Monday, April 29, 2013

Flower Power Season

I love planting flowers. Love. I sit out in the sun, on the warm grass, with a dog or two by my side and dig my hands in soil. My yard isn't really landscaped, so I focus mostly on creating arrangements in flower pots. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. And I love when everything starts to bloom and the bees visit, the spiders stay, and little snakes live beneath salvia.

This is a western ground snake. They are nocturnal so unearthing this one (and a second one beneath a different pot) was quite a shock for her. She was easy to move, and after I finished potting, I  put her and her buddy back under their respective flower pots. They eat centipedes and as I hate centipedes but don't kill them, I support my local western ground snake population.

 Begonias are gorgeous little shrubs, so I bought a couple. They have this beautiful fairy dust on their petals.

 Since moving to the sierra foothills, I've admired the columbine that has been sold. I never bought any. This year, I bought two plants because I can. They are pretty.

And my salvia is coming back and ready for bees to pollinate. I hope to see as many bees as I did last year. My lavender plant died, so the two salvia plants have to pick up the slack.

And this is who kept me company, big 'ol Carter.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Carter Can Still Play With a Tennis Ball

Carter's FAVORITE toy is a tennis ball, preferably one that squeaks.

He uses his nose and ears to find the tennis ball. Sometimes he loses the ball and I help him find it, but mostly he does it on his own. It is another reminder not to "feel sorry" for Carter. He can do what sighted dogs do, thank you.

Carter is available for adoption.

Here's a video!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why Everyone Should Want to Adopt Carter

Let me get it out of the way - Carter is blind, and he finds great enjoyment from life and people.

Here are some reasons why you should want to adopt Carter. Also, here is his bio.

Carter loves people. Carter loves female people the best, but he is able and willing to offer his affection to male people too. He loves to put his head on your lap.

Carter is a fierce guard dog. Evidence.

He is so fierce that he will hear for an intrusion and immediately leap into action. Nevermind that his first response is to wag his tail and look for head pats.

Carter is adaptable and will sleep anywhere, using his surroundings as (uncomfortable) pillows.

Carter likes to sleep by your feet. In fact, Carter likes to sleep a lot.

He is handsome and goes well with a lot of difference color schemes.

Carter is a good listener. Even if he is looking in the wrong direction.

The background information you need to know about Carter is as follows: Carter was adopted from a shelter when he was 4-mos-old. He lived happily with his family for six years. The family had a child and returned Carter to the same shelter. Veterinarians noticed Carter's blindness, contacted the family and asked if they knew Carter was blind. The family said no, took him back for a year, had a second child, and gave Carter up again. This time for good.

Carter is seven years young. He enjoys small excursions into the backyard for games. His favorite games include tug of war and chase. If you are not interested in a dog who requires fifty-five miles of hiking, Carter is the dog for you. He is not interested in even one mile of hiking. Carter is a home-body and loves spending time near his people. That is not to say Carter doesn't enjoy physical activity, but he's no marathoner.

While it may seem like being blind is difficult, Carter disagrees. He relies on his most powerful sense - his nose - to create a spatial map of his surroundings. Given the appropriate amount of time to explore, Carter remembers routine routes and landscapes with ease. Yes, he bumps into things, but he is unperturbed. You should be too.

Carter really loves people. He would love to have a person who can stay at home part of the day. Well trained, Carter does not pee or poop in the home, but he does love sleeping on the sofa. This should not pose a problem, because he only does it when you are not looking. So it's like it never happened.

At home, Carter likes a few moments of attention and then settles down on his own bed to relax.

Carter does not get car-sick and enjoys car rides where he can stick his fat head out the window every now and then.

Carter would like to be a one-dog home. Or, he would like a home where the other dog is mature, large, and very tolerant. While Carter can smell other dogs, he misses out on sending and receiving very important visual cues. He bumps into things and will bump into other dogs - a less tolerant dog may deem this a threat. Carter has met several dogs. Most have reacted to his seeming lack of grace with a few snarls and barks. He has reacted by backing away or barking but has not shown an inclination to engage further.

Carter is big! You must like a solid, muscular dog with a big head for hugging to appreciate Carter. He is powerful and can pull well. Training would help, but he does not enjoy a lot of outside activity because it is too stimulating.

Carter is perfect.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Carter is an Uplifting Sort of Soul

When you feel down, you should speak with a dog.

Carter is available, free of charge.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Note from Celeste

Dear Carter,

I see you over there. I do not like you. Go away.

No love,

Thursday, April 11, 2013


There may come a time - in my lifetime - that individuals from extinct species may be brought back into existence.

I would like to meet an auroch, because they are the ancestors of cows. And cows are the best.

But I get to meet cows, so it's sort of the same thing.

I'm not really serious about reviving the auroch. I find the whole concept horrifying. Our planet is over-run by humans with dwindling resources and even more diminishing habitats. The idea of bringing back extinct nonhumans for "wonder" seems, well, like a dumb reason.

Sure, we have caused the extinction of so many species. It would be great to undo that harm. I think that's only possible if humans aren't around to screw things up, though.

But you can draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Celeste is Weird

I don't write enough about Celeste.

This is a picture of her at a coffee shop. She's acting a fool, because that is how she rolls.

Celeste is the easy dog. She doesn't always like other dogs, but she tolerates them. She is polite on leash and is respectful of boundaries (mostly).

She loves people and does not understand why people do not immediately rush up to pet her soft head.

Celeste turns six in a month. SIX! I have had her for six years. It's hard to imagine what her life would be like had I not adopted her. Well, she'd most likely be dead. But maybe not, she's got great street smarts and is instinctively horrified by moving vehicles. In the rural region of Mexico where she's from, that's really important.

I really do love her. It's a simple kind of love. I love her free spirit. I love how she runs like a fierce coyote. I love that she fancies herself a hunter and appreciate deeply that, so far, she has never caught a rabbit or deer. I love that she loves people. I love her snapping teeth happy face. I love that she smiles at people.

I love that she is a real dog's dog.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mina and the Big C

In addition to cancer, I also have cute.
Mina has cancer.

It's been twelve days since her diagnosis, eleven since her surgery. But she has had cancer for more than a year, unbeknownst to me. Closer to two, actually.

Mina has lumps. Old dog lumps. When I returned from Maui (yeah, I need to post about that, geez), I noticed a strange bump on her chest. It looked like a pimple, very different from her other bumps. I ignored it, thinking it would go away. But after a month, it didn't.

Thirteen days ago, the lump doubled in size and bruising appeared under her skin. I took to the internet. So much information at your fingertips, but also a great panic-inducing creation. When I described the tumor to Google, it told me Mina has mast cell tumors. For more than an hour, I scoured the internet, becoming more and more convinced that Mina had cancer.

I wrapped my body around Mina that night. I cried into her fur and told her how much I loved her. I totally lost it, people.

The next day I set up a vet appointment for Mina. People told me I was over-reacting, that she would be fine. But I was 100% sure she had cancer. If my confidence wavered under the pressure of colleagues and friends, Mina's response to me fiddling with her tumor didn't.

Mast cells are the body's first responders. They release histamine, causing an inflammatory response and attracting the rest of the defenders to the site of invasion.

So when I manipulated Mina's tumor, the diseased cells released histamine. They caused the skin around her left eye to swell. This happened once before, but I mistook her swollen eye for a bad encounter with an angry bee. It wasn't, though. It was a disturbed tumor sending histamine to the tissue around her eye.

The vet gave Mina IV benadryl, just in case the needles she was using to take samples from caused a massive histamine release, sending Mina into anaphylactic shock.She took samples from seven lumps. Mast cells can be seen under a microscope.

Mina and I waited. When the vet came back into the room, I knew what she would say. Five of the seven samples contained cancerous mast cells. Five!

Cancer is ugly. It is one's own cells going rogue. It's just not right, folks.

Mast cell cancer is very common, particularly in Pit Bulls. It's generally found in the skin but can occur in the liver, spleen, and lungs. Mast cell tumors can occur singly or in groups. They can get large or stay small. They can change size daily! Unlike some cancer, mast cell tumors don't generally "root" heavily. They can sit on the surface, barely attached. Mast cell tumors release their cells and send them through the blood stream, so they can spread through the body easily.

My first talks with the vet were confusing. It's still confusing. There is no set treatment or diagnosis for mast cell tumors. The fact that Mina had at least five was disconcerting to the vet, but it didn't mean she was riddled internally with cancer (far more deadly than the skin version).

To remove all five would have required full anesthesia. And it was absolutely no guarantee that it would eliminate the problem. I'm not ashamed to admit this...but the fact it would have cost $1,200 for the full surgery factored into my decision.

My other two alternatives were a) do nothing and b) use sedation and local anesthetics to remove as many as the vet could (cheaper than general anesthesia). Before I made my decision, Mina's lungs were x-rayed and an ultrasound was taken of her spleen. If they showed up internally, Mina wouldn't have long left and it would be more about managing her quality of life. Thankfully, she had no internal tumors.

I opted to do the sedation and local anesthetic. Mina handled the sedation so well that the vet was able to remove four tumors. But she found a lot more. As she removed one, she would find another. Mina has so many that the vet doesn't believe they can all be removed, even if I wanted to have them cut out.

Here's the thing about mast cell tumors - they are so variable that it's hard to give a prognosis. Trying to get the vet to tell me how long Mina had left, how likely tumors would come back or go internal...she didn't have answers. People kept sharing stories of how their dogs had a tumor and lived five, six, seven more years. Sometimes this helped, sometimes it just made me want to cry more. Mina isn't other dogs. She's Mina, and there is just a lot of unknowable things when it comes to mast cell tumors.

I have to say, I felt really numb. I was trying very hard to process what it would mean to lose Mina in two months (one possibility). What it would mean to euthanize Mina. Because when it comes to mast cells, it's not generally fatal. It's the side effects that are - it's the bleeding gut, the constant histamine release, the inability to hold down food that results in the dog being humanely killed. Euthanasia can be a great mercy and I am not opposed to it, but the thought of intentionally taking Mina's life hurts my heart so much.

When I brought Mina home from her surgery, I finally broke down. She was a patchwork of staples and stitches. She was in pain. And the vet wasn't sure she had gotten all the cancer or how severe it was. She said worst case scenario was that Mina had only two months. I hated that I had put her through the surgery. I hated not knowing. I hated that the vet had said Mina was already on borrowed time. I cried and screamed and hit my fists against the steering wheel.

I carried Mina into the house and curled up with her on the sofa. She fell into a deep sleep, paws twitching.

I opted to send two of the tumors to histopathology. And let me tell you, that shit is expensive. You get a discount for the second tumor, which just makes me wonder why the first is so costly ($177 for one, $65 for the second). But I gave up, none of it made any real sense.

Waiting is best done with a toy.
And then it was the waiting game. Which really sucked. I vacillated between hating myself for putting her through this really painful surgery and hoping that, well, she's had some of these tumors for nearly two years, they haven't killed her yet!

Everyone around me was and is incredibly supportive. I'm lucky to work at an animal rights group, because I don't have to 'splain my bond with Mina. I don't have to censor myself or hold it all in or feel weird that I love Mina so damn much. Colleagues and friends send me text messages, phone calls, emails, gave me hugs and vegan cinnamon rolls. It's important to have that support network.

The news was good. The tumors were low level Grade II. Dogs have anywhere from 48-70 months from the time of the first tumor. I mean, that's like forever for Mina.

I recognize that Mina may get more tumors. They may invade her spleen. Or liver. Her new heart murmur may get worse and she could have a heart attack. She might die in her sleep. I might have to euthanize her. And I will hold onto her until that moment. I will cradle her in my heart, let her nest in my bones. I will make her life a joy, as I hope I have for the past 11 years.

Mina has cancer. I'm not uncomfortable saying that. It's a truth. But it's not the whole truth of Mina. It's just another facet of her constantly changing, growing prism.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Police Shootings of Dogs

Mandatory reading for police agencies interested in addressing this issue - The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters

Half of intentional shootings by police are of dogs.

Police Shootings Of Non-Aggressive or Non-Injurious Dogs

Ogden police shot and killed a dog who barked at them. Link (Other articles indicate the dog is described as a German Shepherd).

This shooting in Regina, Canada could have been prevented had police officers not entered a fenced in, gated backyard without permission. In the pursuit of a suspect, an officer with a canine entered a gated backyard without permission and encountered a 7-yr-old chained dog described as a Pit Bull. Both dogs fought. Another officer shot and killed the Pit Bull. The shooting occurred in a matter of seconds, leaving the owner - 20 feet away - no time to intervene. Police are investigating themselves, so y'all know it will be fair and impartial! Link 

Coral Springs police entering a yard without permission shot a dog multiple times, killing him. The dog, described by police as a Pit Bull and by the owner as an American Bulldog, barked at officers. Obviously, they had to pump him full of multiple bullets. Link

An Austin police officer shot a dog, described as a Pit Bull, in the leg when the dog ran at him. Police were trying to get two loose dogs into a patrol car when one ran away or towards an officer. The dog is fine. Link 

In a California town I've never heard of but that is in Monterey County, a German Shepherd was shot three times by police and killed. The dog had been taunted by children. He broke down the fence and chased the kids away, resulting in police being called. When police arrived, the dog was back in his yard, having not eaten anyone. When they got too close, the dog ran at them and, for that reason alone, they shot him multiple times. Link

Police Shootings of Dog(s) During or After an Actual Dog-Human or Dog Bite Incident

San Francisco police shot and killed a homeless man's dog, described as a Pit Bull mix. The dog bit the officer, and the officer shot her multiple times. Link 

Richmond police shot a dog described as a Pit Bull after he nipped two children. Both children suffered minor injuries. The dog was shot when an officer claimed he charged. The dog is alive. Link 

A police officer was forced to shoot at two dogs who were mauling a man. The man had gotten into a fight with someone and in his fervor to flee, he scaled a fence and ended up in a enclosed yard where a mastiff and Rottweiler lived. The dogs protected their territory. When police arrived, he tried to get the dogs to stop but to no avail. The guardian of the dogs was unable to stop the attack. The officer made the decision to injure the mastiff by aiming explicitly for his rear leg and firing off one shot. That one bullet stopped the attack and both the injured dog and human were taken to their respective medical facilities. Link 

Classing it up in Warren, where an officer purposely shot a dog, described as a Pit Bull, despite the dog not being a threat to him or her. The loose dog got into a minor scuffle with a leashed dog. When the guardian of the leashed dog interfered, he was nipped on the hand. He was able to keep the dog at bay with a stick. When the officer arrived, he simply called the dog over, shot him with a shotgun, and dumped his body in a dumpster. Like I said, classing it up in Warren! LInk

Police Shootings of Other Animals

When a gate at a wild animal breeding center in California was left partially open, a male lion escaped into his larger enclosure where an intern was cleaning. He swiped his paw, breaking her neck and killing her. When officers arrived, the shot and killed the lion. Link

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Regina Police Kill Chained Dog, Respond by Wanting to Change their Facebook Page

Police in Canada are responding to their unnecessary shooting of a chained dog by pulling their Facebook page after 2 people said something they didn't like.

Last week, Regina police entered a backyard without permission. They were following a suspect. The suspect managed not to incite the chained dog living in the snow-covered yard to violence, but an officer who brought his canine partner into the yard did. Ignoring the multiple Beware of Dogs signs, the canine officer rushed into the yard.

Both dogs may have gotten into a scuffle, although witness reports differ from police reports (surprise, surprise). The canine officer did not have any injuries, nor did the human officer. So it is curious to me that the officers would claim the two dogs were fighting so severely that another officer decided he needed to pump a bullet into the Pit Bull.

He made this decision between 5-20 seconds into the "fight" that injured no one. The only injury was the gunshot wound the poor 7-yr-old dog suffered. And while I cringe seeing how this dog lived, outside in subzero temperatures, chained, I cannot assume he didn't have an acceptable quality of life. He doesn't even have that now.

And the police?

Well, they are investigating themselves, per usual.

But they are mostly upset about Facebook. Yeah, Facebook. In response to shooting a dog within five seconds of entering his guardian's yard without permission, police are upset that people are upset. In fact, they were so upset that they shut down their Facebook page and had a press conference about how awful people are! And by people, they are really just referring to a grand total of like 2 comments. Out of a lot more than that.

Someone left a comment that said, "the only good cop is a dead cop". That's not an actual death threat, people. I mean, it is totally rude. Another comment opined that maybe the officer should be chained up and see what it's like to be shot in their own backyard. Also, rude and inappropriate. I'm going out on a limb and presuming the person isn't going to actually kidnap the officer and chain him up in a yard. I COULD BE SO WRONG. I manage a Facebook page. When I see a rude comment, I delete and ban the user. That's how I deal with inappropriate comments.

Interesting, though, that police running rampant and shooting up dogs in people's backyards is less of an issue than Facebook comments. Something wrong with that.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What is Carter?

He is a dog, of course. And blind. Big, brown, sweet. Lover of toys and play-time and people.

But I don't think Carter is much of a Pit Bull.

First of all, he's nearly 80 lbs. That's pretty large and in charge.

Second of all, his head! It's ginormous. Not Pit Bull ginormous but mastiff-big.

He has a tiny little underbite. He isn't so broad-chested.

I think Carter is a mutt. But to boost his self-esteem, I am declaring Carter to be a Dogue De Boxer mutt. A DDBM.

People lurve.
Carter is happy to be whatever. I could call him a basil-flavored toothpick and he'd think it was the best descriptor ever.

But he'll probably be labeled a Pit Bull. He won't be welcome in some areas of the country. And State Farm Insurance will be his adopter's best friend!

In exchange for the stereotyping that comes with adopting a dog who sorta resembles a vague representation of a Pit Bull, Carter promises you the following:

To love you. Unconditionally.

Also, he promises to romp with you in the grass and never bite your skin. He promises to play with his toys gently and only sleep on the sofa when you aren't looking. He promises to eat his food quickly and to only dribble his water two feet from the bowl. Max, three. He promises never to pee in your house and only poop on your sidewalk once every other day.

Or, just stick with the unconditional love part.