Monday, May 29, 2006

Sleepy Boy

This is the scene every morning. Sparkey ends up in our bed, and is very hesitant to get up and go. Even on weekdays, when our time is limited and we need to walk the dogs before scurrying off to work, we must sometimes force him off of the bed to greet the day. But once you get him going, he's ready for action---geriatric action, that is.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Late Night Infusions

Last night, getting home late and feeling exhausted, I decided to forego Sparkey's IV infusion and just go to sleep. Mary had already drifted off and I attempted to join her in Dreamland, easing into my side of the bed as the dogs also made their circuitous motions towards settling down for the night.

Just as I began to drop off into an altered state, I felt a cold and wet nose pointedly nudge my arm which lay outside of the covers. I opened my eyes to see Sparkey staring me down and panting loudly and hotly in my direction, obviously trying to communicate something. I put my face next to his and my arms around his neck and explained that I was tired and we would take a break from the IV. I told him I loved him and lay back in bed, encouraging him to do the same. One minute later, he nudged my arm with his nose again, and then a third time, seeming more anxious and still panting. He stared at me intently.

I eyed Mary, sound asleep in the dim room, and sighed as I got out of bed. She never stirred.

"Is this really what you want, Sparkey?" He sat down as I brought my make-shift IV pole over (It's a standing lamp with no shade---I hang the bag on the switch.) He stared at me some more.

As much as Sparkey resists the treatments, tries to stand up while I'm doing the infusions, and otherwise shows moderate displeasure during our nightly ritual, on this night he lay very still, licked my nose, and never once tried to get up as the fluids ran into his skinny body. Within a minute of beginning the treatment, his panting ceased, he became very calm, and we sat in the dark while the fluids dripped through the chamber and into the line connected to his skin by a large needle. When we were done, he slowly got up, went to the kitchen for a drink, and then returned to the bedroom to make one, two, three circles before settling in his bed for a snooze. He never ceases to amaze me.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Every Day

Every day is a fresh day for Sparkey. He stills greets the days the same way: sleeping heavily on our bed which is now covered with his fur, then loping to the toilet or water bowl for a drink, followed by plaintive looks inquiring regarding the timing of his morning constitutional. Morning interest in food is minimal, although his desire for a roadside salad of grass is now a given. He knows where the grass is most tender, and he never hesitates when the mood strikes him.

While we're at work, our dear friend walks the dogs each afternoon, leaving us entertaining notes detailing canine observations. Evening walks are slow and thoughtful, with lots of sniffing, probably gathering olfactory data vis-a-vis the other dogs and animals which have passed through the neighborhood in the course of the day.

It's days like these that cause me to deny that he's sick, imagining a few more years like this. Right now, Mary's on the screened-in porch, typing on her laptop. Sparkey just had a drink and then returned to the porch, taking a moment to stare intently into Mary's face before laying down on the wool rug. Tina prances through the dining room with a large, partially disemboweled Barney doll in her mouth. Her brother won't play with her anymore, but her inner puppy still rises to the occasion, her sheer joy reflected in her gait.

These spring evenings when it's warm enough to be on the porch, Sparkey raises his snout into the air, his nose twitching ever so subtly as the evening breeze carries the riot of scents which entice his highly sensitive nerve-endings. He can't hear most of the sounds of the neighborhood, but those olfactory guideposts floating in the ethers tell him all he needs to know about his environment. It's a quiet night. Lovely.

We are so blessed.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why cant i do it?

It sure would make sense if i just did the IV for Bob myself. After all, its not intraveneous, just subquetaneous (spell check for this non-nurse, hello) . It would surely help out and give Keith a needed break from this mutually unpleasant ritual for both dog and man. I seriously considered it tonight, seriously I did, knowing it would save our hard working nurse friend, Keith's co-worker, a trip out this evening. But i just could not fathom poking my own dog with a needle, and a rather hearty one at that. I need practice first, some technique training, poking some oranges like they do in nursing school--or something. Without practice, i know the chances of hesitation are high. Even though I have a lot of nerve and even get acupuncture for myself, I am rather squeemish about jabbing a needle into another being.

I accept my role for now as the comfort person for Sparkey and as the nurses aide for the IV administerer. Glad Keith is getting a needed break, grateful for our friends' help, and especially happy that ole Sparkey has decided to stick around this long. I took the cutest photo of how i found him sleeping with his head on a pillow this morning. He looked up at me with his sleepy, red hound-dog eyes as if to say, "Wass up?Its early! Must you?" Yes, sir Sparks, my dear, I must! I can't stab you witha needle but I can shoot you with a camera anytime!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Long-Distance Love

I am now in Atlanta with family, having a lovely time while also missing my Mary and our two canine companions. I've recruited three different nurse-friends to give Sparkey his IV infusion over my long weekend away. The worried father.

Today in downtown, I had the opportunity to gaze deep into the eyes of a Greyhound who was up for adoption, hanging out in the shade with a gaggle of rescued Greyhounds in an urban shopping area. His soulful eyes were something to behold, so compassionate, so instantly loving.
His gaze was like an embrace.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hangin' In There

For you curious readers and fans of Sparkey, he's really hanging in there. Despite his protestations and desire to escape the IV needle (he runs when I rip open the outer wrapping of the IV fluid bag each night), Sparkey is eating with (some) gusto, walking the neighborhood, eating grass, sleeping with practiced panache and skill, and being his Bobby D. Dog self. Pills wrapped in sliced turkey or bologna are now a cinch, and my greatest worry is that I am going to Atlanta for three days and nurse-friends of mine must come and administer the dreaded IV fluids. I hope Sparkey can tolerate visiting nurses for three days. Maybe it'll be a nice break from his routine struggles with me. I know I'll enjoy the break from the nightly infusion, myself.

Anyway, the old Bob is doin' OK, and we treasure the days as they roll by. Each morning we awake and see him still breathing is a gift, and each day we come home to his floppy ears, bony butt, and stinky farts is a further gift. What more could we desire? (Perhaps a little less gas....)


Monday, May 15, 2006

A Story by an Old Friend

About 10 years ago, or maybe a little more, Mary and Keith's dogs Sparkey and Tina were the first dogs I felt a close connection with since I had moved from New York a few years prior. How I came to know them was through house- and dog-sitting gigs, where I got a vacation from my cooperative household, since the person I was living with and I were asked to stay the nights with Sparkey and Tina. This is when they all lived in that cute little house in ________ near __________ and a wonderful ravine full of ferns and paths to wander.

During our stay I felt I got to know these two animals fairly well, eating with them, walking with them, playing with them, and generally hanging out with them in whatever capacity that meant.

One time I remember fairly well. It had been raining, and the kids (dogs) didn't seem to have the umph, as it were, to spend much time outside, though Sparkey didn't seem to mind the rain as much, and I remember taking him for a run through the woods and getting very lost and wet. I remember Sparkey kept stopping to look back and see if I was still there, wagging his tail when I was still running to catch up.

When we got back, we were soaked, and that meant getting out a towel or two and getting a rub down, then sitting by the heater to dry off. The afternoon was spent reading books. Of course I read out loud. Both dogs seemed to enjoy my voice, which promptly soothed them into a nap for the afternoon.

The most memorable part, though, was the sleeping arrangement that night. There were thunderstorms ravaging through the valley that night, and although I had been able to sleep comfortably through thunderstorms in the past, I felt a little angst for Sparkey and Tina, and I remember there was much pacing while my partner was sleeping. I lay awake, and the lightning kept crackling the night air alive with disco-ball-like flashes.The air was alive both inside and out of the apartment. Then I got up and went to the bathroom. Sparkey followed me. I asked,"What, fella?" He looked at me as I did my thing. I said, "You want out?" He put his ears down. "You want attention?" He cocked his head sideways.

I finished and pet his head, and walked back to the bedroom. My partner was half awake and asked me to come back to bed because she was cold (I'm the little heater box when I sleep, making the bed nice and toasty). I found Tina half asleep and scopped her up and placed her between my partner and I at about chest level, and Tina returned to sleep and so did my partner, perhaps assuming the warm body next to her was me. Tina's back was to my partner's back. I looked at Sparkey and thought, "He's huge," and I said, "OK, Bob, up ya go." And then Sparkey walked up on the bed and stood there at my feet looking at me. I got myself wrapped up small and crouched into a little corner of the bed, then stretched out with my legs where I wanted them, about wide enough for Sparkey to lay down between my partner and I near our feet. He turned once, he turned twice, looked at me one more time, turned a half turn, and then sat down and then all the way down and was nestled perfectly between human bodies and flopped his head across my ankles.

Lightning lit up the room. Tina was in dreamland, twitching her legs in running motion. Sparkey took a deep breath and sighed with a little doggie sound as if to say, "Ahhh." I lay back and shut my eyes, and then I looked down at my body: I had forgotten to pull the covers back up over myself and one huge dog lay on top of a pile of blankets and sheet. But he was warm enough to keep me warm, so I fell asleep against a dog's back, twitching dog feet, and a wall, and that was just fine.

The rest of the night, the crashing and booming---though it was all around that apartment and in the valley---didn't seem to affect any of us. In the morning, sleeping in, I found Tina on top of my partner, a blanket draped across my body, and Sparkey with his feet up in the air on his back, snuggled closely between my partner and I, a funny sight indeed! I wondered how he did that---how they did that---without my knowing. My partner woke up and wondered what happened. Sparkey woke up--- or maybe he was already awake?---and looked over at me wagging his tail: "Like my sense of humour?"

---Zhem, a dear old friend of Sparkey

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bob's Blessing
This was created by heather...More info. on her art to follow.
Reminds me of Sparkey, the sweet old Sparkster.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Spring fever for Bob!

Its early evening, the forest birds are singing their sweet song, "Drink your tea" (name that bird!). The girl, the boy and I are doing the usual round the block walk through our quaint little woodsey neighborhood. Sparkey is off leash as much as possible these days, mostly taking his time grazing on fresh, green grasses of spring (salad boy, and here we are making all these meats for him. maybe he is trying ot tell us he wants to go vegan, hehehe--not!)

I stop and chat with two neighbor ladies and am aware how Sparkey takes full avantage of this moment and saunters off. He is within my field of vision so i keep chatting. But when i can no longer see him, i abruptly end the visit and run into the direction the old boy has headed.

I catch sight of Sparkey's white-tipped-tail bobbing up and down from his slightly goofy gallop as he makes a bee line for his old trail out of the neighborhood (to another neighborhood where he's enjoyed making his rounds whenever he escapes from walks with humanoids.) I holler out his name, "Sparkey" as Tina and i run after him. I am laughing out loud (whereas i used to get peeved in his stud day) and its obvious he cannot hear my calls. Finally i get close enough and when he hears me, he is startled to a halt. I am delighted that he still has it in him, but i say what I alwway do when he runs away. in a shaming but partly playful tone, i say,"You ran away", to which his ears go back in guilt, but his tongue is haning out and he pants in the glory of his brief independence.

Sparkey spent his early years in a forested hilltown where he was rarely on leash. It was country and we would just open the back door and let him out, shooing him away from the road and sending him off to see his friend, Amos, (literally saying, "Go see Amos"--and he would!) So, moving to the valley below meant leash laws and neighbors who didnt appreciate Sparkey's friendliness (at first anyway) or our lawlessness with our dogs, so we kept tighter reigns on Sparkey (and Tina, the traffic dingbat, always on leash for walks til we get to free space). But when Sparkey's hearing began to wane, his street smarts became greatly impaired and we all adjusted to walking the Bob on leash. Now that he is so slow, we are lettign him be leash free again and are just really careful and close-by. But he just proved that he aint too old for spring fever, and to him i tip my hat!


Friday, May 12, 2006

Tortellini Time

At this writing, Mary is napping in front of one of the last fires in the woodstove for the season. A rainy Friday evening after a hard work-week is a good time for a fire, even in mid-May. Sparkey is resting at her side, Tina is wandering the house looking for a handout, and I can't resist some writing time accompanied by the hum and swirl of the dishwasher.

Sparkey is really hanging in there. With a fairly good appetite, he's gobbling up most of what we offer him, as long as it includes fresh meat of some kind. This week, in a fit of canine culinary creativity (and desperation), I broke down and bought some cold-cuts (bologna, cheese slices, and sliced chicken breast) as a way to offer meat that I didn't necessarily need to cook. It turns out that the bologna is an excellent way to conceal Sparkey's pills---no more stress for all of us as we force them down his recalcitrant throat---and add a few calories by including the meat slices in quesadillas. (He may be sick, but he's no fool. This is gourmet hospice care, folks!)

Now, it's 9:30pm, and he keeps coming to the kitchen, seemingly in search of more vittles, and who am I to refuse this dog who is literally skin and bones and fur (and those soulful eyes, wagging tail, wet nose, and floppy ears)? So now I'm cooking up some cheese tortellini which I hope might prove to be a way to get some carbohydrates into him. I imagine what all that protein is doing to his kidneys and I cringe.

Since Sparkey came home from the hospital, we've moved our bedroom downstairs and put a gate at the bottom of the stairs to prevent him from tottering up the stairs and falling or breaking a bone. Just this week, Tina has accompanied us upstairs when we've gone up to shower or put away laundry, and every evening for the last three, Sparkey has also ventured up the steep stairs to join the party. Worried about him falling either on his way up or down, we try to spot him and protect him, but he's actually managed to navigate his way several times while we weren't looking. Once he makes it into our old bedroom where there is just a folded futon couch and our dressers, he rolls on the floor (not quite making it all the way onto his back) and growls in what we have come to know as sheer delight. Tina does attempt to engage him in play with one of her partially disemboweled stuffed animals or a tennis ball, but after one feeble lunge he backs down and gives up. She must notice the difference, perhaps missing those long and ferocious games of tug o' war that they used to entertain us with in the not too distant past. But his skinny self is beyond that now....

As we may or may not have mentioned before, walking Sparkey is now an act of patience as he has a grass salad here and there, sniffs a great deal, and dawdles in his inimitable old man style. If I have time, I always just sit down beside him when he decides to take a break, this often happening just as we pass our next-door neighbor's house towards the end of a walk. Now that Sparkey knows that Mary and I are both leaving the house every morning, he does his best to elongate the walks, often delaying our departure for work.

Just yesterday, Mary having left earlier in her own car, I was walking the dogs and trying to get the old guy to make it home so I could get to my first patient on time. He demurred, and lay down on his side in front of our neighbor's house. I sat down next to him, attempted some cajoling, and failing that, had a heart to heart with him, explaining that it would be my greatest wish to sit in the dirt with him for hours and smell the morning air, but I had to leave as soon as possible. He regarded me in what seemed to be a thoughtful manner, but was still his recalcitrant self, maintaining---and perhaps even deepening---his regal repose on the ground. Faced with a very busy day and a dog on strike, I did what I had to do: I lifted him into my arms and carried him to the house---about 150 feet---apologizing to him for the indignity as I carried his bony self up the walk to the front door.

Deposited in the doorway, a puzzled Tina at his side, Sparkey watched me leave down the sidewalk from the window next to the front door. My heart ached. All I wanted to do was spend the day in the grass with him and Tina, listening to the Piliated Woodpecker and watching the local beaver ply his way through the still pond waters. Alas, those moments are reserved for after work and weekends. The mornings are relegated to cursory walks and bereft dogs watching us abandon the pack for parts unknown, returning nine hours later with strange scents on our clothes and fatigue in our auras.

Well, the tortellini is done and it's time to see if it might tempt an old man for a late-night snack. That's the news from Sparkey Central. Bon nuit.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stay tuned!

Soon I will be writing Sparkey's happy story---how he came to be with us that sunny day at the Firemen's Pancake Breakfast and some early life memories of entertaining tales!


Monday, May 08, 2006

Something for Sparkey

This beautiful entry just in from our young neighbor:
There are some people in your life, that although you are not technically their family, they always are thought of to be part of yours anyway. Sparkey is that; only a dog, an amazing animal, that I think all the neighborhood would agree is just simply family. Sparkey always has great enthusiasm whether it is just trotting around the neighborhood, stopping for a nice petting from someone, or just relaxing in his yard. He might look a bit bored, but looking into his eyes, gives you a tangible insight on his happiness with life, and caretakers, Mary and Keith. You feel the happiness too. Even now, when things may be getting a bit more difficult for Sparkey, and times aren’t always so great, you can catch glimpses of how he seems to find joy in the smallest things. Just today, while I was walking him and Tina in the gloomy and lonesome-like rainy day, Sparkey paused at the puddles, with Tina accompanying, and lapped up a drink of water on the way, ears flopping, full of joy.
Here is just a small memory I have of Sparkey,
and how much I enjoy seeing him.
I love you!
~Jacqueline Wang

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hafiz Poem for Sparkey (and us)

Awake Awhile.

It does not have to be
Right now.

One step upon the Sky's soft skirt
Would be enough.

Awake awhile.
Just one True moment of Love
Will last for days.

Rest all your elaborate plans and tactics
For Knowing Him,
For they are all just frozen spring buds
So far from Summer's Divine Gold.

Awake, my dear.
Be kind to your sleeping heart.
Take it out into the vast fields of Light
And let it breathe.

Give me back my wings.
Lift me,
Lift me nearer.”

Say to the sun and moon,
Say to our dear Friend,

“I will take You up now, Beloved,
On that wonderful Dance You promised.”

~ Hafiz ~

(I Heard God Laughing - Renderings of Hafiz – Daniel Ladinsky)


The Skinny

Skinny is right. The Sparks is losing weight as his intake barely keeps up with his body's basic metabolic needs. His waist is tiny, and his ribs show more and more. Otherwise, the old guy is stable, walking around the block and even to the more distant pond and conservation area, not needing the sling which we bought to hold up his hindquarters. He still likes to have a "salad" by the side of the road---there are several patches of green soft grass that he chooses to munch almost every day . Some dogs seems to eat grass in order to induce vomiting (think canine Ipecac), but Sparkey seems to simply enjoy some regular herbivorous intake. (Of note: Mary and I have been up for an hour, and he's still prone in the bed, covered with a blanket.)

Food still revolves around chicken and beef cooked in a big wok on the gas grill in the back yard, however last night's scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and ham went over pretty well, I must say.

On the medical side, getting him to swallow pills is becoming more and more of a struggle. The next strategy will be hiding them in sausages, either of the real or vegetarian persuasion. (I think we'll start with veggie sausages.....) In terms of Sparkey's IV fluids, he's still tolerating the nightly infusion with only minimal protest and attempts to walk away while the needle sits in his scruff.

We keep talking to him, telling him we love him, and also reminding him that we'll support him when he chooses to leave us. While we understand that the time is coming and have our plans in place for his interment, the thought of his physical absence is still too much to bear, let alone having to actually put him in the earth. Death is never convenient, and we never feel like we can recover from a loss, but the truth is that we can recover to some degree, we always move on to whatever extent we are able, and the deceased become part of our personal firmament. He will always be our star, and these latter days are his swansong.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Time to Worry?

He really won't eat today. Mary spoon-fed him some meat from his bowl before we went out to meet some friends after work, but sometimes it seems that food just holds little interest---or at least the food at hand, that is. We're trying everything, but there are times when we must accept that no food will make it into him on our watch. Unfortunately, any food left out for Sparkey will just be scarfed up by Tina the Barrel on Sticks. What to do as Spark's ribs become more and more apparent?

Failing all else, I do what I must---force his pills down his gullet and poke him for the IV and tell him I love him dearly.......

Luckily, post-IV, Mary's trick works---he loves corn tortillas straight from the fridge with cheddar cheese and vegetarian lunch meat made from tofu. The carnivorous canine eats the fake meat ravenously. I should write the company....

And now we sleep.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Sensual World

Late Sunday afternoon, we took Sparkey to town for some sunshine and less home-based stimulation. Despite his failing health, I think this photo demonstrates not just his jutting ribs and very thin waist---it also shows his keen interest in the world around him and his intact ablility to still be aroused by his senses.

His continued engagement in the world, his ongoing sensual experiences while in physical form, and consistently bright eyes tell us that he's still very much alive and in the present. While he balks at swallowing his pills and can be quite squirmy if his IV takes too long, there's no indication that his enjoyment of life is waning.

Each day with him is a gift, and it reminds us that each day on this Earth is a gift as well, never to be squandered.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mid-Week Canine Life

As I become sleepier and sleepier here in the big easy chair in the living room, I remember that I still need to do Sparkey's IV. I think we're all tiring of it to some degree. But it's keeping Sparks alive so I'll be off to be Dog Nurse momentarily, sleepy or not.

Mary started her new job yesterday and the dogs both need to adjust to us both being gone all day long once again. They've been spoiled by having Mary home much more often for the last 20 months, and they now must spend more time entertaining themselves, or sleeping. Luckily, our dear friend David, who has a pet-care business, is coming to spend time with them every afternoon, taking the pups for a parambulation. David has access to our fridge, the laptop with high-speed internet, not to mention the fabulous screened-in porch and hammock! Not a bad gig, really.

But I digress. IV duty calls, and this nurse's work is not yet done....


Monday, May 01, 2006

For the love of doG

Bob B.D. Dog, (aka Sparkey)...God, we love this sweet creature who is the most sensitive human like yet dog-of-dogs dog!

The old Mister Sparkey has become rather picky in terms of his eating and has given up completely on dog food. Now he goes for real beef (which is hard for his human vegetarians to buy--and even harder to prepare but the guy has to eat). His all time fave is cheese quesadillas. i use the q's to get him to eat more protien and to add some needed carbos to his diet. (He has had it with rice in his meat, wont touch the stuff.)

Sparkey is taking his daily IV's okay, (thanks to Nurse KindKeith's skillful administering), but the meds-down-his-throat-routine is more and more of a battle every day.

The Sparko-matic seemed to love his farewell parties this weekend where much attention and treats were lavished upon him (see below!).

Our sweet, gentle, elderly Bob will, no doubt, let us know if he needs help transitioning. Meanwhile, there is more of life on earth to enjoy---his fun ain't over yet. "Life is still good", I can hear him say as he sniffs the air and wobbles down the trail.

Thank you, dear reader pal, for visiting this doggie blog we made for the old Sparks (and for us and for you).