Captain Jack’s Doing Great So Far

posted in: animal friends 2

You’d never know this dog just had major surgery that left him without half of his lower jaw! His energy and desire to do stuff has come roaring back. He doesn’t like his Hat of Healing—who would?—but other than that, he’s raring to go; and by the way, folks, haven’t you noticed that it’s dinner time, already? Yesterday he pawed at the refrigerator door, which is an all-new way for him to ask for food. Today, on his walk, he took a stab at his old favorite game of jumping around and trying to grab his leash. (The hat blocked him, fortunately; he’s not supposed to roughhouse or tug on things for six weeks.) He’s on soft food for a few weeks, and then he can go back to eating whatever he wants.

Unless you look very closely, you don’t even see that half his lower jaw is missing—except for the telltale tongue hanging out on one side. That’s probably going to be part of his new persona going forward.

This is all great, but we anxiously await the biopsy results, which will give us more information on whether the surgery got all the cancer. That will guide us on what, if any, follow-up treatment is needed. Hopefully none, as he follows in the paw prints of Moonlight, his late cat friend—who at a very senior age, smacked down a gloomy diagnosis and wrested a couple more good years of life for herself.

Here, he takes a well-earned rest…

Captain Jack Versus Cancer

posted in: animal friends 3

I hate cancer. It has taken too many people I love. And now it’s threatening our dog, Captain Jack: an aggressive tumor on his lower jawbone and gum. It was ugly, it was nasty, it appeared very suddenly, and it was growing like wildfire. But we just got it taken out.

We were extremely fortunate in one respect. It is nearly impossible to get prompt veterinary care these days, because the vets and vet hospitals are all overwhelmed by the huge increase in dog ownership during the pandemic. But we managed to get him in to see a surgeon, and he had the operation today, a radical surgery of the jaw that involved removing a lot of bone. The surgeon reported that all went well, and he is recovering. We hope he’ll come home tomorrow. The surgery was performed at Boston West Veterinary Specialties and Emergencies, in Natick, outside Boston. We haven’t even been inside the place; it was all handled curbside and by phone. But kudos to their surgical team!

Please continue your prayers and positive thoughts for our buddy!

Here he is (with McDuff) in a happier time.

McDuff and Captain Jack


Going Out? Cover Your Snout!

Capt Jack - masked up

After all these months of wearing masks and taking proper precautions, I still have trouble remembering to put on a mask when I go out—especially if it’s something quick and routine, like taking the dogs for a walk. It’s not like I’m hiding the masks; they’re hanging right by the door. Am I the only one with this problem? I can’t be.

I decided I needed a mnemonic reminder. So now when I go out, I (try to remember to) chant to myself, “Going out? Cover your snout!”

It helps. Just like “Going out? Don’t go without!” helps me remember to take my wallet when I’m going to the store.

Neither is foolproof. I’m grateful for Google Pay on my phone, which saves me about once every few months, when I find myself at the grocery checkout, patting my pocket, and cursing softly because there’s no wallet there.

Some of us need all the help we can get, these days.

Not everybody likes it, though.

No Dogs on the Sofa! And for God’s Sake, Vote!

If there’s one firm rule we have in this house, it’s that the dogs are not allowed on the sofa unless specifically invited. How, then, to explain this:

No dogs on sofa, Jack!

And this:

No dogs on sofa, Duff!

Also, no squirrels are allowed on the porch!

In case you wonder, I’m an emotional tightwire (like many of you), waiting to find out what’s going to happen on election day—or, more likely, several weeks after election day. Will we step back from the precipice we’re dancing on? Will we put responsible adults in charge in Washington? Before we all die of Covid or drown in the melting ice caps? Will we save democracy from our worst impulses?

I can’t stand the wait, and that’s why we’re getting dog pictures on the day before the election.

Terrorist Furball

posted in: animal friends 0

McDuff, Jack, BillboardMeet Billboard the cat, not to be confused with Bill the Cat (though I often do). Billboard belongs to my daughter and her husband, who moved into our downstairs apartment a few weeks ago. His name comes from the fact that he was found, abandoned, under a billboard in South Korea, by Connor many years ago.

Billboard recently met our dogs. In short order, he struck terror into the heart of McDuff (at the top of the steps), and left Jack puzzled as to why this new resident hissed at him and hurt his feelings. Connor says that Bill loves to pick fights he can’t win, with animals who have no interest in fighting. He’s a good guy, though, and we love him.

Moonlight, Best Cat Ever, 1999 – 2019

Our beloved cat, Moonlight, has left us, taken by cancer and age. She was 20 years old, almost 21. She was an amazing friend to all of us. Far from the aloof cat of Siamese stereotype, she always wanted to be part of the family, dogs and all. She used to try to come along on dog walks, but we could never get a leash and harness to work right on her. As a young cat, she competed with the dogs for dropped food. (Ask me sometime about the Battle for the Broccoli, wherein Moonlight squares off with a boxer, and the little beagle sees opportunity.) Moonlight was quite vocal, and would “Mwah” whenever stroked. She loved laps, and in response to gentle hugs would go, “Mwah! Mwah!” like a squeezebox. In the last few months, her meow evolved—first into a melodic “Moi?” and then later into a “Honk!” She was the living embodiment of “cat gravity,” which prevents you from getting up with a cat in your lap, and excelled at putting whoever was holding her to sleep.

Over the last couple of years, she came through two surgeries for skin cancer with flying colors. Our vet was amazed at her resilience. “Ordinarily, at her age, we wouldn’t even be having a conversation about surgery,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. Here’s a picture of her, after one of the operations.

I love animals, and Moonlight had a unique place in my heart. I hate this part of loving animals, where your heart is broken at the end. It’s probably going to be hardest on my daughter Jayce, to whom Moonlight has been a special friend for the greater part of her life. We will grieve together.

The timing could hardly be worse, as I’m leaving shortly for a convention in Philadelphia. But the last 24 hours have been telling, with noticeable decline in her strength—and it seemed better to say good-bye now, rather than endure worse scenarios while I’m gone. But there is no good time. At the vet’s, she put up a final fight: Even in her severely weakened state, it took an extra injection to stop that stalwart heart of hers.

Moonlight, I hope you find little Sam the beagle, and Hermione the boxer, and all of your other friends waiting for you on the other side. Peace now, little one. Peace.

Moonlight Weathers Surgery—Again

posted in: animal friends 2

For the second time this year our mooncat, Moonlight, has gone through surgery for removal of skin cancer tumors. The first time, we didn’t know it was cancer, and only learned about it from the biopsy afterward. She’s 19 ½ years old, and the vet didn’t give her good odds to last long. But seven months later, although other tumors were still growing, she was still a happy and otherwise healthy cat. Dr. Parker said, “Ordinarily I wouldn’t even consider a second surgery on a cat this age. But this is one amazing cat.” This time he took tumors off three different locations, in one operation. Here are two of them.

This left us with a fashion problem—or, rather, how to keep her from licking or scratching at the sutures without resorting to a cone that would make her depressed. The answer: a two-piece suit. Two socks cut out to fit over her, one lengthwise over her head and torso, and one across the back of her shoulders to cover her front shoulder. Seems to work so far. And she seems in good spirits, doing A-okay on the first night of her recovery. And, I think she looks rather elegant. Don’t you?

Jack Among the Rogues

posted in: animal friends 1

Captain Jack has finished up his rehab from the TPLO surgery for his torn ACL. He’s recovered with flying colors, and is cleared to begin transitioning to normal doggy fun activities. The doc even said he could return to bike rides, as long as we’re careful, because the straight-ahead running will be good exercise, and less risky to his other ACL than the typical bounding, turning, reversing border-collie herding that he loves so much.

Jack loved going to PT, and generally went beyond excited to hyper while he was there. The therapist took a picture of him for the rogues gallery of patients. That’s him in the upper left corner.

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