We’ve been uncharacteristically quiet lately.  I wish that I could say that we were travelling or hibernating the winter away but unfortunately, that is not the case.

After we came back from our trip to Chicago, the priority was to work off King’s energy to a more manageable level.  We hiked and played in the snow and enjoyed getting to know each other even when his stubborn bulldog-ness came out in all it’s aggravating glory.  I should have know that things were going too smoothy.

Chase the cat is not just any cat: she was Piper’s cat and Piper was her dog.  They were best friends and when Piper didn’t come back home one day, Chase became closer with Jack since he is the calmest and most sedate of the dog pack now.  At 15 years, she is still a spry bundle of energy that will talk her head off if she feels she’s not being paid the attention she thinks she deserves.  Then I found her having a seizure one day and another the following day.  I’ve never seen a cat seizure and it is a horrible thing to witness as she thrashed and twisted her way across the floor leaving small smears of blood from her nostrils on the floor.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, King kept trying to get at her.  At first I was terrified that he was trying to hurt her when he kept pushing his head at her little body.  It wasn’t until she was recovering from a seizure and he laid down next to her that I realized that he was trying to comfort her.  He wasn’t trying to bite her; he was trying to put his head on her to help.  Chase hasn’t had a lot of seizures so I don’t know if the medication that we got from the vet is helping or not.  With normal blood work, it appears as though it may be a tumour that is causing her to seizure.  While brain surgery can be done for cats now (who knew?) that is a little beyond my means for a senior cat so it’s become a matter of keeping her happy and comfortable.  Thankfully she is still the same Chase that she has always been.

Nursemaid King with Chase after a seizure.

While we were dealing with all this, we had to deal with something else: as I was taking the pack out for a walk, we were attacked by one of the neighbourhood dogs.  Rocky is a Malinois-looking dog and one that has been the source of trouble for a lot of people.  The fact that the yard where he lives is not fenced probably doesn’t help.  On this particular day, we were at the end of a long walk and slowly toddling along.  We were walking down the road when I looked towards Rocky’s house and saw in him the front yard.  Usually he is on a long tie-out and when he started running at us, I expected to see the rope stretching behind him.  It didn’t.  This dog had his eyes locked on old man Jack and my shouts at him did not slow him down one bit, nor the shouts of his owner.  Rocky bowled Jack over at full tilt.  The next thing I know, he and King are standing on their back legs with their front legs wrapped around each other.  Rocky’s owner ran over and tried to pull him away with no success.  Then a man came out and he had no luck.  It took the arrival of a third man who physically picked up Rocky and carried him away to get them apart.  That was when I realized that King had been holding onto Rocky’s neck the whole time.  I told the woman that if any of my dogs were hurt, I’d be calling bylaw and that quickly got me into a yelling match with the first man that had tried to help.  I was nearly bowled over by the smell of alcohol as we shouted at each other.  For some reason, he seemed to think that Rocky was a “wild animal” that couldn’t be controlled.  I was almost certain that he was going to take a swing at me but luckily he listened to the owner (who turned out to be his sister) and walked away.  Besides, he was so scrawny I probably could have picked him up by the scruff of his neck and shaken him like a puppy.  Eventually we all gathered on the road and the three of them expressed admiration for King’s bravery and tenacity and the cuteness of Jack and Leo.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that King was affected by Rocky’s attack more than I had thought.  We were out walking in one of the fields nearby when King saw another dog and ran at him, grabbing him by the neck.  The owner and I had to literally strike King to get him to let go.  The attack by Rocky has now instilled a sense of fear in King, sparking an “attack before you get attacked” reaction.  He’s still fine with Jack and Leo; in fact they will boss him around whenever they want to but new dogs not so much.  I was just trying to find him a trainer when the biggest hit we had coming hit us full on.

Leo had been having some issues with his blue eye.  Nothing major or particularly troubling; his eye was just a bit blinky and squinty.  Then it would get better and then it would get squinty again.  One day it started looking a little worse so I scheduled him for a visit to the vet.  We were sent home with some drops, just like we had been with Jack several times before.  The following night, he started rubbing at his eye and did not want to stop, leaving the lid red and swollen.  The next day, I took him back to the vet.  You know it’s going to be a bad day when the doctor looks at you and says “What’re you doing today?”  

The only response I could come up with was “Where are we going?”  

“You’re going to Scarborough.”  

“Alright we’re going to Scarborough.”  Then he gave me the directions for the top eye doctor in the province.  It’s not Scarborough which is almost due south of us; we were going to Forest Hill: the opposite side of Toronto in an area that is currently under a boatload of construction.  Once we got the specialist, the news got even worse: a melting ulcer had caused severe damage to his eye.  There was a possibility that the eye may be saved with a graft but if it was too damaged, then the eye would have to come out.  

I brought Leo back the next morning and that was quite the experience for us.  The waiting room was tiny and packed with dogs and people along three walls.  As I was trying to read and sign paperwork, a poodle started yelling at King and King was barking back at it as Jack tried to make friends with the poodle and every other dog and human around him.  Finally I gave up on trying to read the forms and just signed every piece of paper that was pushed at me.  I probably signed over a kidney at some point.  Once the stack of forms were signed, one of the staff members came and after some maneuvering, I was able to extricate Leo’s leash and handed it to her.  I tried to snuggle the little guy but then I started tripping over Jack and King so I hustled them to the car and went back into the vet’s, asking if I could see Leo quickly.  He was brought back out and I hunkered down to see him, scooped him up, and started bawling into his coat before I passed his leash back.  I felt awful: not only because he was going for surgery but because I felt so guilty.  I felt that if I had brought him into the vet’s sooner, he wouldn’t be going through this ordeal.  I told this to both my vet and the specialist and they both told me that it wasn’t my fault and that eye injuries can degrade in hours.  The specialist called me later that day to tell me the eye couldn’t be saved.  As much as I knew this was a possibility, it still took the wind out of me.

I went back a few hours later to pick Leo up, leaving the other two at home.  As I walked in, everyone asked where Leo’s brothers were.  I had to laugh at that, thinking that they’d be thankful that I didn’t bring the noisemakers with me.  When I saw Leo, wearing his cone with his right eyelids sewn together, I almost started crying again but he looked so scared that I had to be brave and tough for him.  It was going to be two weeks before the stitches came out and cone came off.  Oddly, it would be considerably longer to heal if he had had the graft instead: closer to four months of wearing the cone.  I brought Leo out to the car and piled up plenty of blankets for him before we drove home.  That was when I realized that I had been given a pocketful of drugs for him (okay just painkillers and antibiotics) and I had nothing to make the medicine go down so I was going to have to stop on the way home.  Damn.  After a quick stop for liverwurst, we were home.  I was so worried that King was going to try to play with Leo or stick his head in the cone and pop some of the stitches that I was stressed right out.  King and Jack did sniff at Leo but when Leo laid down, King was close to him.  I ended up changing my vacation so that I could stay home with him for the first few days and told the folks at work that I was going to be changing my hours to have shorter days so that I could get home to the pups. Since I never take any personal time, they didn’t give me any grief. Quite frankly, I didn’t care if they did because I didn’t ask them; I told them. The mama bear in me came out in full-force.

The next day, I figured that Leo was going to be sore and confused so I took him out for his morning walk alone.  The poor little guy crept along and we didn’t make it two houses before he tried to go back home.  I took him back to the house and unclipped his leash as I hooked up King.  I walked King out the door and Leo bolted outside with us.  Hmmmmmm okay Leo.  I clipped his leash and watched as he trotted along like there was nothing out of the ordinary.  Maybe he wanted the muscle that is King or maybe it’s just because he’s never walked alone since he’s come to live with me.  Regardless, any time I went to take King out for a walk, Leo made sure that he was at the front door so I didn’t leave him behind.  Since King has lost his off-leash privileges, I take him for lots of walks and even some short runs.  Leo can’t run with the cone but he is there every chance for a walk. 

The little pups almost gave me a heart attack one night: I had picked up one of their toys and Leo grabbed onto it.  I thought that was cute and then King came and took hold of another part.  Awwwww that’s so cute oh for the love of all that is good what are you doing playing tug when Leo has fresh stitches and is wearing a cone!  Then I had to wrestle with the dogs to get them to release the toy and every other toy that I picked up so that there was no fun to be had by anyone. I had this image of Leo straining and popping a stitch or shaking a toy and taking an end across the face so you’ll forgive me if I was a little paranoid.

One week after his surgery, I took Leo back to the specialist for his check up.  This vet does not take appointments and basically runs a drop-in clinic for animals.  I thought that showing up early would work out well for us.  When I drove past the clinic 25 minutes before it opened, I saw that there was already a line-up down the sidewalk.  Crap.  I parked the car and as the whole pack walked to join the line, the woman ahead of us scooped up her French Bulldog that looked like a miniature version of King and kept looking at my pups with that look of almost disgust. Oh did I mention that Forest Hill is one of the rich areas of Toronto? Us country folk clearly did not belong with the designer dogs around us. We put our name on the list and went back out to the car, then went for a walk, then I went to get a coffee and muffin.  We ended up waiting over two and a half hours before we saw the vet.  Two and a half hours.  Let that sink in.  Leo’s check up went well and the vet said his eye was healing cleanly and very nicely.  The tissue (let’s just call it like it is: his eye) had been sent off for examination to determine if there were any underlying causes that lead to the eye deteriorating.  Fortunately, there was nothing that was a cause for concern and it turned out the eye had just been damaged.  I still don’t know what caused the injury to his eye in the first place but at this point, it’s almost irrelevant.

Leo has been doing very well and his playfulness is coming back.  I have a feeling that once the cone comes off, he’ll be back to himself.

On a side note: all the photos below were taken on different days. It puts the bond between Leo and King into perspective.

Big little brother keeping watch.
From top to bottom: Leo, Jack, Chase, and King all snuggled up. What you can’t see is that most of my body is hanging off the couch.