Endings and Beginnings

Yesterday was the first of the new year. I have mixed feelings about New Year’s day. I’m not one to make resolutions, but I appreciate the “clean slate” feeling that often accompanies January first. There is a hopefulness for what might come, an excitement for plan-making, a brightness to the dreams that take shape as we think about how to get things just right in these next twelve months. But I’m always sad when the hubbub of the holidays close and it’s time to put away the decorations and sweep up the needles from the tree one last time. I love the waning daylight of Autumn and Winter, and the solstice always seems to arrive so much more quickly every year we travel around the sun. Often we don’t get snow until after Christmas, and that’s when I really want to listen to all those classic carols, wrapped up in my blanket on the window seat sipping hot cocoa and watching the lights glow under a blanket of the fresh white stuff. I wish I could leave the Christmas lights up until after March—without feeling like a lazy neighbor—so I can get my glowing snow fix. And I might be in the gross minority, but I am sad when it’s time for the kids to go back to school.

Last year’s New Year’s Day was, shall we say, overly eventful, with two separate trips to the hospital for two different children, one who had to stay overnight. Overall, that day was a pretty good indicator of how the year would proceed. This year all I asked is not that we avoid all trips to the ER (we do, after all, have four children, so that would be a bit unreasonable, no?) but that they be spread out a bit further apart, be a bit less frightening, and that none might require the assistance of an ambulance. I am happy to say that even with the sick little kidlets, we were able to avoid any trip to the hospital, which I will call a success.

There was one single, and rather large snag in our new year request and plans, however, and that happened because our beloved Barclay, who is getting older and crankier, bit one of the kids.

Barclay Dog 2013

As I wrote about before, we knew that he was sick, wasn’t likely to get better, and as good and amazing as a companion as he has been, was on his last chance watch. So when he bit our son in another unprovoked incident, it was clear that he could no longer be trusted around the kids and that a very hard decision had to be made. After taking our son to the pediatrician to make sure his wound was cared for (no stitches for dog bites but he is on a course of antibiotics), and taking Barclay to the vet to look for obvious/acute illness (there was none to be identified), we had a heartbreaking discussion for several days while Barclay rested up in our room, away from the littles. Thankfully, so very thankfully, our in-laws took Barclay in to care for him in a home he is familiar with and people that he knows and loves. Our son’s wound is not so serious, but the lack of predictability in Barclay’s behavior in a house full of small, boisterous children is more so and too risky to continue. There is no better solution that I could imagine for him, even as sad as we are that he is no longer here in our home.

So, this is how our 2013 began, with a not-as-bad-as-last year’s day at home, ending with a difficult farewell as Barclay was driven off to his new home.

Endings and beginnings, sweet and bitter, two sides of the same coin, and an appropriate reminder that this coming year, as every year is, will be a mixed bag and what we take away from it will be determined by our decisions and reactions to the situations handed us. It may not be all shiny and sparkly and catch-phrase-y, but it’s appropriate… and somehow reassuring.

Happy Travels to you and yours in this new year 2013.

Barking Mad

I’m not sure about you, but I am so thankful that it is Friday. This week was rough.

Barclay Dog

Three years ago this month we moved to the New England coast. We took with us three children (found another while we were here and now there’s four) and our first baby… our sable and white Border Collie, Barclay, who was seven years old then, and is now ten.

Although we all miss home, Barclay has probably had it the hardest since we’ve moved. He has been infected with Lyme disease three times now; we’ve never been able to properly vaccinate him because his levels have never gotten low enough. This past June, he began acting sick again, and even though we had him to the vet the Friday before, that Monday morning he wasn’t able to get to his feet at all. I was devastated. Somehow, I managed to get him downstairs and into the car and to the vet. It was a few hours later we discovered that the Lyme had infected his kidneys, which is rare, and caused them to begin to fail. He stayed at the vet’s for a week, and we thought several times that he was going to have to be put down, but then he would make a miraculous leap forward; a pattern that repeated itself several times over his stay. Incredibly, we were finally able to take him home, where it took at least another two weeks before we felt he was out of the woods.

Any of you who have pets know that “pet” is actually a misnomer; it can not possibly describe the relationship that develops with these creatures. Barclay Dog was our first dependent, our first foray into the world of shared responsibility of a life separate from our own yet belonging to us. He was the only dog at the shelter who wouldn’t come running up to the front of his kennel when someone new stopped by; he was too overwhelmed with all the noise, which explains why this beautiful thing was passed over by so many other families. But get him out and on the leash… he was a whole other creature. Easy to train and eager to please, he had the intellect of a Border Collie, but the calm demeanor of a Great Dane, the greatest couch potato you could imagine. We named him ironically, as we didn’t hear him bark for the first few months we brought him home (rest assured, he has been making up for that lost time ever since).  He is a Border Collie that needs little exercise and will often flip onto his back at the end of our driveway in order to avoid a walk. I would like to say that he is so sweet that he wouldn’t hurt a fly, but the truth is they have always been his worst enemy and he has spent much time in these past years doing his part to decrease the world house fly population. That being said, he is incredibly gentle, and has never shown any agression once to any of our kids. Not once. Nothing but ever-bearing patience to ear pulls and teeth pokes and eye jabs and the occasional pony ride. When it becomes too much, he waits until the kids climb off of him, then slowly rises and walks to the other side of me, still as close as possible to all of us.  He is, in the truest sense, the perfect family dog.

That’s why it was so surprising this week that while our three year old was rubbing his belly he quickly turned, snapped, and bit her.

It wasn’t a bad bite—it barely broke the surface of her skin—but it was sudden and seemingly unprovoked and scared us all. I had noticed that he was spending more time by himself, and was going outside more frequently, but he was still eating, so I didn’t rush to the vet’s. This time, as I drove him to the doctor, I realized that his kidney failure had probably fallen off the edge, and that it was time to make the difficult decision that eventually has to be made. Our beloved vet who was also quite surprised by Barclay’s reaction wanted to check him over as well as run his blood labs, but she shared my fear and suspicion. Dogs with kidney failure do not seem to thrive long after their diagnosis and it seemed that the writing was on the wall.

So imagine our great surprise when once again, Barclay defied the odds, and not only is his kidney function no worse than in June, but it is clear from the labs that he was suffering from a rather nasty UTI. Not only is it easily treated with antibiotics, but it would cause of great deal of soreness and pain on his belly, that was accidentally agitated by our three year old. A few days of the antibiotics, and a few days of rest, and he should be fine.

Relief, sweet relief!

Over the summer, when we realized that Barclay’s time with us was going to be limited, we decided that it might help ease the transition if we had another dog. We’ve always liked having two dogs, and had adopted two older dogs (a black lab that was with us for a year, and Mom’s Westie—Katie—for two years, which was still her dog but stayed with us while she and my stepdad worked all over the US) but the past three years and all the transitions and adjustments have made it difficult to invite another dog to come stay with us. Now that we’ve been in our home for a year, the timing seemed right.

So even though we have four _little_ kids, a senior dog whose health is on the verge, and all the time constraints and responsibilities that come with it all, we went ahead and executed the plan to bring home another family member.

Leash n Things

Tomorrow morning, as mad as it all sounds, we will meet, greet, treat, and bring home our new girl from her rescue foster family.

We couldn’t be more excited!

As a post note, I wanted to mention that of course we also realize that we will need to be extra vigilant with Barclay when he begins to show signs of illness. As I said before, we had noticed he was off by himself more frequently as well as drinking more with many additional visits outside. Next time we have a whiff of something off, then we will immediately schedule some time with our vet. And I’m afraid that any more signs of aggression will force our hand earlier than we would hope. We have too many small children to take any chances.