Tag Archives: Adoption

Mortalities, but not yet:

A hard vet visit, during which we had to talk about things I don’t even want to think about for Gilly. Since there’s nothing to be done to stop the aging itself, and all that goes with it, we decided it was time for some anti-inflammatory to help with the arthritis: a 3 day dose, then ‘as needed,’ on one that doesn’t have the kidney and liver side effects of some of the older drugs.

Last night was the third dose, and today, after a happy and solid walk, Gilgamesh checked my pizza-plate, then punched me in the leg, then collapsed into giggles, as I did, because neither one of us quite expected him to punch me.

I think the meds have kicked in. He’s surely perky. And moving with an ease I haven’t seen in a couple of years.

This is his affect, same as it was at 8 weeks:

Gilly Scratch copy

So we did a James Brown “I Feel Good” around the room, and I thought about this, which one of his grandmas sent this morning:

More days of love and slapstick comedy ahead for Gilly.

There will never be enough of them, but each one is treasured; past, present & future.


Our adoptable overlords

What to feed: dog food by brand

Via a friend at Dakin, a nicely detailed evaluation tool for dog food, by brand. Check it out.

Gilly’s obsession with mac-n-cheese, explained.

Interesting research on wolves, dogs, and digestion of carbohydrates:

“No one knows for sure when or where the first dogs came to be, but most evolutionary biologists agree that the wolf probably made the first move and that the draw was the food humans discarded. Only much later did people intensively mate dogs of different shapes and temperaments to create today’s hundreds of breeds and varieties, from the hulking and noble to the tiny and yapping.

The new analysis by Axelsson and his colleagues examined a mix of DNA from 12 gray wolves and compared it with DNA collected from 60 domestic dogs, including cocker spaniels, giant schnauzers, golden retrievers and 11 other breeds.

The scientists sequenced the dog and wolf DNA and searched for tiny differences. Because they were seeking features that cropped up early in dog evolution, they focused on genetic variations that dogs shared but wolves lacked. They also looked for variations that all, or most, of the dogs had in common.

From this analysis, the team identified 36 places in the genome, containing 122 genes, that seemed to have been important in dog evolution. Ten of the genes are involved in starch or fat metabolism, including three that carry instructions for making a protein that is pivotal to digestion of starch.

In addition to the starch genes, Axelsson’s team found others involved in brain and nervous system development that appear to have been important in the transition from wolf to dog.

That isn’t surprising, said Adam Boyko, an evolutionary geneticist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., who wasn’t involved in the study. Dogs differ behaviorally from wolves in myriad ways, he said — in tameness, curiosity, social structure, tail-wagging, novelty-seeking behavior and their penchant to bark (and bark) well into adulthood.

The next step is to study that list of genes to figure out how they affect behavior and development to make dogs distinct, Boyko said.

Oscar Chavez, director of the veterinary technician program at Cal Poly Pomona, said the findings served as a reminder that dogs don’t eat like wolves. He said he and his colleagues were befuddled by the trend toward pricey low-carb dog foods and raw diets, which could stress dogs’ kidneys with their extra protein load.”

You can read the whole thing here.

This is not news, by the way – instead, this is new and more detailed science explaining why domesticated dogs are omnivorous, and how we know.

I linked a good article on the mythologies associated with canine digestion, woo-based GRAINS = DEATH! fads, and raw foods diets a while back: worth a read if you’re considering how to best feed your beloved canine friends.

And for what it’s worth, which isn’t much (since people are devoted to doing exactly what they’re doing, most of the time, regardless of evidence that it isn’t working, sigh): if your dogs get sick every time they eat – which is truly not normal (a thing that shouldn’t need saying but does) – some things to consider:

  •  go to an evidence-based vet (not someone who suggests not only unproven but actually disproven treatments like homeopathy and acupuncture and raw foods/BARF/Chinese medicine which has never been tested for use in animals & is more likely to be toxic to them than anything out of your fridge/etc.
  • human beings who never go outside except under very controlled and artificial conditions, who never ‘eat dirt,’ as we say (develop healthy and necessary gut bacteria and appropriate immune system response to their environments), or otherwise live in totally sterile, urbanized, or otherwise unnatural environments also become weak and ill and hyper-reactive and allergic to the entire world – we now make dogs live this way, too, and they pay for it just as we do
  • we have over-bred dogs into literal physical dysfunction which causes them profound suffering and disease; the total lack of functioning of a digestive system that when healthy is essentially that of a scavenger may be a by-product of this inbreeding
  • and finally: people project a lot of their own psychological issues about food, food-as-love, illness, illness-as-love, etc. onto their dogs in ways that are quite harmful and restrictive to the animals – do try to not be that person, for your dog’s sake, eh?

Some of these things we have control over, some we don’t – but a lot of it is our garbage, not theirs.

There are about a billion forums and websites dedicated to how to feed your dog. Most of them cater to human issues and baggage about food and illness, not canine ones.

Again, for whatever it’s worth – which isn’t much all things considered – my experience is that the way humans and dogs are most alike is this: if someone gets several hours of really good exercise spread out throughout each day, good sleep, high quality and balanced food of a wide variety excluding poisons, meaningful work, clear boundaries and expectations so they know how to be safe, successful, and secure in their world, happy and regular socialization with others, and love, they are happy and healthy. If these things go out of balance in a big way, they start to fall apart.

Gilly meets his mini-me, and other dog park adventures

A 3 & 1/2 month old Lab-lette, learning to run with bike.


She’s already beautifully trained, as it should be: happy, healthy, in school, doing sit-stay, down, wait, come, leash trained and learning to heel to the bike, good social skills with other dogs, able to be safely off leash already, etc..

Really nice to see someone taking training (and the safety and freedom that go with it) seriously, early, and doing it right – this is a dog that’s going to have a great time in the world, rather than a stressful one. And a lot of exercise with that bike.  She’s so full of joy it radiates.



Gilly also got to play with a lovely 18 month old, who apparently doesn’t always remember that she’s not little anymore, as evidenced by her decision that I am a good human and therefore she must leap into my arms to be HELD. And KISSED. Funny, sweet girl.

She remembered she wasn’t supposed to jump after she’d already launched, so I caught her.

She was embarrassed, but it was ridiculously cute.


Then she went out onto the ice even though Gilly thought it was a bad idea, fell through, and – totally unfazed – climbed out and kept exploring.


Another very happy, good natured, well-cared for dog.

And both so pretty & full of puppy energy they tired Gilly right out.

Arthritis research updates

Summaries of some new research on CAM arthritis treatments, via SkeptVet:

I’ve written extensively about alternative arthritis therapies, largely because that is one of the most common conditions for which complementary and alternative treatments are used. While a few are promising (such as fish oils), there is little good evidence to support most such practices. A detailed and very useful new review of alternative therapies for arthritis in humans has just been released. And while extrapolation from humans to pets has dangers and has to be viewed with some skepticism, this at least gives us some guidance as to whether such therapies have proven their value for people, a question for which the evidence is usually much greater in quantity and quality than we often get for veterinary uses.

In super-brief: still no evidence for glucosamine/chondroitin in either humans or animals (though you’ll still get told by many you’re the Worst Dog Owner EVER if you don’t spend! spend! spend! on it anyway). Still some evidence for possible benefit in fish oil. And SAMe may improve functional mobility.

Read the whole brief & useful summary here.

My best strategy for Gilly, at this stage (eleven & a half year old lifelong athlete), seems to still be: keep him trim, keep him strong and well-muscled, decrease his high-impact running and diving and general crack-headedness about sticks and instead increase long, mellow walks and never-more-than-trot bike rides.

I also give him salmon oil in his food several times a week (because he likes it, it seems to be good for his coat, and it may or may not help in other ways), I make sure he gets a wide variety of delicious, balanced, and healthy foods and treats and all the other things that keep him happy, well-socialized, low-stress and well-rested.

When he inevitably topples in a rumpus or slips (something he used to have rubber-bones to deal with or prevent, but which now is more frequent as well as painful and consequential), I don’t make a big deal of it but rein him in and try to be mindful of minimizing the hazards of falls on ice or uneven ground. His joints just aren’t as flexible as they used to be, and sometimes – often, actually – he forgets that, so I try to remember for him.

Mostly, I have to remember that he’s mortal. And yes, I hate that. But my job is to protect and maintain his quality of life as best as I can, not to project magical thinking onto him – at the expense of more useful approaches – simply to make myself feel better.


Someone forwarded this to me on Facebook: a beautiful letter from Fiona Apple to her South American fans, about why she had to reschedule her tour.

It’s 6pm on Friday,and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet.

I am writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.

Here’s the thing.

I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now.I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then ,an adult officially – and she was my child.

She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.

She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight ,or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.

Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact.

We’ve lived in numerous houses, and jumped a few make shift families, but it’s always really been the two of us.

She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.
She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me all the time we recorded the last album.

The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks every 6 or 7 years.

She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it dangerous for her to travel since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and to excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.
Despite all of this, she’s effortlessly joyful and playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago.

She’s my best friend and my mother and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.

I can’t come to South America. Not now.
When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.

She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore.

I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.

But I know that she is coming close to point where she will stop being a dog, and instead, be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.

I just can’t leave her now, please understand.

If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.

Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed.

But this decision is instant.

These are the choices we make, which define us.

I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship.
I am the woman who stays home and bakes Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend.
And helps her be comfortable, and comforted, and safe, and important.

Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life, that keeps us feeling terrified and alone.

I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time.

I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.

I need to do my damnedest to be there for that.
Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.

When she dies.

So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.

And I am asking for your blessing.I’ll be seeing you.

Love, Fiona