Thursday, December 28, 2017

GoodBye Little Man

SO.....  toward the end of October, Greg called me at work to tell me he had gotten home with Tack from the Park and over the last 30 min he had vomited 4 times......  I was concerned, as was he - so we waited...  A half-hour later, Greg called as he was headed to the emergency vet - Tack had thrown up an additional 3 times - for about 7 over the past hour.

I left work to meet them at the Emergency Vet thinking maybe he had a blockage.....  When I arrived, it was grim.....  they had him in the back trying to stabilize him.  Possibly at this point, they suspected fluid around his heart and they were going to remove it - which I learned is called "Tapping him".

I sent a text to our vet.  Who soon after called the emergency vet doctor to get a status.  She then stayed one step in front of us to be sure she could contact us and be able to hold our hand and answer any questions.

We've been to the emergency vet a number of times with Matey and both Tack and Clewie.  This is the first time, I felt the staff talking to us in such a grim way.....  as positive as I tried to stay, I kept thinking that this could really be serious - it was kinda like I was outside looking in.
Eventually, we were brought back to speak with the doctor.  He had bleeding into his heart.  They highly suspected a hemangiosarcoma on the wall of his heart.  The prognosis was poor.   They said the bleeding could be continuing, only time will tell.  They wanted to keep him overnight to monitor him.

We visited him, then returned home to a restless evening trying unsuccessfully to not google and read everything online that we could.  Fortunately, our vet was also available and texting us through the evening as well - answering questions as they came up.

Just before 7am the next morning, we received a call from the emergency room vet - Tack held stable through the night until just before her call - where he went into distress again, she suspected he needed to be tapped again.  She had already made a call to a Cardiologist in San Leandro and they could get him in at 9am for an ultrasound and to confirm whether there was a growth (hemangiosarcoma) on his heart.

So, she tapped him, while I showered and dressed to pick him up and be on the road ASAP to get to San Leandro in the morning traffic for his rush appointment.

Greg, unfortunately, wasn't able to take the day off, so I went alone with Clewie.  I was on autopilot.... like I was watching a show from the outside.  I couldn't believe this was happening to our strong, well built, powerful, seemingly healthy boy.  Greg and I were both completely stunned.

I should also mention, at the vet, I had called into my work to get the rest of the week off.  Fortunately, my work was fabulous and no questions/problems, sent me off to take care of my family.

We were early for our appointment with the cardiologist.   We spoke a little initially, and she took Tack in the back to examine him.  

After about 20 minutes, I was called back into the room with Tack, then got Greg on speaker phone so we could hear her diagnosis.  She did see a tumor and was pretty certain it was a hemangiosarcoma.  Prognosis for surgery (which is highly risky) was 6 additional months if by chance it was successful.  Greg and I did not want to go that route.  She advised, we bring him home, hope the bleeding has stopped and enjoy him.  She said, the tumor could burst suddenly right when we leave the office.....  or it could be a week or hours...

Stunned, I drove home.....

We shared the news with his team of walkers who are very close to him.  And some other friends of his who have known him well.....  and basically watched him...... and hugged him.

The Cardiologist said if he seems dramatically better by the next morning, then we would know the bleeding has stopped.   So we waited for that.  Initially, we just wanted him to make it 24 hours.

Through the day, he seemed to be stable - and by the next morning, he was eating and drinking on his own.  We were thrilled.  But even seeing this improvement didn't change that he still had a mature aggressive tumor growing in his heart just waiting to burst again.

We didn't leave him alone.

And continued..... watching.....  giving him ice cream..... enjoying..... making him steak......  snuggling..... even brought him out to a food truck to get him a rib sandwich.

He had many visitors by the end of the week and weekend.  And the time went by, we had come to a belief that leashed walks were okay, he would be miserable in bedrest - he wanted to DO LIFE.

As the weekend drew on, grateful that he was stable, we started to plan to be able to leave him for a few hours.  How we would manage leaving him alone, to go to work.....  Fortunately, Clewie was still going out in group when we both had to work, so we figured, I could go in late, and the walkers could check in on him before and after Clewie's walk and then I could return early so he wouldn't be alone that long.

Monday, Greg was off.  But I went to work.  I did leave early to be with Tack.  We decided to all walk together in the marina.  

We got a distance of about 4 blocks, shortly before a motorcycle went by which got his excited (those who know him, understand his reaction is intense).....  this could have been his tipping point.  

He started to look a little off, then Tack laid down, breathing heavy......  oh no, we knew he was in distress again...  Greg ran to get the car, I hugged him.

Greg and I had already decided this calm, then bleeding, then tapping cycle while him not getting to run, only wait - was not what we wanted for him.   We had already researched and spoke to specialists - all with poor outlooks... they all pointed tot he same thing, his tumor was still aggressively growing and now regularly bleeding.

It was time to say goodbye.

He brought so much to our lives in just the three short years he was with us.  Clewie enjoyed him every moment - and we loved the bond they developed.  He gave her the love of chasing balls - which she has now taken on as a true ball dog.  He was my dream teddy bear - the best snuggler.

Now, 2 months later, I still stop in disbelief that he's not here.  I know because I lost dogs before that this feeling will eventually fade....  but I hope I always remember the comfort he brought to our lives with his stable loving presence.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

tips to consider when bringing a dog aboard

Some tips to consider when bringing a dog aboard:

* Do think about the size of the dog.... if you already have a pooch, then think about how you will lift them - there are times when you will need to just pick them up.  There are many lifting harnesses available if needed.  In fact even for our 33 lb Clewie, we have a lifting harness for her - it just makes things easier if you can put a handle on her back.

* Take the bathroom strategy planning seriously. Training this sooner rather than later and quickly and clearly is the best approach.  It'll make passages - whether just a day or multiple days much more enjoyable for you and your furry crew.

* Think about "safe" spots.  If your doggie is crate trained and there is room aboard for your crate - excellent.  But if not, you can create alternate den like safe spots.  Check for sliding potential when heeling, check above for potential items that might fall - even around for items that might fall clear, but make a thud

* start SLOW SLOW SLOW with sailing......start the engine at the dock before the big day.  all of our dogs started with first time out as a motor trip - make it a normal everyday kinda thing.  Depending on the weather, you might need to just wait another day to raise the sails.

*  Get your doggie lifejacket before your first trip.  We've also found it easiest to tether the dogs in the cockpit initially until they can be trusted not to run around when docking/undersail/whenever you decide


Who is Clewie

play focused
plays hard, sleeps hard

Age: 3.5 years
How got to the shelter: Her previous owner's neighbor brought her in
Origin of her name: A Clew is one part of a sail
weight: 34 lbs

Nicknames: Cukoo, Cukoo Bear, Silly girl, Peanut

She is the little girl that taught me how fun a dog can be.  She's the silliest and funnest dog I've ever met.  She's gentle - most everyone loves her.  She gets along with most every dog as well.  She loves to play.  Most often, she's the favorite wherever she goes. 

She also challenges me..... and pushes me out of my comfort zone. She's not a "lazy" dog.  She's high energy and impulsive and possibly a little insecure.  She loves training, so we work on coping tricks when she gets excited.  She's one of the most appreciative dogs I've shared my life with and she can warm my heart so easily.

She's super smart and food motivated. Her favorite activity when alone is playing with toy puzzles.  She's also a heavy chewer - she loves a good chew toy.

Also, snuggling is serious business with her.  She's a burrower and from about 7pm till 8am, you can find her snuggled somewhere.  Often at night or early in the morning, she likes to be carried from bed to the door before going outside to the bathroom for her last potty walk of the evening or her first of the day.  And it's just too adorable to resist.  She loves to burrow under the covers in the bed.

Boat Life Gloom: Projects

Have I mentioned that boats are small?  And usually to get to something, you need to move at least 2 things out of the way....  because boats are designed to use every bit of space.  

So when it becomes project time - that usually means some section of the boat needs to be emptied out - while a whole slew of tools come out to work on the said project.

This leave very little room for dogs.  The above photo is their playroom while Greg was rebuilding our fridge.  (FYI, on a boat, you don't buy a fridge.... you buy the parts and install them and build your own fridge).

So the above was the playroom..... in the salon - tools were strewn all over the boat version of the dining room table, couch, seats and some on the floor.  In the now doggie lounge - there was a temporary refrigerator. 

The dogs were left to be adaptable and find a space to be calm..... 

This was only during the day, Greg had this all cleaned up when I got home from work and we slept in our bed again that night.  Only to tear it apart again the next day to work on the project again.....

Boat life Gloom.....

I'll leave you with a picture of Matey (our previous dog) laying in the only available space during a boat project in Mexico.  This was her cozy den looking not so cozy this day.

Play Room

One of this weekend's projects was to organize the vberth.......  

For a couple of reasons - one, we are doing a club cruise with our local Yacht Club to Half Moon Bay and are bringing guests with us for the trip down - so of course, we needed to "clean the house".  And one of the important (and great) things about using your boat while living aboard is it forces organization - because the boat is just more fun when things are in their place and it's cruise ready.

In addition to the above, I really like giving the dogs more space and nooks to play/hang out in.  They also have the aft cabin which after we wake, the bed gets made and dog cover goes on and it becomes the "playroom".... their toy box is next to the bed - and they do some good romping in there - which sometimes streams out into the salon as well (I'll do another post on how we manage play aboard).

This maybe should be called the "doggie lounge"  In the past, this is where we kept Tack's crate. Maybe that's why the dogs tend to come here to chew - or maybe they chew here because it's smaller....  Last night Tack spent some quality time chewing on his ball while Clewie explored around him.

This is a view of what it looked like before..... and how Tack made it clear he would like this space to hang out in again.

Boat Life Gloom: Nesting

I just got a chewing out like you wouldn't believe from these guys..... and you would be wrong if you thought little birdies couldn't give you the stink eye....

These guys have been trying to set up a next in the sail cover of our boom for about 2 weeks now.....  Just about ever morning we need to pull little sticks (the starting of a nest) out of our sailcover.

We look over at our neighbors and think.. why don't they want to go over there???

The issue is we have a club sail coming up in a week or so and a bird next with just laid eggs is not on our list of things to "handle"

So we check the sail cover - to make sure we are bird free......

Boat Life Perk: Closeness

This perk is one we spoke about before adding Tack to our pack.  We did know that living on a boat was going to be close quarters for two dogs (it's also for one dog).  Clewie we already knew was super affectionate and we believed our choice for a second dog needed to also be super affectionate. Tack fit the bill perfectly.  His description from the shelter behaviorist was very clear that he wanted a home that would snuggle.

But knowing this, I would never had imagined just how affectionate these two have become.

Lastest Mishaps

Last week was quite the adventurous week for our crew..... Greg took Tack to play at the park.. about midway while he was talking to their walker, the noticed that Tack was limping... so the ball throwing stopped and Greg decided to end the romping for the day and head back home.  As the afternoon progressed, his limp worsened and his front foot started to swell.. bad signs....

After a call to the Vet, we started him on Rimadyl and Tramadol.

In the morning, I left Clewie alone while I took Tack out, scanned the table for food items (glossing over the blue tramadol and Rimadyl bottles) - because Clewie is quite the scrounger.  

Within 5 min, I was back and switching the dogs, which took another 5 min..... then breakfast.

As I was putting Clewie's food puzzle down, I saw the blue pill bottles out of the corner of my eye ON THE BED......  The half full Rimadyl bottle (with 1--mg tablets) was crushed and empty.

At this point, my mind started racing..... but still felt in slow motion.

I was all of a sudden their CRAZY mom who pulled the food away and couldn't make complete sentences... in fact I could only get out two words repeatedly and they aren't appropriate for this blog.... 

I was able to at least pick up Clewie, because I couldn't get across to her that she was going... and we ran out to the car to the Emergency Vet.  Also, I called my boss to run the conference call I was due to lead in a little more than half an hour.

Luckily it's about 5 min away and I called them on the way.....   I did check the time and figured she got to the Vet within 15 - 20 minutes of eating the pills.

Long story.... but because Rimadyl is absorbed so fast, she was at the hospital for the next 2 days.

That's the end of her drama.. besides for an upset stomach, her blood tests were all normal and she is now completely recovered at home - spunky as ever.

The drive home was a little surreal as I hoped my autopilot self actually closed up the boat.  But i got home to find nothing out of normal.. except for a confused and hungry Tack.

After his visit with the Vet, he ended his day sporting pink piggies on his cast.....

Now we need to be careful he doesn't smack us around by accident with his brutish muscles reinforced with a metal plate..... 

He's getting used to the cast and walking around....

We're calling him "Peggy" or "Hop-a-long" and I'm singing the song "Peggy Sue" to him...

Snuggling also now comes with more caution ....

Dapper Dawg - Who is Tack

I thought it would be interesting to give you an idea who Tack is........


Nicknames: Tackilicious, Tackamundo, Ticky Tack, Tacky Wacky, Peggy and Hopalong
Age: 4.5 years old
Adopted from: Contra Costa Animal Shelter
How entered the shelter: picked up by the night dog catcher truck... 
Origin of name: Tack is the name of the corner of a sail

This is the dog who will be the one by your side through a tough work day.....  just laying there, supportive.  He really HAS to snuggle regularly - we joke how it was in his description card at the shelter.  Don't be surprised to feel him rest the weight of his head on your shoulder, hand, lap. It's a big head ... and very heavy.

He's very sensitive....  If Clewie snatches a treat that he thinks should have gone to him..... his head muscles start to vibrate like a child's lower lip...And his lower jaw starts to quiver. It breaks us every time - we can't stand to see him sad.  he'll do the same thing if another dog takes his ball at the park - so we usually have a spare.

He also has a gamer side.  He's a tug man... and a fetch man.   The ball is his Zen - he's been known to carry his ball for a 6.5 mile hike.  Nice for us in that he'll remember to carry it.

Playing games with humans is one of his favorite things.  He mostly ignores other dogs - Even Clewie when she's jumping on him or pulling his ear or lip.

But he's not perfect......  He does get jealous when Clewie is playing with another dog and they get excited too close to him.  They he gets bullyish and chest bumps.  But no mouth and if he's corrected by the other dog, he'll ask forgiveness (by cowering low).  But if he's not corrected, his bullyness goes unchecked - so we get involved.

He also either really likes or really hates motorcycles.....  i'm not sure.   But he's very excited when he sees them.  we've tried letting him meet folks on motorcycles and he just sniffs them.  But he's VERY excited when he sees or hears them.

Here he is looking at one behind us in the car.