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My Sunshine Has Sundown Syndrome

13 Jun

Justin, my 15-year-old dachshund, has Sundown Syndrome. It’s a form of dementia that occurs after dark. Once the sun sets, he frequently gets lost and runs into things… much like a drunk frat boy on a Friday night.

ImageFortunately, I found an herbal remedy for him. No, it’s not marijuana, although we did try that first. Do you know how hard it is to hold a joint in tiny little paws? And the one command you can’t teach even the most obedient of dogs (which he is NOT) is “Inhale!” It doesn’t matter how many cookies you use as bribes.

The concoction we’re using is called Senilife, a combination of Senile and Life. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in that branding meeting, what with all the high levels of creativity sparking in the room?

The good news is that it really works well. He has a lot fewer episodes of seeming to be out of it. He and I are about on the same level now when it comes to being confused and wondering where we left either our keys or our stuffed hedgehog. You can buy the stuff on-line. It’s a capsule that you squeeze on top of your dog’s evening meal. There is also a cat version (do not tell my doxies, I brought that up!)

In fact, the little pill works so well I caught myself looking at the bottle the other day, wondering, “Are these just for dogs?” But then I noticed the side effects — squirrel hatred, motorcycle leg, excessive drooling… Side note, is there ever a time when drooling is not excessive? But I’m not going to take them. It’s not that I’m scared of the side effects; it’s just that I put a plan in place years ago to make sure no one would ever be able to tell when I cross the line from “normal crazy” to “she needs help crazy.” You show up at Thanksgiving dinner wearing a ski mask and an inner tube a few times when you’re still young and you set the bar pretty low.

Besides, my only kids are dogs and they would never put me in a home.

Watson and the Case of the Missing Toe

30 Jun

The mystery started six weeks ago when my soon-to-be 11 (but claiming still to be 6-1/2) dachshund Watson started to limp. I checked his paw for burrs, glass, sunflower seeds, candy bars (I always check everything for candy bars…) and found nothing.

Two days later, he was still limping, so off to the vet we went.

“I think he’s torn his ACL,” she told us.

I looked skeptically at my 23-lb. wiener dog. The chances that he’d been playing pick-up basketball at midnight were slim and as far as I know, he wasn’t playing softball or tennis either.

She took an x-ray and showed it to me. “See this here? That’s a damaged ACL.”

I nodded despite not being able to make heads nor tails nor anterior cruciate ligaments of the picture. I wondered whether he’d be on tiny crutches.

The vet recommended going to a physical therapist, so we made an appointment with See Spot Run and off we went. Watson limped around cones and walked on an underwater treadmill. That’s right, an underwater treadmill. I can’t afford a land-based treadmill for my home gym, but my little guy was being treated like the athlete he clearly was.

Meanwhile, back at home, Penny and Watson were none too happy that their brother was getting to go on secret outings and came home smelling of liver. Every time I shifted weight on the sofa they charged the front door. They got extra treats to mollify my guilt. As did I. And as our walks were only to the end of our yard and back, we all started packing on the pounds.

At our second visit, I asked the physical therapist if, while we were there, she could trim Watson’s unusually long middle toenail on the lame leg. She reached for it and he screamed. His first expression of pain in three weeks.

“You know, this whole issue is probably about his toe, not his ACL,” she said. “You should get his toe x-rayed.”

Now, I had touched his toe on numerous occasions while giving him a massage to help his ACL and he’d never reacted as if he was in pain. But it was back to the vet we went. She found no broken toe, no torn nail bed.

“It’s probably an infection,” she said and prescribed anti-biotics. We stopped going to physical therapy. Watson was not happy that no one was bribing him to do stupid dachshund tricks any more. He was supposed to take it easy and see if the infection healed.

It did not. Our regular vet (the one I intend to go to the next time I need medical attention because the drugs are cheaper than the human kind) wasn’t in, so I spoke with the vet who was and described the ongoing situation.

“Oh, that definitely sounds like toe cancer,” she said. “We should get an x-ray of his toe.”

I told her he had just been x-rayed the week before, so she consulted the film and said she saw deterioration of the toe. “It may be toe cancer and we should amputate.”

Toe cancer? Who’s even heard of such a thing? I, of course, Googled it and found that it’s a real thing, not usually a big deal, and more common in black dogs. It didn’t say why. I’m assuming it’s because they tend to lie in the sun too much At least my black dogs always have.

This Monday, Watson’s toe was amputated.

“You need to keep his bandage dry,” our regular vet said as I picked him up. Just then the heavens opened up and it began the first of a three-day deluge. Every time Watson had to go outside, I had to chase him with a piece of Saran Wrap and some scotch tape. Even on three legs, he’s faster than I am. I had a flashback to some woman from the 80s who recommended greeting your husband at home wearing nothing but Saran Wrap. Watson didn’t think it was funny.

The bandage is now off and the sun is out.

“You’ll need to keep him from licking his stitches,” the vet said.

So now it’s 7 days of making sure he leaves his foot alone. Forget using the cone of shame — he’s already put the kibosh on that by eating off the edges so he could play with his stuffed animals more readily.

We should hear whether it’s cancer next week. But Watson doesn’t care. Through it all, he’s been his same goofy, cheerful self as long as I kept the cookies coming.

But once he’s completely healed (or heeled, depending), we’re all going for some long walks. Between the stress and the stress eating, we could use the exercise.Image

Move Over, Rover

28 Mar

Three years ago a girlfriend and I rented a house on the coast of Oregon for three days for a nice vacation with our five dogs and her two very young kids. It was sooooo peaceful! Okay, it wasn’t, but at least it was noisy and chaotic out of town and that’s what we were aiming for.

While we were there, rather than sleeping in a bed that my dachshunds are too short to get on and off without assistance (and no, I haven’t yet invented a portable mechanical lift for them nor have they learned to use the mini-trampoline), the four of us slept on the sofa which was much closer to the floor. The sofa in this case was a sectional with room for all of us. It worked out well.

As soon as I could afford it, I bought a sectional for our house–a sectional with a chaise one one end. I thought the dogs could have all the space they wanted on the sofa and I could prop myself up to read or lie down in comfort on the chaise end. I envisioned myself with a cup of tea and a good book, gazing contently upon sleeping wiener dogs. Of course that’s not the way things worked out (you knew that already, right?) The dogs took one look at the chaise and decided that it was the best part of the new sofa, except for the new furniture smell, so they immediately planted their flag in the corner, took over the comfy cushion next to the reading lamp, and demanded I serve them tea and cookies. Okay, not tea, but cookies.

One day not long ago, I saw a picture on Facebook of a woman sleeping on a sectional sofa with nine dachshunds. Others may have viewed the picture and thought, “Crazy dog lady,” but what I saw was that she and they had an extra piece to their sectional. I immediately measured my tiny living room and found that if I squeezed things in tight and moved one of the dog beds that no one ever uses into another room, I could have a roomier sofa too! And maybe, just maybe, I could use the chaise. I boiled a teakettle full of water.

I’ve had my extra 23″ of seating space for two months now. I still have to sit in the middle of the sofa, propping my tea precariously on my chest (which gets harder with each passing year) and my feet propped up on the hard coffee table.  Watson and Penny and an assortment of stuffed animals, pillows and blankets cover the chaise. Justin is often there as well, but sometimes he enjoys stretching all 34″ of himself out on the other end of the sofa (which, if you do the math, means that I actually have 11 inches less space than I did before).

There’s only one thing to do–save up until I can afford to replace the sofa end with another chaise. They may have me outnumbered, but I’m gonna have that tea in comfort some day.Image


My new book

26 Mar

My new book

Date Me, Date My Dog: Finding Mr. Right for You and Your Pack is available from Kimberley Cameron & Associates on Amazon for Kindle today! It’s doggone funny, filled with good advice, partial proceeds benefit Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, Oregon, and smells like chocolate. Okay, maybe not the latter so much 🙂 PLEASE buy a copy, tell all your single dog-loving women friends about it, write a review, or all of the above.

Canine CSI

17 Mar

I took my three dachshunds to the park today because that big round hot thing that so infrequently appears in the Oregon sky in winter had popped out and the ground was a little less sponge-like than it had been.

As we walked our 1 mile (21 in triple dog miles), I was struck by the beauty of the day — the cherry trees and forsythia are blossoming, daffodils waving their sunny heads, and people shedding their dreary hoodies and rain gear for lighter, more colorful windbreakers.

Watson, however, was fascinated only by the smells, stopping at every lamp post (and there are dozens) to sniff long and hard. Here is that I imagine ran through his mind at one of the posts:

Lamp post #33: Most recently visited by a Golden Retriever, Harold, who unbeknownst to his people, also has a little Cocker Spaniel in him. Harold had high end kibble for breakfast this morning, but… wait… someone snuck him a little bit of bacon. See, I told you not everyone in Eugene is a vegetarian, mom. Harold was last bathed three weeks ago but has recently been swimming with [insert giant sniff here] the fishes. Trout, to be specific. His family consists of two dads, a human sister, and three, no wait, four cats, one of which was recently “fixed.” And from the smell of things, Harold is 43″ long, has one ear that is longer than the other, and prefers to walk in the middle of the path instead of to the side. Okay, that’s all the data I can collect here; let’s move on.

We live in such different worlds, canines and humans. And even though our perspectives are very different, I’m just happy to share.Image

Doggy Day Spa

6 Mar

A friend of mine recently asked me to help give her dogs a bath. I said, yes, of course, no problem.  Mostly because I was thinking how easy it is to bathe my dachshunds – I simply lift them into the half-filled tub, squirt a little doggy shampoo on, and suds away. 

Debbie, however, has big dogs. Personally, I think they’re horses wearing dog tags to fool the neighbors.  She says they’re mixed breeds – perhaps one of the breeds is Shetland Pony?

Obviously, these are not the kinds of dogs who fit into your standard-size bathtub without some type of Origami-folding trick. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s not room for one horse/dog and Debbie in her bathroom at the same time. Not without removing a wall.

Nope, these are the kinds of animals who go out for a bath. So we corralled the dogs into the van and drove them to Peggy Ann’s Pampered Pet Parlor. Imagine kind of a doggy day spa, with soothing music, fresh-washed towels, and a whole assortment of aromatherapy shampoos. We chose “liver,” which supposedly calms canines and eradicates the stress of having to prevent the mail carrier from getting too close to the house.

I have to say I did find it oddly disconcerting that some dogs get to go to the spa, but whenever I want a soothing bath, I have to fill my tub with whatever I have in the house that bubbles – usually dishwashing powder – and the only relaxing sound is the sound of my toilet running.

Once we chose our shampoo, Peggy Ann asked if we’d like some cucumber. I figured she meant as a snack. I wasn’t sure if it was for us or the dogs, but I was hungry, so I said yes. Then she started to show us how to place the cucumbers slices over the dogs’ eyes. I have to admit I laughed. I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, but I was afraid she would suggest a full-body salt scrub with shiatsu massage next. Or meditation and chanting affirmations: “I am a strong and intelligent dog. I deserve lots of treats, ohm…”

Debbie grabbed me by the collar and hissed, “Be a good girl!” as she dragged me off towards one of the giant tubs, with a large hose and sprayer attached. The dogs trotted behind us, munching on their cucumber slices.

 If you’ve never bathed a large animal, you should know it involves three basic steps:  Step 1:  You have to convince the large animal that a bath is fun. You do this by using your “This is fun!” voice, the same one you use when trying to convince your three-year old that the cough medicine tastes like candy. Of course most three-year olds don’t slobber all over you in the process. 

Step 2:  You must get the large animal to remain in the tub long enough for you to at least spritz him or her with water. Every time Debbie’s biggest dog, Bailey (personally, I would have named him Trigger) felt there was the least chance he could get wet, he hopped over the side of the tub, clearing both our heads like he was Keiko the killer whale at the end of Free Willy. I gathered from his behavior that Bailey did not enjoy bath time. I also started a mental list of the favors Debbie now owed me.

Step 3:  If you ever do get the large animal washed (we did after only thirty minutes and some relaxing herbs – for me, not the dogs), you must get it to stand still long enough to towel it dry.  You’d think a dog who doesn’t enjoy getting wet would love getting dry, but you’d be wrong.  Bailey ran around the spa, knocking over shampoo bottles, conditioning sprays, and a large basket full of curlers. I pretended I didn’t see the latter because there was no way I was going to give a dog a perm. Not without another swig of those herbs.

When we finally got Bailey and Maggie, the much-better behaved dog, out of the spa, they yanked hard at their leashes and dragged Debbie and I over to a muddy spot in the grass next to the parking lot. They were apparently disappointed that mud baths weren’t part of the doggy pampering package and proceeded to take them anyway. I guess they were trying to cover up the smell of liver. 

I should have taken a mud bath too, because when I got home to my low-maintenance dogs, the liver aroma followed. And the dachshunds eyed me like I was lunch. I handed them a slice of cucumber and decided to take a bath myself.

Flirting with Other Dogs

13 Feb


I confess that I flirt with other dogs. There, I said it.

This is not news to my own three canines–they can smell any transgression on me the minute I walk through the door. But some humans who think I am perfect should know that I am just as likely to cave into the temptation of flirting as anyone else.

Take the guy in the picture here. I mean really, who could resist eye-batting, tail-wagging, or hair-tossing with a man this gorgeous? Not to mention that he had his own truck!

My usual doggy pick-up lines go something like this, “Well, aren’t you a handsome studly man, you. Are you attached?” Nothing wrong with that. The problem is that when I see a human male, I usually open with, “Who wants a belly rub?” That’s when I get into trouble.

As long as you always go home to your own animals and when you do you make sure you have lots of cookies and squeak toys, a little flirting shouldn’t land you in the doghouse.

Terriers and Dachshunds, Oh My

21 Jan

For the past week, I’ve been pet-sitting a terrier mix named Arrow in my home. My dogs and I have been opening our home to her twice a year for the past four years as her people travel to art shows across the country.

Dachshunds and terriers may not seem as different as Chihuahuas and Newfies, but watching them both makes me wonder if they evolved from different ancestors. Take these examples:

Wiener dog:  Sniff every spot in the neighborhood for 10-15 minutes to make sure nothing new has happened to that spot since the last time you sniffed it for 10-15 minutes. Then slowly move on to the next spot.

Terrier: Take one quick sniff and move on. There’s nothing to see here.

Wiener dog: Eat immediately after food is put within reach, sooner if at all possible.

Terrier: Guard food bowl and wait for someone else to appear to want it. Growl a bit then eat as slowly as doggedly possible, all the while keeping your guard up.

Wiener dog: When on a walk, be sure to always walk 6-16 feet behind your human (depending on leash length).

Terrier: When on a walk, be sure to always walk 6-16 feet in front of your human. And never, ever, walk in a straight line. Serpentining burns so many more calories.

Wiener dog: Spends hours arranging pillows and blankets to achieve exactly the right combination of comfort and cover in order to take a 6-hour nap.

Terrier: Plop down on top of anything–sofa, chair, floor (Wiener dog says “Floor?”) and rest, making sure not to achieve too deep a sleep because someone may be nearing the spot on the floor where your food dish was until the human got tired of waiting for you to eat and put it up.

Wiener dog: Play “fetch” by running after stuffed animal down the hallway a few times. Never actually retrieve said animal because how else will human get her exercise?

Terrier: Play “fetch” by running up and down hallway hundreds of time whether anything is being thrown or now. Occasionally grow if anyone gets to close to your imaginary animal.

Wiener dog: When temperature are below freezing, go out, do your business, and hurry back as fast as your short legs will carry you. Lie in front of heating vent for several hours to recover.

Terrier: No matter the temps, go out and run across the yard yipping until human comes out in housecoat and slippers, picks you up, and brings you back inside. Run to where your food dish was and growl.

I think in many ways I am more like a terrier than a wiener dog, but perhaps the reason I’ve been under dachshund management for 28 years is that I aspire for a slower paced life in which I have time to sniff what needs sniffing and get really comfortable before taking a nap.

Fetch This Name

13 Jan

Gone are the days of Fido, Rover, Spot, and Fluffy. These days we name our dogs after celebrities, a memorable vacation spot, even our favorite comfort food (“Sit, Macaroni. Good girl!) We bring our new four-footed friend home, stare into his or her tiny face and try to think of just the right moniker. Especially with rescues who come poorly named. Cujo? Really?

It can be hard to find just the right name that isn’t also just the right name for millions of other dogs. We don’t want to be go to the dog park, call out, “Max, come!” and have twenty dogs come running, dropping slobbery tennis balls at our feet.

If you’re struggling with a good name, you’ve come to the right, uh, spot. After all, I named my first two dogs, Copper and Slate, after minerals, so I know a thing or two about avoiding the obvious. Plus, now whenever I see anything made of copper or slate, it brings back wonderful memories! This list may not yield the perfect name, but it should get you thinking about other options you hadn’t considered.

Rock and gem names – Agate, Clay, Crystal, Igny, Jade, Jasper, Lapis (great name for lap dogs), Lazuli, Malachite, Mica, Opal, Pearl, Pebbles (good for small dogs or really large dogs who think they’re tiny, Ruby, Topaz

Rock ‘n roll names — , AC, DC, Blondie, Doobie (works on many levels), Genesis, Journey (good for roamer), Kinks (good for poodles and poodle mixes), Santana, Skynrd, Zeppelin

In the kitchen names — Cinnamon, Cupcake, Gluten-Free (just so you can say your pup is gluten free), Honey, Peanut (make sure you’re not allergic), Pepper, Pilaf, Quinoa (practice saying this three times fast before you commit), Whisk (also good for cats), Vanilla

Car names — Alfa, Bentley, BMW (great for a black male wiener dog), Ford, Jetta, Lotus, Mercedes (save for a true princess of a dog), Prius (doesn’t get gassy),

Plant namesAgave, Aspen, Azalea, Bambo, Cedar, Clover, Daisy, Dogwood (I expect this one to take off), Freesia (great for dogs who despise walking on a leash), Hazelnut (good for dogs who love to sit on a lap while person drinks coffee), Johnny Jump-up (you know who needs this name), Magnolia (a great name for southern dogs), Redbud, Stargazer, Verbena, Yarrow.

Nutty names —  Cashew, Filbert, Macadamia, Peanut, Charlie Sheen

Latin and legal names — Ad Hoc, Bona Fide, Ergo, Ibid, Modus (for dogs who always get in trouble in the same way, Pro Bono (come on, you know you love this one), Quid, Quo, Vini

Pop Culture — Anderson, Blockbuster, Gaga (for dogs who enjoy dressing up), J Bow-Wow (oh, that’s good), Oprah (for thoughtful dogs), Ozzy (for dogs who are just goofy), Timberlake

Hi Tech — App (for dogs who can do anything), Apple, Atari, Blackberry, Crash, Google, Hacker (may be better for cats) iPad, iPod (for tiny dogs who love to sing), Linux, Mac, Pinterest, Yahoo

Just Plain Funny NamesBoogalou, Bumbum, Cheeky, Chimichanga, Doglet, Flapjack, Garbanzo, Gilligan, Hootenanny, Lilliput, Loofah, Malarky, Pickle, Polydog, Pumpernickel, Pupernickel, Snorkel, Tater, Whizbang, Wombat.

There, that ought to make things easier!

Is Your Dog a Diva?

9 Jan

ImageThe other night I was browsing through a pet catalog when one of my dachshunds, Penny Royal, planted her paws firmly on my knee and gave me that look that clearly said, “The bottled water in my bowl has been depleted. Please take care of this situation before I have to have my people call your people.” In that moment, I realized she has become a diva. Her brothers Justin and Watson are the male equivalent – is there such thing as a miva?  

When I say “diva,” of course I don’t mean a famous female singer, because while Penny can howl a good tune, no one would mistake her for Celine Dion. And the boys? Well, let’s just say they’re tone deaf. What I mean by “diva” is someone who expects the world to revolve around her (or him). There’s at least one in every household, and if your household doesn’t currently include teenagers or cats (all cats are divas), chances are it could be your dog.  

If you want to know whether your dog is diva take this quick quiz (note, you may insert “he” where I’ve used “she” if the dog collar fits):

1. Where does your dog sleep?
    a.    On the floor.
    b.    On an orthopedic dog bed on the floor.
    c.    Under a handmade afghan on an orthopedic dog bed on the floor.
    d.    On your bed. You sleep under a handmade afghan on an orthopedic dog bed on the floor.

2.  At dinner time, do you:
     a.    Pour dog food from a bag into a plastic bowl.
     b.    Spoon canned food into a ceramic bowl with your dog’s name on it.
     c.    Set a place at the table for your pooch.
     d.    Hand feed your dog a meal you prepared yourself, making sure each bite is exactly the right size and temperature.

3.  What is your dog currently wearing:
     a.    Nothing but a smile.
     b.    A dog collar and ID tags.
     c.    A monogrammed collar with a 24-carat gold bone-shaped tag that says “Spoiled Rotten.”
     d.    A t-shirt that says “Whatever!” in sparkles.

4.  When you go out of town do you:
     a    Have a friend watch your dog.
     b    Hire a pet sitter.
     c.   Go out of town, what are you, crazy?
     d.   Carry your dog in your purse wherever you travel. So what if she’s a Golden Retriever?

5.  What is the highest level of education your dog has received:
     a.   Basic obedience training.
     b.   Advanced obedience training.
     c.   Charm school.
     d.   Modeling school.

6.  What are your dog’s favorite colors?
     a.   She doesn’t have favorite colors, she’s a dog.
     b.   Anything that matches her hair.
     c.   Pink and black.
     d.   Turquoise. Pink and black is soooo 2009.

7.  When it comes to beauty and hygiene, which is your dog’s usual routine:
     a.   A quick spritz with the hose.
     b.   A bath in the tub.  
     c.   A day at Ms. Fifi’s Pet Grooming Boutique.
     d.   A salt scrub and cucumber facial with you at your favorite spa.

8.  Which of the following is your dog allergic to:
     a.  Wheat.
     b.  Peanuts.
     c.  Cashmere.
     d.  Caviar.

10.  Which comes closest to the nickname you usually call your dog?
     a.  Hey, you.
     b.  Sweetie
     c.  Ma’am.
     d.  Queen of All Things.

11. Describe her last birthday:
     a.  I completely forgot it.
     b.  I bought her an extra chew toy.
     c.  There was a cake, ice cream, and a pony.
     d.  The harpist was five minutes late and I’ll never live it down.

12.  When she’s feeling really stressed do you:
     a.  Pet her a little more than usual.
     b.  Encourage her to take a nap.
     c.  Hire a massage therapist to work out her muscle tension.
     d.  Feng shui the house to improve the doggy chi.

13.  What do you take to work to keep your dog in your thoughts during the day:  
     a.  Dog hair on everything.
     b.  Her photo in my wallet.
     c.  A joint checking account we share.
     d.  Her other tiara.

If you answered mostly “A’s,” you’ve managed to raise a dog who believes she’s a dog.  There is a twelve step program for that, you know. Mostly “B’s” means you and your dog are well-adjusted.  Neither of you will be needing a therapist soon. Mostly “C’s” indicates that your dog is on her way to diva status, so you might as well encourage her to go for it. If you chose mostly “D’s” without shame or guilt, you’re the mother of a true Diva Dog. You know who is in charge and you can say without a doubt, it’s not you.


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