Sunday, February 7th, 2010

an un-named dog

Filed under: animal rescue,dogs — alison @ 20:39

We went on a four-hour shopping trip to le fin fond de nulle part this morning. I think we got a dog.

We saw her on yesterday, filled out the form online and got an appointment this morning. We took her for a walk, she’s a real sweetheart. (And a puller.) Trouble is she has kennel cough, and she needs to be spayed before they can let her go, and the vet doesn’t want to spay her until she’s over her cough. So the rescue is going to keep her another couple of weeks until they can tidy everything up to their satisfaction.

Now we’re trying to figure out what to call her. So far we are considering “Online” (because that’s where we found her, and because that’s where we are about to be spending much less time), “Plume” (because she has feathery ears), “G7” (because yesterday they pledged to cancel Haiti’s debt) and “Paysanne” (because she’s a country girl).

Plume it is. (Thank you Martine! Your enthusiastic vote assured us it wouldn’t be kétaine, like, say, Princesse.) We’ve contacted the rescue and they have started to call her Plume already, in anticipation.

Sunday, January 24th, 2010


Filed under: Amy,consuming,dogs,vet — alison @ 15:37

The other night a former veterinary technician described to me all the silliness people subject their animals to. Apparently they had clients bring in dogs with hairpieces.

Immediately my feverish little mind set itself to inventing a context for this to make sense, and succeeded. I pointed out that the usual way of making dogs look human is through breeding for brachycephaly (round foreheads and bulgy eyes), squashed faces and floppy ears that look like long human hair. Putting a hairpiece on your dog has a similar effect, but at least the hairpiece doesn’t obstruct breathing or cause ear infections.

“Yes,” said my companion. “Or make their eyes fall out when you whack them on the head!” Apparently boston terriers have very shallow orbits, and being very active are always getting whacked on the head. And then their eyes fall out. She says it’s very gross.

See also: kitty wigs.

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

How to change the sheets and make the bed.

The second instalment of my “keeping tidy” series.

The traditional way:

  • Strip the bed. Put the bottom sheet and used pillow cases aside to be laundered.
  • Flip and shake the mattress and put back any mattress pads.
  • Take the top sheet, which is only lightly soiled, and tuck it over the mattress to be the new bottom sheet.
  • Put the pillow or pillows in clean cases and place at the head of the bed.
  • Take a clean sheet and lay it over the bed as the new top sheet.
  • Layer on cotton and wool blankets and quilts as dictated by the season, fold down the top sheet and tuck everything neatly under the mattress.
  • Lay a quilt over the whole bed, if needed.
  • If you haven’t used a large, decorative quilt then lay a bedspread or coverlet over everything to keep the dust off.

Keeps laundry to a minimum (one flat sheet and one or two pillowcases per week/month/season/year) which preserves sheets from wear and tear and reduces labour (especially important when washing by hand). Allows use of inexpensive linens (no contoured sheets; threadbare blankets can continue to be used, just layered on top of one another). Layers can be fine-tuned weekly as the weather and seasons change. Use of a bedspread or coverlet keeps off dust and means blankets don’t need to be washed – yearly at most, but perhaps not ever. Home-made mattresses are turned routinely to avoid lumps.

May cause problems for people with allergies. Animals must not sleep on – certainly not in – the bed. (Well, if you’re change-the-sheets-yearly type folks, you probably don’t have access to much liquid water in the winter. You might as well sleep with your animals to keep warm, because animals or not those sheets are not going to be pristine at the end of the year.) Flat sheets on the mattress tend to pull out in the night.

The modern way:

  • Strip the bed, leaving the mattress pads in place.
  • Put the sheets and the pillow cases aside to be laundered.
  • Place a clean contoured sheet over the mattress; replace the pillows in clean pillow cases at the head of the bed, and lay a clean flat sheet over everything.
  • Further layers as above.

Contoured sheet stays in place throughout the night. Commercial sprung mattress doesn’t need to be shaken and turned weekly (or daily). Use of a washing machine means that the extra sheet can be washed — weekly even! —  without excessive burden. Layers can be fine-tuned weekly as the weather and seasons change. Use of a bedspread or coverlet keeps off dust and means blankets don’t need to be washed – yearly at most, but perhaps not ever.

Contoured sheets are more expensive than flat ones and they wear out more quickly because they are always on the bottom. Commercial mattresses are much more expensive than home-made. More wear and tear as both sheets are washed weekly. May cause problems for people with allergies. Animals must not sleep on – certainly not in – the bed.

The way of the Ikea generation:

  • Strip the bed, leaving the mattress pads in place.
  • Put the sheet, pillow cases and duvet covers aside to be laundered.
  • Place a clean contoured sheet over the mattress.
  • Replace the duvet in a clean cover and lay over the bed.
  • Replace the pillows in clean pillowcases and place at the head of the bed.

Contoured sheet stays in place throughout the night. Commercial sprung mattress doesn’t need to be shaken and turned weekly (or daily). All the sheets are washed weekly and duvets can be washed seasonally or as required, so no dust or musty smell. Duvets can be purchased in varying weights so you can get the weight you need for a given season. Duvet covers mean that duvets can continue to be used even when they get old and you start having to patch them. In-home front-loading washing machine means that washing the equivalent of three sheets per bed per week is not an undue burden, and you can even just throw a duvet in when you need to. Animals are welcome to sleep in the bed because the hair and dander gets washed out weekly.

Requires storage space for all those seasonally-perfect duvets. If you don’t have a seasonally-perfect duvet you will be too hot or too cold. All that washing causes wear and tear. Threadbare linens have nowhere to be layered discreetly: if you patch them they will show, and you will probably just throw them out.

My mother and I argue about these approaches. She combines the Traditional and Modern Methods for the advantages of both, using suspender-strap thingies to connect a flat sheet under the corner of the mattress so that it will stay in place like a contour sheet. Very smart and practical. (My mother is very smart and practical in general.)

Her dust distresses me. I, the profligate modern daughter, am of the Ikea generation. I live with one other adult in an apartment designed for a family of at least four, in a time when sheets manufactured elsewhere can be bought cheaply here. Storage is not an issue. I do not worry about caring for my things: they are disposable. I do laundry liberally. I sleep with my dog. My lack of understanding of economy shocks my mother as not only a failing in self-care and housekeeping, but as a failing at a moral level, of stewardship.

She’s appalled at the idea of washing duvets. “You mean they have to be washed?” she shrieked when I mentioned it. I tried to explain that this was a feature, not a bug: they don’t have to be washed, they can be. She’s cannier than that. She knows that once something becomes possible, it becomes the new standard.

While I understand and respect the traditional bedmaking approach, I do have allergies. If I were to adopt traditional bedmaking I’d have to become a much better housekeeper – actually cleaning the house myself, instead of waiting for the dust to float (or be tracked) into my bedding so that the washing machine can get rid of it for me.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009


Filed under: compassion,death,dogs,how to,vet — alison @ 22:13

We found out about the brain tumour on a Friday. Over the weekend I called the people who needed to know (the dog lady; my ex) and mentioned it to the neighbours. By Monday I had made up my mind, so I called the vet to book the final appointment. Pepe was not in immediate distress, so I just asked for the first sunny day… which turned out to be Tuesday, the next day. I called Mark to tell him, but he just wasn’t ready. I asked if he wanted to wait, and he said yes. So I cancelled the appointment.

Over the next few days Pepe had ups and downs. Sometimes he would eat; other days he would just sleep. I asked Mark if I could make another appointment, and he agreed so I did. This appointment was again on a Tuesday, a week after the first one.

On the weekend we took Pepe on a nice long walk along the river.

When we got back we dug a nice big hole under the patio stones in the back yard.

Pepe tried out the hole and approved it.

Today I came home from work at mid day and we took the dogs out for a sunny walk in the park. Pepe peed on things.

I took off his harness and he stolidly pressed on and followed me. This was poignant because Pepe runs away and is not bright enough to come when called. Today he was slow and tired enough that for the first time ever I could let him off leash and he could walk around on his own.

When Pepe got tuckered out we dropped our other dog off at home, picked up a towel and continued to the vet.

The vet handled everything beautifully and quickly. She reassured us that we were not being premature.

We held and petted Pepe for a few minutes after his heart stopped until we were sure he could not be conscious any more, wrapped him in the towel and carried him home. Mark wanted to bury him right away, but I felt as though he were just sleeping so I insisted we wait until he got cold so that he would feel dead.

After about an hour I acknowledged that he was cold enough. We put him in the hole.

I didn’t want dirt to get in his eyes so I put a paper towel over his head. Mark filled the hole halfway with dirt, I used the hose to fill it with water, then Mark filled it in with the rest of the dirt. I put the patio stones back to cover the spot. When the soil settles Mark will reset the patio stones so they are level.

We went into the house to put away his things – collar, winter sweaters, the baby carrier I used to carry him when we went for long walks, his basket. Then we went out to a Mexican restaurant in his honour and came back to no trace of him left in the house.

(No need for sympathies in comments or emails; he had a good life and we’re fine.)

Thursday, July 30th, 2009


Filed under: compassion,death,dogs,vet — alison @ 11:01

Pepe has his final appointment at 14h40 on August 4th. The receptionist at the clinic offered me the choice of two vets, both of whom I like, so I told her to choose whichever one coped best with performing euthanasia. “It’s hard on both of them.”

Yeah, I figured as much. That’s why I had been kind of hoping it would be the vet I like less.

I’m ok with it. I’ve been reviewing my dates and I think he’s 15 years old. It’s just hard getting the balance right: you don’t want to drag an animal’s life out with indefinite suffering, but if the only goal is to spare suffering you might as well drown them at birth. 

Of course it’s going to upset me more than I think, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.

Next decision: shall we spend our weekend digging a nice deep hole in the back yard?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

À chaque jour suffit sa peine.*

Filed under: biblical quotes,compassion,death,dogs,vet — alison @ 12:26
Thanks for everyone’s warm thoughts.
We’ll be taking Pepe for his final trip to the vet in a week or two. I’d be ready to take him this week, but Mark is not. I’m keeping an eye on the weather forecasts so I can spend a day in the sun with him and take him to the vet right after.
He’s not suffering today, and that’s the point for me. I know he will start suffering again soon and taking him in while he’s still cheerful is the only way to avoid it.
I expect it will be harder than I think when the time comes, but that is the future. I mean for Pepe and me to enjoy the present.
 *Matthew 6:34. The English version is the convoluted “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Apologies for those allergic to religious texts, but they can be goldmines of pithy aphorisims.) (Interestingly, the Dutch version “Leef dus gewoon bij de dag” does not refer to pain or evil at all, whether elegantly or inelegantly.)
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