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March 30, 2013

There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.

Shelby Smiles
I miss my little dog.
It is causing me terrible pain, as bad as when my first wife and my son died. It is a different pain but it feels like my soul his being slowly ripped through a hole in my chest. I can't think of her without tears. I can't talk about her because I choke up and the pain gets so bad I almost wish for a heart attack. I get angry because no one cares enough that a great living thing so full of love has been ripped so unfairly away.
People wish me condolences on the loss of my daughter. She was never my daughter. It was more important than that. Shelby was my dog and I was her boy. We weren't family, we weren't Bossing the bed codependent, we took care of each other and taught each other and cared for each other.
The only reason I could afford Shelby was because she failed her puppy temperament test. The first time we met each other she bit me. Drew blood. Then she laid on my foot and then sat calmly in and out of my lap.
That night I had as luxurious crate prepared for her as I could afford. She'd have none of it and cried until I let her out. She dragged herself into the bed and slept on the pillow next to my face. In the morning she used the crate as her toilet until I dragged her outside.
The day the breeder, Julie, took Shelby and I to the dog park with Shelby's mother and her Uncle Hank. A last romp and a goodbye for when Shelby's family said goodbye.
Shelby ran to her mother , Reina. Reina rejected her aggressively. Julie explained that was normal and Reina was just telling her it was time for Shelby to make her way in the world.
Shelby waiting What everyone noticed was that instead of running to someone familiar she ran to me.
And that was how it started. For the next 8 years every time I looked down I saw Shelby looking back at me, always laughing, always ready with a dog joke to tell me or pull on me.
Living in a big city I know that everyone has hundreds of great stories about their dogs. So do I. Too many.
Every day with Shelby was an adventure. Every walk was an odyssey of excitement. The day we saw the giant opossum, and watched a rabbit and a crow have a fight. Or discovered dinosaur bones, and dinosaurs and ducks. And when she met her best friend, the little blind dog, Ben, the two of them made discoveries unheard of.
In the Atlantic I suppose Shelby's biggest accomplishment was becoming a therapy dog. It was my idea. I thought she could use the training. She was just over a year old when she started and she was terrible. She wanted to play with everybody. I thought she was terrific any time she completed an exercise. The trainers were charmed by Shelby, so charmed that it compelled them to not throw us out of the class.
I didn't expect Shelby to graduate. I was surprised that during the final exam she not only did well she had top grades. She was so gentle they asked if she could work with children.
Thinking of her then shunts my pain aside. She was amazing. Playing with the children was fun for her and she worked hard at it. She bought a new joy to the children. Some of those kids remembered Shelby as giving them their last smiles. The children would come to my work to visit Dr Shelby. Many cars would pull over when we were walking so that parents and children could come and say hello to the Dr Shelby.
It was when she did her serious work in the oncology ward that she amazed me, me who already thought she could do anything. She walked the hospital hallway, quietly, calmly, wended her way past gurneys and nurses until she came to an open door. She'd stare into the room for a moment and make her decision to either enter or go to the next room. I tried not to peek into the rooms. It was her time. People would talk to me about Shelby but they weren't really talking to me. They wanted to talk to her and didn't know how to talk to a dog.
When's the party? Around then I felt like I should get back into coaching. Of course, Shelby came with me to every practice and she was on the sidelines for every game. In our second year the team got to State; at the football banquet the players voted Shelby their favorite coach.
I just now moved my chair and I remember how she always watched over me. Even when I was in hospital. At night she stayed as close to me as possible. Even when she was sick she always pressed though the pack to get to see me first to make sure I was all right. She loved me enough to tolerate the 14 foster dogs I bought into her life. She didn't like all of them. She wanted them to follow the rules, her rules mainly. But she endured them even if sometimes I did get "looks".
Her last three weeks were terrible but she was always loving. I have to walk the five dogs 3 or 4 times a day. I have to make 3 trips. Shelby always insisted on making all the trips with me. She would walk with me or in front of me and the other dogs. As she sickened she started walking 5 or ten feet behind us. She started to walk with her head low, she began sitting and lying down in an untypical way.
We took her to the vet for her annual exam. When they drew blood for her panel her blood was not red but rusty brown. They tested it and her blood count was 12. We began a treatment of massive minocyclin and predosterone (a steroid). Shelby was not responding well, even though her blood count did rise an insignificant amount.
At home she still insisted she go out with me at any opportunity. She wanted me close to her. She slept in the living room. She liked the cold air blowing on her from our drafty front door.In her woods.
We have to climb a hill to get to the street. When she could no longer climb the hill she figured out another pathway. In a few days even the other path was too difficult. I stopped taking the other guys up the hill and she would slowly follow us around the back yard.
Even after her blood count held steady she was weakening. She started to refuse to eat. But even till the end she always wanted her cookies. She could move fast for a pizza slice! Every time she took a cookie I had hope.
Every night she still found the strength to come and trick me and play jokes on me. She'd put her big old paw on me and make me pet her. She used her paw to direct me to her tummy. She loved her tummy rubs. She was always smiling the same way she smiled at life.
Dr Karen decided we should start to cut back and wean Shelby off some of the drugs, to see if they could be hurting her appetite and energy. To try and be certain what was ehrlichia and what might be a side effect.
Shelby got worse. I took her to work with me. She enjoyed herself immensely but I was tortured thinking that I was putting too much strain on her.
One funny thing she did at work: Shelby always kept a time limit on how long I was able to be out of her sight. I had to step out of the office. I was bent over working on a computer when I was suddenly poked in my butt. I jerked around and there was Shelby all over joyed with herself for finding me.
When she was a puppy we always played hide and seek. She remembered.
Sleeper Of course all my customers were screaming about the dangerous looking wolf-dog running around on the loose. Shelby and I didn't care about them. She was just happy to win our game. I was happy that she still wanted to laugh and joke.
We got home that night and Shelby was worsening. She still insisted on coming outside with each of the other dogs but she struggled badly. She was searching for an easier way to get down the gentle slope into the backyard. The search was to hard so she just sat and laughed at me trying to walk the other dogs without her help.
Tuesday she looked too weak to come to work with me. The day at work was miserable without her. When I got home she didn't have the strength to push to the front of the pack. I pretended not to notice for her sake.
Wednesday we went to the Vet hospital. She was moving so slow. She still wouldn't eat.
In the car she wouldn't lie down or sit. I sat terrified that this would be our last car ride together.
At the hospital she still gobbled up every cookie I offered her. She could barely walk. We could only get about 10 yards at a go. She'd take a break, make me pet her and then continue on another 10 yards.
After 90 minutes we finally got to talk to the Doctor. The Doctor was pregnant. The Doctor still sat on the floor, putting her hand on Shelby's back. Shelby did not try and move away from her.
The Doctor laid out the plan of attack on the ehrlichia. Shel's blood count was stable so the first thing was to check her reticulites. Which is how many blood cells she is producing. Then if the Sunny Day reticulates were low we would have to do a bone marrow aspiration!! I've had several of those and they are up in the top 10 of excruciating pains.
I listened to all this like a petrified log. I led Shelby back into the hospital proper. I got them to give her a run so she could look around and lay out easily. When I left I looked back. Shelby was looking at me with a scared panic free face. She wouldn't follow the hospital tech until I broke off eye contact.
We waited two hours for the reticulate readings. When they came back they were good, very good. She needed a 60,000 and she got a 200,000! So no bone marrow tests!
The decision was to give her two units of blood and then to do x-rays and a sonogram to try and pin point where she was loosing all the blood she was producing. They let us see her in the run. She was dangling tubes and such. I watched the blood pump labor away while I thought of teasing her about spying on her.
Even with just 1 unit of blood in her Shel was more alert, lying down but with her head up. She watched everything.
The blood transfusion took all night. I went home and showed great discipline. I only called 3 times. Shelby was always doing fine. In the morning she refused food but she did go for a walk and she defecated.
About 8 am the hospital called and said Shelby's blood count was 22! Still far from ideal but higher than they had hoped for!
Around 10 they called me to recite the bill and to ask my permission to do the x-rays and ultrasound test. Again she was doing great. Standing and watching everything going on. She commented on how well behaved and gentle Shelby was.
My heart was singing.
At 12:10 PM Thursday the Doctor called. She said a lot of blow softening stuff I couldn't focus on. At 12:02 Shelby stood up and gave a short howl and then collapsed.
They had tried twice to resuscitate her via chemicals and electricity. They were still doing CPR but she was not responding.
I asked them to stop the CPR. After 10 minutes I thought it was hopeless and a miracle resurrection The joker
would still leave her brain damaged.
My wife and I got there as soon as we could. They put us in an examination room and wheeled Shelby in on a cart. When I touched her all that fur made her feel warm. When I had my first two heart attacks Shelby and I were foolishly separated for a few months. When we were reunited she didn't run and jump into my arms; she snapped at me and tried to run away. She thought I was a ghost returned from the grave. When she saw that I was flesh she was back to leaning on me and demanding I scratch her butt. When I felt her warm fur I thought she was going to jump up and yell at me, "Now you know how it feels!"
It would have been a great joke. But it wasn't a joke.
I could still feel that Shelby was there. Probably why it felt confusing. I told her she was a good girl and that she would always be my dog.
I asked the Doctor about her howl. I wanted to make sure it was or was not her emergency howl for me to come rescue her. It didn't sound like it was. It sounded like Shelby was caught unawares and surprised. It was an inarticulate utterance caused by a blood clot from brain suddenly dislodging and striking her brave little heart.Going home
They had covered Shel with a blanket. I pulled it back and saw the weariness of her battle, the two places where they'd shaved for the catheter and how they'd shaved her stomach below her heart.
I rubbed her tummy telling her she was a good girl and that I loved her. More than even a cookie she loved being called a good girl. She hated being called a bad girl and would argue if she thought it was undeserved.
At first her tummy felt like it was Shelby but abruptly it felt like something gray and dead. It was then I realized that Shelby had finally left.
We're having her cremated. We'll pick up her ashes next week.
Shelby would not be happy at Rainbow Bridge. She wouldn't run and play. She would only sit and wait for me.
If you believe in reincarnation I can't imagine a higher life form for her to evolve into. She loved who she was and it was as close to perfection as any of us could want.
She was the greatest dog in the world. She was my dog. I was her boy.
If you can't understand that. I've nothing to say.
If you do understand and are jealous I understand. I'm jealous of the me that was.
She was 7 years old. Nearly 8. She did nothing but brighten the world for a lot of people but mainly she illuminated my world. It seems even darker now without her in it. It's not fair to her.
One thing did happen. My wife locked her keys in the car at the hospital. We had to call a locksmith. He was there in about 5 minutes. I don't know how we must have looked; while he was getting into the car he told us about his 13 year old pit bull who was the glue of his family. He then said, "No charge."

March 28, 2013

God must have needed him a good dog
Steve McQueen "Soldier In The Rain"

Shelby, my puppy, passed away today at 12:02 PM.
It was surprising only because she had been showing so much improvement. After enduring 2 units of blood in a transfusion all her vital signs showed marked improvement. There were signs that this was going to be treatable or at least manageable.
But then she suddenly let off a strangled howl and collapsed, dead.
After 10 minutes of CPR there was no response. I asked them to stop as even if she miraculously survived after that time she surely would have been brain damaged.
I will miss her. So will many others.
She was the greatest dog in the world.

March 23, 2013

Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers each night
Clifford Siodamak - "The Wolfman"

Creepy 1966 by Frank Frazetta
Click images for desktop size: "Creepy 1966" by Frank Frazetta
My puppy has a heart murmur and she has anemia.
It's bad. What makes it somehow worse is that it comes from a disease called Ehrlichia.

Ehrlichia canid infection in dogs is divided into 3 clinicopathologic stages:When The Earth Cracked Open

acute phase of disease:
fever, anorexia, lethargy
This phase begins 1-3 weeks after exposure.

Most dogs recover at this point, but others progress to the subacute and chronic phases subacute phase of disease:
hypergammaglobulinemia (polyclonal or sometimes monoclonal gammopathy), thrombocytopenia and anemia usually subclinical, but can last months to years

chronic phase:
lethargy, weight loss
Mortality can be high in dogs that progress to the chronic stage of disease.
Three hundred military dogs were lost to this "Tropical Canine Pancytopenia" form of ehrlichiosis during the Vietnam War. Progression to subacute and chronic disease is generally attributed to an ineffective immune response on the part of the dog. German Shepherd dogs appear to be predisposed to the severe, chronic form of disease.

It kind of sucks to be my puppy right now. If nothing else, I love her. I can only hope that means Transformer
Click images for desktop size: "Transformer" by Unknown
something to her. I think it does. It could just be my massive ego but she still wants to keep me in eyesight.
My puppy has even figured out new paths and methods to keep me in sight which reduce the stress on her little body. When we walk up the hill to the street for our walks she insists on coming along on all three trips. Instead of bouncing up the hill and vaulting the retaining walls like usual she's figured out a path that she can make in her own plodding style.
When I walk the other dogs she lets me go to where she knows I'll have to turn around. She will stand there and wait for me to come back. If I move five feet further away than normal she adjusts and waits.
So the flesh is weak but her mind is strong.Cry Of The City
Her initial blood test showed her with a 12% blood count. It should be around 36%. My own blood count once fell to 5%meds but and they were writing me off then. I know how uncomfortable a 12% can be.
We started her on a massive program of antibiotics and steroids. My puppy showed all the side effects of the meds but no real improvements. In fact she seemed to be going downhill.
I took her to work with me to monitor her. She watched me closer than I monitored her! If I left my office door open she'd very slowly follow me out and just trudge along until she found me. When she did find me she would just laugh at me.
I took my puppy back in Friday for another blood test. This time the blood count was 14% but her protein count was down from 6.7 to 6.
Those 2 points caused my heart to flutter. It could be a false hope due to the various testing methods used. But they can't take way that she at least is not getting worse.
Ehrlichia is a tick born disease. Like lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever it comes from being Concerti Vivaldi by MA Parkes
Click images for desktop size: "Concerti Vivaldi" by MA Parkes
bitten by a tick.
I'm still trying to figure out what purpose ticks serve in ecology. I wonder about that a lot less then I wonder how to get revenge on a phylum.
Most of you know that my big prayer has always been for me to live one day longer than my puppy. Even though she showed that she can survive far better without me than I can without her.
I wish I'd never offered that prayer. I'm wondering now if she's just trying to keep pace with me; as if I'd given her a command to go first.
I've been having a lot of warning sign, signs I'm constantly on alert for: Constantly dropping things - Count Dracula And The Vampire Brides explained away as a side effect to the frozen right shoulder and football neck injury
Thinning hair - I'm getting older aren't I?
Odd wounds that don't heal - I have a few in my scalp. My wife examined them and said they looked like bug bites.
Fatigue - I've got a burdensome loathsome job and five dogs to care for.
They did a blood work on me a couple of weeks ago. I got the call yesterday that I need to go in for some more blood tests.
Lost 25 lbs since November - My wife moved in. New living arrangement and eating habits change. And there's been a lot of stress with her family, house and friends. It all effects me. Four pounds a month is not what anyone would call a massive weightless now, is it?
I sort of blew it off. I was feeling okay and had a good explanation for what was going on in me, but last night it was an herculean task to lift a dog bowl of food and stir it up. I wrote it off as using my bad right hand but it was just as impossible with my left.
I got it done because me and my puppy do share that. We just keep on going till we get there.
I might be coming out of remission, but then again, I might not.

If you check the podcast button at the top of the menu you'll find the latest. I'll have another one up this week.
After that will come the tribute to summer and then the tribute to dogs, with every dog song I could find that is cool and or crazy.

March 1, 2013

Just because the biggest fool in the world says the sun will rise tomorrow don't expect the sun to malinger to spite the fool

The Blue Beetle
Click images for desktop size: "The Blue Beetle" by Unknown
Before I was a teen I wrote an article about The Flash for a fanzine called Rocket Blast Comic Collector. At 11 I didn't see much difference between fanzines and magazines or between high 7 Brothers Meet Dracula school athletes and major league players.
There was no pay for the article. It never occurred to me that people would pay you for writing words. I was disappointed, not by the lack of money but by the response of the publisher. I thought I'd written the greatest love song to The Flash imaginable. All I got was an index card that said, "Good article." It wasn't even signed!
I was irked.
I found out a few years later that the fellow who published the Rocket Blast was 19. He had cystic fibrosis. He was in a wheel chair and he did all of his typing by holding the pencil in his teeth and punching the keys on an IBM Selectric one at a time with the pencil.
Inside I discovered what the word churlish meant and wondered how you could apologize for unspoken irkedness.

That fanzine is a funny thing to have pop into my mind. Tomorrow the team I assisting coaching with are playing for the league championship.
I wouldn't expect anyone to be surprised at this except this is a basketball team . . .
They've tried to throw our team out of the league. They tried to throw the head coach I'm mentoring out of the league. The HC is 23 years old and this is the first time he's ever coached. He made mistakes but they were all forgivable ones. I came down on him harder than they did.
They tried to throw one of our players out of the league. He's a warrior, so you know I like him. He plays basketball and he also plays baseball for his high school team. So I double like him.
Medusa by Boris Vallejo
Click images for desktop size: "Medusa" by Boris Vallejo
If we win the championship they want me to accept the trophy and make a speech. I'm pretty sure they expect me to rail against the league and the shabby way we feel we've been treated by them. What I'll probably say is something like championships are a rare thing to play for, and rarer to win. How many people ever get the chance to say I did my best and my best was enough.
The greatest man I ever met was the late Coach Eddie Robinson. He was the football coach at Grambling who for a while had more victories than any coach in NCAA history.
Coach Robinson told me how he used to have to mark out the field and place the line markersCasablanca before games. While he was doing this he realized how much he loved coaching. He said to love coaching you had to love the athletes you taught. In later years he realized that to merely be a decent coach you had to love your players.
I turned this into my own bromide I constantly preach, "No coach ever won a game and no player ever lost a game."
To me that means the joy a coach receives is consummate to the way his players perform and behave. That is a game is lost because a guy loses his temper and gets ejected it is up to the coach to teach the player to keep his temper, to find out what burns inside of him to the point of bad behavior. If a game is lost it's because the coach hasn't taught the player how to make the play. He hasn't given the player the tools to succeed.
It's the coaches job to instill the desire to improve and to learn and study enough of the game to know what to teach the players and how to teach them.
Film Fun by Bolles
Click images for desktop size: "Film Fun" by Bolles
When the team wins it is the players who strived, who pushed themselves to places that they had never imagined they could enter, accomplish dreams that they never knew they were capable of. All the coach can do is be proud that he is associated with them.
That's why winning is only important in that it gives us the chance to see what we can accomplish.
Each of the players, the ones on our team and the ones we competed against has improved this season. I've seen it from all of you and I was proud of all of you, proud to play against you and to play with you.
Or something like that. Hopefully better than that.

The gentle dog had his surgery to remove a nasty tumor. The word today is that he is, for now, cancer free. There's still some small worries ahead but he's still feeling fine enough to bite me every chance he gets.
Zotz! The deaf dog is doing fine after her second heart worm treatment. She absolutely refuses to lie quiet and calm for a month . . .
Giant dog still wants to kill deaf dog and is incredibly jealous of all the attention gentle dog is receiving after his surgery.
Criminal dog is still laughing at us all.
And my puppy is still grumpy and still in love with me.

The last podcast is still available up ion the title bar menu. It seems sort of redundant to keep reposting the thing here.
I'll have the 10th one ready this week. I'm surprised that they're popular. Very perplexing to me. I figured a half dozen people would care and didn't worry about it. It looks like about 500 downloads each so far. I'm surprised is all.
Of course the only questions I receive about them are on the order of what kind of gear do I listen to this music through. Mostly homemade stuff, or hand built if you want to sound fancy . . .

I've disabled comments again. Too much spam, like in the tens of thousands a day. Jerks.