Sunday, January 25, 2015

The "Perfect" dog

 If I were going to use one word to describe Kolt, it quite possibly would be "perfect".

 He's smart, biddable, loves to work, even tempered, happy, focused.

He takes stuff in stride, people like him.

And he's rather handsome, too.

Part of this is genetics. Part of this is, well, me.

 Kolt, as Border Collie #4, is the happy recipient of the  knowledge gain by working with my other three.

They weren't exactly perfect. Second hand Border Collies can come with issues. Fear, reactivity, cat obsession. Freight train pulling and no focus, ADD. But, in their imperfections, they were my teachers.  They made me work and learn. They showed me what was possible.

Their imperfections were part of them and, while it was not at all fun dealing with some of that stuff, I wouldn't change it for the world.  I learned to "read" dog behavior. I learned to be proactive. I learned to expect more from myself than I did from my dogs. I learned that perfect dogs are created by good owners.

I feel incredibly blessed to have a 10 m/o puppy that has been a perfect fit for me and is shaping up to be a "perfect" dog.  But I was just as blessed to get the "imperfect" dogs that tried hard, adapted to a new life, accepted me as a new an imperfect owner and taught me how to be a "dog" person.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The circle of life

When I lost Missy, I wasn't ready for another dog. I had two high energy dogs in their prime to pour myself into. Kipp was ready and willing to become my "right hand dog". He was steady, he was there. And Kenzi was still a crazy teenager. I also had a job and while being a full time student.

With Kipp it was different. There was a gaping hole as I had no serious working dog to get out and pour myself into. I wasn't supposed to loose a dog at nine y/o and I was kind of reeling from it. Kenzi was depressed and wonky. For the first time in seven years I was down to one dog and life felt empty.  For the first time in 11 years I didn't have a dog with that serious "I need to work" edge to it.

I kinda knew it would happen.

I had though about getting a puppy in late 2014 or early 2015. I began the search in earnest a couple weeks after Kipp was diagnosed with cancer.

And this little guy happened -

Happy, full of life, serious, wanting to be my buddy, needing a job to do. In other words, Just what I needed.

Leftover puppy because he was the pushy, outgoing one of the litter. In other words, exactly what I wanted in a Border Collie pup. And oh yes, smooth coated with soon-to-be-prick ears.

Waiting and ready for me just when I needed something to smile about again

His name is Kolt. I kind of fell head over heels for in about 2 days. I brought home a puppy because I knew I'd be depressed all summer otherwise. I had no clue how much of a balm he'd be and how quickly he would become *my* dog.

He's grown a bit since the summer -

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kipp, an epilogue

I lost Kipp at the end of May. He was a little dog with a heart as big as he was and determination in spades. He gave it all he could and kept bouncing back but cancer is cruel and eventually his little body just couldn't anymore. As it often is, at the end the decision to euthanize became the easiest hardest decision to make.

Kipp was the dog who was just there. Unassuming yet driven. Steady. Consistent. Willing. Pushy yet trainable. Right up to the end.

I got him when he was a few months shy of 2 years old. I was his second home (not counting the in between stint back at his breeder). Apparently if one gets a Border Collie puppy and doesn't do anything with him, he develops bad habits. Like obsessing over cats and being reactive. So the breeder took him back, saw his potential and suggest I take him on when I asked about a working bred puppy to train for sheep chores. He took Kipp into a pen with sheep to show me his instinct and I saw potential. I had wanted a traditionally marked, rough coated 40# dog. I got a smooth, 30# prick eared, split faced tri.

I'll always be grateful.

Kipp matured and learned but otherwise remained pretty much the same for the next seven and a half years. A picture of two year old Kipp looks like a picture of nine year old Kipp. When I decided to train him as a search dog instead of pursuing herding dog trials, he was willing, quick learner. He was ready to work up until just a couple weeks before I lost him. Actually he was ready even then but I made him take it easy because he was incredibly anemic from the cancer.

He drove me nuts on a few occasions, too. More than once in the first year I thought “what was I thinking getting this dog?!?” Where Missy had just wanted to please, Kipp often seem to ask “why” first. But he pushed me and made me learn. While Missy taught me about dog behavior and what a partnership with a dog felt like, Kipp actually taught me how to train a dog. He made me work, learn and earn the partnership we developed. 

He was the dog I could make mistakes with but would get a second (and third and fourth) chance to go back and try get it right. When things weren't going right or he was unsure he'd try harder because he wanted to work. 

People would comment on his small size but I never really noticed it because nothing else about him was small. He would work searches in grass twice his height and not seem to notice. And his personality filled the room. 

Life cheated you, buddy. You deserved so much better than the stupid cancer. I always pictured you eventually being a fourteen year old senior house dog who ate out of kongs and still grabbed a chuckit squirrel when it was time to go outside.

Thanks Little Dude for joining me in the journey of life and making me a better person.  

These pictures were both taken in the last few weeks of his life. To me they are the essence of Kipp. By this point his red blood cell count was ridiculously low - like in the mid teens. Yet he was happy. And wanted to do stuff.  I would look at him, shake my head and smile in awe of his drive and *heart*. He was a gift. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Roller Coaster of Life

Kipp is doing well. He's happy, wanting to play

Except for the 2 days this week were he was vomiting and lethargic. Ugh. I was worried. And crying. But apparently it was just chemo side effects because he snapped out of it back into his hungry, happy self.

It's hard because I *know* what healthy looks like for my dogs. And when they're sick, I worry. So even though I *know* he has terminal cancer and is on drugs that can make him feel a bit lousy, I get worried when he's not himself. Because, well, what if this is the end? Ugh. Stupid cancer doesn't play by any rules and I have to adjust to this new "norm" of things not being normal from here on out.

But the good news is that overall he's doing really well. And he's happy.

And he was quite insistent during our frisbee game a few days ago :D

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Keeping Kipp happy

 Switch gears to this today. For however long he's ready to live, then I'll work on keeping him comfortable and happy.

Canine lymphoma is often pretty treatable, but not the type he has. That made my decision easier but the reality of it harder.

He's now on prednisone and some oral chemo drugs. Simple palliative care.

I read the drug inserts today before giving him the meds and I for a few minute I was like "What am I putting in my dog?!?" But when it's the only option with a decent chance of giving him some more good days then, well, you do it.

And the prednisone has kicked in. And how. He's started eating again (yay!) and wanted to be a gung-ho sheepdog tonight. And telling him to back off from the sheep I was standing there thinking "jeepers - the drugs and cancer won't do him in, he's just going to self destruct with this prednisone induced bravado".  And that thought kinda made me smile as it reminded me a much younger version of Kipp. A youngster who was ready to take on the world without thinking. The dog that I had to get in his face at times and say "dude - what are you thinking? knock it off!" And he'd back off,  unfazed and with a "oh, did I do something?" look on his face.

Happy thoughts like that are good right now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

When Life Punches You in the Gut

It's been one of those weeks.

Kipp,  just turned 9 in December. Probable lymphoma that's gone from no symptoms to pretty bad in 6 days. We went into the vet on Monday because he threw up a couple times. Tuesday I picked up some different meds because the first ones didn't solve the issue. Thursday he was still having some issues so we went back to the vet to try and get some more answers. They found a bunch of unexpected, weird stuff that wasn't good.

I've spent 2 days kind of in shock, randomly crying. It was bad enough when I lost Missy to hemangiosarcoma. But she was 12. Kipp is still in the single digits. He was supposed to be around until he was 15 at least. He's been a constant in my crazy life of school and work.

Steady, pushy, goofy, honest. My SAR partner, my chore buddy. He's cemented a place in my heart.

It's incredibly hard to wrap my head around idea of him not being around.

Lab results should be in on Monday. Then  I get to make those final tough decisions. Treat (and if so how aggressively) or go with palliative care. Treatment (surgery and/or chemo) is expensive. I'd try to figure out how to swing it if there was a good chance of some quality time ahead. I mean, he's only nine and an otherwise fit, healthy nine

He was pretty slow and dopey yesterday and not eating (which worries me the most). Due in part to spending all day Thursday at the vet's office, but also the meds he's on and the fact that he's just, well, sick. I got another med to try with him today. It's an appetite stimulant and used for an antidepressant in humans. It worked. He's a bit wobbly but was happy and eager to play frisbee and check on sheep this afternoon. I took lots of pictures.

I have no clue what Monday will bring. Well, actually I do and I don't like it one bit. But Kipp is living in the moment right now and I'm ridiculously grateful for a good afternoon today.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's a baby!

Last year my American history loving father decided that he wanted to have a small flock of "historical sheep"

He looked into Leicester Longwool sheep from Colonial Williamsburg

He looked into Hog Island sheep from Ferry Farm (George Washington's boyhood home)

He ended up with Delaine Merino sheep from Greenfield village. The deciding factor was the fact that it was only a 6 hour round trip to pick up the sheep instead of a 24 hour round trip.

The sheep have super nice fleeces and they're talking about sending the wool out to get processes into yarn after they're sheared this spring - yay!

Two of his ewes lambed this week. Thankfully that waited until after the snowstorm and 0 degree night

Lambs are cute little buggers. They are infinitely cuter when all I have to do is answer my mom's lamb care questions and take pictures of them