Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sense of Time

Kirby: Forget work, it's time for play.
One thing our dogs seem to be particularly good at is knowing what time it is. Baxter and Kirby have little internal bio-clocks that tell them precisely when it is time to get up in the morning, to go for a walk, to take an afternoon nap, to paw at my chair to stop me from working for the day, to eat dinner and to go to bed. And they are spot-on. Daily. I could teach these guys to punch a time clock.

This seems quite remarkable to me, for even though I possess the capability of reading a clock, I still manage to lose track of large periods of time, particularly when I'm focused on projects.

For a person whose work requires me to keep track of my time in 15-minute increments all day long (and I am meticulous about it, mind you), I'm a remarkably time-impaired person by nature. Perhaps it is the rigor of keeping track of my work time that makes me so prone to losing track of my personal time. Or perhaps, out of some need to impose a sense of time on myself, I have gravitated toward work that forces me to account for exactly what I'm doing and how long I spend doing it. I may never know.

One thing I do know is that the time I spend on creative pursuits is time I don't mind losing track of. When I'm in the right frame of mind, I can lose hours on my writing. And when I emerge out the other side, I feel rejuvenated. That escape from time is like a vacation. If I didn't have that capacity to lose track of time, I'm sure the entire creative experience wouldn't happen, or at least it wouldn't happen as well, because I'd be too locked into the here and now.

I guess I really need to be there and then sometimes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Frustrations of Age

Every time I see Baxter trotting along the beach with absolute glee I am reminded that age need not diminish one's joie de vivre. When we took the dogs to the coast last week, both Baxter and Kirby sprinted with glee as soon as we removed their leashes. But this time out, like the last couple of times, Baxter's sprint was short-lived and he soon settled into an easy lope.   

For a 12-1/2 year old dog, Baxter can still cover a lot of ground pretty quickly, as long as he can run straight ahead, but anything that requires a quick turn is problematic. At the beach, when a couple of younger dogs approached and wanted to instigate a chase, Kirby was quick to take them up on their offer. Baxter, however, seems to have finally resigned to the fact that he just can't play like that anymore. He gave the dogs a playful look and the slightest play-bow, then just took a couple of steps and stopped to watch the action as the younger dogs circled around us. I could hear a hint of a whimper coming from him. He so wanted to engage in that chase, but his hips just said "no way."

It is hard to watch a dog that still has so much verve being held back by his aging body. He can still get up on the couch (thanks to a step my husband made), but we now need to lift him into the car. We've started giving him S3 chews, which seem to have helped put a little more spring in his step, and aspirin (OK'd by the vet for occasional use) seems to ease his discomfort when he obviously over-does it at the beach.

But in the past couple of weeks, for the first time since he was a small puppy, Baxter has been hesitant to climb the stairs. My husband and I each have offices in the upper level of our house, so every morning the dogs dutifully follow us upstairs and then the dogs make the rounds from one office to the other throughout the day. But lately, instead of following us, Baxter stays downstairs and after a few minutes he barks with a rather shrill tone, as if to say "hey, you guys left me down here!" When we go down to see what's the matter, he just stands there at the base of the stairs, as if he were waiting for something. With a little encouragement, he then makes his way up the stairs along with us, and he moves surprisingly well.

I don't know if he's feeling pain or if he's just not confident that his legs won't buckle and he wants someone there to go up the stairs with him, just in case. Either way, he doesn't seem to be suffering any ill effects once he gets on level ground. But all this just serves to remind me that Baxter is getting older, that despite the eagerness of the front half of his body, he does have some arthritis and nerve issues with his hips and back legs and they just don't work like they used to. It is clearly frustrating to him. And, frankly, it is frightening for me. At times it's all I can do to keep my mind from racing to the inevitable.

I was encouraged when the vet told us that, other than his hindquarters, the rest of Baxter's body is very healthy for his age. He eats well, poops well (which sounds gross unless you are a dog person...we know), sleeps well and still likes to play from time to time. He loves lying down on the patio next to me on warm summer days when I take my laptop outside. He revels in his morning walk which isn't quite as fast as it used to be (but I'm enjoying the lack of pulling). These are the things I hang onto, when my mind starts racing forward. 

Baxter is still Baxter. He loves life. And I love every minute I spend with him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday, Kirby!

Last Thursday was Kirby's 5th birthday. I can't quite believe it. Five years old. I still think of him as "the puppy" most of the time.

In all honesty, we can't be quite certain exactly when Kirby was born, as he was pretty much feral at the time, or so we've been told. July 7th-ish was the veterinarian's best guess based on his puppy-to-adult teeth progression.

All we know is that somewhere, on a farm near Red Bluff, California, Kirby and his litter-mates were born to a sweet, collie-shepherd-looking mother who obviously wasn't getting much attention from her "owners." At some point the litter of pups was discovered, rounded up and brought into the shelter along with Mom (Meg) and Grandma.

While it would have been better if Meg had been spayed and paid attention to by her original human family, she did manage to have some adorable puppies  (but aren't they all, really?) and Mom, Grandma and all the pups eventually were adopted. Whew for happy endings there.

As you know from reading this blog, it took a while to get the wildness out of Kirby, especially when it came to being comfortable around strangers. But through a lot of love and reassurance, he has grown into a cheerful, friendly, playful, at times impish, and always sweet little dog. Yes, he still runs under the sofa when he hears a loud noise and he barks like crazy when someone comes to the door, but that's all pretty normal for a fast-twitch-response little dog like Kirby.

As I sit here at my desk, Kirby is curled up comfortably at my feet -- his usual spot. And it's weird to think how very different his life might have been if he and his siblings hadn't been rounded up and brought into the shelter when they were still young enough to adapt well to life with humans.  I also sometimes wonder about the rest of his litter-mates.  I bet they are adorable. I hope they are happy and well cared-for. I kept in touch with the shelter for a while, and, surprisingly, there was talk of a "Meg-puppy" reunion at some point, but apparently the person working at the shelter who took a liking to that particular litter and cared enough to entertain the idea, either left or decided not to respond to email anymore. He had a pretty stressful and thankless job at times, I'm sure, with far too many dogs to just get adopted let alone schedule reunions for.

In any case, we are delighted to have Kirby in our family. And even though Baxter still seems a bit annoyed by Kirby's unrelenting enthusiasm at times, he seems to enjoy Kirby's companionship as well. Baxter has been a good teacher and Kirby has benefited greatly from Baxter's calm, well-mannered demeanor.

So they both got extra biscuits to celebrate Kirby's special day, and Kirby had the annual photo session with Jamie, which resulted in this adorable shot. I can't tell you how often I see that little crescent of white in Kirby's eye, usually when he's about to challenge me to a game of tug-o-war or suggesting to me that I really, really, really ought to give him a piece of whatever I'm eating. I'm charmed.

Happy 5th Birthday, Kirby, and many more!

Baxter, Kirby and Jennifer in The Bark

This morning I received an email notifying me that our picture is featured on The Bark in their "Me and My Dog" section... Woohoo! Our 15 minutes of scruffy dog fame!

Special thanks to Jamie Newton for the great photography and to mother nature for a perfect day at the beach.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Portugal's Scruffy Dogs and a Reykjavik Chihuahua

Lagos
My husband and I just returned from a fantastic vacation in Europe, and, of course, we have hundreds of pictures of the beautiful Algarve region around Salema, Portugal where we spent a week; Paris, France where we spent most of the next week; and Reykjavik, Iceland where we spent a too-short three days on the way home.  But I'm not going to share all those beautiful pictures here...not the role of this blog. Instead, of course, I'm going to share pictures of some of the scruffy dogs we encountered in Portugal -- running free, unfettered by leash laws or protective humans.

Most of the dogs we saw in Portugal were scruffy. Some by breed or hair type, but most because they hadn't had a bath or brushing in quite a while, if ever. That's not to say the Portuguese don't love their dogs. They certainly have a lot of them around and the dogs all seem quite healthy and happy. But as to the guardianship of any particular dog, that wasn't immediately obvious -- the dogs at seem to be more wards of the community... constant, roaming features of the Algarve landscape.  Based on stories told to me by my grandparents, this is much the way small town dogs lived here in the US a couple of generations ago, in the days before things like doggy daycare and puppy beauty spas. But the dogs clearly knew who their humans were...

Salema
In the town of Salema, a small fishing village on the southwest coast of Portugal, early morning was the most interesting time of the day for observations of local life, both human and canine.

We saw a scruffy little dog trotting cheerfully with a boy and girl, accompanying them to the school bus stop. Children delivered and mission accomplished, he then went about his other job of roaming the cobblestone streets, sniffing and marking all the light poles, shrubs and parked cars.

Salema
We walked down to the beach not long after sunrise to find the locals already busy at work. A group of men, most of whom appeared to be well beyond middle-age and all of whom were wearing the same kind of wool driving cap perched high on their heads, gathered around a lean-to next to the beach. They untangled fishing lines and nets, prepared plastic tubs and waited for the fishing boats to come in.

Salema
The dogs also arrived early and took their places along the beach. Some waited on the sidewalk, others roamed the rocks and driftwood at the edge of the high tide's last sweep.  At first I wasn't sure what they were waiting for (it seems dogs in Portugal are always waiting for someone...at the door of a pub, a store or, in this case, on a beach). One black dog ran out to the edge of the water -- his ship was coming in. Well, boat is more like it. The fishing boats in Salema are usually small one- or two-man boats, not the large boats I'm used to seeing in our local harbors. The dog waited patiently for the boat to drive up on shore (yes, the boats just drive straight up onto the beach), at which point the boat was chained to a tractor that pulled it up the beach to the area next to the lean-to. The black dog excitedly welcomed his fisherman home and the cadre of wool-hatted men went about emptying the boat and sorting the fish. It was quite something to watch.

(Sidenote: As soon as the boats came in they were swarmed by dozens of the local cats, most of whom seemed feral, sickly thin and mangy looking...definitely not faring as well as the local dogs. As soon as the fish were unloaded, the cats jumped into the boats and cleaned out the detritus and remains of fish that were caught in the nets. There always seemed to be a few dozen cats hanging around, largely ignored by the dogs.)

Cabo de São Vicente


 This grumpy old dog came out as soon as the gates opened at Cabo de São Vicente. He was intent on digging something out from under that door and was very annoyed when we tried to distract him long enough for a photo. Eventually he gave up and decided to lie down for a nap and tourist photo op.

Podengo at Praia do Castelejo
Finally, we got a picture of what I believe to be Grande and/or Medio Podengo -- the national dog of Portugal. We saw two of them wandering the hills around Praia do Castelejo.  The smaller one greeted us as we drove up the road toward the beach and then proceeded to watch us from above. The larger one was napping on a hillside covered with white flowers. Every once in a while he would stand to survey the landscape, turn around a few times and lie back down in the sun.




Salema


In the afternoon, we would see dogs stretched out napping in the shade or curled up next to the boats.

In the larger city of Lagos, east of Salema, the city dogs also roamed free. This one, below, wasn't exactly scruffy, but her eyes were mesmerizing. I love this picture (like all of the others, courtesy of my photographer/artist husband, Jamie).
Not exactly scruffy, but the most soulful eyes...Lagos










This Spanish Water Dog in Salema was a tourist roaming the beaches with his human. At first I thought he was a small Portuguese Water Dog (after all, we were in Portugal) but when I inquired, his owner quickly corrected me. The dog was cute, but not very friendly and I'm not sure how Jamie got this picture because he never stopped moving...


Spanish Water Dog in Salema



We didn't get any great dog pictures in Paris this time... but we couldn't resist this decidedly non-scruffy Chihuahua in a store window in Reykjavik, Iceland. At first I thought he was part of a display, then he opened his eyes, blinked and went back to sleep.



Reykjavik Chihuahua



That's it for this edition of "Portugal's Scruffy Dogs." I hope to return as soon as possible to continue my research (and enjoy more of those long, lazy, warm days by the beach).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Katie: My First Scruffy Dog

Katie - 1979
We've been busy going through old boxes...finding things we haven't seen since the past move (or two). Today I ran across this photo of my first dog, Katie.  Katie had all the spark, spunk and sweetness one would expect from a Cairn Terrier.  She was a fierce protector of our home and had a growl that sounded more like a doberman than a 15-pound terrier. Yet she had the patience to put up with me dressing her up in costumes, complete with hats and sunglasses, and stood still while I took pictures (those must be in an album somewhere...)  Katie could "smile" on cue and she had a large repertoire of other tricks which she only performed when she darn well felt like it and/or when you had food to offer. Come to think of it, I never did get her to smile while also being dressed up...

Katie was a natural-born hunter, catching rodents in our yard and dropping them by the back door like a cat. She didn't much care for small dogs, but she was absolutely smitten with the neighbor's gigantic Alaskan Malamute. 

Katie ruled the roost at our house. We doted on her, gave her free run of anything and treated her like a queen. She slept in my bed and managed to take up most of it, despite her diminutive size. When I left to walk to school in the mornings, I would look back and see Katie, sitting on the edge of my bed, peering out the window, watching me go, as my mom stood behind her waving. Katie was always the first to the door to welcome me home in the afternoon (Mom was close behind).

In the summer Katie and I spent many an afternoon playing in the shade of the big elm tree in the back yard.  She helped me through my adolescence and she patiently listened to all of my teenage problems. I have no idea what she thought about all of it, but when she looked straight at me with those shiny, dark brown eyes, I felt like she understood, and somehow I always felt better. 

Katie -- my first dog, my confidant, my friend, you will always hold a special place in my heart!

Monday, March 07, 2011

New Tags Use Barcodes to ID Lost Pets

I have to admire a tech website that launches with a pet-related story on the home page.  It's not often my geek nature and my dog-loving nature collide so happily. The new GeekWire tech news site, which just launched today, includes a story about PetHub, a Seattle startup that's now selling pet ID tags that have barcodes on the back (see: Where's Fido? High-tech tags help pet owners retrieve lost pals).

Instead of the old fashioned methods of going door-to-door, tacking a found pet's photo to a light pole or taking Fido to a shelter to see if he has a microchip, the PetHub ID tag barcodes are readable with smart phone apps that link to a Web "profile page" for your pet, which can provide whatever information you want to share -- an emergency phone number, contact info for your vet's office or a dog daycare, etc.).  Cool idea!  Although I suppose it won't hit the sweet spot of usefulness until more people have barcode reader apps on their phones. (I confess, I already have one such app...that's the geek nature coming through.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Canine Ennui and Too Much Pluie

Baxter - photo by Jamie Newton

 Long, cold, rainy days mean neither the dogs nor I get our usual exercise.  I have no excuse, as I have a gym membership. The dogs, however, are pretty much stuck inside except for brief forays out to the side lawn. Poor dogs. They have a hard time convincing me to leave my desk and take them for a walk in the rain. I don't melt. I own Gore-tex clothing (after all, I am an Oregonian). No, mostly it's just that I don't really enjoy walking the dogs in the rain... putting on the gear, sloshing through puddles, trying to see between the water spots on my glasses, waiting as the dogs take their sweet time finding just the right spot to do their business, bending down with a poo-bag as rivulets of water cascade over the edge of my raincoat's hood, returning home with muddy feet and realizing I've forgotten to leave a towel by the door...again. I have nothing against rain, mind you. It makes the garden grow. I just get a bit growly about it when there's a tad too much during these short, dark winter days.  And I get even growlier when I don't get in my exercise. So it's a growly feedback loop of sorts. 

The dogs, on the other hand, just exhibit ennui. They pad around, pick up toys and drop them, gaze out the window, pad around some more and, mostly, sleep. I didn't realize just how bad it had become until the rain stopped for a bit the other day and the dogs got a good walk (with my husband while I was engrossed in a work project). They came in all full of excitement. Baxter chased Kirby around the living room and up the stairs, they played keep-away and tug-o-war and both of them were spinning and hopping with genuine glee. They FINALLY got some exercise!

Of course, playful Baxter, who briefly forgot his age, paid for it later. He seemed a tad stiff. But at least he didn't have that look of ennui in his eyes anymore.

I did. So I finally stepped away from the computer and went to the gym.  I didn't return all spinning and gleeful, but I was a tad less growly. Today I suddenly noticed it wasn't dark at 5:00 and that made me feel better too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kirby, Colbert & Christiane Amanpurr

video
Kirby has an incredible attention span when it comes to watching television, particularly when there are animals involved. The other night he was mesmerized by the Colbert Report and guest "Christiane Amanpurr."  I don't think he realizes they can't hear him...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Oh what a nose!

This article on NPR's site explores the uncanny ability of dogs to sniff-out cancer.  According to the study cited in the article, "Japanese researchers report that an eight-year-old black Labrador was 97 percent accurate in nosing out colon cancer..." -- a higher degree of accuracy than any standard test for the disease. Wow! That glorious canine nose reportedly can discriminate at the parts-per-trillion level.

This gives me further pause when I think about going for walks in areas with lots of auto traffic...all that exhaust from cars is right at dog nose level. That even chokes me. It also gives one pause to think about what cedar bedding, strong-smelling perfume and household cleaning products do to the poor dog's sensitive nose. The other day I could hardly taste my meal at a restaurant because the person next to me was wearing so much perfume.  I sincerely hope she didn't have dogs at home.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kirby Demonstrates "Frustration Tolerance"

 I love this video, shot by my husband earlier today. Kirby gets an "A" for impulse control and frustration tolerance...



When Baxter had his tooth pulled we had to feed him nothing but soft food for two weeks (which he loved). To be fair to Kirby, we've been mixing a bit of soft food in with his kibble as well. Kirby always has been the first one to the bowl at mealtime, but this new development has reached near-obsessive proportions. When we take him out in the morning, he does all his business immediately and heads straight for the door. I drag him back to the sidewalk and he begrudgingly follows Baxter and me on our morning walk.  Every time we stop, he tries to make a beeline for home. As soon as I let him in the door, he runs at top speed to his dish to see if breakfast has shown up yet.

Every evening about 5:30pm he starts making his little grumble sounds behind my desk chair. If I stand up, he races (no, flies is more like it) down the stairs and comes to a screeching halt in front of his food dish, panting anxiously. Mind you, this dog was two pounds overweight at his last weigh-in at the vet, so he's far from starving. To keep him from diving immediately into his bowl before all the food is in, we've been helping Kirby further develop his impulse control...an area where he does pretty well, but not as well as his big brother, Baxter.

(Funny thing is, if we make Kirby wait before doing something, he always barks as soon as we give him the OK to do whatever he's been waiting patiently to do. It's as if the twitch to move just drives the bark right out of him.)

One of the best pieces of advice I've heard from dog trainers and animal behaviorists is the value of helping your canine companion learn impulse control by developing "frustration tolerance." Making your dog wait before running to retrieve an object or launching out the door are a couple of great examples. By helping your dog develop frustration tolerance you are, in effect, helping them survive in today's world:  a world where they are left alone for periods of time in a big house full of tempting items to chew on, where they probably don't get as much time running free as they would like and where the tasty-smelling food bits sitting on the low coffee table are for humans only. In my experience, dogs who have developed a high frustration tolerance are healthier, happier more adaptable creatures. And the same goes for their human companions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Psychic iPod

Ok, this has nothing to do with Scruffy Dogs, but I just had to share what happened to me this morning. I think my iPod Shuffle is psychic. Or maybe an empath. Bear with me here...

Several years ago I was having some trouble with my feet and got some orthotics for my running shoes -- they help immensely, and I've used them to the point they're practically in tatters. So I went to a podiatrist to order another pair. The new ones are slightly different (and, after five or so years of pounding, so are my feet, so that makes sense). I seemed to get along fine while walking, but when I tried running in them the other day I got about a mile and a half away from home when I started getting shooting pains up my foot and leg. I limped home and it took several days for my foot to stop hurting.

Today I decided to get back on the horse. Perhaps it wasn't the orthotic, perhaps I just turned my foot the wrong way or something. So I put on my iPod and headed out the door. First song:  "Message in a Bottle" by the Police.  I got about three blocks from my house when the pain started shooting up my foot. I swear, the lyric was "sending out an SOS." I walked home and put my old orthotics back into my running shoes. 

I headed out the door. First song: "Stupid Girl" by Garbage.  Ha. About a half-mile into my run and the song, my foot started hurting again, to the point where I knew I shouldn't continue. I said a few choice words under my breath, turned around and started walking home. 

As I walked home, muttering to myself, on came Moby, singing "Oh lordy, trouble so hard..."

I have a psychic iPod Shuffle.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What surgery?

One would never know that Baxter underwent surgery 8 days ago. At least not by his attitude. Yeah, the large shaved spots and Frankenstein-esque stitches are a giveaway, but Baxter seems to be entirely oblivious to it. He's more energetic than he's been in a long time. Even his slightly arthritic hips seem to be better. I have no idea if this is because of the removal of the lipoma that was intertwined with his hip muscle or if, as I've read in medical articles about humans, the cleaning of his teeth and removal of the abscessed tooth has reduced inflammation in his whole body or if he just feels better not having a toothache. Probably all of the above.

In any case, I don't care. It's as if he were years younger in the matter of a week. And that's pretty cool. I only hope I look and feel as good when I'm pushing 84!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

RESULTS: Lumps and Life III

The veterinarian just called with the results of the pathology report on Baxter's lump -- it was BENIGN! The tumor turned out to be a hemangioma (not a hemangiosarcoma, which was the worst case scenario), and the removal of it is curative.  He said they got it all and there's no reason to expect it would return. While it looks considerably different than a lipoma (it's a blood vessel tumor) it's just one of those random lumps dogs sometimes get. 

Needless to say, we are all very relieved around here. Baxter, who has seemed entirely back to his normal, earnest, goofy self for the past several days, has no idea why I keep showering him with extra hugs and kisses this morning. But he seems fine with it.

Whew!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Dog Vocabulary

Today's Science Daily features an interesting article about a border collie that was able to comprehend the names of  more than 1000 objects. It describes a study in which Chaser, a border collie, was able to differentiate among objects by name, comprehend multiple names and categories for objects (e.g. toy and frisbee) and even correctly identify novel objects by process of elimination based on knowing the names of all of the other objects.

The border collie people must be all over this one...(I can't tell you how many bumper stickers I've seen around here that say "My border collie is smarter than your honor student"), but I think most people who share their lives with dogs know that this ability to identify objects by name applies to many, if not most, other breeds of dog as well.  For example, I know that Baxter not only understands that "slipper" means my fleece slippers, he also understands the concept of an object that humans put on their feet, even though we've never taught it to him. So if I ask him to go get my slippers (which he usually does perfectly, as long as there is a treat waiting for him) and he can't find the slippers (which occasionally happens), he brings down an alternative -- usually a tennis shoe. He came up with that all on his own.

Both Baxter and Kirby seem to know the difference between their toy names. "Ball" is different from "tug" or "bear" or "bunny." And they definitely know that all of the above fall into the category of "toy," which means it's something they can play with and chew on, as opposed to our human objects, which they leave alone. (For anyone who has not visited our home, let me tell you this is quite a feat...as we have a lot of books, art objects, etc. within the dogs' reach and they've never disturbed any of them, not even as puppies.)

It's great to see research into animal intelligence.  For a long time many researchers in the animal communication/animal intelligence realm, particularly those like Dr. Irene Pepperberg, who work with "pet" animals as opposed to more exotic ones like dolphins or chimpanzees, have had to go the extra mile to convince other scientists of the value of their work. To some it may seem a waste to study how smart dogs are when most of us who spend time with dogs already know it, but the value goes much broader.  It is my hope that as we realize humans are not the only intelligent species on the planet, we will be more likely to show empathy toward non-human species. Perhaps it will help us consider our place in the world in a more humble way and to think about the consequences of our actions and their impact on species other than our own.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lumps and Life II

Baxter is doing his best "dog-shui" -- the art of placing himself right where I want to walk. He does this all the time, but today, as I gingerly step over him, I cringe slightly. I am looking down at a big, blue neck wrap and a couple of large, shaved patches on his back and hip, each with 3-4" lines of stitches. Baxter is in a remarkably good mood, all things considered.

Monday he went in to the veterinarian for several procedures: a dental cleaning, extraction of an abscessed tooth and removal of a few of his lumps. Lipomas -- or benign fatty tumors -- are fairly common in older retriever-type dogs, and Baxter has sprouted quite a few of them over the past few years. Our veterinarian does the occasional needle biopsy and usually just leaves them alone as long as they're not otherwise interfering with the dog's health. But because of the placement of a few of Baxter's lumps, our vet said he would take the opportunity to remove them if there were another reason to go under anesthesia. The bad-looking tooth needed to be handled, so Baxter went in for the works on Monday.

I always worry when anyone has to go under anesthesia. In this case I was even more worried due to Baxter's age -- he will be 12 in April. Thank goodness the surgery went well. When we picked him up Monday night Baxter was a bit bleary-eyed and the pain killers made him sway a bit when he was trying to stand still, but he ate, drank water and slept like a log. By yesterday morning, he seemed almost normal -- so much so that we had to keep him from running up the stairs and pulling on his leash when going outside (he's on exercise restriction due to a large lipoma on his hip that had some muscle involvement).  Today, without painkillers, it's pretty much Baxter as usual.

Our main concern now is that one of the lumps in Baxter's neck was not a lipoma -- the vet was surprised to see that it was a completely different type of tumor which he could not definitively identify with their equipment. He sent it off to a pathology lab and we should get the results by the end of this week. It could be benign, in which case having it removed means he's out of the woods on that one. If it's malignant, then the type of tumor will dictate next steps. Baxter's blood work was excellent and he has shown no signs of feeling unwell prior to or after the surgery, so that's a good sign that it may be localized and not too invasive.

Still, I am working very hard not to worry. Worry, it seems, comes almost as easily to me as breathing. Keeping it at bay requires conscious acts of self-control and/or complete distraction. Seeing Baxter recovering so quickly, with his sweet, mellow disposition and continued enthusiasm for little things like eating, going outside and being invited up onto the couch, is inspiring to say the least.

So my goal is to stay positive and keep my focus on helping Baxter stay comfortable, heal quickly and come through this as strong and healthy as possible. Any and all good wishes and positive vibes are welcomed!