Five^H^H^H^H^H Seven things I miss about not having a dog

Bandit was put to sleep the day after Xmas 2007. (See).

  1. I have no reason to rush home after work. Well, my wife, Bette, I suppose, but she gets home later… I would let him up, and we would go out and get the mail, come in, get his dinner. It was a fine life.
  2. The dog bed is empty. Soon it will be given away.
  3. I don’t have anyone to go do errands with. Bandit loved the car, even though he would bark until I came back.
  4. A dog is inherently male. He burps when he wants, farts as necessary (much to Bette’s dismay) and eats whatever he can get a hold of. He loves unconditionally, is kind to all, but defends his turf when necessary. A fine way to live. We “civilized” humans should take note.
  5. He was Sarah’s dog, so in a way, he is our last living link to Sarah — other than her mom, her friends and her family.
  6. Bette liked having him there to talk to or yell at. Now she has to yell at me.
  7. His smell. Sometimes I just put my nose in his fur and sniffed. Bette says that is what she missed most about Sarah. Dogs just smell warm and friendly.

Au revoir, Bandit

Well, we did it. Wednesday morning, the day after Christmas 2007, we took Bandit, our 11-year old mixed breed dog, to the Woodstock Animal Hospital and watched and held him as he was put down.

Bandit, around Thanksgiving, had developed problems. In June, he started destructive chewing, which he had never done before in his long and lively existence. At some point, he ate the trim in the laundry room, and the hardwood stairs to the basement. I was forced to build a cattle gate at the basement door to keep his chewing directed on something I could replace easily (a 2×6 plank). I was afraid he would eat a splinter and that would be it, but he survived that.

Thanksgiving weekend, while we were off to Montana, he was to be at Lucky-E Kennel. He loved going there; they have a big indoor play yard where he can romp with the other dogs. He would pace in his cage for hours, keeping the younger dogs next door occupied, and inducted? every new employee who ignored the “Will Escape” sign on his cage. He did. So Vanessa, the owner, and her staff, after 10 years, knew Bandit as well as we did. Maybe better.

He started to eat grass and throw up frequently. I brought him to the Vet, and we discussed intestinal problems. He got the full panel of blood tests. We tried bland food – rice and chicken – and some meds. We adjusted his thyroid meds (Soloxine). Of course, that is when we needed to leave for Montana. Vanessa accepted the task of feeding him his probiotics, goofy food (Science Diet i/d® Canine may be scientific, but no dog will eat it), and meds. I talked to her when I dropped Bandit off the day we left, and relayed the good news that the blood tests were fine.

She got this wistful look on her face. “You know, we have a lot of people with sick dogs come in here. I see them come and go. When a dog gets weird, and all the tests are good, we are not looking at the right things. Dogs are always healthy, unless something is really wrong. I may be wrong, but just be ready — don’t assume the tests are king — in a another month some dogs just get sick, and that is it.” She also warned that some folks put a lot of money into fixing a dog, thousands of dollars, for chemo, radiation, surgeries. We talked about that — not for me, the Do Not Resuscitate fan. No way I was going to put the dog through a month of hell for another 6 months — maybe.

I knew Bandit was different. He did not have the energy he once did, and even my Dad mentioned he was different when they visited. We came back from Montana and life resumed — kind of.

Bandit still had bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. I made new foods, rice and this, rice and that, and at first Bandit loved it. But then one day he ate a bunch of food, and the next day, I found it in a stream on the floor in the basement.

In more days, we found other piles by the fireplace, and more downstairs. The big red flag was his energy. He did not want to go for walks. The weather was lousy, cold and snow and ice, making walking tricky. But that never stopped him before. I would jingle the leash, and he would leap from the bed and pace until we finally dragged our shoes on and went out. If I took him, he would look back at the door for Bette, until he figured she was not coming that day. The pacing and lively looks stopped. Some days he did not even get out of bed until we had eaten breakfast, a complete reversal of the routine.

So we drove to Dixon for Christmas Eve and left him home. I called the vet on the way, and he said, well, maybe take him to the Animal Emergency Clinic. They have X-ray, ultrasound, and you can get more info. So when we got home, I found another trail of vomit, and after putting our house guests to bed, I packed Bandit into the van for a trip to Crystal Lake. He jumped in spryly and plopped in his favorite place in the van, on the blankets on the back bench seat.

At the clinic, we checked in, watched the Christmas church services on TV, and watched the family of a terrier with a bleeding nose. Pretty busy for Christmas Eve. Bandit was weighed — 43 lbs. Wow, he had dropped 7 pounds in a month. No wonder he was so skinny. We were shown to a room, and the vet came in and heard Bandit’s story. He poked him a bit and asked me what I wanted to do. “I just want to make sure we haven’t missed anything easy. Some $10 pill that would make him happy for another year, and I would regret for the rest of my life.” She shook her head. “No, there is nothing easy here. I have seen this in a lot of other dogs. He either has cancer of the bowel, or kidney problems, but whatever it is it is bad. He should not be like this.” So I could spend $500 in X-rays and blood tests, but for what? A surgery or two for $2K, and a long recovery time, and for another lousy six months — maybe? No, thanks. She gave him some IV fluid as he was very dehydrated and some pain and anti-nausea meds to make him comfortable. I paid the bill, and led the doomed dog out to the car. On the way out, he sniffed around the grass at the entrance, just like old times. I stood and watched him. Let him enjoy himself. We got home about 1AM.

On Christmas, he slept all day, pretty much. He got up several times to go out, and stood outside looking around, waving unsteadily, wobbling in the cold breeze. I tried to give him ham or chicken, foods he would have killed for months ago, he sniffed, gave it a pained look, looked up at me as if to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t eat this.” Then he limped off to his bed. I prepared two faxes, one to the vet, one to the kennel lady, announcing my decision. I though the kennel people might want to say goodbye, but they really didn’t have a chance. I just wanted Bandit to be out of his pain.

It was a long night. He rang the bell to go out 5 times. I woke up each time and let him out. He would come it and head downstairs to the water bowl and drink a lot. In the morning we would see him outside, retching with foam dripping from his mouth. After this horrible morning, I was much more at peace with the decision. He did amaze us by leaping into “his” bed with Sam, who happened to be sleeping there at the time. Sam was a sport and shared his bed that night.

The vet called, they were ready. Pile in the van, to his pile of blankets. As we waited in the waiting room, another dog came in to be boarded. Bandit was interested, and sniffed a little, but was not his old bark-o-rama self. I wonder if the other dog knew. “Dead dog walking!”

Boy, it is fast. If you have never seen a pet euthanized, it is surprising. Dave the Vet found the vein, drew out. I watched my dog’s blood go into the clear fluid in the syringe. Dave asked, “Ready?”. We nodded, and he plunged the syringe’s contents into our friend. In seconds, he kind of looked up and then stopped looking. Then he just laid there. We sat with him for twenty minutes or so and the vets came in to share memories. They also explained that he might twitch and make noises for a while. As the body shuts down, various parts lose control. His muzzle jerked, muscles in his chest fluttered. It was very weird. He also urped some brown liquid out his nose, the same color and smell that we had been seeing in our basement. Gravity is a bitch.

Our Christmas guests, all close family, remained at the house. One group started back to Minnesota, I went to work, and Bette drove the aunts home to Dixon. Christmas normal. When Sarah died, we were amazed how things stay the same after terrible events. Life does go on, however miserably.

We are having him cremated. He will be interred with his sister (our daughter) Sarah and Grandpa Joe in the tree at St. Ann’s Church in Woodstock. I don’t know if anyone else (other than the Google spider) knows this, but that is where he is headed.

You were a wonderful dog. Play with Sarah and Grandpa Joe. Good Dog.

Weller WTCPN Repair

I got a free day off today — and it’s too darn cold outside — so time to attack a few jobs that have been neglected.

First was my old Weller WTCPN soldering station that I inherited from several jobs ago when they ditched hardware development – very tacky now in this lead-free era, but used to work great, and I don’t want to invest lots in a new RoHS solder station that overheats things faster that I use twice a year. And Radio Shack still sells loads of 63-37 solder.

But my station developed a problem with the jack where the iron plugs into the base. It was intermittent for the longest time, then just stopped working (of course the last time I tried to use it). So I found a Weller TC369A repair kit on eBay for $10, original mfg. part. Shipped here. Cheap.

Open the base with 4 screws. Clip clip clip the wires, and replace them with the new plug using (another set of ) wire nuts (supplied). Screws back. Done.

The iron half requires a big iron because you gotta tin leads and solder them to a big tubular plug — think a DIN plug. The tinned wire did not fit, so I just got a good joint at the base and it was fine.

So it seems to work. Heats up fast, and the thermo control seems to click louder and more regular, like the connection was bad all along. Yay!

Walter the Limo Driver

Well, I finally emptied out my wallet of cruft. One card I came across was for Walter Jalosinski, a Certified Professional Chauffeur out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Why do I have his card? Eric and I traveled to Edmonton on business several times. On our first trip, somehow we got him for a limo driver and he was a) personable, b) knew a lot about the area, and c) showed up on time (at 4AM), drove like hell and got there fast. We used him every time, and on our last trip before the summer, we askied him about the Canadian Rockies trip. He gave us lots of advice on what to see, where to go, what to skip. Very helpful.

Our last trip we rented a car, so we didn’t need Walter. I feel kind of bad for stealing his last fare, so consider this free advertising:

Walter Jalosinski
Prestige Limousine
Edmonton, Alberta, CA

Cell: 780-910-5559
Fax: 780-476-9552
Email: walterslimoNOSPAMATtelusDOTblackberryDOTnet

Fireside Dinner Theatre

Drove up the beaten path to Whitewater to the Fort to see the Christmas show. We had heard the Theatre was fun, so picked a free night. We picked a bad night to go — Fridays are hard. Needed to leave by 5PM. Stressful. Bad planning on our part. We are tired people come Friday night.

Signs directed us to the theater off of WI89. Buses waited to dump people off. We went in, checked Bette’s coat, and walked past the bright shops to the fireplace, bordering the bar and restaurant, a large, but homey space. Everything is clean. Cool sculpture in the center of the bar.

Service was excellent, though the bread girl was the liveliest server out of the bunch. Table setup was diner quality paper napkins & china. Food was good fish fry food — not spectacular, and for gratuity sake they specify that the food value is half the ticket price. For a ticket of $63, that is the most expensive $30 fish fry I ever had — compare to the excellent Crandall’s in Hebron at $14.

The meal starts out with fresh baked bread, somewhat boring for homemade bread, more like light white bread. On the table is a dish of yummy applesauce with a heavy cinnamon flavor and a huge dish of coleslaw. I don’t like coleslaw, but that was the salad, so I tried some, and kept eating. Good thing I like cabbage, and the dressing was much lighter that other coleslaws I have tried.

The fish was fried nicely, done, but still moist and not overcooked. Batter good. Fries good. Hey if you can’t have fries with your fish fry, why bother? Bette had the steamed fish and loved it, and the small red potatoes. Served with stir-fried vegetable medley. And the bread girl came around again.

They served good if generic wines for a reasonable $5.50 per glass, good large pours. The manager walked through once to ask us how things were going. Excellent.

Several small shops inside for browsing before the show and after dinner. We got a wooden “decoy” of a loon to join our ducks on the mantel. Neat Christmas tree displays with different themes, my favorite was the blue-green one based on peacock feather colors.

The show is dinner theater in the round. Lively, well sung and staged, with the obligatory small children. A “Santa’s Elf” named Snowflake stole the show with magic tricks and snappy patter. The center of the stage has a 10 foot diameter elevator through which props and cast members entered and left. Very cool. A lovely choral rendition of O Holy Night with the attractive cast dressed in evening wear ended the show. If you are looking for secular entertainment, this ain’t it — the second act was a Christmas pageant, complete with the readings, just like in church. Better props, though. We wondered if any of the cast was Jewish.

Biggest complaint — starting time of 8:30P. The show was out at 11:20P, and we had a 1.5 hour drive home. Late nite. Should have stayed with Sara in her condo in Fort, but we have a dog to think about.

Fun and high quality. Recommended, perhaps for a matinee, check out some of the other shows. If I went again, I might try the other meal.
1131 Janesville Ave, Fort Atkinson, WI, (920) 563-9505