Goodbye, Darwin

This morning I saw a picture on Facebook that reminded me very strongly that it’s the little things that count the most. An older man in Turkmenistan, wearing the traditional furry telpek, stood with three Tazis. One dog was standing on his hind legs, with his paws on the mans outstretched hand. The other hand rested gently on top of the dogs head. A quiet scene, but one that said volumes about this man and his dogs.

Darwin would do this thing with his head when you spoke to him, a little wiggle back and forth in time with the wagging of his tail I called this ‘wobby head’ and Wobby Head became his nickname. Darwin never liked to be rubbed under his jaw or chin, he preferred to be stroked on the top of his head. Scratching his butt would lead to the ‘Luki Dance, a rhythmic alternate stamping of the hind feet that all our Salukis have done.

Wobby Head and the ‘Luki Dance. Small things that mean so much, yet you never realize it until they are gone.

This is my favorite picture of Darwin. He looks pensive.

Pensive was not his natural state, though. This is how I will remember him. Wobby Head.

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Darwin died of a probable brain tumor, after suffering a sudden status epilepticus, which couldn’t be stopped. He gave us some good puppies with Cida: Huxley, Frito, and Linnaeus, Elhim, who lives with his owner Britta, and his champion daughter, Envy, who lives with her owner and co-breeder, Mary.

Darwin

Hickeys Redman

November 1, 2007 ~ June 20, 2014

What It’s Like

This is what it’s like to have many dogs:

Terrific noise at feeding time.
Watching pups that have two, three, or more ‘moms.’

Bitches that have never had pups and will never have pups acting like mothers to the Italian Greyhounds, gently cleaning their ears, and allowing them to nurse during a false pregnancy.

Odin and Hyde having an entire conversation with a glance.
Everyone gathering at the fence to defend their territory from the coyote passing by.
Cooperatively digging a den eight feet across.

A circle of confused dogs gathered around a horned lizard one of them has killed, not knowing what to do with it because it’s spiky and now no one wants to pick it up.
A chorus of alarm barks at the sound of a rattlesnake.
Cida, her children, and their uncle Spooky running around like maniacs. Every day.
Azawakh attempting to nest atop the other dogs as if they were beds.
Hairy dogs with two or three IGs nestled in their tummy coat in the winter.

Waking up unable to move because you’re surrounded by dogs.
Budgeting for massive vet bills.
Gobs of hair drifting across the yard at Clipping Time.

Making great pots of food.
Youngsters learning bad habits from their elders.
Snoring.

Howling. Lots of howling.

No vacations. Even if you took one, you’d worry about the dogs the whole time.

Body language, body language, body language.
Snarkfest in the middle of the night.

Happy dog faces greeting you at every turn.
Running, running, running, running.
Learning something interesting and new every day.

One of the most infuriating things I have to deal with as the owner of many dogs, is people who assume that because you have more than x number of dogs, that you don’t love them. You can’t love them. As if the human heart had a finite capacity for emotion. Of course,if you have many dogs, they can’t possibly be loved and valued as family members, right? Because the human brain just doesn’t work that way, no human being can love and value multiple individuals of any species. (Sarcasm. Bitter, bitter, sarcasm. Really. Don’t judge me by your own limitations.)

And then there are those…people…who think that every disease can be prevented, every accident avoided, that all precious furbabies should be kept locked up unless they’re being directly supervised, preferably with some kind of umbilical attachment, and if your dogs are sick or injured it’s All. Your. Fault. and your dogs should be taken away immediately for their own safety because you’re a hoarderpuppymillabuser. Those people aren’t worth mentioning, except that they seem to exist just to shit on your day, and they’re everywhere, and they never, ever, shut up.

Those kinds of assumptions make me want to stab someone in the eye.

This is what it’s like to have many dogs, with that nebulous sense of unease that sneaks around and smacks you upside the head when you spend too much time thinking:

Watching multiple dogs grow old, knowing their time is limited and you will likely lose several in a short space of time. Seeing that fifteen year old and knowing that you could wake up one morning, and she might not.

Knowing the hammer of chance could, and will, come down on your head at any time, because the odds are skewed by having multiple dogs, and Murphy’s law favors the numbers, not you. The universe cares nothing for your feelings.

Being repeatedly slapped in the face by ignorant people who don’t know you, don’t know your dogs, who assume that they know exactly what you and your dogs are thinking and feeling. And they certainly know better how to deal with your dogs than you do, and would provide a better home, too.

Trying not to dwell on negative thoughts during the bad times.

This, too, is what it’s like to have many dogs:

In January Loki loses a long awaited litter. None of the puppies are born alive, and it’s too early to save them even if they were.

Also in January, Poody, then fourteen, enters the first stages of heart failure and starts medication. Kingsford, fifteen, develops a heart murmur.

In February, Squee is diagnosed with lung cancer. We euthanize him the first week of March when it becomes too difficult for him to breathe.

At the end of March, Kali starts having pain in her neck and her left parotid salivary gland swells up. After several weeks of messing around with antibiotics and a needle biopsy that shows nothing but bacteria, we remove the gland and pathology shows that it’s an aggressive salivary adenocarcinoma.

About a week after Kali’s surgery, Teshie jumps over a barrier and breaks her left front leg, requiring surgery.

Kali’s cancer recurs, growing around her larynx, and she is euthanized on June ninth when her breathing becomes too labored.

Late in the evening on June seventeenth, Meg bloats and torsions. The e-vet is an hour and a half away. The damage is too extensive and we can’t save her.

Darwin starts seizing on the night of June twentieth. He doesn’t stop. He continues to seize at the vet even though he’s on gobs of medication, enough for a dog twice his size. His blood count and organ function are normal. The vet suggests he has a brain tumor, due to his age (almost seven) and presentation. When the seizures don’t stop, we choose to euthanize him. I can’t even write a proper obituary for Darwin right now, I’m tapped out.

That is what it’s like to own many dogs. For every high, a low, for every joy, a heartache. Many joys, many heartaches. Some years are better than others. Years can go by with barely a blip, a few dents and dings here and there. Other years are beyond disastrous. Like this year. (Except that it’s more, so much more, I can’t even describe it.) 

It would be far, far easier if the human heart did indeed have a finite capacity for emotion. If one could reach a point of fullness, where a switch is flipped and you can’t feel any more. But that’s not how it works. Your many dogs need you and you go on caring for them, because you need them right back, because there’s really nothing else you can do, nothing else you want to do. That is what it’s like to have many dogs.

Goodbye, Meg

Last night night our Meg bloated and torsioned. We could not save her.

There was nothing exceptionally special or fascinating about Meg. She was just a good dog. A beautiful, loving, good dog.

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She couldn’t howl; Meg bellowed like an elephant seal. She had the best curly tail, with a spiral ring on the end, and had the longest eyelashes. Instead of stately Afghan mandarins, she sported a full beard. Meggie hated having her picture taken. She loved being brushed.

And she wiggled. A lot. Wiggling was Megs way of saying, “Yes, yes I love you, yes, pet me, yes, I am happy.” Scratch her on her butt and she would wiggle, slowly collapsing to the ground, until she flopped onto her side, still wiggling.

One cannot truly appreciate the good dog, the just average dog, without having known challenging dogs, those dogs that keep you on your toes. Once you have lived with a challenging dog that requires constant vigilance, then that good dog, that average ordinary dog like our Meg, becomes extraordinary in her own way.

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Megara, Meg, Meggie, the Mogget
November 18, 2005 ~ June 17, 2014

State of the Dogverse

I wrote about Squee on my Tumblr blog here. And again here, when we had him euthanized. Squee was ten.

Poody is in early heart failure. She is doing well on lasix and pimobendan. Her appetite immediately started flagging on the meds, so we started her on mirtazapine, which is actually an antidepressant but works as an appetite stimulant in dogs. About fifteen minutes after administration, she is hungry. Poody is fifteen now, and as long as her heart remains stable she will probably live until something else comes along and kills her. When she’s not on one of her many times a day rambles around the small yard to pee on things, Poody spends time in her crate or on lap. She’s almost totally blind now, but always knows where she’s at.


At the end of March, Kali started having a lot of pain in her neck, and the mandibular salivary gland on the left side swelled up. A needle biopsy was done and she was put on antibiotics and gabapentin for the pain. The biopsy showed nothing but bacteria, and she was not responding to the first antibiotic and still having significant pain, so she was switched to clindamycin, with prednisone for the inflammation. A radiograph showed no stones in the gland. (Salivary gland stones are a thing.) Kali immediately felt better, but the swelling did not resolve, so we elected to have the entire gland removed. The tonsil on that side was also kind of funky, (our vet called it ‘torn up’) so that was removed as well. Both the salivary gland and the tonsil were sent to the pathologist.

The tonsil results came back normal (I figure something she ate caused the scarring.) The saliva gland results showed salivary adenocarcinoma. A very aggressive, fast growing cancer. There is very little on this type of cancer in the literature. I was all over pubmed and the veterinary oncology textbooks on google books because I like to see numbers, and found almost nothing. It’s a rare cancer. Our vet showed us the same thing; lymphoma gets a quarter inch, lots of pages, while salivary adenocarcinoma gets a page and a half, and half of that is a picture. That is the bad news.

The good news is that the margins were clean and the cancer had not infiltrated the blood vessels in the gland. This means our vet (probably) got it it all, and it may not have spread via the bloodstream. Since slashing (surgery) is the treatment of choice for this type of cancer in this location, we were lucky. Most dogs have extensive infiltration into the area around the gland at the time of diagnosis and the tumor grows back because it’s impossible to get good margins. It will typically spread to the lymph nodes or lungs.

Kali’s cancer is technically stage II due to the rapid growth. The median survival time for dogs with this cancer is 550 days. We are hopeful that surgery got all of it and she will live a normal lifespan before something else kills her. Kali will be eleven in December.

Kali is still having pain from her surgery. Brett took her in last Thursday to be seen for that,and she is currently on prednisone and tramadol, with the pred dose being lowered over time.

As Brett drove up after taking Kali to the vet, Teshie jumped over a barrier and came down wrong, breaking her right front leg not too far above the joint. Our vet had closed for the holiday weekend by that time, so we had to take her to another vet for radiographs, splinting, and pain meds. She went back to our own vet, who does ortho work, on Monday and underwent surgery to put in a pin and wire wrap, with a cast for stabilization. Unfortunately, the break was too close to the joint for a plate or external fixator. I’ve noticed that vets are none too keen on large dogs with fine bones.

Teshi is a very active into everything dog, and we will all be very glad when she’s healed, I’m sure.
Loki lost her litter in January (the pups were due on the 30th.) It was too early for the puppies to be viable.

Afghan Hounds in ‘The Egyptian,’ 1954

I like these hounds. They are modest, honest dogs, nothing extreme or hyper-stylized about them. It is entertaining to imagine an alternate timeline, where the all Western Afghan hounds have remained honest, modest dogs.

The actress is Gene Tierney. (Coincidentally, we share a birthday.)

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My Dearest Readers…

I am told that people do not like the tone of my last article. (Maybe this means these people are assholes and just don’t want to admit it to themselves.)

I am honest with myself and freely admit that I am a bitch and I have a bad attitude. If that’s an issue for you, perhaps you should have taken notice of my blogs name. Look up. It’s the thing with the big, red A.

Have an nice sunset:

Sunset

Is a Labradoodle a Mutt? Only if You’re an Asshole

I originally made this comment on Facebook (friend me, it’s all fun and games), but the ‘mutts’ comments are starting to really torque me off, so here’s a slightly expanded version.

I always find it amusing when a bunch of supposedly intelligent dog breeders start talking about crossbred dogs.

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I’m sure whoever produced this thinks they’re really clever. It’s not like there are any bybs who breed purebreds, after all.
(BTW, I’m a backyard breeder. Guess I’ve gotta be stopped.)

Here’s a little genetics lesson for you: A crossbreed is not a mutt, or a mongrel. By definition, a mutt or mongrel is made up of multiple types, often to the point where the ‘breeds’ in the background are unidentifiable. My first dog, Honey, looked like a very small, leggy, fine-boned yellow Lab. I haven’t the faintest idea what kind of dogs were behind her. She was a mutt. My crosses and backcrosses are neither mutts nor mongrels and I’ll thank you to use the correct terms, since you are calling yourself a breeder and a real breeder should know better.

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Saluki/Afghan crosses. Not mutts. Not mongrels. They’ve even got a clever name: Halfghans.

Here’s a little history lesson for you: prior to the Victorian fixation with class and conspicuous consumption, dog breeds were more properly types; ‘breed’ simply meant that the dogs in question bred true. ‘Strain’ was commonly used to designate a certain type of dog, especially associated with a specific breeder or locale. It did not mean that kennel club defined purity of blood was the order of the day. Most breeds did not exist in fully closed registries until after WWII. (Which, if you think about it, means that mongrelization was ongoing in many breeds until the fifties. Hmm.)

It is incorrect to say that “all dog breeds started as mixed breeds.” Most dog breeds started as more general, variable types or landraces, until some upper class twit got their hands on them and decided to standardize and ‘improve’ them, thus differentiating them from the original ‘common’, lower class type. Dog breeds developed after the advent of the kennel club breeding system were not developed in the same natural way that the previously existing landrace breeds developed. There was no process resulting in small founder populations.

This will really bake your noodle: it’s possible to have a breed, as defined by selecting for function and not phenotype, that has a widely variable appearance. Alaskan huskies are one such breed that properly earns the classification, because they breed true for function, even though their appearance is not standardized. They also have a genetic signature, due to selection for function. Due to their heavily mixed background and frequent additions of new blood, Alaskan huskies could be correctly called mongrels, but they are also, genetically, a breed or type, with no written standard, no closed registry, and no one pointing and calling names.

An Alaskan husky. Is it a breed, is it a mongrel? It’s both! Don’t let the brains spatter your keyboard when your head explodes.

Here are a few issues that purebred breeders that frequent Facebook seem to be a little confused about:

  • Non-purebred dogs most certainly can have a pedigree, which is just a record of ancestry. It’s not magic. I’ve got one myself. So do you. So do my crosses and backcrosses.
  • You do not need a ‘breed club code of ethics’ to breed ethically. This is the same as saying you cannot have morals without religion, and it’s just as damned stupid.
  • You do not need a ‘written standard’ to breed dogs. A written standard is a modern construct, which serves two purposes: it provides a description of a ‘breed’ so that animals can be registered under a ‘breed’ designation, insuring ‘purity,’ (interesting that there is no test to see if the dogs meet the standard before registering them, isn’t it, if the standard is so very, very important?) and it allows a judge who does not live intimately with the breed to determine whether a dog conforms to the standard. Dogs have been bred to written, breed club standards for only about a hundred years. Prior to that, the standard was in the breeders head. Something as simple as ‘small fuzzy dog with a friendly nature and easy care coat, not too independent’ could be a standard for a breeder to use as a goal. Any time you are selecting or eliminating dogs from breeding, for a purpose or to meet a goal, you are breeding to a ‘standard.’
  • The history of dog breeding did not start with the establishment of the British Kennel Club in 1873. Ethical breeding is not the sole provenance of purebred breeders of registered dogs. Purebreds are not the only dogs bred via selection for traits.
  • You don’t get to determine the value that people apply to things, including dogs. If there’s a market for it, people will produce it. It’s called supply and demand. Look it up.

An obsession with class and status is no doubt behind the use of ‘mutt’ or ‘mongrel’ as a derogatory term, mutts and mongrels being owned by the common working class. There’s a reason that multigenerational mixes like lurchers and longdogs, curs and feists have never been co-opted, standardized, ‘improved,’ and turned into ‘breeds’ by the breeders of kennel club purebreds. Without the derogatory connotations, you wouldn’t see so many breeders calling crossbreeds mutts, or using mutt as insult regarding purebred dogs they don’t like. (Like those funny colored Salukis.) Breeders who get some kind of kick out of maliciously calling someone’s beloved puppy a mutt, to belittle them and devalue their pet, well, there’s a word for them: Asshole.

A cockapoo. These guys have been popular forever, far pre-dating the ‘designer dog’ craze.

The pet owner who thinks their Goldendoodle or Schnoodle or Puggle or whatever is a ‘breed’, because of the phenotypic consistency of most F1 crosses, or due to unscrupulous breeders (not that there are any of those in purebreds, eh?), can be excused due to ignorance. Since cross-breeding is a common practice in many species, including dogs, and has a clear definition, breeders have no excuse for not knowing, understanding, and using the correct term.

A crossbreed is not a mutt or mongrel, so all of these breeders must be either idiots or assholes. Which is it?

Mio020812

Mio, a crossbreed, thinks that people who use mutt as an insult are pieces of shit. Mutt and mongrel have definitions, and crossbreed doesn’t fit. She votes ‘asshole.’