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In case you didn’t already hear all about it on Facebook or Twitter, we had a bit of a scare last week when Rudi got into some people meds and went into renal failure.

I’m not going to make you wait for the outcome — she’s doing great and has a real chance at a full recovery. You know, after a week in the UF Small Animal ICU. A week in which she made every doctor and student working with her fall madly, deeply in love with her, of course, but a week in the doggie hospital nonetheless.

Home and happy as a, well, a dog rolling in the grass on a sunny day, I guess.

She had maybe a 50/50 shot going in, and when we walked in with her, I did my best to accept the fact that we very well might not get her back. I believe this acceptance may have come out as me yelling at the doctors, “This SUCKS! This super, super SUCKS!” in between my hysterical sobbing and nose blowing and crying into my sick dog’s coat, but, you know, we do the best we can do in those situations, right?

Fortunately, her numbers began improving fairly quickly after admitting her, and though it took days before I allowed myself even a glimmer of hope that she’d be able to come home, let alone have the possibility of leading a normal doggie life, I did a lot of thinking. I mean, I really am a believer in many things happening for a reason, and considering how this was extra painful for us because Yuki’s death still feels so recent (even though, yes, it’s been close to three years now), and I just can’t believe that this would happen without the universe having some reason.

Don’t ask me why, but I really felt like I was supposed to learn some lesson (other than “if it’s not 6 feet in the air and locked behind a steel wall, dogs, even if they’re well-behaved and never get into anything anymore, can get to it”). And somewhere between her bloodwork showing numbers that were frighteningly high and showing numbers that were sparkling with promise, it hit me — I’ve completely taken her for granted.

I’ve taken her presence for granted. Hollie’s too, for that matter. And I’ve definitely taken for granted the effect she has on people. I mean you should have seen the way the veterinarians and students and staff lit up when they saw her. And if she can do that while fighting for her life in a place where people are rushing from one emergency to the next, what else could she do? She’s always had a way of making people smile — she’s a silly, floppity, sweet girl, and people take to her instantly. Why am I keeping that all to myself?

So, now that things are looking up — she’s home, her numbers are practically back to normal (and likely will be within the next week) — I’ve decided that I’m going to work hard to share her. I’m going to really focus on training both dogs well so that we can take them more places. Jared and I used to take Yuki everywhere; it was easy because we just had her and she was so sweet to everyone, but once we got Rudi, we backed off because, well, I was lazy and it was more difficult. No more. We’re going to have two dogs who walk well on leash and politely sniff other dogs without going batshit crazy. That’s the first order of business.

Second? Once she’s properly trained, I’m getting Rudi, and maybe Hollie, too, certified as a therapy dog. I want to take her into nursing homes and hospitals, and take her to schools and libraries so she can help children learn to read aloud. If I’m getting a second chance at having her in my life, you can be damn sure I’m going to use that second chance to make a difference.

And I won’t lie — I’m also giving myself permission to take a break during the day to just sit with the dogs and get in some snuggles. I swear it’s good for the soul, and I know they enjoy it. And you know what? I’m giving you permission, too. To snuggle with your own pets, I mean, not mine. Although, I mean, if you really want to, I guess you could cuddle my dogs, too. See? I’m a sharer!

Final thought, for my Gainesville and surrounding area folks — I cannot recommend UF’s emergency animal care enough. The doctors we worked with were absolutely incredible, the facility is amazing, and, in the case of an animal facing renal issues, there’s the ability to do dialysis plus one of the best kidney specialists in the country. Rudi loved everyone there to the point of being excited when we returned for her check up. While she always wanted to go with us at first when we visited her during her stay, she was also happy to go with the doctor or student who took her back, which let me know that she was being loved and treated well when I wasn’t around. And we were treated well, also — everyone was so kind and informative and understanding. Special shout outs to Dr. Bandt, Dr. Genovese and Katie, who made this terrifically difficult time a little easier on allĀ  of us (and earned a friend for life in one special black dog).

In addition to not understanding basic concepts like moving, dogs do not understand pacing. Yesterday we were graced with perfect, sunny, 65 degree weather. Jared was home and, while we’re both still recovering from the plague, we got lots of sleep and were highly motivated to spend some time outdoors. So, off to the dog park we went.

Within seconds of pulling into the parking lot, the dogs turned into whimpering, whizzing little fuzzballs, fur on end with excitement. “Oh my god, mom! Dad! MOOOOOM! There’s another dog! He’s peeing! PEEING!!! Let me out let me out let me out let me oooouuuuuut!”

So we let them out, and WHOOSH! They were off. And to think that, once upon a time, we thought Hollie might not be able to run.

Who's a gimp? Not this dog.

More than one paw on the ground is obviously overkill.

We got their attention again, however, with the Chuckit, which is definitely one of the best dog toys we own.

Rudi's running ability was never in question. ZOOM!

There was running and jumping and barking and panting and playing … for about half an hour.

Oh, Hollie. You'll never catch up, but it's cute that you try.

And then, they both crashed in a nice, cool, shady patch of dirt. You know, like dogs do. It would’ve been swell to hang out for a couple more hours, but shoot, I had almost 100 photos to edit just from the time we did spend there (I blame the fancy new zoom lens Jared got me for Christmas), so maybe the shorter visit was for the best.

It’s been a tough month or so around here for Meeko as many of you know from Facebook (if we’re not FB friends and you’d like to be, just shoot me a message on there telling me how we know each other and I’ll accept). Between thyroid issues, kidney problems, bad potassium numbers, refusing to eat and serious dehydration, we were scared. She spent a partial and a full day at the vet getting fluids, came home with a catheter for us to flush, was force fed more times than any of us care to remember, but … she’s better. Not perfect, not totally out of the woods, but she’s eating and drinking and knocking shit off my desk again.

I couldn’t be happier about that, to be honest. But, to get her (and keep her) there, we’re having to do some doctoring. We’re giving her subq fluids, which, let me tell you, is no treat for anybody — in fact, while Jared’s out of town, I’m having someone come over to help me, but we only need to do it once every other day, so no biggie. And she’s got meds to take, which isn’t a big deal when she eats them in pill pockets (which, YOU GUYS — this is the most genius thing EVER). She was refusing for a while, but she ate one tonight and I’m hopeful (SO hopeful) that this continues, because have you ever forced a cat to take a pill? Yeah.

All along, we’ve made a point to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t want to put her through anything more than is necessary — her quality of life is the biggest concern, and she is 14, after all. But man, now that her eyes have a little sparkle back in them and she’s yowling at me for food, I’m beyond relieved that she seems to be pulling through.

Squeamish as I was when I was a kid, who would’ve ever thought I’d be able to put a needle in my cat and give her fluids (although J has done it far more than I have)? It’s amazing what you can do when you need to, you know? And it’s been quite the education, which is nice since the only other education I’ve really been getting lately is learning about real estate in other countries by watching House Hunters International. Which is also important.

Anyway, Jared and I (and Meeko, too) are really thankful for all the kind words and messages we’ve gotten regarding our kitty’s health. Now, if y’all could start praying for fewer vet visits, Meeko and my bank account will be really, really grateful. Like, really.

I had some help when I went to wrap my presents this year.

cat christmas wrapping paper

Meeko, the Christmas kitty

Are you done shopping for and wrapping gifts? If you are, could you come lend me a hand? Meeko is actually a terrible (but adorable) little helper.

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For those of you who are interested, there are still some quotes that haven’t been identified on this post. And I’ll give you some hints. In no particular order, we have a Miracle, Holiday, Life, Scrooge, and Muppets. If you’ve already guessed, now is your chance to come in and pick up another one!

Items currently on the floor surrounding my desk:

Notepad

Sunglasses (these, in purple, which I just got and are almost impossible to find and oh god I love them SO VERY MUCH and I blame Megan Pura for getting me hooked)

Digital recorder

Scissors

Several sports bras (that I’m reviewing, not that I need to wash or anything)

Phone

3 books

1 DVD

Items currently on my desk:

Laptop

Water glass

Empty Coke Zero can

Cat who is zonked out from knocking everything she could reach off my desk onto the floor.

The culprit, Meeko

Fine, cat, you win this round. But let’s just see whether you get your seared salmon tomorrow morning.

(Alright, alright, I admit it — she totally will, but cut me some slack. It’s the only bargaining chip I have.)

 

The last few days have been a whirlwind of exciting things, and I want to go into detail on all of it, but the whirlwind won’t stop for blogging, apparently, so I’m just going to have to stick with the highlights for now.

First things first — I got a new camera! (Take that, number 33!) This was not a rash decision by any means. We’d saved up gift cards, and done research, and finally, this weekend, I realized there were a number of things I really wanted a Big Girl Camera for on the horizon, and, well, why not just do it now? And, to top things off, a nice guy at Best Buy gave me his 10% off coupon to use, out of the blue. I wasn’t even showing (much) cleavage!

I’ve quickly learned that the curse of owning a really nice camera is that you tend to photograph everything, and, well, I have so many pictures that it’s almost impossible to edit down to a few of the best. So, I’m saying screw the best, and I’m just going to show a couple of favorites. And you’ll like it. (Well, I hope you’ll like it, anyway!)

We went to St. Pete Beach with the dogs. I won a slogan contest at I Love Dog Friendly, and the prize was two nights at a pet-friendly hotel. We chose the Tradewinds Island Grand because, for one thing, it’s a gorgeous property, and it’s near where we got married, and my parents were spending a week in the area, so we thought it would be fun to hang out with them for a couple of nights. AND IT WAS.

The hotel was great — we particularly liked the little fenced in play area and the doggie room service.

island grand welcome

A warm welcome and gorgeous view.

ball fire hydrant

Classic Hollie. No interest in the fire hydrant or ball. Just hunting lizards.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hollie dogPart of the reason we adopted Hollie is because we knew she would need special care. She walks a little funny, sits to one side, her hips click with every step, and the vet who saw her before her we adopted her said she would need surgery; the only question was when.

When we took her to our vet (the same one who cried with us over Yuki), she had better news — Hollie’s hips aren’t as bad as we originally thought! Her right back hip has some degenerative disease, as does her left back knee, but our vet feels strongly that we’ll be able to manage it with supplements and pain meds, when necessary.

The other good news — our vet didn’t discourage us from letting her play. She’s taken in dogs with severe joint issues, and her feeling was that, if they’re feeling alright now, let them play and enjoy it. Of course, watch her and monitor her play, and don’t let her get too rough or crazy, but if we wanted to take her to the dog park or something, it probably wouldn’t be any more problematic than letting her play in the back yard.

And then, I exhaled.

You guys wouldn’t believe how happy that made me. I mean, sure, it doesn’t mean she’s okay, exactly, but it took away the nagging guilt I had about letting her play with Rudi and her other doggie friends.

And then she got hurt.

She’s okay, really, but after playing with a friend’s dog, she came home limping. She wouldn’t put any weight on her right back foot, and was crying in pain when she’d try to lay on it or get up. My heart split into a thousand sharp pieces, all of which landed in my gut. This went on for a couple of days, after which she went right back to normal. Until she played too hard the next week and did it again. (The limping only lasted one evening the second time, though.)

We know she’s a bit of a drama queen (our vet confirmed it), and I have no doubt that she knows I’ll come running whenever she cries. I’m positive some of her actions are because she’s milking it. That being said, I also have no doubt that it really does hurt — she wouldn’t whimper in the middle of the night when she doesn’t know I’m awake if it wasn’t real.

hollie dog bed

I’m so torn — when she plays, she’s just like a normal, completely healthy dog, and most of the time she’s fine after she plays. It’s just those occasional times that the playing causes her to hurt so much… Do I cut back her fun puppy play time, knowing that at some point, she might not be able to play at all, or do I let her go for it and do what I can to help her deal with the hurt when it occurs?

My gut (now, mercifully free of those sharp pieces of my heart) says to let her play. Of course that’s what it says right now, when she’s tearing around the house like someone put crack in her kibble. What would you do?

Back in the early days, when J and I were dating and just married, it was so weird to say good bye to each other for more than, like, the day. Now granted, I’m a more emotional person than most (and yes I cry at commercials and movie trailers all the time), but I would actually get teary if he was going out of town for two or three days.

(It was different, by the way, if I were the one leaving, because WOO HOO vacation!)

Now that he travels for work — a lot — that has obviously changed. After all, his first day of his current job was actually a two week trip to California and Puerto Rico, so we kind of had to get used to that quickly.

People are always asking me, “Isn’t that so haaard?” with a sympathetic tilt of the head. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried when we first realized just how much he’d be gone, but the thing that’s most surprising is how easily we both settled into things. I might talk to the dogs a bit more than I used to, and I definitely expect them to respond more often, but it’s very rarely lonely. And the nice thing is that, when he’s home, he’s really home. And since I work from home and we share an office, I get to see a lot of him when he’s here.

(Added bonus — when he’s been gone for a few days for work, I’m truly and genuinely excited to see him. How many people are that thrilled to see their spouses walk in the door after work?)

In fact, I just realized something last night. I’ve been trying to schedule my life around when he’s home; turning down offers for ladies’ night parties and other activities with girlfriends because he was in town and, well, didn’t that mean we needed to spend time together? And the irony of this is that it’s more important than ever that I have these friendships because there are so many days and nights when I’m on my own and would love to have something fun to do.

(Let me be very clear — at no point has J ever asked me to stay home with him. I mean, sure, he likes having me around — WHO WOULDN’T? — but he’s always encouraged me to hang out with my friends, and I’ve done the same for him.)

I read something the other day about how people don’t sleep enough during the week, and they try to make up for it by sleeping in on the weekends, but it doesn’t work that way. Getting more on Saturday and Sunday doesn’t change the fact that you got so little the rest of the week — you’re better off aiming to make each hour of sleep you can squeeze the best it can be.

See where I’m going with this?

It’s not that I don’t love sitting around and doing nothing with my husband. I honestly do — Sunday afternoon happy hour on our back porch is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. But I also think it’s important that, rather than look at how much time we can spend in the same house, focus on doing more fun things, even if that means less time together.

So, I broke the cycle. He’s home this weekend, but I’m spending Saturday kayaking with friends. I don’t think we’ll have too hard a time squeezing in some fun on Sunday, especially if it’s anything like Sunday before last.

Hollie's first off-leash experience

Tired, happy girls

Also: THIRSTY. And cute.

Yes, those were gratuitous dog pictures, but Hollie just turned a year old and it seemed appropriate. You’re welcome.

This is a little overdue, I realize, but … meet Hollie!

cute dog

Hollie, January 2010

Is it any wonder we fell in love and decided to keep her?

(On another note, yes, it appears that, should we have children, I’ll get around to sending out the announcements somewhere around the time said child goes to his or her first boy/girl slumber party.)

Compared to what we’ve always looked for in a dog, Hollie is not a good fit. She’s short and little (about 35 pounds), with light, fluffy fur. And, you know, we’ve always been kind of partial to the big black dogs (what, you didn’t notice?). And, she’s not going to be a terribly active dog — she has some major hip problems which will, eventually, require surgery. Don’t tell her that — she pounces and plays with Rudi, running around the yard as much as we’ll allow. But, I don’t think she’ll be joining Rudi and me on our five- and six-milers.

One of the rare quiet times around here. I forgot what having a puppy was like. (It's LOUD.)

Her wonky hips give her a unique little wiggle, which, if you can get past the fact that it’s not really a funny issue, is pretty damn cute. She’s got a tongue that’s about the length of her whole head, and if you get close enough you’re going to get licked. Don’t try to fight it.

She’s only about seven months old, so we’re still working on obedience (well, let me rephrase — we SHOULD be working on obedience. But — spoiler alert — I’m lazy.), but she’s amazingly well behaved for a dog so young. No shoes have been harmed in the training of this puppy. (Though, if both these mutts would stop barking their heads off at every other dog on the street, I’d be happy. Very, very happy.)

Plus, oh my god, how do you not snuggle up with all that fluff? Just try to resist. Seriously.

This morning, I made the most difficult call of my life. I made an appointment to have Yuki — my Yuki — put to sleep.

The coolest dog I ever knew.

The coolest dog I ever knew.

As many of you know, she’s been having some difficulties — running into walls, panting nonstop and circling, circling, circling — and as it turned out, it was from a tumor or some other form of swelling on her left forebrain. Yesterday, we took her to the neurology department at UF, and, short of putting her through radiation therapy (which would have cleared out our savings and given us no guarantee that it would help or make her less miserable), we had just one option: Put her on a steroid to see if it reduced the swelling. We knew it would be borrowed time, even if it worked, but if we could make her comfortable for a few days, we felt like we owed it to her.

After coming out of the light sedation they gave her yesterday in order to do the x-rays and ultrasounds on the rest of her body, she was worse than ever. Jared and I spent the whole night holding her and trying to keep her from running (well, trotting) straight into walls and corners. She didn’t know us and didn’t seem to be aware of where she was. The decision was obvious to us — get her in to the vet as early as possible in the morning and put her out of her misery.

Still, it was the hardest decision either of us has ever made. The entire ride to the vet, I held her in the back of the car, and tried to memorize every bit of her. I love the way the white spot on her chest wasn’t symmetrical, and the way her black fur was actually kind of brown. Three paws had bits of white on the toes, while one was all black. And her tail had a slight upward curl that made her look so happy.

Cute as a puppy. Nothing changed.

Cute as a puppy. Nothing changed.

It was hard to walk in, harder to listen as the vet explained how the process went, and almost impossible to hold her and try to calm her as the medicine took effect and she slowly sank to the ground. By the time she took her last breath, her coat was wet with our tears — the vet’s included.

That’s part of what makes this so damn hard. I know, everyone thinks their dog is special (and of course, they are). But man, Yuki was something. She touched the lives of so very many people, and I can’t imagine how many tears have been shed today. Without any training, she was a wonderful companion when I took her to my grandmother’s nursing home and visited with the Alzheimer’s patients. She was calm and gentle and let them pet her at their own pace. But, she was also a fantastic running buddy, and immensely entertaining at the dog park and at home.

Are you going to throw the stick? How about now? Now?

Are you going to throw the stick? How about now? Now?

Above all, god, was she ever a good girl. All she wanted was to please us, and she brought us such joy, such happiness. She loved wearing bandanas — I think she liked the extra attention people paid, and she would just prance around like a show pony (although maybe this took it a little too far).

Our family portrait, shortly before Rudi came along in 2007.

Our family portrait, shortly before Rudi came along in 2007. Photo: David Bowie Photography

As a puppy, she was absolutely fearless. She would run full speed and jump off of docks or dunes or anything. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. She played so hard, as puppies are wont to do. Shortly after we got her, we took her to a friend’s get-together where she played for hours with people and pets. I had to carry her tired little body to the car and put her on my lap, and she was so worn out that she peed in her sleep. All over me.

Her first birthday party was attended by tons of people — it didn’t take her long to worm her way into anyone’s heart. We held it at the dog park so the dogs could play and the people could eat. She might not have appreciated effort that went into making the homemade dog treats, but she ate them with gusto, just the same.

All dressed up for her first birthday party.

All dressed up for her first birthday party.

And she loved the water. When we took her to Canada, to my parents’ old cabin, we were wondering how to get her down to the lake — the house was on the lake, but there was basically a small cliff leading down to it. Within moments of arriving, Yuki found some way to climb down and was happily splashing in the water. Fortunately, she found a way up again, too.

For seven years, almost to the date, she’s been by my side. She was in our wedding, she attended my graduation (which consisted of me, my family and friends sitting outside at The Swamp after my last final), she moved from apartment to condo to our house with a yard.

I couldn't have found a cuter flower dog.

We couldn't have found a cuter flower dog. Photo: Aaron Lockwood Photography

I had planned on another seven years of her chasing tennis balls and sticks and squirrels, barking at the UPS guy, and licking our faces endlessly (particularly when sweaty). She should have had another chance to climb in the chair with my dad and clean out his ears, and there were supposed to be more trips to the dog park. I wanted more walks and treats and time to cuddle. And even though I held her as the last bit of breath escaped from her mouth, I just can’t believe she’ll never be here again.

Diving in head first -- that's my girl.

Diving in head first -- that's my girl.

To Yuki: The dog who taught me so much, brought smiles to so many faces, and asked for so little in return. You’ll be missed more than you can possibly imagine. Your circling has stopped, but my broken heart is just getting started.

If any of you have a favorite story about Yuki, or any dog for that matter, I’d sure love to hear it about now.