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January 13, 2016

Lessons Learned

Seems like everywhere I turn, people are telling me their resolutions. I’ve made them every year of IMG_2996my 8.9 years in life, but this year I somehow forgot. Perhaps this is fortuitous because I’ve decided I’m not going to write resolutions anymore. Instead, I’m going to reflect on lessons learned.

Just as I was going to review my whole life in 2015, two lessons presented themselves in the first few weeks of 2016.

  1. Rescuing Cats is a lesson in Letting Go

As you may remember from my last post, Gretchen rescued an orange tabby cat while we were in Oregon for the holidays. We named him Rudy (for Rudolph the red-nosed guy) and did a lot of communicating with each other (could one of us take him?) and with a wonderful rescue organization — Cat’s Cradle Rescue. If you recall, Rudy ended up at the Humane Society Shelter because he had a microchip and so the law required a good-faith effort to find Rudy’s family.

IMG_2958Meanwhile, we made plans (with the help of our good friend, Randi at Natural Pet Pantry) to drive back down toward Rudy, meet up with the Cat’s Cradle folks, and bring Rudy back here to a cat sanctuary.

But then…

We got a call from Cat’s Cradle that they had been informed that Rudy’s family was headed to the shelter to pick him up!

At first, we were thrilled — Rudy is going home!

But then we hesitated. Wait…where had this family been the whole time  he’d been in the shelter? Was he going home to a good family or to the family who had tried to get rid of him initially?

And here’s the lesson: Assume best intentions.

I have had this lesson raise it’s head before, but I guess I have yet to fully digest it. We may never know how Rudy ended up in the walnut grove blind, sick, wet, and hungry. We can create endless scenarios — some with good intentions (he ran away?) and some awful (he was dumped?) — but in IMG_2932the end, we may never find out what happened.

So we have decided to assume the best of intentions. Luckily we found Rudy. Provided him food, water, shelter, and love until he could be reunited with his family who loves him and who were desperate to get him back home where he belongs.

It’s hard to hold that thought — my mind wanders back to why he was lost, did his family really want him, how long had he been in the cold, wet field, will they take care of him now that they have him back, is he in the best place possible? — but it’s the good thoughts I must hold because I really have no other choice. I can live my life in that negative space or I can live my life in a more positive place.

The latter makes me breathe a lot easier than the former.

Lesson learned? Hard to know, but for now, I’m practicing holding that positive space, those positive thoughts and doing my best to assume best intentions.

2. Be Careful Whose Business you Stick your Nose In…

I have to tell this lesson backwards. This last weekend, I ended up in the Emergency Room. Don’t IMG_2985worry, I’m on the mend, but my moms were worried. So was I. I developed a really ugly sore on the tip of my ear. I had to wear the cone of shame and that was perhaps the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done in my life!

But the ear wasn’t getting better and soon the same kind of sore showed up on my other ear, at the top this time and not the tip. And then, literally overnight, those sores showed up on my muzzle — both sides — and I was going nuts with the itching. It was unbearable.

By the time Gretchen got home from work at the pool on Sunday, those sores were starting to appear on my shoulders.

The first thought was mites so they treated me for that, but things kept getting worse. When Gretchen saw me Sunday night, she finally made the decision to rush me to the ER to see if they could figure out what it was.

Let me digress a moment — Emergency Rooms are placing of great healing but also of great sadness. We saw some very sad cases on Sunday and it made us grateful that such wonderful people work at Emerald City Emergency Clinic. And we hope all the animals we saw Sunday night are in a better place than they were.

IMG_2870Now back to the story…

The vet on call was in surgery so I had to hang out for about 3 hours before they could diagnose me. Don’t worry — I didn’t have to sit there suffering. They gave me a low level anti-histamine and some pain meds so I felt better.

And then they scraped the sores on my nose.

I was a remarkably good boy. Remarkably. Much to everyone’s surprise, even my own.

What they found out is that I had a sore on the tip of my ear got infected and somehow exposed to staph. Then, as staph will do, it spread rapidly and painfully across my face and eventually down my back.

But how did I get exposed to staph?

Remember when I was in Oregon visiting my family? Well, my Uncle Paul and my Aunt Patti live on a wonderful hillside surrounded by walnut groves and horse pastures.

When we went for walks, we walked through the walnut groves (where we found Rudy) and we also walked and played in the horse pastures.

I won’t lie. It was fun. I got to play with my cousins — Ringo and Kili — and I had my first taste of IMG_2960horse poo.

Yep…apples of it were everywhere and when I saw Kili eating it, I thought I should give it a try. You might cringe, but that stuff is scrumptious!

Apparently, I had an open sore on the tip of my ear (I think I got nipped while playing with Kili…but don’t worry Kili, it’s not your fault) and when I buried my head in the piles and delicious horse dung, I exposed it to unhealthy bacteria.

Not only that, but I learned that horse poo, while a tasty treat in my book, contains some other stuff, not so good for me. Horse owners often used Ivermectin to deworm their animals. Ivermectin weakens the immune system and so while digesting the good stuff (the horse apples), I was also taking in pesticides that lowered my immune system.IMG_0135

Staph doesn’t show up right away, so that’s why it took a bit of time to develop, but once it emerged, it spread quickly and painfully.

I won’t lie — I still feel a bit crummy but the vet said that’s normal. I will feel not quite myself until the infection is gone. My face and ears look lots better, but I don’t have the same energy. So I’m on an easy-does-it routine with limited walks and no swimming (which makes me very sad). Still, every day I am feeling better and I have learned a valuable lesson — don’t stick your nose in other’s business — namely horse droppings!

Not sure how I like reflecting on lessons learned versus resolutions, but I’ll let you know how it goes in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully there won’t be too many more lessons to learn!

Stay healthy!



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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?).


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!



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