As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy

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When the snow disappears and the bright sun offers a bit more warmth as it hangs around the sky a little longer each day, we notice how our dogs adapt to the new season.

Cleopatra gets to dig her holes.

Casey gets to eat the grass (and immediately hack it back up).

UB gets to chase deer and butterflies.

Harry starts blowing his thick coat like only a Husky can.

And Loki.

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Well, Loki gets some freedom back.

My step-grand-dog is blind because of hypermature cataracts in both eyes.

With the brighter days, though, Loki looks more and more confidant. I think she can see shapes and shadows because of how she moves outside, seeming to enjoy sniffing things and visiting with the other dogs more.

She even boldly goes on little running bursts, (which means I usually go on little running bursts behind her.)

She came to live with us a few years ago when her Mum, Whitney, realized she couldn’t spend enough time with her little love-bug of a Boston Terrier in Vancouver.

Loki has stayed with us many times over the years, pretty much growing up with Casey when they were youngsters so it was a natural fit for all of us.

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Her Mum visits as much as she can and Loki lives the life of a full-fledged spoiled Fyfe dog.

We took her to a veterinary ophthalmologist to see about cataract surgery because she wasn’t completely blind when she first moved in.

Alistair (Gampy, as Loki calls him) and Loki hit the road and spent the night before their appointment in a hotel by the university in Spokane. He took her for a walk before bed where she decided to bark and growl at a rambling schizophrenic who was walking towards them. Luckily, Alistair got them out of there in a hurry. All they needed was for the guy to think Jesus was yelling at him through Loki.

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The ophthalmologists didn’t want to touch her eyes. Loki isn’t a good surgical candidate with narrow filtration angles, “floaters” in both eyes and a high risk of developing glaucoma.

What vision she had back then has gradually disappeared and the silver in her eyes has gradually taken over.

And yet her quality of life is terrific.

She has her seeing-eye-dog, UB, who is very attentive to her needs (especially when she wants to cuddle.)

She has her memory, which is amazing when you watch her navigate furniture, sometimes within a few centimeters.

She has the cats, who she bonks into with a fair amount of regularity. (I kind of think she does that on purpose, though…  cheeky little thing.) They see her coming and generally get out of her way now instead of swatting at her with each ‘bonk’.

She has us; we use words to help guide her, like “step”, “no”, and “damnit, Loki, where are you?”

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When the sky is bright and the ground is dry, Loki likes to go on ‘walkabout’.

I don’t like ‘walkabout’. Especially if she’s heading for the stallion pen. Or the creek. Or the driveway. Or the pasture when the grass is tall.

She was out on walkabout when Gampy forgot about her a couple of summers ago when he was driving back and forth getting hay bales from a nearby farm. He called me at work and I will admit to having a little sob session as I mopped my clinic floors.

I worried she would fall in the creek. I worried a big eagle would get her. I worried she would be injured and hurting and scared and shivering and that I wouldn’t see her again.

Somehow, this muscular little 13-pound snorty, bossy, piddles-in-the-house-when-she-doesn’t-want-to-go-out-in-the-snow dog has burrowed her way deep into my heart.

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I honestly can not imagine life without her.

Who would bark at the coffee bean grinder or the hand-held vacuum if she was gone? Who would squeeze up against me under the covers at night, snoring her little heart out? Who would chuck her empty food dish around the kitchen when she’s hungry?

Who would take care of gimpy, crampy, grumpy Gampy if he breaks himself into pieces again?

Somehow that sunny afternoon two summers ago, Alistair found her, way off in one of our pastures. She was soaking wet and she coughed for days.

Boston Terriers are tough little farts.

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Loki’s harelip and attitude have given her a personality and  unmistakable voice on the Fyfe Farm. It has changed through the years, too. Initially she ‘spoke’ like Billy Bob Thornton in that movie, Sling Blade with a classic “mmm-hmmmm”.

When she came to live with us that was hard on our vocal cords so it has become a gravelly, attitude-laden, sassy voice that changes words to suit her needs.

Like “chiddy pats” and “bull chit”. Or “Joo Bee” and “Dimadil”.

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A relative house-sat for us one time and said, ‘we don’t do anything with that one… she’s sick’.

That was his take on Loki’s blindness.

Granted, we don’t hike up to the falls at Holland Lake with her anymore and she can’t chase balls competitively with Casey but she has a wonderful quality of life.

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I’ve had clients ask me to euthanize pets because they were going or were already blind. Why do we humans put such tremendous value on vision? I love to see as much as the next person but I wouldn’t say my life was over if I went blind.

Or I lost a limb. Or my hearing.

It never ceases to amaze me what people will consider as the end-point for wanting to care for their animals.

Which is why we have shared our home with so many animals over the years- I won’t euthanize healthy pets.

Being blind doesn’t mean Loki isn’t healthy. Larger health concerns are the occasional ‘reverse sneeze’ episode she breaks into now and then, her luxating patella and a knob of bone where some dimwit did a crappy job of removing a dew claw when she was a pup.

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Meds for arthritis, illness, kidney disease, laryngeal paralysis, fights with bobcats, or heartworm prevention; carts and physical therapy when a pelvis broke and rear legs didn’t work; special care when tumors develop; special care and hand-feeding when a ferret ripped an eyeball out; special food for senior cats, dental health and bad allergies; and never moving the furniture around because they’re blind… we’ll make sure everyone gets what they need.

And they give us their unconditional love in return. Joyful leaps and barks and wagging tails when we come home. Head butts and purrs from the kitties when we pet them. Whistles and tweets from the guinea pigs as I walk past their bathroom. Cuddles and games of ‘chase’ from the ferrets when we play.

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As good as we can for as long as we can.

That’s my promise.

We’ll even provide a seeing-eye dog.

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12 thoughts on “As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy

  1. Thanks Tan. Made me cry! Those who have never shared a household with a BT will never understand. They are definately defiant, undying in devotion and full of funny. To this very day I can never thank you enough for saving Darby because even thou she has greyed signifinately and become very vocal(bossy) since her surgery, we still have her here every day. xoxo

    • Lei, I totally thought of you and your ‘gang’ as I worked on this. They are such unique little dogs with those defiant, ‘I can do anything’ attitudes… even when they are blind. Or they have abdominal obstructions. I am just so happy that things worked out the way they did… the right way 🙂

  2. Julie Daignault

    I think the unconditional love is mutual in your home. Love the glimpses into your life and thoughts, Tanya! Keep it up!

    • Thanks, Jules. I’m sure it is, but Loki is going thru a rock star moment right now. When I took the toy she was destroying away from her tonight she pooped in the living room. No joke. It was within a minute of the toy leaving her jaws. Lesson learned.

  3. Carolyn

    ‘As good as we can for as long as we can’, I definitely felt that in your home Tan. Great blog, thanks for sharing…

  4. Kathy S.

    Hey Doc, after reading the Loki walkabout just thought I’d add that for Rawley, a basset whose genetic code demands walkabouts, we got him a tracking collar. You’ve seen them; right orange collar with antennae and a gps that tells you how far, which direction, if he is sitting, running, or hiding behind a rock. Has saved us already from numerous panic attacks. And doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

    Love the blogs BTW! It’s becoming a morning ritual over a cup of hot coffee.

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