Tag Archives: pets

She got the way to move me, Cherry

24 May

Remember how I posted 3 weeks ago that my parents’ dog, Cherry, didn’t like me?

Well, now we have a different problem. She likes me. A lot. And I like her a little too much too.

Before, she used to give a “does SHE have to come?” look on our family walks. Now she hesitates to walk unless I come too. It’s amazing how something finally clicked in her little head and she realized I was someone she could trust. I can understand why she was apprehensive at first — she got attached to her original owner and she dropped her off at a shelter, then she got attached to her foster mom and she dropped her off with my parents. But now my parents have had her for two months and I’ve been with her exactly one month, and she’s finally starting to feel like she has a real home with some stability. Which I’m afraid will only make it harder on her when I go back to London in a week. Will she still recognize me the next time I’m home? Will it take her over a week to acclimate to me being around again?

I say I’m afraid it will be hard on her when I go, but I also mean it’ll be hard on me. I told myself I wasn’t going to fall for her, which was easy when she didn’t care for me. After all, she’s not “my dog” in the same way that Squirt was. But she’s just so adorable, cuddly and friendly, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve fallen pretty hard for the little girl and her cute corgi butt. So for now I’m trying not to think about how much time we have left together and am just enjoying the time we have.

cherry dog.png

Just because it’s your namesake doesn’t mean you can have any!

braxton tap room dog.png

We took her to a local dog-friendly tap room. (Don’t worry, she’s drinking water!)

chihuahua corgi.png

Cherry went on a playdate with her birth mom who’s still recovering from surgery. Here she is imparting some motherly advice!

cherry and elle.png

They were both vying for my attention!

chihuahua corgi mix.png

Cherry loves being with us — even if that means climbing onto the kitchen table while we play Mexican Train Dominoes! I love her little back legs subtly lounging.

corgi chihuahua sploot.png

Fact: It is really hard to get work done when someone is splooting on you! (Splooting refers to the way she’s sitting with her back legs kicked out. It’s a classic corgi move, which makes me think she has some corgi blood in her. Squirt never splooted.)

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Baby [doesn’t] love me, Cherry, Cherry

3 May

It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 1/2 year since Squirt crossed over the rainbow bridge. My parents were adamant about not getting another dog. The loss was too fresh and too strong to imagine ever going through it again. But there’s that ol’ phrase about time and wounds, and ever since they returned from Europe at the end of last year, they began to throw around the idea of opening their home once more to a furry friend.

Last month they were out shopping and noticed the new dog bakery next door to the Dollar Store was having an adoption event.

“Let’s just go in to look,” my dad suggested, seeming to forget that every time my mother goes out to “look” at furniture, clothes or electronics, she comes home with a new couch, dress or TV.

All the dogs available for adoption were large breeds, so my parents asked the adoption coordinator if they ever got any small dogs in — a chihuahua mix, perhaps. There was no harm in asking, right?

It turned out the rescue had just pulled a chihuahua mix from the shelter. Her name was Cherry.

cherry chihuahua

And — as you probably guessed — she’s now sitting right next to me.

OK, that’s a lie — not that my parents adopted her, but that she’s sitting near me. She’s sitting on the floor a few feet from me, because she refuses to jump on the couch with me. Because even though I’ve been home for over a week now and take her out for walks every afternoon, she’s terrified of me.

After my parents picked me up from the Megabus stop, I was eager to meet Cherry. I knew she wouldn’t greet me like Squirt used to (he’d get so excited he’d nearly wee himself!), but I expected a little curiosity and joy. After all, Cherry was described as the anti-Squirt. He was a barking, biting, little butthead Alpha Dog, while she’s sweet, affectionate, submissive and quiet. She didn’t bark the entire first month my parents had her. But she’s also a rescue, and rescue dogs often come with a little baggage. She was surrendered by an elderly woman to the local animal shelter, spent several weeks there before the rescue pulled her and placed her with a foster home, then finally made her way to my parents. My dad took time off from work the first few days to make her feel welcome, but she ended up imprinting on him like a baby duck. She followed him everywhere and took a month to get comfortable with my mom.

Which brings me to my relationship with Cherry. When I walked in the door that first day, she immediately bolted out of the room. She didn’t bark or snarl like Squirt would have, she simply wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. When I went with my parents on her walk, she constantly turned around, unhappy I was tagging along, and would sidestep or backup if I got too close to her. She wouldn’t accept a treat from my hand or sit on the couch with me. When I was out of sight, she was her normal, cuddly, happy self, but the minute I walked in, she would back up, run or avoid eye contact. She’d give my dad a “dear god, why is she still here?” look. Getting her just to stay in the same room as me was a milestone. Now that it’s been a week, she’ll walk with me alone on the lead well, but still won’t sit with me. This is the face she made when I tried to cuddle with her on the couch a few days ago.

cherry scared

It’s hard not to take it personally when a dog doesn’t like you. Part of me wants to just grab her, squeeze her, and scream “love me!” But maybe softly singing Bonnie Raitt/George Michael’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” would be more appropriate. At first I was chasing her around, making her feel even more uncomfortable, but now I’m just trying to coexist, giving her time to adjust to my presence. It could be worse — she could have a barking attack every time she sees me (like Squirt did with my friends), or be so enamored with me she falls into a deep depression when I suddenly vanish at the end of my visit.

…I am now typing one handed. Because the minute I typed “enamored with me,” a certain someone finally worked up the courage to jump onto the couch and sit next to me, and licks my hand the minute I stop petting her. It’s like she could read what I was writing, or I somehow willed it to come true by typing “she’s now sitting right next to me” above. Or I finally did it right — I gave her some time and she finally warmed up to me. Now hopefully we can have a wonderful month together and she won’t be too gutted when I leave. Or at least she remembers who I am tomorrow and we don’t have to go through this all over again…

Ode to Churchill the Corgi

8 Apr

As you may have noticed with posts like this, I really, really love corgis. But unfortunately my current living situation does not allow me to have a dog. While I enjoy scouting for them on runs through the park, the next best thing to having a dog is having a family member get a dog. Though it’s been over a year since we lost Squirt, my parents are still not ready for another dog. Late last year Stephen’s family’s chihuahua Xiao Bei crossed over the rainbow bridge, which gave Stephen and me a new mission: get his family a corgi.

We started by slyly sending them photos of my favorite Instagram corgis, like Super Corgi JOJO. Then we upped the cute factor with puppy photos. They were sold. His cousin began researching breeders and sent us photos of prospects. We vetoed a few before Stephen sent me this photo followed by “Yes?”

china corgi breeder

He was perfect. I couldn’t wait to meet him, even if he was halfway across the world. The day they brought him home I begged Stephen to ask them for more pictures.

corgi puppy eyes.png

His cuteness was addicting — I couldn’t get enough. I watched him play fetch over Facetime. I saved every photo of him Stephen’s family sent.

“What’s his name?” I asked Stephen.

“He doesn’t have one yet,” he replied. Then he said we could help name him. After he vetoed my Chinese translations of “little butthead” and “short legs,” he said we should pick an English name. We wanted a human name that was stately and English and easy to pronounce.

“Churchill,” I suggested, conjuring the great British statesman and first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States… and also the adorable bulldog from the insurance commercials. (Source of this photo: an article stating that more British children can identify the Churchill Insurance dog than the wartime prime minister)

churchill dog

And just like that the little corgi had a name. Churchill. I watched Churchill eat his dinner over Facetime and promptly pass out in his bed. I treasured every sweet photo.

corgi puppy passed out.png

Stephen said even his uncle, who is not a dog person, was falling for Churchill. How could anyone not? I wanted so badly to go to China to visit Churchill in person. I knew the chances of me being able to cuddle him as a puppy were slim, but I looked forward to meeting him someday.

And then Stephen got off the phone with his cousin and dropped this bomb:

“Churchill’s dead.”

I thought it was an April Fools joke. Apparently so did his cousin, not realizing that April Fools’ Day has been banned in China.

Stephen’s family was so in love with Churchill that they took him on an adventure in the mountains. He likely ate something that was poisonous and died the next day.

I was heartbroken. We were all just getting to know Churchill. I never even got a chance to properly meet him, and now I never will. The little guy was supposed to have his whole life ahead of him. I always knew someday he’d cross the rainbow bridge and frolic with Squirt and Xiao Bei, I just didn’t expect it to be so soon.

corgi puppy toy

Goodnight, sweet prince.

‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all

26 Sep

I’d like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support my family and I received since my last post. It’s going to be a rough next few months (especially once I’m home again), but it’s good to know the little dude was loved, even by those who only knew him through his annual Christmas letter and my Facebook photos.

If by chance that last heart wrenching post gained me any new followers, welcome. I promise I don’t always post such emotional entries. We’ll get back to fat pugs, complaining about the weather, grocery shopping, baby pandas and zebra wieners in due time. But first, some more mourning talk.

My first real experience with death was with my childhood guinea pigs. Mr. G. crossed over the rainbow bridge at our home, while Hershey required veterinary assistance. At the time my little heart had never felt such sadness, and I dealt with it the only way 11-year-old Renee knew how: by crying and writing dozens of poems and stories about them. If you’ve ever seen or had a guinea pig, you know that they don’t do much — eat, poop, repeat.

guinea pigs eating

But my younger self gave them each personalities and elaborate back-stories and lives. Those two deaths affected me so strongly, yet we had four other guinea pigs after them. As I was speaking to my mom the other day I had to ask her about each of their deaths because I honestly could not remember. I felt so bad, but then I realized that’s probably the best thing that could happen — I remembered them in their best of times and not in their last. It makes me almost feel guilty that I was not there for Squirt in the end because my images of him are not at his worst. I’ve been dreaming about him a lot lately, but in my dreams he’s always youthful, running around the kitchen like Speedy Gonzales as he used to do after a bath, or chasing after his rope in the backyard — two things he hasn’t done in many years. My parents and I have been texting memories and photos back and forth.

“I just don’t want to forget anything about him,” my mom said to me the day after they put him down. It seemed almost silly — with old home videos and both print and digital photos in the thousands, that seemed impossible. But then I realized with grief comes nostalgia. As I said in my last post, in the end he was not the same dog anymore. Even if he lived 10 more years, he would never walk down to the lake lot or fetch a rope again. So while I will miss even his annoying “Feed me!” bark, what I really miss is the old times, just like I miss my old schools, apartments, jobs and friends and the memories I made with them. But life goes on. You remember the good, try to forget the bad, and make new memories. Even though I am alive and well, my mom can still be nostalgic for Baby Renee, since I no longer make animal noises or get food all over my face when I eat … OK, maybe those were bad examples (moooooo).

This year I made a new friend in London whom I really got along with, but she recently moved away. In a fit of sadness a part of me thought “If I had never met her then I wouldn’t be sad right now.” But you could say that about every relationship that ended, pet that passed or friend who moved. We would have less sadness, sure, but we’d also have less joy from the good times we did have together. Alfred Lord Tennyson said it best, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.” And as Elphaba and Glinda sing in Wicked, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” (I saw the musical with my friend who moved and told that to her before she left.)

So now I’m trying to just focus on the good memories. I’ve pulled myself out of my pit of sadness. Just today I was finally able to look at the pugs frolicking in the park and smile instead of thinking “How cute, but one day they’re all going to DIE.” (Yes, I became Emo Elmo for a bit recently). Both my parents and I had the same thought as we were going through the last few weeks — we can’t go through this again. We can’t get another dog. Instead of the happy memories I could make with my hypothetical pug or corgi, I was focusing on the fact that one day it would die. My parents were too. It’s still too soon for them to even entertain the notion — it’s like asking a widow at her husband’s funeral if she thinks she’ll remarry. But I told them not to get rid of his crate — disassemble it and store it away, but hang on to it… just in case.

(And now, for no reason at all, a baby panda!)

baby panda bars

Crossing the rainbow bridge

22 Sep

It seems the inevitable could be prolonged no longer. This afternoon Squirt crossed over the rainbow bridge at the vet’s office. When I worked in the pet industry I thought that was such a silly phrase — “cross over the rainbow bridge,” but now it seems fitting. “Died” is too harsh, “passed away” too proper. So “cross over the rainbow bridge” it is.

Even though we had a month to prepare for this, you’re never really ready. We got Squirt when he was 1 year old and had him for 14 years — more than half my life. I should speak fondly of him, saying he was a good dog, but as any friend or family member (or repairman) who visited my parents’ house over the past 14 years can attest, he was a mean little bugger. But he came from a troubled background, years before my job would entail reading and writing about dog training, so we did the best we could as inexperienced as we were.

Though it’s sad to say goodbye — especially from across the ocean — lately he hasn’t been the same dog we adopted on July 29, 2000. Over the course of his life he had two loves (no, not people and other dogs): walks and food. Neighbors used to joke that he was the most well-walked dog out there. When I was in high school I used to attach him to my Razor scooter and make him pull me around the neighborhood. (Yes, I made a 12-pound Chihuahua pull me like an Iditarod husky.) On our long walks pre-Fitbit I used to have to beg and pull him to turn around. As he got older, he slowly stopped walking so far and eventually was content to just explore the front yard, especially when he discovered he could get a treat for every time he went out. He had a one-track mind at that point: food. We could not enjoy a meal without him barking alongside us, all because 14 years ago someone decided to feed him a table scrap (who that someone is is still up for debate in my family). When I was back home just this April I had to sneak around the house during the day because if he noticed me, he’d start barking for his dinner two hours early. So when a month ago my mom told me he wouldn’t eat his dog food anyone, I knew something was wrong. He was not the same Squirt I knew. Over the past month he indulged in various people foods, from pancakes and eggs to fish and chicken until whatever was ailing him — canine cognitive disorder (doggie Alzheimer’s) and cancer, likely — prevented him from eating even boiled chicken. In a prime example of a head-on collision between comedy and tragedy, yesterday he sat in his food bowl, staring out into space. My parents sent me a photo and I could not stop laughing (and crying).  It was time. He would not eat or drink, could barely walk, and seemed to have no mental capacity left whatsoever. The inevitable could no longer be prolonged.

I want to thank my parents for taking such good care of him in his final days and for making the difficult decision to put him down while he was suffering. Know that however hard it was and while it might not seem like it right away, you did the right thing.

And little dude — I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in the end, but I’m not sure you’d know who I was anyway. I’ll remember you at your best, like when I tried to enter you in a local dog show our first summer together and you almost bit the judge. One day I’ll see you again on the other side, probably by the unlimited cheese buffet. (And as the poem goes, we’ll cross the rainbow bridge together).

squirt christmas portrait(This ridiculous Christmas portrait they took at the kennel in 2005 never fails to make my family laugh.)

Coping with mortality and ancient Greek quizzes

9 Sep

When I was in high school I took Ancient Greek as an elective. While the rest of my class had a free period, three of us were conjugating irregular verbs in seven tenses. We were overachievers who bordered on masochistic. At different times we each thought about quitting, saying screw the aorist active optative, and go back to studying and goofing off with the rest of our classmates, but we never went through with it. I remember one particular morning we had a big biology test coming up. None of us could focus on Greek vocabulary when there was the Krebs cycle to memorize. So we came up with a brilliant plan – we would ask our teacher to push back the Greek quiz a day. If all three of us agreed and asked, she’d have to, right? And she did. And thus began a very dangerous journey down a dangerous path. Greek quiz dates were not set in stone. So whenever a quiz fell on the same day as another class’s test, or even if one of us just didn’t feel like studying the night before, we asked for an extension. And by “we,” I often mean “me,” as I was the only girl and the others claimed the teacher “liked me” (for the moment). Every time I would ask her to move the quiz she would say the same thing – “Alright, but you’re just prolonging the inevitable.” I believe at one point we even started asking for it that way – “can we prolong the inevitable?” We knew eventually we’d have to regurgitate vocab and conjugate verbs, but in that moment the weight was lifted off and the third declension became Tomorrow Renee’s problem.

Why am I writing about this? Because my teacher’s words have been going through my head lately regarding our family dog, Squirt – “you’re only prolonging the inevitable.”

Two and a half weeks ago my mom sent me a text message: “Squirt has been having a rough few days. Not looking good. He can’t get out of bed. He won’t eat today.”

It was completely out of the blue – just four months prior he was going on hikes and begging me for dinner two hours early. He’s 15 years old, I knew his “time” was coming, but I wasn’t ready. And so began a spiral of sorrow in which Stephen questioned how I will ever be able to handle the death of my parents if I act this way over a dog who doesn’t even live with me and isn’t even that nice.

I continued to text my parents every day for updates. He’d seem better, then worse, so eventually they took him to the vet. He had a fever and they gave him fluids and antibiotics and said if he didn’t spring back the next day, it was time to talk the big “E.”

I waited anxiously for my mom’s text that next morning.

“Squirt is better today. He’s up and around and eating.” I was so relieved!

“He’s still old though,” she added.

I could hear my teacher’s words: “You’re only prolonging the inevitable.”

Still, we let out a collective sigh of relief and I resigned that Squirt would beat the record for oldest Chihuahua (20 years).

A part of me almost said, “What a relief, I’m glad I won’t have to go through that again!” as if because he survived this one brush with death he was never going to die.

Just prolonging the inevitable.

Every day my parents text me updates.

“He ate all his food!”

“He’ll only eat people food.”

“He’s not doing well.”

“He crapped everywhere!”

“He dumped outside on his own!”

“He’s up and around!”

“Bad morning, he won’t eat at all.”

We think he has canine cognitive disorder, which is like doggie dementia or Alzheimer’s, so sometimes he forgets where he is or what’s going on. And like those patients, he has good and bad days. The good days make me think he’s going to live forever, the bad days that he’s old and his organs are probably shutting down and the end is near. Yesterday was a good day, today is bad. This yo-yo effect is exhausting and disheartening and I’m not even there – my poor parents have been there to comfort, cook and clean for him. We’ve had Squirt half my life and it’s hard to imagine life without him. (Whenever we talk like this, one of us always chimes in imitating Squirt’s voice saying, “I’m not dead yet!”) My parents are doing all they can, even though there’s not much we can do now – just prolong the inevitable. But if I learned anything from Greek class, that’s what life is – prolonging the inevitable and savoring the time you have.

 

Squirt’s crappy day

25 Feb
I was going to write a post about how hayfever is making me want to rip my eyeballs out or how I’ve fallen off the Nutella wagon and am a jar away from needing serious rehab, but I feel there’s a more pressing issue to discuss: my poor little dude Squirt.
Squirt tie tongue
On Friday I received this text from my mom:
“Squirt was attacked by Samden
on way to hospital now
big cut on top of back”

Apparently they were on a walk, Squirt was settling in to take a dump, when a big neighborhood dog got loose and grabbed Squirt. As my mom put it — “He had Squirt in his mouth like a big bone.” It was hard to get that image out of my head, or that of Squirt with a gash on his back, trembling, or my parents worriedly rushing to the emergency veterinary hospital. I would have felt helpless were I there with them, but I felt even more helpless being thousands of miles away. My parents continued to text me updates, and my dad eventually sent me a photo of Squirt with a row of staples on his neck, his shaved back showing multiple wounds. That image of Frankensquirt may haunt me the most.

My parents had to file a police report and speak with local animal control, but eventually they were able to get the owner of the attacking dog to pay Squirt’s vet bill without a lawsuit, which is nice. I was sure it was going to be a long, drawn-out affair.

Now I’m not sure what the canine combat rules are, but if they’re anything like Cartman’s “You don’t shoot a guy in the d**k, Butters!” you don’t attack a dog when he’s mid-dump squat. That’s just not cool.

My dad emailed me as they were leaving the vet office. “Squirt dumped all over my shirt and pants in the lobby as we are checking out!” It was the icing on the proverbial crappy day cake, the head-on collision between comedy and tragedy.

“Oh goddd why?!!” I replied. “Was it because they gave him some medicine or anesthesia?”

“No,” he said. “He had the squirts when he was attacked, I think he was just finishing.”

The vet told my parents that Squirt’s scars will give him street cred. He’s one tough little almost-15-year-old. My mom assured me he’s doing better, finally eating his food on his own and is barking again instead of just whimpering. Never thought we’d be happy to hear his annoying little bark!

I’ll end with a fun video I shot when I was home last month of Squirt barking in slow motion, or how he probably hears himself when big dogs come around.