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October 10, 2015

IMG_2221Healing vs Heeling

Our lives are changing around here. As we enter our 8th year of dog walking, there’s a definite shift in the air. Triple Dog Pet Services has contracted with three other dog walkers, which is great because we don’t have to walk 12 dogs in a day on our own, and as we move away from doing all the dog walking, we are also shifting our focus. Well, Gretchen is shifting her focus, which means that Dezi and I are shifting as well. I know Dezi is fine with this since he couldn’t walk 12 dogs in a day like I could (being that he’s 14 year old now), but I’m still adjusting to the changes. True, I’m going to be 9 years old soon (how did that IMG_2292happen?) so not working so hard is probably a good thing, but still I like to work so I’m trying to find new ways to be a helping, working dog.

We still walk some dogs, like Woobie and Bella and Monty (some of the original gang) and now some of the new gang — Charley, Mr. Brown, Gus, and Mabel (the newer gang), but most of Gretchen’s focus is on massage, acupressure, and swim therapy and as much as I like receiving those therapies, I can’t really help with IMG_2243them.I guess you could say we’re moving from “heeling” to “healing.” My role is  shifting too because now I get to tell a whole different set of stories– the stories about the dogs (and cats!) who are receiving acupressure, massage, and swim therapy through Triple Dog Pet Services.

Today I’d like to focus on one dog in particular — a dog I have not met, but really hope to meet someday. Her name is Sarah and as you can see, she is absolutely beautiful (see why I want to meet her?).

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Sarah is an 8 1/2 year old Rottweiler mix. Gretchen and I think she’s mixed with a Swiss Mountain Dog, but there’s no real way to tell. As Sarah got older, she developed an occasional limp so her loving and devoted Dad took her to the vet to x-ray her back and rear legs. The x-ray not only captured what the vet requested — back and rear legs — but the radiograph caught a bit of Sarah’s left humerus (that long leg bone in front). While the radiologist reported early signs of arthritis in the back and hips (not IMG_2340unexpected given her age), he also spotted something else on the small slice of humerus captured in the x-ray and alerted the vet to take a closer look.

Unfortunately, osteosarcoma was detected (bone cancer) in Sarah’s left leg so she was  quickly scheduled for surgery and her left front leg was amputated to the shoulder. Unfortunate as the diagnosis was, the “luck” of catching it so early gives Sarah a great chance to overcome this horrible cancer. If the radiograph had just covered the areas the vet had requested, the cancer would have spread quickly and Sarah’s chance of survival would have been very very poor.

But now Sarah receives chemotherapy and the doctor is extremely optimistic that the cancer has not spread. Osteosarcoma is very aggressive and extremely painful, so catching it this early is a blessing.

Gretchen first met Sarah shortly after her diagnosis through another client (they live in the same IMG_2343building downtown). After Sarah had the amputation surgery and her first round of chemo (and once the incision had healed), Sarah’s Dad set up a massage sessions because he wanted to provide Sarah with the best start to her new three-legged life. As you can imagine, it’s hard enough losing a limb, but to lose a front leg on such a large dog, well, it’s even more strenuous on the body.

But shortly after her surgery, Sarah was moving around beautifully albeit throwing most of her weight to the right side of her body (w/out the front left limb it was the only way she could balance herself and get around). Still, it was a lot to get used to and Sarah, although very athletic, tired quickly with her new “gait.” Her muscles tighten up as well and so her guardian thought massage would be a great way to relieve the stress in those overworked muscles.

IMG_2226For many dogs, massage is a new concept. They’re not used to strangers coming to their door, sitting down with them, and rubbing them all over so generally, even the most social dog is a bit uncertain. Sarah was no different, but once she realized what massage was all about (about 10 minutes into the session), she was loving it!!

Four-legged Sarah was very active and athletic. She went on lots of walks, played fetch, and enjoyed walking to work with her Dad and helping him at his office. Three-legged Sarah was much more limited plus the chemotherapy treatments really wiped her out. To keep Sarah strong and limber as well as helping Sarah strengthen her depleted and chemo-zapped immune system, Gretchen recommended two additional therapies — swim therapy and acupressure.

Swim therapy is a great way for Sarah to get much needed cardiovascular exercise and it offers her a non-weight bearing workout that does not over-stress her already overstressed musculoskeletal IMG_2228system — her muscles, joints, and bones. Under the wonderful guidance of the fine therapists at Splash Dog Spa, Sarah took to swimming like a champ and now swims weekly to help her build strength and stamina, something she’s not really able to do with just walking. In the pool, Sarah can use her body like a four-legged dog with no need to compensate for the missing limb. With a life vest on, she swims as straight as can be and the exercise not only provides her with a great workout, it helps her stay mentally happy as well!

Acupressure is a great way to help maintain a healthy body as well and in Sarah’s case, her depleted and depleting immune system (zapped from the chemotherapy) needed as much support as it could get. During the massage session, Gretchen is able to support Sarah’s immune system by stimulating specific acupressure points or acupoints. While Sarah enjoys the massage session, she loves the acupressure most of all, usually falling asleep during the point work.

Sarah’s guardian is providing Sarah with the best care possible from the finest veterinarians in the oncology field to a variety of different modalities, like massage and acupressure. Our paws are all crossed that Sarah can beat this cancer diagnosis and I know everyone involved in her care, is honored to be working with her!

And yes, we are honored to be working with all our dog walking clients too!

Rubin

 

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October 1, 2014

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Where to Begin…

I thought 2013 was a rough year, but little did I know it was merely a warm up for 2014.

Yes, I have a million and one excuses as to why this blog has sat idle for months and months, but to sort through and explain all those reasons means I have to relive all of it and frankly, I’m not up to that IMG_6880today.

Today I want to begin on a fresh page. I want to forget (for a moment) that I’ve lost some important people in my life and some equally important canine pals. I want to forget that I’ve spent more time waiting for the next shoe to drop than I have doing the things I love…like swimming or hiking or cuddling or playing chase in a big open field. I want to forget the hospitals, the illnesses, the passings, the tragic endings, the dramatic changes in my life…all of it. I want to put it behind me and look at today as a whole new dance, a fresh plate of food, a crisp breeze of happiness.

That’s why I’ve posted that spectacular photo of Alaska to start this post. No, I didn’t get to go on this trip, but I know that when my moms were hiking across that scree, looking out at the expanse of the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountain Range, and reflecting back on this difficult year, they held me in their hearts.

IMG_20140524_095614_853Of course, I don’t really want to forget because all those people, all those dogs, and yes, all those sad events (and the happy ones too) make me the dog I am. I am the dog who comforts those who spend the night in our guest room because they need not only a place to stay, but a place where they can feel loved. I am the dog who moves over to make way for another dog in our lives. I am the dog who visits my human family and remembers the gentle man by whose feet I laid for most of my life. I am the dog who travels well, who loves to make people laugh (even when they are sad), who is calm when needed and rowdy when it’s necessary. I am the dog who lies under the desk while my moms work too hard and too long and still find time to love me (and my new brother, Dezi) beyond measure.

I am the dog who has 7 1/2 years under his belt and I have no belt. I just have a life and every bump in the road and every glorious peak make this life, my life.

So much has changed in 2014 I don’t know where to begin except to reflect on this past week when things, remarkably, felt a bit more normal.

And for that reflection, it all comes down to the dogs. You’ve seen their pictures here a million times, but if you’re like me, you never get tired of them. Yes, this is where I will begin and hope (paws crossed) that the order of universe falls back in line.

I will begin with Monty — my longest, bestest friend. Monty is my steadfast pal who walks with me, swims with me, begs for snacks with me, smiles with me, and never ever once ruffles my feathers. Sure he used to chase me more in our younger years, but I don’t mind giving that up as long as I can have Monty by my side. (These are two older photos, but I like them very much as they show our playful sides and our serious, moody sides).

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Next, I must mention Dezi — my new/old brother and yes, my new pal. I’ve known Dezi almost as long as I’ve known Monty, but I never thought Dezi would be sharing the same roof (or bed, or back of the car, or moms) with me. I have no regrets. I couldn’t ask for a nicer brother. Okay, I could ask that he be younger (he just turned 13) so I could spend more time with him, but I couldn’t ask for anything else. Yes, I’d gladly give up my spot in the car for him, my cushy place on the human bed for him, and even my coveted corner of the couch just so the last few years of his life can be spent in comfort, security, and love.

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Albert — Little Albert that is. He’s kind of become a younger brother to Dezi’s older brother. What a lively fella and visiting him means we get to explore the Fairgrounds, the park by the water, and the wetlands walk by Grandma’s house. You’ve come a long way in a year, little buddy, and both Dezi and I are proud to call you family!

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And then there’s all the rest…(not in any particular order)…

Maizy and Zizou — what would I do in my life if you weren’t there to smell my privates or jump on jowls?

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Rosie — I doubted your ability to be a normal dog, but you’ve proven me wrong. I kind of like hanging out with you and even though you’re blind in one eye, you are pretty darn good at spotting those crows so we can both bark at them!

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Tyson — Your steady presence in my life (and in Rosie’s) is something I’ve really grown to count on. I like when you can hang out at our house and bark at the people walking by together!

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Chief — I know Gretchen loves swimming you at the pool, but I think walking those slow strolls with you is a pretty sweet way to spend time with you. You make 14 look pretty darn good!

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Bella- You experienced your own loss this year with the passing of your brother, Henri. You two were quite a pair, but with his loss, you’ve settled right into being the top dog. I know, we both still miss that little Henri fellow, but our friendship has been strengthened, I think, by his passing.

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And Bella’s buddy Humphrey, who joins us on occasion. He has many nicknames –Egg Roll, Tater Tot, Dumpling — and he doesn’t mind in the least. He is, as our Scottish friends would say, a wee smasher (translation: a good egg!)

humphreytongueHumphrey

 

 

 

Sonny — Apple Man! If people only knew what a softy you are…well I know and I can tell you that you’ve given me a whole new way of looking at “street food!”

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Joey — Oh my…was I really that wild and bouncy when I was his age? I think not…but still, it’s good to know that when I need a laugh, you’ll be there Joey to warp yourself up in the leashes or stumble down the stairs with excitement.

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Finn — Finn is, in his own way, a lot like Joey — bouncy, silly, energetic. But Finn has a cuddling side that is, in one word, hysterical. He loves to plop himself on top of the humans and then act like it was all an accident. Just like Joey, he makes me laugh and the way this year has gone, laughing is good!

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Theo — Little Miss Bossy Pants –I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit in love with Theo. She has a way about her that just wiggles its way under my skin. Seeing Theo once a week is okay, but when she gets to stay overnight, well, that’s divine.

Ms. Theo

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Kali and Carter — Our relationship has changed — I don’t see you as much anymore — but your Yin and Yang antics provide me with the balance I need in life!

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Mabel – My only regret with you is that I don’t get to see you as much as I’d like, but when I do, well, I make the most of it. So do you!! Wiggle wiggle wiggle and drool to you, sweet Mabel!mabelMabel in the sun

Lulu — Auntie Lulu, that is. I love it when you walk by our house, stop at the gate, and whine for me to come out and play. So glad you get to hang out with us overnight sometimes! You make me feel safe!

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Roux — We don’t see Roux as much anymore, but when we do, it’s party time! That’s what friendship is all about don’t ya know…even if we can’t always have you on our schedule regularly, we are really good at making up for lost time.

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Buhner — the newest member of our pack! I was tentative at first. You’re  big dude and sometimes I don’t do well meeting new (big) dudes. But you’ve shown yourself to be a perfect gentleman. And because you live in a new neighborhood, I’ve really appreciated you showing me around the Washington Park Arboretum and the surrounding neighborhood.

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There are others that Gretchen sees — the swimmers and the massage and acupressure clients — and I know she adores each and everyone of them, but I feel super lucky to have the pack I do — canines and humans.

Blessings are sometimes wrapped in misfortune…this is what I’ve learned so far in 2014. My heart is sad at times with all those humans I miss — Grandpa, Ann L., and Michael — and with all the dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge — Quillette, Henri, Griffey, Nippy and all those who Gretchen has worked with! — but knowing them has brightened my life in ways I can never measure or truly explain.

I am loved. Bottom line. I am loved.

 

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