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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dog Powered Fun

Spent the night with the nieces last week.

My 4 y/o niece enjoyed some dog powered sledding fun.

I towed her up the huge snowdrift out by their barn then Kenzi pulled her down

There was a really nice 100 ft gentle downward slope that had been shaped by two separate major snowstorms and the 10 or so ft of snow that we've gotten this season.  It worked great and they both had fun!

Kenzi is a puller, but I think she would have been just as happy riding. Yup, we tried the dog riding in the tube earlier this winter and yup, my crazy snow dog loved that, too!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dogs and Cowls

 Winter is still hanging on for dear life. The temps dipped below 0 again last night and at almost noon today they've only gotten back up to 14.


In my cold, bored state this winter, I discover cowls. Fun and quick to knit and oh. so. warm!!

The first one I made from unspun silk (if you're interested in how that works, check out this youtube video )

I put it on when finished and didn't take it off for the rest of the day - silk is incredibly soft and warm!

Then I just had to make another one. The second time I used a skien of Araucania Atacama from my stash. I loved the colors but since it was only 110 yards I hadn't yet figured out the perfect project.  A cowl was perfect - a small accessory that showcased the colors beautifully!

Then I wanted pictures. Enter the dogs. I was the only person around and they were laying right there waiting for me to put a cowl around their necks and take pictures

Kipp was horribly unimpressed

Kenzi was slightly more impressed. Probably because I had treats in my hand ;)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

In which I knit

and knit and knit and knit.

Why? Because I live in Michigan. Because it's snowed almost every day in January. Because four of those days were practically a blizzard and Southwest MI was shut down. Because I live on a country road that didn't get plowed every time it snowed. Because I totaled my car in a deer accident in Dec and it took 6 weeks to have my own driveable vehicle again. Because since I totaled said vehicle I've been wary about getting back onto snow covered slippery roads.

So I've only gone out if I've had to get to school or to a job. And I've gotten a LOT of knitting done.

And played some frisbee with the dogs on the side. (side note - chasing a frisbee through 20+ inches of snow is a GREAT workout for a Border Collie)

I did a couple other cool things this month. I got to teach a nosework seminar back at the beginning of January - I had way too much fun and hope to do it again in the future.

But the biggie activity was knitting a whole sweater in a month. It's almost finished! I'll post pictures and details after I get it blocked and sewn together in a few days :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spinach and sausage soup

 I love experimenting with soup in the winter time - yummy, hot, one dish meals are awesome!

Today's experiment was super simple and tasty - only 5 ingredients! It was also gluten free and could work for a paleo diet.

1# sausage
1 medium onion
3/4# frozen chopped spinach
6 cups vegetable broth
2/3 c quinoa

 Chop onion. Over medium heat, brown sausage and onion a 6 qt pot until sausage is no longer pink. Add vegetable broth, bring to a simmer. Add quinoa and cook until quinoa is al dente (10-12 minutes). Add frozen spinach, bring soup back to a simmer. Remove from heat.


Note - you can substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth if desired.