Friday, December 21, 2007

My Dog Sandy

Yesterday, my dog Sandy had a stroke. This is a picture I took of her tonight.

Some of my blog-buds speak often of their dogs and I always enjoy hearing about them. I haven't said much about mine, but it certainly is not for lack of love. Sandy came into my life almost exactly 10 years ago. I had just discovered I was pregnant. My then-husband and I figured this meant we'd be less foot-loose and fancy-free, so we could settle down and get a dog. Both of us grew up with dogs and loved them, but also loved to travel and were not sure we were ready to be conscientious dog-owners up until then.

On January 2, 1998 we went to a wonderful animal shelter and began observing the dogs. Those of you who have adopted from shelters know how it is to walk by cage after cage of hopeful looking dogs, all barking and jumping and begging you to pick them! We took a few dogs out of the cages and into the "meeting room" for brief times of play. Sandy seemed especially eager to please and happy to see us. The staff let us take her out on the front lawn and run free with her for a bit. She made no effort to go anywhere other than where we were. She had already decided she was our dog, I think. She was. She went home with us that day.

Sandy had been a stray, with an unknown history. The vet where we took her to be spayed thought she appeared about 2 years old. She was well house-trained, knew the command to sit and loved people. The shelter just called her a "shepherd mix" which is what it said of about half of the dogs. (Those shepherds really get around). Over the years, taking her to dog parks and walking around, we discovered that she appeared to have traits closer to an Australian shepherd than a German one and probably had some kind of collie -- maybe border -- mixed in. She definitely had some herding instincts and absolutely no retriever in her. She happily followed the retrievers around in parks for the company, but seemed baffled by their need to have somebody throw something. She also doesn't swim. She'll wade, but the look of distaste on her face whenever she accidently steps in water a bit too deep is priceless.

Sandy is an exceptionally gentle dog. She doesn't jump up on people or play rough, but she loves to run around and chase people or other creatures. She has endured years of childish pushing and pulling without ever once snapping at my son. She loves hiking and other dogs. And she loves to sing along when the music is loud or we're all dancing or singing or giggling in the house. She has a nice howl when she chooses to share it.

Sandy has lived with us in four homes in three states. She was in foster care with my ex-mother-in-law for 10 months when we were living at an outdoor education center in the back-woods of northwest NJ and couldn't have our pets with us. She gained about 10 pounds that year! We got her back down to her usual 50 pounds with plenty of good walks once we got her back. I got custody of Sandy in the split because I have the fenced yard and the bigger home and because she has been more my dog all along. But the ex happily walks her on the days I work too long and keeps her when I travel. My mom has loved having a granddog as well as a grandson nearby and also happily dog-sits as needed.

Today Sandy has had two small walks around the yard. She looks like a very lethargic drunk when she's walking now. Normally, her food, water and crate are in our basement. Today I brought up the food and water and a blanket on which she lay very quietly for most of the day. I went down to work in my office for a while (also in the basement) and carried her down to be near me. I came up to get something and to my surprise, she followed me up the stairs. Going down is another story and so I've kept the door closed to the downstairs. (This means that my cat will now have to learn to use the cat door in the door to the basement, which he has refused to acknowledge exists for 1 1/2 years.)

Sandy has eaten and seems to have no problem swallowing. She can manage to take care of her business when taken outside. She just barked for the first time as someone approached the door, so I take that as a good sign. She doesn't appear to be suffering in any way, other than looking a bit sad when lying on her blanket. It must be so confusing for a dog to have this happen. To be out on a wonderful walk one evening and then wake up the next morning, twisted and shaking and unable to stand.

I'm pretty sure that Sandy will never join me on another mountain hike. Hopefully she'll regain enough strength and balance to be able to take a slow walk around the block and visit all her doggy friends. I am both sad and relieved today. Sad that she is not the dog she was two days ago and relieved that it looks like she will be OK.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Oh, LJ, I am so sorry about Sandy. I pray for recovery for her. It happens, you know. Maybe not for mountain hiking, but for getting around the neighborhood. I pray that will be so.

pj said...

(((LJ))) (((Sandy)))

(((All human and doggy friends)))

Dennis said...

oh, poor Sandy.

Did the vet give you anything to prevent future clotting? Are there blood thinners for dogs?

Strokes are tough on people. It takes lots of work to overcome some of the challenges. But we now know that brains are somewhat "plastic" - they can change over time. Which means that things like balance and skills are somewhat relearnable.

I'll be thinking about you both.

And don't forget the healing power of belly rubs and kisses!

lj said...

Dennis, no blood thinners. Prednisone and motion sickness pills. One of my first thoughts on seeing her just after the stroke was, "Should I give her an aspirin?" Wasn't sure if that was good for dogs.

Anyway, thanks all of you for your love. She is improving far more quickly than I anticipated. I've taken her up and down the block twice today and the last time she even had a bit of her prance back in her step. (And then she fell sideways, bless her heart, but she seems determined to bounce back).

Jane R said...

Oh, lj -- I come back from two weeks away (where I blogged but didn't read other blogs except once or twice) and you're having a hard time and your sweet dog has had a stroke! So sorry! Hey, call me if you want to talk, you have my number. Meanwhile big hugs to you and to Sandy -- and prayers also for your son and for the office... Sending you lots of good vibes from me and Maya Pavlova (who is purring by the computer).

Kirstin said...


Prayers and love.

Diane said...

sorry to be away...
prayers for you

more cows than people said...

just catching up on your blog and glad to know that sandy is doing much better.

i'm so glad you two found each other.

i pray you will be climbing mountains with Sandy again before you know it.

Surcie said...

What a cute face. I pray she'll be fine.

Marjorie said...

Good words.