July 2016 Archives

Taji on the bed

It all started when we were in the car on the way back from the vet. Taji was slightly overweight, so Cleodhna was calling him “fat boy”, “lardass”, and so on. He’d put up quite a struggle before they could take a blood sample, so she was also alternately calling him “petunia”, “wussbag” etc. Then she crossed the streams.

“Fat Petunia!”

That was instantly, indelibly, unavoidably, his nickname from then on. He gained more nicknames over the years: “chocolate” from when he ate an entire bar of Green & Black’s and had to be rushed to the emergency vet (the case notes for that incident read in part “large amount of dark brown chocolate smelling vomit produced”); “bell” from the bell we put on his collar when in France so we could hear him having got out of our garden and into the neighbours’. He would blow his coat twice a year, but refused to let us brush him, or pluck any more than a few handfuls of tufts off him; that was where “fruity hairball” (or, possibly, “hairy fruitball”) came from. (When he needed to have his teeth descaled, something that by necessity involves general anaesthesia because you can’t tell a dog to hold his head still and not move, we asked the vets to also pluck all the loose hair from him while they were at it. One of the vet nurses described the process as “oddly therapeutic”, like doggy bubble wrap.) He got “deckchair” from his habit of lying down from standing: first cantilevering his hindquarters down, then his front.

He was also the first of our dogs who truly had a voice of his own. Something about him made us want to speak aloud the thoughts that, we were quite clear, were going through that strange doggy brain of his. Typically they would start with “you have food. Give it to me”; when rebuffed, he would point out good and noble things that he had done recently, and, after a pause, “I should be rewarded”. (If we pointed out that he’d just had such a thing only moments ago, his response would be “I have no concept of time”.) He seemed the sort of dog that would try to argue logically but fail, so we delighted in him spouting grotesquely flawed arguments.

His first owner thought he was (or should be) a tough guy dog, and taught him all sorts of bad habits; two other would-be owners returned him to the kennels because he was too boisterous. Cleodhna had bruises all over her arms and legs when we first got him because he would occasionally do a “batzoid” when out on walks, jumping up and biting her. Eventually we realised that this wasn’t aggression, but something he thought was a game that he should play, so we resolved to just turn our backs until he stopped, and within a couple of months he stopped and never did it again.

In truth, Taji was a total goofball - “cozy lummox” I’d call him. He loved nothing more than to sleep on the bed with me; I’d have to make sure that the duvet was spread over his side of the bed because he wouldn’t lie down otherwise, he’d turn around in place two or three times just to be sure, and then flop down beside me with a satisfied sigh. Often work started later than planned because how could you get out of bed when there was a warm furry akita to cuddle?

When Berkeley died we decided we would truly embrace the life of endless drifts of dog hair and get a longcoat Akita. Ella is as different from him as it’s possible to be while still being the same breed, but he patiently accepted her into the family, even when she decided that the best thing about his tail was that it would fit in her mouth. He was slowing down - 10 is a reasonable age for a large dog like an Akita - but the arrival of a new puppy rejuvenated him to some degree; only a couple of weeks ago they were happily romping in the garden.

In the end, it was quick: he suffered a quick gastric dilation that damaged a fairly hefty part of his stomach lining, which then proceeded to leak toxins into his system. We rushed him to the vet on Thursday evening, then again on Friday afternoon, and he was dead on Saturday morning.

Ella is arguably a “better” dog - she has a wonderful temperament, without any hang-ups, and she’ll let us brush her. I look forward to when she’s fully grown and I have to stop calling her puppy and can instead call her Your Furry Highness or Your Hairy Majesty. But we would never have had her if Taji hadn’t first shown us the Way of the Akita. Thank you for all you gave us, dear old boy. I miss you terribly.

Taji in our garden

Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; what would third be?

"Enemy action" doesn't apply as both times things have been scary but ultimately good things.

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This is now the second time that my cousin Barney has jumped in to help us during an emergency the day before he was due to drive back to the UK from our house in France. The first time, it was when a storm went from “impressive!” to “er, this is getting a bit scary” to “help, a tile from a neighbour’s roof has shattered a window and water is running through the kitchen!”. This time it was “Taji isn’t looking well, he has a distended stomach and he’s just tried to throw up but nothing happened; damn, this might well be bloat, in which case we might only have an hour or two”. He needed a vet, and I’d had enough to drink that I was probably over the limit (not that in this case it would have stopped me), but Barney stepped up, and we bundled Taji into his car.

This post wasn’t titled “Taji Totoro Fat Chocolate Bell Petunia Fruity Hairball Deckchair Nightshade: 2006-2016” so it’s giving nothing away to say that Taji is fine. He’s asleep on the kitchen floor, dreaming happy opioid dreams; Habibi and Ella, having fussed over him when he came in, are asleep nearby. The vets told us to let his stomach empty entirely before we let him drink in the morning, and then have some food by midday, small doses each, so that’s what we’ll do. We’ll get some elevated food bowls because there’s a suggestion that it helps. But in truth nobody really knows why big dogs can get stomach bloat, or why it happened this time. He certainly didn’t do anything obvious like wolf down a huge quantity of food and then do a sled run, which is the closest vets have to a likely cause.

Once at the vet surgery, they sedated him a bit to x-ray him, found a whole bunch of air inside his stomach, sedated him some more so they could stick a probe down his throat and suck a bunch of air and water out and not much more; then we waited for Taji to unzonk, while Barney had a power nap in the car, and the two vets (on-call vet + vet who knows what he’s doing) discussed between themselves why on-call vet thought Akitas were smaller, and which breed he was thinking of instead. Remembering the last time that Taji had general anaesthetic (he needed his teeth cleaned, but while they were at it we asked them to also cut his nails and pluck him of his blown coat that he normally won’t let us touch), I took the opportunity to pluck him. Unfortunately I only got to deal with one half of him as he was lying on his side, so he’ll probably look rather strange in the morning.

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that all problems in the world can be found to involve telephony and/or computer problems these days. Most trivially, by the time senior vet went to look for x-rays, it took him a while to realise that we’d gone from 14th July to 15th July, so the reason why the photos were missing was that he was now officially in the Wrong Day. More interestingly, on-call vet was accustomed to seeing people phone the vet’s phone number and getting put through to his mobile, presenting as phoning him from the vet practice. When I called, though, the practice’s telephony passed my number - all 13 digits of it - straight through, so on-call vet assumed he was being cold-called by dodgy randos. It’s only because I called back a few times that he was persuaded that I was serious.

Wait, no, I can blame something even more topical. When I called the first time I assumed that the vet’s phone system was on the blink because I couldn’t hear anything happening; in fact, my phone was for some reason only relaying sound when I put the speaker on, so the first message on-call vet got in his voicemail was basically background noise of trees rustling in the breeze while I waited for something to happen. Once we’d arrived at the vet’s I rebooted my phone and everything was back to normal again.

What happened to my phone, though, that I could only use it as a speakerphone and not as an actual, you know, phone? Well, there was only one thing I’d done recently that could have anything to do with that.

That’s right.

I blame Pokémon Go.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

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