Gather round, and speak to me of dewclaws

With Bronte due sometime soon and since I have been thinking a great deal about Cardigan feet and bones, I suppose it’s only natural that I’ve spent a bit of time considering the dewclaw, and specifically whether it should stay or it should go. (Just to be clear, this is my own internal conversation — Bronte’s litter is Kate’s, not mine, and I trust her completely to make any decisions with those puppies. It’s for me as I think about eventual breeding that puts puppies in my own living room.)

I’ve never removed any from my Dane puppies. Lucy (my first bitch) came to me with no dews but everyone else has had them. I have personally witnessed, hundreds of times and on a daily basis, dogs using them with intent and great finesse. They use them to grasp and manipulate things (when holding bones between the front paws, for example) and they groom eyes and ears with them. I always felt a little bad for Lucy because she had to rub her face on the side of her leg but the others would carefully and very adeptly find exactly the itch or the bit of gook in their eyes and get it with the dewclaw.

Then there’s the fact dogs use their dewclaws when running, especially when cornering. I’ve seen this one too–when they corner you’ll see them extend and dig in the claw. It’s a joint they DO control and it has a surprising amount of movement and strength, considering that we usually just see it sitting there.

I’ve also seen my share of toe injuries but never a dewclaw injury to the front ones. The front dews can generally be ground back even further than the toes, so none of my dogs with dewclaws has ever had more than a short thick straight nail; there is nothing to catch or tear. The back ones strike me as more dangerous, though Bastoche, That Cursed Dog has both of his back dews and I was shocked at how complete the anatomy is. There’s no connecting bone (I understand that in some of the working dogs there is a bone) but there’s a little arterial pulse that you can feel quite clearly and the claw is well developed.

And, anyway, I am always leery of the argument that anything should be removed because of possible injury – so to prevent a remotely possible wound we should create a very certain one? It strikes me as very illogical. It’s also the same reasoning that has people cropping and docking, practices that I personally despise and refuse to take part in.

In fact, that reminds me of a herding/working board I was once reading where an OES owner was talking about how stupid people who didn’t dock tails were, and told a story of an OES who got his tail into the fire on the hearth and nearly set the house on fire. The responders on the thread chimed in; by the end of the thread you’d think OES tails were the force behind Communism in Eastern Europe.  The VERY NEXT THREAD was about bearded collies and what great dogs they were. On the same board, the next day someone was talking about how essential it was to crop Dane ears; on the same page was a thread about livestock guard dogs standing up to wolves and bears on a regular basis. Does no one get the irony? Beardies do the same things, have the same very long hair, and are even closer to the ground than OES are–but every single one gets to keep his tail. Danes spend most of their lives on couches and soft beds, while Anatolian/Akbash, Maremma, Pyr, and the other Big White Dogs spend their entire lives outside in incredibly rough terrain, actively driving off and even fighting with other climax predators, and sometimes don’t have human contact for days or weeks at a time. They have the same ear shape. So why is it so imperative that the Dane lose hers?

If tails are a clear and present danger, they are a danger to ALL dogs. If ears are a clear and present danger, they are a danger to ALL dogs. If cropping is beneficial, it should be part of the expectations for every dog with dropped ears. If docking is protective, every dog should be docked.  Apropos of dewclaws, the LGDs and Briards and so on not only keep their front dews but both back ones. If dewclaws are clearly not a major issue for livestock dogs, who are the hardest working and least supervised dogs in the world, why are they somehow ticking timebombs on the wrists of Cardigans? None of it has ever made any sense to me when I examine the arguments logically.

You’re probably getting by now the fact that I don’t like the idea of removing them. I agree that it makes the leg look prettier but I am not into procedures for the sake of looks unless there’s absolutely no detriment to the animal. When I started with Clue I figured I was just going to have to deal with removing them in Cardi puppies, figured it was part of being a good Cardi breeder, but I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the thought.

So… I know that removal of dewclaws is in the Cardi standard. I know that in the archives of showcardi-L there are at least some people who have finished Cardis with dewclaws. Does anyone have any stories or advice that can push me either way? I’d especially like to hear if anyone has seen a genuine prejudice against them in the ring.

Matt’s Coffee: Wood-roasted in Maine. You’re welcome.

I was a late bloomer, coffee-wise.

I had my first cup at 22, trying to make it through grad school. I was engaged, working full-time, going to school full-time. My sister was (minus the engagement) doing the same, at the same school. We’d sign up for as many classes together as we could, so we could help each other study.

She lived in what was almost certainly once a chicken coop–a tiny two-level shack in the backyard of a much larger house, heated by a mini propane tank, with floors that fell off into nothing and a minuscule bathroom with a shower that you had to step in, wash your back, and then step out so you could turn around and wash your front.

This shack was memorable for having a rent of only $300 a month, in an area where (even in 1996) rents were routinely three times that much, and for a massive coffee maker that sat, full, close to 24 hours a day. Both (the shack and the coffee maker) were passed down from grad student to grad student; everyone we knew had lived in the shack at one time or another. It was never advertised, as far as I know never inspected, and never empty.

Which, coincidentally, describes the coffee maker as well.

When the coffee grew rancid we’d dump it and start again. We drank it cold, hot, room temperature, we didn’t care. We bought the vilest cheap pre-ground coffee we could find at the grocery store; we just needed the caffeine shot and, in the winter, the warmth.

This first glut of coffee ended in a spectacular fashion the semester we were both taking not only a systematic theology class from Wells but a Greek class from our father (his bio is really old; he’s actually on book fifteen or sixteen now). Of all the professors at the school, they are ranked number one and two (or two and one, depending on the year and how many students are left weeping in the hallways) in order of difficulty of subject matter.

Since we were taking my dad’s class together, we not only had to get a perfect grade for him, we had to beat each other to the highest score. Meanwhile, Wells was asking us to read 150 pages a night and research and write 20,000 words every four weeks or so.

And so we simply never slept. I don’t think I got more than five hours of sleep on my very best day that semester, and it was routine to stay up for 48 hours straight.

It was all fueled by desperation, more than a little arrogance, and that horrid coffee.

The night before our Greek final, we huddled on my sister’s mattress and passed flashcards back and forth. Both of our teeth were chattering so hard we could barely respond with “aorist present” or “I think that one is the -iai ending.” It wasn’t cold; we had consumed so much coffee on so little sleep that we were shaking with the effort of staying upright.

We went together to take the test – I honestly don’t remember any of it.

When we were done, we separated and (I later found out) both went home and vomited about sixty times. Yes, the coffee. Whether thanks to overuse or a bad bean in the batch when it was roasted and ground what was probably two years before we drank it, it did us in.

I did not drink coffee again for nine years.

If we went to Starbucks with friends, I’d drink steamed milk. Dunkin Donuts was hot chocolate. Even the sight of coffee made me feel ill.

That changed the year I taught fourth grade, which was (after grad school) the most stressful and difficult thing I’d ever done. Tabitha was one; Meri and Honour were in second and third grade. I NEVER ate; I NEVER slept. And so out of desperation I began to make coffee again.

This time, I started with the brands that advertised that they were easy on the stomach. I graduated to the teacher’s lounge brew, which was bad but at least fresh. From there I did what I think most do–I realized that Lavazza is a lot better than Folgers, but Green Mountain is better than Lavazza, and New England Coffee Co. is better than Green Mountain. After the teaching was over, the coffee continued.

Meanwhile, Doug and I had moved from being dedicated foodies, always in the latest cool restaurant, to frustrated consumers who rarely had anything more exciting than “hold the mustard” on our Wendy’s burgers. Too many kids, no money, no time. We loved the kids, missed the money (at least a little), REALLY missed having the luxury of something that just simply tastes PERFECT.

It’s predictable what came next –  coffee became our one carnal delight. (OK, well, our second carnal delight, but this is a family blog so get your mind out of the gutter.)

We bought a $10 coffee maker, put it in the cupboard when we bought a $25 coffee maker, put it in the cupboard when we bought a $60 coffee maker, realized that burners skunk coffee so bought a French press, needed more coffee than a French press could make at once and bought a carafe model from a country very far from here.

The blade coffee grinder gave way to a burr model gave way to a big burr model gave way to an Italian burr grinder that sounds like a fine motorcar when you turn it on.

Ground coffee was no longer anywhere on our shelves. Bags and tins and wrapped paper parcels and things with their own little visa stamps on them filled the cupboard. Then we used all those up and went entirely fair trade. Upgraded to organic. Upgraded from organic to beans with a roasting date.

It was good. It was GOOD. But it was not yet great.

What made it the thing that makes me get out of bed in the morning and turn on the coffee grinder before I even put my contact lenses in was an article we found in an old issue of the Kennebeck paper. My parents own a house in Maine, so the local newspapers and magazines are often lying around their house down in Massachusetts. I picked one up and I yelled to Doug.

“Hey, remember Matt Bolinder from college? He moved to Maine! Oh, Doug… he’s roasting coffee! He brought a wood-fired roaster over from Italy, and he cuts the hardwoods in his own backyard and roasts coffee he imports from all over the world. He rents part of that old crappy mill in Waterville, remember that one?”

Family council immediately held, impromptu road trip decided upon, and a couple of hours later we were holding a gold bag full of coffee and on our way home.

When I stood in our kitchen and opened the foil bag, it was like a Disney movie where swirls of sparkles and stars explode out, filling every corner with brightness.

From upstairs and four rooms away, I heard Doug yell, “OH MY GOSH, IS THAT THE COFFEE?”

Ground and brewed and with a trickle of heavy cream, it was like God decided to show us a little piece of what you get if you walk straight and fly right. It was GREAT.

Since then, every three weeks we call or e-mail Matt (who is as much a kind and personable gentleman now as he was when I knew him fifteen years ago) and ask him to send us whatever he’s got. He roasts every Tuesday, so by that Thursday a box arrives with three or four gold bags. I never know what it will be–this week it was an El Salvadorean Peaberry, an Ethiopian Shanta Golba, a dark roast that is the most physically beautiful coffee I have ever seen, and a northern Italian-style espresso roast that is so pungent and glorious that you can chew the aroma, chocolate and caramel and raspberries.

So call Matt. Or visit him online. I don’t get anything for recommending him except the happy thought that maybe somebody is going to open a foil bag and have a little tear come into their eye.

Seriously, this stuff is amazing. I give you permission to be a hedonist and try it.

Making me sad, making me happy

Sad (because it’s so true that the satire barely softens the blow): The Onion.


1) Oh so happy! Bronte is glowing and growing and making me pine for her, but I am SO happy that she’s in a place where she is loved.

2) It’s silly, but retail therapy is sometimes the most potent kind. We lost all four of our diaper bags in the fire, and with this many kids (and the fact that the diaper bags, thanks to their dozen pockets, also end up as dog bags) that was a huge loss. We’ve been carting Zoob’s stuff around in plastic grocery bags for the last two and a half months, for serious. Now that it looks like we’ll be out of the house even longer (see below), I HAD to get something.

I use diaper bags that are roughly large enough to carry a young calf–packed to the very top with an outfit for each child (yes, even Meri–because I can GUARANTEE that she will spill a noxious mixture of coal tar and, I dunno, raspberry jam over herself in the first 15 minutes of a seven-hour errand run), a shirt for me (because the kids came by their clumsiness honestly), a minimum of three outfits for Zoob, a dozen diapers, entire container of wipes, five snack cups, three sippy cups, four water bottles, at least one leash in case I see a stray dog… and that’s just the standard packing. Add in board books, toys, chew toys if we have the dog(s) with us, digital camera, hairbrush, and a thousand other things depending on the length and complexity of the trip.

So you may understand my glee when I found a sale at Fleurville and I was FINALLY able to get the bags that are famous for being the size of the trunk of a VW. Therefore, coming to me for about 75% off are



Doug says the patterns on both of them will force him to examine his feminine side, but I am totally seduced by the fact that they’re like fifteen inches long and twelve inches high. I can stuff them both and load up the kids like pack camels. Whee!

3) This is the big one: We’re coming to the end of our first three months out of the house after the fire.

Yeah, remember how the insurance guy told us we’d be back in the house after three months? Oh, me too! Good times, good times.

NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. Absolutely zero.

Realistically, even if we could start construction April 1 (and it’s not looking like that’s going to happen) we’re looking at four months of construction alone. And adding in the inevitable surprises (there is an elephant in the room called “asbestos wallboard” that nobody is talking about–we think it may be there, as do the contractors, but the contractors have to “discover” it; they can’t just go test the wallboard…and if we have to do asbestos abatement “that’s a whole new ballgame,” as our insurance guy says) and we’re talking five to six months from now.

It was a mutual decision to not continue to live here–we initially contracted for three months and both the homeowner and we are ready to part as amicably as possible. So we had a week of anxiety as we looked for an apartment that would take a short-term lease and would accept Clue. It also had to have low utilities because we have to continue to pay utilities at the House of Fire.

We looked at a bunch of stuff, were told no by another bunch (either wouldn’t accept a short lease or wouldn’t accept Clue), got VERY worried (the second-to-last place we looked at estimated between $400 and $500 for electricity and heat, PER MONTH), and yesterday finally found “home” for the next six months (or maybe five, but the lease is for six and we’ll eat the last month’s rent if we need to). We were just approved this morning and will be moving this week.

It’s a beautiful apartment in a converted mill, with twelve-foot ceilings and giant windows. It’s very small (just over a thousand square feet) but that’s OK because utilities are teeny. About a hundred bucks a month. Amazing.

Two bedrooms, two baths, washer/dryer, tiny perfect kitchen. We’ll be stuffed in there like sardines but it’s in a very quiet area and you can walk out the exterior door (the apartment is right next to one of the doors out, so we won’t have to walk dogs through the building–a big plus) to a lovely paved riverwalk that extends three miles along the Powwow River. It’s completely safe, no cars, so we can let the kids bike and rollerblade and walk the dog and relax.

AND… oh joy, and this is something we never anticipated… they will take TWO dogs. Which means that sometime in the next couple of weeks we get to go spring Ginny from the boarding kennel, which we honestly can’t even talk about because as soon as anyone mentions it we have to stop and bite our lips because we get teary. We have missed her so incredibly.

Bramble will stay at the kennel, which is a choice no one likes but it makes no sense to have him be the second dog. He’s still a puppy, with normal housetraining issues, and he’s a chewer and a digger. The new apartment has a hefty security deposit and cream carpet. So he’ll stay there, continue to go to daycare every day so he won’t go nuts, and (oh my gosh!) we get Ginny back.

So one sad, three happy… I’ll take it!

Comments roundup: including mange, CEA, Dandies, etc.

I’ve been working 20 hours a day for a couple of days so I haven’t been able to respond to comments–I figured it was about time to hit a bunch of them. Some of these are quite antique, but I thought they all deserved some attention.

From Samantha:

Does this pup have mange?

A friend of ours called yesterday,some kids in his youth group found a pup and couldn’t find an owner,so they were trying to find a home for it.Knowing the town they found it in,I took would have ended up who knows where.It has some scabs and patches of fur missing.He doesn’t seem uncomfortable or itchy,but he’s pretty skinny.Advice??

First of all, congrats on your new puppy. I hope it works out with him or you’re able to find a great home for him.

Any time a puppy has been neglected, fed substandard food, or stressed (and in this case all three), there’s a possibility of mange getting a foothold. Without seeing the puppy I couldn’t tell you whether that’s what you’re looking at, but it would certainly be a good first guess.

There are two types of mange that you have to worry about: demodex (which is caused by tiny tiny mites that live on every dog’s skin but go out of control when a dog has a depressed immune system) and sarcops (which is caused by a larger mite that burrows in the skin and causes intense itching).

Demodex is always the first thing you think of when a neglected puppy looks less than sleek. It causes hairless patches, crusting/scabbing, pink skin, and in severe cases can take over the whole body. If you’re looking at just a few patches, don’t treat it. Let the puppy’s own body fight it off as he recovers from his recent trauma. Feed him very well (raw diet is best, but if not that a very good kibble–let me know if you need recommendations), worm the heck out of him (a puppy with no history I’d personally use Panacur/SafeGuard on, but you can also use Strongid or one of the other pyrantel brands), and bathe him. As he gets healthy the patches will go away on their own.

If a puppy is not only scabby but intensely itchy, especially on the margins of the ears, you can suspect sarcops mange. It’s the same mite that causes scabies in humans, and it IS transmissable from dogs to people so watch for itchy patches on your own skin. Sarcops used to require a major treatment with super-poisonous insecticide, but now thankfully most dogs can be treated with a course of Revolution. I don’t recommend Revolution on a regular basis–I think it’s much too powerful to be used as a standard heartworm/worming/flea regimen–but for sarcops mange it’s perfect.

If you see fleas, by the way, the scabs can be flea bite dermatitis. I don’t know where you are in the world but fleas are a year-round problem in many areas. If you suspect them, add a course of Frontline or Advantage (no cheapo brands like Zodiac or Hartz) and apply between the shoulder blades two days after the bath.

Good luck and keep us updated!

From Carolyn:

So . . . does that mean that you’re going to nationals, or is that hypothetical for the future (as in Gettysburg 2010).

We were originally planning to go this year, but the fire pretty much killed our chances. I went to the 2005 Nationals in Sturbridge (long before I even had a Cardi) and my goal is to make it a yearly event once kids are big enough to be left for the week. 2010 is a very good possibility, especially if I have anything to show.

From John:

Hi Joanna….Purchased a great dane pup from you a couple years ago and I have to tell you…….AMAZING dog…simply stunning…he practically stops traffic when we are out for walks….He came from a litter that was welped @ june 2006….anyway….thanks again… John Gilman

I was SO thrilled to get this comment. John and his partner are wonderful owners and one of my favorite puppy applicants. And their boy was stunning in the whelping box–good to know he fulfilled his promise.

From Cait:

What happens though, when you end up with a disease gene that simply ends up super-widespread in a relatively diverse population? A low COI won’t help you then. Collies have a decent gene pool compared to many other breeds (The American fancy was well-established before the world wars). Eliminating affected dogs WOULD produce a bottleneck, and even simply breeding for non-affected carriers is going to bottleneck things to some degree.)

I don’t know the answers to these questions and I don’t know who to ask to find out. (Also, any books you can recommend on population genetics? I’m curious.)

You’re talking about CEA, I’m guessing. Collie Eye Anomaly is one of those diseases that there are not easy answers for. Because the gene for it is so incredibly widespread, there’s a real danger that in working to eradicate it you’d heavily weight the gene pool to just a few dogs. Add to that the fact that mildly affected dogs have no issues with quality of life and you might be tempted to say “Well, just ignore it” (as long as it’s mild, that is). What I am not sure of, and you may have better insight into this than I (since I am not a collie person) is whether two mildly affected dogs can produce puppies that are much more affected and have a decrease in quality of life. If that’s the case, there is  more ethical pressure to remove it from the breed.

From what I’ve seen, with the widespread testing that the collie fancy is doing, there’s a great effort to understand the true scope and effect of the disease. That’s exactly the right response; without knowing exactly how deleterious a genetic disease is you can’t make good choices about whether or not to work hard to erase it.

From Nancy:

I have a friend who has had Dandie Dinmonts for years. It is one of those breeds that seems to be heading for disaster. They are saying it is time to outbreed. Bring in some new genetic material, which will have to come outside the breed; perhaps dachsund. Do you feel that this is the only solution? When the genetic pool becomes so small and phenotype so important is it not a given that health and longevity begins to suffer? I am a firm believer in purebred dogs, but sometimes worry that too many breeders focus on looks rather than performance. There will always be those that just don’t want to know if their breeders are carriers. I am also a firm believer in working breeds being able to work, a herder being able to herd, etc.

When a breed is completely backed into a corner and there literally is nowhere for it to go (there are no pockets of healthy dogs anywhere) accessing new genetic material can be the only moral solution. We have to remember that these dogs didn’t ask to exist; we produced them. So if we’ve inadvertently or accidentally or as the result of a disaster (like a war or epidemic) ended up with a breed that experiences a significantly reduced lifespan or quality of life, I would argue that leaving the situation as-is is not acceptable.

I am not sure of which specific disorders in the Dandie are perceived as the worst (please come back and tell us about them, because information on the breed is understandably scarce) but I think if going into a different breed is ultimately decided to be the right thing, the choice of breed is going to be key.

I would never, personally, go to the Dachshund. That’s not because I don’t love them–but they have a concentration of health problems of their own and you want to access the healthiest possible group of dogs. This is not any kind of official recommendation, but just spitballing they may want to look at Border Terriers and Skyes, Sealyhams, Scotties and Bedlingtons maybe? If I were running the circus, I would definitely NOT stick to only one breed. I’d work on re-creating the breed the way the  breed founders did, by mixing the more primitive types and trying to come as close as possible to the original contributors to the breed, using the healthiest possible modern examples. It’s the kind of thing that could be done superbly or could be done disastrously, so a lot is at stake. I know the Sloughi people used DNA mapping and were able to determine with some fair accuracy some of the progenitor/early breeds that mixed with both the Sloughi and the Saluki, so that may be a possibility at least to rule in or out some contributor breeds.

From MCatLuvr:

I sent you a email a few weeks back but it got lost or you are so busy you missed it. :) How is Bramble and Elvis? Any new pics to share or time to share them?

Bramble is being boarded right now, so no pics of him that are recent. The kennel says he’s doing very well and behaving himself perfectly. Elvis/Bastoche/That Wicked Dog is thriving–I just saw him a couple of days ago and he is hilarious and perfect. He’s incredibly, astonishingly, smart and every time I see him he’s got some crazy new trick or behavior.

From Sarah K

Joanna, There is a Vallhund lost somewhere in your general area, and her last sighting is amazingly like Clue, swiped by a car, and the dog hasn’t been seen. Would you be so kind as to provide me any kind of contact info for the tracking dogs that helped when Clue was lost? The owner would like to contact them to see if she can hire them or others to help find this little lost Vallhund.

I am SO SORRY that I didn’t see this until yesterday. I feel like an idiot that I didn’t see it. The tracking club is based out of the kennel we have our dogs in: American K9 Country in Amherst NH. I am praying that this little dog has been found.

From Kim:

Another dog question. My DD is convinced she’s ready for her own dog. She’s four, nearly five. She wants her own protection dog. Ha! I told her that we all have to start with obedience and at least two other dog activities before we’re good enough to handle protection dogs. She’s most interested in the local therapy dogs group. I’m not sure what else to explore with her and I’m looking for breed suggestions as well as activity suggestions. We will always have at least one German Shepherd. We have at least a year to decide. What’s the best breed for us?

Well, you KNOW I’m going to recommend Cardis, especially for a person who likes Shepherds. There’s a lot of overlap in personality and trainability.

If you’re looking at a genuine small/toy breed, she’s a little young yet. She’s exactly the same age as Tabitha and we’re still supervising Tabi very carefully with Ginny. But the more time I’ve spent with Papillons the more I like them–they’re merry, happy dogs that are incredibly trainable and love everyone. I think Cavaliers are absolutely fabulous, and they’d be my very top recommendation if they didn’t have the horrible heart problems that they do. Cavaliers are perhaps the breed least likely to ever bite a child, at least from my conversations with breeders and trainers. Boston Terriers would round out my little-dogs-in-families top recommendations.

One size up I’d look at miniature poodles (well-bred ones are amazing), English Cockers, etc. My Dane mentor used to have Tibetan Terriers and loved them (and raised them with two kids); some temperaments in the breed are iffy but they’re a very beautiful and fun dog to own.

We’re running out the door, so I’m going to publish this now and come back and add more later.

A Zoober Zu update

As many of you will remember, the week before our house fire Zuzu fell and got a skull fracture. Well, we had the follow-up appointment (and her 15-month well baby visit) yesterday and she is doing GREAT. Her head had an incredibly alarming divot (about the size of a silver dollar and deep enough to be visible, shaped like a tulip with a rounded bottom and jaggy top where the bone had splintered) in it for several weeks, but then literally over the space of 48 hours it totally remodeled and now you can’t feel even a tiny remnant of the fracture. She looks to have healed completely and is meeting all her milestones just perfectly.

She’s just a little peanut, 19 lb and 29 inches at 15 months. For the statistically inclined, that’s 7% in weight and 12% in height. That makes her bigger than Tabitha, who hovers between 0% and 3% on both, but she’s no Amazon. I sure wish I could peel some off me and put it on her!

She says doggy, woof, kitty, meow, that, right there, TV, hot, daddy, boo! and a bunch of others. She can point to everyone in the family except me; she has no clue that I have a name and when she is asked where Mommy is she points to the curtains or to Clue. She is FINALLY walking well–she took her first steps on her first birthday and then refused to walk again for two months. Just in the last month she realized that bipedal was a lot faster and easier than crawling and she now cruises around in the zombie pose, hands outstretched, looking for brains on which to feast. 

So there you go–a non-dog-related, totally fluffy post of happy update :).

Oh, and for those who are interested: No vaccines yet for her. I do vaccinate my kids, though Honour (who reacted so horribly and is still hurt by it) will probably never have another one, but I do so very slowly and very cautiously. Any sign of reaction and we stop the series. For example, Tabitha began her Prevnar series at nine months, and our pede said he never saw ANY reaction with that vaccine. On the second one (second of a series of three) she ran a fever. So she never got the third one. But the DTaP series (which she was given starting at age 3 and every three months until she turned 4) didn’t bother her a bit. Tabitha’s next hurdle is the MMR; we’ll try just one and see if she mounts an adequate response and doesn’t need the full series. Zuzu has had zero vaccines for anything–we’re not sure if we’ll start with Prevnar or with the DTaP but we aren’t doing it now because of the respiratory virus she’s just getting over. In three months we’ll see if we’re ready to start something.

There’s a package of meat that’s been sitting on my stove for 45 days.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about the house fire, but it’s difficult because even in my own thoughts I’ve come to the point of throwing up my hands in despair.

And yes, I did indeed take a package of ground beef out of the freezer the night of the fire, and put it on the stove to thaw for the next day. And yes, it’s STILL THERE.

If anyone is considering burning their house down (or portions of their house down) for the insurance money, I STRONGLY recommend against it. TV movies notwithstanding, the pace at which things actually happen is so impossibly slow that you will seriously consider campaigning for congress on the sole platform of making insurance companies pay up in a reasonable amount of time.

Here’s roughly how it’s gone so far:

The fire totaled two rooms in our eight-room house: our master bedroom and a small room next to that room. It wrecked windows and so on but didn’t burn through the roof (at least we don’t think it did–we haven’t checked to see if water has been leaking when it rains).

We initially thought that we’d have to repair those rooms, but could do some good cleaning in the rest of the house and be OK.

We were SO WRONG.

The huge problem is this: The actual fire was confined to those rooms. However, the fire began and was fed almost entirely by plastics; the candle fell against our TiVo box, lit that and our cable box and DVD player on fire, fell down and burned up the TV and stereo, spread over to the other stereo, then to a catalog of roughly 500 DVDs, from there to wiring… you get the picture.

(Explanatory aside: Doug is a huge movie wonk with a master’s in communications, specifically radio/TV, so not only did we have a million blinking black boxes with various functions that I do not understand, we had hundreds and hundreds of movies and DVDs and CDs that he had collected or been given or had been sent as “screeners” (or whatever you call screeners when they’re music-related) over the years. Many of them had never even been opened, either because they were part of a collection or (this applies to the CDs) because they were special screeners or advance releases that were sent only to radio stations and so were too fragile or fancy to be in general use–what record companies send to radio stations are often VERY unique, in crazy packaging or a different cover or the tracks are a totally different order, with the desired singles in different positions on the CD, etc. Every single piece of electronics and all the movies and music were, of course, in the only “safe” room in the house, the master bedroom.)

Once the fire ate the entertainment center and then the big stereo tower, it moved in two directions: to our bed and burned up the mattress, and to a big laminate bookcase that burned but for some reason did not spread to the books. Mid-way through the fire the bookcase itself collapsed and dumped MY obsessive collection of a zillion paperback books in a way that closed and blocked off the bedroom door. So when the firemen (I didn’t see any women there, but maybe firepeople is better? Firehumans?) got there they had to break down the door to get in.

So that sets the scene: Two rooms on fire, and lots and lots and lots of water dumped on it. The water totaled a certain radius around the rooms, but the rest of the house didn’t actively LOOK bad.Well, no, that’s not true–it did look bad, in terms of being filthy and wet and with piles of stuff that was wet and filthy and did I mention that everything was wet and filthy? So I was imagining having to come in there with buckets and hot water and having to take fifty loads to the laundromat, but I had a mental handle on it.

Two days later, when we were allowed back in and went through the house with the public adjuster we hired (reminder: public adjuster is sort of an ambulance chaser who represents you to the insurance company and tries to get you a good settlement; absolutely essential for us because we are totally trusting and naive) we found out that looks can be deceiving. Because of the super-plasticky nature of the fire, the coating of black over EVERYTHING on every surface of every room that we thought was “just” soot is actually not. It’s burned and melted plastic. When you touch it with your finger, it doesn’t smear or come off. It’s aerosolized plastic.

This means that EVERYTHING is contaminated. The black icky stuff is carcinogenic and it’s horribly dangerous especially to Honour, our ten-year-old, who has spent much too much time in hospitals and on oxygen in her little life for me to ever risk illness with her. It sticks to and cannot be removed from anything that is plastic or fabric or leather or paper. It can be scrubbed off sealed wood, stone, ceramic, or metal.

So now, if you can stand it, look around the room you’re in and identify everything that doesn’t have any plastic, leather, paper, or fabric. If it’s wood it has to be sealed and water-safe. If you have a fire, that’s what you can keep. Everything else has to get thrown out.

And so then, with that announcement, began the endless and endless and ENDLESS process of coordinating the ten companies and fifty processes to get the house livable again.

Here’s what’s happened so far:

Our contractor boarded up the two rooms and drained the plumbing.

A company came in and ripped out the walls and ceiling in the two burned rooms, and then set up generators (no electricity or heat in the house, of course) to dry out the frame of the house back there.

Another company came in and removed, laundered, and delivered to us at our temporary housing all the clothing that could be safely returned. This amounted to the contents of one mostly unused closet upstairs in the kids’ room (it was OK because the doors had been closed) and Honour’s laundry basket. So I received twelve big bags full of Easter dresses, Halloween costumes, outgrown clothes, four quilts (none handmade),  mismatched socks, summer tee-shirts, and a bunch of Honour’s jeans. Every other piece of cloth in the house was put on “the list” to replace–my entire wardrobe, Doug’s, ninety percent of Meri’s and Tabitha’s, all of Zuzu’s, and all the crates of toddler clothes that had been waiting for Zuzu to grow into.

Our contractor went back in (when it became apparent just how long this was going to be) and completely drained the entire system (the little bits that would be left in the well pump and the hot water heater and so on) and put antifreeze everywhere.

Yet another company came in and inventoried the house and gave rough replacement value to some items. Doug and I spent the next two weeks adding to the list and refining replacement values (ever tried to get a value for a piece of electronic esoterica that Amazon has never heard of? How about 20-year-old Breyer horses?)

Next, our contractor went in a third time with the building inspector to talk about what will need to be replaced to get an occupancy permit.

Company B came back and removed the generators and the pieces of furniture that can be saved (dining table, china cabinet, kids’ beds, very little else).

Our contractor went BACK in with the electrical inspector. This time the news was a little more unexpected: because the repairs to the fire create “opportunity,” most if not all of the house has to be brought up to code. This is a house that was built in the 50s as a complete DIY job by two guys named Bob and Ned, seriously. The electric is a MESS. Absolutely nothing is even close to code; there WAS no code in our town until probably 20 years ago.

In order to bring the electric to code, the basement ceilings need to come down. Once the ceilings are down, you have to re-insulate. If you re-insulate, you need to install new smoke detectors and heat sensors. If you do THAT, you need to chain them up to the second floor. If you open the second floor ceilings, you need to replace the wiring… it’s like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, only instead of a glass of milk you give him tens of thousands of dollars of code upgrades.

We’re now up to this week, which involved a rollercoaster of fun including the contractor BACK in the house with the electrical subcontractor, working up a bid, and tomorrow our public adjustor goes through the house with the insurance company’s adjustor and begins (BEGINS!) the process of developing a big giant number that will eventually become a claim.

We have been warned that once the big giant number is submitted, it will take up to 60 days, even 90 is not outside the realm of possibility, before the claim is approved and the check is cut.

So that puts us out to somewhere in April, maybe. March at the absolute earliest.

And then, ONLY THEN, does the electric get turned back on and the construction begin. That’s estimated at three months. Ordinarily I’d double that, but our contractor is actually fast and honest so I can trust him.

And, meanwhile, the house is slowly rotting away, the drywall is cracking because of the sub-zero temperatures, and the fridge and freezer are still full. Sitting in my kitchen, full.

And we’re closing in on 50 days of that meat sitting on the stove.

99 things

I am actually posting a viral blogging thing. THE HORROR!

Copy and paste, then bold the things you’ve done and unbold the things you haven’t done.

Because I can’t ever just post and not explain, some data follows several of them.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (flute)
4. Visited Hawaii
(only on a stopover, sadly; the stopover was on the way to Australia, happily)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
(every single week, wow; I am glad that Doug is in charge of tithing because I have a very hard time keeping my attitude joyful)
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo (by accident–was in a group and everyone was supposed to sing and the pause came and only my screechy voice rang out)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (in Australia, off the GBR, on a boat; absolutely a banner moment in my life)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child (but I have four adopted siblings)
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (but have visited Ellis Island)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb (and many, many baby goats)
26. Gone skinny dipping (AFTER I was married, WITH my husband, thankyouverymuch)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (no, but my sister lived there for five years and married a Venetian; just so you know, the gondolas are total tourist traps and no native ever uses them. Water taxis and tiny speedboats are much more authentic.)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run (I actually had to think hard about whether I’ve ever hit a ball, period–hand-eye coordination is not so much my strong suit)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (the ones from the US; someday I’ll get to Copenhagen but it hasn’t happened yet)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
(Latin, poorly; Greek, even more poorly)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (the day I had enough money to buy Bronte you could not have made me unhappy if you tried.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David (only copies–but I do know why his Moses has horns)
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
(does it count if you were in as a passenger and your daughter was the patient? I’m going to say yes.)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (see: Australia. We snorkeled for four to five hours a day for two weeks)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie (I did audition once, though, and have a friend who has been in many)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (no. Eaten approximately 296,000 of them, heck yes)
62. Gone whale watching (and was the only one on the entire boat to a) not throw up and b) actually see whales because I was having a great time while every other passenger had their head in a bucket)
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (now, tragically, gone–Roar Roar was my bear from when I was about two)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (also the first day I ever drank Champagne)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (this is a horrible story and one I will tell someday)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London (but did honeymoon in England; we just didn’t spend any time in London)
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (many times–well, maybe except for a few portions of Numbers that are hard to get through more than once or twice)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (yes to both, but not both to the same animal, so I guess it’s a no)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (see: Was fired from a job–and yes, I know I need to tell the story)
98. Owned a cell phone (but, honestly, never had one of my very own until a month ago when we finally caved and I got an iPhone, which HELLO is the most fabulous thing ever)
99. Been stung by a bee


I’ve actually been working on this post for a while, because every sentence that I write brings up all kinds of other conversations and thoughts and I have to go make lists. So forgive me for posting it on the 21st.

Here’s how we’ve decided to make this year a real “inflection point” as they say on the political talking-heads shows. We’re trying our hardest to make the craziness and trauma of this year a way to turn a corner to a place where we really want to be.

I hope to revisit this in December and see if we’ve succeeded, or are at least somewhat on our way.

1. HOSPITALITY: Doug and I have been together for a long time, and that period can be roughly divided in thirds: During the first third we were poor but had a hilarious time all the time, and during the second third we were poor and had babies, and during the last third we were poorer and had even more babies, which led to bad habits like not getting out of my pajamas for days at a time.

We are ready for that to end. So we are going to force ourselves to get up and get haircuts and dust off the air hockey table. We WILL be the fun couple again, by the sheer force of will if we have to! We’ve been drowning under work, diapers, more work, homeschooling, houses that were perpetually being renovated, and nursing bras for over a decade. As traumatic as the change has been and will be, the house fire, necessitating as it does the replacement of walls, repainting, new carpet, new furniture etc. will leave behind a more finished home than we’ve ever had before, and it gives us the chance to think and plan and buy things all at once. We need to put some oil on the creaking joints and remember what it’s like to have people over all the time, and then actually DO it.

2. POSSESSIONS: Everybody always says that you spend your twenties wishing you could get stuff and your thirties actually getting stuff. I thought that was nonsense–we never have any money for ANYTHING. But, you know, I had to do an exhaustive inventory of the house, and had to label all the ages of the items. I’m 35, and every single thing in that house was under five years old. It turns out that we were, in fact, buying like gangbusters; it’s just that we were buying what we could tolerate or afford, but rarely liked.

Each and every item in that list was either burned up or will go to the dumpster. We brought out of the house exactly ONE small crate full of miscellaneous files and papers (our file cabinet with every important household record was burned up completely), a couple of stuffed animals that later had to be thrown away because even after three launderings they made Honour wheeze, and half a dozen Christmas ornaments. Some hard furniture (dining room table, a few chairs; the kids’ bedframes, a metal desk) and our plates and silverware was salvageable. Everything else in the ENTIRE HOUSE, including stuff that was in rooms that were not directly fire-damaged, must be thrown out.

We will be replacing only a small fraction of what we lost, because we’ve made the decision to put every scrap of contents money we can possibly squeeze out toward the house construction. We’ve also decided to put a moratorium on spending for one full year after we replace what we’ve decided to replace. The rule will be that we spend no more than $100 in any one place at any time (and no cheating and going back for a second trip the next day) except for the weekly food shopping. Since a typical Target run for paper towels and laundry baskets usually morphs into $150 by the time we grab the stuff we “need” but hadn’t written down, this really will represent a big change for us.

In short, we’re going to re-think the whole way we own “stuff.” Less clutter, more creative space. Fewer toys, more “pretend.” Less isolation, more group play.

2: KENNEL. When a careless candle threw us out of our house, it didn’t just displace our dogs. We’re the dog hotel and “daycare” (unpaid, of course) for half a dozen dogs in addition to ours. Some come once a month; some three times a week. When we have family get-togethers, everyone stops at our house to drop off dogs before going to the bigger parental house for the actual event.

Having no opportunity to let dogs play is causing tension and bad behavior all around, and that’s just the humans! The extended-family dogs are pretty literally climbing the walls, and there’s no relief in sight.

So when we rebuild, we’re putting in a real kennel. No, nothing so glamorous as an addition or a dedicated room, but half the basement (where we’ve had crates and some little “stalls” for separating in-heat females and new rescues) will get a major facelift. Around the edge of the area I’m picturing three permanent 3×4 kennels, two permanent 3×8 puppy pens or large-dog spaces, and a “lid” on the kennels to make a platform for crates so we can accommodate smaller and lighter dogs on in temporary housing on top. The center area will be group play with beds and toys and ramps, and there will be a door to a small pea-graveled area for peeing. When we’re home, the dogs can be out in the big exercise area, but even when we’re gone they’ll be able to run out and do their business. I’m planning on using solid fencing for the little graveled area so they can’t see out; that will cut down a huge amount on barking.

The major area of the basement, which must be torn out and replaced anyway because thousands of gallons of water spilling on all the electrical and communications systems is not a great thing, will stay pretty much the same but will have one wall set aside for grooming. I need a dog tub big enough to fit a Rottweiler, and a permanent table and lights. Nothing fancy or glamorous, but hopefully functional and at least minimally attractive.

3: MAJOR REEXAMINATION OF BREEDING PRIORITIES: This one is the only one not necessitated by the fire–it’s something that’s been on the long-term calendar for a while. I knew I wouldn’t even begin to know what I wanted in Cardigans before I’d owned them for several years. This summer is Clue’s third birthday and I can feel the puzzle pieces in my brain beginning to fit together. The really great thing is that at the end of this process I know I started with the right breeder and I am absolutely thrilled with the dogs I ended up with. So now I need to decide whether, after this forced hiatus, to stick with what I have and figure that I’ll breed my own stuff from now on, or to buy another puppy, and if so from whom, and so on.

Three years ago I described what I wanted in a dog to a breeder who SO kindly told me to look at Betty Ann’s dogs. That worked out better than I could have ever imagined. So my first thought is always to go back to her for anything new, but I want to make sure I am adding a relatively unrelated dog or dogs so I’m making the most of my limited space. So that’s a big question mark.

I’m also finally getting to the point where I can look at a dog and “see” him. It takes me ten minutes every time, to go “feet: check; turn-out: check; bone: check” and so on, and I know that it’ll be another decade before I can take in the whole dog at a glance and make a judgment that’s close to accurate, but at least I’m finally able to describe what I feel to be valuable. So there is a (very) short list of dogs and bitches that I would like to investigate buying an offspring of.

My other big anticipated change in breeding (and showing) is that I’ve always done that small-hobby-breeder thing of putting all your eggs in one basket. You buy one nice puppy, raise it, show it, pray like heck that it finishes, breed it as carefully as you can, have the one keeper puppy, raise it, show it, pray like heck that it finishes, lather rinse repeat. Never more than three dogs in the house except when you have a litter of puppies, and most litters you don’t keep anything from. That was the ONLY right way to do it for a lot of years; I couldn’t imagine doing anything else and still maintaining proper care.

I think I’m a different person now, in a different place mentally. I am more willing to put in the time, more mature about giving up when the dog plainly isn’t turning out. I am more critical of the dogs in my house and I know I’m also a lot less intimidated by the process of showing.

I am not talking about buying a rig and painting “Cardigan Corgis of the World” on it, but I’m not willing to wait four years between litters either. My vague idea is to have, say, two or three breedable bitches around the place that are doing performance events, maybe running on a couple of puppies a year, getting very serious about keeping only the very best. I’d love to have ONE drop-dead gorgeous boy around the place, maybe play around with specialing him while I’m showing those puppies. And of course that means a couple of old dogs on the couch (I’m totally in favor of retirement homes for dogs, but there will be a few that I don’t want to ever leave).

As time goes on I’ll be asking for specific advice and for the names of dogs or bitches you’re really loving, but for now I’m just dreaming and planning.

So there you go–check back with me in December ’09 to see if I succeeded!

Trying to get back in the swing

I’ve not been blogging lately–in fact, the time before I posted the hip thing is the longest gap I’ve had since I started this blog. Part of that is because I’m not in my home and so I don’t have the same freedom to say, “Fine, kids, destroy the living room for an hour so I can go explore my feelings about backchaining behaviors.” Instead, I spend most of my days running around with wipes in both hands, cleaning swaths behind the destruction wrought by what seems to be 86 children (I swear, they multiply).

Part of it is that I find it very discouraging to blog without pictures, and my good camera (which was saved) really shouldn’t be used before it is cleaned and serviced ($$ we don’t have) and anyway the stuff that WASN’T saved includes its second battery, the battery charger, my lovely giant-capacity memory cards, and the card readers. So just to get it up and running again would be several hundred dollars. The only thing I have is the little camera on my iPhone and it’s far from ideal.

The other thing, of course, is that I’m sitting on a lot of posts about the fire and its aftermath, which needs to be discussed but every time I try I can’t figure out how to do it without the entire thing being a giant downer or looking like a money-grubbing jerk (since a rather giant check will–eventually–be coming our way, money that represents the entire contents of a home and 13 years of marriage but is still obscene to my mind because I usually get super excited if I can spend $25 to enter a dog in a show) because discussing the purchases we’ll be making or not making just seems unseemly.

And of course I’m trying to do my best to enjoy having only one dog (Clue) and not go FREAKING NUTS because I am stuck here with only one dog. I am getting seriously twitchy, people. Clue is doing beautifully and seems to be pretty much pain-free, as evidenced by the fact that she has stopped being quiet and introspective and has started chewing everything in sight because she’s bored and wants to go out and run. So the house is littered with bully sticks and beef tracheas and she and I keep staring at each other and I know perfectly well what both of us are thinking:

Holy heck I need a class.

Herding, tracking, groundwork, SOMETHING. But she’s out of commission for months still, and needs a bunch of x-rays before I can do anything, and even then I need to be very realistic about how sound she’ll be. So I can’t be sitting here jonesing for dog-related activity.

And yet I am. I am so hungry for a puppy right now that I can taste it. Even when I was planning to breed Bronte and Clue this year and keep something from one or both of them, I was still thinking about bringing in an unrelated puppy to give a third point around which to structure a breeding program over several generations. Now that breeding my own bitches isn’t going to happen, I can hardly stand it. I pore over breeder websites and imagine things and then tell myself I’m crazy because there is NO WAY I can get a puppy, probably for the entire year. But that doesn’t stop the itch, that’s for sure.

And, of course, we are getting advice from all sides, advice that we desperately appreciate and in many cases NEED, all centered on how we should address this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to (at least to a limited extent) rebuild our lives based more on who we are and less on what we could find or afford or tolerate. The money we receive for reconstruction will be targeted to an exact replacement, but of course it costs the same amount to rebuild a bathroom one room behind where it was as it would cost to rebuild it exactly where it used to exist. And we’ll receive contents replacement money but no obligation to use it to re-buy every stuffed animal and sport coat and umbrella we had.

So there will be some wiggle room and some decisions that we’ve never had the opportunity to make before.

Because we are in a category that I like to call “smart but not savvy”–Doug has a genius-level IQ but has to be carefully shown how to run the dryer, and will write down all the steps in a flow chart with “if-then” statements, and I’m not much better–we’ve been getting (and asking for) counsel on how to make these very practical and ground-level decisions. It’s a sad fact that we can develop cogent arguments about the tensile strength of experimental glue-lam strut construction but we would very happily design a house in which we had a 18-inch-wide hallway leading to a dead end above the deck.

Which is a very long introduction to the fact that the first thing EVERYONE says is that we should not a) have this many dogs and b) spend this much money on them. It’s ranged from as obnoxious as “This is your chance to get rid of those dogs and have a nice house” to “I know you love the dogs, but there’s probably not any reason to give up a nicer grade of kitchen cabinetry for…what is this thing labeled ‘dog room?'”

I am getting very tired of defending what I do with them and still getting looked at like I had just said I spend ten grand a year buying X-Men figurines.

So they would definitely not understand the idea of not only setting the dogs up like the royalty they are AND buying (gasp!) another puppy.

For that reason, I have come here. You all understand, thank God.

A Cloodle update

I am thrilled to say that Clue is doing GREAT. I’ve been watching her slowly come back to herself, and it seemed like having Bronte come visit and then meeting Kate’s dogs really made her feel good. She’s relaxed, she’s sleeping easily, and she’s showing interest in toys (Kate sent her a carrot toy that she is OBSESSED with, and she’s also chewing on tennis balls). She’s starting to try to bounce and pounce, which I am discouraging (of course) but it’s so wonderful to see her feeling better.

The other sign that she is definitely on the mend is that she’s taught herself a new behavior. Last night she got all mad at me because I have been discouraging sitting up or moving, and she’s got to get somebody to hand her some Goldfish somehow. Since babyhood her nickname has been Cloodle the Doodlehead, because she’s such a nut and is so constantly happy, and last night I was walking through and said, “Hey, doodlehead!” and she snapped her head right up and laughed at me and then rolled over twice. So of course she got some cheese and a big clapping session and now you can barely look at her before she’s flipping herself on her back and staring at you upside-down demanding the cheddar.

Physically she is still strongly favoring one hip and one hind leg. She’s also quite cow-hocked on that leg when she does put it down, which makes her turn in the other leg as well. At this point that may be permanent, since that hip is the one that is partially dislocated, so her famous rear may not be as beautiful as it was. She’s also popping up her loin (roaching) when she moves, which could still be her pain level or could be an instability; the most bone movement that the ortho vet could feel was in the bones up on top and she could be trying to keep everything from shifting and hurting. But she is completely weight-bearing on that leg and she really, really wants to jump and run.

She blew every bit of coat in that big panic-malnutrition shed they do (it’s why every rescue dog I pick up from a shelter coats the inside of my car with hair and dandruff) so she looks tiny and naked and of course still quite thin. She’s up to 25-something pounds, a couple below her normal, and I’m inclined to keep it that way. I don’t want extra weight on her hips while she’s recovering. But WOW, poor thing, she looked like a five-month-old puppy next to GoGo and Bronte yesterday.

My only other health concern for her was that she was drinking very poorly and peeing VERY concentrated urine. My super-smart sport-horse-expert sister said “Her electrolytes and ADH are shot; of course she’s not thirsty.” So yesterday I sat and forced about 100 mls of low-sugar gatorade into her, which she was not thrilled about, but within a couple of hours she was visiting the water bowl on her own. Today she drank about three cups, which is still not normal but is a LOT better. I think we’ll repeat the Gatorade tomorrow and see if that snaps her fully out of it.

So, really, it’s nothing but good news. With her looking so good and Bronte so happy at Kate’s house I’m feeling very blessed and profoundly grateful.

Oh, and several of you have asked about the kid who found her. I DON’T KNOW. I know no more than you do. I’ve asked the kennel for more information but it was a request in the middle of a flurry of paperwork to liberate Bronte and get a bill together for the insurance company and also estimate full monthly costs for the two dogs that are left in the kennel, and it never got answered. I really need to get the data, I know.

One final piece of very good news: We gave the kennel the vet bills for the two visits Clue had and they paid them without question, immediately. It wasn’t all that much money, honestly, in the grand scheme of vet bills, so we would have absorbed it, but it was the right thing for them to do and I am glad they did it. Now I can feel good about the place and, as I told the owner, they’ll get it back from me anyway. They’re the one place that has herding and tracking lessons within any kind of driving distance, so I imagine I’ll more than cover their outlay in the next few years.

So that should bring you up to date! Which is good, because I need to tell the whole story of the fire and what’s going on at the house and so on. It is really Quite The Deal and I’m FINALLY out of the panic-about-Clue! Panic-about-the-baby! Panic-about-Bronte! hideousness and can think about something else for a change.