Sweet family dog pile

I didn’t look at my timeline prior to beginning this post but I know it has been quite awhile since I have posted anything.  Somehow, even despite my prolonged absence, there continues to be new readers who pop up from time to time.  I am thankful to everyone out there who finds interest in what I have to say.  Writing gives me peace and although I don’t do it enough, when I do, I remember exactly why I enjoy putting finger to keyboard.

So where to begin.  I will start at the present and work backwards because that feels like it makes sense right now.  It is Monday, March 25th, at 5pm PST and I am sitting on my couch with The Shining on TV and two beautiful puppies at my feet.  They are snoozing before suppertime, with light snoring and their ears flipped inside out, after running around on the patio in the afternoon sun.  The windows and sliding glass doors are open, the sun is beginning to descend, and I can hear the water fall from our large, double-sided rock fountain just off the sun room.  That fountain is one of the most beautiful blessings in our home, one that we didn’t realize the benefit of until we moved in nearly seven years ago and saw the high volume of bird activity that our water feature attracts.  The weather was beautiful today – 75 degrees and sunny with a light breeze.  It feels so good to be coming out from the other side of our winter in SoCal, a winter in which we sustained a heavy amount of rain and overcast days.  For us Southern Californians, the lack of sun and the cold weather (a bone-chilling 50 degrees on some days) is somber and depressing.  So, needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed the past two days of sunshine on our warming planet.20190225_090620

I believe I have welcomed Koa in this forum but our newest arrival, Gunner, has yet to be seen.  Gunner joined our family about a month ago, after my coworker from a prior assignment called in need of help.  Heather and her husband, who are also Rottweiler lovers, got Gunner from a breeder just north of San Diego and they readily welcomed him into their family.  Heather’s family consisted of the two of them and their older dog, who they have had for twelve years.  When Gunner, the lively three-month old puppy entered the picture, the older dog was not as hospitable as they had hoped.  What started as minor nips turned into a couple of progressively more violent and frightening attacks on Gunner, as the older dog did not have patience with his puppy energy.  Heather knew she had to do something immediately so she called me, remembering that I had mentioned we planned on getting a male Rottie pup this summer, once Koa was settled, trained and a little older.  Although she didn’t want to give up her new little guy, she knew that she had to make a change, in order to keep Gunner safe.  It only took Hugo and I about thirty seconds to decide if we would take Gunner – he was adorable and in need of a home so it was an easy decision.

Heather drove to our house the following night, with their SUV arriving in our driveway and her husband popping out from the backseat.  Gunner was on his lap, wrapped in a paw print blanket and ready to start the next chapter of his life.  We let Koa and Gunner meet, on their leashes and from a distance at first, but that only lasted a few short seconds.  As they both tugged to get closer to their new sibling, their noses eventually touched, they gave each other a kiss and they immediately became best friends for life.  Since that night they have forged a bond rooted in love and adoration for the happiness they bring each other, Koa giving Gunner a safe place to live and Gunner providing our little girl with the companionship she so craved.

Now, I can’t say that having two puppies, who are mere weeks apart, at the same time is easy.  Because it’s not.  At all.  In fact, just about every other day I have a brief moment where I wonder how I ever got into this chaotic puppy situation in the first place.  And then I look into their sweet little eyes, who are already staring back at me with such extreme love its overwhelming, and I answer my own questions.  Somehow these two little beautiful souls have perfectly filled the void that Kaiser and Nala left when they passed.  That’s not to say that we replaced our dogs or forgot about them in any way.  But it really is magical to see and feel the happiness that they have brought to Hugo and I.  And interestingly enough, both Koa and Gunner truly embody all of the joyous aspects of our other dogs, without even trying.  Koa is channeling my late Nala’s love and calmness and I can feel her energy being carried on through this new young lady.  She is so young and full of life and when she stares back into my eyes, it’s as if she is telling me that Nala is safe and happy, wherever she is, and she would want me to be happy.  And then there’s Gunner, who is not more than fifteen inches off the ground and already 41 lbs.  In fact, I had to weigh him four times the other night, because I couldn’t believe the number that the scale was spitting out.  Regardless, our chubby baby brother has found a permanent place in our family and it couldn’t have worked out any more perfectly for everyone.

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In between puppy play time, three meals a day for growing bellies, and obedience/socialization class, I have been slowly but surely continuing to inch towards finishing my degree.  I can now happily and proudly report that I only have a little over four weeks left until my Bachelor’s degree is finished!  With a taxing job that begins shortly after 3am during the week, plus double puppy trouble and the remainder of adult life commitments, needless to say I have been busy.  But it will all pay off soon, when I have that piece of paper and upgraded resume to boot!

Finally, the other happy happening to report is the joyful ten years of marriage that Hugo and I recently celebrated.  I couldn’t imagine life without him because my life is defined by his friendship and love.  When I met him over fifteen years ago, I had no idea what life would have in store for us.  We have taught each other and grown together, transforming from kids with throwaway jobs and nothing to lose into adults with careers, a gorgeous home and two little pup kids.  My love for Hugo continues to grow, day by day, and it surprises me to see that the trajectory continues up, without an end in sight.  He has shown me what a true friend looks like and what a real man is, and because of this I find it difficult to find many people in the world who stand as tall or as strong, in terms of character and dignity, as he does.  Hugo, you are the love of my life ♥

 

I spoke too soon…

Just as fast as I posted my last thoughts today, Hugo agreed to getting a second puppy!!  We will now be getting the first pick male (boy pick of the litter, if you will) from the next batch of puppies slated to be whelped in late December with our breeder.  Our girl will now have a best friend for life, permanent wrestling opponent and partner in crime as it relates to chewing on our newly renovated kitchen cabinets.  I can’t wait to see what fun and joy the next chapter brings ♥

Circle of life

I am beyond excited for December 28th now.  Not only because the date is smack dab in the middle of the holiday season but mainly because that is the planned date that we will be picking up our new female pup!  We are so fortunate to have found a local, ethical breeder who has true respect for our favorite breed, the Rottweiler.  Vom Bustos Hause is owned by Frank Bustos and based in Temecula, a few hours away from us.  The mama Rottweiler is pregnant as I type this, with a due date of November 3rd.  Eight weeks after that date is the end of December, when the pups will be weened and ready to go off to their new homes.

I can’t sum up how happy and overwhelmed I feel at the thought of our new puppy joining our family.  It was a rough summer, that included knee surgery and the painful loss of our two beloved dogs, and Hugo and I are ready for happiness to once again be the presiding emotion in our home.  After months of deep sadness, fading hope, declining health and feeling broken losing our two best friends, I have so much love to give to someone new.  Our ‘someone new’ isn’t even in this world yet and I already love her ♥

Since she will be of European descent, with her father being a Serbian show champion, Hugo and I intend to pay homage to her German ancestry by naming her accordingly.  I have been trolling German dog name sites, compiling a list of suitable two-syllable names for potential future use.  If anyone reading this has any good name ideas in German for a bad ass female Rottweiler, please do share.

Hugo and I debated getting two puppies at once but we decided the cons might outweigh the pros.  The cons include difficulty in training two puppies at the same time and being overwhelmed, almost outnumbered and possibly taken over by puppies.  Some of those actually might be pros if you think about it.  The pros, on the other hand, include the fact that we would have two adorable puppies in our home at once, they would be brother and sister, and it would bring such joy to my heart watching them have fun together.  As I type this, I realize I am going to keep hounding Hugo about getting a second puppy in late December because it really would be amazing.

I really can’t wait for all of this love to enter our home again.  But rest assured, the fond memories of Nala and Kaiser will forever be imprinted on our hearts. We buried Nala yesterday in the same spot as Kaiser and Hugo is currently working on sealing both of their paw prints.  Once the sealed prints are ready for outdoor exposure, we will place them on their co-ed burial spot and remember them every time we walk past them.  Sometimes I catch myself looking out of the window and looking at their grave, just sending them love and wishing they were close to me.  But, like Hugo says, they still are.

How quickly things change

Not even twenty-four hours ago, I was sitting here writing about Nala’s resilience.  Well, today, just after noon, her time finally came to an end.  As I stood in the kitchen cleaning the grounds out of our coffee grinder, I heard a shrill cry come from Nala as she speedily ascended our brick stairs.  I ran over to her as she was standing, weakly balancing on three legs, in the living room.  Her body was shaking and she looked miserable.  I yelled for Hugo, who ran over to us, and we both knew that it was time.  Nala’s cancerous shoulder had finally snapped and she was suffering.  We loaded her into the Jeep and off we went to the vet to put our second puppy down in less than two months.

What a miserable experience this has been.  She was in such pain at the vet’s office, I asked them if there was anything they could give her to relax her and ease her discomfort.  The vet returned with a shot that ended up almost knocking her out, because when they wheeled her back into the room after inserting her catheter for euthanasia, her eyes were in a hard, fixed position, as her tongue flopped two inches out of her mouth without care.  We hated to see her like this but at least she was out of pain.

As the vet administered the two-shot series, Hugo and I hugged her and cried as she parted with us.  I pet the single white hair that sat just to the left of her eye.  That white hair sprouted up months ago and refused to fall out.  It was just as resilient as her spirit, that literally fought to the bitter end.

 

No one said that life was going to be easy

Wow, where to begin.

I have been off the radar and radio silent for a handful of days now.  Needed some time to find my bearings after a stressful August.  August, 2018, will go down in my record book as the shittiest month of my life thus far.  After our awful ordeal with sweet Kaiser, we found out that our female Rottweiler, Nala, has bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her front right shoulder.  What first presented itself as a minor limp and corresponding lump over the joint, turned into a cancer diagnosis after a series of x-rays at the vet.

For those who are not familiar with osteosarcoma, it is no joke.  An aggressive form of bone cancer, osteosarcoma is prevalent in large breed dogs, with Rottweilers said to have an occurrence rate of approximately one in 8.  That is a very high number, shocking to read quite frankly.  Our poor girl is the 1 in that equation.  After being presented with three equally bad options from the vet, which included doing nothing, amputating her limb, and/or doing chemotherapy and radiation, we chose to let her spend the remainder of her short life (based on her illness) feeling as good as possible and just being a dog.  We put considerable thought into the other options though – at one point Hugo and I had the three-hour amputation surgery scheduled but we later cancelled it.  We did our own independent research and discovered that dogs with this type of bone cancer normally do not live very long after being diagnosed, due to the aggressive nature of the disease.  Even when amputations are performed and additional, very expensive and physically draining therapies are administered, there still isn’t a very good likelihood of the dog surviving past a year, at best.  Sometimes, dogs only live a couple of months after amputation surgery.  And I am sure the recovering from losing a limb is not easy for those poor pups.

With all of that said, the biggest concern that the vet, and therefore we, have is this impending issue – due to the presence of bone cancer in her shoulder joint, the joint breaking is inevitable and just a matter of time.  That is why amputation, to remove the afflicted limb, is normally a viable option.  Hugo and I are terrified of her shoulder breaking because not only does that mean she has to immediately be put down but also because we don’t want her to experience that extreme level of pain.  After not wanting to leave the house at all, in fear that she would be all alone when her shoulder finally succumbs, I found myself staying home with her as much as possible.  I would hug and kiss her every time I walked past her, most times breaking into tears as I grasped onto her head.  I would hold it, remembering how her entire body used to be the size of what her head is today.  A little pile of puppy.  Nala of course was unaware of why I was so emotional, it was just another day to her.  And that’s when Hugo had an amazing idea – let’s buy a baby cam to set up to monitor her when we are away from home!  Within minutes, we had Amazon’ed a $30 Wansview camera that features two-way audio.  Technology is incredible and the feeling of security as we monitor her from afar is worth well above the purchase price of this valuable resource.

With everything considered, we opted to keep Nala out of pain with medication and rest, as well as anything her heart desires in the food category.  This has recently included chips and a little guacamole, scraps of barbecued chicken from our Labor Day picnic, and cheese nibbles from our goat cheese afternoon snack plate.  Although she is limping around and we are restricting her running, she has a big smile on her face and the energy to chase passing birds every day.

So for now, we are just enjoying every day with our girl, our last dog left.  I fear for the day that she isn’t here as our house will be empty and sad and just not right.  It has been tough experiencing such sadness and heartache with both of our puppies within such a short time frame.  It hit me so hard that I have been physically sick throughout this entire process.  To describe a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach would be a severe understatement.  I only hope that in time my body will calm down.

Not really sure how to transition from Nala to our friend Andrew but here goes nothing.  Andrew relapsed also immediately after celebrating one year of sobriety.  He is a sad idiot, he is a bad friend, and he is an asshole son.  He is a raging alcoholic who fell back into his dark hole.  This time, the dark hole manifested itself in the form of a dimly lit motel room in central California, as Andrew partially completed his road trip to Eureka, his intended destination.  He works for a large communications company and was lucky enough to be transferred up north, an opportunity to have a fresh start in a new part of the country.

The main things missing in Andrew’s life are a companion, whether that be a girlfriend, best friend or wife, and a family.  Andrew is alone, depressed and prone to relapse when faced with stressful, lonely situations.  I told Hugo, just before Andrew left for this trip, that I had a feeling this would happen.  And boy, was I right.  Wish I wasn’t.

He didn’t make it more than 36 hours before he started drinking.  And he didn’t just have a casual cocktail or frosty mug of beer.  This man goes from zero to 60 by drinking straight, cheap vodka right from the plastic bottle it comes in.  He doesn’t eat, hydrate with an occasional glass of water, or sleep normally.  He drinks until he throws up, passes out, and then wakes up at 2am only to chug some more vodka.  It is gross and sad.

The real victims in the equation are his poor parents.  They are such lovely, good-hearted people who love their son tremendously.  And the worst past is that there isn’t anything they can do.  They have done it all before and it doesn’t work because Andrew has to do it for himself.  No one can make an addict change, they have to truly desire to make the change within themselves.  Despite bringing him to therapy, the hospital, rehab, or any combination thereof, it will not be successful if Andrew doesn’t want it for himself.  As of now, we are on day 10 of this ordeal.  He has been holed up in his motel room slowly killing himself.  Only time will tell if he can pry himself out of his own nightmare of if his body will give in to the abuse he inflicts upon himself.

Life is cruel and has sharp edges that cut and sting.  The past few weeks have been negative at face value but I have been trying to find the learning lessons, peace and beauty that surrounds me.  I am thankful for the love that exists in my life, mainly Hugo and my parents.  Hugo has exhibited such incredible support and real love towards Nala and I during these tough times.  I am beyond thankful for him in my life.

So tonight, I will think happy, positive and loving thoughts for those in my life that are struggling.  Nala’s struggle is sad but unavoidable at this point.  Andrew’s is sad but can be changed with actions in the right directions.  I just hope he can find his way before it is too late.  And now I will go give Nala a goodnight kiss on the top of her nose.

Still got it in him

Despite being nearly seventy years old in dog years and being mortally ill with throat cancer, Kaiser still has it in him.  And by “it”, I mean the will to fight.  He has always been a scrapper; never a fan of other dogs, he has fought with all breeds, ages and sizes since he reached adolescence.  In addition, he gets rather feisty with Nala from time to time, whether it is over food or random dominance battles.  That is exactly what happened moments ago in our kitchen…over an ice cube.  Every time that I scoop ice from our freezer, both dogs frantically run into the kitchen, in hopes of acquiring a fat-free frozen treat on these hot summer days.  Although I didn’t give them one today, which may have lent itself as to why they were upset, as they turned to leave the kitchen, it was on.  Either Nala looked at Kaiser sideways or Kaiser didn’t appreciate the side eye that Nala was handing out because as they both took a step forward, they simultaneously turned and began battling.  It is normally mostly bark and minimal bite but two large Rotties getting crazy is always enough to get me yelling as loud as possible and stomping my feet, in an effort to break their attention away from one another.  Since they are both aging and quite frankly not in the mood for craziness like they used to “back in the day”, the brawl was brief and short-lived.  No injuries reported and both parties retreated to separate corners of the house, as they normally do for a short period of sulking and licking their wounds, if you will.

Although I don’t want to see my dogs fight, or any cross feelings between anyone in my midst, it is still nice to see that his soul is alive and well.  He can’t fight his instincts which is both real and raw.  Dogs can’t lie or fake it so it warmed my heart to see him want to get wild with his kid sister.  It will be rather telling when he does slow down to the point that a quick ice cube brawl is too much for him to sustain.  I know that day will come eventually but let’s hope it is later than sooner.

Afterword:  About twenty minutes later, as I continued thinking about this post, I couldn’t help but consider the similar behaviors that humans engage in.  The main difference is that as humans, we have the self-awareness and knowledge of our condition, which is both a blessing and a curse in my opinion.  For instance, if we have knowledge of a terminal illness, some of us may shelter ourselves or limit our energy exertion, which goes completely against acting purely on instinct.  If we are aware that we are sick, we may not solely act on how we actually feel but we factor the knowledge of our sickness and all of the negative attributes in when we make decisions or assess ourselves.  

I have said it before and I will say it again – we have a lot to learn from the animals in our lives.  Now I am off to refill Kaiser’s food bowl, so his belly can be full and his heart can be happy.

The girl who never wagged

I have been holding onto this writing topic for a while now because I love it.  I love it because I happen to live with the girl who has never wagged.  She is almost nine years old, fully covered in black and tan hair, and one of my best friends.  Her name is Nala and I love her almost as much as I love her flaccid tail.

When Kaiser was a few months old, I begged and pleaded with Hugo to get another dog.  After hours of online sleuthing, I found a local Rottweiler breeder with pups that were ready.  I hopped in my trusty Jeep and drove two hours east to my pup pick-up destination.  Upon my arrival, I told the breeder that I was interested in the largest female that they had.  He fished through the pen of puppies and out came Nala.

In hindsight, the breeder was fairly irresponsible because he sold me Nala when she was only a month old.  I set her on the front passenger seat of my car, with my sweatshirt as a makeshift bed, and she curled into a ball, sleeping the entire trek back.  When I lifted her out of the Jeep to go inside, I noticed she peed a little while she slept.  A quick welcome bath, followed by lots of hugs, and we were finally home.

Nala, who was named after Simba’s female friend in the Lion King, has been an incredible addition to our family since the day she got here.  She is fiercely loyal and protective of me, always treating me as her true mother.  I really feel that this is due to the fact that I have been mothering her since she was a little bigger than my hand.  Nala is also silly and playful while being cranky and outspoken.  She grunts and growls almost hourly, expressing herself through her voice but never with her tail.  While most dogs wag theirs in happiness, Nala’s tail has never wagged.  She shakes her butt from side to side, as if she wants to wag, but the tail appears to just not work.  I always hypothesize about why it doesn’t wag and my best guess is that it was possibly broken when she was a puppy, before she joined our family.  It doesn’t matter though because Nala expresses herself with her voice and through her eyes.  I can read that dog’s emotion right from her sweet face.  As I type this right now, she is staring at me from underneath the buffet table she has claimed as her den over the past several years.

The love that we have for dogs can easily supersede the love that we have for a lot of humans.  Or maybe that is just me.  As a side note, I tried taking a sweet little picture of Nala to post here but she sassily refused to look at me.  I am thankful to be blessed with the girl who never wagged and we wouldn’t want her any other way.