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About Your Dog...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SO much good has been happening lately. Book's almost officially out; I'm filling your orders every day and loving that you're ordering them from me. It's taking pretty much all I've got to get these orders filled before the ship date arrives. THANK YOU! 

You make everything I'm fixin' to whine about possible. I mean that. Thank you. 

Every light source casts a shadow, and lately I've been dancing in and out of view.

The Universe is lobbing messages at me thick and fast, acting as if I weren't listening. So it keeps pitching them faster and harder. 

Your teeth. 
 They're cracked. 
Yes, several.   And they're all going to go at once. 

OK.  Uh huh. So I'm not invulnerable. Got it. Thanks.

And you maxed out your dental insurance for the year with the first root canal. Next one, and all the crowns, are on you, Sister. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Right when I have to scratch together money to pay for Phoebe's college? 

Yep. You have to fix your teeth now. Because, you know, eating and drinking and pain and all that.

And...Psst. It's not just your teeth. Everything is broken. Both upstairs and downstairs refrigerators are going to die within a week of each other.  Bathroom fixtures, furnace dying; septic aerator dead;  drains plugged...notice anything else? Car. Liam needs a car. So you need another car.

Universe, I don't want to look around any more. I want things to work like they're supposed to. I want things to work like Bill and I do. Which is all the time, and hard.

Yes. Well, work harder. 

Ahem. Now. About your dog. That little black dog of yours.
That one you love so much.

I CAN'T HEAR YOU, UNIVERSE. Get out of here. Leave us alone.
My little dog is exempt from your stupid plan, whatever it is. He's too dear. Keep your damn gloms off him.

Well, here's the thing. He can't hear you. Ha. Ha. Ha. 

Remember the little video of Chet Baker trying to get a chipmunk out of a log? I get a whole 'nother thing out of watching that video now that I know what was going on with him, as far back as February 7, when it was made.
If you'll indulge me, please watch it again.

Notice how, when I speak to him, his ears don't swivel? And when I finally turn to leave and call him, he seems to be ignoring me? At the time, I chalked it up to his being interested in the chipmunk inside the log. Still, I wondered. You can hear me pause, laugh nervously, and say, "It's gettin' dark." Then I turn around and am relieved that he's following at last. Big sigh.  Even though he's half rat terrier, it was well out of character for him to keep at the chipmunk log when I'd gently asked him to come with me. 

I know now he wasn't ignoring me. He couldn't hear me.

 The very evening I shot that video, a lot of other stuff happened.

That night  I got my first real clue that something was wrong, in two of the most terrifying hours of my life, when he simply vanished.  We'd stayed out to watch this sunset from a ridge several miles from home. Then we turned back to the road, where my car was parked about a mile distant. One minute I had stopped to take a photo of Buddy's old house, lit by one porch light, and Chet was right beside me, and I was talking to him, and the next he was gone, nowhere to be found.  What in the Sam Hill??? Chet Baker doesn't leave his Mether! Did a coy-wolf snatch him away?

When it got pitch dark, Chet lost track of me. When he could no longer see me, he panicked and, against all reason, backtracked the way we'd come, looking for me. I was out on the road, and he took off back they way we'd come, into the woods, up the ridge trail we'd just come down. I couldn't know at the time why he did that, what he was thinking or where he might have gone; all I could do is yell myself hoarse and run up and down the road, trying to find him in the pitch dark.  Little did I know that no matter how loudly I yelled, he couldn't hear me. I guess I thought he was having a momentary lapse of reason. I had to run to a hilltop for reception and call my friend Gary to bring his truck and a big flashlight.  I was never so happy to hear a phone pick up, to have a friend who'd jump to my aid. We drove all of Pontius Road and then took the truck onto to the woods road I'd been on. It was a last resort. I couldn't believe my dog would just run off. I knew he had to be confused, because he never leaves me on purpose unless he's got a good (animal chasin') reason.

 Chet suddenly materialized out of the dark, running toward the truck headlights, frantically looking for me. I leapt out of the truck and wrapped my arms around that little sausage. I don't know who was happier. We were both wriggling. He had run away from me on a 37 degree night with the wind picking up and the coy-wolves waiting. I thought he had panicked  and just wasn't listening. I didn't yet know he couldn't hear me.

Chet contracted an ear infection in early February, and nursed it quietly until he turned up holding his head to one side and listless. On February 19, he simply stopped obeying my commands to go to this or that side of the road, something at which he had always been automatic and flawless and absolutely dependable. And on our afternoon run that day, he ignored my increasingly sharp calls and trotted right out into the road as a roaring pickup was coming on. Horrified, I sprinted up and clawed him out of its path, muscling him to the shoulder of the road. The truck slowed, then accelerated again, gunning his engine. You and your stupid dog, outta my way. (Thanks for your understanding, Big Shot.)

 When Chet finally saw the truck roar by he cringed and shrank backward, shocked that he hadn't known it was there. He was mortified and scared to death. And I knew then without a doubt he was deaf. The realization hit me like that truck nearly hit him. And then I knew why I'd lost him two weeks earlier, and why he had "ignored" me when I'd suggested he leave the chiptymunk and come with me. Suddenly it all made sense.

Although it was the day before I was to leave for Costa Rica, I rushed him to Dr. Lutz; we treated it with systemic and topical antibiotics (well, Bill and Liam did, while I was away!) and the infection cleared up nicely, but it took what remained of his hearing with it when it left. 

He was confused, so lost, so sad. He couldn't understand why I wasn't talking to him any more. Why I'd move my mouth but make no sound.
I was crushed. How could this be? How could my best friend, the one I tell everything, no longer hear me? 

I took him to Dr. Lutz for a followup after the antibiotic course, and she said his ears looked 100% better than when I'd first brought him in. He was out of pain.  Those beautiful ears were clean and healed. But they didn't work any more. 

It's been an adjustment for us all.

This little dog, who has gone blissfully naked all his life, wears a collar now whenever we go out.  And on that collar is a bell. It's clanky, and sounds like a sheep bell.  It alerts the wildlife that we're coming. I purely hated it at first. But now it comforts me, because I can always tell where he is. I need to know where he is all the time, if we're to keep running these roads. Sometimes I take it off him on the dirt roads in broad daylight. We've been sticking to the dirt roads.

We run a lot less. We're both getting soft. I mean to fix that. But I haven't had much time lately or, frankly, the heart.

The little green disc is a light that I can press to activate when it gets dark. The light's a good thing, too. But we haven't had to test it yet. 

If you look at all these recent photos of Chet, you'll see he holds his ears swiveled back now. It's as if he's trying to hear anything that might sneak up behind him. As if he is afraid he'll miss something. Because he is. He looks over his shoulder constantly, worried about the trucks. Dirt roads, that's the ticket.

I had to grieve for awhile. And so did Liam, and especially Phoebe. The thing that we all had to get through our heads was that nothing but his hearing had changed. He wasn't gone--he was still all Bacon. He didn't stop needing to be spoken to and loved and comforted and joked and messed with, just because his world had gone silent.

He gets even more kisses now.

The thing he had to get through his smart little noggin was that he has to keep his eyes on me at all times. It didn't take long for him to catch on that he'd have to use his nose and those googly eyes a lot more to keep track of me.
And he's doing really well at that. He follows me around the house like a hemorrhoid. Well, even more like a hemorrhoid than usual. I have grown accustomed to having the bathroom door scratched open. It makes me laugh, except when I'm in the shower and he wanders in to say hello, then leaves with the door wide open and freezes me out.

We're working on hand signals. He'll stand and look at me, waiting for an invitation to come out the door or get out of the car. He sees my lips moving and stares at me. Well? And when I give the hand signal, out he comes. He's quicker to learn than I am.

He trots ahead of me, but checks over his shoulder every minute or so to make sure I'm still there. Unless he's on the way home, toward dark or in bad weather. Then he goes like a bat out of hell, doesn't look back nearly as much, and I have no choice but to keep up. Speed has never been my forte. Maybe I'll lose some weight.  Keeping up with The Bacon, keeping him safe, is a strong motivator. 

It was hard for Phoebe. When she came home for spring break her beloved pooch had changed, a lot. For not only had he lost his hearing, but Dr. Lutz and I were also in the process of figuring out that he had low thyroid levels, as well. His hair was thinning; he was drinking a lot more water than usual, his nose was warm more often than cool, and his energy was low. Sometimes he wouldn't want to come for a run. He quit tearing up cereal boxes. What?? That wasn't Chet Baker. Something else had to be wrong.  A blood workup confirmed our suspicions, and Dr. Lutz started him on thyroid medication March 11, when Phoebe came home from Bowdoin to find her little dog a sort of low-energy shadow of his former self.

We started the thyroid pills, and within only a couple of days we started referring to them as his "Feel Good Pills."  Better living through chemistry!

And the neat thing about that was she got to be home for three weeks to see him start feeling a little better, every day. To feel well enough to be a goofball again, to frisk and try to grab the basketball and pop it! To jump up in the UPS truck! To murph for treats! To be a pest! To tear things up!

To show off for her friends Elizabeth and Zach from Bowdoin! Who had driven 13 hours, she maintains, just to meet Chet Baker.
We are all happy to be upstaged. Upstaging is what Chet Baker does best.

He has not wanted for love. Forget Heaven. This is a Boston terrier's concept of it. I'm smiling, looking at this photo.

 In my head, I just heard my DOD, who was basically bald from college on, saying, "Look at all that hair."  At my college graduation ceremonies, as we looked over the sea of student heads, he kept saying that. At the time, I didn't quite get what he meant. Now I do. And I'm laughing out loud. Beauty is wasted on the young. Of course we have nice hair. What of it?

Like the glossy thick hair and smooth porcelain skin of youth, all things change, whether we want them to or not. Dogs change much too soon, and much too fast, to be fair. We have to listen hard to what they're telling us, and try our best to catch their subtle SOS's. 

We have to ask ourselves if our sweet boy is just suddenly slowing down at 11, or if he's got a problem (or two).
Whether we want to or not, we have to listen to the Universe, feel that pointed elbow digging in our ribs, pay attention.

And after that, after we've done everything we can to help them, we must learn to love our dogs for who they are, what they are and where they are, every step of the way, in their all-too-brief walk alongside us.

Or out in front of us. Mr. FeelGood picks up speed, a little black pony headed for the barn, more than two miles away.

HOLD ON THERE CHET! I'm a-comin'!


When we so much love where we were (the seemingly endless steady state - raising kids, dogs..) it's hard to contemplate the future. Best of luck Julie. You're not alone.

He may not hear you, but he sure feels you. Such good love. Going in both directions. A heartwarming, lovely post leaving me with teary eyes for the pooches in my past.
Love to little CB

Thank you for posting this, Julie. It's strange, but I had noticed a change in your language about Chet in your posts, and had an undercurrent of uneasiness that something had changed, that something was wrong. Like BuddysMom said, you're not alone. You've shared Chet Baker with us, and we are part of his extended family. I'm glad that the thyroid med is working. I'm glad that the hand signals are reconnecting him to those who love him. Illness is a bitch, and can take things away from us that are unexpected, but it can't take away love and caring of those in our lives. In the end, that is what makes all the difference, be we human or be we dog.

Sweet Chet Baker. I'm happy to hear he's learning to sign and feeling much better with his thyroid situation under control and his ear infection gone. He's so smart and so loving and so loved - and living in the *now* as animals do, he doesn't have to worry about the future the way we do. As long as he has his Mether and the rest of his family, he's fine! The bell and the light on the collar are great ideas.

Kisses to Chet and hugs to his mommy, I understand what you all are going through, with blind & deaf Peewee at my side, snoring another day away on his big bed (16 yrs old next month). They have things to teach us, about aging and living. And youth! Beautiful youth, marvelous maturity, and good dogs. Miss Weezy in TX

Posted by Anonymous April 5, 2016 at 6:04 AM

Poor Chet! And you! I know of several dogs who have gone deaf later in life who then used a vibrating collar. When their owner made it vibrate via remote control they "checked in" /looked over to their owner for a hand signal :) note this is not a shock collar of any kind!

Posted by Anonymous April 5, 2016 at 6:19 AM

gratitude abounds...

Posted by Anonymous April 5, 2016 at 6:49 AM

Thank you for posting this and telling us Chet's story. He's in such good and loving hands and hearts. And I know he feels the good wishes he gets from afar. Give that doggie a hug from his pals in California.

PS-- I maxed out my dental insurance on one root canal and a crown too. And I have a sense there will be more of that before this year is through. Sigh.

So sorry for all your problems. But at least you'll have Chet for a while yet. I lost my best dog to a stupid accident in her prime and never got the chance to enjoy her through old age.

Sad story, but one full of love!

Hey you. Chet Baker looks great and fit and will be with you for a long time yet. I'm hearing disabled but have hearing aids to help. Nothing like that available for dogs yet, but you're such a conscientious guardian that I'm sure you'll be always aware of his needs to keep him safe. You sure write beautifully! I love the hemorrhoid reference! What a hoot!

Posted by susie parker campbell April 5, 2016 at 8:10 AM

Who ever heard of putting a cow bell on bacon?

sigh. So sweet with no bitter. Aw Chet, how we love you so.....

Posted by giggles April 5, 2016 at 8:58 AM

It's so hard to watch, but it's just an adjustment. Animals deal with these changes in themselves much more gracefully than humans. I hope you have many more years of the "new" Chet Baker. And it's not just to make you feel better that I say your relationship will deepen to a point you never imagined it could as you two move forward. You thought you couldn't love him any more with all the things you shared to now, but now is when the real stuff begins. I hope you enjoy the journey, much love and joy to both of you.

Just wonderful, feeling your love and insight! ♥♥♥

Our beloved mini schnauzer Sadie lost her hearing around age 14, we discovered it when she escaped her electric fence - she could no longer hear the warning beep, and she had gotten thin so her collar no longer gave her a zap. It took us over two hours to find her, in a neighborhood across a busy road. We just lost her two weeks ago, at 16 and a half. I always had my heart in my throat when we came home, since she could no longer hear us arrive and greet us, until we found her somewhere in the house and we could see her breathing. How we love our furry friends, and miss them when they are gone......

Didn't expect to shed tears when I opened your blog this A.M. But, on reflection, am so glad he survived his "adventure" unscathed and so glad you & and he are surrounded by loved ones and your own bit of paradise. As to money challenges...we all have them: just know that you'll make more money.

Posted by Kerry Reynard April 5, 2016 at 12:29 PM

Chet will adapt, he already has; it's the humans that always need more time. Best to you and Chet, it sounds like its's been a rough few months but it time has a way of smoothing out
the rough spots.

Thank you for sharing your life, it created some pause in my early morning rush and gave another Boston in Ohio some extra cuddle time.

Hang tight, you got this!

I held my breath as I read this, and found myself feeling your sadness so intensely. How difficult this must be for Chet and for all of you who love him so very dearly. But, in true Julie fashion, you've taken lemons and made exquisite lemonade for that special Bacon of yours. Yes, things will be different, but as you so eloquently stated, "He's still Chet." Sending so much love and so many warm hugs to you today, my friend. XO

Someone mentioned a vibrating collar (not a shock collar!), and that sounds like an excellent idea. Chet could easily be trained to look at you for a hand signal when it vibrates. He's very smart, so you could teach him a plethora of hand signals. Hey -- maybe he can even learn to lip read!

Posted by Anonymous April 5, 2016 at 1:58 PM

Wow. We have 11 yr old too. Hits home - old?
As I am not!! Asked my audiologist d if she knew anything for deaf dogs ( as she has outfitted me wonderfully). W/ aids out I literally don't hear thunder( might be a good thing for a dog?). Anyway her answer was "leash". Sorry
That collar sounds promising....

Beautiful blog, Julie. Our animals adapt. They change, they adapt. The hard part is our knowledge of the future. No matter how healthy they are now or how many more years we may still have, the uneasiness is the definitiveness of it all. My Sussex spaniel lived 18 healthy, active years. I suppose he was deaf the last two of those, maybe a bit less, and he was losing quite a bit of sight that last year. But around 14, I found myself spending more time holding his soft, silky paws, like I had this craving to memorize every hair and etch the sensation of those superbly soft, graceful paws into every line of my fingerprints. This dog went everywhere with me, he thought I walked on water and adored me even more, if that is possible. I had no idea I would have 4 more beautiful years with him. It was wonderful. But I am so glad I started to actively memorize those paws, and his silky muzzle, and the little curly smile of his right lip when he was happy. He passed away quietly in 2003, but it seems like only a couple years ago. And I can feel those magnificent, big and softly curved paws as if it were 5 minutes ago. For now, it is only memory that I can have, but I keep it with me always...and the feel of those great paws. It is enough. Our puppies and ponies can only run in our fields for so many years, but they run in our souls forever into infinite, and I feel so immensely fortunate that they have graced our lives. This helps a little with the impending unease that begins to veil our hearts as we experience these changes on the journey with our beloveds...Chet has a tremendous extended family! Preyers for him to lean even more on his mether and adapt boldly! Barbara and The Symphony of Hounds

Posted by Barbararay April 5, 2016 at 2:17 PM

Julie, I have always enjoyed the Chet posts but in my life I leaned toward cats, particularly our ornery indoor group of 3. I now realize how deeply I feel for you and your Chet Baker. (Years ago that special dog name even prompted me to dig out my dad's Chet Baker CDs to hear what I was missing.) After shedding tears here today and embracing my 18-year old cat Buddy (a Marietta, OH native), I realize my copy of Baby Birds may need to have a Chet print if my copy isn't already packed. (If it's too late, that's okay; she who hesitates is lost.) Thinking of you and your family and Chet as you continue to love each other and adapt. Thank you for sharing. Kim in PA

You give us all so much joy by sharing the natural world with us; I wish I could repay it by wiggling my nose and making all the tooth and doggie (and age!) troubles go away! Alas, life is a battle and a march as my mother says; keep on marching, because you and Chet are much loved.

When our 12 yr old lab went totally blind, I panicked. Our vet suggested that her sense of smell was more important to her than either her vision or hearing. He reassured me, and we had two more lovely years of her running thru the yard (which must have been memorized) chasing bunnies, living like nothing had changed, being my full time shadow, with nary a complaint unless I sat the laundry basket down without warning her where it was. We even continued playing ball, her favorite pasttime, with a ball that made noise. I'm sure you can figure out vision/light related tricks to help Chet Baker. Get those lovely haired children busy on that!

Chet is so loved, it makes little difference when it comes right down to it. A few changes, nothing earth shattering. He is one loved and lucky dog.
Your writing reminds me of dealing with my mothers hearing loss. It requires more effort, more patience, more tolerance, more attention to detail.
I love how you love this little dog. I wish I knew him.
Imagine if Chet's owner was not as astute or as loving as you Julie. Who knows what would have happened. God is good. He puts everything and everyone where it / they should be. Call it God, call it Higher Power,it is real and it is there.
My son and wife gave birth to this little beautiful baby girl. I am humbled, I am in awe of all of it. Dying orchids and all.

We all have spells when it feels like the Universe is using us for target practice! Step by step, bit by bit each problem will get solved, though patience usually gets a real workout.

Chet is becoming an "elder statesman" now, and will grow daily dearer to you. The extra effort to keep him safe and well and comfortable will seem more an honor than anything. He is surrounded by so much love, and what could make a dog happier than that?

I so appreciate all the moments of grace you share with us!

Julie, we love you and Chet. We're so sorry for your troubles. Our hopes are with you--

I'd like to add the vibrating collar is a good idea. I've had friends with deaf dogs who have done that with great results. I'm glad that you found what was going on with Chet and that he's not in pain & hopefully won't be confused now either. It's an adjustment as beloved pets get older. And I'm sorry for the troubles you're going thru (teeth-I'm there now too & there's always something that needs fixing in our old farmhouse). Sending you all good thoughts!

Sometimes these days I feel like Lucy in Peanuts, yelling, "I don't want any downs! I just want ups and ups and ups!" Well, none of us can avoid the downs--and thank you so much for recounting yours so eloquently, to provide the rest of us with the gumption to face ours. All the best to Chet, you, and the rest of the Indigo Hill tribe.

So sorry to hear of Chet Baker's hearing loss and thyroid issues. I am fully confident the love you all have for him will help with the adjustment to Chet, version 2. Your writing is beautiful, helped me right my ship after a crappy work day, for which I thank you. Also, it made me cry as I certainly understand the love and heartbreak you've been feeling. Our Mastiff has been on thyroid meds since last June. We also had no idea he had a thyroid problem until he started getting hot spots that after months of treatment, would not go away. We went to a new vet, she noticed a bald spot on his tail, said it was a telltale sign of a thyroid issue. Sure enough, tests proved her correct. After 9 months on the meds, he now is much perkier, his stamina has improved, his coat is much thicker and he eats better. Hopefully, Chet experiences the same good results. Bruno is cuddled up to me now, we both send hugs your way!


Posted by Anonymous April 6, 2016 at 6:59 PM

You all leave me humbled and grateful. Not alone, too, which is best of all. Thank you. Love you right back. What a wonderful, thoughtful, loving bouquet these comments are to me.

Tracy, Chet Baker has had the ugliest little naked monkey finger of a tail for a couple of years now. Wonder if that was our first sign? Good part, if there is one: I won't miss the signs again. Any future dog of mine will get care much sooner. I look forward to his appointment to draw blood and see how his thyroid hormone levels are after a month of treatment. That happens this week.

Best wishes to little Chet and it'll make him all that much more special. I think they make dog tracking devices for collars if you're really worried about him getting lost again.

Posted by Anonymous April 6, 2016 at 9:20 PM

I am owned by two Bostons, one is 10 and my newest rescue that I got last month is 12. Both have cataracts forming and the 10 year old had 5 abcessed teeth pulled a month ago and hasn't really recovered very well yet. I'm also having teeth problems and a new partial isn't fitting and few teeth left. Chet Baker sounds like a very smart BT and I'm sure he will acclimate to his hearing loss. Oh yes, I also wear hearing aids which help but lately ears are completely plugged up due to infection and I really can understand how he must feel. Good luck to both of you. I enjoy your blog very much.

broke a lower left molar Thurs night eating VA peanuts (so crunchy!) has not called me back.... fear he may be sick or retiring soon :(... wonder if my teeth are disintegrating, what's up with my bones? taking calcium supplements for years so obviously no useful absorption occurring.

weird that Chet lost hearing in both ears.... I am on my 3rd dog and even in old age, the nose seemed to take up the slack for the other failing senses. wonder why they do not make hearing aids for dogs- maybe dogs eat them? vibrating collar sounds good. Maybe you need to wear a light too so Chet can see you in the dark - or pin a piece of bacon to your shirt.

So I'm catching up on the story. Obviously. So now I DID cry for I've been there for myself and I've been there -- in that place you were -- for friends who have lost hearing over a short period. Hearing loss is so insidious, creeps up on you without your knowing, without your realizing what you can't hear. It's a shock, really. And with an animal who can't tell you, it is only natural that you'd be caught unaware. I grieve for you, too, and the things that Chet has lost. But you have it exactly right, and what we all must remember. That our hearing doesn't define us, and with its loss we are still whoever we were to begin with. If luck, and perseverance, is with us, we stand a chance of gaining something more too. The whole thing about whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Yeah, I believe that. Your post sounds so much like the human experience of hearing loss, the adjustments for family and for the person themselves. Learning new strategies, new ways of communicating. It all takes time. And a lot of patience.

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