BISHOP’S FINAL JOURNEY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

BUBBA WAS A GOOD OL’ BOY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

We lost another of our furry kids, yesterday. We had to say goodbye to Bishop, affectionately known as “Bubba” — our big, adorable, loving Australian Shepherd. He was just short of fifteen.

It’s never easy. It doesn’t get easier, no matter how many times we do it. We are faster to acknowledge the inevitability of the end, but that doesn’t make it less painful.

We had seen it coming for a more than a year. Bishop’s hind quarters were gone. He was riddled with arthritis up and down his spine. We had him on the highest doses of pain-killer he could tolerate. Watching him move stiffly around trying to navigate the six steps to the front landing and the doggy door was painful to see. We aging humans have our own arthritis to deal with. It’s one of the many perils of aging, so we empathized with Bishop, wincing as he laboriously got up from his bed and finally, to his feet. Still, the big guy didn’t moan or whine. He always had the sweetest smile, even when the pain was obvious.

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Taken just a few days ago, this was the last picture of Bishop.

He still loved to romp and run around the front yard with our two Scotties, Bonnie and Gibbs, though he almost never barked anymore. He was their pal and protector. He was their Bubba. Once in a while, he forgot he was old.

The inevitable manifested itself in several ways. Bishop used to almost inhale his food and he swallowed his treats whole, immediately asking for more. Lately, Bishop seemed less interested in food and ate slower and slower. Treats didn’t seem like a big deal to him. During the past week, we found a few pools of vomit around the house and outside. We thought maybe Bishop had eaten some of those gypsy moth caterpillars that have plagued us. But Bonnie and Gibbs seemed okay and they routinely scour the front yard for goodies.

It got dramatically worse over the last two days. I had to coddle Bishop to eat his food and he couldn’t finish it.

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Yesterday morning, we found large pools of strange colored vomit all around the house and outside. Bishop was slowly moving as we cleaned up and assured him it wasn’t his fault. He had a look on his face that made us feel guilty. As soon as we had everything cleaned up, Bishop was sick again.

The big guy was drinking lots of water and minutes later it turned into the sickly, yellow-green masses on the floor. Bishop couldn’t hold anything in.

We had a quick family consult. Marilyn called the vet, then cancelled our other appointments. During the phone conversation with the vet, we looked at Bishop and the mess on the floor. Not going to wait.

Bonnie tried to block our way out the door. She has never done that before, but she was trying with every ounce of her little body to keep us from leaving with Bishop. How do they know? Gibbs began to howl and bark.

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The 25 minutes drive to the vet seemed forever and I not so silently cursed the plodding traffic and stupid drivers. Bishop didn’t make a sound in the rear seat. No whining. Not even panting. Nothing.

It was an endless wait at the vet’s office until we were called in. Finally, it was Bishop’s turn.

Lots of questions. The Vet had a sad smile on her face. She said it was probably some kind of tumor because of his age, his breed, and the symptoms. Marilyn struggled with her answers, keeping it together. Bishop looked at us with that sweet smile.

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Finally, came the moment I dreaded. I stumbled, mumbled — stupidly asking, as if I didn’t already know — if this meant we were not taking Bishop home. The vet looked at Marilyn and me. I looked at Bishop.

Marilyn signed the paperwork while I sat on the floor and played with Bishop, face-to-face with nose-to-nose exchanges of affection.

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We declined to stay with Bishop when they put him to sleep. Been there and done that too many times. Could not bear to do it again. It’s heart wrenching, especially with a dog as sweet as Bishop. We also declined to keep his ashes. We already have quite a collection.

The vet finally led Bishop slowly away. I couldn’t look back as we left the examination room. It was the longest drive home. Marilyn and I kept reassuring each other we had done the right thing.

dogs with bishop and gar

We’d wanted to give our Bubba this final summer. A few more weeks to play with Bonnie and Gibbs. A few more pictures photo bombed by Bubba who never met a camera he didn’t like. We knew, without saying, he’d never make it through a winter but we hoped he might have this last summer and autumn. It was not to be.

In the end, it’s not about us or how we feel. It’s your dog who lets you know when. And for Bubba, “when” was yesterday.

Bubba understood. He was a very good boy.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

Bishop, our oldest dog … a gorgeous, shaggy Australian Shepherd … had a nasty infection in his foot. It had been there off and on for a long time. Mostly on, rarely off. I’d taken him to the vet several times and he’d had multiple rounds of high-powered oral antibiotics.

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But the infection was back. Again. With a vengeance. The antibiotics knocked it down temporarily, but never knocked it out. As soon as the prescription finished, a few days would pass and the paw would be red, raw, swollen, and obviously painful.

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I didn’t see the point in another trip to the vet or more antibiotics. The vet had no idea what was causing the infection or what would cure it.

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I was feeling that particular kind of helplessness one feels when a pet is sick — and not getting better. When you’ve done everything you can think to do … and it isn’t working. Being me, I had to do something, however ineffectual or lame, so I slathered his paw with over-the-counter triple action antibiotic cream. The stuff I keep in the house for my own and Garry’s cuts and bruises.

Bishop Almost Christmas

The next day, the paw looked nearly perfect. Most of purple mottling and swelling was gone. I slathered the paw again that morning and a second time in the evening. The next day, there was no sign of infection. Unable to believe I had somehow cured an antibiotic-resistant infection with an over-the-counter remedy, I kept applying the cream to his paw for another few days. Then, when there was no sign of returning infection, I stopped. And waited.

When the frame is completely full, your picture is by definition in the middle!

Three weeks later, his paw looks normal. No limping. He will let me hold the paw and examine it without any sign of discomfort. He had that infection for more than a year. I despaired of curing him, yet in less than a week, it’s gone. My son wonders if maybe, that was all Bishop needed in the first place. Antibiotic cream applied directly to the infection site rather than oral antibiotics. Hard to argue, considering the outcome.

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Talk about a Hail Mary pass, this was a classic. I did it because there was nothing else I could think of to do.  It worked. If it weren’t me, I wouldn’t believe it either.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Pets

cee's fun foto chall

ANNOYING THE DOGS – THE HUMAN-CANINE COVENANT

I read an article the other day. It announced (with great solemnity and employing many big words and more than a few pie charts) that dogs — our dogs, your dogs, pet dogs — don’t like being hugged. Not merely do they not like being hugged and display measurable levels of stress when hugged, but they really totally hate being kissed and nuzzled.

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The article suggest a pat on the head … and a treat … would be much more appreciated.

Not by Garry or me.

I know they don’t like being hugged. It’s obvious. They stiffen and put their ears back when we hug them. They also don’t like it when I grab their tail and refuse to let it go. That’s what all the growling and head butting is about. You can almost hear them sigh, wondering when you’ll be through with this nonsense and get on to the important stuff, namely distributing cookies.

I told Garry about the study. He said: “Tough. They’ll just have to cope. Because I like it.”

My thoughts exactly.

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Our dogs are disrespectful. Messy. Flagrantly disobedient. They are masters and mistresses of selective hearing. Do I believe for a single moment when we tell them to go out and they stand there, in front of the doggy door, ignoring us, that it’s because they (a) don’t understand what we want from them, or (b) cannot hear us? That if I stand in the doorway calling them to come in that they can’t hear me or figure out that I want them to come inside? Of COURSE they hear me. They know. They’re just playing us.

If they can hear the click when we remove the top of the biscuit container from the other end of the yard, they hear us just fine. It’s a power play.

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Since they persist in disrespecting us, they will have to deal with our periodic compulsion to give them hugs, nuzzling, and the occasional (“Yuck! Stop that you stupid human!”) kiss on their big moist noses. It’s the price they pay for sofa lounging, high-quality treats and silly humans getting down on the floor to play with them.

We put up with them? They will have to put up with us, too. That’s our deal.

It’s a Human v Canine Covenant. I’ve got their paw prints on file.

BISHOP IN WINTER

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Bishop, our Australian shepherd, thinks winter is the best season. The colder and snowier, the more he likes it.

We have a doggy door, so none of our pooches have to stay in — or out — unless they want to. They are free to enter and leave as the spirit moves them, except for first thing in the morning when I throw them all out (lazy bums!) … and last thing at night, when we throw them out again.

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During the day, they go out when they hear something they deem bark-worthy. Usually, the sound of an engine — or an animal. It turns out they have no problem with the UPS guy or the mail person. It’s their vehicles that get them all worked up.

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People are not worth paying attention to, unless they are near food, in which case their attention is riveted.  Sunday night, the plow guy knocked. He came into the house, walked up the stairs to the living room.

None of the dogs noticed until he was actually in the living room. At which point, they walked over to sniff him. When they didn’t smell food, they went back to their beds.

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The snow stopped falling Monday morning. It wasn’t enough snow to block the dog flap, so they were going in and out freely. It was mid morning when I was in kitchen. Bonnie and Amber were in the kitchen cadging biscuits, but where was Bishop?

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He was, it turned out, outside, hanging out in a snow drift. Sometimes, he sleeps out there. Not because we don’t let him in, but because … he likes the cold. He likes snow. The colder it gets, the happier he is about the weather.

It’s nice that someone around here likes winter.

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WRAPPED UP

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It’s here. Christmas Eve. To all of you with whom I’ve shared this blogging year, Merry Christmas. May your next year be the best ever. Joy to the world and let’s have a little bit of peace!

Bishop's ready! Doesn't he look ready?

Bishop’s ready! Doesn’t he look ready?

It is Christmas Eve. The packages are all wrapped. The pies are baked. The family will be here later, but meanwhile it’s nice and peaceful.

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THE EYES HAVE IT

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: EYE SPY

Bishop has laser eyes. He uses them primarily to guilt me into giving him my breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Or maybe that’s just the way he looks at the world.

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I’ve asked him, but he just looks at me and somehow, I’m pretty sure it’s really all about my sandwich.

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Or anything else I might be eating. Because when all is said and done, Bishop will eat anything that does not eat him first.