Friday, December 16, 2011

A New Chapter

Life as we know it, has changed. 

A new chapter begins with a tearful goodbye and piece of my heart now broken.  But, at the same time, I am filled with a deep sense of fulfillment, accomplishment, and pride that will stay with me all my life.  I know, with every fiber of my being, that I did the right thing by my dog and I have no regrets.  Only gratitude.

To love a dog is to make a great sacrifice.  Their lives are never long enough.  They bring fantastic joy to our lives, and sometimes horrible decisions to make.  Decisions we owe them, decisions we owe ourselves, and decisions we hate but at the same time are grateful for.  

Bailey is gone.  Free from his pain... free to dance in the heads of those who loved him with the very best of memories.  Free to be anything and everything we remember him to be.

It's a funny thing.  Death is final, but memories are kind of like a toy lost under the bed.  One day, out of the blue, you look under the bed and there it is - waiting for you all this time to bring a smile to your face.

Mendel, Lilly and I are moving.  To a bigger house with a bigger yard in a lovely neighborhood.  Young Bailey would love it here.  Thirteen year old Bailey would have been tortured by the stairs.
I know I did the right thing. 

Moving means packing things up, discovering toys under the bed.  Yesterday, while packing some things from a shelf in my bedroom I picked up a sculpture made from coat hangers.  My Dad made it in college for an art class while working to earn his Education degree.  It's one of the most beautiful things I own.

The description he wrote to accompany the sculpture when he turned it in makes me both heart-wrenchingly sad and unbelievably happy at the same time.  After placing it in a box and bringing it out to my car I decided that was enough packing for one day and headed off for a tearful drive to the new house.  The sculpture now rests on a shelf between Bailey's paw prints and his ashes.  Toys under the bed.

The accompanying paper reads:
I chose to sculpt a dog for the simple reason that I can related well to dogs in general and this dog (Bailey) in particular.  Bailey is my daughter's dog and I spend time with him each day.  He is a "rescued" dog who was neglected as a puppy and grew up at the Human Society.  He never learned to socialize with people and suffers the ill effects of it, to this day.  The Wisconsin Liberty Dog program trained him (with my daughter, Amanda's help) to become a service dog.  Unfortunately, Bailey's inability to socialize with new people (he hides in a corner and shakes when in the presence of strangers) eliminated him from consideration.  If I were to complete this project I would have another sculpture of a scared German Shepherd (the other side of Bailey) cowering in the corner and shaking.  
But that's is not the side of this fun loving dog that I like to think about.  I much prefer to "see" Bailey crouched and ready to spring, at one of the many toys Amanda has bought him.  I delight in watching my daughter and her best friend play together.  The image that always puts a smile on my face is Bailey running and pouncing on his Frisbee and sliding across the floor with his front paws on the coaster-like frisbee and his rear end in the air.  It is the "spirit" of the happy Bailey that I tried to capture. 

I cannot possibly express how proud I am of Bailey for what he was able to accomplish in his life, or how grateful I am for everything he has given me.  Bailey left his scared version in the dust and never looked back.  He learned to love people and even made regular effort to befriend any stranger who looked like they could give a good ear scratch.  The obstacles he overcame were many, but he never let me down. 

Very little in our lives was ever perfect.  Even his very last day on earth was far from what I wanted for him.  Bailey and I seemed to have an understanding - we never expected things to be perfect, we just took what we got and made it work, together.

Perhaps that's the greatest gift he has bestowed upon me.  A complete lack of need for perfection in life.  An ability to see the light at the end of any tunnel, to see potential... no matter how broken things appear.  And most importantly, to remember what true priorities in life really are.

I'm not really sure why, but it doesn't seem right to continue my blogging here.  A chapter in my life has ended and it seems fitting that this chapter end as well. 

I will continue documenting our adventures at my new blog site -
It's not much to look at now, but I'll be working on it soon.

Until next time, here's wishing you lots of wonderful toys under your bed...

Goodbye, Bailey.  I miss you.  I love you.  I am so grateful for you.  I will never forget you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Monthly Mendel - 9 Months

It's that time again.  Another Monthly Mendel.

Mendel 9 Months

Getting ready...


This time I decided we should do things a little bit differently.  We had some fun with my friend's little girl.




Oh dear... this is not a great start!


Hug it out...







Look out, Mom.  There's a bubble trying to get you!




My favorite...



We're outta here!


So... do you know how to open this gate?




And, of course, the usual stacked pics.  :)




A little photo editing fun...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Specialty Weekend

This past weekend Mendel, Lilly, and I endured a grueling 5 consecutive days of shows. 
We have since come to the agreement that we will NEVER do this in summer again!

That said, we did very well!

Check out the show report on our website.

For those who don't completely understand how dog shows work, here's a quick summary of how we did:

Mendel got "Reserve Winners Dog" on 5 out of 5 days.  This means he beat all the boys competing in the classes, except for one - the one who got the points.  

Frustrating, yes.  Encouraging, yes.

Friday was a Specialty show (large Saturday and Sunday entries followed) and there were a lot of really nice dogs entered.  For Mendel to have beaten all those dogs but one at 8 month of age, on the leash of an out-of-shape handler with only 4 months of experience under her belt, the weekend was really quite spectacular.  Points-shmoints... that's what we say.  :)   It's definitely opened my eyes to just how lucky I am to have lucked into such an awesome dog.  (cuz I already knew he was the sweetest white fluff ball I knew)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

They grow up so fast. *sniff*

To be honest, I think Mendel is as cute now as he was when he was a bitty baby.  He's just growing into his fluff a bit more now.  :)  He's still sweet as can be, that's for sure.

3 to 6 mo

7 to 8

More 8 Month "Monthly Mendel" pics to come...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Father of Genetics Day!

It's a big holiday at our house today!  Even google is celebrating!  Go check it out!

If you don't know who Gregor Mendel is, don't tell me, it depresses me terribly... and makes scientists cry.  Just go google him.  You'll learn something.  :)

Happy Father of Genetics Day!

AND  today is ALSO the anniversary of the first moon walk!  No less important, but I don't have a dog named after Neil Armstrong... yet.  :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spondylosis stinks

Mr. Bailey has been on Deramaxx (NSAID) for over a year now and I've felt like it didn't seem to help him as much as I thought it should.  His hip x-rays at only a year old showed that he had shallow hip sockets so I always knew that would be something we had to contend with as he aged.  Given the way he played - no holds barred, wild and free - when he was young (and even not so young), I also knew that one day he'd likely pay for it.  It's who he is and what he has always loved so I don't regret letting him go wild for even a minute.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but I wasn't particularly happy with the vet we had been going to.  We decided to start going to that clinic largely b/c they accepted Care Credit and it gave me piece-of-mind knowing that when I was out of town for a dog show, etc that whoever he was staying with could take him there and he would be taken care of with no worry about payment. 
I missed my holistic vet.  I missed her terribly.  Then, out of frustration with a visit for Mendel's second puppy vaccines I decided to call the old holistic vet.  My world got a whole lot brighter when I found out they had recently begun accepting Care Credit!

Why I love the Holistic Vet:
She asks me what I want for my pets instead of telling me what to do.  I can't even express how big a deal this is to me.  When Mendel and I went in for a distemper vaccine she asked me what I was thinking I wanted to do for other vaccines, if any.  When I told her I was definitely not going to do more than the distemper combo at that time b/c I don't think it's in his best interest to have multiple vaccines at once, she breathed a sigh of relief and said she was happy to hear that.  When I asked her what she recommended as far as his first Rabies vaccine she said she likes to see people wait until 6 month of age to make sure we're not throwing too much at them too young, at which point I breathed a sigh of relief and had to resist the urge to hug her.  She answered every question I had about the other vaccines completely honestly and without the usual "spin" vets tend to give.  (I don't have a problem with a vet recommending things, but I want the whole truth, not just the data that supports their recommendation.)  I truly trust her to give me her opinion based on what *I* want for my pets rather than what the "standard protocol" dictates.  I am so very grateful to have her back in my dogs' lives! 

Today Bailey and I went to the holistic vet for a check up and to talk about some different treatment options.  I wasn't planning on having x-rays done because long ago I decided that I would not consider surgical options for him.  As the one human who knows him better than anyone else, I feel I am most qualified to determine that it's just not what he would want.  Fortunately, I trust the holistic vet completely and she suggested that we might have a better idea of what the best drug options are for him if we knew what was going on with his bones.  I will freely admit that had another "by the book" vet suggested the same thing, I might not have opted for the x-rays, but because I trust her to recommend them for the right reasons I decided to go ahead and get them.  I am so glad I did.

As I said, I knew Bailey had some issues with his hips themselves, but I hadn't seen them in black and white since I worked at a vet clinic nearly 10 years ago.  I was pleasantly surprised to see this:



If these were Mendel's hips I would be concerned, but for Bailey I'm ecstatic to see that the hips are in the sockets where they should be and there aren't a lot in the way of boney changes.  For a 13 year old train wreck, these look pretty great.  You can see that his femoral heads are quite flat and his hip sockets are a bit on the shallow side, but over all they're a relief. 

So what's the problem?  Why does he hurt?

Bailey - lateral

Here we're looking at his spine.  Starting from his head, things are looking pretty good... until we get close to his hips.  Notice they get a bit closer together, and then there's this:

the problem

Spondylosis.  Not good.

What is happening is that he has developed bony projections on his lumbar vertebra and they are forming a bridge.  For Bailey this is particularly problematic because the location of the problem is also the location of major nerve bundles that service his rear.  I have noticed that he seems less "aware" of when he needs to defecate lately, and this is an issue that may continue to be a problem, but there are solutions for that problem and it's certainly not going to slow us down.

Here is a really great (and sad) x-ray I found on Flickr of another dog.  It shows a number of the spurs and bridge formations I am talking about so you can see the different stages of their development.  At only 7 years old, x-rays like that are just heartbreaking, but it's wonderful to see that her owners are doing everything they can to keep her happy and healthy

So what's in store for Bailey?
Once the Deramaxx is gone, I don't think we're going to continue it.  His liver and kidney functions look great, but I see no reason to tax his organs when it's not really bringing him all that much benefit.  Right now, Tramadol is what really seems to be helping him.  My next step is looking into acupuncture.  I have heard a great number of stories from people who swear by it, so it might be a good option for him as long as it doesn't stress him out.
For right now, the main goal is to keep him happy and pain free so he can be as naughty as he wants to be.  :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pieces of our Hearts.. and Minds

A few of my good friends have lost their dogs recently.

My Bailey is 13 and on a small handful of drugs to make sure he's not hurting too much.  I am fully aware he will not be around forever.

When I was 22, I learned one of the hardest lessons a dog lover will ever learn and had to make the choice to put down an only 8 month old puppy I raised and co-owned.  He's the number one reason I am so completely adamant about proper breeding practices and the reason I will ALWAYS put health before beauty.

As an atheist, I sometimes find it difficult to find the right thing to say or the right way to impart my feelings in these kinds of situations.  I don't believe in heaven or a rainbow bridge or any of the other things people will often reference when a beloved pet passes.  It's certainly not that I think there is complete finality in death.  I don't believe that at all.  It's just not my faith that lends to the idea of an afterlife.

The human brain is a most amazing thing.   Because of the ability of the human mind to retain memories and voluntarily revisit those memories, it stands to reason that as long as we continue to remember someone - they can never be truly gone.  And the amazing thing about memory is that we can choose to remember the most important things about those we love - what brought them joy, the special connection we had with them, the favorite things we did together...
Fact:  Every time you recall a memory or have a new thought, a new connection is created in your brain. 

I find that this very connection is precisely how those we love remain a part of us.

I may have learned some very important and difficult lessons from Cain's death, but the way I remember him is the way I imagine he would want to be remembered. 

A friend made this for me shortly after Cain was released from his pain.

It's not that I believe Cain to necessarily be an angel or to be waiting for me in the afterlife, but that when I remember him - I remember a happy bouncy puppy.  I remember him free from the pain his joints came to cause him.  And in many ways he is an angel.  The lessons he has taught me will continue to inform my decisions and I truly hope that his life will serve as the spring board for the long and healthy lives of many dogs to come in my life.  

The same goes for Bailey.  I am very fortunate to still have him with me, but the number of lives he will continue to touch long after he is gone as a result of the lessons he has taught me are innumerable.  He has changed every man, woman, and dog to ever meet him and because of that he will live forever.

Imparting his wisdom on young Mendel

Recently this quote was shared on a list I follow, and I loved it so much that I decided to combine it with my most favorite Mendel picture.

Click on Mendel to view full sized

Remembering Travler... doing one of his favorite things.


And Dora, who gave everything she had... because that's what dogs do.  :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sportsman of the Year?

**It took a little while for me to decide to write about this, but ultimately I just couldn't resist throwing in my two twisted cents.**

Recently, the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards titled Michael Vick as "Sportsman of the year".  Of course, this enraged the masses - I don't think anybody is surprised by this.  But, there's this thing about the masses.  You see, I find that the masses tend not to think about things very much, they like to shoot first and ask questions later.  Me, I like to ponder... 

If you are so inclined, I highly suggest you have a little look-see at my Dog fighting Dissertation before you continue.  It'll at least give you a little bit of an idea of how I tend to look at the world - I like the "why" much more than the "what".

Allow me to preface this whole thing by stating that after some cursory research, I'm a little confused by the BET awards.  From the beginning of the BET awards in 2001 until 2009 the award for sports was titled "Male Athlete of the Year" and "Female Athlete of the Year".  If you have a look at the winners from those years, you will see that the pool of nominees has been pretty small.  This is very interesting to me because as a sports fan I can tell you there is no shortage of exceptionally talented black athletes.  I really truly don't get it.  Who nominates these people?  Do they even watch sports?  Where are the college athletes?  Football players?  Is Derek Jeter the only black man who plays baseball?  Is it a politics thing?  I dunno. 

Then there's the question of exactly how they choose to define "Athlete of the Year".  Does it have to be an athlete that is at the very top of their respective sport?  Or can it be a wide receiver who only makes the pro bowl once, but is exceptionally involved in the community and is opening a school for the blind next week?  I can tell you what *I* think it should be, but I'm the last person on earth who has any right whatsoever to tell Black Entertainment Television how to pick their award recipients.

So on to that name change.  I find it very interesting.  Why is it now called "Sportsman of the Year" instead of "Athlete of the Year"?  According to, we have two "Sportsman" definitions to work with:
n  , pl -men
1. a man who takes part in sports, esp of the outdoor type
2. a person who exhibits qualities highly regarded in sport, such as fairness, generosity, observance of the rules, and good humour when losing 

I personally find that this change in name for the award is quite significant.  Especially if we assume the latter definition.  Should we make that assumption?  Hell, I don't know - but let's do it anyway.

Here it comes... are you ready for it...?

*I* think this change in name is probably the one thing that makes a reasonable argument FOR Vick getting the award.   

SETTLE DOWN!  Let me tell you why.

Did Michael Vick do some disgusting, terrible, hurtful things?  Yes, he absolutely did.  It doesn't particularly matter why he did them in this case - he did them.  The question is sportsmanship, and as an avid football fan I can tell you that from where I sit and what I have seen he has been a pretty stellar sportsman this past year.
When Vick came to play for Philly he brought a LOT of distraction with him.  I find he clearly recognized this and (I firmly believe he had help in this) he also recognized that the best way to do good by his team was to shut up, put his head down, and play his heart out.  And that is EXACTLY what he did.  He shut up, showed maturity (my gut tells me he has Tony Dungy to thank for this), and worked his ass off.  That's what a good sportsman does, he takes responsibility for his mistakes and works his ass off to help his team; he cans the trash talking that hurts his team and just does his job.  As far as "Sportsman of the Year" is concerned, I can't say I have too much argument against him.

I understand that a lot of people will hate him forever as a result of what he did, and to some degree I think that's fair.  What I think is dangerous is when people have a complete lack of ability to recognize any good someone has done because they don't like them.  Arguably, this is the very reason the US government is such a joke right now - everybody hates everybody and that means that nobody is even going to consider trying to compromise.  Life is not all black and white, people are not infallible, and forgiveness doesn't only help the forgiven.    

The real question, for me, is whether Vick will still deserve to be called "Sportsman of the Year" next year.  After a great 2010 season Vick has two options (assuming the NFL players and owners can find a way to get along) - Recognize that working hard, staying humble, and acting like an adult has gotten him where he is and continue to follow that road OR take his success for granted, start strutting around like an idiot peacock and throw it all away.  It's up to him, and I for one am very interested in seeing which path he chooses.  I'm rooting for him, and I can confidently say I will be the first one to tear him apart if he makes the wrong choice. 

As for the BET awards.  Well, I can't say I put much stock into them.  The system seems to be very flawed, and not very representative of the huge pool of exceptionally talented black athletes out there, which I happen to think is a shame.  So, in the end, I'd have to say I just plain don't much care about them.

How's that for an anticlimactic finish?

So, there you have it, my two cents.    

In other news....

Mendel got Reserve Winners Dog at the Kettle Moraine Kennel Club show on Saturday and I'm working on a tough to write post.  I don't know how long it will take me to write, but I'll get there.  :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Monthly Mendel: 7 Months

We actually did get the pictures on the very day Mendel turned 7 months old, but I didn't get them posted right away.  I know... you're shocked.

Let's start with my favorite

head shot 3

head shot 4

head shot 2

And now, here's my quick public service announcement:

Last month, at Mendel's first show, we were informed that we needed to do a better job of cleaning his ears.  Well, more accurately the hair around his ears, because they tend to get greasy.
This time I made sure to get some dish soap and really work on his ear hair when we were getting pretty for his monthly pictures.  At the time I thought it seemed like the soap was awfully bad at really working up a lather, but I didn't think much more of it.  I figured maybe it was just something about his coat.  Then, earlier this week I had grease on my hands form cooking and I used the same dish soap to help cut the grease and get them clean.  What I learned is that I had purchased the most ineffective dish soap on the face of the earth.  
Generally I make an effort to buy earth friendly cleaning products whenever I see them (and can afford them).  Last time I bought dish soap I got this because it's pear scented and I love fruity scents such as peach and pear.


Never again!  This stuff is crap.  It doesn't really impress me if a product is earth friendly if it doesn't work.
Don't buy it!  Even if it smells good.

head shot  

Mendel and me 7 mo

Mendel 7 mo 7

Mendel 7 mo best

Mendel 7 mo 3

Mendel 7 mo 2