Archive | January 2015

Raven Review

Even as a puppy Raven liked to lie on her back. She's in the top right corner of the litter.

Even as a puppy Raven liked to lie on her back. She’s in the top right corner of the litter.

I can’t help myself. After almost losing Raven on New Year’s Eve, I’ve pored over hundreds of images of her from the past eight and a half years, her life flashing before my eyes. It was hard but I’ve selected these few to share with you who cared during her ordeal. She is just a dog, I know that, but her little life is so entwined with mine. One day she will die, and I’ll be too heartbroken then to do this, so here is Raven’s life in review, thus far, An Incomplete Pictography.

Raven at a couple of weeks old.

Raven at a couple of weeks old.

This was the first photo I saw of Raven. Chris emailed me a shot of her holding each puppy so that I could choose which one I wanted. They were all cute; when I saw this one it was love at first sight. "THIS ONE!" I wrote back, "I WANT THIS ONE!" How could I have wanted any other?

This was the first photo I saw of Raven. Chris emailed me a shot of her holding each puppy so that I could choose which one I wanted. They were all cute; when I saw this one it was love at first sight. “THIS ONE!” I wrote back, “I WANT THIS ONE!” How could I have wanted any other?

Raven resting on the day she arrived at my house. Chris flew her across the country and I picked them up in Denver in mid-July, 2006. She was six weeks old.

Raven resting on the day she arrived at my house. Chris flew her across the country and I picked them up in Denver in mid-July, 2006. She was six weeks old.

Raven's first hike to the canyon, with Mocha and Mr. Brick.

Raven’s first hike to the canyon, with Mocha and Mr. Brick.

One night shortly after she arrived I suddenly couldn't find her. I panicked a little; she was so small! Found her shortly, asleep in the laundry basket.

One night shortly after she arrived I suddenly couldn’t find her. I panicked a little; she was so small! I looked everywhere, and finally found her in the laundry room, asleep in the laundry basket.

She loved to be near her grumpy uncle, who wouldn't give her the time of day for awhile.

She loved to be near her grumpy uncle, who wouldn’t give her the time of day for awhile.

Sitting pretty for cookies, with Mocha and Brick.

Sitting pretty for cookies, with Mocha and Brick.

Brick was skeptical of her when she first tried to get him to play with her.

Brick was skeptical of her when she first tried to get him to play with her.

But she persisted and won him over in the end.

But she persisted and won him over in the end.

Raven pensive.

Raven rarely pensive.

Baby's first bee sting.

Baby’s first bee sting.

Eventually the grumpy uncle would let her do whatever she wanted with him.

Eventually the grumpy uncle would let her do whatever she wanted with him.

Taking Mr. Brick for a walk.

Taking Mr. Brick for a walk.

Growing up.

Growing up.

Falling down.

Falling down, sound asleep.

Raven's first snow.

Raven’s first snow.

Raven and Rocky meet for the first time, at Rocky's first home. He was almost a year old, she was about three.

Raven and Rocky meet for the first time, at Rocky’s first home. He was almost a year old, she was about three.

Raven sharing the chair with Little Doctor Vincent.

Raven sharing the chair with Little Doctor Vincent.

Raven plays with her daddy, Sundog, while her mother Feather looks on. They are a close knit family even years after being separated by half a continent. She is always so excited when we visit them in Florida, or they come to see us here.

Raven plays with her daddy, Sundog, while her mother Feather looks on. They are a close knit family even years after being separated by half a continent. She is always so excited when we visit them in Florida, or they come to see us here. Sadly, Sundog met his demise last year after living a life of legend.

Raven meets her baby brother Stellar at Dog World in Florida, and immediately begins to lick him all over.

Raven meets her baby brother Stellar at Dog World in Florida, and immediately begins to lick him all over.

At home in Colorado, she teaches him all he needs to know, from finding antlers to digging holes.

At home in Colorado, she teaches him all he needs to know, from finding antlers to digging holes.

Even when he outweighs her by thirty percent she continues to groom him like he's her baby, always thoroughly licking his ears.

Even when he outweighs her by thirty percent she continues to groom him like he’s her baby, always thoroughly licking his ears.

Rope tug.

Rope tug.

Stick tug.

Stick tug.

A meditative moment.

A meditative moment.

At the rim.

At the rim. Is she not ridiculously adorable?

Romping in the snow.

Romping in the snow.

Après Bone Burying.

Après Bone Burying.

Little Miss Chiff. Mischief.

You can trust me. Really.

Deep in the Big Snow a few years ago.

Deep in the Big Snow a few years ago.

A week before the Thistle Episode, still and always on her back.

A week before the Thistle Episode, still and always on her back.

Three weeks after her extraordinary surgery, she is perfectly fine in her own mind; though in an apparently unrelated incident, two days after she got her stitches out, she started pissing blood. It lasted all evening, one red pee after another. I rushed her back to Doc, who suggested after analyzing the urine that she must have suffered some trauma to her bladder. “You’re more worried about this than I am,” he said, and sent us home with some Vitamin K and a request for another urine sample this week. By bedtime that night the urgency had tapered off, and by morning there was only a faint pink tinge. A few hours later she was perfectly okay. It’s a long, unlikely story, but I think he was right.

We continue to take three walks a day, the silver lining in the Thistle Episode. First thing in the morning and just before sunset we go up the driveway; she is still on-leash for these and probably always will be, because she will chase the deer. In between, we walk to the canyon rim. The past two days she’s been off-leash for these walks but it makes me nervous. She seems to think the sole purpose of our going for a walk is so that she can find forbidden things to put in her mouth; nose to the ground she searches out deer poop, old bones, anything rank. So far I’ve been able to keep her close enough to keep shit out of her mouth, but not sure how long that good behavior will last. I’ve ordered a soft nylon muzzle to try out, so I can let her run free without the worry of what she’ll eat next. Not sure if either of us will be able to tolerate that. But right now the thought of her running off and chowing down on an old deer skull or femur bone is just too much for me. I’m sure I’ll eventually relax about it.

Another silver lining is that I’ve added some elements to the dietary regimen of both dogs, after consulting with the holistic vet an hour away. Both doctors concurred that she probably wasn’t drinking enough water in general, and that likely contributed to her intestinal impaction. So now I add a full cup of water to their food twice a day, and additionally once a day I add a little flavoring to an extra sixteen ounces of water to be sure they’re drinking enough; a little chicken stock, or tuna water, or half teaspoon of cat food, and they lap it right up. I’m also adding a couple of tablespoons of canned pumpkin to their breakfast to give them more fiber, and they get a midnight snack just before bed, a handful of little biscuits or a quarter cup of food. I had noticed they were both making mouth noises early in the morning, licking licking, as if they had a bit of reflux. Dr. Betty suggested the bedtime snack would keep their stomachs busy overnight, and sure enough there’s no more morning mouth noises or tummy rumblings; they sleep soundly til it’s time to get up. And so do I!

Snowfleas

Raven leads the way, leashed, on a forty minute ski this afternoon.

Raven leads the way, leashed, on a forty minute ski this afternoon.

After our walk this morning Raven came inside and rolled onto her back, tentatively, for the first time since her surgery exposing her Jiggy-belly for a rub. Avoiding the incision I gently massaged her tummy on each side, and rubbed the little white star on her chest. She is 95% out of the woods, says Doc, after we skied through the woods early this afternoon. “I bet you never thought you’d be this excited to see a dog poop,” he added. So her system is functioning again, though sluggishly and painfully. “She’ll be sore for another week or so, she might strain a little and that’s okay. As long as she doesn’t strain and strain. Something can still go wrong in the next day or two, but she’s doing really well. You’ve done a great job.”

“So did you,” I said. “Oh, I just closed my eyes,” he said.

It’s been a full-time job, tending this little bad dog and her stitched up intestine. I’m exhausted. My usual exercise of walking them half a mile a day then letting them in and out as they like has burgeoned to well over two miles each day in three or four forced marches. This morning and evening we walked to the top of the driveway and back, more than half a mile each trip. In between, we skied up and back then continued on through the yard and out toward the canyon, another mile plus at a good clip. But even my skiing downhill is no more than a brisk walk for Raven, and she helped me up the hills. My hips are feeling it, and my left foot throbs, but my stamina has already increased, and I can feel those starches burning up.

Among the many benefits of our forced marches up and down the driveway is the beauty of the view,

Among the many benefits of our forced marches up and down the driveway is the beauty of the view.

Ice Canyon begins to earn its name at last this winter.

Ice Canyon begins to earn its name at last this winter.

The snow so far this year has been great for cross-country. This year, I mean this whole winter, which seems like it’s been months but in fact actually started on time: We had a long mild autumn with only a couple of cold snaps, and snow and arctic blasts only began in earnest right around the solstice, the alleged first day of winter. It occurred to me today that in less than two months I’ll be photographing bees on crocuses. So no complaints here about this winter, which when it finally did arrive arrived with commitment. Snowpack in the mountains is above normal throughout most of the state, after alarmingly low measurements just a few weeks ago. But back to the snow down here, on the plateau.

It’s been crisp and dry, and ideal for skiing through the woods. Some years it’s just heavy and wet all winter, and sticks to the bottoms of skis and holds you back. Like so many things can, if you let them. This short bright season, we just glide along. I understand the allure of fresh powder for those crazy downhill skiers, it’s great for nordic as well. Brutally cold temperatures also help. But I’ve noticed before that ski conditions deteriorate as soon as I see snowfleas.

Those little pepper specks are living beings.

Yes, snowfleas. Those little pepper specks are living beings.

Maybe this year will be different. It was still plenty cold this afternoon when we encountered them. But usually they signify warmer weather, which means melty snow, which can impede skis. I didn’t believe in snowfleas when I first heard the word, but have since come to be quite fond of the little critters and greet them with delight. On closer inspection, they look almost like thistle seeds! But smaller, and they bounce. You don’t have to watch long before you see them popping and hopping off the snow. Also, they cannot kill your dog. In fact, snowfleas are beneficial arthropods, decomposers who live in the duff under trees and break down decaying matter, making its nutrients more accessible for growing plants. They are also prey to beetles, ants, and other tiny predators. Just one more species living its life among the rest of us, one more unique manifestation of the divine.

Believe it, or not.

Believe it, or not.

While they are always there in the fertile decay of the forest floor, at an astounding density of a hundred thousand or more per square yard, you can really only see them in the snow, when they sometimes rise to the surface. Why? I’m not sure anybody knows. Snowfleas remind me there is so much I don’t yet and may never know about the world we inhabit. Divine mystery can be immense or tiny.

The Road to Recovery

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Hurtin’ Puppy on a morning walk. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has inquired about Raven’s situation in the past couple of days. She’s eating, drinking, and peeing, her attitude is practically back to normal, and she’s still in a lot of pain. This morning she returned to the vet for a successful enema followed by a laxative. He said, “I’m not surprised. I know there are more seeds in there. I couldn’t cut her intestine every few inches. I got what I could, and the rest is moving through.”

He likened it to when the irrigation water is turned on in the spring. All the debris that’s accumulated in the ditches gets washed down til it forms an obstruction. “In the ditch you can just go scoop it out. Then more comes down and you scoop it out again. With intestines, well…” He smiles and shrugs, “You can’t do that.”

All other signs being good, he sent her home with the prescription to take her for a fifteen minute walk every hour for the rest of the afternoon. We’ve done two, one up the driveway and one through the woods. Stellar is delighted with all this going out, and runs loose happily exploring. He is the one dog I’ve ever had that I know I can call off the deer. This morning we flushed half a dozen from the woods along the driveway and he just stood and watched them bounce across the drive and over the fence. Raven, feeling better, would have been after them. As it was she watched with interest, another good sign.

Walking through the woods in almost a foot of snow was more exhausting for me than I thought it would be. I started out on the cross-country trail, and one boot or another kept slipping off the side of the ski tracks. Not to mention wrecking the track. So we struck off into the trees, aiming for more shallow snow, but still I wish I’d had on snowshoes. The next walk, in about half an hour, I’ll try with skis on, and see how we both do; if she doesn’t tangle with the skis and I don’t tangle with the leash I’ll call it good. Stellar, I know, will be thrilled.

 

That she had no fever this morning, and is engaged and responsive to everything, pleased Doc. “It’s going well,” he reassured me as we left. “We’re on the road.”