What to do in case of pet grief – Part 1

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling:  "Yes, we're quite comfortable, thank you for asking."

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling

As many of you know, my husband and I have lost two of our three beloved shih tzu dogs in the past four months — the youngest, Oreo, at age six on October 24, 2014 — and the oldest, Tilly Tot, at (about) age twelve on February 14, 2015. The first loss was agonizing; the second, paralyzing.

Oreo:  "My toy!"  A squeaky fave.  Photo credit:  Sandra Bell Kirchman

Oreo: “My toy!” A squeaky fave. Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Oreo’s death, totally unexpected, left me in a rage of tears and anger. The pain wrenched at me so badly, I wondered how much more I could stand.  I cried even when I wasn’t aware of it, often waking up from a fitful sleep with tears on my cheeks. You see. Oreo was my loving buddy. While the other two played, or went outside in our big back yard, Oreo stayed by me, sleeping at my feet while I typed away on my computer. The two of us were together pretty much 365/24/7. His absence felt like one of my arms or legs was missing. How could I get along without it/him?

The Adorable Duo - Tilly Tot (rear left) and Ling Ling (front right).  (Photo credit:  (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman)

The Adorable Duo – Tilly Tot (rear left) and Ling Ling (front right). (Photo credit: (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman)

But I hadn’t taken into consideration our two remaining fur babies. Of course they missed Oreo, and they sensed that my mourning had something to do with him. In any event they redoubled their efforts to amuse, entertain, tease and titillate me. It seemed to be working a little.  By the beginning of February, I was able to sleep the night through and awaken with dry eyes and cheeks. I even started dabbling with my blog a bit, nothing too original, but at least I was thinking of returning and had my followers’ best interests blogwise at heart.

Tilly Tot comes to her forever home.

Little sweetheart,Tilly Tot

Then, on Valentine’s Day, our little sweetheart Tilly Tot passed on in the night from a blood clot after dental surgery. At first, grief encased me in a prison of numbness: I couldn’t cry, or laugh, or talk.  I moved around in a daze. After a few days, my outer appearance seemed normal — I talked, did my chores, poured love onto our one remaining fur child, Ling Ling.

However, inside was another story — my heart seemed crushed and my will to live retreated. Sleep became problematic, and I started looking really bad, to the point where the Big Guy (my husband) insisted I go to the doctor. The BG afterward told me I looked so bad, he would not have been surprised to come home from work to find me gone from the earthly plane.

A Ling Ling-Oreo-Tilly Tot story

Ling Ling – And then there was one…

On no account did this mean that I wanted to do myself in. On the contrary, I had made arrangements to start sessions with a grief counselor before Tilly passed, because of the slowness of regaining control of my life after the loss of Oreo. I fully intended to continue with this counselor…I wanted to live again, and I couldn’t as long as I wandered around the twilight zone I found myself in.

Next week, in Part 2, I’ll talk about the grief counseling, some of the other steps I have taken and the results. We are actually in the middle of my recovery: I am documenting it for my own reference, as well as for you in case, God forbid, you should find yourself in a similar situation.

 

Related articles

The Rebirth of Puppy Dog Tales

The Adorable Duo - Tilly Tot (rear left) and Ling Ling (front right). (Photo credit: (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Hello, dear Puppy Dog Tales readers.  If you have read the preceding post, you will know why the month-long hiatus has occurred.  I have done much soul-searching about what to do with the Puppy Dog Tales blog.  As I mentioned before, without Oreo there didn’t seem to be much point.

Ling Ling and Tilly snuggling with Daddy.  Note where LL has placed her little butt.  Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Ling Ling and Tilly snuggling with Daddy. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Anyhow, with the realization of how much help Oreo had been to the entire family during his short life, I decided to continue this blog.  Some of it will be taken up with stories of other dogs.  I will be also sharing some stories of “the three Holy Terrors,” plus new stories on the Terrible Twosome (my new name for Tilly Tot and Ling Ling 🙂 ).

The first story in this new era will be published next Sunday, Nov. 30/14 (Thanksgiving weekend in the States). Thanks for being patient and bearing with me in this hard time, and thanks to all the people who offered comfort, support, and suggestions.  I’m not sure yet what the next story will be, but we’ll get back on track and carry on, and it’ll be fun.

P.S. Many thanks for the tender care that Dr. Audrey Tataryn and her wonderful staff took of Oreo in his last days at Prairie East Veterinary Clinic in Langenburg, Saskatchewan.

If you have any pet stories you
would like to share, please either
leave your comment below, or
email me at raya at fantasyfic dot com.

Text and photos copyrighted
© 2014 by Sandra Bell
Kirchman. All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.11-1, Nov. 23, 2014)

Puppy Dogs Posing for Pictures

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling:  "Yes, we're quite comfortable, thank you for asking."

Tilly Tot, Oreo and Ling Ling: “Yes, we’re quite comfortable, thank you for asking.”

Below is the gallery of photos that I promised you. Most of the shots show one or more of the three holy terrors–Ling Ling, Oreo, and Tilly Tot. A couple of pics of other dogs are thrown in to throw you off track. Just to refresh your memory, Ling Ling came to us first, by way of Pekabout Kennels in Calgary. Consequently, we have more pics of her than the other two.

Oreo came to us from another breeding kennel in Alberta, and, finally, Tilly Tot came to us because she needed to be rescued and had to have a forever home to live in. The time period for these pics range from April 2, 2007 (Ling Ling’s birthday) to the present.

I have inserted a brief comment under each image. If you want more information, check out some of the previous posts in this blog, starting at the Introduction.

For a larger view of the pictures, click on the first thumbnail photo. This will not only also reveal the caption, but it creates a sort of slide show, so you don’t have to switch back and forth. All the photos were taken by me (Sandra Bell Kirchman), except as otherwise credited. All the photos of Ling Ling on a baby blanket were taken by Pekabout Kennels; they belong to me. If you have any questions about the pictures or the stories, write to me at raya@fantasyfic.com. Please enjoy.

Good night, all.

Are you an avid shutterbug? Do you keep on snapping if your
pet(s) is/are seen napping ‘cuz they are so cute? We’d love to see them.
Send me your pics at raya@fantasyfic.com along with your name,
the name of your pet, and any caption you would like
to provide (optional).  Please also state you have
the rights to that photo and that you give
Puppy Dog Tales the right to publish it.  Thanks.

 (Next week watch for the horrible, adorable, doggie trick or treaters in “Halloweenies”)

Text copyrighted © 2014
by Sandra Bell Kirchman.
Photos copyrighted © as
marked. All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.10-3, Oct. 19, 2014)

Adorable or Annoying – Tricks and Traits of Dogs – Part 2

Last week in Part 1, we talked about the unnerving tendency of proud pet parents (p.p.p.) to whip out their wallets and unfold a baker’s dozen pics of their fur babies. You, the reasonably innocent bystander, are expected to exclaim, ooh and ahh like any discriminating connoisseur of baby pictures, furred or otherwise. We took a look at the sweetness of Tilly Tot and the energetic cuteness of Ling Ling. Now we continue with an annoying trait of Ling Ling’s and some delightful or bothersome aspects of Oreo

Ling Ling – Cons

Ling Ling: "I know what I want and I want it now...please." (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Ling Ling hears a noise. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Ling Ling also has some annoying traits, for instance, her reaction to some noises. Three noises scare her to the brink of involuntary peeing…one is the sound of our toaster. It took us months to figure out why, since our toaster is comparatively quiet as toaster monsters go. We thought back a couple of years to remember that one time the toaster element trapped a piece of bread, which caused smoke to waft up and torment the fire alarm. That went off with a great hullaballoo and scared the behoosis out of Ling Ling. Apparently she connected the horrific alarm sound with using the toaster.

Krups Toaster

Krups Toaster (Photo credits: West Elm)

The second thing is Ernest’s air nailer gun. We still haven’t figured out why this frightens her so badly, while none of his other electric tools, like his drill and his stapler gun, produce no more than a cocked ear before she drifts back to sleep. The annoying part is the way she runs around like a headless chicken when the air nailer starts up. It is a crazy, unaware scrambling, and no amount of calming or holding or feeding or playing will distract her from this reaction. I’m not unkind, but, when it gets to this frenetic part, it drives me even battier than I usually am.

Ling Ling is also afraid of thunder (but only because Oreo has a real fear of it and she has picked that up).  Again she reverts to her headless chicken imitation, helping Oreo to keep everyone around her awake for the duration of the storm.

Oreo – Pro and Con

Cuddly Oreo. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Cuddly Oreo. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Oreo’s biggest cute trait is his lovability. He is willing to cuddle or be petted any time of the day.  After a remark made in a movie we watched, we promptly nicknamed him “Sergeant Snuggles.”  It fits him so well.

I would mention that he is willing to cuddle any time of the day “or night,” except that’s not true. At night, he is an untouchable. Oh, he’s polite enough, but he sets the boundaries right there. It’s time for bed, so no touching, no cuddling, no snuggling. It’s  fun to watch the way he communicates his bedtime rules. If you try to scoop him up in bed for a cuddle , he will politely but firmly decline by turning into a piece of cement. When you recoil in surprise, he wiggles out and belly crawls away to avoid recapture. You have to really want to play this nightly game to entice his unwilling wee body from the far end of the bed. I have found myself laughing so hard at his innocent little maneuvers that I shake myself up from drowsy mode to wide awake mode and have to work at getting sleepy all over again.

On the flip side, one of the most annoying things about Oreo is his greediness. He will eat almost anything (except lettuce or mushrooms – mushrooms aren’t good for him anyhow). He will go to any lengths to sneak food away from the other two. Ling Ling loves to take a treat outside to lie in the sun and dreamily munch away at it. Oreo will go out after her and start barking at some imaginary intruder presumably on the other side of the fence. Ling Ling will jump up immediately to add her voice to his in a valiant effort to scare the intruder away. Except his voice is no longer there. He is busy back at the treat site, gobbling up her treat.

Final Outcome

Tilly with pink tongue out

Sweetheart Tilly with little pink tongue sticking out between her teeth.  (Photo credit:  Sandra Bell Kirchman)

So here we are, late Sunday morning. Ernest is shingling the roof of the house with his air nailer gun. Ling Ling is going nuts, which is driving me to think unkind thoughts about my lovable little dog. Grrrr. It is approaching the noon hour and Oreo is pacing, waiting for his lunch, right now, if you please, Mummy. Grrrr. And Tilly Tot keeps flopping on the ground in front of me, wanting a belly rub, causing me to trip and throw my body sideways so I don’t crush the life out of her. Grrrr. Yet I wouldn’t trade one of them for the best behaved canine in the West…or the East for that matter.

Who’s a Big Cutie Pie, Then?

Who's the cutest of them all?  (Photo credit:

Who’s the cutest of them all? (Photo credit: “Background image courtesy of Stuart MilesFreeDigitalPhotos.net“)

Look at the photos and the fond smile on the face of the pet parent who is showing you pics of his/her baby. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

I know for a fact that Oreo, Ling Ling
and Tilly Tot are not the only adorable
pets on the block. Do you have any
stories about your pet’s cute
or annoying habits? We’d love to hear them.
Just insert your story in the comments section below.

(Watch next week for Part 1 of “Caring for Others’ Pets Temporarily”
 – Note:  This is, in part, the famous story of Alice the Cat.)

 

Text and photos copyright ©
2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman
except as otherwise marked.
All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.9-2, Sept. 14, 2014

Adorable or Annoying – Tricks and Traits of Dogs – Part 1

Wanna See Pictures of My Fur Babies?

 

Wallet snapshot - one of many of proud dog parent's "baby."  (Image courtesy of Photokanok | FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Wallet snapshot of sleeping lab puppy – first of many of proud dog parent‘s “baby.” (Image courtesy of Photokanok | FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Wallet snapshot - second of many of proud dog parent's "baby." (Image courtesy of Photokanok | FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Wallet snapshot of golden lab’s profile – second of many of proud dog parent’s “baby.” (Image courtesy of Photokanok | FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Have you ever noticed that dog owners often act like proud parents, or even like proud grandparents? So, when their dogs do something cute, interesting, or funny, they are snapped with the ever-ready camera. Then, at the drop of a hint, like, “I love hot dogs,” they are likely to whip out their packet of photos and display them to you proudly. If you don’t GET it, like, why those pictures are so comment-worthy, the proud pet parent will be happy to explain in great detail. If you don’t get it the SECOND time, you just might earn a disappointed look, as the p.p.p. prepares to go through it a THIRD time.

Wallet snapshot of smiling lab - third of many of proud dog parent's "baby." (Image courtesy of luigi diamanti | FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Wallet snapshot of smiling lab – third of many of proud dog parent’s “baby.” (Image courtesy of luigi diamanti | FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Since I am no different from any other proud pet parent, I am going to whip out my virtual wallet. Unlike a chance meeting in a restaurant or the library, you will get an immediate opportunity to retaliate with a story and/or picture of your pet’s cute or pesky traits in the comments below. (Note: If you have a pic you want to share, let me know and we’ll arrange to post it.)

 

Framed picture of pretty Tilly.  (Photo Credit: Laurie M. Hamilton)

Framed picture of pretty Tilly. (Photo Credit: Laurie M. Hamilton)

Tilly Tot’s Cuteness

One of the cutest dogs I have ever had the pleasure of observing is Tilly Tot. She is what they call a sweetheart dog, and one of her signature activities is going kersplat on the floor right in front of you and rolling over, legs askew, for a belly rub. Now, many dogs do this, but what makes Tilly so special is that she shows her dreamy pleasure by sticking the tip of her little pink tongue out between her teeth as you pet her. Yup, it’s adorable.

 

Framed picture of pretty Tilly  Photo Credit: Laurie M. Hamilton

Framed picture of an excited Ling Ling. (Photo Credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Ling Ling – Pros

A cute habit of Ling Ling’s involves the full use of her back yard. I believe I have mentioned about how Ling Ling loves her yard. One of her favourite activities is to run laps around the yard carrying a stuffed toy in her teeth. When she was little, the toys were frequently bigger than she was, so she would bounce them off the ground as she walked or ran. That way she could keep them from falling or preventing her from running. It produced a cute bobbing sort of run as she bounced Mousie or Whiskers along on the ground.

Now that she is older, bigger and presumably wiser, does she just run without the bob? Nosirree, she bobs just as she always did, but she has to reach further down to bounce the stuffed toy, so it’s kind of a run, stop, bounce, bob, run, stop, bounce, bob. One of her cuter tricks.

 

I know for a fact that Oreo, Ling Ling
and Tilly Tot are not the only adorable
dogs on the block. Do you have any
stories about your pet’s cute
or annoying habits? We’d love to hear them.
Just insert your story in the comments section below.

 

(Watch next week for Part 2 of Adorable or Annoying – Tricks and Traits of Dogs)

 

Text and photos copyright ©
2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman
except as otherwise marked.
All rights reserved.
(Vol. 14.9-1, Sept. 7, 2014

The Many Colours of Doggy Love – Part 1

English: A black and white Shih Tzu.

Rosie, an English black and white Shih Tzu.  “Wanna snuggle with me?”  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I might talk almost exclusively about shih tzus, I am reasonably certain that a lot of it applies to dogs of other breeds, and probably to mixed-breed dogs.  However, I do not for a minute think that these observations have any application to cats of whatever breed or colour.  Cats live by their own code, much of which is incomprehensible to pet parents and other humans.  (Note:  This may not be true for non-human pet parents.  Watch for a future column that will be dealing with this subject).

The Red Shih Tzu

One of the less common colours of shih tzus is red.  It’s not rare, mind you, but it is not as common as brown, beige, tricolour, black and white, etc.  Now you may think that this is a study about the different colours of shih tzus, but you would be wrong.  I’ll deal with that in another article.  What we’re talking about here is how true a shih tzu is to its colour.  (By extrapolation as mentioned above, this study could apply to other dog breeds.)

 …And Other Colours

English: Shih Tzu Deutsch: Shih Tzu

A tricolour Shih Tzu in full show coat (black, white, and gold). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know what I mean.  In the case of humans, red heads are supposed to be fiery-tempered and feisty.  Blondes are supposed to have more fun.  Brunettes are supposed to be sultry, but quick-witted.  Black-haired people often have a rich historical or family background.  And so on.  Much of this is clichéd, but the reason it is clichéd is that so often it is true.

Scientific Study of Sorts?

Thus, I’m trying to see if there is any connection between the colour of the coat and the breed of dog, with particular attention paid to shih tzus.  The problem is that I haven’t seen enough of these little dogs to make this anywhere near a scientific study.  So I will be asking you, the reader and doggie pet parent, to help me out with observations of your own dog.

When you comment, please specify:

(1) what breed your dog is… please specify if it is purebred or a cross (and what the cross part is, if you know it),

(2) his/her age and sex,

(3) what colour(s) each dog is,

(4) then list the dog’s personality traits, habits and idiosyncrasies, as many as you can think of.

The regal Princess, Ling Ling.  (Photo credit:  Sandra Bell Kirchman)

The regal Princess, Ling Ling. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Ling Ling

Now, let’s go back to our red shih tzu, the redoubtable princess, Ling Ling.  One of the reasons Ernest picked her at the age of one year was her beautiful red and white colouring.  She is a female, purebred Shih Tzu, spayed, 7 years old, in reasonably good health (although she appears to have been born with hip dysplasia, but it also doesn’t seem to bother her). Here are a list of her characteristics.

RED or RED AND WHITE COAT
  • full of energy and enthusiasm
  • a runner (will escape whenever she can, just to run for the sheer joy of it)
  • loves her toys and her daddy to the extreme
  • vain about her appearance (the only one of my dogs able to keep her girlish figure by eating only when she is hungry)
  • stubborn, sometimes mulishly so
  • affectionate, often surprisingly gentle, and the older she gets the more she likes to snuggle
  • dedicated to a fixed picture (we had a toaster that would sometimes set the fire alarm off – this frightened Ling Ling; to this day when we go to use the toaster, a new, silent, non-smoking model, she will run as far away from the kitchen as she can get)
  • very jealous of the other dogs getting attention from Daddy, especially Tilly Tot
  • royal and dainty
  • to Ling Ling, all strangers are friends she just hasn’t met yet
  • loves her huge back yard, but not so much in winter
The three holy terrors - keeping an eye on Mommy.  (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

The three holy terrors – keeping an eye on Mommy. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

Next week we’ll take a look at Oreo’s and Tilly’s colours, plus any information that you dog parents have sent in.  We’ll probably have a Part 3 the following week to take a look at the results and see if we can draw any conclusions.

We would really love it if you would add your dog’s
information below, so we can compare comments
and make this research just a little more scientific.
If you would like to share, please just
enter a comment at the bottom of this post
where it obligingly says, “Leave a Comment.”

(Next week watch for The Many Colours of Doggy Love – Part 2” by Sandra Bell Kirchman)

 

Text and photos (except where otherwise indicated)
are copyright © 2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman.
All rights reserved. (Volume 14-6.1, June 22, 2014)

 

The Proper Way to Cuddle a Dog – Part 1

Okay, I’m funnin’ ya.  The proper way to cuddle a dog is any way where both you and the pooch are comfortable.  However, you might want to take note of a few things.

Small Dogs

With smaller dogs like shih tzus, make sure their back is supported.  Tilly Tot doesn’t mind being held like a baby in your arms, but she’s cautious.  It’s obvious that she has had some bad experiences and is only willing to be held that way for so long. Then be prepared for a pint-sized battle as she struggles to get out.  One reason for this caution is that, like babies, these small dogs need to have their neck and back supported, especially as they get older.

Ling Ling and Tilly snuggling with Daddy.  Note where LL has placed her little butt.  Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Ling Ling and Tilly snuggling with Daddy. Note where LL has placed her little butt. Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman

Cuddlin’Fools

If you have a shih tzu in your family, you have probably already found that your wee doggie loves cuddling and will take every opportunity to lie in your lap or snuggle up to you in bed.  There are different ways to snuggle though.

Oreo likes to pin me in on one side.  If Ling Ling decides to pin me in on the other side, I’m pretty much a shih tzu sandwich.  And don’t kid yourself…small dogs can weigh an easy 600 plus lbs. when they have you cornered like that.  Not so easy to get up.  I have trained our guys that when I say, “Move, move, move!” they had better move.  When they comply, I always tell them good girl or good boy, as the case may be.

For the most part, though, Oreo prefers to lie at the foot of the bed in such a way that he can keep an eye on the hall.  I am a night owl and Ernest is an early bird, so basically Oreo likes to monitor Daddy’s sleep whilst keeping tabs on me.  True to my Goddess of Food title, I might be going near some snacks or something.

From the Bottom…of Her Heart

Ling Ling has decided that the cuddliest part of her is her bony little bottom (see picture above).  She is the leanest of the three dogs; although she is well fleshed she is not fat at all, and the bones on her south end actually jab you.  For some reason, she has also decided that my bottom is the snuggliest part of me.  There, she may be right, if that isn’t TMI.  So I have the delight, every night, of having a bony bottom shoved right against my well-padded one.

It hasn’t really been that painful, but recently I have been having back trouble.  Now I know the meaning of back pain when, with unerring aim, she projects her behind right into the space between my ailing fifth and sixth vertebrae.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take her long to get comfortable, and I can stop groaning as she settles her eggs.

If Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

Ling Ling has an odd preference for sleeping positions.  Her favoured spot, until it gets too hot, is in Daddy’s armpit.  Some nights you couldn’t pay me to sleep there.  However, Ling Ling has decided it is the most heavenly eau de daddy she has ever smelled and settles in as comfortably as a baby joey in her kangaroo mommy’s pouch.  The funny thing is that Tilly likes this way of sleeping as well.  Maybe it’s a girl dog thing.

How do your pets sleep at night…with you on the bed?
Elsewhere?  Any particular positions that they prefer?
If you would like to share that story, please
just enter a comment at the bottom of this post
where it obligingly says, “Leave a Comment.”

  (Next week watch for “The Proper Way to Cuddle a Dog – Part 2”)

 Text and photos (except where otherwise indicated)
are copyright © 2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman.
All rights reserved. (Volume 14-4.3, April 19, 2014)

 

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