dogs, memories, obits

A year without Zane…

We had kind of a scary day yesterday. Our dog, Arran, didn’t seem to be feeling very well. He had a tragic look on his face, seemed to have trouble jumping, and when I touched his back, he yelped in pain. Arran is ten or eleven years old. He’s always been very healthy, but he’s not getting any younger. We also had a rather active weekend. He got walks and went with us to our visit to a winery on Friday night, as well as a day trip to Kallstadt, which is where Donald Trump’s grandparents were from.

Bill was worried enough about Arran yesterday that he took him to Tierklinik Hofheim, which is a really high speed veterinary facility near us. Our former vet down near Stuttgart told me, back when I was struggling with our other dog, Zane, that Tierklinik Hofheim is one of the best veterinary hospitals in Germany. I used to worry about how I would get Zane there, if he needed their services. It’s a good three hour drive from where we used to live. Now, we only live about twenty minutes from Hofheim, and about a year ago, Bill took Zane there and got the devastating confirmation that he had canine lymphoma.

We had hoped for one last month with Zane, but he was gone a week after our regular vet told us she suspected the disease. August 31, 2019 was a sunny, hot day. We found Zane that morning, exhausted and curiously bloated. It turned out he was bleeding internally from a ruptured tumor in his spleen. By noon, we had said goodbye to him. It was very sad for Bill and me, but as dog deaths go, particularly from cancer, it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. Zane had a good last week. He was able to eat, bask in the sunshine, and even take a couple of walks.

We have now lost three dogs to canine cancer. Zane’s death, while certainly not easy, was much kinder than the deaths of his three predecessors. Our first rescue died of a very rare mycobacterial infection that required special testing by the Virginia Department of Health. Our second had prostate cancer. Our third, wonderful MacGregor, died of a spinal tumor. All three of those dogs endured excruciating pain that was barely touched by pain medications before we helped them to the Rainbow Bridge. I did not get the sense that Zane suffered pain as much as he did exhaustion and discomfort.

It was a terrible shock to lose Zane so quickly after finding out how sick he was. Zane was always a very special dog to me. I’ve loved every dog we’ve had, but Zane and I had an incredible bond. He was like a ray of sunshine most days… always friendly, mostly laid back, often hilarious, and happy almost all the time. He loved to play games and had a comical side to him. He also loved to snuggle, especially in my lap, and he loved running and playing, even though he was kind of fragile and needed a lot of veterinary care over his almost eleven year lifespan.

This is all Zane.

I usually get a new dog about a month after losing one, but this time, it’s taken a lot longer for a lot of reasons. We tried to adopt a new dog a few months ago, but he escaped before he managed to come into our home. I knew he was doomed as I watched him run away. We live close to two Autobahns, and the new dog, who was from Sardinia and apparently not very socialized, didn’t know us. Sure enough, he was killed before twenty-four hours had passed.

Bill and I are now expecting to bring a new dog into our home in about a month. The new dog is from Kosovo and, for now, is known as Noizy. I’m not sure if we will change his name. I don’t always change my dogs’ names when I get them. It depends on how fitting they are to their personalities. I have heard that Noizy isn’t actually very loud, either. Anyway… I expect Noizy will also be special because all dogs are in some way. I have yet to regret adopting a dog. Even the one we tried to adopt in March ended up doing something positive.

First off, the lady who runs the Tierpension where we board our dogs when we take trips thought of Bill and me when a German family “dumped” an elderly cocker spaniel named Maxl. Maxl’s human “dad” had died, and his “mom” was unable to take care of him. Family members brought him to the Tierpension and asked the staff to help them rehome him. Maxl had some health issues that were neglected, plus he’s about twelve years old. A couple tried to take him, but Maxl was too “stinky” and, for whatever reason, they decided not to take him to a vet but, instead, brought him back to the Tierpension.

Since Bill and I had already committed to taking in Noizy and I know that Noizy will probably cause angst for Arran, we declined to take Maxl. However, I did share Maxl’s information in one of several Facebook groups I joined because of the dog that escaped. I had been wanting to spread the word and ended up staying in the groups. A group member in the Pets of Wiesbaden group decided she could take in Maxl, and within a couple of days, he was in his new home. If not for the dog who got away, I probably never would have joined that Facebook group because my experiences with Facebook groups in Stuttgart had kind of soured me on them– especially the ones affiliated with the U.S. military.

And secondly, there’s Noizy, who’s about two years old and was found wandering the streets of Kosovo when he was a small puppy. He’s missing most of his tail and part of an ear. His rescuer thinks maybe some kids mutilated him. I haven’t met Noizy in person yet, but I’ve seen many pictures and videos. I have a feeling we’re going to get along fine, although Arran may not be too happy to have to share us with a new friend.

As for Arran… he seems somewhat better today. We are going to take him to the vet. He’s due for a checkup anyway, and we’re going to update some vaccines that we stopped giving after he had a mast cell tumor. Zane also had mast cell cancer and that was probably what led to the lymphoma, but Zane’s mast cell cancer was much worse and more active than Arran’s was. Arran just had one lone tiny tumor that was low grade. That was five years ago, and he’s not had another since. Zane, on the other hand, had lots of lumps and some systemic involvement. He held on for three years until lymphoma took him– lymphoma often strikes dogs who have had mast cell tumors. It’s not recommended to give vaccines to dogs who have had mast cell cancer, although we have kept giving the rabies vaccine because it’s the law. Since both dogs had mast cell tumors, we stopped most vaccines for both of them. Arran hasn’t had another tumor, so he’s probably alright to get boosters now.

I still think about Zane every day. The house has seemed kind of empty with just one dog around, although it’s also been peaceful and Arran has kind of morphed into a better behaved dog. But Arran is mostly Bill’s dog. Bill is Arran’s favorite person, even though Arran does his best to pay attention to both of us. All you have to do is look at the many photos I’ve posted of Arran and his habit of worshipping Bill every day. I don’t need to be worshipped… neither does Bill… but it would be nice to have a dog of my own to snuggle while Arran basks in his love for his “daddy”.

Hopefully, Noizy will like me as much as Zane did.

Anyway… for those who are curious, here are a couple of videos I made to remember Zane. They show his progression from adorable “teenaged” pup, who was originally named Einstein and fresh from Atlanta Beagle Rescue, to venerable old man living in Germany and acting like a brilliant canine ambassador. We were very privileged to know him and have him in our lives from December 13, 2009 until August 31, 2019. Sometimes, it even feels like he’s still hanging around.

dogs, obits

Goodbye, sweet Zane…

The past week has been a mixture of sad, surreal, and sublime. A week ago, we found out our dog Zane probably had lymphoma. I wasn’t too surprised when I heard the news. I had noticed slightly swollen lymph nodes under his jaw and feared as much. But then, everything I read about lymphoma in dogs led me to believe that the nodes would be much larger than they were. I looked at Zane’s teeth and thought maybe it was a dental problem. One side felt larger than the other. I asked Bill to take him to the vet, hoping the swollen nodes were something minor, but kind of knowing deep down that they wouldn’t be.

The vet had told us to take him to a local high speed practice where they could confirm what was wrong with him. Maybe chemo would be an option. Bill was only able to arrange an oncology appointment for September 20th. I knew he’d be long dead by then when Zane couldn’t open his eyes on Monday night. Bill took him to the high speed vet, which also has an emergency department. The vet aspirated Zane’s lymph nodes and it was clear that he had lymphoma. We started him on Prednisolone, and he got a few good days. I got a lot of pictures of Zane this past week, knowing that they’d be the last ones I’ll have of him. Even yesterday, I got a beautiful shot of Zane enjoying the sunshine in the backyard. We even managed to take a couple of walks this week. He went his full route on Thursday.

Yesterday, I could see that he was getting more and more exhausted. He still wanted to eat his favorite treats, but he spent all day lying on his side, sleeping. This morning, it became clear that it was time to let him go. He was trying to stand up and had managed to raise his haunches, but was too exhausted to get up the rest of the way. I also noticed a puddle of urine by the fireplace. Zane had kindly done it on the tiles instead of the floor, but it was the first time he had had an accident like that in many years. I looked at Bill and said, “Today’s the day.”

We took him to the vet at 11:45am and by noon, he was on the table, licking some liverwurst paste. The vet, Dr. Glenn, was very kind and compassionate as she drew his blood. She could see that his belly was full of blood. She said she thought maybe his spleen had ruptured, and that it was good that we brought him in today. It’s unlikely he would have survived the night.

Zane went quickly and peacefully. Bill held onto him as the drug took effect, feeling his heart’s last beats. Bill always does this when we lose our dogs. I stroked Zane’s head and told him to go see MacGregor at the Rainbow Bridge. We told the vet about Zane after he had passed, how we adopted him from Atlanta Beagle Rescue after we lost our dog, Flea. He was the very best. He was the most wonderful, loving, kooky beagle ever, who always tried so hard to be good. I will never, ever forget him.

My sweet beagle is gone…

I’ve made a video to remember the best parts of the past ten years with Zane. Every dog we’ve had has been wonderful, but I think Zane will go down as one of the most special canine angels to ever grace my life with his presence. It was a joy and a privilege to rescue Zane… and I think he returned the favor one hundred fold. When I’ve had more time to process this, I’ll write more about how much he mattered to me and how much I’m going to miss him. For now, I’ll just say I’m glad the suffering is over for him, but it will be awhile before my heart heals.


Head cheese…

Zane deteriorated a bit yesterday, so Bill took him to the emergency vet. Earlier in the day, he tried to make an appointment with their oncology department, but nothing is open until September 20th. He made the appointment, but I don’t think Zane will still be with us at that time. This disease is moving very quickly. Two days ago, he looked more or less normal. But by yesterday afternoon, his lymph nodes had swollen to the point at which he could barely open his eyes. He spent most of the day lying on his side, not seeming to be in pain, but just very exhausted. Still, when Bill got home, he managed to come downstairs to greet him.

The emergency vet aspirated Zane’s lymph nodes and showed Bill the cancer, which at this point, he really didn’t need to do. It looks like he’s at least stage four. We aren’t looking for any miracles. We just want him to be comfortable for whatever time he has left. So the vet gave Zane a shot of prednisone, and by the time dinner was ready, he was loudly begging for chicken after not having really eaten all day.

He could barely open his eyes last night, but he still begged for chicken. The vet thinks it’s because of his swollen lymph nodes. Hopefully, the prednisone will give him some temporary relief.

Then this morning, he didn’t want his usual homemade chicken food (which he normally likes), but when Bill opened up a can of German head cheese, he was all over it. He got his prednisone in the head cheese this morning.

I don’t like to give dogs prednisone, because there are nasty side effects. It makes them very hungry and thirsty and they have to pee incessantly. The nice thing about our current house is that we have a fenced yard, so Zane can go out at will. When our last dog, MacGregor, was sick and on prednisone in 2012, we had to take him outside on a leash. Actually, we had to carry him, because he couldn’t walk very well. Zane is still mobile. He’s just very, very lethargic.

I think we’ll probably say goodbye to him in a few days. It will shatter my heart. Seeing him like this breaks my heart. He’s an absolute angel of a dog– the sweetest, gentlest, friendliest, and most loving dog ever. We named him after Zane Lamprey, the comedian, because he has sort of a wiseacre personality. But besides being comical, Zane is also just a lovely creature. I would love to have his personality. He always tries to be good, even when he “punks” Arran to get him out of his favorite napping spots. He never causes trouble, or, at least he never did once he got past the destructive puppy phase. And he’s just a delightful dog. I am really going to miss him with all of my heart.

Just two days ago, Zane took a walk around the neighborhood and rolled in a field. He was eating well until Saturday. It’s astonishing to see cancer go to town like this, although in some ways, I think the speed is a kindness. Our two dogs prior to Zane both had cancer and it took longer and was a lot more painful for both of them.

Flea, Zane’s predecessor, had prostate cancer that took his life four months after diagnosis. It was pretty awful to watch the destruction at the end, although Flea was a real fighter. He hadn’t wanted to die, even when it was clear that it was best. MacGregor didn’t fight death, but his cancer was excruciating because it was a very aggressive spinal tumor that was invading his spinal column. It took an MRI to discover it, and it was nasty.

I have yet to hear Zane yelp in pain, the way I did with both Flea and MacGregor. He just sleeps and occasionally goes out to pee. Yesterday, he made his way around the house in different corners, finally venturing out to the backyard and its sunshine. As cancer deaths go, this doesn’t seem too bad. We won’t let it get much worse. I will not keep him alive for myself. I’m grateful that he’s been able to eat, sleep, and exercise up until the bitter end. I’m happy that I can still pet him, kiss him, and love on him without causing him extreme pain. With both Flea and MacGregor, we were denied that comfort at the end.

So… we’ll see what the prednisone does. I don’t expect much from it. If it perks him up for a few days, that’s a good thing. But if it doesn’t help, we’re prepared to let him go to the Rainbow Bridge, where he can see his old friend/bagel daddy MacGregor. I know the Rainbow Bridge is a figment of imagination, but it comforts me to imagine it… and every single dog I’ve lost has communicated to me in dreams to let me know they’re okay. Maybe it’s just my mind protecting me, but it makes me feel better. And when we’re ready, there will be room for another dog who needs a home.


Awful weekend…

I won’t go too much into it because some of what made it so awful is private. But aside from the private business that made the weekend suck, we learned that our dog, Zane, likely has lymphoma. Bill took him to the vet and told her about his history with mast cell cancer. Many dogs who have had mast cell disease go on to have lymphoma. The symptoms match, too. He has swollen lymph nodes, drinks a lot of water, and is very lethargic.

Bill is going to try to get him an appointment at the nearby veterinary speciality clinic so they can do more testing, but I’m pretty sure the vet is correct in her diagnosis and we won’t have him for much longer. Even if we tried chemo, which might be too onerous and expensive, especially considering that he’s almost 11 years old, the cancer would eventually come back if he went into remission. I am more inclined to keep him comfortable. Maybe try prednisone.

Zane is a very special dog. We got him in December 2009, when he was about a year old, a few months after we moved to Atlanta from Stuttgart. We had just lost our beagle, Flea, a month prior. He’d had prostate cancer, which was pure hell for all of us. I saw Zane on Atlanta Beagle Rescue’s page and something about him spoke to me. I turned out to be right. Zane has been my best buddy for almost ten years.

Zane as a baby in Georgia. He was so cute. This was taken the day we got him in December 2009.

From the beginning, Zane was a sweet, affectionate, funny dog. He was originally named Einstein; his owner had bought him at Petland and found he was “too expensive” (although really, I think he was just too much for her to take care of– he was in the middle of his teen phase when we got him, chewing up everything). It took about six months before Zane became a good canine citizen, but he turned out to be a wonderful dog and devoted friend. His only vice was that when he was younger, he liked to sneak out of the house and force us to chase him. But although that habit scared the shit out of me, he would always stay in sight and eventually let us catch him. It’s been awhile since his last escape.

Aside from his occasional escapes and wild goose chases, he’s mostly a perfect gentleman and tries so hard to be good. It’s breaking my heart that he’s sick, but even in sickness, he’s noble and aristocratic. I adore him. When he was a puppy, he had a hilariously adorable habit of jumping straight up in the air whenever he was startled. He lost that habit as he matured, but it was so cute that it spawned his nickname, “Zaneykins”. Yes… I know, it’s a stupid, cutesy pet name, but it seems to fit, even today.

So all weekend, I’ve been worrying about Zane. He doesn’t seem to be in any pain right now, but he’s clearly exhausted. I fear he doesn’t have much time, especially if it is lymphoma. Even with treatment, lymphoma is pretty deadly if it isn’t caught early. Our other dog, Arran, has been right by my side all weekend, because he knows I’m upset.

Yesterday… when Zane had a moment of clarity.

So… I’m trying to stay calm, attentive, and loving to Zane. We’ll see what the vet says, but I am preparing myself for what seems inevitable. Soon, we’ll probably be a family of three. I know this is the way of things… but I am truly heartbroken about it. And I’m also angry about the private business I can’t yet discuss. I’ll just say that I think it’s a shame that some people are much more interested in money than they are other people… and will harass and stoop to ridiculously low levels of dishonesty and character assassination to get other people’s money.

But… this too will pass.


Misterjaw Flea…

Yesterday, after dinner, Bill and I decided to take the dogs for a walk. The weather was beautiful. It was sunny, but not too hot, and there was a pleasant breeze. This time of year, the sun doesn’t go down until well after 10:00pm, so we had plenty of daylight. The dogs were delighted to have both of us walking them. Nowadays, that’s a rare treat for them.

As we were walking, we started talking about dogs of the past. I’ve loved all of them, but probably my favorite of the lot was Flea. We got Flea in November 2003, about a month after we lost our very first beagle mix, CuCullain (CC). On October 12, 2003, CC died of a nasty mycobacterial infection. They are exceedingly rare in dogs and our vet had never before seen a case of it in her long career. We ended up taking CC to a speciality hospital in northern Virginia, where we spent a couple of thousand bucks we didn’t have to find out that the situation was hopeless. We’d only had CC for sixteen months and we were devastated to lose him. He was part husky and had beautiful blue eyes.

CuCullain… our first rescue. He was a great dog, but we didn’t have him long enough.

Flea was everything CC was not. Feisty, temperamental, loudmouthed, and vain, everyone in the neighborhood knew him and where he lived. CC, by contrast, was known for being sweet, quiet, gentle, and having startlingly blue eyes. CC also used to shed like a husky.

Of the five dogs we’ve rescued so far, Flea was the closest to being 100 percent beagle. He was someone’s hunting dog before he was rescued, half-starved, afflicted with Lyme Disease and heartworms, and covered in fleas and ticks. A lady spotted him standing on the side of a road in Chester, Virginia. She picked him up– actually, Flea was very good at hitchhiking, and he was gorgeous and charming. The lady nursed him back to health, though she neglected to have both parts of his heartworm treatment done.

Flea and MacGregor in 2oo8. MacG is the one looking at the camera. Flea hated having his picture taken.

When we went to Richmond to pick up Flea– she had named him Fleagle after the Banana Splits’ beagle– he was obviously trying to overtake her busy household. Although he was much smaller than her other dogs, he would regularly challenge her large male shepherd. He adored the lady’s toddler aged son. We took Flea for a walk/test drive, and he surprised us with his energy and boldness. His rescuer told us he needed to be “top dog”, and live somewhere where he could “be a star”. She was definitely right about that. Flea was the smallest of our dogs, but he was also the most alpha. Sometimes I wonder how Arran would have reacted to Flea. I think Flea would have kicked his ass. One of our former vets hated Flea’s name and said we should change it, but I think it actually suited him perfectly. He was just cool enough to pull it off.

MacGregor was an adorable puppy when we brought him home to keep Flea company. Flea terrorized him at first, but then they became best friends.

Flea was a bit blue when he became our dog. He liked having other dogs around, and got really bad separation anxiety when he was alone or not the center of attention. He also missed the little boy. He would have loved it if we’d had a son for him to play with. Flea loved kids– especially boys. I remember he would bugle for me if I so much as left his sight. After a few months with us, we had him tested for heartworms again and learned that he was never fully treated for the disease. We got him healthier, then picked up our dog, MacGregor, who is probably Bill’s “special” dog– although Arran runs a close second. Once we had MacGregor, Flea totally changed. MacGregor was perfectly happy to be second banana, and that was just what Flea needed. Once he had a sidekick, he was a lot less anxious about being left alone. He turned into a great family dog who was super protective of me and also liked to play canine pranks.

As we were walking last night, Bill chuckled and said, “I remember when Flea used to purposely sneak up behind you and startle you.”

It’s true. Flea was just like Misterjaw… “Gotcha!”

Flea had the personality of a shark. He liked to sneak up behind me and scare me out of my wits! This episode is actually not unlike Flea’s story, only Flea was a dog rather than a shark.

I’d be sitting at my computer, hard at work writing something. He’d saunter into my office, silent as a church mouse. He’d sit down and watch me for a minute. Then, just when I was in the middle of a thought, oblivious to his presence, he’d let out a sharp yelp. I’d jump, then turn around to give him a dirty look and a sharp word. Bill watched him do this many times in the six years we had Flea. He thought it was a riot. I’m sure Flea was amused, too.

In the summer of 2009, Flea was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We were living in Germany and our former vet in Herrenberg– same one who treated Zane and Arran for the past four years– told Bill that Flea had cancer. We took him to Stuttgart, where they did an ultrasound and x-ray that confirmed the presence of cancer. It was July. Ever since then, I’ve kind of hated July. It seems like the worst things happen in July. I’m always relieved when July is over, and I generally dread its onset, even though July is also the month my dear husband came into the world in 1964. It’s also the month in which Bill will become a grandfather again, when his daughter has her baby girl. She chose July 9th to be induced… the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death.

A couple of days before we lost Flea to cancer. We lived in Georgia. MacGregor was standing guard. Three years later, Zane would do the same for MacGregor when spinal cancer overtook his body.

We managed to keep Flea going for another four months after he was diagnosed with cancer. He made it back to the United States with us and died on November 18, 2009, two days after our wedding anniversary. The night before we had him put down, he’d lost the ability to walk. Even still, he didn’t want to die and made it very clear to us, although it was obvious he would not live much longer as the cancer turned him into a skeletal version of himself. Of the dogs we’ve had euthanized, Flea took the longest to give in. I was beside myself with grief when we lost him. He was such a little character– full of self-confidence and spunk. He reminded me of a canine version of George Jefferson. Flea was also instrumental in our getting to know our neighbors in our first German neighborhood, when he fell in love with the next door neighbor’s little boy, Robin.

Flea only visits me in my dreams now, with the occasional “Gotcha!” Flea’s successor, Zane was born exactly one year prior to the day we lost Flea. He’s going to be eleven years old this year. I worry about him all the time, especially as he gets lumpier. There are times when I would swear Flea jumped into his body to visit us down here on Earth. I feel the same way about Arran, who sometimes behaves a bit like MacGregor used to. So far, both of our dogs have had mast cell tumors, but they’re both plucky and fun loving. Zane isn’t quite as spunky as he used to be, but his eyes are bright, his coat is shiny, and he still loves to take walks. And sometimes, when he’s feeling especially jaunty, he’ll sneak up behind me and bark “Gotcha!”, just like ol’ Flea used to, back in the day.