Last September, I had a little brush with mortality. I had a routine colonoscopy, which found a mass that the surgeon said had to come out as quickly as possible. It turned out to be benign, but the whole event (including waiting for weeks for results of CT scans and biopsies) was pretty scary.
One of the things I told myself while mentally reviewing my life and health was that I really ought to take more vacations. It’s something my husband and I rarely do – but to get things off on the right foot, from my hospital bed post-surgery, I booked a trip to Maui for the following February. I thought, “Well, the issue in which we publish the dry dog food review will be behind me, and I can take a little time off.”
That was before my husband and I decided to start looking for a new house, one on a couple of acres outside the town we live in. Thanksgiving week, a perfect property (for us) came on the market and after some lightning-speed negotiations and a relatively quick escrow, we found ourselves with two mortgages, the dry dog food review to do, a move, and a lot of work to do to prepare our house in town for sale. I ignored as much as possible about the impending move as I could while working on the dry dog food review, and the day it shipped to the printer in early January, I started moving us. Even though we were moving only about four miles, it took pretty much all of January to move, and the first few weeks of February to clean and paint our soon-to-be-former home.
My husband and I found ourselves lamenting the fact that we had a vacation in Maui coming up. Oy! In the last two days before our trip, I was sweeping and scraping moss off the roof, and walking around touching up the paint inside the house, and my husband was repairing the sprinkler system that we hadn’t used for a couple of years, and doing some intensive gardening.
And of course, the night before we got on the plane I felt my throat tightening and my nose starting to run. I’m writing this post from Maui, where I am absolutely miserable with a cold (and probably making the rest of the family miserable with all my coughing and sniffing).
Well, I had intended to write a blog post for this week BEFORE I left and I never was able to, so I will use this space to update you on the dog-related aspects of our move:
I mentioned here that my 10-year-old dog Otto initially was not enjoying our new house one bit. It has tile and hardwood floors – both of which he regards as too slippery for safety. For the first few weeks in the house, he would walk with the utmost delicacy, panting with concentration and stress, and every so often, just stall out and freeze, like he just got to the end of an ice floe and had no more good options. He’s long had issues with slippery floors – or, I should say, floors he regards as slippery (most of them aren’t all that slippery; it’s in his head!). In our old house, we had to keep carpet runners in the long, narrow hall, which had Pergo floors. I put the runners to good use, making paths through the house for Otto to enter, eat, drink, and get to the sofa.
I also bought some sticky foot spray (which he didn’t mind but it didn’t change how he walked at all) and some of those balloon-style booties, which he minded so much it made things worse. I was also giving him lots of treat and happy talk for all his bravest attempts in navigation. I was getting around to ordering some of Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips, which we’ve featured in the magazine before, but thankfully, after about three weeks, he pretty much started walking like a normal dog in the areas where the carpet runners were. One by one, I removed the runners and voila! He’s managed to adjust, and can now walk around the house more or less normally – a little more carefully than Woody, but without the shaking and panting of the first week.
Otto was also traumatized in the early days by the security system in the house, which makes a beep every time a door or window is opened. No friend of electronic beeps, at first Otto panted every time he heard the beep. We haven’t yet tracked down the former owners to learn the security code that would allow us to discontinue the beeps, but again, fortunately, Otto adjusted. He realized that the beep signaled someone coming in or going out of doors, so now when the beep happens, he jumps up and runs to the door to see what’s up, and whether he can go outside.
Two-year-old Woody is the one who is THRILLED with the house. Every morning when I get up and let the dogs outside, he takes off at a swift gallop into the two-acre-field behind the house, running, it seems, for the sheer joy of running. Within the first minute, he will stop and pee, and then run over to a tree in the field that has a hollow trunk. He sniffs around its base, and stands on his hind legs to sniff the inside. There must be SOME animal living in there, or going in there on a regular basis.
He also has discovered gopher holes. We didn’t have gophers in town – like, NONE. But on this property, there are fresh mounds of dirt pushed up on the front lawn and in the back field daily. He is quick to spot the new ones, and will run over to give the mounds a couple of swift digs with his front paws, and SHOVE his nose down into the hole. He hasn’t seen a gopher yet, but I’m hopeful that he might be enlisted into some gopher control at some point.
Interestingly, Otto has zero interest in Woody’s excavations. He will take a casual sniff, and then step back, wagging his tail and looking like, “This kid is nuts!” He all but rolls his eyes when Woody starts digging.
Also interesting: The first year that I adopted Otto, he got skunked twice. The first was a direct hit that had Otto (and me!) gagging and coughing and pawing at his face. The next time he saw a skunk, he apparently approached it with more caution, because he received a light misting only of skunk spray. After that, I would sometimes hear him bark in the front (fenced) yard at night, and see a skunk family walking down the sidewalk – but he wouldn’t go anywhere NEAR the skunks. I was so proud! He was the only dog I’ve even known who seemed to learn his lesson about skunks!
Perhaps you noticed: “Was.”
About two weeks ago, I woke up one morning to a couple of puddles of vomit in the house. Both dogs seemed cheerful and wanted breakfast, and I was mystified as to who it was who might not have been feeling well. So, the next night, when Otto came (shakily) into my bedroom at about 3 am, whining to go outside, I thought, “Oh! It must have been Otto who isn’t feeling good!” I jumped up and scurried to let the dogs out. Woody did what he always does now, taking off into the back field for his usual fast lap. And Otto went, too, which is more unusual. After a minute, I whistled for the dogs. Woody came blasting up to me immediately, but Otto did not! I pride myself on Otto’s quick recall, and this was odd. I called into the black night: “Otto, HERE!” (our emergency recall cue).
The distinctive skunk odor arrived before Otto did, rubbing his face with his paws and sneezing. A direct hit, then – and no peroxide (a vital ingredient in the anti-skunk spray) was in the house. I was beside myself. What happened to my dog who knew better??
I didn’t want to let him into the house, nor the car, and my fences weren’t complete yet. So I locked him into a crate on the back deck, and drove to a 24-hour supermarket for several quarts of hydrogen peroxide. (The formula is a quart of 2% hydrogen peroxide to a quarter-cup of baking soda, with a squirt of dish soap stirred in to help the formula stick to the dog’s coat. You have to mix it fresh, in a bowl or bucket (because it fizzes, you can’t put it in a jar), and sponge or pour all over the dog, taking care not to get it into his eyes or nose (it stings). After he was covered with the formula and the odor knocked down, I took him into the shower for a bath, and then had to clean the bathroom given all the hair that flew around. It was about five am by the time I was done; I never did go back to bed.
So I’m being a lot more careful about letting the dogs out at night: no more fast laps of the back field, or disappearing into the dark. If you need to pee or even puke, I tell them, do it where I can see you!
Last update: My fences are going in while I’m sniffing and sneezing here in Hawaii. My sister, who is dog-sitting Otto while I’m gone, has been giving me daily reports about the progress. I will be so happy to allow Woody (especially) to stay outdoors for as long as he wants to dig up gophers or run laps around the field, without me having to watch him every moment, in case he follows a bird or squirrel onto the road. That might be the best part of this trip: Coming home to a (finally) secure private dog park, of sorts. That is, if I survive this cold! Wah!