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It dawned on me when I was writing about Ninja a few weeks ago, that over the past year or so, I have had ample opportunity to write about him, but not about our other dog, Gonzo. (That is, since Gonzo was attacked by two big dogs in August 2020. But since then, it has been the Ninja show.)


Isn’t it true that we share the emergencies and the cautionary tales, but rarely share when things are fine? A yoga instructor once pointed out that we focus on what ails us rather than the parts of us that are feeling good. It’s human nature, I suppose. (Now would be a good time to focus on and be grateful for your parts that DO feel good. I try and do that from time to time.)


Anyway, YES, we have two dogs. Ninja is our black lab/pit (we think) mix. And Gonzo is our blonde “your guess is as good as mine” dog. He’s about 28 pounds, perhaps some terrier and/or whippet (he has that streamlined middle) and/or chihuahua mix…????


And he just turned 13 years old! (Exact birthday unknown, but we believe it’s early February).

We adopted him as a puppy when the dog we were trying to adopt had been adopted out to another family just before we arrived. The rescue group let Gonzo out of the puppy room, and he came running over to us.


I did not want a puppy, but the rest of my family had different ideas and they won. I was smitten almost immediately.


Other than a heart murmur (for which he has medication), he’s a healthy, energetic little dog.


Gonzo does not like when strangers come through the door and will shoot first and ask questions later. That means that given the chance, he will lunge and bite and then realize that you weren’t here to hurt him. Instead, we take precautions when people come over.


But once the energy in the house is diffused, he’s the sweetest, cuddliest dude.


He sleeps under the covers with me snuggled in the crook of my legs.


I know, for some of you, that is disgusting, and others totally get it. But that’s the way it is, and I like it.


As many of you know, I’ve been sleeping downstairs most nights with Ninja, and Gonzo is almost always with me too.


And they love each other too. If Ninja has 30 seconds of play in him, it’s with Gonzo. And they are always snuggled.


So that’s Gonzo in a nutshell. Happy and healthy and hopefully it will stay that way for a long time.


Happy 13th Birthday Gonzo! 🎈


I don’t share every detail about my dogs, but our relationship with our pets whether they are healthy or challenged is at the heart of the human-animal bond. But a friend who subscribes to my newsletter suggested that I share what’s going on with our dog, Ninja. 


Here’s what’s up:


The Wednesday before (US) Thanksgiving week, Ninja, our black Labrador/Pitbull mix had two grand mal seizures one morning. He landed in the doggie ER where he promptly had another seizure. Anti-seizure medication helped immediately, but we wanted to know, if possible, the cause.


Since we have pet insurance- (thank you, Trupanion!), we decided to go for the MRI. The results showed a mass. But it was unclear whether he either had a stroke or it was a tumor. The neurologist suggested that we repeat the MRI in a few weeks. If the mass on his brain was improved, it would indicate that it was a stroke. (The body absorbs the clots.) If not, it would indicate that it was a tumor. With the results, we could decide if and how to proceed.


While at the doggie ER that day, we also learned that he has a clotting issue and was given an anti-coagulant. (Perhaps a hint that it was a stroke?)


The good news is that the seizures improved once they got the medication dosage correct. He started bleeding a few weeks after that, however, and we had to stop the anti-coagulant.


We just repeated the MRI, and the results indicate that it was a stroke.  That said, in order to hopefully prevent this from happening again, he needs to go back on an anti-coagulant, though we will try a lower dose.


The stroke has definitely aged Ninja. His back legs don’t always work well, and he spends much of the day in a Help ‘Em Up harness, so we can help him up and down the few stairs outdoors, or even from lying down to standing. It’s a lifesaver given that Ninja is a 70-pound dog. He no longer goes upstairs to our bedroom, and I am now sleeping downstairs in the guest bedroom with the dogs.


He barks or cries as soon as he wakes up because he wants to go out, barks when he comes back inside because he wants to eat. You get the idea. He is demanding and vocal.


There’s no question that it is difficult- both physically and emotionally.


But we love him.


And other than this stuff, he’s a relatively healthy 12-year-old dog.


We have no illusions that he is going to get “better.” Yet, he eats like a champ, loves going on short walks (he would go farther if we let him), loves hanging out with us, and sometimes even plays a little bit. For now, his quality of life is still good. Not perfect, but good.


The irony of the situation is not lost on me. Just a few weeks ago we screened a work-in-progress video about a service dog who supports a young lady who suffers from seizures. And now I am supporting my dog who suffers from seizures. Oh, how life imitates art imitating life.


At the end of my weekly newsletter, I sign off with:


“Stay safe and healthy, enjoy your pets and animals, and have a nice week.”


I will take my own suggestion and really enjoy the time with my pets. Our time with them is short and precious. They deserve our attention, kindness, and our love. We all know that it comes back to us many times.

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month?


Well, it’s very timely because we just had a little “situation” with Ninja, resulting in some major dental work.


In the past, our veterinarian was able to scale my dogs’ teeth to do a cleaning. But the veterinary laws changed, and they are no longer able to do cleanings this way. This is a problem because I decided that I didn’t want my dogs to go under general anesthesia to have their teeth cleaned.


What to do?


A few years ago I did try an anesthesia-free vet who couldn’t work with Ninja.  Ninja has no interest in people putting their hands in his mouth and he is super strong, so that didn’t work. The reason why it worked at the general vet is that she could do one tooth at a time, go see another patient, come back and do another tooth until it was all done.


Every time he would go to the general vet for a visit she would say- his teeth could use some attention and I’d say, “yeah, I know, I need to do something about that.” And I never did.


Unfortunately, he seemed to be uncomfortable for a few weeks this winter, biting at his body. But I just thought it was fleas or allergies (even though he’s on flea treatment). I didn’t think it was pain.


One Sunday morning in January I noticed a lump on his snout. By the middle of the day his whole face was swollen and all of the veterinary ER’s were full. Early Monday morning we went to the ER vet who decided that he was having an allergic reaction to something. However, I had researched online, and abscessed tooth appeared as a possible cause.  I asked the vet if that could be what it was, but the ER vet said “no, since he’s eating, it’s not.”


He gave him some cortisone and Benadryl, and the swelling improved for a few days, but never fully disappeared. I called the regular vet who was busy and asked me to send a photo. From the photo she said- yes, it looks like an abscessed tooth. Bring him in for me to double check. Sure enough, he had at least one abscessed tooth. She put him on antibiotics immediately and scheduled him for oral surgery a few weeks out.


On surgery day he went in and she took x-rays and found he had multiple abscesses and various other dental issues and had to have 7 teeth extracted. And of course, this was all under general anesthesia. Fortunately, he did very well, especially given that he’s 11 years old. Oh, and it cost us thousands of dollars. I’m still waiting to see if insurance will reimburse us…


The recovery took about a week but now he seems much happier.  Going forward, to prevent this from happening again, she gave me a list of dental chews and products to try. A friend gave me a sample of an enzyme that you rub on their gums and our dogs now get daily chews too.


Hopefully this will all work well, and this won’t happen again! I’ll report back in a few months once he sees the veterinarian for his next checkup and let you know if the enzyme and chews are keeping his mouth clean.


In the meantime, take your pet to the vet and have their teeth checked. Here’s an article from the American Veterinary Medical Association with more information to support you until then.


This week is Have a Heart for Chained Dogs week and it ends on Sunday February 14th- Valentines day. The organization Dogs Deserve Better has been championing chained dogs for years and they do it with love. They send valentines each year to people who chain their dogs.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart as my dog, Ninja was chained for the first year of his life. For some reason, the group that rescued him out of the backyard where he first lived, sent me video of him on a chain. It was a small dirt lot, and he could run only up and down the length of the lot. In the video you could see the people open up the door and throw some kibble out into his bowl.

I’m not sure how this rescue group found out about him, or why the family agreed to give him up, or if they ended up with more dogs after that. But I do know that no dog deserves to live that way. (After he was rescued from there, he was in the shelter for 3 months, but black pit bull mixes don’t get easily adopted from the shelter. Then he was in a foster home, but the foster’s dog didn’t like him so then he went to a boarding facility for three months. All told, his first two years were chained, in a shelter and then bouncing around.)

It’s remarkable that his disposition is as sweet as it is. Dogs are so forgiving. But they should never be in that position in the first place. I know that there can be cultural issues involved. And that many people have dogs as guard dogs, rather than as companion pets. It’s time to change that. If we choose to have a dog, they should be a part of our family, treated with respect and dignity. They are not an alarm system. They are sentient beings with needs and wants and it is our duty as the beings who domesticated them to honor their true nature.

The very first thing that I ask in my book, What to Expect When Adopting a Dog is whether you are ready for the responsibility of being the guardian to a sentient being. If the answer is: I’m getting a dog for protection, then please reconsider. If the answer is, I’m ready to have an amazing relationship with a dog, then great! Let’s get a dog and invite him or her to be a part of our family.


I attended an online conference with Animal Place, a farm animal sanctuary a while ago. The intention of the conference was to share about the future of the farmed animal movement.

While many of us are more familiar with companion animal rescue, fewer people have been exposed to farm animal sanctuaries and there are more and more popping up all the time.

My friend Corinne took her son to a local sanctuary last week, and they got to experience farm animals up close. I’ve been to one in Southern CA called Gentle Barn a few times. And of course, during my time in India, the sanctuary where I volunteered has many different types of farm animals to get up close and personal with.

These encounters open our eyes and hearts to other sentient beings and enable us to see them as individuals. (Yes, I eat a plant-based diet and attempt to live a vegan lifestyle. I am aware that that isn’t the case for most people. If you would like to discuss it with me, please reach out. I welcome the conversation.)

Watch the Animal Magic Films 
Mini Documentary series

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