Category Archives: Pets


Every time I walk into the kitchen, my eyes automatically dart to the back door, looking out onto the porch to see if Doctor wants to come back inside from his perch on my yoga mat.

And then I remember.  He’s not there.

Doctor Cat Chair in Janery Sewing Studio

We said goodbye to Doctor two weeks ago, in the same room of the same hospital where we said goodbye to Charlie on Christmas Day, only nine months ago.

Taking Charlie to the Hope Center to say goodbye was hard because I couldn’t bear to lose my canine best friend.  Taking Doctor there was hard in a very different way – it was difficult to know if we were making the right decision, because he still was purring a lot and loving affection from us, but for reasons hard to describe to those who never met him, he wasn’t himself. We were worried he was uncomfortable, and he’d lost more weight and had other signs that the cancer had gotten worse.

We probably could have waited longer if we really wanted, but for what?  To selfishly have a few more days or weeks with him, sure, but at the potential price of making him suffer.

Doctor on Hammock

In his last few months, Doctor preferred to sit outside for hours each day and night, stretched out or balled up on my blue yoga mat.  Now I can’t stop checking the mat outside because I’m so used to checking to see if he wants to come in the house. I also keep thinking that I hear him meowing in the house.  I said something to Ryan about both these things, and he said they’re happening to him, too.

I hope this ingrained habit goes away eventually, because it sends a jolt of sadness through me every time.

I also hope that our three remaining pets stay healthy for a few years, because two cancer losses in one year is more than enough.  I’ve found myself feeling a little paranoid about the remaining pets, simply because of the string of events we’ve been through in the last year with pet health.

Doctor on Catnip Cuddler

However, at the same time, I understand that when you adopt 4 animals, all around the same age and around the same time, these things can happen.  More importantly, I refuse to mope about it, because I have three other animals who love my company and deserve a happy mom.  Plus, with our silly poodle joining the family, I can’t help but laugh several times a day at her antics.

In the mean time, my blue yoga mat remains on the porch, but the only thing relaxing on it now is fallen leaves.  It’s sad, but it’s also a nice reminder of Doctor.

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A Friend for Merlin: Meet Amber, Our New Standard Poodle

Most people who don’t know us would caution that Ryan and I should avoid getting a new dog just four months shy of our first baby being born.

But Ryan and I aren’t always like other people, and three weeks ago we brought home a friend for Merlin.  Amber, a 1 year old Standard Poodle, has already melted our hearts and added a huge dose of puppy energy and smiles to  our lives.

Amber Poodle Coming Home

Ryan grew up with Standard Poodles, and when he met me and my four pets, his only request was that we get a poodle when we got our next dog.  I thought they were fancy and too serious, but when I met his family’s two poodles, their silly and smart personalities won me over.

Fast forward to Charlie’s passing in December.  She left a hole in our hearts, but also left Merlin extremely lonely.  He demonstrated this with separation anxiety when we left the house – for the first time in his 12 years, we’d arrive home to find our usually angelic Merlin frantic, panting, shaking, and whining.  He even ate through a wooden baby gate twice.

I looked into poodle rescue groups, but the ones in our area wouldn’t adopt to families with kids under 5 or babies on the way.  When Ryan’s mom heard from her poodle breeder that a sweet, 1-year-old poodle puppy had been returned by the man who bought her, we were intrigued.

Our logic?  We didn’t really want to deal with a young puppy – the housebreaking, the waking up at all hours, etc.  I also didn’t want to buy a dog unless we had to. I understand some people do prefer to buy puppies because they love the breed and want to get a dog before it’s developed issues.  But for me, someone who’s found and fostered amazing dogs off the streets, it just didn’t feel right for me.

Amber Poodle First Day

When we took Merlin to meet Amber she immediately melted my heart.  She was fearful but sweet, and the more we learned of her story, the more I felt that we should adopt her.  Long story short, Amber was born to a different breeder, but that lady couldn’t sell her.  Amber then was transported to the breeder we met – in the trunk of a car.

Then a man bought her, and called the breeder all the time, complaining about the puppy.  “I didn’t know I’d have to walk her.” (He didn’t have a yard…) “Dog food costs $30 a bag!”  (You paid $1500 for the dog.  Also, try having a dog who needs hypoallergenic for $80 a bag!)  “I have white carpets.”  (You had them when you bought the dog, right?  And she doesn’t shed.)

Long story short, I have no idea why that man bought a dog.  I also don’t know how he treated her.  She’s very well behaved, house trained, but is terrified of her crate, and is terrified – to the point of jumping in fear – when people reach for her collar. I don’t think he technically abused or hit her, but we sense that when she was in trouble, she got grabbed by the collar and dragged or something.

Amber Poodle Ryan Jane

Despite her fears of new people and her few little issues, Amber has fit in perfectly with our family. She’s very responsive to training, and we’ve even successfully done off-leash training in three short weeks.  She loves to run and jump and annoy her older brother, and she’s a very busy dog – so I’ve been walking her every morning for 2 miles to get her energy reduced before the work day starts.

Amber is making us laugh and smile at least a dozen times a day with her silly playful puppy energy – something we really needed right now.  It really does feel like this was meant to be.

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Doctor’s Story: Considering Chemo For a Cat With Cancer

In an surreal twist of fate, the dreaded “C” word – cancer – has already returned to our borrowed abode, this time striking our awesome little cat, Doctor.3-IMG_2070

Two months ago, noticing that our cat Doctor was losing weight and acting more lethargic, we took him to the vet for blood work. I had a gut feeling that he had cancer, but I thought I was probably just paranoid after losing Charlie to that disease 6 months ago. Running a “senior panel” on an older dog or cat is the most efficient way to get the whole picture of their health – the measurements often show illness that has already begun, or hint at illness that could begin soon and can be prevented or stalled with a little extra care or change in diet.

As we feared, a few of Doctor’s blood results were off, hinting at some sort of chronic disease.   An abdominal ultrasound with an internal medicine specialist was recommended, because it would literally provide a picture of how all his internal organs were doing – liver, spleen, kidneys, etc. it’s not a cheap diagnostic tool, but the quality and quantity of info it gives you makes it worthwhile.

I was horrified to find out that my gut feeling was right. Doctor had large cell Intestinal Lymphoma, a cancer invading his lymph nodes and intestines. The doctor explained to us that the cancer was thickening the intestinal wall, and eventually it would become so thick that nothing could pass through it. When this day comes, Doctor will start vomiting and it will be a sign that we have to let him go.

However! It’s been about two months since the diagnosis, and Doctor is doing well. I took him to the oncologist who treated Charlie just to see what our options were. We didn’t get in there until a month after the diagnosis (since we have been out of town helping my mom with her cancer issues) and the oncologist expressed surprise that Doctor was doing so well, given how invasive the cancer looked on the ultrasound.

Chemotherapy for Cats

Chemotherapy is just as hard on pets as it is on humans, if not worse, because you can’t explain to the pet what is going on and why they feel cruddy – but it can work wonders. It gave us quality time with Charlie that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

We were given a few chemotherapy options for Doctor, all of which would extend his 3-month(ish) prognosis by another month or two. We chose not to pursue them.

The cat is actually happy right now. Why mess with that by administering meds that won’t save his life, but which are guaranteed to make him feel sick? While chemo has its benefits, it can be a slippery slope, with pills piled on top of other pills, all to combat the side effects of the main drug. Additionally, giving cats pills does not make the cat happy. . .

We considered other factors before saying no to the chemo. Because we are spending so much time out of town with my parents, we didn’t feel chemo was something we could do well. I hated to think of Doctor sitting at home with us out of town, feeling crappy, and not having us there to comfort him or give him love.   Also, it’s hard to find friends who are comfortable administering medications to cats, especially chemo ones.

Sometimes your life situation will influence how much medical care you can realistically provide to your pets. I think ultimately it’s not about how much veterinary care you can provide, but how much love you can give the pet, and how you respect them by letting them go when they are no longer happy.

So – long story short – we’re enjoying our time with Doctor, but are prepared to say goodbye when he’s no longer doing well. In the mean time, he’s getting all the stinky wet cat food he can eat. :)

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