Goofball

That completely describes Orso in one word. Ten years old and still a big dope that acts like a two-year-old puppy. He is the one dog I didn’t want. I didn’t want to go see him, I didn’t want to add another dog to the mix. We had two dogs at the time, AJ, our black lab, a super sweet beautiful dog with a steamer trunk full of issues and Charlie, our half breed, half chocolate lab and half German shorthair, who was animal aggressive and a bit unstable.

We had just gotten the two dogs settled into a routine and everyday life was going along fairly smoothly without any episodes for a while which was all I wanted, quiet and boring. Then one day Mitch came home and said that a coworker had a son who had a dog that he needed to get rid of. The dog was a nine-month-old chocolate lab, purportedly with papers and he wanted to “just go take a look see”. I said absolutely not, we had just gotten to a point in our lives that things were settled and quiet, the dogs were happy and content. I didn’t want to upset any balance in our lives.

I knew what would happen if we went. I knew without a doubt once I set eyes on a puppy he would be in the back of the station wagon headed home with us. That was why I fought it so hard and still I lost. We drove up and as soon as our car pulled into the driveway and this ninety-five pound brown clumsy puppy came bounding out of the garage I knew that it was last time that dog would ever sleep in that garage. We loaded him up and took him home. His name was Rebar, which I thought was a stupid name for a dog and that it was getting changed right away. I liked the word orso, which is Italian for bear, and I think it suits him just perfectly.

Orso has always been a big dumb beau hunk, falling over his feet and mine, getting in the way, knocking me down and always sporting a big goofy smile on his face. We didn’t get any papers as they were reportedly lost, so we had to take it on faith that he is actually a Labrador Retriever, though at the time we suspected there was a Saint Bernard lurking around in there because Orso was and still is one giant drool machine. He can sling drool as high as seven feet and with enough velocity to knock a fly out of the air if it gets in the way. He wasn’t much of a hunting dog, preferring to walk behind me and let me knock down the brush to clear a path for him. And as far as the term “Water Dog” goes, Orso would rather ride in a boat feeling the wind on his face than get wet swimming.

He got interested in birds, but instead of pheasants Orso prefers to flush robins, sparrows and his arch nemesis, crows. Out here crows are proliferate, with large numbers banding together to swoop down and walk around searching for food. It’s not unusual to see three or four crows walking around together just a few yards away from us. This makes Orso crazy that these large birds would totally dismiss him as irrelevant and not fly away. He has taken to stalking them on leash then at the right moment Orso will stand up on his hind legs and give them a loud woof to try and make them fly. Because that is so effective the birds fly a short distance then shout back at him.

He’s the one dog I didn’t want, he’s totally devoted to me and now I’m just as devoted to him. Yes, he’s a goofball but he’s my goofball.

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Second Guessing

I watched one of those videos you find on Facebook that have been shared by anyone. Granted there was a disclaimer on the video telling me to have a tissue handy, so I should have known. It was one of those animal videos about a dog being rescued by a man who happened to come upon a trash bag on the side of a creek. When the man looked in the bag, it held a yellow Labrador puppy that someone had cast into the creek to drown. The video spanned the puppy’s life growing up with the man, going to ocean to play in the ocean, the man getting married, having a family and getting older with the daughter.

The video showed how the dog was thankful for being rescued and the life he had with the man. The video then went to the dog being old and in pain asking for the man to end his life. In the video the dog was saying that he was happy with his life and was thankful the man was there and with him at the end, when he was being euthanized. I knew what was coming, (not real) just inferred in the video, but it hit home hard. Having had Charlie euthanized less than three months ago, I was a blubbering mess.

I wasn’t second guessing our decision because there was no other option for us, I was second guessing my decision not to be there with Charlie at the end. I couldn’t watch AJ our black lab be euthanized when he was diagnosed with a massive tumor in his chest and couldn’t watch Charlie either. Now I wonder if I took the cowards way out. Would it have been better for Charlie if I had stayed by his side to the end? I don’t know. Mitch tells me no, that he has done it and it was very hard to watch. I know he is protecting me, but I wonder now if I did Charlie a disservice by not being there for him at a time when he needed to know he was still loved so much.

I have had friends and acquaintances tell me it is so peaceful being there with their beloved friend at the end. I watched Buddy, our first lab die gasping for breath on our kitchen floor and it wasn’t peaceful at all, it was horrible not knowing what was wrong, not knowing what to do, then all of a sudden there was nothing, he lay there so still, I looked at Mitch not understanding he had died, hoping for a miracle. I admit I don’t handle death well; I know it happens, I know we need it, but I don’t want to see it happen. Maybe that makes me a coward or a sissy, I don’t know, but I hope that Charlie knows I loved him even though I wasn’t there at the end.

Charlie

I will preface this by saying I consider myself an animal lover. I would never intentionally hurt or abuse any animal for the pleasure of seeing something in pain. I think of myself as a good pet owner, or at least I try to be. Sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact right now I’m at an impasse as to what is a good pet owner.

We got Charlie when he was ten weeks old. He is the only dog we picked out as a puppy and purposely brought home to raise. His parents were proven bird hunting dogs, so Mitch figured that Charlie would inherit those traits and he did. Charlie has always had a great nose, searching out pheasants. His points are picture perfect and he’s never been leery of the retrieve. He’s a good hunter despite having us as pet owners. Now after eleven years he still has that hunting heart and soul.

What he doesn’t have any more is all of his facilities. He is suffering from Canine Dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction. There isn’t a lot of good information out there on Canine Dementia, but he’s not exhibiting most of the symptoms, loss of sight, hearing or incontinence. No, Charlie has become very aggressive. He has always been a bit unstable, stemming from being attacked by the dogs of a former neighbor twice when he was a puppy. Those two incidents pretty much set the tone for his animal aggression for the rest of his life. Now an explosive episode comes without warning or provocation.

In the last two months Charlie has attacked Orso three times just for being within five feet of him. On one occasion, Charlie went after Orso and I was between the two so Charlie bit me, not breaking the skin, but he left a large bruise and a knot on my thigh. Another incident happened with Orso walking in the door and Charlie went after him drawing blood and when Mitch tried to separate Charlie from Orso, Charlie went after Mitch. Mitch said that when he looked in Charlie’s eyes, he wasn’t there. His eyes were dilated and blank, no recognition, just rage. Two of the last three episodes have drawn blood.

We’ve tried Diazepam (doggie valium) but it doesn’t help much. I think we were hoping he would sleep through his days and be blissfully dopey. Instead we still have a dog that gives way to explosive violence and aggressive attacks aimed at Orso. It is so heartbreaking to watch our dog (crazy as he is) slip away and become replaced by an animal that is more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll. It is even more heartbreaking knowing that we can’t protect Orso, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, doesn’t deserve any of this and loves Charlie so much.

Since we don’t have a vet here yet, we don’t have anyone we trust to talk to about this and ask for guidance, we called our vet in Kansas City to discuss our options. Sadly there are few out there, and only for the short term. More Diazepam maybe but this is only going to get worse. We need to plan for an end of life solution. We know this and accept it, but following through and finding a vet here feels almost like an act of cowardice. We took him to raise and euthanasia feels like we are failing Charlie; that we should figure out a way to fix him. That is our hearts talking, our heads know better, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. It’s hard to even talk about it because to voice it and say the words, makes it real, and that means you have to make a decision.

I only hope that Charlie will sleep well and rest easy and know how much we have loved him his whole life. He was a good hunter, and loyal to a fault. A piece of my heart will go with him.

Anniversary

Today is my anniversary. It’s definitely a cause for celebration but at the same time I wish I didn’t have this anniversary to celebrate. Two years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I’m still taking a drug to keep any estrogen out of my body, but other than that and my six month checkups I am living my life as I did before cancer.

I want to shout it out loud, “I beat you Cancer! I beat you!” I want to spin around in circles with my arms wide and head tipped back in pure joy. Of course with my grace and balance I would fall down. But that’s not the point.

Today I want to eat cake and drink champagne for breakfast. I want to go shopping for something fun and frivolous. I want to get a manicure, pedicure and a massage. I want to sit on a beach and drink great wine and just watch the tide. Today I want to just have nothing on my schedule but fun.

Okay back to reality, today will be just like all of my other days, go to work, walk the dogs and hug Mitch (my rock). And most of all this is really perfect too, because I’m still here to do these things. I wake up every morning damn glad I’m alive and hope to stay that way for a long time.

Happy Anniversary to me.

Time to Exhale

Now the panic sets in. So much to do, so little time. Isn’t that always the case? We found out in January that the airline Mitch works for was going to start vendoring out twenty eight stations across the country. At that time it wasn’t defined yet whether or not United was going to vendor out both the above the wing and the below the wing employees in all twenty eight stations. The plan was to seek outside company bids in each of the cities affected and pay people to come in, load and unload planes, work the ticket counter and gate for wages ranging from a third less to half of what the airline employees are currently making. Such “good” news right after Christmas was definitely not well received.

My first instinct at hearing the news was to go into survival mode, cancel the paper, cancel cable, sell almost everything we own and eat only every other day. After a couple of days I calmed down enough to realize that I might be over reacting just a bit, we could probably eat most every day. The waiting game started, which stations were for sure going to be vendored out, and was it going to be both upstairs and down or just one side? Rumors started flying, so we didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. Were the employees affected going to get any type of severance pay or was it going to be “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

Word came out in February that our station was going to be one of the twenty eight stations hit and it was going to be the ramp agents going away. The next step was the options selections. The airline was going to open up the unaffected stations to allow agents to transfer to granted they held enough seniority to move there. There was also the option to retire and take an enhanced severance pay, if the agent met a myriad of requirements, age, length of service, etc. If none of the above fit then there was always furlough with recall rights. Yeah right, first they’re told to hit the road and then they might get called back.

Finally April 10th the airline published the list of cities that were available for the agents to bid on to relocate to if that was their choice or severance or furlough. Those choices were required to be turned back in no later than April 14th. Then the airline promised to return the result of each agent’s choice on April 24th. We actually received our notice on Thursday the 23rd that Mitch will go to Seattle. He has to report on May 17th, not much time.

That was when I started “The Mitch List”, all the projects that I cannot physically do, like finish the trim work, hang the last pieces of sheetrock in the kitchen, install three sheets of plywood on the outside of the garage so I can have it sided to match the house. Then it’s all up to me to do the finish work in and around the house so I can get it on the market and sold soon.

Can you imagine what lies ahead? There is so much stuff to go through and get rid of, landscaping, and just the prettying up so it will look nice for potential buyers. I’m just really glad I have a well-stocked wine rack, because I’m going to need it.

Do You Want Some Cheese with that Whine?

Sometimes Mitch can be such a whiner! I mean really, come on. Saturday morning is our weekly errand day, Sam’s Club, grocery store, Walmart, Petco, etc. Plus I wanted to get five or six bags of garden soil to add to one of my raised beds so I could get my potatoes planted. We started off on our errand run with the first stop Sam’s Club.

Sam’s Club is for detergent, paper towels, supersize bottle of olive oil, etc. The grocery store for regular stuff, eggs, dairy, fresh produce, etc. that’s how our Saturday mornings go, exciting huh?

Mitch grabbed a cart and as we headed into the store I saw a large pallet of forty pound bags of garden soil for less than six dollars a bag, bargain! I walked over to the stack of bags and told Mitch that I wanted to get the dirt here. He looked at me like I was speaking in tongues or something. He repeated back at me, “You want to buy it here?”

I said, “Yes it’s a great buy!”

“How many were you planning on getting?” He looked at me with an irritated expression.

“I don’t know, maybe four or five,” I reduced the number after getting “The Look”.

He reached up and grabbed a bag off the top about five feet high and turned around to the cart and put the bag in the cart. He turned back and grabbed another bag, still giving me “The Look”. After he placed the fourth bag in the cart I said, “That’s enough, I think four will be good.” Again with “The Look”. I was starting to get a complex.

We finished up at Sam’s, paid and headed to the car to unload the cart. When we started unloading the bags of dirt from the cart Mitch had to bend over to reach into the cart to lift the bags out of the cart then place each bag in the back of the station wagon. Again I got “The Look” as he lifted each bag out of the cart and into the car. I thought, boy this is going to be a long morning. As we drove away headed toward the grocery store I tried to make conversation.

I said, “I think four bags of dirt will be enough.”

He turned to look at me and said, “It’s never enough. I know better, it’s never enough. I couldn’t believe you wanted me to put those bags in the cart, a grocery cart, not the flat push cart perfect for forty pound bags of dirt, not a grocery cart. One that I had to lift up and over and down into, a regular grocery cart.”

“Well I didn’t plan on getting the dirt there, it just happened to be there and cheap, so I thought why not. You should have said something; I would have gone and gotten you a big boy cart.” That’s when I really got “The Look”.

What a whiner, four bags forty pounds each, that’s one hundred sixty pounds, but it’s not like he had to lift all one hundred sixty pounds at once. One hundred sixty pounds into the cart, one hundred sixty pounds out of the cart and into the car, one hundred sixty pounds out of the car and carried to the backyard. It was only forty pounds times four into the cart, forty pounds times four out of the cart and into the car, forty pounds times four trips out of the car and carried into the backyard. He-man wouldn’t have a problem.

The only reason I was forgiven was that the dirt was for potatoes and I only plant potatoes for Mitch. It was all for him, really.

I Can Not Believe He Did That!

Let me preface this story first with a little background. Everyone knows our work schedule and routine is a little wacky. Mitch gets up to go to work very early in the morning and in order to spend more time together I take him to work then pick him up on my lunch hour to take him home, I then go back to work and finish my work day. When things at work are crazy as they seem to be these days and I can’t take him home, I’ll have him drop me back off at work then Mitch will come back and pick me up at 4pm. He brings the dogs and lets them run around in the field next to the building before I get off.

This week has been super crazy so Mitch has been picking me up after work every day. The dogs are always so excited when they see me walking across the parking lot that they come running full bore to meet me. I’m always watchful for any unsuspecting coworker coming out at the same time in order to not let the dogs terrorize anyone else. Orso is always especially excited and will run around me in circles standing up and barking to let me know just how awesome his day has been.

Yesterday he came running up to me excited as usual and I played it up encouraging him a bit by starting to run with him to the car. Orso thought that this was a great new game and began running along with me barking and raising up on his back legs. That should have been my first clue. Things were about to go horribly wrong. He then turned toward me and bit my left thigh. I could not believe he did that. I stopped and looked at him then looked at my pants searching for the hole because as much as it hurt I figured his teeth had to have gone through the pants.

I walked up to Mitch and said, “He bit me. He just turned in and bit my thigh!”

Mitch started laughing and said, “No he just grabbed you. He’s happy to see you.”

“When a mouth opens and teeth come together in a firm manner that’s called a bite! He didn’t grab me he bit me!” To which Mitch just laughed more. I wanted to reach over and bite him.

After we got home, I changed out of my work clothes and into my sweats and checked my thigh, sure enough there was a bruise already popping up. I’m not sure who I want to bite more, Orso or Mitch, because right now it’s a toss up.