Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boomer digital scrapbook pages

B for Boomer

my sweet boy
The text reads:
You were so happy to meet me, it was almost like you recognized me. Whatever came before was over. Your past life was a mystery that would never be solved. But that didn’t matter to you, who always lived in the present.

All you wanted was to be near me. Wherever I was. And you were always happy. Tail up, smiling, running around, jumping for joy. Even when you could no longer
run and jump, somehow you could still move faster than me! All you needed was love, and it kept you going for a long time. And you gave so much love to me. Even though you’re gone, the love will always remain.

chin rester

There are still a couple more of these pages in me. I'll get to them soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A month ago, her status changed from, "our other dog" to simply, "the dog". She seemed quiet and sad for the first couple of days, but now she seems fine. We believe that she knew Boomer was dying, and that she said goodbye to him.

Boomie's last day. She knew.

I realized that I was left with a dog that I barely knew. My whole doggie attention had been focused on Boomer. Partly because I loved him so, and partly because he demanded it, and those two dynamics fed off each other. Marley was, and is, much more easygoing. And in the days after Boomie died, I found myself feeling rather let down by the lack of attention that Marley required. Compared to Boomie, she seemed …dull.

But I have made an effort to be attentive to her. We all have been. She is getting enough loving for two dogs now, which she accepts with bewildered grace. She continues to enjoy carrying dirty socks that she finds around the house, and bringing us her tennis balls, but not letting us actually have them. She no longer runs, barking, to the door when someone rings the doorbell. I guess she was just following Boomer’s lead on that one, and now she doesn’t see the point.

She also doesn’t sleep in our bedroom anymore. For years, the two dogs would always sleep in our room, Boomer at the foot of the bed, and Marley next to my side of the bed. When Jerry woke up at 4:30am to get ready for work, Marley would follow him into the living room, and Boomie would come to lay next to me. After Jerry left for work, Marley would get up again and shake herself. Her jingling collar would get Boomer up, and he would go to the living room, and Marley would come to my side of the bed and demand that I let them outside. If I was quiet, Boomer would lay and wait in the living room. If I talked to Marley, he would hear me and come running back to the bedroom, and then I’d have 2 dogs trying to get me out of bed.

In the weeks before Boomie died, Marley stopped sleeping in our bedroom. She would just spend the whole night on the couch in the living room. Only once since he died has she slept in our room, although she does follow me sometimes when I go in there during the day with laundry to fold or whatever. In fact, she’s starting to follows us around the house more than she used to. She mostly never used to do that. That was Boomer’s job.

Yesterday, I brushed her for the first time in a month. She doesn’t love brushing like Boomer used to, but she needed it. Her coat is so much thicker than his was. Her hair dominates the floor now. The sweepings are all black. They were salt and pepper before. Another thing to get used to.

As we accustom ourselves to the new normal of having just one dog, we have no plans to get another one right away. When the time is right, I’ll know.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

More about Boomer

As I was bringing Boomer home from the shelter, he whined the whole way home. For those 15 or 20 minutes, I wondered what I had gotten myself into, but when we got home, he turned out to be the perfect gentleman! Maggie, who had always been an only dog, was not particularly interested in having a friend. She wasn't hostile to him, but more aloof. Boomer respected her and didn't bother her. They really didn't play together. Boomer was OK with that. He could play with us.

Boomie integrated so well into the family, that after 2 days it seemed as if we'd always had him. I took him to the vet to have him checked out, and address some concerns that, in my initial excitement in finding and adopting him, I had managed to overlook. First was his skin. He had patches on his rump and inner thighs where the hair was gone, and the skin was thick, wrinkly and gray, like elephant skin. I really don’t remember if the vet had an idea what it might have been, but I remember she said that Boomie might always have skin problems, and his hair might not ever grow back, but even back then, she underestimated Boomie. The elephant skin must have been a result of something in his environment before. His skin returned to normal almost from the first day, and the hair grew back quickly.

The other problem was nothing that could go away on its own. X-rays revealed that Boomie had hip dysplasia. The vet recommended a double hip replacement. Or, we could return him to the pound, she suggested. There was no way I would return him. After just a couple of days, I already loved him. But I couldn't spend thousands of dollars to fix his hips, either. So even back then, I opted for a more conservative approach. Let's just give him joint supplements, and see how he does. If he lasts a year or 5 years, or whatever, we will love him just the same.

Boomie ended up doing very well, for a long time on joint supplements. After a few years, we did start seeing a very slow decline in his mobility. We added more supplements and medications, and it was enough to keep him going. He could run and play. He was free of pain.

Boomie was not without his quirks. With his early life a mystery, we don’t know what might have happened to him that would cause him to be so slow to warm up to people, especially since he had responded in such a positive way so quickly when I first met him at the shelter. He was very un-lab-like in the way he barked at anyone who came to visit, and even barked at Jerry and the kids if they were dressed in dark clothing, or a big hat, or came into the house carrying a big box or package.

Then there was his fear of Jerry’s sneezes. Maybe it was because Jerry tends to get these “sneezing attacks”, where he’ll sneeze about 10 times in a row. But whatever the reason, Boomie would always come looking for me and try to hide behind me, or just stay close to me when he heard Jerry sneeze. And if I was too close to the sneezing Jerry for Boomie’s comfort, he would go hide in the bedroom. He never, not once, showed anxiety for anyone else’s sneezes. You could let out a huge WACHOO! right in his face and it wouldn’t bother him a bit.

He liked to sit with his chin resting on the coffee table. Or on your knee. Especially if you were eating something. But he wasn’t a drooler.

He never went to the door to bark, whine, or otherwise indicate his desire to go outside. If he did want to go out, he would just come to me, all excited and wiggly. That was his way of letting me know. Of course, I had long come to know his schedule, and since he was usually fed and let out according to our established routine, there wasn’t always a need for him to get wiggly. And speaking of routine, I could swear Boomie (and Marley) could tell time. At least when it was their mealtime.

Boomie seemed to have picked up two bad habits from Maggie before she died. I’m pretty sure he didn’t eat grass when we first brought him home, but I think he saw Maggie doing it. She only did it when she had an upset tummy, and it would make her barf. Boomie grazed like a cow, and he never threw up afterwards. The other bad habit was barking at the jets waaay up high that left vapor trails across the yard. Thank goodness he didn’t seem to think it was necessary to bark at lower flying jets and private planes, because there were a lot more of those.

He loved being brushed. Long before he lost his leg, his bad hips and arthritis made it very difficult to scratch himself. I tried to brush him as often as I could. He would be so happy to see me coming at him with the Zoom Groom brush. Most of the time, he would sit still for me until my arm was tired from brushing. And he almost always showed his enjoyment with, um…his…you could tell he was happy.

Boomer was more closely bonded to me than to any other person in the family. But he also bonded with Marley, our black lab that we adopted in early 2005, after Maggie had died and Boomie seemed lonely. Although there was a period of adjustment when they were getting to know each other, Boomie and Marley became best friends. Because they were already mature when they met, they didn’t engage in a lot of boisterous play, but they did enjoy a bit of “bitey-face”. In the last year or so, when Boomie seemed to be whining and barking for attention, often it was Marley who would go to him and sit quietly right next to him and ask for some love. He would settle down and nibble and lick her around the face and ears, and they would both be happy

Boomie had health concerns from the moment we brought him home, the most significant being orthopedic and mobility issues due to hip dysplasia and arthritis. But with medication and supplements, he did really well over the years. His condition and mobility declined ever so slowly, but I really think he was mostly pain free. His amputation in May of 2008 seems, as I look back on it now, like just another bump in the road (and a bigger bump for us than for Boomie). He just kept going and never looked back.

We were told that he would probably live about 6 months after the amputation. At the time, I was preparing myself for the inevitable. But after 5 months, he seemed fine. After 6 months, when he was still fine, I realized that this dog had his own timetable. Still, it was hard knowing that we just didn’t know when it would happen. It’s hard to stay ready. Easier to just say, “today is a good day. Tomorrow will probably be OK, too.” And that is how time slipped by. Last month, when he started having seizures, I quickly figured out that it was the beginning of the end.

I can hardly believe that it's been 4 weeks since Boomie died. It's been strange without him, but I'm in no hurry to get another dog. Soon, I'll post about Marley, and how it's been having her as our only dog.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Boomer's memorial jar

When Boomie died, I didn't want to keep his cremated remains. I had an idea to take a picture of him and use his collar as a frame, and hang it in my bathroom, because he always waited outside the door for me whenever I was in the bathroom. And on his last morning, I took a picture of him laying outside my bathroom. But it was his last day, and it was a very bad, sad picture, because my Boomie was dying. I considered using a picture of him from another time and place, and I continued to try to figure out how to frame both the picture and his collar together, and I wasn't really coming up with anything I really liked.

Then I gathered the fluff of his hair from the last few brushings, and found they still smelled like him. I decided I would keep the hair, and I needed something special to keep it in. I chose the jar below because I could also display photos on each side.

Boomer's jar liner1

Boomer's jar liner2
I measured carefully to make the scrapbook inserts and chose 4 pictures I liked.

I also made a little piece for the bottom.

Boomer's memorial jar

Boomer's memorial jar

I'm really happy with the way it turned out.

Friday, March 04, 2011

9 years of Boomer

Boomie in 2002

Nine years ago today, I brought Boomer home. This is the story of how he became my dog.

I had been looking for a dog since the fall of 2001, when in a post-9/11 funk, I felt I needed to find another dog for our family. We already had Maggie, and had seen her through a long and trying time of behavioral and health problems, and I thought having a companion would be good for her as well. But finding just the right dog turned out to take longer than I thought.

I knew I wanted a dog from a shelter or rescue. I looked at dogs from rescues first, and a lot of them, since at least they have some background information, and have often been fostered and evaluated for temperament, behavior, etc. But when it came time to meet the dogs, usually at an "adoption event", I found it hard to make a meaningful connection with them. Often, I couldn't get them to even look me in the eyes. I figured it was the location and general environment, together with the fact that these dogs had probably endured some hardships before and during their rescue, and they didn't quite feel like themselves yet.

In late February 2002, I met a dog named Ruffian. He was beautiful. Tall and slender, with a tri-colored coat. He was very shy, but sweet. After two meetings, he let me look into his eyes. I wondered if he was the one. I wanted him to be the one. I put a deposit on him, went home to think about it, and immediately, surprisingly, felt I had made a mistake. All night I regretted having started the process with Ruffian, and in the morning I called the rescue guy and apologized and said that I could not put my finger on it, but somewhow Ruffian was not the dog for me.

I felt very discouraged. I was ready to stop looking for a dog for a while, except that same morning, I still felt compelled to look at the website of our county shelter. As usual there was a long list of available dogs for adoption. One entry caught my eye, for a 3 year old male yellow lab. There was no picture of him. Strange, because usually the listings included a photo. But I instantly became interested, even excited about that lab. Why? What chance did I have that this dog would be right for me? A pound dog with no history, little background information, not even a name. Would he get along with Maggie? Was he even housebroken? The shelter couldn't assure me of anything. But I still felt very strongly that I needed to see that dog. I told myself that if he wasn't the one, I really was going to stop looking.

With nervous excitement, I drove to the animal shelter. I asked to see that particular dog, and they pointed me in the direction of his kennel. If you've ever been to an animal shelter, you know that it seems like all the dogs are barking at you as you walk through the rows of kennels. And many of them did. So did the male yellow lab, but he was different. He was clearly glad to see me. It almost seemed like he recognized me. I was allowed to go inside the kennel. He was so happy and attentive. I produced a tennis ball from inside my purse and tossed it the few feet that the kennel space would allow, and he retrieved it. A good sign!

From there, we were allowed time in the "get acquainted yard". The first thing the dog did was run to the opposite end of the yard for a big pee, but after that, he just wanted to be with me, and play ball. This was the one. I still had no idea if he would get along with Maggie, or if he had house manners. But I just felt that he was worth bringing home, and we would see how he did.

After I payed the fee and filled out the paperwork, he was mine. He had been relinquished to the shelter due to his owner moving. That's all the information they had. His owner didn't even list the dog's name. That would now be up to me. In all my searching for a dog, I hadn't even considered names. Except for Ruffian, who I had planned to rename Robbie, I hadn't gotten to the point of picking names for any prospective dogs. But after struggling to load him into the back of the Jeep, I looked at him and asked, "Should I call you Boomer?" His looked right at me and smiled to hear his new name, almost as if it had always been his name.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Step right up

Tom Waits is one of those singers I've always kind of liked, but I've never bought an album or anything. I just like it when I happen to hear him on the radio. Well, today when I got in the car, this song was playing. It's old, and I'm surprised that I'd never heard it before. I thought it was funny, like a bunch late night commercials thrown into a blender and poured out with Tom Waits' gravelly voice.