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Archive for July, 2012

Three times a week, my 83-year-old mother drives from a north Chicago neighborhood to Gary, Indiana so she can help me get my dog, Brownie, to the vet.

Brownie (with Mom, on the right) must go to a vet in Valparaiso for laser treatments on the torn ligaments of her back right knee. She’s an extremely nervous car passenger, insisting on standing the whole way no matter how long the trip. This is accompanied by panting and drooling on my shoulder.

With a bum leg, that’s a hazardous arrangement. The Thunder Shirt, touted for its calming ability, had no effect. She foiled attempts to secure her with a leash and halter, getting so twisted up in them I feared she’d lose a limb to constricted blood flow.

So Mom sits in the back seat with Brownie and holds her steady if she wants to stand, or soothes her with petting when Brownie deigns to sit or lie down. That she sits or lies at all is because of the tranquilizer she must take well before the trip.

It was Mom’s idea to lodge an enormous velvet-covered pillow back there, behind the gap between the two front seats, which gives Brownie a little more support when she insists on standing to drool on me.

All the way to Valpo and back I hear her alternating between cooing words of comfort at the dog and little exclamations of “Ouch” whenever Brownie manages to step on Mom’s leg or lap. At the end of each trip, Mom is covered in dog hair and wants immediately to wash her hands.

She doesn’t seem to want me to thank her, although I do. She likes being needed, and she certainly is. I couldn’t do this without such devoted, caring help – the kind often given by a mother, if you’re lucky.

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A neighbor recently acquired a chihuahua after her previous dog, a tiny terrier, disappeared. The terrier never got walked, just let out the front door to wander around the cul-de-sac until his owner would step out on her front porch and holler at him to come back. He might have been stolen, or might have been carried off by a coyote from the national park nearby.

Unfortunately for her neighbors, the owner’s method for “protecting” her new dog from these possibilities is no improvement. She simply ties him up to a tree in her front yard and leaves him there for hours.

Naturally, he yips, yowls, barks and fusses, a daily annoyance for everyone but his owner. People who chain their dogs outside seem capable of ignoring them indefinitely, no matter how much noise they make, much like parents who’ve numbed themselves to the noisy outbursts of their children. It’s no coincidence that this person’s children also are the noisiest on the block.

One day after two hours of continuous canine commotion, I walked over and asked the neighbor if she’d mind bringing the dog back inside for a while.

Her response was a verbal assault of aggressive denial, obfuscation and inaccuracies. He’s only been out 10 minutes, I put him out now instead of at midnight when people are sleeping, he’s supposed to bark at people, I’m tired of snowblowers and lawn mowers waking me up at 7  a.m. but I don’t go into other people’s yards telling them what to do and I want you to tell all the neighbors that…etc.

Yesterday, when the temperature rose to 100, he was out there for three hours. Since he has a water bowl and shade, his situation meets the almost nonexistent standards that prevail in Gary, Indiana for outdoor dogs.  I know from experience how little good it would do to call the city’s animal control department.

What we really need is an owner control department, one that would issue licenses only to people who met the same standards for pet care that good shelters and rescue organizations use, with enforcement and fines that would make it too expensive for people like my neighbor to keep behaving irresponsibly.

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When Brownie tore ligaments in her back left knee two years ago, the vet warned me that there was a 50 percent chance the same thing would happen in her back right knee.

It happened a month ago as she was going up the front steps after a walk.

At 13 (that’s 91 in people years), Brownie isn’t a good candidate for surgery, as we did the last time. She has arthritis and a heart murmur. Surgery, however, was the only option my vet offered, although he didn’t want to do it himself this time. He recommended I take her to Purdue University’s Small Animal Hospital – 98 miles away! The cost would be about $3,500, instead of the $1,000 it had cost at the local vet.

It looked like Brownie’s only options were a dangerous operation or being euthanized. She wouldn’t even touch her back right paw to the floor, much less put any weight on that leg. It simply dangled, probably causing her constant pain. Yet she gave no other sign of distress, remaining cheerful, eating well and even trying to continue chasing my two cats. (Don’t worry, it’s just a game; they pretend to be scared while they all enjoy the chase.)

An Internet search for alternatives turned up Vale Park Animal Hospital in Valparaiso, Ind. One of its vets specializes in nontraditional treatments. She recommended laser therapy, joint boosters, twice weekly pain shots and a session with a rehabilitation specialist who would show me how to massage and exercise Brownie’s bum knee. It would cost more than the first surgery, but possibly less than the second recommended one, depending on how well it worked and how fast.

So three times a week, we make the half-hour drive to Valpo for a laser treatment. In my next post, I’ll let you know how that’s going.

 

 

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Usually, people choose their pets. But my latest pet is a cat who showed up and insisted on joining our household. He behaved as if there were no question that he would live here and proceeded to make himself at home.

The first time I saw him, he sat on the porch step outside the kitchen door, calmly regarding my dog, Brownie, as she barked wildly just inches from his face on the other side of the glass.

Next, I heard terrific commotions late at night as my cat, Taffy, screeched warnings from the back porch to an intruder she wanted to scare away.

Then, whenever I pulled into my driveway, I’d hear him meowing as I stepped out of the car. He’d trot across the cul-de-sac and walk alongside me up the steps to the front door as if it were a foregone conclusion that he’d come inside. When I’d shut the door on him, he’d sit out there for a few minutes and vocalize his protest. His message was clear: “There’s been a mistake, you don’t understand, I’m supposed to live here.”

After he found the hole in the screen door out back, he’d appear on the back porch and jump into my lap, purring and rolling belly up, a request for affection that was irresistible. I’d scratch under his chin, smooth back his whiskers and gently rub his ears despite knowing this was no way to get rid of him.

I wasn’t interested in adding another pet. But he patiently continued to woo me while keeping an eye open for opportunity. He finally found the window I keep cracked open so Taffy (who refuses to use the cat door) can let herself in and out at will.

The day I saw him strolling through the living room, I knew he’d won.

He’s been examined, vaccinated and neutered. The vet said he’s about one year old, a big, healthy dark gray tabby who charmed her as easily as he did me. “He has such an expressive face,” she marveled.

I named him Boomer. It’s short for Boomerang, because he just kept coming back.

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