Unless a person has owned a dog, they simply can’t truly understand the relationship dog owners have with their “children” with four feet. Dogs are like comfort food; when you’re feeling great there’s nothing like a long walk in the woods with your companion. You know in your head that he doesn’t really understand anything you’re saying except for a word here and there, but in your heart your both on the same wavelength. And when you’re feeling down, tired, or overwhelmed, your dog will curl up on the sofa with you and never criticize you for your negative feelings. He’ll just snuggle up to you, maybe lay his head on your lap, and let you know without saying a word that everything will be just fine!
We’ve had many dogs over the years. In fact, I can’t ever remember my life without a dog in it. When I was a little kid we had a dog named Penny. I was about 5 years old and one day I went into the garage to feed her when she lowered her head and started growling at me. She had a crazy look in her eyes, and drool was coming out of her mouth while she growled. It scared me, and I went inside to tell my mom that Penny was growling at me and slobbering. I saw my mother tense up immediately, and she told me to stay in the house. She went in another room to get my father. He came out of the bedroom carrying a gun, and my mom brought me, my brother and sister into her room and sat us on her bed. She told us that Penny was very sick and Dad was going to check her, but if he didn’t think she’d get better he’d have to shoot her because if he didn’t she would go “crazy” and hurt us very badly. Not ten second later I heard a shot from the gun, and began crying. I wanted my dog to be better. But it wasn’t to be. She had contracted rabies. It was 1955, and rabies vaccinations were not required by law until the 1970’s in Illinois. Of course my husband and I have always vaccinated not only our dogs, but our cats and even our horses get their rabies vaccines.
I wish I had photos of all the dogs we’ve ever owned, but in the days before digital cameras, I rarely took photos, and if I did, most of them were not of good quality.
BOB – Doberman Mix – 1983 – 1992
Bob was a big doberman-mix. We got him from a farmer, who’d already docked the puppies’ tails, but not their ears, which we chose to leave alone. Bob looked just like a dobie except for his ears and a white patch on his chest. When a car pulled into the driveway and Bob ran up to it barking, nobody ever opened their car door! He was very protective of me, especially. One day a neighbor came up to the house and was standing on the patio talking to me. Bob came and sat by me, but as the man was talking he was gesticulatling with his arms, and at one point he raised one arm in the air and waved it. I guess Bob thought the man was going to strike me, because he jumped up and grabbed the man’s arm in his jaws. Thankfully, it was a cold winter day and the man had a heavy coat on. There was no harm done, and the neighbor, although scared, was gracious. But that taught me a lesson to warn people about such type of movements in my presence. On the other hand, our daughter and her little friend could lay on top of Bob, pull his ears, and do whatever they want, and he’d just put up with everything without a complaint. He loved to run alongside us when we were on the 4 wheeler, and he relished taking long walks in the woods with my husband. We never had to worry about him running off or leaving the yard when we were in the house. He was one of those dogs whose memory you cherish long after they’re gone.
In early May of 1992 Bob seemed to struggle getting up one morning. We thought maybe he’d hurt a muscle. It was the same the next day and the next. On the fourth morning, he couldn’t get up at all without help from us. That’s when he went to the vet, and an xray disclosed cancer of the front leg. The vet recommended we put him down. He was only 9 years old. The diagnosis devastated us. We talked it over, and called the vet and asked them to amputate his leg, as we just couldn’t give up on him and condemn him to death when he’d been such a fantastic part of our family. They recommended against it, telling us that the cancer would only come back within six months, but we wanted to beat the odds. In May of 1992 they amputated his front leg and part of his shoulder. We brought him home the day after the amputation. It was a very difficult recovery for him. He was only given pain medication for the first day. I can’t imagine sending a person with an amputated leg home the day after surgery with pain medication for only one day! In time, however, he was doing better, and by mid-June he had learned how to balance on three legs, and by August he was running up and down the hills like a pro. Sadly, though, about 8 months after the surgery the vets were proved right when one morning he struggled to get up. I took him to the vet the next day and cancer had now spread to a rear leg. It was time to say goodbye to one of the best dogs we’d ever had.
SCRAPPY – Rat Terrier – May 1992 – October 2008
Scrappy was a rat terrier. We got him from my sister, who owned two rat terriers and bred them. It was a very difficult delivery for the female, and I seem to recall that perhaps Scrappy was the only pup, or one of only two, that lived. Scrappy was hale and hearty, though, and ended up living for 16 1/2 years.
I occasionally tried my hand at being artistic, but really didn’t have “the gift.” Actually, I don’t have any “gifts.” Some people are so talented but I am one of those who can do a few things half-assed but nothing wonderful. Anyway, here’s a drawing I tried to do of Scrappy.
CHAUCER – Fox Terrier – 1998-1998
The first picture of Scrappy was with a little fox terrier named Chaucer. I got that little fellow in the summer of 1998, from what I imagine was a “puppy mill,” although I wasn’t too aware of it at the time. When I brought him home he just didn’t seem too perky. I brought him to the vet the next day and he had demodetic mange, a disease of young dogs with poorly developed immune systems. We were able to get it under control, and Chaucer did well. Then one evening a few months later, we let him out at night before bed. When he came inside he vomited up something blue. It dawned on us that he had somehow been able to crawl to the top of the woodpile outside, where we had placed a small box of D-Con and eaten it. The next morning I took him to the vet at 7 AM, as he was definitely not doing well.
The vet gave him a shot of Vitamin K, to make the blood coagulate, as D-Con thins the blood and causes death. They sent us home, but the next day he didn’t seem any better, and by the next day there was no improvement. At 10 AM I knew he was much worse. He wasn’t moving well, he had white gums, and he was shivering. Took him back to the vet and they said there was nothing they could do, and we should take him to the U.W. Vet hospital in Madison. They wrapped him in a blanket with a hot water bottle and called Madison to tell them we were coming. My husband drove and I held Chaucer for the hour drive. He was barely moving. When we got to the vet hospital parking lot, we jumped out of the car and started rushing towards the door, but Chaucer started convulsing. There were some staff people who met us at the door and grabbed him and ran off with him. Twenty minutes later they came back out and told us there was nothing they could do and he had died.
They told us that when a dog ingests D-Con, one vitamin K shot is useless. The dog should have two or three of them the first day and then twice a day for three or four days. They asked the name of our vet, as they were visibly angry at the lack of treatment Chaucer got. They also asked if they could keep his body for autopsy and we agreed. It’s a teaching vet hospital, and we wanted to help others if we could. When we had the autopsy report, it comfirmed that he’d died of massive internal bleeding.
Going through something like this is terrible. Yes, we blamed the vet, but the real responsibility for his death lay with us for having D-Con outside. We never imagined a little puppy would climb up to the top of that woodpile. Our mistake. From that day on we have never used D-Con anywhere. Cats are better mousetraps!
LIZZIE – Miniature Pinscher – 1998 – 2013
It was my daughter who convinced me to get Lizzie. I was so devastated by Chaucer’s death that she felt a new puppy might help. She convinced me to go to Madison where a lady had advertised a six-month old min-pin for sale. An elderly lady, she was moving to an apartment that didn’t allow pets. I really didn’t want another dog, but we went, and when I saw her I knew I had to bring her home.
Min pins are NOT related to doberman pinchsers, but instead are a separate, very old breed, going back to the 1700’s. They are most likely descended from the Italian greyhound and the daschund or affenpinscher. Min pins are very energetic, very bright, and very hard to train! I remember all the times Lizzie would be outside, sniffing something out, and I would call her to come in. It never failed that she’d look at me, and in her mind I’m sure she was saying “screw you,” as she’d go back to whatever it was she was doing and come in when she was ready. Still, she was a character, and we loved her!
She perpetually had bad breath. We needed to get her teeth cleaned twice a year and within two weeks it would stink again. When we’d go somewhere in the car with her she always sat on my lap. For the first 15 minutes of any ride she’d stand up on my lap and pant frantically. In the winter, with the car windows closed, it was a pretty stinky 15 minutes. After a while she’d settle down and just sleep.
One of the traits almost all min pins have in common seems to be “burrowing.” She always slept in bed with us, but would burrow down under the covers and curl up in the small of my back. If there was a pile of laundry dumped on the sofa, waiting to be folded, she’d burrow under it. If I was on the sofa with a blanket on my lap, she’d have to be under it. We learned early on to always leave a blanket of some sort out for her when we had to leave. She was also like a cat; she liked to get up on the windowsill or the top of the sofa to bask in the sun.
I had put some clean laundry on the sofa so I could sit there and fold it. Lizzie got to it before I did, and decided to burrow under it.
In the photo below, I had put Lizzie’s bed on the sofa, with her blanket inside it. She pulled the blanket out and got it wrapped around her.
With the other dogs, Lizzie wouldn’t take any guff. She really didn’t even like being around them all that much, and more often than not she’d go exploring on her own.
In 2011 Lizzie went blind. Her eyes had been clouding over for about six months. It came on rather quickly. Despite losing her site, she easily found her way to her food and water. She no longer wanted to lay on my lap with a blanket over her any more, though, and that used to be her constant position. When she lost her site, she preferred laying under a blanket in a crate. She would come out and find her way to the door when she had to go outside. I used to plant this spot in the picture below with flowers, but for the last two years of her life I left it open, as that’s where she’d go out to potty. It was only about six feet outside the door. When done, she’d come back in.
In 2013, I had gone to spend two months in our Florida home with my dog Jack. I left my husband home with Lizzie and our other lab, Bailey, as he had to stay home and do barn chores! Only two weeks after I got there my husband called and said Lizzie wasn’t doing well. She was passing a lot of blood in her stool and seemed lethargic. I had him call the vet to come out, and the vet said that since she was 15 and blind there really wasn’t much point in doing a lot of expensive tests, so Lizzie was put to sleep. We always have the vet come to the house if an animal needs to be put down. We don’t want their last memory to be of a sterile exam table in a strange place.
Lizzie was the last “foo-foo” dog we had. I will most likely never get another little lap dog. I much prefer the heavier, hardier breeds which can keep up with me outside. I like them to be able to run alongside the 4 wheeler and be outside all day, whether I’m in the woods or in the garden. Maybe when I get too old to live the life I’m living now and am inside all day I will consider getting a foo-foo dog.
BAILEY – Labrador Retriever – Nov. 2000 – Sept 14, 2013
I wasn’t really looking for another dog when Bailey came into our family. Bailey belonged to a woman who could no longer care for her due to advanced alcoholism. It was in 2007, and Bailey was 7 years old.
Bailey had seizures, but if she was given her daily dose of phenobarbitol, they never occurred. Bailey’s owner may have been a bit lax in getting the meds into her. I got her back on it the first day she was with us, but about four days later she had a mild seizure. That was the last one she ever had. We grew to love this dog immensely. As most dogs go, she really wasn’t the brightest one we’d ever had, but she was a loving dog and a very good girl for as long as we owned her, which was for the rest of her life.
Bailey was the most laid-back dog we ever had, but that may have been due to the narcotic effects of phenobarbitol. If we traveled with her, she’d just curl up on the floor of the van and snooze, and she immediately adapted to any place we brought her. I never worried about her going out and running away. She would go on long 4 wheeler rides and explore the woods if we were clearing the trails out there. She was so loving, so honestly sweet! Her only idiosyncracy was fear of noises. If something fell and hit the floor, she’d come up to me or my husband and try to bury her face in us. Any noises were problematic. Even when my husband would crunch up paper to start a wood fire, she was afraid. When hunting season started, I always tried to keep loud music on in the house to muffle the gunshots, because she could hear them from a mile away and it terrified her.
Bailey loved water! I usually had a small kid’s swimming pool on the back yard deck for her to get in and she loved it. When we went to the creek she’d always be in it. The video below is a clip of her in our pond across the road.
In August, 2014, Bailey suddenly started to slow down. I noticed it was hard for her to get up from a sitting or laying position. She always slept on the bedroom floor, but one day she simply didn’t want to go up the stairs. A few days later I realized that one hip was sticking up higher than the other one. We got her into the vet the next day. They took some tests and did xrays and the diagnosis was cancer of the hip, and they said she might have six months left, or as few as three. We brought her home, hoping to make her remaining time comfortable for her, but within two weeks it was so difficult for her to get up, and when outside she barely moved off the patio. We knew the cancer was causing her a lot of pain and we had to let her go. There was no point in letting the suffering get worse. We called the vet and arranged for her to come to the house. Bailey went to sleep out in the yard on a beautiful September day, with our arms wrapped around her. To make the day doubly sad, a miniature horse mare that was one of our sweetest and most beloved horses, also had to be put down on that same morning.
JACK – Lab mix – Sept. 19, 2007 –
We’d only had Bailey about 7 months when we decided to get another dog so she’d have a playmate. It was the beginning of a bit of a nightmare! I saw an ad in the paper for Thyme and Sage Ranch, about 20 miles from us. It was a “rescue” operation that two years previously had been granted a license from our county (and a $750 a month salary), to pick up stray dogs and rehome them if they weren’t claimed. The ad said they had several young dogs. When I got there that cold January day I noticed several barns and outbuildings which were all closed up. I was met by Ms. Petkus, the operator and sole inhabitant of the place. She led me into a garage in which the floor was covered with “pens,” each holding between five and ten young dogs of various ages and breeds. I’d guess there were perhaps 60 or more dogs in there. I wanted a yellow lab, so I stepped over the sides of the pen in which 8 yellow lab pups were running around. With those 8 week old pups was a four-month-old dog. He was all black, and he seemed to have a problem with one of his eyes. But he was so friendly! I figured a dog a bit older would be easier to housebreak. I decided, due to a lot of encouragement from one of my grandsons who was with me, to get this dog. While I was in the pen I noticed several piles of watery diarrhea. I pointed it out to Ms. Petkus and she simply covered it over with wood chips. I asked her if she shouldn’t separate the dogs to find out which one(s) was (were) sick to prevent the others from getting sick and she said, “Yes… I’ll do that when you leave.” Of course, she had no intention of doing so.
When I made my choice Ms. Petkus brought me into the house attached to the garage to do the paperwork. Jack was only $50, while the other dogs were $150. His reduced price was due to the fact that he was black, and it’s a well-known statistic that people will avoid adopting black dogs. Also, his eye problem reduced his price. She told me it was probably just “cherry eye” and wouldn’t be a problem other than making the eye look a bit weird. Then she proceeded to fill out the papers. I noticed that she was putting in stuff like “puppy shots” and listed them, and put a date of Dec. in there. The current date was Jan. 29th. Then she listed “deworming” that took place on that same date in December. She told me he was up to date and good to go! I asked her why she was filling in his shot and deworming information today, instead of doing it on the day he was actually treated. She said, “Oh…. well…. I did all the dogs that day in December. I just didn’t get them all written down.” Well, as I found out later, it was obvious she had never given my dog any shots or deworming. There were many, many complaints to local authorities about dogs adopted from her place being extremely ill, many were infected with Parvovirus, and many died after adoption and Ms. Petkus would not refund their money. A big investigation of her place began, and ended with her being arrested and her animals (hundreds of them)! confiscated. To read about what happened when all the state and federal authorities raided her place, there is an article here, http://www.nowisconsinpuppymills.com/thyme-and-sage-overview.html and an article about what people said who’d adopted dogs from her here: http://www.nowisconsinpuppymills.com/thyme-and-sage-articles.html#indepth It’s all so heartbreaking!
I brought him home, and we named him Jack. For two or three days he seemed fine, but I noticed he had terrible, runny diarrhea. I began giving him probiotics to help. By the morning of the 4th day, however, he was obviously in bad shape. He was barely moving and only wanted to lay down. I checked the capillary refill rate of his gums and it was very poor. I got him into the vet that day. Several tests were done and he had some type of bacterial infection. Additionally, he had such a heavy worm load that the vet said he might not make it. We dewormed him, gave him his meds, along with massive pro-biotics, gave him all his puppy shots, and tender loving care, and he pulled through. However, he didn’t have cherry eye. His eyeball had been punctured, and he would never have sight in that eye. I remember my vet asking me where I got him and when I told her Thyme and Sage Ranch she said, “I thought so. I’ve been seeing two or three dogs a week that came from there, and 50% of the dogs have Parvo and didn’t make it.
As it turned out, the Thyme and Sage Ranch and Ms. Petkus were under investigation. Once she was arrested and the animals were confiscated, they announced on the radio that anyone having information on dogs they “adopted” from her should contact the police, as they were building a case. I called, told them my story, and they said I might be called on to testify. I never was, though. Apparently they had dozens of people to testify against her.
Jack recovered from the initial illness, but about 6 months later his feet started stinking and he began scratching his ears like crazy. I used a Q-tip and got a lot of dirt out of the them. I thought it might be mites, so back to the vet. However, a test showed it was Candida yeast. That’s why his feet smelled like Fritos. It was the yeast coming out on them and in his ears. He went on steroids and ear meds for three weeks and he was better. Six months later, the yeast came back. More meds. Six months later it was back again, and I began doing serious research into this, as my vet didn’t seem to know why. She also didn’t have a name for it other than a “yeast infection.”
By searching online I found there is a condition some dogs have called “leaky gut syndrome.” When they eat high-glycemic foods, it causes a yeast bloom in their guts, but their immune systems can’t fight it off, and the yeast escapes the guts. It manifests itself in armpits, butt, ears, and paws. The symptoms are a lot of scratching and a bad smell. This sounded exactly like what my dog was going through. The key to preventing this is a very strict diet. They can’t have ANY foods like rice, corn, potatoes, or things which have a high glycemic index. He had been on Candidae, a really excellent food, but it had potatoes in it. (My vet suggested I put him on Hill’s Science Diet, which all vets seem to sell. I looked at the bag and the first ingredient was rice and it also had potatoes. Gah!). By doing more research I found a company in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, which totally understood leaky gut syndrome, and they manufactured a dry dog food formulated especially for this. It’s quite pricey… $89 for a 25 lb bag, where the Canidae was $38! But I had to give it a try. I even bought their dog cookies. I cut out any other foods. Nothing off the table. NO treats other than this special stuff. NO dog bones. Nothing. And it made a world of difference! In all the years he’s been on the special food, he’s never had a yeast infection, until Feb. 2016, and it was MY fault! I found some dog bones in the store that were made in the USA. They were supposed to be made of only “good” things. I looked at the label and didn’t see any potatoes (which are a BIG offender), or anything else that seemed like it would be a problem. I bought a bag of four of them. In two weeks, he had two of them. Two weeks later, he had a yeast infection. After a vet visit and meds, he’s now back on the strict diet. And with this diet, he’s healthy and fine! If anyone has a dog that scratches its ears and seems to have smelly feet (which some people say smell like Fritos), PLEASE tell them to have their vet check for yeast! Then put the dog on Brother’s Complete dog food. It’s ONLY sold online. They don’t sell it in stores because they don’t want it sitting on shelves for six months. Their website is brotherscomplete.com and they have an A+ rating on dogfoodadvisor.com!
Jack turned out to be the most amazing dog. I love this dog like I’ve never loved any of the others, even though a few of them have come mighty close. He’s exceptionally smart. I don’t even remember “training” him to do all the things he does. When I first brought him home he seemed to pick up on the idea of going outside within a few days, even though he was sick. For having only one eye and no depth perception, he can still catch balls on the fly. When we are out on our extensive trail system, whenever we get to a “T” in the trail, and I’m on the 4 wheeler and he’s running in front of me, he stops, turns around, and waits to see which trail I’m going to take before proceeding. We can be 200′ away from my parked 4 wheeler and all I have to do is say, “Go get on the 4 wheeler” and he’ll go find it and jump up on the seat and wait for me. He goes out for hours-long walks in January, February, and March with my husband, looking for shed deer antlers, and always stays within eyesight. I can be parked in the woods and he might be 250′ away tracking a squirrel, but I never have to call him when I’m leaving. I just start the 4 wheeler, and he comes running. He knows that when we get to the bottom of the driveway he has to get on the 4 wheeler before I can cross the road. I never have to tell him to. I just slow down and he knows it’s his cue to jump on. And he stays on till we’re safely on our land across the road. Coming home, he knows to stay seated, too, and he also knows that once we’re ten feet onto our driveway he’s allowed to jump off. I never have to tell him. He just does it.
One of his quirky habits comes in to play when we leave the house. If I leave a pair of jeans on the bedroom floor, or a shirt, or sock or shoe, he runs upstairs and drags it downstairs after we leave and lays with it. When we get home I never have to say anything other than, “Jack, put it away,” and he grabs it, runs upstairs and into the bedroom, and leaves it where he found it. If I don’t have clothes laying on the floor, he’ll go into the bathroom and grab the microfiber mat sitting in front of the shower and bring that downstairs. He never touches anything of my husband’s though! Only my stuff!
We have certainly owned a lot of black dogs! We never planned it that way, but it’s just the way it happened.