leg had edema, and when it had surprisingly more the next day, maybe that was a sign as well. When petting her, I could feel that she was losing muscle mass. One morning she didn’t bark for breakfast, did that mean she was gone? was she done? No, she just didn’t bark for breakfast that day.

So what did we do? I thought and petted her, sent her Reiki.  Kestrel wagged and ate, and played 3 rounds of bring the frisbee.  She slept and I watched.  And somehow I knew.  Sometimes there are no checklists, there is no clearcut answer, you have think more deeply, sense more deeply, to know.  You may never be sure that you are right.  Sometimes you just have to go with “better one day too soon than one day too late”.

Today was that day. In typical Kestrel style, her last minutes included both eating and wagging – and that brought peace to me.

Kestrel Neroe Tourney 2013

2015 in Review 2016 goals

At the end of last year I set some goals “Goals for 2015 (I always set goals.. keeps me moving forward)
Kestrel: CDX-CCH and her CDSP Versatility title, PCDX, RLVX12-15, ARCHMX6, RATS
Merlin: CT-ATCH, CDX, PCDX, CD-CCH, RVLX5, ARCHMX3, RATS”
How did we do?

Kestrel: She got her RLVX12-15, and her ARCHMX6, and RL3X8, RL2X10, RL1X10 and her PSD SD-ND novice Distance.
Merlin: CT-ATCH, RLVX1-6, CD-CCH, ARCHMX3, RATS, BN,THDN
not bad at all
And Elf who joined us in February got her RATI, RATN, and CGC

Goals for 2016
Merlin: CS-ATCH, ARCHMX4, RLVX7-10, CDX, CDSP Versatility, RATM
Kestrel to enjoy some of 2016
Elf: CDSP Starter, BN, RN, RA, ARCH, CPE level 1 and 2, start AKC agility

she has this

today is 2 months post diagnosis..  Kestrel is good.. in a cone, working on a fabric solution – check my facebook page for last week’s hammer pants…dogs, humans anyone with cancer doesn’t come with a stamped expiration date.  yeah, they give ranges, 4-6 months 12 months 6-12  18-24  but that is based on statistics  and well

a few things about statistics .. in humans, based on clinical experience  but sometimes the subject succumbs to something else, or the stats are from 5 or 10 years ago and we do better now

and in dogs…  owners can put the dog down for quality of life issues, or other issues, so all those ranges are skewed.. by dogs that died of something else, by humans who could not deal, or by switching vets… it is a statistics game..

and my world of statistics includes, figures don’t lie, but liars figure.  just because you have some diagnosis, with some time frame….a) the dog doesn’t know that  b) your dog is not dead

they may be on their way to death.. but.. it is statistics not your dog…as something I recently reminded me

your dog is not dying.. right not this minute.. THEY ARE LIVING.. they are alive… not gone, not done.. here now

 

HERE NOW..   enjoy them

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Kestrel has had a rough few months.  She had a neck issue, that had her gait off, we dealt with that, then there was this black bald spot on her leg.  Aspirated, it was nothing, then it started to grow, still nothing, grew more.. my vets looking at the picture were, go see a specialist, which we did, and on September 25th she had surgery.  It was a mast cell tumor, grade 3 in one system, high grade in the other, high mitotic index.  UGH.  it was an ugly tumor I will spare you the pictures, but like the side of an orange.  we got results 10/1/15 and got her into NEVOG for an opinion not long after.  We were offered some choices..  chemo , palladia, all with some side effects, and some hugely expensive.  Palladia over 500 bucks a month and no extension of the 6 -12 month prognosis.

I’ve been down the prognosis road before, Hawke got 3 weeks post surgery from her 3-6 months.

Had they said Palladia would buy her a year or 2, I would have done it, but it didn’t seem with her tumor it would make a difference.  A few weeks later, we are aspirating another mass.   Looks like histocytoma, maybe malignant, we take it off 11/3..  Damn another  Mast Cell , grade 2, but high mitotic figures..

Well I guess its a sister of the one we took off.

We are done cutting lumps

Kestrel is 12 1/2 , she has always been a busy active dog.  two knee surgeries, chronic iliopsoas.. she has no sense of self preservation and is often hurt.

SHE DOESN’T KNOW SHE HAS CANCER

I could do treatments, chemo and pred, or palladia, no guarantees. she might feel sick, vomit, diarrhea, etc., etc.  or I could do palliative treatment,  Benadryl and Pepcid, maybe prednisone.  There is a lot that modern veterinary has to offer.  but I am of the opinion that

Just because we can , doesn’t mean we should.

Kestrel is not a dog who suffers illness well.  Her job is to be busy, doing, being, helping.  How do I explain to her that I want to make her sick to keep her around a bit longer for me?

I can’t.

She is meant to be a busy active dog.  Hell’s teeth, she is my Novice A dog (when Hawke washed out of that process). Kestrel loves to show, to work, to fetch and chase and race and do it all.  I can’t keep her around longer for me.  I have to “man up” and do what’s best for her, and for her, that is giving her the best last months of her life.

So my, our, choice for her is to do palliative care and keep her happy as long as we can.  Sure, there is chemo, and all that, but I really believe that is not her wish.

There is a lot of societal pressure to do EVERYTHING we can for our dogs..  there is the cost, there are the side effects, but DO IT ALL.  I don’t buy into that.  Could I spend the money, sure.. do I want to for a short prognosis? no way.  and to have her sick from side effects, double No Way.

She is Kestrel, my “little Bits”. she doesn’t understand sick, vomiting, diarrhea, feeling unwell to get a little more time.

She is here, in the moment, busy busy, enjoying every moment.  Until I find a way to explain chemo and advanced treatments to dogs.. I just say “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”

and for those who say I’m heartless, its the same decision I made for my mom.. she had a few months to live,  but we could give her chemo… what would be the outcome? not much different.

just sayin’

A new Raptor

pow feb 2015Meet Grampian Punkwudgie Pow, JH.  The newest raptor lab.  She’s 3 1/2 and very cute as you can see.  Her name is a play on her mother’s name,  Grampian Lil’ Puckwudgie KaBoom.  KaBoom, born on the 4th of July and a puckwudgie is a Wampanoag troll like being with all sorts of powers.  Pow is a bit of an mysterious Elf herself, not too much of a punk despite her name, and our pet name for her is Elf (representing not just her actions but the Floridian Elf Owl to keep the raptor theme going).  Pow was the 2013 Yankee Waterfowler’s Dog of the year.  Here in raptor land she’ll be working on agility, rally, obedience, barn hunt and the occasional hunt test.  She got her first title with me last week RATI (her Barn Hunt instinct test).

Merlin Gets his CT-ACTH

Merlin got his CT-ATCH on February 22, 2015.  This is the CPE agility trial champion title, and its a CT-ATCH instead of a C-ATCH because he runs as an enthusiast!  Now that this is complete, he’ll be running as a specialist, jumping 12″ to make it a bit easier on his bodymerlin ctatch  Here he is with his new ribbon!  He also wants it known, he’s enjoying being a specialist, and has finished Level 1 already.