Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

My Baby Smells like Sardines!

…or, why we don’t need another dog (yet)


Summer of 2006, I think

Joda, our endearing old dog, died a year ago tomorrow.  At the time, I was 6 months pregnant, and so we’ve jokingly speculated about whether the baby has inherited a bit of her.  “See, just like Joda!” one of us will say when, for example, Maya grabs a piece of paper and shreds it up gleefully with her mouth.

Most of our comparisons are silly.  Just like Joda, Maya:
-is always excited to see me when I get home from work
-needs help getting around– for now
-takes naps multiple times a day
-likes to swim and bathe, but is not so sure about showers

Other similarities are just odd.  For example, a few weeks ago, we cooked up some chicken breast for Maya.  It was nice, organically raised chicken breast and it was cooked without any seasonings– perfectly unoffensive in every way.  Yet, she rejected it.  This is a kid who happily ate smoked salmon, lamb, and meatballs (both Italian and Norwegian) over the holidays.  She’s eaten everything we’ve ever offered her (except for Bo’s homemade okra pickles, which is another story), so it was puzzling that she didn’t like the chicken.

even beets are okay!

even beets are okay!

But we want to make sure that she is getting enough protein, chicken or no chicken.  My solution is eggs and peanut butter.  Bo’s solution? sardines. We usually have sardines around because Bo likes them.  He used to share them with Joda from time to time.  And now, it turns out, he can share them with Maya.  She loves sardines.

In case you are concerned, they are a Norwegian brand of sardine,  from nice cold water and have been treated well and are quite clean.  They are packed in olive oil, but I guess a little extra oil in her diet won’t hurt (just as we used to say about Joda…).


long-suffering Joda, 2000

Now I’m looking forward to the day when Maya can run and fetch things for us (though Joda was never actually very good at that), when we can go for long rambles amongst the trees in the mountains, and when we can just sit enjoying the outdoors quietly, looking around with our ears open and our sniffers activated.

"Why do *I* have to wear this now?"


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Joda, in memoriam


I first met Joda on a summer day in 1997 under the back stoop of the National Park Service visitor center in Hagerman, Idaho.  My co-workers said that four puppies had been left back there, but when I went to look, only three sleeping bodies lay in a heap in the shade of someone’s car bumper.  I crawled on my belly under the stoop—uniform be damned!—until I was nose to nose with the missing fourth pup.  When I was about an inch away, she woke with a start and enthusiastically started licking my face.  I emerged from underneath, dust on my shirt and spider webs in my hair, and asked Scott, “can we keep this one?”


Thus began my friendship with Joda.  At first it was intermittent, as Scott and I didn’t always live in the same place, and even when we did, those places weren’t always dog-friendly.  Joda wasn’t always easy to be around, either.  I learned to move around the house quietly and unobtrusively, because she’d jump up– ready to go!– if she heard abrupt sounds, like keys clinking.  Anything soft and attached to your hand on one end was clearly a toy for a game of tug-of-war.  She destroyed things—especial favorites being bar soap and decorative flowers, but she also could be catholic in her tastes: shoes, boxes of tissues, soccer balls, and anything else plastic, rubbery, or goopy.  The first time I took her to Syracuse to meet my parents, I awoke in the morning to find that she’d already gotten up and ransacked the bathroom garbage pail, gleefully spreading used feminine products all over the living room floor.


guarding us from the cattle

Poor manners aside, once Joda was old enough, we became great traveling buddies.  From running along Dayville’s  backroads to walks in Buffalo’s Delaware Park to hikes in the hills above Dayville or the Skillet Handle trail along Upper Klamath Lake, and finally to short strolls along Clear Creek in Golden, we covered many, many miles together.


Spring Creek, Oregon

When I start telling Joda stories, the tales of mischief come to mind first: running out to greet me at the end of the work day with a small trash can lid stuck over her head, killing the jackrabbit by accident in our yard, walking herself down to Dayville to hang out inside the gas station convenience store while I was at work (but always being at home when I returned so that I didn’t even know about these excursions until after we’d moved out of town), giving me the slip during a long walk and coming home dragging part of a deer carcass, “burying” half a rabbit leg under the corner of the carpet in my bedroom while I was asleep.  But of course, there was more to her personality than mischievousness.  There was the wordless companionship during most of those hikes and walks, or the way that she’d snuffle up to me when I was upset to make sure I was okay, the almost imperious presence she would summon when I’d been working on my dissertation for too long and it was time for a walk, the occasional bursts of galloping, prancing puppy energy she’d get even in her old age, the simple nuzzle she’d give your hand or leg when she was ready for some affection.


I started thinking seriously about her age when she was 12 years old and the vet’s office sold me the “senior pet” wellness plan and someone wrote “geriatric dog” on her chart.  For the most part, her age didn’t seem to matter.  We still walked and played and went on trips, the same as before.  When she was 13, we embarked on a mammoth 2.5-month tour of the US, arriving in Colorado from Oregon by way of Texas, Florida, and New York.  Joda clearly wasn’t pleased with it all the time, especially staying at other dogs’ homes, but she put up with the travel and enjoyed many of our stops.  Once we got settled in Colorado, however, her age began to show itself ever more persistently.  Walks became shorter, naps longer.  The tile floor in the kitchen became treacherous territory as her old joints and weakening legs failed to prevent her paws from skating out from under her.  She had good days when she’d be up and ready to go, and bad days when she’d sleep until past noon and show no interest in walking.  We’d sometimes find her standing in a corner staring at the wall, seemingly trying to recall how and why she’d gotten there.  Despite the extra attention she needed, all the night time bathroom trips and bed checks, the times we had to help prop her back end up or remind her which way we were headed on our walk, she continued to be the best companion she could be.  She got more affectionate in her old age, coming over to us often for petting, and even sitting on my lap for long stretches.

Joda's last Christmas present

Joda’s last Christmas present

Her last few days went by like a blur.  We’d discovered three weeks before that she had lymphoma, but that didn’t make much of an impression on me.  She was tough; the vet’s time estimate was certainly too short.  We started her on the steroid drugs, which may have caused side effects, or maybe the cancer was more progressed than we realized.  On Friday she refused to get out of the car to walk in her favorite spot along the creek.  On Saturday I tried to take her for a walk, but after about 10 steps, she sank down and curled up into a ball and refused to remain standing even when I propped her back up multiple times.  On Sunday, we carried her about the house and out to the back yard, where she lay on her bed in the sun for awhile.  This was when I experienced what I had both dreaded and hoped for: the moment that she told me that she was ready to go soon.  On Monday, Bo spent the whole day tending to her bodily needs, moving her and bathing her, calling the vet for more information about the drug she was taking, and updating me at work every few hours.  That was the first day she refused all food and water, even when we brought it right up to her mouth.  We spent the evening next to her, petting and massaging her as she slipped in and out of sleep, and we knew that if she continued to be this way in the morning, we’d have to take her to the vet.

So, then it was Tuesday, January 22, a sunny but windy afternoon.  The vet clinic had a small courtyard with benches and a worked iron gate, and that’s where we stayed until the end, and after.  She slipped away peacefully and quickly.


I miss Joda, and will continue to miss her.  Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this.  But with her death, which was, of course,  inevitable, comes a certain freedom: to remember her at all stages of life, not just her old age.  I can see her now, bat ears flopping as she runs, thumping her back end down firmly in expectation of a treat, snout snuffling as she glides through the still waters of a lake.

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Last year on her birthday, we presented Joda with a “Coolaroo” bed, which was supposed to help her keep cool and relaxed out on the porch during the summer months.

Joda tries out the new bed after some coaxing

She laid on it when encouraged, but more or less ignored it in favor of her pillowy beds.  So, we tried putting one of the pillowy beds on top of the Coolaroo and moved it inside.  Et voilà!  She loves it.  Now she can climb slightly up into bed, which somehow eliminates the step where she circles approximately 17 times before laying down.  And… it turns out the elevated edges of this double-decker creation enable the user to drape various body parts in ways that, presumably, stretch them out and lead to maximum comfort.  For example, here’s a classic front paw drape:

Then there’s the Stretch, where as many edges as possible have body parts sticking over:

And the more subtle poses, with only small use of the edge:

I wasn’t able to get a picture of one of my favorites, the  Face-plant pose, in which the flexible tip of her snout is mashed against the floor.  But my vigilance with the camera did lead me to discover an entirely new one to me.  I really have to applaud Joda for her creativity and versatility with this one:

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Rent a Dog

This is Banjo.  I didn’t really rent him; he stayed with us for free for a couple days while his owners went out of town.  This gave me the opportunity to engage in some activities that are possible with a Real Dog, the primary one being a hike that lasted longer than a few minutes and did not involve standing around or trying to coax him to move in a forward direction.  Banjo accompanied me to the top of North Table Mountain and ran along near me under his own steam, coming when I called, but otherwise gamboling along at his own pace and route.

But before we started, we engaged in the standard younger-dog pre-walk ritual (which goes something like this: “Who wants to go for a walk?”  “Are you sure? you really want to go for a walk??”  “How much do you want to go for a WALK?” at which point the dog has run circles around you half a dozen times, has commenced vocalizing, and is beginning to stand up on hind legs– and Bo is yelling, “would you guys leave already?”  Call me a tormentor of dogs if you must).

Of course, younger dogs come with other behaviors, including barking when the mailman stops by the house, jumping up to accompany you to the kitchen when you go to refill your water glass while watching a movie, and snacking on any stray packages of tortillas that may have been foolishly stored at (his) nose-level.  We’ve lived with our older dog for so long that we’ve begun to forget about these things.

Don’t worry, Joda.  We haven’t forgotten about you— old or not, you’re still our dog.

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There and Back Again

UH OH!  It’s out again.  I hate that weird box.  It means something bad is going to happen.  Someone is going to go away.  What if BOTH of them disappear again? I do not like this.  I do not like this at all.

Hmm.  Smells like Lia.  Figures.  At least when she goes away, Bo is around and gives me a lot of food (which is more than I can say for her when he is gone! harumph).

Riverwalk and Tower of the Americas

So, she came back eventually, and we had to pick her up at the airport, even though it was really HOT, even though it was late at night.  She showed us pictures of someplace called San Antonio, which is in Texas.

St. Anthony Hotel lounge

King William Historic District

Even though I was mad that she left, I was still pretty glad when she got home.  I think she felt bad for leaving– maybe she even tried to make it up to me?

I guess those stupid weird boxes aren’t so bad after all.

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Elderly Animals

Joda, age 14

Oh, sniff.  Some professional photographer did a project on elderly animals, and I was just on her website looking at her photos and the short documentary about her work.

Joda isn’t quite as old as some of the animals in Leshko’s portfolio, but of course I was thinking about her as I looked at the images of sheep, horses, pigs, geese, and dogs.  They are beautiful photos, and I recommend having a look at them.  If you’ve ever lived with an elderly animal yourself, you might get a little misty-eyed, though.

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Walks with Joda can be fairly slow these days, so I usually take my i-Pod and listen to podcasts.  We’re in a new neighborhood now, with new sights (and smells), so the slow walks are a little less boring.There’s this Le Corbusier knock-off that goes with the mailbox above, around the corner from our house.  I crane my neck and try to imagine what it would be like to live here, wondering if the view from the very tippy-top includes any of the high peaks of the Rockies.Then there’s this cantilevered octagonal house (I’m not familiar with any architectural style characterized by this, so maybe someone can enlighten me).  The shiny BMWs usually in the driveway are offset by the charming red truck parked down by the street.The houses on our street are not so startling and interesting, being largely of the small brick box persuasion.  But this one always makes me smile:  it sports a deluxe kitty playground, properly fenced, plus two birdfeeders to the left– also properly fenced, in case the fencing around the cat area doesn’t do its job, perhaps?

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