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This is the second in a series of posts to remember the life of our dog, Trinity.  She was a dog who escaped death many times.  If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here.  And here, you can find another story about one of Trinity’s many scrapes with death.


After Trinity’s unfortunate adventure at my parents’ house, we got back to my apartment and got settled in.  Eventually, she recovered fully.  She still had some digestive issues that stayed with her.  I put her on a special hypoallergenic food, and that mostly solved the problem.  Otherwise, Trinity was a happy, healthy young dog.  She had a happy tail that wagged constantly.  It could put a bruise on your leg, or knock your drink off the coffee table!  Sometimes, it was hard to tell who was wagging who!

A year went by.  I moved into a house with a couple of friends.  Trinity would have a backyard to play in.  She would have other dog friends to play with (once she got used to them, of course).

She was happy living in that house, and so was I.  We’d take walks around the neighborhood together.  We played fetch with Trinity’s toy hedgehog in the backyard.  We played chase in the backyard.

One day, one of my roommates fried up some venison backstrap.  She put the trimmings and scraps in a plastic bag in the trash.  Apparently, Trinity couldn’t resist.  She got into the trash, ripped open the bag, and ingested the contents.  She got very sick – again.  This time, it was, according to the vet, E. coli…or an E. coli-type infection.  She had to stay with the vet for a couple of days.  Again, she made a full recovery and was able to come home.  We resumed our life as a care-free college student and her dog.

Another way, another move.  I moved a little way outside of town.  My new roommate already shared the property with a dog and two horses.  Trinity really enjoyed the rural life.

About a week after we moved in, my roommate had her horses tied to the front yard fence, washing them.  I came home and let Trinity out of her kennel, and out in the front yard to do her business…just as I did every day.  I was obviously not thinking clearly!  She went charging out the door, straight for those horses on the other side of the fence.  She ran up to them, barking.  As she got to the fence, though, she looked up and realized just how incredibly big those horses were…and how small she was!  Just at that moment, the younger of the two horses reached his head over the fence, and began to nibble up and down Trinity’s back.  Trinity froze.  It was the funniest thing I had ever seen.  Trinity had met her match.

She remembered her lesson for a while.  But one day, I had the bad luck to let Trinity out at exactly the same time that my roommate was letting the horses out to graze.  They would always take a few minutes to run and buck and play before settling down to eat a little.  One of Trinity’s favorite things to do was chase things.  And that’s exactly what she did.  She ran straight for the fence, scooted underneath it, and ran after those horses.  I don’t know if the horses even noticed her.  She chased them to the back of the property.  The horses came back, making their full circle.  But Trinity didn’t.

My roommate and I started walking out towards the back of the property, calling for Trinity.  We walked a little way, and finally saw Trinity coming…on three legs.  One of her front legs was very clearly broken.  My roommate very kindly offered to drive us to the vet.  
So, I lifted Trinity and carried her to my roommate’s truck.  Off to the vet we went.  It was fairly late in the afternoon, so Trinity had to stay overnight to have her leg set and casted.  I brought her home on my way home from class the next day.  She was still the same happy Trinity with the same happy tail.  The cast made it hard for her to walk, but she soon figured it out.  It took about two months, but her leg finally healed.  Needless to say, I as on a first name basis with the entire staff at our veterinary clinic.

Trinity got used to her newly-healed leg.  She was back to running and playing chase in no time…just not with the horses!

 


Part Three of Trinity’s story is now up, too.  Enjoy.


This weekend was a little emotional here in our home.  We’ve had to say goodbye to a beloved family pet.  Trinity wasn’t doing well Saturday, and when we woke up Sunday morning, we found she had died during the night.  I must say, it wasn’t unexpected.  She had been sick for quite a while.  And after all, she was 17 years old.  But how do I say goodbye to a dog who has been a constant companion to me for the past 16 years?  How do I help my kids say goodbye to a dog who has been part of the family for their entire lives?  After all, this dog has escaped death so many times.  It’s really still a little hard to process that she’s actually gone for good.

One of the ways I do it is to talk about (or write about) all the crazy shenanigans Trinity has gotten herself into over the past 16 years.  She really was a funny dog.  She was a constant guard of the food bowl.  In fact, we don’t know exactly how we’re going to keep Sandy from eating too much anymore, now that Trinity is gone.  Trinity was Sandy’s self control.

The first time I met Trinity, I was looking to adopt a dog from the pound.  I was in college, and I had grown up with dogs always in the house.  So when I moved out of the dorms, and into my first apartment, getting a dog was my first order of business!  Off to the pound I went.  There were all sorts of dogs, all barking and anxious for attention.  But one dog in particular caught my attention.  She was standing with her front feet up on the kennel door, jumping up and down, desperately barking at me, and trying to dig her way through the chain link door.  I told one of the employees that I wanted to visit with that dog.  I took her out into the yard area they had there at the pound for people to use to get to know the animals.  She stole my heart right away.  She was active and personable.  I just knew she was the dog for me.  So I took her to the front to start the paperwork and pay for her.  

The adoption fee was usually $75.  The lady at the front tap-tapped on her computer for a minute, and then frowned.  She said, “I’m afraid we may have a problem here.”

“What’s the problem?”  I asked, concerned.

“Well, this dog has been adopted before.  She has already been spayed, so her fee would only be $25.”

“I don’t see the problem there!”  I joked.

“Well,” she frowned, “she has been adopted before, and they brought her back this morning.  They said she was too much trouble.  It was an older couple though, perhaps she was just too active.  She is scheduled for…” she trailed off.  “You are sure this is the dog you want?  She may be a problem.”

“Yes, I’m sure this is the dog I want.”  Even though she hadn’t said it, I knew perfectly well what this poor dog was scheduled for, and that wasn’t going to happen to her!  I knew I couldn’t save them all, but I could save this one.

“Alright then,” said the woman.  “Just in case it doesn’t work out for you though, I’ll hold your check for a week.  You can just bring her back and you’ll save the money.”

Well, I had just been challenged!  There was no way the dog was going to come back to this place.  I didn’t care how “difficult” she might be.  She was my dog now, and we’d figure it out. 

We went straight to the pet store to get some dog food and a proper collar and leash.  I got her a kennel to use while I was in class.  I took her to the vet for her shots and check up at the first opportunity.

It turns out, she did have a few quirks.  She was not a huge fan of other dogs…a fact which made visiting my parents and their three dogs a little challenging at first.  But she got used to them.  Well, all but one of them.  But it was easy enough to keep the two of them separated while I visited for a weekend.  She got agitated whenever she saw other animals of any kind…especially large animals like cattle and horses.  That made the car rides back and forth to college rather interesting since the roads led through 3 hours worth of rural Texas.

She was a very active dog, and still rather young.  The vet estimated that she was about 10 months old.  So she wasn’t completely out of her puppy phase yet.  That explained why she was still a little “difficult”.  We played a lot, and she had tons of toys.  She seemed to be pretty happy.  She took to kennel training very well.  The kennel was her own little house, and she was perfectly happy to stay there while I was in class.  Night time was a completely different story, however.  Soon, even though I had every intention of having her sleep in the kennel, she had wormed her way out, and was sleeping at the foot of my bed.

About a month after Trinity first came to live with me, we went home to visit my parents.  We had plans to go to the state fair.  So, on Saturday morning, I put Trinity outside in the back yard while I was getting ready to go.  I walked by the door, and noticed her laying on her side…she appeared to be sleeping.  That was odd behavior for her so early in the morning.  I went out to check on her.  She could barely stand, and was obviously very sick.  I called to my mom and dad.  They helped me get her in the car, and drove us to their vet.

It turns out, she had been poisoned.  Mom and Dad told me that they’d been having some trouble with some boys in the neighborhood, messing with their dogs.  Chances are, someone had tossed something over the fence, intended for my parents’ dogs, and Trinity had eaten it.  Since it was Saturday, my parents’ vet got Trinity stabilized, then we took her over to the emergency clinic, where I had worked so many years in high school and during the summers in college.  Fortunately, I had an employee’s discount, so I only payed the hospital’s cost for all of her treatment.  Even so, I had to have help from my parents in order to afford all the treatment.

By the end of the weekend, she was still weak, but she was healthy enough to come back to school with me.


On pins and needles?  Now you can read Part Two.

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 saving4six



We’ve all heard stories of old about the infamous snake oil salesmen, selling all sorts of remedies for all kinds of ailments.  Well, perhaps they may actually have been on to something!

My dog, Trinity, has escaped death too many times to count in her 17 years.  From poisonings, to being run over by a horse, she’s had plenty of close calls.  But those are all stories for a different time.  Today’s story is about Trinity and mange.  It doesn’t really sound life-threatening on the surface, does it?

Well, this story starts about eight years ago, not long after Bear was born.  We still lived in town.  I noticed a small spot on Trinity’s back where she was missing her hair.  I thought it was a probably a sting or bite at first, and didn’t really think much of it.  But a week or so later, I noticed it was still there…and it was definitely bigger.  And was that another small bald spot on her face?

Having worked as a vet tech all through high school and college, I already knew it was likely to be mange.  My question was…sarcoptic, or demodectic?  Only the vet could answer that question.

So, off to the vet we went.  A couple of skin scrapings and microscope slides later, we had our answer.  Demodectic mange.  This type of mange is a nuisance to the dog, but it is not contagious to other dogs, or to humans.  It is treatable, but the effectiveness of the treatments varies.

We tried dips first.  No such luck.  Large doses of ivermectin were typically our vet’s next suggestion.  However, Trinity is part Border Collie.  The breed has a known sensitivity to ivermectin.  He advised against that type of treatment, as it could easily kill her.  We should only attempt it as a last resort.

We did some research on our own, and found a flea and tick prevention medication that had fallen out of favor for its intended use.  However, many folks were have a lot of success using off label to treat demodectic mange.  We decided to give it a shot.

The first time we used it, Trinity’s hair started growing back within a few days.  It stank horribly for a day or two, but if it was going to get rid of the mange, we were willing to deal with it.  It was a monthly treatment.  Low and behold, just before the month was up, here came the bald spots again.  So, it was monthly treatments from there on out.

We used that treatment for a couple of years.  We moved out of town, on to our little farm.  The effectiveness of the treatment began to wane.  Soon, the monthly treatments were only keeping the bald spots from getting bigger.  They weren’t going away anymore.  Eventually, we started treating more and more often…once every 3 weeks, then every two…

Then, the company that made the treatment finally took it off the market.  We couldn’t get it anymore.  What would we do for poor Trinity?  She was nearly completely bald, and she was miserable.  She looked like pictures that pop up occasionally that people take of some poor creature they found that they are just sure is a chupacabra…but they always wind up being some sort of canine with mange.  She just laid on her pillow all day long, not moving much unless it was to scratch.  

We decided it was time for the last-ditch effort.  We had ivermectin for the cattle.  We were hoping that Trinity had enough non-Border Collie parts to keep the ivermectin from killing her.  But, the unfortunate fact of the matter was, we were going to have to put her down if we couldn’t find anything to help her…she was just too miserable.  So, we got the dosage for ivermectin to treat mange in a dog her size, and, with a bit of trepidation, tried it.

Luckily, it worked…and she lived through it.  We kept treating, gradually increasing the dosage as it became ineffective.  Soon, we were giving her the maximum dosage twice a month.  But mange kept winning.  We again started to discuss whether euthanasia was the most humane option we had.

One day, just as the kids and I were getting home from a long trip to visit their grandparents, Trinity was out sniffing around in a patch of tall grass in the pasture.  As I pulled the truck into our parking area, she ran out to greet us…we had been gone several days.

Less than an hour after we got home, we noticed that Trinity was even more lethargic than usual, and there was a giant lump swelling up on the side of her face and neck.  She was already quite old, and she was weak from the mange.  We were afraid nature had made our decision for us.  Trinity had been bitten by a snake.  It was, in all likelihood, a copperhead.

We took her collar off, and tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  We waited for what we believed to be inevitable.

But the next morning, something strange happened.  When we got up, there was Trinity, laying on her pillow, slowly wagging her tail at us.  She was obviously still hurting from the bite, but seemed much better than she had the night before.  The swelling in her face and neck was starting to go down a little!  It didn’t seem possible.  

By the next day, she was up and around again, up to her usual antics…busily guarding the food bowl (the one activity for which she has always had the energy).  In fact, she even spent a lot of time outside, hunting the vile creature that had bitten her to pay it back for its crime.  We were shocked, to say the least.  But, an even bigger surprise was coming.

A few weeks later, I looked at Trinity one evening, and it looked like…it had to be my imagination!  But it looked like some of her hair was growing back.  I asked Andrew if he had given her more ivermectin.  He hadn’t.  He had given up.  I told him to come look at her.  We agreed…it looked like some hair was growing back.

Within three months, our hairless wonder had regrown a full, healthy coat.  It’s now been over three years, and the mange has never returned.  Now, Trinity has plenty of other health problems (as many 17 year old dogs do), but mange is certainly not one of them!

If only we had known sooner…snake bites cure mange!  Who knows, maybe those snake oil salesmen of yesteryear knew what they were talking about after all.

 

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Sincerely, Paula



Six and a half years ago, our lives changed forever.  We bought a house in Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas.  Then we moved from our nice, conveniently located house in town to our new little piece of property that was an hour away from anything.  At the time, Bear was around 18 months old, and we were expecting our second.  I was so sick, and so busy taking care of a toddler.  Andrew had to do pretty much all the moving by himself.  I was useless!  What were we thinking???

Once we got moved in and at least nominally settled, we had to get to work on a way to keep our agricultural tax exemption.  We had always intended to stock the place with animals.  I only had one rule.  One rule, never to be broken, when I agreed to move out to the middle of nowhere: 

NO CHICKENS!!!

No chickens.  How hard is that rule to obey?  We could get anything else…cows, goats, sheep, horses, even llamas.  Just no chickens.  The possibilities were endless.  I always assumed we would get some cattle.  I mean, this is Texas.  Of course there would be cattle.

 But then, my dear husband started with the crazy talk…

He wanted to get…chickens.  Yes, chickens.  I thought I had made myself perfectly clear.  Why on earth would he want to mess with such foul, disgusting fowl which are useless for anything except feeding the local bobcat and coyote populations?  My uncle had chickens years ago when I was a kid.  I was certain that this one experience in my youth made me an expert on the matter.

Unfortunately, my husband did make some good points.  We did eat a lot of chicken.  We ate a lot of eggs.  We would know what was going into our food.  It would be cheaper to raise them than to pay full price at the store.  It was starting to become clear that I was going to lose this argument.  But, I held fast and firm to my decision.  

NO CHICKENS!!!

Eventually, after many conversations about chickens, I finally made my fatal mistake.  Instead of my patented “No chickens!” response to end one of these little talks, I said, “I don’t want chickens!”

“So,” says my husband, smiling mischievously, “You don’t want chickens.  But that means I can get chickens.  You won’t have to mess with them at all.  They’ll be my chickens, my business.”

I was nearly 8 months pregnant, and I was tired.  I finally conceded the loss.  

“Fine.”  I pouted.  “But understand me now.  I will NOT do anything with those chickens!  They are yours, just like you said.  I won’t touch those nasty chickens.  And don’t come crying to me when the coyotes get them!”

We had finally reached an agreement.

A few days later, my husband came driving home from the feed store with a box full of chicks that he had ordered.  Thirty of them.  Thirty!

They were kinda cute.  Even my hard heart had to admit that.  They were all fluffy and yellow, with all the little cheep cheep noises.  But I still wasn’t going to have anything to do with them.  Nope…no way!  Wasn’t gonna happen!

My husband had a big crate in the garage that he turned into a brooder for them.  It was fall, it was actually rather cool, and chicks have to be kept very warm until their feathers come in.  He put chicken wire over the top of the box, and a piece of plywood on top of the wire to keep the heat from the lamp in the box, leaving enough room uncovered for air to circulate.  He weighted down the wood on the top to make sure it wouldn’t come off.

The next morning, as my husband was leaving for work, he asked me to come out to the garage every few hours to check the brooder to make sure the chicks weren’t too cold, and make sure they had enough food and water.  Remember, that I was eight months pregnant.  The walk (waddle) from the house to the garage was no small undertaking!  But, the compassion for these poor little babies in my hormonal pregnant heart was stirred.  So much for being completely hands-off with the chickens!  My resolve had lasted less than 24 hours.

Tragedy would soon strike our household, however.  The third day after their arrival, after my daughter was down for her nap, I went out to check on the chicks.  My pregnant, hormonally-charged brain knew something was amiss the minute I stepped into the garage.  It was too quiet.  There were no sounds of cheeping and scuttling about as I approached the box.  The lid was knocked off, and the chicken wire was pulled up on the corner.  Oh, what a horrible, gruesome scene I found in that brooder!  Something had gotten into the brooder and killed every single chick save one…but when I looked, I didn’t see the live one.  It must have been hiding in the corner under the light.  I thought they had all been killed.  

They had not been eaten.  They had been eviscerated.  The perpetrator had extracted the parts he wanted with surgical precision from each and every chick.  The rest of the parts were scattered about the bottom of the box, untouched.  This MO suggested that a raccoon was to blame.  I cried and cried and cried.  It was too much.  My emotional state was already unstable.  I didn’t even want those silly chicks.  And now I had to deal with this grizzly murder scene.  I called my husband at work, and I cried at him for about 5 minutes before I could make any words come out.  Of course, this resulted in a panicked husband.  Imagine your very pregnant wife who is alone with your young daughter out in the middle of nowhere, calling you at work, unable to do anything but cry.  I finally managed to pull myself together enough to tell him what had happened.  He was also upset, but told me he’d take care of it himself after work.  When he got home, he found the one chick that had survived.  I held and cuddled that little chick while he cleaned out the brooder.  All those poor, helpless babies were just gone!

It was the first of many life and death lessons we would learn about how hard, and sometimes vicious life could be out here.  Andrew fixed the brooder up and made many improvements so this would not happen again.  He also went on a raccoon hunting spree, the first of several.  We got more chicks.  In fact, since there was one survivor, we had to get more chicks the very next day.  Our lone survivor would get too cold without some compatriots to keep him company.  Andrew built coops and fenced enclosures when the new chicks were ready to move out of the brooder.  Since then, we’ve grown our flock quite a bit.  We keep a permanent flock of layers, and hatch out some as replacements for our older layers, and some for meat for our family each year.  

I still don’t like the chickens.  I like raccoons even less.  And, despite all my big talk at the beginning, I was the one crying when predators got to the chickens.  Whatever my opinion on the matter, the chickens are here to stay.  I even have to mess with them occasionally.  Guess who takes care of them when Andrew is out of town?  Yep, that’d be me.  And guess who has to make sure their water misters get turned on every day during our scorching Texas summers?  Yep.  Me again.  I have to admit, I do like the fresh eggs, and producing our own food is pretty satisfying.

So…I deal with the chickens.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth