Sam Update: We’re Getting Old, Mom

This is more a family post, and of course by “family” I mean “people I’d hug in an airport after having not seen them in a while” or “people I’d give a jovial pat on the back to – of course, from a respectable distance. You know, the ones I’d still have cocktails with while trying to dust the cobwebs out of my memory ‘how is… oh, you know…  him? That guy you’ve lived with for like 15 years'” (aka my “close” friends).  (To my friends: I totally know the names of your significant others except that one friend who switches them out so much that I can’t keep track; I’m just too old  – in your case, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve named the guy of the moment “Jeff” – seems generic enough, and I’m sure .01% of the time I might be right.)

Anyway, the rest of you are welcome to stay (who knows, one day I might hug you in an airport), but the post may get boring in bits.  For the rest of you, particularly Drew (Sam’s favorite long distance uncle), here’s the update:

After surviving 7 years of kitty trauma, a new beast has entered the house.  The smallish ball of fluff and claws goes by Quincy and appears to be easily amused by round things, tubey things, sproingy things, and all things Sam.  Sam is the best!!! Sam would like you to know that despite Quincy’s best efforts to extend the olive branch of friendship (which usually comes in the form of tail batting and Quincy desperately trying to rub his head against her chin) that she is onto his clever ploys and not having it!  Sam has explained in her disgruntled old lady way, on more than one occasion, that she’s wise to Quincy’s motives. He’s a cat. Sam would also like it noted that all of the food is Sam’s – Quincy’s food, the human’s food, food that may not be readily visible or in the house, food that may be a chef’s pipe dream – that’s all hers – move along.  The joys of a furry kingdom.

The not as fun bits – Sam is almost 13 years old, and as all the other pet owners at the vet who ask Sam’s age like to point out as they sigh dramatically, she’s practically at death’s door.  At Monday’s appointment a woman cheerily offered, “well, my friend’s beagle is 17 – of course, she’s blind and miserable – oh hey, good luck at your appointment!” Jay would say at this point, “that’s not exactly what she said,” but I have a blog, and well that was my take away.  Sam was at the vet Monday, because the previous week she had become somewhat listless – she’d completely stopped her peppy runs to get food, or to get snacks, or to see what we were up to (just in case food was involved – paws crossed – hey, she’s a hound).  Instead she walked slowly, face and ears drooped, and tail down. Normally, when she’s slowed down it’s due to a flare up of her arthritis (after two CCL surgeries she has arthritis in her knees as well as her hips and shoulders). I scheduled an appointment so we could get her pain managed – hooray for anti-inflammatories. However, right before we were about to take her in she staggered across the room, her legs went out from under her and she fell; this was a new symptom that was heartbreaking to see.  We arrived at the vet carrying her in a blanket as she shook uncontrollably completely unable to walk.

After her examination, which involved me having to jump in with things like “she had Horner’s Syndrome in both sides of her face, which is why she’s not blinking as quickly for your eye test” and “she’s had surgeries on both her knees, and has arthritis which is why she taking a moment to recover from her paw being folded over,” the vet came back with her diagnosis. The long and short of it is that Sam injured her neck. We’re not sure how, and the vet couldn’t tell us  if she had a spinal injury, a pinched nerve, or if it was muscle strain.  The vet said “to x-ray her I’d need to sedate her and with her kidney issues (she’s old) I’d rather avoid it since what I’m going to recommend is the exact same thing we’d end up doing regardless of what the x-ray showed.  This “exact same thing” equals more meds (steroids, muscle relaxers, and generic Pepcid to keep everything down), cold compresses on her neck, and neck massages.  All of this is added on top of her old lady meds of glucosamine, fish oil, kidney meds, and pain killers.

Sam’s current (daunting) daily med regimen – everything on the top row is just a normal day (minus the AAA batteries). The bottom row represents new additions. Note: “acid” is actually “antacid” – we’re not quite that cruel.

The hardest thing is watching as she tries to get around – she stumbles, her paws cross awkwardly in front of each other as she does her best to remain balanced. Then there are the falls.  She’ll be fine, and then she’ll go over.  Thankfully, she prefers to lay down. The second hardest is her appetite.  She’s a hound! Sure, your dog may have an appetite – that’s cute, but you clearly haven’t met a hound.  Hounds are stomachs with legs and a nose. The vet warned before we left, “these steroids will make her hungrier than usual and extremely thirsty”.  I thought, “ugh, a perfect beagle storm”.  Sam will gladly recount the 2,685+ days that she’s been famished. Hey, what does it take to get some food up in this place?  It turns out the new meds not only have not made her more hungry (that would be too easy), they’ve made it so she now has a strong distaste for all of her food.  This includes all of the pill pockets we typically use to hide away the 100 pills she must ingest daily.  Carrots, which were something we might kill a new kitten over a week ago, are disgusting.  Food that had to be delivered in a slow feed bowl – disgusting.  Green beans, which we loved – disgusting.  In fact, she’s a little curious as to why we seem hell bent on insulting her with this garbage.  Attempts to hide pills in peanut butter (which we loved, but now hate), cheese (which is fine, I suppose, but only if flat and not in a ball which might be secreting a pill), or the Kong bacon/cheese whiz stuff (which used to be super delicious) are met with contempt and a firm patooey.   (Patooey’s always end with a happy wag that says, “you can’t fool me with your poisons! Silly mom!”) Then a light went off, “hey wait a minute, I can pill a 29 lb. dog”.  I mean, I’ve pilled cats and Sam is a lot easier than any of our cats.  Great thought.  Points to me for having it – oh sweet, delightful hubris – but you see when it comes to a neck injury, you can’t get that throat into the ideal position for pilling.  One small whimper reminded me, and we’ve been pilling as a last resort in the least ideal of neck positions.  Least ideal neck positions equal more patooey’s and some unnecessary hurtful comments about the less than ideal flavor of my fingers. Thank God for hot dogs, which still do the trick (most of the time).  As for food, we’ve also discovered that boiled chicken (YUMMMMMY!!!) and rice (meh) work.  They can also be blended, along with glucosamine, into a lovely paste.  How I miss the days I could simply put the glucosamine pill on the floor and it would be lapped up with a wag and a happy, “what else you got?” look.

As of today, nearly a week out from the vet visit, Sam is walking better, wagging more, and even trotting – maybe not as steadily as she can, but it’s a huge improvement since Monday.  Quincy has seen Sam’s injury as a real opportunity to become best buds,.  Proper bonding involves leaping out at her while she’s trying to get some rest, flopping down and rolling on his back in her path, extra sniffs, and sticking his head in her bowl while she’s eating (and not getting yelled at – at least not by Sam).  This is a super exciting time, and he figures they’ll be cuddling any day now.  Sam mostly pretends that Quincy is a hallucination and does her best to ignore him.

Over the past year we’ve had some serious talks with her about not getting old, but unfortunately she doesn’t seem to want to listen.  Still, despite the chatter of the other vet clients, she’s not at death’s door yet.  She’s just an old lady – a little slow, a little arthritic, but still our happy girl. (And happier each day as she becomes more and more steady.)

Sam Update: For Lori

Lori of Dotopotamus fame promised she’d give me an update on her life if I provided one on Sam.  Ok, she may not have worded it exactly that way or even close to that, but that’s how I’m interpreting it. My brain is a fantastical place!

Who or What is a Sam?

Since I may have magically gotten one new reader (hi, new reader!) I feel I should give you (all of you or maybe just them) a background on Sam.  Sam is our 11 year old beagle adopted 7 years ago from Hound Rescue. Some Sam facts:

  • She’s a girl, thus the use of the pronoun “she”.  I didn’t name her.  Blame her former owners.  If I’d named her, she would have had a great name like Piffles or Senorita Snogglekins – something classy that really says “beagle”.
  • Her photo on this page neatly hides bullets (yes, this is a Sam fact – well, it is now). Well, they did on the preview screen.  Now the website is just being sassy to deny me this fact.
  • She’s 11.  Did I mention that?
  • She’s bullied by our cat, Hodi – formerly “cats”, but Sage passed away which amounts to 50% less whimpering from Sam when she (she’s a girl) can’t make it down the hall.
  • She’s had two CCL tears, which amounted to her enduring two surgeries, and two bouts of rehab.  Sure, you might not do that for your dog, but we made a choice and now she bounds around happily in the house. Her quality of life is pretty great.
  • She also suffered from Horner’s Syndrome twice, which basically meant she lost muscle control on one side of her face, then she lost it on the other.  She’s a bit of a special needs beagle, but she’s worth it.
  • Since she’s a beagle and would eat until she couldn’t put her legs on the ground, she now gets carrots as a treat; she thinks this is pretty fabulous.  Raw green beans are fairly fine, too.

The Update

As you’ll recall, this whole post is about using you guys to get to what I want – an update on Lori.  I’m sorry guys.  In a pinch I will use you, but be glad it’s for your eyeballs and not a trade for cigarettes or to get out of being poked with things like car batteries.  I mean, I’d totally use you for that, too because well if I were in the pokey, cigarettes (facial scrub, toothpaste, or whatnot) is a fantastic currency.  I learned this on Orange is the New Black. And for the record, I’m adverse to being poked with electricity, so well… I like you and all (even you, new person), but hey… you should take one for the team.  The team being me.  You’re the best.

You can search for Lori on this blog, but in case you’re not the typing sort, here’s a brief bit on her –  I worked with her for years, and now she lives out in Washington State (my working with her didn’t cause the move, she moved on her own and then she met a boy!).  Lori is pretty darn fabulous (funny, fun, smart and she’s “got STYLE!” – and while very true, this is also an inside joke.  If you knew it, I’m sure you’d maybe smirk or perhaps snort in approval.)  You’ll note on her blog (linked above) that her last post was in 2013, so you now understand I’m behind on over a year’s worth of updates and truth be told, more than that.  Washington State needs to stop swallowing my friends and family.  Yes Tony, I’m looking at you, too – feel free to update me as well. A cousin could call a girl once in a while.

Right, About that Update

Sam is doing great.  She recently made it as the cover photo for Hound Rescue on their Facebook site.  She’s been on there now for 6 months.  I think they originally planned to change the photo out once a month, but hey I’m not going to point that out.  I like seeing Sam as the spokes-beagle.  Now the photo, should you venture there, is of Sam a lot chubbier.  This was pre-carrots and green beans – back when we thought her “I’m starving” thing was because she was starving.  Tricky beagle.

She’s become fairly bossy about food.  If I’m eating a salad, the whimpering will start and if I ignore her, she’ll hit something with a paw.  She will not be ignored! The love of lettuce is my fault, I may have taught her the joy of leafy greens. Her favorite is the crunchy spiny bit – not so much the leaf; it’s hard to lip off the floor. Have you seen dog lips? Anyway, when you have a “starving” beagle you have to get clever with your snacks.  I also found out that she’s tasted marshmallows.  How I found this out was from watching her demand one from Jay.  You know beagles, once they’ve tasted the blood of marshmallows, they’ll frenzy at the smell.  That’s what she tells me.

She’s still absolutely disgusted by her nerd parents who spend way too much time in front of a monitor.  If it’s past 7pm, we will get a warning whimper that will quickly turn into louder complaints followed by pawing various things in the computer room.  She’s also pretty insistent I get to bed on time.

I’m pretty certain that she hasn’t had a baby bunny recently.  I suspect either the adult bunnies got wise to the fact that the backyard was a bad birthing yard or it could be the early Fall-ness of things has made them less frisky.  Since I randomly decided they were my totem animal based on me seeing them all the time and well, I wanted to say I had a “totem animal”, it was disheartening to hear their squeaks as she gobbled one down.  No one should hear their beagles eat their totem animal.  I may need to find a new one that’s a bit sturdier and can’t make it down a beagle’s gullet in two-three bites.

We also learned she doesn’t particularly like other dogs.  While we’ve been good at socializing her with people, we haven’t been so amazing with other animals.  This lead to a very brief attempt at our fostering a super sweet dog this summer.  I still feel awful about this failure, because it was such a huge let down of a very good friend.  You know when your adorable dog turns into a slavering mess of teeth and rage… yeah, that was her this summer.  That incident led to my only bout with either gastritis or an ulcer; it wasn’t determined.  Good times. Good times.

That’s about all I have for now.  Nothing too exciting, which is great news since Sam has had way too many exciting (health-related) things in her little life.  Fingers crossed that this trend keeps going.

Soooo… Lori, about that update! Tony? Tony?!? Don’t think I forgot about you.

Shoutout: WordPress Gurus & Friends

Friends – we had an exciting week on this blog, well ok “exciting” doesn’t quite describe it. It was more “eh, ok”, but let’s pretend for me that it was exciting.  We (the royal version who is not particularly regal) learned two things: 1) I can set posts to private without driving the blog completely underground (yay) and 2) that while I can set posts to private, I cannot fix it so you can see them.  That means, if you signed up for the private version of BBM, WordPress converted you to “Followers” when I made the blog public again.  As “Followers” (as opposed to lowercase followers without quotes, which isn’t what you are, you guys are special) you just get an email when I post – like you just did to receive this.  You’ve gone years without having to receive an alert, so you won’t hurt my feelings if you go to the bottom of the email and hit “unsubscribe”.  You know our favorite shared social media source will alert you or that RSS feed you were already using.  No need for me to spam you. Gurus – is there any way to share a private post without converting people to Admins on my site?  Now that I’m a bullhorn to the universe and that horn will be blown quite loudly, I need a solution.  That’s assuming people still want that same sarcastic content they’ve come to love.  Until that time, this site is officially rated G and will only include stories about cuddles and bunnies and isn’t that Jay Leno a hoot.  I love talking about those so much that it makes me want to skip around my yard while carrying a little basket. OR without a solution it could go a different direction – somewhere between R and toxic to make it so unpalatable that it becomes unreadable.  That’s where I’d offend all of my favorite readers and that’s not really what I want to do.  You’re clever folks, any suggestions?  I need your help.  Ideally I’d like to create a group who get special content. (By “special” I mean you know as special as I can make it – ummm… I could get you all shirts, too?  BBM swag? A free round of Mexican martinis? A signed photo of Sam?)

A final question: Would moving it to WordPress.Org give me any more control?

Sam Update: A Wish

A couple of years ago I was polling my friends and family for blog ideas.  Normally, I can make an anecdote out of anything, but at that moment the best I could do was stare and quietly drool (actually, I’d like to think of that as a favorite past-time – my hobby).  My friend Lori threw out a ton of ideas which included a regular update on Sam, our rescue beagle and for a couple of years now I’ve been providing those updates.

Sam has made for the perfect subject.  Not only is she cute, sweet and a bit mischievous, she has also gone through a lot of personal struggles along the way.  From her two bouts with something akin to Bell’s palsy, which left half her face paralyzed, to two knee surgeries to repair torn CCLs, to rehab and finally to her struggle with arthritis.  These posts allow me to bring folks updates on her adventures and her health.

Our ultimate goal with Sam has always been to give her the best life possible given her limitations.  While that doesn’t include people food (although the occasional popcorn kernel or green bean may find its way to the floor) or eating the kitties (yet!), she enjoys pet beds in nearly every room, pet stairs to her favorite spot on the couch, a ramp that takes her down to the backyard and according to her, a well stocked yard filled with bunnies for her to chase and occasionally nom triumphantly.

Lately our focus has shifted from Sam to our aging cat Sage.  Sage is a 14 year old DSH who still believes she’s a kitten.  I’m sorry, I misspoke.  Sage is our 14 year old kitten.  Sage had started dropping weight over the summer due to undiagnosed hyperthyroidism – something that’s not uncommon in older cats.  To try to correct the weight loss, pre-diagnosis, I started buying a lot of fancy smelly wet cat food.  My thought was, “hey, she’s old – she can eat what she wants as long as she eats”.  Her sister (litter mate) Hodi, who does not suffer from hyperthyroidism and is a walking ball of fuzz with tiny hidden little legs was very interested in this new change.  New food started appearing on the cat stand – a small independent table that Sage can leap to with ease, that is too high for the beagle and that Hodi must be delivered to (thus allowing time for the special food to be cleared and the boring dry food to be spotlighted once again – all to the grumpy one’s (Hodi again) great dismay).

The wet food smell was heavenly. I know this from talking to both Sam who started licking the pet stand and Hodi who frowned every time I took the wet food away.

Once the wet food began to appear, I noticed Sam was spending extra time in the kitchen. I could tell she was carefully working out the geometry involved in getting to that table.  Lines danced through the air as she worked out the various angles, assessed jump points, imagined opposable thumbs, and sized up the relative weight of kitchen furniture to beagle mass.  It was all very complicated and I was sent away on several occasions, because I was being distracting.  I take the blame for this fixation. If the smell weren’t compelling enough, I had also started pulling a chair out to see if that would help Sage since she was growing tinier by the day.  Once Sam saw the chair, the final bits of the equation fell into place.  “AHA! A chair! That’s the last piece. Puzzle solved!” Now she just had to wait for an opportunity.

One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I’d done my morning pet chores and headed back to bed.  I tossed around a bit then realized I couldn’t sleep, so I got back up, went to the kitchen, and flicked on the light. That’s when I found Sam standing in the middle of the table looking very surprised.  She had finally worked out a way to get up there and was trying to work out how to make the final leap to the cat stand.  Sam wagged excitedly while I tried to take a picture.  Let me say it’s hard when you’ve got a dog who really wants to get down, knowing this might fall under the list of “bad girl” things – so sadly, there were no pictures that weren’t incredibly blurry.

Sam's Foray

Normally an entirely clean table with fruit bowls, flowers and such. Sam doubtlessly felt the mail and reusable grocery bags would aid her in her adventure.

As I looked at her, as she nervously stood on the edge of the table, I was torn between being a bit mad and, “my arthritic dog with her repaired CCLs got onto the table without any help! You go, girl!”  I settled for an indulgent, “you’re lucky you’re funny.” Sam wagged and scampered off with a promise to never do that within my eye-shot again.  The same promise she makes whenever she’s caught in the litter box or sneaking something off of the counter.  “Right! You guys “see” things, I’ve really got to do something about that.”  We sleep with one eye open.

I surveyed the crime scene one last time before leaving the kitchen.  The chairs were barely touched.  In fact, I’m not sure which once she could have used on her way up.  Very sneaky this one.

Since then, Sage started receiving her thyroid medicine – a little dollop twice a day in each ear.  Sam has moved on to other interests, namely working on solving new food puzzles like how to deal with a table that’s now further from the cat food stand.

As we change our focus to getting Sage healthy, I look forward to Sam having more grand days like that Saturday.  For years my only wish for Sam was that she would have more good days than bad – that she know some amount of happiness and joy – things denied her in her early life.  I never imagined I’d find her proudly standing in the middle of our table.

I hope life continues to surprise her and us.

Sam Update: Return of the Mighty Huntress

Sam in her guise as the The Mighty Huntress returned the weekend before last.  I was sitting inside and heard some peculiar noises coming from the backyard and found Sam merrily bouncing and biting away.  I ran through the list of proper responses and settled on, “turn the sound up on the TV and rock in place”.  I’m probably not the person you want in a crisis.  After a few moments of willful denial, I decided I should go see what she’d captured just in case she had done something like cornered a raccoon or worse still, was tangling with a rattler – both things would require some kind of club and me pretending to be brave, so I was kind of hoping for anything but one of those.  I tromp out to discover Sam is celebrating Easter early by snacking on a baby bunny.

“Oh Sam.”

This phrase is apparently a new command that means, “please, bring that baby bunny into the house.”  Thankfully, the door was shut, so she held her limp prize and pawed at the door demanding entrance.  I mean really, what could be better than eating your dead bunny than eating your dead bunny on your favorite blanky.

Realizing she wasn’t allowed in, she dashed off with the bunny and found a nice spot in the grass.  I mean, it was a beautiful day and bunny with fresh greens makes for quite a delectable dish.  I acted quickly.  I ran into the house and sent Jay an urgent instant message: “Your dog killed a bunny.” .  Again, you might not want me at your side in a crisis.  Hey,  it was either IM Jay or try to perform a Google search on “how to get a baby bunny away from your feral beagle”. The Jay thing made more sense.  Of course, when talking to Jay I had to refer to Sam as “your” dog, which loosely translates to “‘our’ dog is doing something I don’t want her to do”.  Everyone knows that when Sam does something cute, she’s my dog.  When she eats bunnies or scours the yard for “yard biscuits” she’s Jay’s dog.  It may be unfair, but that’s how it goes (according to me). Jay’s response was basically,  “offer her something in trade”.  I ran into the kitchen and grabbed several dog treats.  Normally, she gets one small dog biscuit a day – surely, she’d want 5 RIGHT NOW – it seemed like a fair trade for a bunny.

I go outside and throw down one biscuit, which caused Sam to pause briefly.  I could see she’d made a lot of headway on devouring the bunny.  She clearly knew her bunny time was coming to a quick end and was attempting to polish off the rest quite quickly.  Well, it turns out one biscuit buys you about 2 seconds to grab 1/3 of the remaining bunny (the other 2/3 were long gone).  I wasn’t quite that fast. I then tossed the other 4 biscuits further away and was barely able to grab the rest of the bunny remains. By barely, I mean Sam and I had a scuffle that thankfully I won.  There are some advantages to being bigger than a 29 lb. dog.

While I can be quite squeamish about many things, I’m lucky this isn’t one of them.  Bunny bits were quickly double and triple bagged leaving Sam quite perplexed as she desperately searched and re-searched the area where her bunny 1/3  had been.  She looked up at me as if to ask, “have you seen some back legs and a tail?”  I shrugged and acted just as confused.

After so many hard years, I figure Sam deserves an Easter bunny or two (well, I’m really ok if it’s just the one).  Plus, its is the season. Let’s just hope this mighty huntress doesn’t bring home any Leprechauns next.  I can’t imagine there’d be much good luck in that.

DeAnne’s Vote and a Sam Update

Earlier this week, I got a great email from my friend DeAnne. You should refer to her as HRH DeAnne, like we all do and if you could genuflect a bit or possibly approach on your knees, that would not only be a welcome gesture, but one that would be encouraged and save you from being royally thwapped. No one wants a royal thwapping. This email was one of the best I’ve received in a long time. You know how I crave a good story? Well, this email wasn’t just a story – it was an adventure! There were misread maps, weest (a combination of East/West), punching, stitches tearing apart, Lacrosse, chili, starving teens, a crazy woman wielding a Christmas gift card, and a surprise move to North Dakota. I’ve saved this email because it’s simply that great and it’s a reminder that writing has become a lost art. No one ever writes letters anymore – we just quip each other to death with what amounts to email tweets. Her email reminded me how I really miss well thought out letters (or emails). Of course, in response to DeAnne’s great email, I email tweeted a thanks. I completely failed to rise to the occasion and offer up my own real letter. Sorry Miss DeAnne! (Yes, I did use “Miss” when addressing her; you should still stick with HRH or something else that shows a proper amount of deference.)

DeAnne’s vote for one of the top posts was the one titled True Beth North; she completely empathized with my sad lack of direction. Well, it’s not a lack of direction. Everything is North depending on where I stand. As one of the smartest people I know, DeAnne confessed that she has sometimes struggled with direction, thus the term “Weest” was born – a term that will get you (or anyone directly related to her) punched if you dare speak it within earshot. Her next vote was for any post dealing with Sam.

Sam actually showed up as a couple of people’s favorite topics when I polled them about their favorite posts. Since there are a few of you who are fairly new to the blog, I’ll just give you some background. Sam is our 9-year-old beagle that we adopted 5 years ago from a local group called Hound Rescue. Sam has had a harder time then most of our pets having suffered from a condition known as Horner’s Syndrome (similar to Bell’s Palsy) and tears to both of her cranial crutiate ligaments. What I’ve taken from this is I’m a pet person. I don’t have a pet because it’s convenient or easy. I have Sam because she’s a great dog who makes me laugh. The next time someone suggests, as a co-worker did in the past couple of weeks, that it would be cheaper to euthanize Sam that pay for knee surgery, they should come with a figure on how much it would cost to euthanize them. I mean, with food and housing going up, not to mention health care I’m thinking a single shot would cure anything that ails you (or me), because frankly you’re more expensive to maintain in the long run than my dog. Oh, and I like my dog more. Truce? I won’t say a word about how you throw your money away on unnecessary expensive little toys and go on your vacation jaunts. In return, don’t suggest I kill my dog because she’s inconvenient. Last I checked, you weren’t in charge of my finances. Thanks.

To veer off that rant a bit, I’ll tell you a little more about her. First off, as a beagle Sam is basically a stomach with legs, soft ears and a very keen nose. The sound of a kibble plummeting off of the cat’s food perch will wake her from a dead sleep and send her running into the kitchen. Beagles are never satiated, which is quite awful if you think about it. Sure, you may have known hungry dogs, but anyone with a hound, particularly a beagle can tell you crazy stories about their appetite and the lengths they’ll go to in order to eat.. Sam doesn’t know how to play unless playing involves dancing around for food. The only way I could get Sam to play with a stuffed animal or a ball would be to wrap it in bacon and smear it with peanut butter. I tried talking to her about it, but I suspect she just likes hearing her name. According to Sam, she has three command driven names. They are “Sam”, “hey, Sam” and “I love you”. “Hey, Sam” knows to look at me and pay attention, there might be food or something interesting to sniff. While, “I love you” tells her to wag insanely, because that Sam is going to scritched from head to toe.

Sam is scared of our cats and our cats are aware of this. They like to set-up gauntlets in the hallways. If I hear Sam whimpering, it’s usually because a cat (probably Hodi) won’t let her come down the hallway or enter a room. However, this fear disappears if anyone is eating chicken, despite not getting table food, or when she’s enjoying her rawhide. It’s only under these circumstances that she will chase Hodi and Sage all over the house. Without the false bravado instilled by a yummy leathery chew; she’ll return to the whimpering mess we adore when faced with a kitty obstacle..

Sam Update: The Long Overdue Installment

I haven’t had a “Sam Update” in awhile, but that’s mostly due to things being fairly normal in the house. This is a good thing. Yes, I am knocking on wood. So, I’ll leave you with two recent happy moments. First, I came home a couple of weeks ago and released Sam from her crate. She was full of silly and dashed all over the house as fast as she could without pinballing into any kitties. She was the embodiment of joy, so I did my part to keep her going. Her final move was a dive under her blanket, which as I recall used to be MY blanket. She wiggled in one end and worked her way to the other finally kicking the blanket so her head peeked out. I declared, “you’re ridiculous!” which caused her to leap out of the covers and zoom around more. Where she doesn’t play with balls, she does love running at break-neck speeds that sometimes make me wince as I think of her knees (she’s clumsy and has torqued them performing this maneuver). Still, it’s hard to discourage her when she’s having fun.

From last weekend: There was whimpering from the kitchen so I got up and to make sure Hodi wasn’t pinning Sam in somewhere while cackling maniacally. I go in and find that Sam would really just like Hodi to hurry up and let her have a turn at the water bowl. (We have three, incidentally, but this one is deemed the best by all the pets. It’s a fountain where water pours constantly purchased because Sage wouldn’t drink from still bowls.) I looked at her and said, “no, you have to wait”. All of her nervous energy eventually drove Hodi away. Sam then asked to go outside, so I open the back door and there sitting against the fence is giant a tom cat. Sure, Hodi and Sage are horrifying, but that 20 lb. tom cat is clearly a big sissy and chose the wrong yard. Sam went tearing out sending the cat over the fence. (He’s sprayed our porch, much to Hodi’s great dismay that she vocalized in long mrrs and hissing one night.) Sam marched around proudly at having defended the yard, then came in and resumed her spot at the bottom of the pet totem pole. Hodi won’t tolerate uppity beasts and made it clear, “get any idea, Ears and I will smack them out of you.”

Thank you, DeAnne for inspiring a new Sam Update and for taking the time help me out on those blog posts.  I know, I still owe you a real letter.

Training Sam to be a Killer

Sam by Big Blue Mess
Sam, a photo by Big Blue Mess on Flickr.

So, yesterday we had to have another frank talk with Sam. As you may recall, we recently had to educate her on her kind’s not so proud history of hunting rabbits and foxes in packs. We tried to explain that it’s not exactly fair when you have 30 of your closest buddies along when you’re running down a single opponent. Of course, Sam whole-heartedly agreed, because that’s 29 other beagles and hounds, not to mention pesky humans and annoying horses, who could get in your way and prevent you from snacking on the very best bits. I said, “you’re missing the point” and she responded, “you’re having an imaginary conversation with a beagle.” Fair enough.

Yesterday’s conversation was about beagles being used for testing and the importance of not being a docile, easy-going creature. It went something like this, “hey Sam, now if a lady in a lab coat comes at you with mascara, what do you do?” Sam wagged. “I don’t think you’re getting this. How about a different scenario. Say some skinny science geek says “lick this blush” or he rubs a scented Kleenex all over your face, what do you do?” More wagging from Sam. I sighed. “No Sam, wagging isn’t the answer. You rip their throats out. Got it? You’re a vicious little demented killer. You’re no longer Sam. You’re Destructicus Canine Slayer of Evil! Wow, that’s a ridiculous name. Good thing I didn’t choose it.” *wag**wag**wag* “You know, I think you’re getting the hang of it. Just like that only more vicious and less panty! Now do squinty eyes! No, no, less soulful! You’re a beast! A force to be reckoned with by mammal kind. Now let’s go storm a lab champ!”

“You know i have no idea what you said, but I bet it was about food. I like to CUDDLE! You’re nice! Now, let’s storm the kitchen!”


Ok, I may have really given this one-sided speech to Sam yesterday. I think she appreciated it and is on the road to becoming a ferocious  attack beagle. Tomorrow I’ll try to introduce her to camouflage and how to stealthily sneak past guards. This recruit has great potential. Mental note: must bring treats to hold her attention in training.

Sam Update: The Mighty Huntress

Yard Snacks by Big Blue Mess
Yard Snacks, a photo by Big Blue Mess on Flickr.

Well, Sam got a bird yesterday. (Jay couldn’t get to it before she did.) I can’t decide if I’m full of pride that our gimpy little beagle managed to live out some feral dream or feel bad for the poor creature whose last moments left it the mockery of all its be-feathered friends and family. I mean really, there you are unable to take flight one last time and you’re stuck watching in horror as some clumsy “handi-capable” beagle gallops over to finish you off with a mighty “nom”. Oh no, couldn’t be a coyote or some sort of wild cat, nope it’s a disabled beagle.  Oh, the shame!

Sam was super excited after making her first kill and I hear she did a beagle victory dance. Oh, to live the beagle dream! Sam the Mighty Huntress!!!  Killer of Things!

I guess it’s about time we sit down and finally have the talk with her about hunting and foxes – her not so proud genetic inheritance. We can’t afford to shelter her any longer.

Sam Update: Sometimes You Wanna Go

To catch everyone up on Sam – what we learned from the vet a couple of weeks ago is that Sam has degenerative joint disease in both her hips and stifles and the vet noticed arthritic changes in her hips. The excruciating pain she was experiencing in her hips caused additional pain in her back. After the vet visit and a refill of pain meds, Sam got worse. One terrible night she leaned against my foot to show she was happy I was home and yelped in pain sulking off and looking back at me with that, “why did you just hurt me, I was just saying hello, I’m a good dog” face. (Yes, I anthropomorphize a bit, but you should have seen the look of complete betrayal as she tucked her tail between her legs and hid beneath the desk looking at me. It broke our hearts and I had a hard time focusing the rest of the night knowing how miserable she was and how completely convinced she was that I had hurt her.) Over the next few days we set the ramp back up so she could get down the back stairs, coached her on how to use it again (ramps laden with treats for a couple of days did the trick) and gave her a daily low dose of pain medication. In these past two weeks we’ve seen her slowly get to where she can hop, get back on the couch (with doggie steps – although, she’d desperately love to jump) and dance around. She can even lean against my foot without flinching.

Yesterday was the re-check. We walked in the door and several staff cheerfully greeted her with a round of “SAM!” I think they only know us as maybe “Sam’s mom and dad”. She wagged, sniffed and complained throughout the visit. She also managed to get several treats, which made her hop in hopes that those empty vet assistant hands might actually be holding HIDDEN TREATS!!!!! and the vet and her assistants were pleased to see the improvement. We still don’t know what happened. Our vet, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery on both of her knees, felt it could have been a perfect storm of arthritis and possibly something neurological (oh boy) coming together. We’re going to continue with the non-steroidal pain meds, which may be a regular feature in her diet. In two weeks we’ll reduce the amount she receives and see how she does. Then, if it doesn’t improve, we may have to look at different approaches to manage her pain – somewhere between additional medication and acupuncture. (I have a friend who uses acupuncture on all of her horses and swears by it. I’m more skeptical, so we’ll see. If it works, then I’ll be completely sold.)

I can’t begin to express how happy I am to see her bounce about where the only stink-eye I get is because I’m getting too rowdy with my keyboard.

So, now I’m just asking that she be able to go five years without a major event. She really deserves it after having such a rough four. If everyone could send her good vibes for that, please I know I’d be grateful.

Via Flickr:
Window lovingly decorated with feline and canine nose prints.