Dog Articles

  • The Things We Miss

    Written by Jenny Pavlovic

    Several friends have lost 2-legged and 4-legged loved ones during this past year. The holidays are a busy time when these losses can be especially painful. So I invite you to focus on your loved ones this season, to give them your undivided attention and really see and enjoy them.

    One friend lost her Australian Cattle Dog to cancer. She told me that he used to sit by her chair in the evening. She would drop her arm over the side and pet him, unconsciously much of the time. Now when she drops her arm over the side of the chair, it is painfully obvious that he’s no longer there. So I invite you to be aware of and consciously enjoy those small interactions with your animals.

    When I say “the things we miss” I mean the things we miss once our loved ones are gone. I also mean the things we miss while our loved ones are here and things are happening, but we don’t sense them or understand them, or aren’t paying attention.

    When I watch my dog Chase interact with the kids at the library, I’m amazed at his intuition. Like the time he met a little 5-year old girl for the first time and went into a play bow. She said, “Look Mommy, he’s bowing!” I later learned that the girl was afraid of dogs. After reading to Chase, she told me that he was the first dog she hadn’t been afraid of. I think he went into a bow upon meeting her because having his eyes at her eye level would have been too scary for her. So he bowed to make himself shorter, and of course to invite play.

    I've learned a lot from Gingersnap, our cat. Last winter she often sat by the north wall of the living room, near a heat duct. I wondered if there was a critter in the duct. But during the summer, I found out that mice were getting in under the siding on the outside of the wall by where she'd been sitting. Ginger was like a pointer for mice. While the mice were out, I filled the hole with foil to keep them out and she stopped sitting there.

    ginger the cat

    In September, Ginger hopped up on the stove in the kitchen. She knows she's not supposed to be up there. But she was obsessing about something in the range hood. She took a swipe at the filter/guard above the stove, her toenail got caught and she pulled the whole thing off. The next thing I knew she was presenting me with a little mouse.

    A month or two ago, Ginger sat in the middle of the kitchen floor at night. There was no evidence of mice in the kitchen, and I couldn't figure out what was drawing her there. Then I discovered little bits of insulation on the floor in the basement below and learned that mice were running along the pipes on the basement ceiling, just below where Ginger sat in the kitchen at night. I'm sure animals sense a lot that we don't get, and I'm learning more and more from Ginger. Winter came early here this year, and it seems like a lot of mice found their way in.

    On November 9th, while walking the dogs by the St. Croix River, I spotted a pileated woodpecker drumming on a pole. I was able to take several pictures before it flew off. In the 25 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve often heard pileated woodpeckers, but can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen one. A couple of weeks later, I learned that a friend’s fiancé had passed away in a car accident on November 8th.  Pileated woodpeckers had appeared to his family and his fiancé that weekend, and she had remarked that it would be just like Carl, a logger, to visit as a pileated woodpecker. So was it merely a coincidence that I saw the woodpecker that weekend?

    woodpecker

    Those of you who have been reading along know that we lost our Australian Cattle Dog Bandit to multiple myeloma in March. On the day that he crossed over and countless times since, bald eagles have flown over our yard and the field where we walk every day. Chase usually spots the eagle first and runs along with it, barking up to it. Often I’ve seen a bald eagle crossing over the highway just in front of my truck as I’m driving 50 mph or more. I don’t know how they do it.

    November 13th would have been Bandit’s 11th birthday. There wasn’t much opportunity for me to see an eagle here that day since I had to walk the dogs in the dark that evening. Knowing Bandit’s playful spirit, I figured he’d do something different anyway. When I arrived home from work that day, his stuffed basketball, which had been in the same place on his bed since March, was on the other side of the room, right in my path as I walked through the house. Chase and Cay had been kenneled while I was gone and hadn’t moved that ball since Bandit left us. The ball is too big for Ginger the cat to move. So it felt like a ‘hello’ from Bandit.

    On Bandit’s birthday, Chase brought me the jolly ball like Bandit used to, and Cay brought me Bandit’s rubber chicken. They must have sensed his presence too.

    cay and chase

    A few days later I was walking the dogs up on the hill, thinking that I should tell a friend the story about the stuffed basketball. Suddenly, Chase took off full speed across the field, looking up at the sky, and let out a bark. I looked up and there was the bald eagle, making a pass across the field. He just made that one pass and then was gone. If Chase hadn’t pointed him out, I would have missed him. Chase continued to look for the eagle in the sky, and barked every once in a while. I think Chase and the eagle were communicating. I wonder if Chase felt Bandit’s spirit in the eagle as I did. I don’t completely understand these interactions, but I’m intrigued by them. Most of us miss so much and understand so little about our natural world.

    eagle

    Which brings me back to my original thought. This holiday season, take time to slow down and tune in to the natural world around you. Live in the present moment with your 4-legged friends. Take in and enjoy their essence and the little ways they keep you company. Ponder what you learn from them, or would if you were paying more attention.

    The holiday season can get way too busy. So I invite you to sit still with your loved ones and really notice what you’ve been missing, and what you’ll miss some day when they’re gone.  I promise you won’t regret it. Happy Holidays!
    ~~~
    My new book, There’s a Chicken in My Kitchen: Bandit’s Big Birthday Blizzard, is about a blizzard that ‘unplugs’ us and gives us the chance to really see and appreciate our loved ones. Watch for it next year.
    ~~~
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  • Finding Our Way

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Fall is here already. Where did the summer go? I had vowed that this summer would be different from last year, when Chase was diagnosed with colon cancer just after the 4th of July. The rest of that summer revolved around his care and cancer treatments. Then we discovered in September that Bandit had multiple myeloma, and life revolved around his care and treatments too. One season blurred into another, until Chase’s CT scan in February showed no evidence of disease, and we lost Bandit to multiple myeloma in March.

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    This summer was different.  Our mellower little pack was still grieving, and finding its way without Bandit. Chase took on the role of pack leader for the dogs. Sometimes Gingersnap the cat seemed to want this role too, but Cay was always content to follow. When Bandit’s health was failing early this year, Chase clearly wanted the pack leader position. Now that he has it, he sometimes seems a bit overwhelmed realizing the responsibility that Bandit had.

    Getting out and about is easier with two dogs than with three dogs, at least when they have to be on leash. We’ve found new places to walk and explore, including a trail by the river near home, and the levy going out to an island in the middle of the river in a nearby town. When out in public walking, Chase had become more protective when other dogs approached. He seemed to have learned this from Bandit and was taking other dogs too seriously for me. Chase loves people and wants to meet everyone, but this thing about other dogs had to change. My herding dogs get upset when a dog on a leash is dragging the person along or lunging out at the end of the leash. Clearly this is out-of-order rude behavior and the person should be in control, so some herding dogs want to fix the situation by correcting the other dog. I’ve told Chase that it’s not his business and I’ll manage the situation. I protect his space and, when necessary, I put my body between Chase and the other dog. I tell Chase to ‘leave it’ and reward him for complying. We’ve been working on this and he’s getting better, even though dogs who look out of control still concern him sometimes.

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    Over the summer we took several trips to Wisconsin to visit my family. Both dogs rode along and enjoyed visiting. Cay hadn’t traveled much before, so this was new for her. She has become more outgoing with people and eagerly solicits petting. She takes up more space than before, when Bandit sometimes herded her into the corner.

    When Cay had the opportunity to play with my niece’s children, she amazed me. While the 5 year old girl threw the ball for Chase, the 2 ½ year old little boy threw the ball for Cay. Cay is seven years old and has never retrieved a ball for me. So I was astounded to see her retrieve the ball over and over and over for the little boy. She took it back to him and set it down on the ground in front of him. Something magical was happening with Cay and this little boy. She was so good with the kids that I think she may have potential to join the R.E.A.D. program at the library. I plan to enroll her in the class this winter to prepare for the test. To this day, she has never retrieved a ball for me. She runs around with the ball and plays keep away!

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    Over the summer, we tended to Bandit’s memorial garden and spread his ashes in many of the places we had enjoyed together. Grief can be a long process, especially grief for a being who taught us so much and was an important part of our daily life. Last week I finished making a digital photo book of my last walk with Bandit and included the story of the bald eagles who visited frequently to lend strength and comfort before and after his passing. The following morning as I drove Chase and Cay to a routine vet appointment, a bald eagle touched down on the grass on my right and then flew across the road in front of my truck. This was in the middle of town, just a block from the vet clinic where Bandit crossed over. I was stunned.

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    I’m still catching up on things that I didn’t get to last year, like staining the deck. I bought the stain before July 4th last year and then… well you know what happened. The time with family and friends this year has been wonderful. And of course the time with the dogs is precious as it always has been. The nightly mouth joust between Cay and Chase is comforting.

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    When I run into people I haven’t seen for a while, I tell them why I ‘dropped out’ of regular activity for a while, and that we’re slowly getting back on track. I think about the decisions I made last year and how sometimes you just have to go for it, not knowing whether your best effort can bridge the gap between where you are (the disease) and where you need to be (the remission or cure). I took my best shot for both Bandit and Chase, knowing that my best shot might swish through the net or might just fall short of the goal.

    I’m working on a new book in memory of Bandit, based on a true story about my three dogs. The story will remind children to appreciate and pay attention to their pets and will highlight the gifts that we bring to each other. This is an important message for adults too.

    As we move into fall, our little pack is still finding our way, knowing that we’re no longer ready for a three dog night*. We are ready for a two dog, one cat night though. For now, that’ll do.

    ~~~

    * On cold nights, Indigenous Australians slept in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, a native species of wild dog. A very cold night was considered to be a "three dog night”.

    ~~~

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  • Still Saying Goodbye

    Written by Jenny Pavlovic

    We lost our beloved dog Bandit to multiple myeloma in March. I had a beautiful pendant made with some of his ashes inside, and I wear it on a chain around my neck, or on a bracelet. I mentioned before that I had a hard time deciding where to release Bandit's ashes, so I’ve been releasing smidgens of them in many of the places we had good times together. I had released some of his ashes up on our hill where we walk and play every day, and earlier in July I released some under the orange 'Moose that Wouldn't Move' (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2778) and in my parents' yard in Wisconsin where we used to play ball when we visited.

    One Saturday morning in July I took some ashes along on errands. I released some at the Washington County Fairgrounds where Bandit and I spent many hours doing tracking training. Last summer Bandit and I often went there on Saturday mornings while Chase was resting at home (in Cay's company) from a week of radiation therapy. I'm very grateful that Bandit and I had this time alone together, even while Chase required special care for his cancer treatments. As I released Bandit's ashes there, a red-tailed hawk circled and called out. When I looked up I saw a rainbow sun dog, a colorful ring around the sun. I thought about the time Bandit and I had spent there together, not just tracking, but sitting on the tailgate under a large tree waiting for the tracks to age, enjoying the morning. And I realized that I still have many tears left, some that I let go of that morning.

    It's funny how life often turns out differently than you plan and expect. I thought all that time Bandit and I spent tracking would lead us to tracking and versatility titles, but really that time together was the gift in itself. The dedication and determination to spend that time together, driven by goals that we ran out of time to complete, gave us the gift of that time. The real purpose of it all was a surprise because I never thought I’d lose Bandit so soon. I’m left with these memories of precious time alone with Bandit, time we might not have had if I’d only been able to focus on taking care of Chase.

    Later that Saturday morning in July, Chase and Cay and I went for a walk by the St. Croix River in our home town of Afton, Minnesota. I released more of Bandit’s ashes to the wind in this one more place where Bandit and I had shared good times. We had taken one of our last walks away from home there, when the river was iced over, long after Bandit had revealed that he could no longer track.

    Then on the way home Chase and Cay and I stopped at Afton State Park in the St. Croix River Valley, up on the hill behind our house, where Bandit and I did much of our tracking training. There I released more ashes to the wind. While I was turning the truck around to head home, a spotted fawn cantered out from behind a tree. I was emotionally drained and hungry and wanted to go home, but I paused to watch and enjoy the moment. The fawn's twin leapt out from behind the other side of the tree. They cavorted together for a moment right in front of the truck, then galloped off into the woods. What an amazing gift, something I might have missed before.

    Bandit never fit into a box any better than I do. He led me to all of these places, taught me so many things on our remarkable journey together. Yes, I feel very sad missing Bandit. But I also feel thankful for the time we had together, because I know the deep well of sadness is directly related to how remarkable our bond and our love for each other were.

    On a Sunday in July, we visited Bandit's mama Sparkee at his birthplace near Lake City, Minnesota. Bandit's formal name was 'Hillhaven Bolt out of the Blue', and Sparkee is the blue! Spark, still beautiful at age 15, has lost much of the function in her back end and may not be with us much longer. I gave her my love and thanked her for giving us such a special boy. I scattered some of Bandit's ashes in a wildflower prairie on this farm where he was born, while Chase and Cay enjoyed running in the field.

    How do I even know all the ways Bandit changed my life? How do I let go of a dog who so profoundly taught me things I needed to know? One thing I hope I never forget is that we only have this present moment and we'd best enjoy it. Yes, the lawn mower won't start, the light switch isn't working right, and things seem to go wrong all of the time. But we can still play ball and enjoy this beautiful day and not wait for everything to be perfect in order to be happy. Things are seldom going to be perfect, but if we enjoy this present moment, they might just feel perfect right now. Bandit would whack me on the leg with the rubber chicken, or poke me with the jolly ball, to remind me of this. He was always much wiser than I.

    While in hindsight Bandit showed signs of being ill as early as February or March of 2013, his tests came back normal and he held it together until September. Sometimes I wonder how he ran tracks at all last summer, and I hope I didn't work him too hard. I don't think it's a coincidence that he didn’t quit tracking until the September morning after Chase successfully completed his daily radiation therapy treatments. I think that Bandit held it together until he knew that Chase would survive colon cancer. Bandit knew that I couldn’t bear to lose both of them at the same time. He was that wise and intrepid, and I'm sure he took care of us in many ways that I'm not even aware of.

    I'm still saying goodbye, while yet noticing the many ways Bandit stays with us as we make our way without his physical presence. I haven't been able to track with the other dogs yet this year, even though I know they would enjoy it and benefit from it. Visiting the fields to release Bandit's ashes is a step toward being able to function that way again. Maybe now I can think of it as going to the tracking fields to visit him and create new memories with Chase and Cay. We'll see, as somehow we carry on.

    The garden I built in Bandit’s memory is growing and blooming like crazy, a reminder that life goes on. Somehow we do too.

    ………….
    At the end of June a friend emailed me about a senior red Australian Cattle Dog in jeopardy in Illinois. An unclaimed stray, he was running out of time and urgently needed rescue. Oh, what a tug at my heartstrings. This old guy, called ‘Pops’, reminded me so much of Bandit. His spirit seemed to bust right out of the photo. He was described as being very friendly. He gets along with other dogs and sounds like a very sweet old guy.

    The folks at Homeward Bound Waggin’, Inc. in Quincy, Illinois (http://www.homewardboundwaggin.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/HomewardBoundWagginInc) were looking out for Pops and could pull him, get vet care, and transport him to Minnesota. I checked around for a rescue group to take him in. The Top Dog Foundation in Minnesota (http://www.topdogfoundation.org/), known to be a friend to older dogs, agreed to take him into one of their foster homes.

    Once Pops arrived in Minnesota, he was found to have a broken or dislocated jaw. On July 23rd, he had surgery to repair his jaw and remove three painful teeth. Pops is reportedly doing well. You can follow his progress on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TopDogFDN. If you’re interested in meeting and possibly adopting Pops, please contact the Top Dog Foundation. If you would like to donate toward his veterinary care, please go to http://www.razoo.com/story/Help-Pops-The-Cattle-Dog. Homeward Bound Waggin’ would appreciate your support too. If not for them, Pops probably wouldn’t still be here! Thank you!

  • A Decade of Devotion

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    We lost Bandit to multiple myeloma in March, and our little pack continues to find its way. When Bandit’s body was failing and I realized he was in pain, it became apparent that he was ready to go. But I could tell he was concerned about how we would manage without him. So we spent time with him doing things he wanted to do for one last time, and cherished our last hours together. I reassured him that we didn’t want him to be in pain any longer, and that somehow we would get along without him. Bandit wanted us to be happy and celebrate life.

    Australian Cattle Dogs usually live longer than ten years, so whenever I begin to wish that we’d had more time, I remember that a miracle brought us together in the first place. One step this way or that and our life together would not have happened at all. I’m grateful we had that ‘chance’ meeting.

    Over the past ten years, I think Bandit has influenced my life more than any other being. We lived together day in and day out. He leapt out of bed every morning ready to face the day. He was a 'glass half full' kind of guy who always brought me the ball, and whacked me on the leg with the rubber chicken when I sat at the computer for too long. I called him my 'recreation director'.

    Bandit was so smart, so intrepid, and so good at everything that I had to learn a lot just to keep up with him. As a team, we had many accomplishments in versatility, herding, agility, obedience, rally and tracking (to name a few). But most of all, he was a loyal and wonderful companion whose energy filled our house with love. He took care of me in many ways that I’m still just beginning to realize. Our love was pure.

    Those of us whose dogs are part of our families know that they influence us in many ways. When I look back over my time with Bandit, I see how he changed me. Better than Eckhart Tolle or anyone else, Bandit taught me that all we really have is this present moment, and we’d best enjoy it and not postpone being happy. He taught me that I don’t have to be completely serious; I can laugh and enjoy the journey and still get my work done. Bandit turned me into a positive person, a glass-half-full person. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy. I had to step up just to stay ahead of him, and that helped me in other areas of my life too.

    Bandit accepted me completely and loved me completely for who I am, thus he helped me accept and love myself. He helped me understand that I have what I need inside of me. Bandit never fit into anyone’s box any better than I do. He taught me that it’s best to be myself even when I don’t fit in, that sometimes I’m meant to be different for a good reason. Uniqueness is a gift, and others can learn from me.

    Who would have thought that a little red ball of fuzz could do so much to change my life for the better?

    My spiritual journey with Bandit began with the miracle that brought him to me as a bolt out of the blue in 2004 (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448), and continued all the way to the bald eagles who visited me several times in several places before and after his passing in 2014. I learned to believe in miracles and to understand amazing spiritual connections between animals and people, connections that are made among animals too.

    Bandit was always the pack leader and hall monitor among the animals in our family, a solid protector and friend. As Bandit’s health declined, Chase wanted to take over and I had to manage the pack very carefully. Once Bandit was gone, our house seemed way too quiet. Nobody brought me the ball every time I stepped outside. Nobody hit me on the leg with the rubber chicken while I was working at the computer. I felt like I couldn’t be whole without him, until a friend pointed out that I’m so much more because of him.

    People told me that Bandit will send me another dog, just as my dying dog Rusty sent Bandit to me. Maybe he will. But for now we’re finding our balance without a third dog. Three dogs was always a lot for me, and I have thousands of dollars of vet bills to pay, for Chase’s and Bandit’s cancer treatments. I’m looking forward to working more with Chase and especially with Cay, who was always the third dog with two very busy older ‘brothers’.

    Bandit’s absence from our household has shifted the pack balance. Chase and Cayenne and Gingersnap the cat are working it out. I’m enjoying seeing different parts of their personalities emerge. Chase is the pack leader now, yet Ginger has taken over some of Bandit’s ‘watchdog’ duties. Cay, who always followed Bandit, is learning to manage without him. You may recall that Chase goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on a stool when he wants a gentle hug from me (or when he thinks I need a hug). Cay has been watching, and with the hall monitor gone, she now comes into the bathroom seeking a hug too. The other day, I also found Gingersnap the cat with her front feet up on the stool, waiting for me to give her some lovin’. The pack is mellower, enabling Ginger to integrate more easily than before.

    Although Chase and Cay would love to go tracking, I haven’t been able to do that yet. Bandit and I spent so much time last year training for a tracking test that I can’t bear to go without him. I’m thinking about taking Chase and Cay out to herd ducks though, something Bandit was too powerful for even at age ten. And I’m wondering if Cay is ready to start practicing for the therapy dog test, so she might volunteer at the library as Chase does.

    Over Mother’s Day weekend, Chase and Cay had fun playing ball with a 5 year old girl and a 2½ year old boy. I was supervising closely as the girl threw the ball for Chase and he retrieved it again and again. I was astounded to see the boy throw the ball for Cay and watch her retrieve it and set it on the ground in front of him, over and over. Cay doesn’t usually retrieve for me; she fetches the ball and runs all around the yard with it. So I was amazed to see her watching the girl play ball with Chase, and then copying the pattern with the little boy. Both dogs were very gentle with the kids, dropping the balls for them. They didn’t jump on or bump the kids at all. I was surprised because Cay never seems to know where her back end is. She bumps me all the time. It was fun to see how well both dogs did with the kids, and I was encouraged about Cay’s potential to work with kids as a therapy dog.

    Our dog sitter, who has known Bandit since he was a pup, gave us a beautiful garden stone in his memory. Now that the spring weather has finally arrived, I’m building him a memorial garden. Hauling dirt and making a garden can be a lot of work. But not too much work for the guru in the red dog suit who jumped out of bed every morning full of joy, ready to greet the day, eager to work and play.

    We miss Bandit terribly, yet still feel his presence on our walks, and in the amazing lessons he taught us that help us find our way. Rest in Peace sweet boy. We look for you in the sky with the eagles, and we celebrate life in this present moment, just as you taught us.
    ………
    What have you learned from your animals? What more can you learn by paying closer attention?
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  • Grateful for the Journey

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Chase and I are planning a party. We’re celebrating one year of the Dog Gone Reading Program at the Valley Library, where the kids read to Chase to improve their reading skills. Ginny the librarian, the kids, and their families will join us on a Saturday to celebrate, hear Chase’s story, present participation awards to the kids, and share some treats. Chase led me into this work, and he and I have felt such joy from seeing the kids improve their reading skills. We love to hear the kids read, and have enjoyed helping them learn more about dogs. Chase doesn’t have a kid at home, so he gets to spend time with kids. It’s a win-win. One benefit from this program that I didn’t anticipate is the opportunity for kids to learn about and become comfortable with dogs. Most of the kids don’t have a dog at home, or haven’t spent time with a calm dog that they can read with. One little girl was afraid of dogs and told me that Chase is the only dog she isn’t afraid of. He instinctively bows in front of her so his face is lower than hers. I think he’s sensitive to her fear and is trying to appear smaller. He’s also wagging his tail like crazy in a silly play bow, which is hard to resist. This little girl and her family are considering getting a dog, and have researched different breeds at the library. I do my best to answer their questions. I know they won’t enter into dog ownership lightly. One day the little girl told me that ‘Taking care of a dog is a big responsibility!’ She must have heard that at home. But you and I know the rewards are worth it.

    We have something else to celebrate. Since Chase began his cancer journey in July and Bandit began his in September, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride. Chase had surgery in July to remove a tumor from his colon, then had 21 rounds of radiation therapy in July and August. On February 18th, a CT scan showed no evidence of disease. So we are hoping now that Chase is cancer free! One of my dreaded thoughts about possibly losing Chase to cancer was that his loss would be taken hard by everyone at the library as well as our own family. Chase is not a young dog and will be nine years old this year. Yet we hope he has many healthy years left. In February, just after the roller coaster reached its peak for Chase, it began a steep descent for Bandit, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September. The change of pace came steep and fast, and we had to adjust quickly. Bandit had been taking a daily chemo pill since September. Regular blood and urine tests had showed that he was doing well. He went for our usual long walk and insisted on several games of jolly ball every day. But in mid-March he began showing that he was in pain. We were all sore from walking on the ice and snow, and at first I thought he would feel better once the snow melted. We gave him additional pain medications, but they didn’t seem to help much. On March 14th, we learned that Bandit’s kidneys were failing and his white blood cell count was very low. The disease he had fought so valiantly was winning. We weren’t able to alleviate his pain and I did not want to ask one more thing from this dog who had lived every day to the fullest and had given me so much already.  On March 14th I went for a walk with Chase and Cay, leaving Bandit in the house. I thought the walk would be too much for him. But the following morning, Bandit insisted on going for one last walk up on the hill. I was astonished that he could climb the hill, but true to his always intrepid spirit, he led the way. He and I spent some of our last precious moments together up on that hill where we have walked almost every day of his life. There, my Bandit, my inner fire, brought me the ball, played in the snow, rolled in the dirt, and took everything in for one last time. I think he was doing it for me. On March 15th, knowing that Bandit’s condition was not reversible, and that a morphine derivative was not alleviating his pain, we set Bandit’s spirit free from the body that was failing him.

    I cannot begin to tell you how much Bandit has changed my life. But I suppose if you’ve been reading along, you may already know. A miracle brought this little red charmer to me in 2004.  He appeared as a bolt out of the blue http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy, so I had to step up just to stay ahead of him. He jumped out of bed every morning ready to face the day. And, until his body failed him, he was always ready and eager to work—in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, tracking, chasing the ball, you name it. I had never herded livestock, let alone cattle, before determining that I would give Bandit the chance to do what he was bred to do. He earned many ribbons when we were competing, including many second places. But the only blue ribbon he earned was for herding cattle. Moving a herd of cattle around a field with him gave me a sense of peace and accomplishment like nothing else. When 55-pound Bandit was rolled by a cow, he jumped right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. To me this was a great example of how to live your life. If anyone could pack 15 years of living into 10, Bandit could. He changed me to a glass-half-full kind of person. Attitude is everything. Prior to Bandit’s passing, and several times since, I have been visited by bald eagles. Whenever I feel especially sad, one or several of them appear. There seems to be an amazing, intriguing connection. I’m not quite ready to write more about Bandit just yet, but I promise I will write more next time. Our little pack is mourning, and yet we have a party to plan. Remembering Bandit, my true companion, my inner fire.

  • My Inner Fire

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    My Inner Fire I recently attended a yoga retreat. We were asked to visualize our inner fire, like as a flame or the sun. In my mind’s eye I saw this blazing orange cattle dog, this intrepid, very yang dog: Bandit. Yang means fast, solid, focused, hot, and is associated with fire, the sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. Over the past ten years Bandit has taught me so much about life, and now he is showing me how to live (really live!) with cancer. He is my inner fire.

    Bandit, an Australian Cattle Dog, first appeared in my life just moments after my very old red and white cattle dog mix Rusty had passed away at the vet clinic. A very engaging puppy, Bandit had Rusty’s red ears and mask. I was sure that Rusty had somehow sent this solid little charmer, the only red cattle dog puppy for miles around, as a gift to help me cope with my grief.

    Two weeks later Bandit joined our family. Soon I learned that if I was going to be the pack leader, I’d better stay ahead of him. He is so smart, and good at everything, that he kept me busy as we learned many things together. When he was an adolescent, I quickly learned that I had better lead or get out of the way, thus he made me a better leader. We played ball and went for long walks every day, and completed several levels of obedience school. He passed the Canine Good Citizen test. We learned to herd livestock, including sheep, goats, and eventually cattle. We competed in agility and learned tricks in an acting class, which led to a commercial gig. Together we earned titles in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, and versatility, and just last year trained toward a tracking title. Over the years, we earned several second place ribbons, but the only blue ribbon we ever brought home was for herding cattle. Bandit moved the cattle around the course without much help from me, except for penning them at the end. He was one proud dog that day, beaming with pride, doing what he was bred and born to do, and doing it well enough to place ahead of our instructor and her dog.

    Several times we had the opportunity to work with an entire herd of cows at a local farm. Watching this 55 pound dog move the herd across a field absolutely changed my view of life and what is possible. That can-do attitude and bullet-proof confidence goes a long way, especially when matched by ability. Once Bandit committed to moving the cattle, even a moment of hesitation could have been dangerous. He had the courage and confidence to run out in front of a cow about 30 times his weight who was breaking away from the herd. She rolled him with her nose, and he bounded right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. I’d been holding my breath, and as I inhaled again, relieved to see him get back up, I admired his chutzpah.

    Last spring and summer, Bandit and I spent many hours training for a tracking test. In August, when Chase was in cancer treatment, Bandit completed the Pet Partners therapy dog test with the highest marks. I thought he’d be able to substitute for Chase at our monthly library visits if Chase wasn’t feeling well. Then one September morning, the month before we had planned to take the tracking test, Bandit wasn’t able to start a track. Something was terribly wrong. We went straight to the vet and eventually he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a systemic cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Now Bandit is living with cancer and is expected to be on daily chemo meds for the rest of his life. The average prognosis after diagnosis is 18 months. Bandit has never been average.

     

    As we’ve gotten older, life isn’t so much about participating in activities, but just being together, out for a game of ball or a run in the fields and woods, or just hanging out together, sharing our undivided attention. Bandit continues to teach me, as he has all along. Although his body has changed as he’s lost muscle mass from the medications that manage his disease, he greets each day with enthusiasm and joy. He engages me in a game of jolly ball every chance he gets. He doesn’t like it when I get sad or upset. If I cry, he consoles me by licking my face, but if I continue to be sad, he eventually gets up and walks away. He doesn’t want to feel the sadness; he wants me to be happy.

    The roller coaster ride and financial stress of Chase’s cancer treatment followed by Bandit’s cancer diagnosis has had me focused on keeping both dogs well, and worried about my finances. We’ve been to several vet clinics many, many times over the past seven months. Along with just keeping up with daily life, I got caught up in keeping the dogs healthy, helping them deal with cancer, and doing my best for them. But then that started to get in the way. At times we had to focus on treatment, but eventually we had to get back to living. I noticed that the dogs were running and playing and enjoying every day, and I needed to get back to enjoying life along with them.

    So, again I’m trying to find a balance, to focus on being well and living in the moment, enjoying what we can do today, and not focusing so much on the illness or worrying about the future. After all, not a one of us will get out of this alive. For now, both dogs are doing well. The irony is that as well as Bandit is doing, I may not be able to afford to keep him going for as long as he wants to. The costs of the monthly medications and tests are not sustainable long-term. I want to live without regrets, and one regret would be to have to let him go before he’s ready. So as long as Bandit looks and feels well, we’re not going to the vet as often, but we’re continuing the medications, trying to focus on life.

    The dogs make me think of a conversation between Pooh and Piglet:

    “What day is it?” asked Pooh

    . “It’s today.” squeaked Piglet.

    “My favorite day.” said Pooh.

    Ironically, as we have learned to live with cancer and enjoy the time we have left, Bandit’s only littermate, his brother Baron, enjoyed his last game of ball before he passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on January 16th. Our hearts go out to Baron’s mama Bitsey as she mourns his loss. Sometimes we get a long time to say goodbye and sometimes we don’t, which encourages us even more to seize this day.

    Remembering Baron:

     

    How do I want to spend the rest of my dog’s life with him? Playing and living in the moment, right here, right now. Because this present moment is all we really have. So today is our favorite day. Every day. Soon it will be Valentine’s Day, one day of the year when we’re all focused on love. At our house, we focus on love every day. You can too.

    Recently, when the outside temperature was well below zero, I improvised, resurrecting some of our old training and tricks and nose work to keep the dogs busy in the house. Bandit was so excited to be doing his old tricks and retrieves and nose work again. He had not forgotten a thing. That’s my boy, my inner fire! Who knows, we may even get out tracking again this spring.

    Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Our dogs teach us this too. Happy Today! Happy Valentine’s Day! Share the love.

    Good nutrition, including Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets, has helped keep my dogs healthy while living with cancer. Follow our journey at https://www.facebook.com/jenny.pavlovic

    Next time, read about Chase and the 1st anniversary celebration of the Dog Gone Reading program at our local library.

  • My Greatest Gifts

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    I don’t participate in the sales, the super shopping, running around completely stressed, many of the things we’re ‘supposed’ to do during this holiday season. I think Christmas is supposed to be about love, and I don’t know how buying stuff for people became equated with love. It’s a misguided notion that helps drive the economy, but puts a lot of stress on people.

    I avoid Black Friday like the plague, especially this year when I've taken on the excessive financial burden of vet bills for cancer treatments. I know Black Friday is intended to boost the economy. But people get so stressed out during this season (trying to buy just the right gifts) that they often forget to be kind to one another, battling for choice parking spots, fighting over stuff to buy. Let's not forget that it's supposed to be about love. Get the good deals if you must. But even though Thanksgiving is over, take a few moments each day to be thankful for what you already have.

    Which brings me to my dogs, and my deep gratitude for their presence and well-being. In July, Chase was diagnosed with colonic adenocarcinoma, with a prognosis of 4 to 6 months, even with treatment. But we caught this insidious cancer in stage one, and in October, after 21 radiation therapy treatments, a CT scan showed ‘no evidence of disease’, which felt like a miracle. We’re not completely out of the woods yet, because small seeds of cancer can escape detection by a CT scan. We will need to do another CT scan by year-end, to make sure Chase’s insides still look good.

    On the outside, Chase’s hair is growing back where he had radiation therapy. Five months after his diagnosis, he’s full of energy, running and playing each day. He’s back at the library, where the kids read to him once a month. Although I have faith in miracles and Chase’s cure wasn’t cheap, I’m still very grateful and amazed that he’s doing so well today. I don’t take him for granted.

    In September, the day after Chase sailed through a two-week follow-up appointment for his radiation therapy, Bandit was unable to work. We had been training all spring and summer toward a tracking title, and that day he just wasn’t able to start a track. Bandit is usually an intrepid worker, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Not long after, Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a completely different kind of cancer. With daily chemo pills and other medications, the average prognosis for canine multiple myeloma patients is 18 months. But Bandit began to rapidly lose weight, losing eight of his 55 pounds in less than six weeks. I was scared that he might starve to death and I might not be able to help him. But by focusing on good nutrition (including Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets), healthy fats, and whole foods, I eventually got his weight back up. At his most recent check-up, Bandit’s weight was up to 53 from 47 pounds, his blood work was back in the normal range for the first time since his diagnosis and his urine proteins (a sign of the disease) had also moved much closer to normal. He seems to be stabilizing, which feels like another miracle. He runs and plays each day, engaging me in several games of jolly ball. We celebrated his 10th birthday on November 13th.

    Throughout these past few months, I’ve learned to live more in the moment with the dogs, not knowing how many more moments we will have together. I’ve watched them truly live each day to the fullest. They live like they’re living, not like they’re dying. And for today they are living. I know they won’t be here forever, but I wanted to give each of them the best chance to fight cancer. So far, it seems to be working. This is one of my greatest gifts.

    Several people in my life have passed on or suffered major illnesses this year. One dear family friend passed on at only 61 years old. He was out running his dogs when he had a stroke, which he never recovered from. We lost him a month later. Our memories of him, one of our greatest gifts, are of his true character and the good times we spent with him. Nothing about those great memories has to do with ‘stuff’.

    Here we are at the end of a very trying year, one that most certainly has built character. Maybe you can understand now how running around buying stuff has completely lost its point for me.

    Before our November library day, Chase had to have a bath. He didn't really want to take a bath, but when I told him he needed a bath so he could visit the kids at the library, he walked into the bathroom and climbed into the tub by himself. I kid you not. On our library day we had fun with the regular kids that we know. We also met a new little boy who loves dogs and is a great reader. He told me about his dog Sadie, who is "up there" and he pointed up to heaven.  Chase snuggled in to him and he hugged Chase for a long time after he was done reading. The reading is so important, but I’ve learned that it’s about so much more than just the reading. Another of my greatest gifts.

    Spend the time. Have the experiences. Make the memories. Forget the stuff. Live in the moment. Play. Laugh. Love.
    And let somebody else have that parking spot. You won’t regret it.

    8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog is now available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GWAZFAW.
    To help pay the vet bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank

        

  • Living With It and Rocking It Out

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First, an update on how Bandit and Chase are doing.

    Chase completed 21 radiation therapy treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. He had a stellar follow-up appointment two weeks later. On September 24th he returned to his volunteer mission at the local library, where kids read to him. On October 15th, he had a CT scan to show the status of the cancer cells. There was no evidence of cancer at the original site, for which I am very grateful! We will need to carefully watch some tiny spots in Chase’s lungs and a spot on his liver, to make sure the cancer has not metastasized. The oncology vets recommended another CT scan by the end of the year.

    Ironically, Bandit completed his therapy dog certification in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if Chase didn’t feel up to it. But Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September, just after Chase completed his follow-up appointment. Bandit and I had been training all summer for a fall tracking test. One day he just couldn’t work, for the first time in his life, and I knew something was terribly wrong. After Bandit was diagnosed and began daily chemo meds in September, he lost a lot of weight even though he was eating twice as much as before. We have been adjusting the meds in an effort to treat the disease while allowing him to maintain his weight. This requires regular blood and urine checks and the involvement of a veterinary nutritionist. Bandit is still losing about a pound per week, and I’m still trying to find the best way to help him maintain his weight. He will be 10 years old on November 13th. His father lived to be 16 and his mother is still going strong at 14, so 10 is not that old for an Australian Cattle Dog.

    Bandit and Chase, who are brothers by fate and heart, but not blood, carry on. If you saw them you wouldn’t know they were sick, except that Chase has two bald patches on his butt, and Bandit is too thin. They jump out of bed every morning and enthusiastically greet the day. They shower me with a tremendous round of barking when I come home at the end of the day. They run, play, wrestle, go all out, and make great acrobatic leaps to catch flying squirrel frisbees. They’ve shown me how to live with a disease, truly LIVE with it, even while they may be dying from it. Attitude is everything. They are definitely making the best of every day.

        

    I decided not to continue training with Bandit due to his rapid weight loss of mostly muscle mass. Now that the meds have him feeling better, he would probably still track, but I don’t want him to lose any more weight. I’m sad that we weren’t able to take the tracking test that we trained so hard for, but I’m very glad we spent that time together. And who knows, maybe he’ll feel up to it in the spring.

    I usually say that two of my dogs were diagnosed with cancer instead of “My dogs have cancer” because it could never define either dog entirely and, at least in Chase’s case, I don’t know whether he still has it. Each of my dogs is so much more than a being with cancer. In fact, if I weren’t struggling with taking them to all the vet appointments along with working a full-time job, helping Bandit maintain his weight, and losing sleep sometimes over how to pay such astounding vet bills for not one dog, but two, we would most often carry on as usual.

    We’re all going to die from something, and none of us knows how much time we have left. The dogs don’t know that the data says they’re ‘supposed to’ have a limited amount of time. They just know when they feel well and want to get out and play ball and enjoy the day. I don’t want to impose limits on them, and I’m happy to welcome any miracles that come our way. Dogs will be dogs, and my dogs are choosing to fully live with it, even possibly while dying from it.

    I suspect that dogs are not afraid of death the way many people are. To them, and all of us, it’s an inevitable part of life and they will probably see it coming before we catch on. I remember one day in August when Chase was not feeling well after an RT treatment. Bandit went over and just sat next to him and hung out, not the usual behavior for Bandit, but I could tell he was supporting his brother.

    I’ve never called my dogs “fur babies”, which oversimplifies the relationship if you ask me. While I provide for them and they may be like my children in some ways, they are truly my teachers and mentors. They have taught me so much that I’m aware of, and no doubt I have missed many of their messages. Thus I don’t think of them as babies in fur. I think of them as friends, companions, and teachers.

    A friend told me about a person who died four days after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The guy was devastated and thought he was going to die early anyway, and in his mind gave up. I guess that’s a difference between dogs and people. The dogs know that they’ve been ill, but they live in the moment and don’t overthink or worry about the future.

    I am worn out from all the appointments at different vet clinics, from trying to raise money to pay vet bills that cost about as much as a new car, and from resisting having to choose one dog’s care over the other’s. I’m starting to resent anything that takes time away from simply enjoying time with them. One of the benefits of being spread pretty thin over the past few months is that I’ve let go of things that don’t matter. I’m spending more time with the dogs doing the simple things that are good for us: staying home and spending time together, hanging out, running and playing outside, eating healthy whole foods (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine), and really enjoying each other. I wish I had even more time to relax at home and be in tune with them.

     

    On Chase's October library day, it was so inspiring to see the kids read to him. The regular readers improved tremendously over the summer. I love to see kids get excited about books. When many adults don't read books any more, it's good to see a younger generation being inspired by them. One little girl who is new to the program got very excited when she learned that after reading to Chase eight times, she will get to choose her very own book to take home. I heard her tell her mom that she’ll get to take the book home and won't even have to bring it back to the library! She was so excited.

    I'm very grateful to the librarian for getting this program going and continuing to promote it. It’s fun to see the kids’ confidence in their reading improve. Chase showed his appreciation for their reading by lying on his back with all four feet in the air! (Actually, Chase the herding dog listens best that way, with his eyes closed and no visual distractions.) He finds the most appropriate way to reach each child. If they're comfortable with him leaning in, he will. If they’re not, he’ll just put his paw on their leg, or touch the bottom of his foot to the bottom of their foot.

    While developing their reading skills, the kids are learning about dogs. One little girl said that Chase is the only dog she isn't afraid of. He must sense this because he bows in front of her instead of standing over her. She wants to get a dog, and she remarked that 'having a dog is a big responsibility', something she must have been told at home. She has been inspired by Chase to read and learn about different dog breeds, and I have no doubt that one day she will be well prepared to care for her very own dog.

    One middle-aged man stopped to pet Chase. He has stopped by on Chase's library day before. I don't know if this is coincidence or whether he comes specifically to see Chase, but Chase seeks him out now to say hi. He asked why Chase had bald patches and I told him about the cancer treatment. He then asked how recently it was and seemed genuinely concerned about Chase. And Chase seemed to genuinely care about him too.  I feel like I'm a student following along on this little dog's mission, learning from him along the way. I hope he has many good years left to continue this mission of sharing love.

    No matter how much time we have left, we’re going to truly live it and rock it out. That doesn’t mean pretending nothing is wrong. That means being in tune with how each dog feels, being sensitive to each one’s needs, and making the best of each day we have left together. It’s not like I’ve decided to rock it out. It’s just their approach to life, every day… something I’ve learned from my dogs, my teachers. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To help pay the veterinary bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages, and do not plan to produce any more. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank you!

  • Another Train Comin'

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First here’s an update on Chase. He completed his 21 radiation therapy (RT) treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. Two weeks later, he breezed through his follow up appointment with flying colors. He lost patches of hair from his back legs, but has been feeling well and doing great. On the outside, except for the hair loss, which is normal with RT, he looks fantastic. His energy and spirit are high, and he has resumed his usual activities. The next step is to do a CT scan in October to determine whether there are still active cancer cells.

    On September 24th, Chase returned to the library where kids read to him as part of the Doggone Reading program. We were excited to be there, to see Ginny the librarian and other 'old' friends, and meet new kids and listen to them read. Chase loves going to the library! He got so excited, I had to remind him to use his indoor voice. When he recognized one little girl, he did a few play bows right in front of her, and the girl said, “Look Mom, Chase is bowing!” He did this all on his own; it wasn’t a trained trick. Chase is a pro at this volunteer 'work'.

    Just when I was beginning to feel hopeful that we have derailed Chase’s cancer train, we learned that there’s another train comin’. Just a few hours after Chase’s follow up appointment, the dog sitter texted me to tell me that Bandit didn’t seem well. Urinary problems, including foamy urine and excessive thirst and urination, that we had observed over the summer had become much worse. The onset seemed much more dramatic than a normal change accompanying aging, yet test results had been normal. Bandit seemed to be feeling well that evening, but the following morning when I took him out to go tracking, for the first time in his life he did not want to work! Something was terribly wrong.

    I took Bandit to the vet that Saturday morning. His blood work and urinalysis showed some values outside of the normal range for the first time. Yet the results didn’t seem to point to any known disease. Diabetes, Cushings Disease, and other conditions had been ruled out. Eventually, more test results and sleuthing by our vet indicated that Bandit most likely has multiple myeloma. We were referred to an oncology vet (cancer vet).

    Multiple myeloma is a different kind of cancer than the colonic adenocarcinoma diagnosed in Chase. Myeloma is systemic, found in the blood and bones, not localized in one part of the body. With Chase, we have been lucky so far, that the tumor in his colorectal area does not appear to have metastasized. So his tumor could be targeted with local radiation therapy. But for Bandit, systemic treatment is needed, and the recommended treatment is chemotherapy pills. So in mid-September, Bandit started his daily chemo pills, which he will probably need indefinitely. Most dogs do well on these pills, and the mean quoted survival time is 18 months, more than what I was first told about Chase. Still, I’m hoping for more for Bandit.

    Ironically Bandit passed the Pet Partners test in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if needed. But now Chase is feeling better and is back at the library. When the vet was checking Bandit at different times during the summer, I remember saying several times, “Just as long as it isn’t a tumor…I don’t think I could take more than one dog having cancer.” Well, here we are, trying to make the best of it. I took off my “Everyday Holds the Possibility of a Miracle” pendant that I wore every day while Chase was in RT treatment and put it on Bandit’s collar. So now these two canine brothers, related by fate and heart, but not birth, are both wearing these pendants and are sharing our hope for a miracle.

    One gorgeous September afternoon when I was enjoying some time with the dogs in the yard, a butterfly appeared. It flew around us several times and landed on a maple branch hanging over the fence. The butterfly seemed to want my attention, so I walked over and looked at it closely. It was beautiful, yellow and brown with double sets of wings, with silver blue spots on the underside. I didn’t remember ever seeing a butterfly like that before. Later I learned that it was a Great Spangled Fritillary.

    The wind was blowing the branches around and I wanted to get a better look at the butterfly. I held the branch still and even touched the butterfly gently. It seemed fine with my touch and didn’t try to leave. After a few minutes, it flew down and landed on the ground among us, and I got a better look from a different angle. The butterfly seemed to be trying to communicate something, but I wasn’t sure of its message. I just knew that the butterfly felt magical, and that it was important to enjoy that time with my dogs on such a beautiful afternoon, when we were all feeling well and having a good day.

    A few days later, still puzzling over the butterfly’s message, I looked up the butterfly totem. Here are some messages from the butterfly, compiled from several sources.

    The butterfly is a colorful, delightful symbol of transition and growth. Butterflies bring color and joy to life, and teach us that change is positive and should be embraced. Growth and transformation does not have to traumatic; it can occur gently, sweetly, and joyfully. Butterflies remind us that life is a dance, to not take things quite so seriously, and prompt us to notice the joy in our lives. They remind us to get up and move, because dance brings the sweetness of life. They are associated with aliveness and brightness.

    Butterflies are born after a period of struggle. Without the struggle the wings would not be strong enough to allow the butterfly to take wing. Butterflies prompt us to embrace change with optimism and joy for the experience, and to go through important changes and different life cycles with grace and lightness. They are symbolic of lightness of being and elevation from the heaviness of tensions. The butterfly is a powerful creature to call on when you need support in times of transition.

    The main lesson when the butterfly comes to us as a totem is that our life is about to go through a transformation of some kind. The butterfly asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the changes of her environment and her body. This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. The butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature - she asks us to recognize the same. At our journey's end we are inevitably changed - not at all the same as when we started on the path. We are to make our way in faith, accept the change that comes, and emerge from our transitions as brilliantly as the butterfly.

    Lately, a solitary doe has been hanging around in the woods behind our house. The dogs, especially Chase, look for her every time they go out in the yard. Most often, she is there. So I also looked up the deer totem to understand her message.
    The deer combines soft, gentle qualities with heart energy, strength and determination. She symbolizes gentleness, the abilities to move through life and obstacles with grace, to feel the inner child, to be sensitive and intuitive, and to be vigilant and change directions quickly. She also has a magical ability to regenerate.

    The deer helps us to know life’s mysteries, and to bring gentleness and grace into every aspect of life, even in the most challenging moments. The deer inspires us to live from the heart, and handle difficult situations smoothly with a touch of gentleness and grace.

    I have often been exhausted and frustrated from managing the logistics of caring for two dogs with cancer. So the messages of the butterfly and the deer are very pertinent. I can learn a great deal from both. One of the most difficult things about dealing with cancer is not knowing where you stand. The cancers that my dogs have been diagnosed with are inside, not easily seen. While the dogs seem to be doing great on the outside, we also need to know what’s going on inside. In October, both dogs are scheduled to have CT scans, to find out the status of the cancer. Until then, I will try to take the messages of the butterfly and the deer to heart.

    Like the butterfly and the deer, my dogs encourage me to not take the situation so seriously, to get out and play and enjoy each day, because the present moment is all that we really have. Bandit and Chase are both doing well. They leap out of bed each morning, eager to run around the yard, play ball, and enjoy this present moment. On a recent gorgeous fall afternoon here, with not a cloud in the sky, we enjoyed our daily walk on the hill. All three dogs felt great and played hard, and every time I inhaled, I felt like I was breathing in hope!

    It feels so much better to live in hope than in fear. Although our life now isn’t what I expected, my fellow creatures have taught me that we can still dance and play our way along on this journey. So I try to be less of a frustrated, worried human and dance along with them, cherishing this day.

    Great nutrition has been an essential part of Bandit’s and Chase’s cancer treatments. Both dogs look great, are energetic, and have healthy coats and skin. The traditional and holistic vets agree that Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine are great supplements for Bandit as well as for Chase. Use the code JPavlovic for 20% off your first online order at www.OmegaFields.com.

  • Derailing the Train

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Well, I certainly didn’t see this coming. My oh-so-special dog Chase has been diagnosed with cancer. As cancer does, it came like a blow to the gut when least expected, and suddenly figuring out what to do about this fast-growing disease was our top priority. Chase had blood in his stools for a few months, but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong. Then one day in June she felt a lump and we scheduled a surgery to have it removed. Probably just a benign polyp, we thought. But on surgery day she discovered that the lump was growing and had ruptured. The histopathology report came back “colonic adenocarcinoma”… cancer.


    Chase, my beautiful, healthy, happy-spirited dog, my library dog, seemed just fine on the outside, but something menacing was growing in his colon. The initial diagnosis came with a caution that this is an aggressive cancer and that—even with treatment-- Chase might only have months to live. I was shocked, and sad to think that Chase might not be with us much longer. But this cancer wasn’t going to wait, so we had to act fast. We were lucky I had noticed the blood in his stools.

    I decided right away that Chase has given me enough, more than anyone could hope for in a lifetime, and I don’t need to keep him around for me when it no longer makes sense for him. I want to give him every chance for survival, if it will provide him a good quality of life. But I don’t want to put him through extreme hardship thinking that I need more from him. I’m extremely lucky to have known him for the seven-plus years he has been part of my family.

    I had been concerned about Bandit’s lipomas, and that Bandit, almost 10 years old, is getting older. I hadn’t been concerned that Chase, at age 8, might not get older, that he might have something dark growing inside of him that is much more frightening and even possibly lethal. It’s funny how life works. You can try to be vigilant, but really you don’t have much to say about how life goes, other than your own actions and response.

    I was stunned by the cancer diagnosis. We live in a relatively safe place out in the country, with no pesticides on the lawn, no chemical cleaners on the floor, clean well water from a deep aquifer that is tested regularly, no direct chemical drift from farm fields, and good healthy food. I stopped feeding my dogs kibble a while ago due to concerns about processing and harmful dyes. I don’t feed them from plastic bowls that could leach chemicals into their food and water. But the cause(s) of colonic adenocarcinoma are not known.

    At first I thought, when you’ve been told you’re going to be hit by a train, but you don’t know when, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way to avoid it completely, do you live your life in fear of the train, or do you try to get as much out of life as you can before the train hits? And, following Chase’s lead, I chose the second option.

    One of the first things I did was schedule photo sessions with two of my favorite animal photographers. I wanted to get pictures of Chase (and my other dogs) while he was still feeling well. Next came the whirlwind of learning and deciding what could or should be done (or not) for Chase. Our veterinarian told us that she had not been able to surgically remove the entire tumor. Since it had grown into the wall of the colon, she was not able to excise it with clean margins without damaging the colorectal wall. She indicated that chemotherapy would most likely be the recommended treatment for Chase, then referred us to a veterinary oncologist.


    The veterinary oncologist told us that he only sees about one case per year of this rare colonic adenocarcinoma in dogs; there were no studies, no papers to tell us what to do. A CT scan revealed good news: there was no evidence of metastasis to Chase’s lymph nodes or other parts of his body. Amazingly, we had caught it early, before it spread. And also amazingly, the tumor was in an area that could be targeted locally with radiation therapy, a less invasive option than the harsher systemic chemotherapy treatment. Colonic adenocarcinomas that are located farther into the wiggly colon and not as close to the rectum can’t be treated with radiation therapy, which targets the same spot repeatedly on different days.

    The Roller coaster ride of deciding what to do and how to pay for Chase’s care began. One day when I was feeling down and stressed, I turned around and there was Chase wearing a pillowcase on his head, with a sheepish look on his face. It was the pillowcase that had been hanging on the back of my chair, the pillowcase that I put on my lap when using my laptop. Chase’s silly expression, like ‘get this thing off of me’ made me burst out laughing, and I realized how tense and stressed I’d been since the diagnosis. Chase reminded me to live in the moment, and I swear that he somehow put that pillowcase on his head on purpose!


    I tried to be more like a dog, but sometimes I wasn’t very good at it. Thinking of Chase's diagnosis and anticipating a shortened life, I cried sometimes. I felt sorry for him (when he didn’t even feel sorry for himself). I felt hung over, heavy inside, when I hadn't touched a drink. I moved at the speed of molasses. And there was Chase, bringing me the ball, urging me to throw it. Chasing it over and over, making spectacular shortstop saves. Reminding me that on this day we could still do this, and we'd better get to it, we'd best enjoy it! Always by my side, I didn't think he wanted me to feel bad for him. He wanted me to remember all the good times we’ve shared, and continue seizing the day. So I tried to be more like a dog. :-) And whenever he sensed that I needed a hug, he stepped up on the stool in the bathroom and looked at me until I got the hint.

    Chase was so happy and healthy that I knew I had to do something for him; I couldn’t do nothing. So, with time being of the essence, Chase began a series of daily definitive radiation therapy (RT) treatments at the end of July. Definitive means, essentially, going after a cure for a disease that may have no cure. Since the end of July, life has been a whirlwind, with Chase’s 21 weekday RT treatments ending on August 23rd. We got up very early every weekday, I dropped him off at the University of Minnesota clinic for the day, and then picked him up after work. I bought two pendants that say, “Every day holds the possibility of a miracle”, and we each wear one around our neck, his on his collar and mine on a silver chain.

    After the first day of treatment, when we returned to the clinic on the second day, Chase howled out a greeting when he saw his vet tech in the waiting area. When I saw how well he had bonded with her after just one day, I knew he was in great hands. He handled every visit to the clinic like a therapy dog visit, nosing his way behind the front desk every morning to greet the receptionists, wagging his tail all the way down the hall, reaching out to say hi to everyone who crossed his path. I’m not sure he knew that he was the patient. I, who was stressed by the schedule, making special food for him, lack of sleep, decision-making, finances, and advocating for Chase within the University ‘system’, learned a lot from Chase’s attitude. He made the best of every day and made a lot of friends.

    Chase did very well and handled the treatments well. But in mid-August he got very sick. We eventually discovered an odd-shaped piece of plastic in his stomach. It had to be removed with an endoscope. The plastic piece had nothing directly to do with the cancer and was found to be from an old ball that I had thrown away a while ago. I’m not sure how Chase got this plastic or was even able to swallow it, but it blocked the exit from his stomach and could have been fatal. We were lucky.

    We worked with our home vet and a complementary medicine vet at the U to give Chase optimal nutrition via whole foods, herbs, and supplements (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine) to help him resist the cancer and endure the treatments. They gave him acupuncture treatments to help him deal with pain and nausea, boost his immune system, and keep the energy flowing well in his body. I laid my hands on him and gave him Reiki treatments. And these veterinarians, these caregivers, gave me an abundance of information and emotional support. With their positive energy, I began to think about not just living life to the fullest until the train hit, but about actually derailing the train. Yes, derailing the train!
    On the last day of regular RT treatments, it was hard to leave Chase’s friends behind. I had struggled with different veterinarians coming and going, and difficulties with communication and accessing the doctors, but one veterinarian had been very good to us. The vet techs had held everything together and watched out for Chase the whole time, and we had become friends. One vet tech in particular, Jess, was always there for us and went out of her way to help us. Chase fell in love with her. Although I did need to advocate for Chase at times, he turned out to be his own best advocate. People fell in love with him and cared about him almost as much as I do, or maybe even as much. They do a very demanding job in a most loving and caring way, and Chase responded well to this.

    Chase missed his July and August library visits. In August Bandit passed the Pet Partners therapy dog test with the highest marks, so he is now qualified to substitute for Chase if needed. The library visits will start up again in September, when the kids are back in school and ready to read to Chase again. I very much appreciated support from people on the READ dog list whose dogs had also undergone cancer treatment. I also received an abundance of support from friends on Facebook, including this saying: “Don't forget H.O.P.E.: Have Only Positive Expectations”.

    With the RT treatments completed, Chase’s body is healing. We’re still in limbo. One of the most maddening things about cancer is not knowing where you stand. I’m hopeful that the cancer cells were killed during the treatment and the normal cells will heal and be healthy again. Not only is colonic adenocarcinoma rare, but it is even more rare to find it before it has metastasized. Since Chase’s cancer was determined to be stage 1, nobody is quite sure what to tell us, because apparently they haven’t seen this before. But everyone is pulling for Chase.
    Several people have asked me how we found Chase's cancer so early, before there was any evidence of metastasis. It was the blood in his stools, appearing intermittently, for several months. I thought it went away for a while, but then it reappeared and I knew something was wrong. Here, from the Veterinary Cancer Society, are the top ten common warning signs that a dog may have cancer and should be examined by a vet. These signs are not specific to cancer and could also indicate other conditions, many of which are not life-threatening. But they should be checked out.

    1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
    2. Sores that don't heal
    3. Weight loss
    4. Loss of appetite
    5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
    6. Offensive odor
    7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
    8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
    9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
    10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

    (From the book "Good Old Dog" by Nicholas Dodman ©2010 by Tufts University… This book has a good chapter on fighting canine cancer, which is easy to read and describes well the most common forms.)

    Chase is doing great. He’s pooping well, which has been the biggest indicator of how well his colon is functioning. At the beginning of September, he goes back for a follow-up exam and CT scan. The path we’re on today is optimistic, hopeful, living in the moment, enjoying each day. When I’m tempted to think that life isn’t fair, I also think that having a lot to lose means that perhaps life has been more than fair, that life has been pretty generous indeed. We know we’re lucky to have each other and we’re not wasting one single day.

    The traditional and holistic vets agreed that Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine are great supplements for Chase. I think it helped that Chase’s skin, coat and immune system were in great condition before he began treatment. He still looks great, is energetic, and did not lose any hair during the treatments. Use the code JPavlovic for 20% off your first online order

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