Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lessons from my Dying Dog…or when mom takes over Phil's blog

Mom here...I stink at suffering, have no doubt.  A splinter.  A headache.  A flash of pain in any location.  My first thoughts are always deny, deny, deny.  No way, no how.  Fingers in my ears…la, la, la.  And then I remember Google, a place where I am reduced to a pile o’ mess knowing that I am dead within the week from any of the first three top hits.  I will then proceed to tell every single soul in my path about every single detail of this dreaded fatal onslaught until my dear ol’ husband slaps me silly upside the head with his expert logic.  Then I slink to the stash of pain relievers where I proceed to mentally negotiate with myself on the best choice…no dose, max dose, half dose, quarter dose, timing of dose, all the while fretting about things like potential allergic reactions to meds I have used my entire life.  Then I resume my normal day with varying degrees of ‘what if Don is wrong’ thoughts alternating with ‘is my throat closing up’ thoughts running through my head until the next task takes me to safer mental territory & all is forgotten.  Pathetic, I know.

My dog Phil.  He is my polar suffering opposite.  This is the big guy who went to every single vet appointment of his life with us wagging the tail rather than hyperventilating into oblivion in the waiting room where every other person, canine & feline present was his new best friend.  Every shot, every squirt up the nose of that occasional vaccine was just a passing moment of non-issue between head-scratches & free biscuits from his adoring healthcare provider buddies.  This poor, unenlightened fella came to us in full-blown, duck-trained maturity (story here).  From that very first day he was blending himself into whatever family antics occurred with never a single complaint or whimper.  He only conveyed his suffering on two occasions, the first being the curious incident of the drooping tail and the last, his football injury that took him out of serious ball play for his last few years.

The tail…one day the big guy awoke with a tail that stood properly a third of the way out and then oddly hung at a near-ninety degree angle.  No real whimpers or yelps indicated suffering but he had a true hang-dog look for the better part of a week, & he skipped all romping in every form during that time too.  At best he seemed confused and maybe even embarrassed by his new “look,” until I actually probed the droopy tail and he let out one of the few “yips” I ever heard from him.  I took it as a cue to never, ever probe the droopy tail again, & he healed shortly thereafter, resuming his awesome lifestyle of eat/play/sleep ad nauseum with appropriate gusto.

The football injury…like any lab, he was always up for the chase of a good ball, or a grungy ball, or any thrown object, really.  He was never one to simply run & retrieve…no, each fetch was a zero to sixty in 0.5 sec with an exotic turn-grab-slide affair - roll in grass optional - before a flourishing delivery full of slobber & ball.  Like any casual observer could guess, his football injury involved a leg not cooperating with his signature turn-grab-slide in his, eh hem, twilight years.  This too was an injury conveyed in the most stoic of terms…a steady limp-trot back to home base with the ball & a ready-stance for the next throw.  Tough guy — when it comes to play he is all business.  Three months of rest from retrieval — a lab’s biggest nightmare — did not yield optimal healing and the limp stayed.  Never once, though, did he complain.  Not once.

This January found us at his yearly vet appointment — really, his only vet appointments were those regular, yearly check ups.  I was concerned that the leg that held the persistent, years-long limp looked a bit funny in the large muscle, sort of indented.  There was no sign from him that anything was awry with it, but I did intend to mention it when asked if I had questions.  I never made it to the questions part of the visit.  Phil’s doc zeroed in immediately on that suspicious spot — osteogenic sarcoma.  Every “but” in the world flashed through my mind…but he’s not *that* old, but he’s so healthy, but he has no indications of a problem.  I’m no stranger to cancer diagnoses with those I love, and even though he is only my dog, the reaction really was the same — a clenched heart, a denying brain, a bargaining will.  His vet was not optimistic and google agreed.  At his age and given the statistics of the condition in dogs his age, there was every reason to believe he would live two weeks to a month at best.  Folks, this was January!  News flash to statistics and all those who live by them — there is always an outlier & my dog is one big ol’ outlier.  Specifically, he is an outlier out lying in the sun.  Right now.  In June.

What has my big guy done these last five months?  Lived life with his usual lab-gusto.  Okay, so these days the definition of ‘gusto’ must be tailored to his day-to-day abilities, but trust me, whatever he can do, he does with a joie d’vive that makes me just a wee bit jealous.  Every bowl of food, even the pathetic dog food minus a generous helping of awesome people food, is met with the most eager doggie-grin, perked eared, “yes, please!”  Every bowl of water slurped up with splashes, level: water park.  Every nap is the deep sleep of a college student post all-nighter.  Every entrance into his presence is greeted with his ‘oh-my-gosh-where-have-you-been -all-my-life-you-most-amazing-human-ever’ happy face.  This is the guy who can no longer walk more than a few feet at the very best, who really is dependent on us to decide where he naps, what his view is, how close he is to food and water.  And what do I see as an unobserved observer?  He settles into wherever he is.  He looks around, catching scents on the wind, following birds or even tiny bugs in their movements through his sphere of existence.  He rolls a bit, stretches, accommodates to the sun’s movement throughout the day.  He drowses gently, then deeply.  The world still moves around him as before.  The squirrels still skitter through the yard.  The waves lap on the shore of the bay.  His thoughts no longer seem to dwell on the things he used to do and now cannot…chase those squirrels back to acceptable boundaries, sneak down the dock steps to wade in the water.  His docile contentedness is infectious.  I find myself grabbing a beach chair to be closer to ear-scratching level and settling into the sun with him.  I know I will miss these slower days in the very near future when physiology wins out over his love of life.  I only hope that I can take a lesson or two from how he handles every ball life is throwing him these days.

**Phil’s note:  Yes, I did give mom permission to blog this.  Whatever.  She insisted.  Blame my very long absence on her grad school antics & my creeping old age.  Hey, we both became blog-lazy!  And now that you know the last chapter of my story, please don't feel sorry for me.  I would much rather you find the dog you love, any dog & give him an ear-scratch & a hug!  Oh, and sit in the sun...take a nap too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

first, the good news... bought a comforter for their bed that matches me!! way cool. & so after a few weeks of letting the dust settle on her purchase, i decided that she was sufficiently complacent.

waiting until she exited the room on a day with a particularly magnificent sunbeam in just the right place, i was so *on* that comforter. totally camo'd. thinking, 'she'll never notice.'
she'll never notice a BIG WHITE DOG on her cushy bed!

well, i was wrong. her rapid room re-entry became a stunned-in-her-tracks stop, followed by a slow edging toward the camera. always the camera...maybe if i look the other way...or the other-other way...if i look down...or close my eyes...nope. no use. once again, i'm phil-ibusted!!! vs. mom official score...
dog - 0 mom - 2

Sunday, October 4, 2009


hey, you know you would have done the same thing.

mom was sitting on the comfy deck chair in a sunbeam & alas, her coffee cup was empty. i was laying on the cold, hard, wood decking wishing i was a lap dog. mom will not tolerate an empty coffee cup & since she does not have a waitstaff at her beck & call, she was inside in a flash.

problem was, she *stayed* in there a bit longer than usual (problem with L.? Little Man in need?), who knew why.

after awhile, her comfy chair that was being warmed by the sunbeam started whisper my name. as the minutes tic-toc'd away the whisper became a scream. sign of mom returning & i was up!!!...oh yes i was...on people furniture! loving the sun on my fur....Zzzzzzzzzz, when suddenly ear caught a subtle door movement. i settled lower in the cushion, trying to blend. no such luck! the boss returned, fresh cuppa in hand - i was phil-ibusted!!! amount of cute-face or sad-eyes would cut it & i was back on the deck where she says i belong. hummmmphffff.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

my new gig!

do *not* try to tell mom that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. according to my dog food bag label i am old (senior formula food...ugh.) & mom said i needed to learn something new. but before we discuss my serious talent, we must have some background info...first, there's L. there's always L.!...L. taught *herself* a new trick & that trick would be how to scam me outta my fair morning portion of dog food. uncool!

you see, mom used to feed us at precisely the same moment & just around the corner of the food pantry from one another. L. couldn't see me. i couldn't (didn't care to) see her. all was well...until the day she decided to 'turn the corner' & ambush me!!

mom was nearby (whew!) & was able to save my dignity &, most importantly, the food. all of us thought it was an isolated incident (though Little Man was quite amused & secretly hoped for a repeat...humph.) & so mom laid out breakfast the next day in the usual manner. WHOA!!! L. did it again! basset thy name is *stalker*!...& so began the journey of food bowl separation. now we must eat 3 rooms apart to contain the beast otherwise known as L. & mom must be nearby to guard me. very uncool!...people, L. has even tried an under-the-end-table sneak attack & an under-mom's-desk lunge. her daring knows no bounds! well, she has seemed to settle a wee bit lately, but mom has decided in the name of running an efficient household that if i will not defend myself in front of the smaller dog, i must clean up after myself. that's right...i must now put my own bowl away!!...hence, new trick...after 3 days of mom & Little Man explaining this to me (& me silently asking why L. isn't the one made to clean up), i got it & now i do it *with style*~~on command i pick up my to the pantry...& put it away...of course, i still need someone with opposible thumbs to open the pantry door, but, hey, i've got it goin' on!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

dog tag!

somewhere in the recesses of mom's bookmarks, she found a meme just for me...oh yes she did!! since i am such a ham, you get to indulge in yet a bit more 'o me as i answer profound questions that certainly plague your deepest thoughts. ready? here goes...
What breed are you? full-blown yellow lab, baby!!!How old are you? today i am officially 8 years old. yes, i was born on *thee* 9/11...not a day i would have chosen, but that's the way it is.
What is your full name? high flyin' phil. tre cool, huh?!? it's a name i take very seriously!
Do you have any nicknames? as a matter of fact i do...waaaaaaay too many of them. for starters, there's philip, philibuster, felipe, filippo, philly, big guy, BG, big white dog (yeah, my peeps aren't very original, but they are prolific!) this list is not exhaustive by any stretch, but it is all i am willing to share & still keep a public persona!Where do you usually sleep? do you mean when my peeps are home or away?!? because that is significant...;-) let's just keep things cool for me & say on the downstairs dog bed during the day or on the one by mom's side of the bed at night (i am her bodyguard, you know!) if there are fireworks or thunder involved i will sleep in the shower or bathtub~ true!
What is your favorite thing to do? eat/sleep/chase balls/eat/sleep/chase balls...repeat ad nauseum... throw in an occasional foray into a body of water & my life is golden!What is something unusual/interesting about you? people, EVERYTHING about me is interesting!!! unusual...not much~~ i'm just a regular guy!
Who is your best friend? well, some would say the elusive L., but really, she's more like the alpha dog than a peer....soooooo...i'm gonna go with mom (she controls all things food!)
Did you go to obedience school? If yes, were you Top Dog or did you flunk out? really, i could have done without this question. i did indeed flunk out of duck-hunting school. am i proud of that fact?! eh, whatever! it actually is why i am now comfortably living a life as a family dog as opposed to rambling around in nearly frozen water fetching dead ducks. (go here & scroll down for the nitty gritty details!)
Can you do any tricks? ha! i may have failed duck-hunting school but i'm no trick-fool! for evidence go here, here & here!
Any last comments? yes...i am hoping that miss liza, auntie K., & michelle will take on this meme so that i am not the only dog out there revealing embarrassing secrets! consider yourselves dog-tagged!!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

yo, i've got somethin' to say...

geesh, mom! a little blog time for me, m'k??!?!...i mean, look at this *face* adoring public has been missing me! heck, i even got a bath just for the occasion...& L. too...yo, L., get that leg outta your mouth...& smile for the blogosphere...yep, we're back from summer break! let the fall fun begin...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


...potato! i heard the peeler slide across those lil' a shot, i was off the dog bed & into the kitchen ready to do my duty, cleaning any spare peels that land on the floor...but wait!...what is L. doing in there??...*she* doesn't eat sweet potato peelings...heck, she doesn't eat any vegetables or fruit! rude!...look at her just hanging by the peelings...growling at my every move & for what?...she just wants to deprive me of one of my simple joys...good thing mom is onto her...after she accrued a rather hefty pile o' peelings, mom gave her the boot so i could properly clean up the floor!!...yummy!!! i'm such a good boy! said!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

life as it should be...

the top down...the wind in my ears...& spring-scents on the wind...yeah, i'm livin' large!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009