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Archive for the ‘Stanegate Second Thoughts’ Category

As Tooey has gotten older, her coat has become more woolly and difficult to comb through. So, I keep her coat mostly short. I pay for it if I don’t, and so does she.

And at the beginning of each summer, I clip her topknot and ears quite short–just a little longer than the rest of her coat. I know many IWS aficionados disapprove, but this is easier for me and for her.

And no matter how I groom her, Tooey is beautiful.

This time, I wondered if I should put her through the rigors of being clipped down. Every month since her cancer diagnosis in February, I have wondered if this month will be her last grooming, and maybe I should just comb her out and let her be in her long IWS coat.

But Tooey is still with us, it’s almost summer, and this weekend it’s going to be 100 degrees F. Not a time for a long coat. And who knows, Tooey could be with us for several more months.

So, I improvised. She can’t stand for very long. But as long as there were plenty of treats coming, she was happy to lie on her sides and be clipped. I scissored her front legs while she was lying down. I clipped the undersides and tops of her ear flaps while she was lying down. It was only when I needed to finish her head and ears that I needed her to sit up.

Which she did. I worked as quickly as I could and let her lie down for a rest when she needed to.

Finally we finished and she could lie down and recuperate, looking out at the sheep and the squirrels.

I think she’s beautiful in this short coat–it shows off her beautiful eyes. But to me, she has always been beautiful, no matter how she’s groomed, whether in full show coat or in ratty, thin post-puppy coat.

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Before, I worked away at the office, and the dogs spent their weekdays without a regular audience.

But now, in these days of COVID-19 stay-at-home, work-from-home, I am trying to do my job, writing consumer healthcare information, from a desk in an outbuilding that faces the street and the little business next door. Accompanied by two Irish Water Spaniel co-workers.

Life is way more exciting for two of us…

Irish Water Spaniels looking out a window at the UPS truck

Tooey: Bark! The UPS guy is here!

Me: Thank you. Now quiet.

Tooey: Bark! The UPS guy is still here!

Me: Quiet!

Tooey: Bark! The UPS guy!!! He’s still here!!!

Carlin (running back and forth from the window to my desk): You better come see.

Me (getting up and looking out the window): Oh look, it’s the UPS guy.

Dogs (staring at me): Well,… yeah.

Dogs (looking at each other as I walk back to my desk): We have to tell her this every time, don’t we.

Tooey: Bark! The FedEx guy is here…

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We forget, and get a puppy again. This one is brown and curly, sweet, a bit older at 8 months, and way too smart. And named Two-E (which we almost immediately change to “Tooey”. I mean, what blogger wants to be constantly spelling a name with two capital letters and a hyphen).

Tooey grows up, and with the help of a lot of friends and some stiff competition, she gets her show championship.

She grows up some more, and we do lots of stuff together. Fun stuff, like hunting in 8 states and 1 province, spaniel hunt tests, barn hunt, and scent work; the not-quite-but-almost-as-fun stuff, like retriever hunt tests and Rally, and the stuff, Tooey says, I’m doing because Trice wants me to, like Obedience and the CGC. Titles in all of it (except the real-world hunting), enough to earn the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s All-Around IWS and the Quintessential IWS awards.

She has puppies. Two litters of them. Some of them are hunters. Most of them are pets. Five of them win show championships (making Tooey a Dam of Merit), and one of those wins a Best in Show Specialty. All are loved, and well worth loving.

Tooey was the love of Cooper’s life. She is Carlin’s mentor and friend. She has been Russ’s reliable hunting partner. And she is my best girl, my Tooey Honey, my comfort in sickness and companion in health.

And somehow I must have thought that Tooey would live forever.

But she won’t. Of course she won’t. None of us will.

On February 19, Tooey went in to have a tumor removed from the left cheek at back of her mouth. The biopsy report came back 6 agonizing days later: Canine oral malignant melanoma. And it is an aggressive one.

…The mitotic count is 32… Approximately 80% of the cells exhibit nuclear atypic…

A mitotic count of greater than 4 and a nuclear atypic score greater than 30% correlate with survival times of less than 1 year. Tumors located behind the carnassial tooth… are considered more aggressive.

So. Terror in the heart. Love, lots of love. And a memento mori, a reminder that time is always shorter than we think it is.

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… to strike terror in one’s heart. I’ve had cancer; I have close family relatives who have had cancer and who have died of cancer; my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, died of lymphoma, a type of cancer.

And today I found out that Carlin’s sire died just last month of cancer. Harry was just short of 9 years old. Carlin’s dam died of cancer several years ago.

And on top of that, Tooey is going into the vet tomorrow to have tumor removed from the inside of her mouth. The vet took a sample and looked at it under a microscope. Not diagnostic, not definitive, but the cells in the center of the sample don’t look good. But, you know, maybe all those weird-looking cells aren’t really that bad. Or if they are, maybe they are encapsulated in the tumor and haven’t spread.

I try not to worry.

We did have a cancer scare with Tooey before. But those masses turned out to be benign. And she has several of these fatty tumors on her trunk, and they’re benign. So, let us hope, or pray if you do that. That Tooey is fine this time, like she was last time. And that both she and Carlin live long and happy lives for many years more.

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Unlike Cooper and Carlin, Tooey has always had the perfect duck-hunter coat. So thick that when she leaps into the water to retrieve a bird, her skin barely gets wet, if it gets wet at all.

But as she has gotten older, Tooey’s coat, thick and fast-growing, has gotten wooly. It mats much more easily. It’s increasingly hard to comb through. And she’s able to stand on the grooming table for much shorter periods of time. All of this means it takes longer and requires more work to keep her coat clean, combed, and free of mats.

I asked a bunch of people who also have older IWS, and got a lot of suggestions that have helped. Things like: use a spray-on detangler spray to help the brush and comb slide through her coat more easily; lie Tooey on her side with a pillow under her head so she doesn’t have to stand; keep her coat shorter than the typical show coat. I got others I haven’t tried yet, like using a sling under her hips to help her stand.

But even after implementing these ideas, I realize that a big part of the problem is that, as Tooey has gotten older, so have I.

My hands can’t hold the comb as long as they used to. My arms and back get tired. And these days, I have a few extra responsibilities and a few less of the pleasures than I hoped for. Sometimes, by the time I’ve combed out all Tooey’s mats, I find myself in tears of exhaustion.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do. One idea, an expensive one, is to hire it out. But I actually like the bathing and the trimming. It’s just the weekly, heavy-going combing out that’s so exhausting. I could do it less often, but honestly, I think that more than doubles the difficulty when I eventually do the combing. That makes it harder on both Tooey and me.

So I think now the thing to do is just keep Tooey’s coat really, really short all the time. Instead of clipping her once every three or four months like I’ve been doing, do it every month. Never let it get long so it has less chance of getting too thick for me to handle.

It’s a pity because Tooey is such a beautiful dog. She’s beautiful in a short coat, but she’s stunning when she is in a carefully trimmed full coat.

But I think those days may be gone now. We don’t do duck hunting anymore. And I’m not as much a stunner as I was back in the day, either. So now us old ladies will just have to rely on knowing our inner beauty shines through, with a shorter coat for Tooey and not quite so much exhaustion for both of us.

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I was thrilled to learn that one of Tooey’s puppies, Pax, was selected as the Best of Breed dog at the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America’s 2019 National Specialty.

I wasn’t there to see it, but I got lots of texts giving me the good news. And now here he is on the cover of the club’s May/June 2019 newsletter.

photo by Jeremy Kezer

Pax is owned and loved by Brenda. I think Pax heard her say that this show was going to be his swan song in the dog show world (he’s over 7 years old now). So he decided to show her that he still had it.

And boy does he. He was also selected for Best in Veteran Sweeps and Best Veteran Dog. I am so pleased for Brenda, and glad that Colleen and I (mostly Colleen) could breed such a fine puppy.

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The two dogs took Russ and me pheasant hunting today at the Payette River Wildlife Management Area. It’s the last day of the season, and they thought we might get lucky.

Well, we were lucky. We had a lovely walk along the river on a spectacular winter day. No birds, though. Unless you count the picked-clean pheasant carcass that Tooey retrieved. (Which I was foolish enough to not photograph before returning it to the wild.)

But we all had a good time. Here are some photos.


This last photo was taken at the same spot that the photo of Carlin was taken just a few days ago. (When Russ and Carlin had an equally lovely walk and just as many birds.)

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When hiking through the foothills and countryside with our dogs, Tooey has always been vigilant and ready to run down cottontail rabbits or black-tailed jackrabbits. By definition, upland game includes not only a variety of birds, but also includes rabbits and hares. And Tooey has read the manual. She knows what to do when she sees a rabbit. But steady to flush is not in her vocabulary, so a full speed pursuit is in order until she runs it down or it eludes her.

The only thing that separates our property from our neighbor’s sheep farm is a chainlink fence. Tooey is mostly oblivious to the ewes, but is perfectly willing to go head-to-head with a ram if he stands his ground (they often butt heads at the fence).

So when Tooey barks at the fence, we know it’s not at the sheep. Her steady barking this morning got my attention. All the sheep were in the next pasture, and it first looked like her focus was on an empty pen. But then it turned out to be a visiting rabbit taking advantage of the spare hay in the sheep pen.

Such frustration! A rabbit that can’t be chased. It won’t run, and there’s a fence in the way. Darn it! No bunny pie for Christmas.

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Ch Stanegate Second Thoughts CD RN JH JHU RATN CGC WD WDX “Tooey”

My sweet Tooey Honey is 10 years old. She’s thicker in the middle (like me), moves a bit slower (like me), loves a wide variety of food (like me), and enjoys her walks (also like me). She also loves chasing the squirrels (I’ll leave that to her) and playing with Carlin, sometimes (I’m right with her there).

Every morning when the lights go on, she hops on the bed and gives me a lick on the nose. I hope I keep getting those licks for many more years to come.

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There were some great things about our recent hunting trip in eastern Montana. Carlin and Tooey got to trot almost to their hearts’ content in the wild country without danger from snakes, ticks, or other dogs.

There were only a few cockleburs and grass awns, and those we got out from the dogs’ coats pretty quickly.

The stars at night were amazing. I’ve never seen the Milky Way so clearly, and the Big Dipper pretty much blew my socks off (not literally–it was too cold for that) with how close and crisp those stars appeared.

And the dogs found and flushed a few pheasants and sharptails.

But mostly, it was an unsatisfying trip. It was cold – really cold: in the low 20s F during the day, and 0 at night. The birds were few and far between. And it was very windy. Even though the dogs flushed a few birds, the north wind whipped them quickly up and out of gun range and off to the far southern horizon. Being November, the days were short, and we had a lot of driving between areas where we were permitted to hunt.

And then, there was that little trip to the vet…

A bit of back-story is in order: Almost 7 years ago to the day, Russ and I were hunting the Potholes in eastern Washington with Rod and Renae. We had their dog Rio along, and we had Cooper and Tooey. Tooey liked to cruise the edges of the ponds looking for whatever could be flushed or chased. And she found something – a porcupine. That porcupine got Tooey but good. We spent quite a while pulling quills out of her nose and muzzle. We got them all out, but as soon as we let her go, she ran right back toward that spot where the porcupine had been. She fully intended to get that porcupine for what it did to her. We called her off, and most reluctantly she turned away and came back.

But apparently, she has never given up her grudge against porcupines.

It turns out that porcupines like to eat the inner bark of trees. But until this last week, we didn’t know that. Both dogs were hunting in a draw crowded with bare, stunted trees. Fortunately, Russ was on the ridge right above them. Suddenly, he called out “Porcupine!”

The dogs had ventured into porcupine country. This is what I think went through their minds when Tooey encountered the porcupine. Tooey: “Porcupine! I am going to GET you, sucker.” Carlin: “I think I’ll go see what Tooey is looking at.”

Both dogs got quilled by the unhappy resident. Once Russ called out, the rest of us came running to grab the dogs and take them back to the truck, where we could try using a hemostat to pull the quills out.

But getting them out didn’t work so well this time. We finally muzzled Tooey with a rope during the operation, but it was clear that we wouldn’t get the ones out from inside her mouth. Carlin bit Russ on the thumb while Russ was trying to get the quills out, and besides, Carlin had a quill up one nostril.

So off to the vet we drove, a little office in Glendive, about an hour away from where we were hunting.

Dr. Jen at Dawson County Veterinary Clinic was awesome at getting those quills out. The vet also did a careful, thorough search of their paws (apparently, some dogs try to wipe the quills away from their muzzles and then get them stuck in their paws), ears, eyes, mouth, neck, and front legs.

Poor Tooey had to be sedated to get the quills out from the roof of her mouth.

She found several broken-off quills in both dogs, and pulled them out, too.

Based on what we’d just gone through, we were not surprised to hear that quill-pulling is a big part of Dr. Jen’s practice. One poor local dog apparently comes in once a month to have quills pulled. I guess some dogs never learn.

Like Tooey. I imagine that this incident will just intensify her grudge. I hope for Carlin, though. He’s not as happy to put up with pain as Tooey is.

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It was an all-dogs-all-the-time weekend. Often our weekends are that way, but this one was packed.

Agility

On Saturday morning, Russ took Carlin to beginning agility class. Apparently, Carlin is doing quite well and really enjoying it. I knew he would, and I’m very happy Russ has found a good instructor for it. Someday I’ll go watch, but I hear that they’re learning stuff in very small pieces.

Going for a walk

While they were gone, Tooey and I went for an hour-long walk while it was still cool. There’s this neighborhood to the south of us that I hadn’t explored yet, so was took the long way through the adjacent park, and then wound our way among the houses and streets. That section was not laid out in a grid, and it was full of dead ends and cul de sacs. I never did exactly get lost (I caught sight of a busy road that I recognized several times), but it wasn’t a straightforward walk. Tooey enjoyed it though, especially that last bit when I let her swim in our neighborhood irrigation canal. She looked for the ducks that often live in the reeds that line the bank, but none were to be found.

Bathe and trim (part one)

When we got home, Tooey got a bath and trim. She was filthy. As in, the-water-turned-brown filthy. As in, why-have-I-been-letting-this-filthy-beast-sleep-on-the-bed filthy. By that time of the morning, the temperature had already reached the high 90s F, so blowing her dry was mostly a formality. Although it does get the loose hairs out of her coat, which means I don’t have to do quite as much brushing and combing. With a light trim, Tooey was looking and smelling beautiful again.

Bathe and trim (part two)

When Russ got home, Carlin got a bath and a clip-down. He was dirty, but not nearly as dirty as Tooey. (Perhaps that’s because of her swim in the irrigation canal?) I haven’t been clipping Carlin down because I had still been harboring this fantasy that I might show him in October, but I finally realized that that’s not going to happen. He doesn’t like judges touching him, he’s worried about being so close to other dogs, and I don’t handle all that very well. And plus, there’s unlikely to be any IWS in the Boise shows in October, so there’d be no point in showing him. (You conformation folks will get the pun, eh?)

So he got clipped. His topknot and ears went down to about ¾”, and the rest of him to 3/8”. He looks very handsome to me. Plus he and I are training for hunting now, and a short coat makes it easier to get out the burrs, seeds, and grass awns.

The First End

After about 3-1/2 hours, both Carlin and I were done grooming. I had Russ’s delicious soup for dinner, did a load of laundry, watched TV for a bit, and went to bed.

It all started again on Sunday morning.

Scent work

My scentwork group all came over to my house early in the morning to practice. We did several Interior Advanced hides, a couple of Exterior Advanced hides, one vehicle search (which is not part of AKC Scent Work, but is done in some other organizations’ searches), a Handler Discrimination Novice search, and an Advanced Container search with extra containers. Carlin did well on all of them except Containers.

In Containers, he could not concentrate. The containers were on his lawn, he ran last after all the other dogs, and all he could think about was sniffing the grass to learn more about all the other dogs. Finding odor was just not of any interest at all. OK, so I guess we go back to basics in Containers on grass. Normally, I practice Containers on concrete, but I’m going to have to change my ways. Somehow.

Spaniel training

After lunch, Carlin and I then trucked off to a friend’s property to practice water blinds and hunt deads. Since by that time it had gotten really hot, we decided to do water work first. My friend is an accomplished retriever person, and she set up some fun land-water-land-water-land blinds for Carlin. They weren’t long blinds, but it did mean that he had to resist stopping to hunt around on the island. He’s been through this scenario before, and I didn’t have to handle him very much. If this had been a retriever hunt test, it would not have met the standard—I let him get way off the straight line from me to the bumper, but my goal was to get him down wind from the bumper so he could find it on his own. Which he did just fine, several times in multiple locations.

Then came the hunt dead. Carlin has never failed a hunt dead in a spaniel test, but he’s gotten himself way off course many times. Enough to push time limit to the very nubbins. Enough to raise my stress level considerably, and enough to lower his score by quite a bit.

In a hunt dead, the handler knows only vaguely where the bird is. The judge will say, for example, that the bird is somewhere in the arc formed by that distant that tree out there to the left and that fence post out to the right, and about 65 yards out from the line. So basically, you try to make some kind of educated guess as to where the bird might be, and then send your dog straight out in a line to a spot downwind from that spot. Of course, you have to guess where downwind is out 65 yards away—sometimes that’s obvious, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the wind is moving differently out there. Or there may not be any breath of wind at all.

And in yesterday’s practice, Carlin did exactly right. We set it up so that Carlin would out into a cross breeze. I sent him in a line that would put him downwind of where I thought the bird was, he actually took that line, and then hooked a right when he winded the bird. Actually taking the line is what I was looking for. So, good boy!

Riding in the car

While Carlin and I were gone, Russ took Tooey for a ride in the car, which is a good thing in and of itself. He was looking for a DMV where he could maneuver the boat and trailer, so both could be licensed and registered in Idaho. Since this was a reconnaissance mission, there were no worries about leaving Tooey in a hot car. Just a nice air-conditioned ride on a hot sunny day.

the now-registered Spainnear Uisce (the boat), Tooey, and Carlin

The Ending End

By the time we all got home, it was time for dinner, a little TV, another load of laundry (to wash the dog bath towels), and bed.

Like I said, all dogs, all the time.

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Back when I got my first Irish Water Spaniel, Cooper, I had a lot of help learning to groom and trim the coat. Cooper was a wiggly puppy, not all that eager to be up on the grooming table at all, much less stand still while people were working with very sharp shears around all his tender spots.

One of my first teachers, Colleen, used to have me come to her house before dog shows so she could get my attempt at a trim into good shape.

Cooper and Colleen

When she got to trimming around his boy bits, I would hold them out of the way and cover them with my hands. I didn’t want him to be hurt, and I knew he’d never get up on the table again if he got cut back there. Colleen was very careful and always warned me when she was getting close.

“I don’t want to cut you,” she’d say.

“Better me than him,” I’d reply.

She never did cut me or him. As I observed and practiced, I got better, and since then, I’ve able to do a pretty good job without more than a minor nick on either myself or my dogs.

So, I was grooming Carlin yesterday. He doesn’t love standing still either. It was a nice day, so I had the door open. I had the shears out. One of my hands was shielding the hanging boy bits, and the other trimming nearby long coat.

And then something happened outside. Tooey jumped up and ran out into the back yard. Carlin jerked, and my finger got in the way of the tips of those very sharp shears just as they were closing. It was a small cut — I didn’t even notice it until later.

But the whole thing scared the crap out of me. He was fine, though, and my finger is already mostly healed.

Better me than him.

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Carlin did something last Saturday that I still can’t figure out.

Here’s the setting: A quiet, warm afternoon, warm enough to want to leave the doors and windows open, but not so hot as to be oppressive. Carlin up on the grooming table in the grooming room (which is in an outbuilding), facing the open door to the outside. Me wielding scissors on Carlin’s coat to finish up an hour of combing and clipping.

All of a sudden, Carlin became very distracted. His nose started doing a lot of vigorous sniffing. His head waved side to side, obviously trying to capture the scent to determine where and from what this new scent is coming from.

I thought maybe he wanted to go outside, so I let him off the table. He stuck his head partway out the door, and then turned around and ran to the opposite side of the room, where he hid behind some machinery stored there. When I went to see what he was doing, I was concerned to see him shaking like the proverbial leaf. His whole body was shaking and the whites of his eyes were showing.

Tooey, on the other hand, was lying on the floor near the door, snoozing. She didn’t seem concerned at all. So I woke her up, and she and I went out to case the yard, trying to see what might be out there. My first thought was mountain lion (not likely, but not impossible). Then I thought, maybe skunk. But usually, I can smell skunk, and I didn’t detect that. Tooey remained unconcerned as we patrolled the property together.

When we got back to the grooming room, Carlin was standing a bit closer to the door (I think to keep track of Tooey and me), but he was still shaking.

So, I got Tooey back into the room and shut the door. Carlin relaxed a bit with the door shut, so I got him back up onto the table and I finished grooming him.

But then we had to get back to the house. I opened the door to the grooming room again, and Tooey and I stepped out and walked to the front door of the house. Carlin could easily see us from the grooming room, and when I got the front door to the house open, he ran as fast as he could from the grooming room, to the front door, and into the house.

He paced around inside, clearly not comfortable. So I gave him some Rescue Remedy and a cookie, and had him go into his crate in a dark room for a bit.

That evening, he was willing to go out the dog door in back and into the chain link kennel that evening, but not out into the front yard. At bedtime, I gave him more Rescue Remedy and we all hopped onto my bed to sleep.

The next morning, he reluctantly went out the front door and peed in the front yard, but then came right back to the porch, where he paced back and forth, still worried about whatever it was. I gave him more Rescue Remedy, and just let him stay in the house and kennel—wherever he wanted to be. Tooey and I stayed outside.

Finally, by that evening, he must have been satisfied that all danger was past, and happily ran all over the front yard, saying hi to the neighbor’s sheep and cat.

I asked the neighbor if he saw anything unusual on any of his extensive collection of surveillance cameras, but no. I guess it will just have to remain a mystery.

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Last summer, Tooey found and sampled almost all the ripe melons before we had a chance to harvest them. We just got used to eating around the bites she’d taken.

She’d pick one up, take it to a nice shady spot, and have a snack. If it it wasn’t quite ripe enough for her, she’d retrieve another.

Carlin got into the act, too. He liked cucumbers and lettuce.

So this year, when we replaced the old rotting raised beds with new sheet metal ones, we decided we’d build a fence around them to keep the dogs out. Or we hope it’ll keep them out anyway. They’re not particularly enterprising thieves. For example, they haven’t bothered to figure out how to open the cabinet where the kitchen garbage is kept, and they don’t counter surf (at least yet).

Once we get the gate installed (it wasn’t in yet at the time of the photos below), we hope the fence will be sufficient to keep them out.

But then we caught them casing the situation, so you never know what will happen once the scent of ripe cantaloupes and cucumbers starts floating through the air.

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Think large, raw link sausages. Thick, fully packed, almost to bursting. That’s how Tooey’s lower intestines looked on the X-ray.

I’d known she was feeling bad for a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. She was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, and sleeping just fine. But she didn’t quite run as fast as I thought she used to, and she just didn’t seem to enjoy the things she usually enjoyed. Like, she could hardly have cared less about finding her rat in a couple of Barn Hunt practices, and she totally didn’t care during the Barn Hunt trial in late March. When I took her out to a friend’s ranch, she didn’t critter at all, just kind of moped along as we walked.

Then I felt her abdomen, and one side felt enlarged and firm, in a soft sort of way. I had my friend Jan feel it too, and she said, “Take her to the vet tomorrow.”

So I did.

Honestly, I was afraid — I was afraid that Tooey had cancer. The vet listened to me and examined Tooey, and suggested X-rays to take a look at the soft tissue. So that’s what we did.

Turns out, Tooey’s intestines were so full of poop that the vet couldn’t see any organs at all. Tooey was constipated. Which is odd, since I’d been picking up poop every day.

So I fasted Tooey for 24 hours (oh, she hated that!), and took her back to the vet again the next day for new X-rays. This time things looked much better. Only about a 1/3 of her intestines were full, and the vet could see that her organs looked fine. The spleen she described as “prominent”, but not enlarged, so that’s worth watching, but nothing to worry about.

But Tooey still wasn’t feeling well. So the vet did another quick exam, and found a broken upper molar. It hadn’t been stopping Tooey from eating, but it must have hurt. It also could have been infected and abscessed. So I gave the go-ahead to have the tooth pulled.

While Tooey’s tooth was being extracted, the vet found two more broken teeth, another upper molar and a lower pre-molar. So those were pulled, too.

We went home with a prescription for pain pills, antibiotics, and direction for adding more blended veggies to Tooey’s diet.

I have to say, that after just few day, Tooey is much perkier. I even found her crittering in the woodpile. So I know she’s feeling much happier.

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