Saturday, August 02, 2014

Dozer, Beloved

With heavy hearts, we did the necessary on Monday, July 28, 2014. Our precious Dozer has gone to the Rainbow Bridge.

He stopped eating over the weekend, was struggling to breathe and walk, and no longer had that big "Dozer smile," so we had no doubts by Sunday that it was time.

In his last 24 hours, Dozer got cooked chicken thighs--the only thing we could get him to eat--and we spent lots of time sitting with him, cuddling, kissing him, and telling him what a good boy he was.

An ultrasound on Monday morning confirmed that Dozer's heart was enlarged and failing, and we made the decision to help him go peacefully.

Dozer was a member of our family and a big part of our lives for over 13 years. He saw me off to work or school every day, through all of my degrees and careers.

He always had a big goofy smile on his face.

He was a friend to (or, in his senior years, he tolerated) countless foster animals and new pets.



Until he lost his hearing (from old age), he knew the name of each of his toys and would bring you any toy you requested. He could also put his toys away in his toy box, and open and close doors and drawers.

When spoken to, he cocked his head and listened carefully, made eye contact, and gave very appropriate reactions based on our tone of voice. I always felt like I was having a conversation with another human.

Dozer knew how to get hugs by being irresistibly adorable. He loved to ham for the camera.

Dozer was our beloved, and our hearts ache from his loss. We miss him more than words can convey.

Good boy, Dozer. Good bye.

2000 - 2014
"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dozer's Post

Seems I post about once per year nowadays. My job contributes to that, but I've also kept busy during my time off. I notice that many of my old blogging friends have slowed down somewhat, too, so I don't feel too bad about neglecting the blog. Life is busy and exciting, and I try to step away from the computer whenever I can.

Today I share news about Dozer. After almost 14 years, his finish line is in sight.

You can rather see the problem in the photo. He's skin and bones, but has a potbelly. He's not eating much, and not walking around much. Everything he does exhausts him. Even standing.

This was a rapid decline, starting about three months ago, an obvious problem in the last three weeks. He's been to the vet several times since, but kept getting diagnosed as "just an old guy." Today I scheduled him with our long-time vet, who has known Dozer since a puppy, and he quickly agreed: something is amiss.

Dozer has always been a hyperactive patient. He gets really anxious being away from home, even though he likes the people at the vet's office. I often have to force him to sit down so he doesn't squirm around while being examined. But today, when Dozer crawled into the exam room and laid himself out flat on the floor, and didn't get up for the rest of the exam, the vet knew right away that this was not normal. Halfway through the visit, Dozer closed his eyes and appeared to fall asleep. It was one of those moments that kicks you hard in the gut, without warning, because it feels so horribly... wrong. The vet made a strange face. I started to cry.

We suspect his heart. We'll know more in a few days, after a sonogram and an x-ray. I don't think there's much we can do for him, though, except to help him be comfortable and content until he's ready to leave us.

Love you, buddy.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Back in the saddle

You might have noticed that I took a pretty long hiatus from blogging.

After graduating last summer, I started a new career. As a public auditor. At a Big Four accounting firm.

It's a great career overall, but it's the type of work that can require some very extreme hours. During the worst stretch of busy season, I was putting in over 80 hours a week (and weekends) for six weeks in a row. I worked over 100 hours near the end of one job.

At any rate, when I finally close my work laptop at the end of a 12-hour day, the last thing I want to do is go home and get on the computer again. And to add to reasons not to blog, my company--like many companies, but particularly because of the type of work we do--would prefer that their employees maintain a fairly low profile (or no profile) in social media arenas.

So blogging has been at the very bottom of my priority list. And I probably won't post very often, as long as I'm working at Big Four.

Mind you, I knew what I was getting into, going into this career. This is why I stepped down from and pulled out of all of my volunteer activities last fall. I would like to say that I miss those activities, but thus far I've been so busy, I barely have time to do laundry, much less lament the death of my social life.

Moving on to more positive things!

At long last, Dozer's terrible allergies are almost entirely under control. He hasn't been to the vet for over a year (aside from his annual checkup) and he did not need a cortisone shot this spring. Miraculous!!

The key has been to limit him to Instinct rabbit flavor dog food (and NOTHING else); to bathe him WEEKLY without fail with a vet-prescribed chlorhexidine (antiseptic) shampoo; and to give him one cetirizine hydrochloride (Zyrtec) pill EVERY evening. Additionally, we keep his living areas as clean as possible, by washing his beds and vacuuming the floors once a week; and we call pest control to treat the yard at the first sign of fleas.

Dozer is turning 13 this year. He has lost most of his hearing. It's been more of an adjustment for us than for him, because he knows signed commands just fine--it's just that we have to remember to use them! He's quite good at reading body language and facial expressions, though, so the only real trouble has been when he's not looking at us or he's not in the room. We have to remember to go find him and tap him on the head to get his attention.

He had to wear this inflatable "tire" for a while because he wouldn't stop licking a bump between his toes. At first he didn't like it much, but soon he discovered that it made a great pillow no matter where he was. No complaints after that.

Star is doing great. She LOVES Dozer. Even though he's a grumpy old fart.

Star knows how to cover herself up with a blanket. She actually can disappear entirely under a blanket, which has led to more than one instance in which Byrd and I couldn't find her anywhere, and we both started to panic.

As you can see in the photos, she also likes to sleep with Dozer's head in her stomach, and her head hanging off the edge of the dog bed. I have a lot of photos like this. These two photos were taken several weeks apart.

Since Byrd and I are working so much, we hired a pet sitter to come by during the day to play with them and walk them.

And, though I don't have time to foster dogs right now, we are "fostering" butterflies again this summer.

Both the Eastern Black Swallowtail and the Pipevine Swallowtail are our guests this year. So far, we've "grown" about two dozen butterflies. The caterpillar castle has been pretty busy.

Well, until next time-- I hope all of you are doing well!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Swallowtail Caterpillars

Believe it or not, in a mere 1.5 months, I will graduate with a master's degree in professional accounting. Then I start work as an auditor with a Big Four accounting firm at the end of August. And probably (reluctantly) start studying for the CPA exam.
Meanwhile, a fun new "project" has come along lately that I thought you might enjoy: eastern black swallowtail caterpillars!

We started noticing the caterpillars on our lone dill plant in early June. LOTS of them.

Everything was cool until they started turning black and dying, one by one. Finally, I saw a spined soldier bug (stink bug) killing one. And then another. And then several more.

Predatory stink bugs can be helpful because they eat pest caterpillars and many other undesirable insects. But they don't care that we think swallowtail butterflies are pretty. So Byrd and I decided to remove the caterpillars to a safe place, and let the stink bugs find something else to eat.

We ended up with 34 caterpillars in various stages of growth. But where were we going to keep all of these caterpillars?

So Byrd, in true Byrd fashion, went way overboard and built them a fancy caterpillar castle.

First was the base. It is plywood and wood trim that rests on a big square plastic pot. In the four corners, he made four little vases out of PVC. In the middle is a big hole.

Dozer didn't understand what we were up to, but he enjoyed laying on the garage floor and getting the occasional hug and baby talk.

"What d'ya mean, 'who's your sweet bubby boy'? Is that a rhetorical question?"
Though the garage is still kind of new for all of us, Dozer makes a really great "garage-buddy" dog. He finds a comfy spot on the floor and just hangs out there. Even if the garage door is wide open and someone's walking past the house (with their dog, even), he doesn't care at all. Just sits there.

Next, Byrd made the top part, and wrapped it with window screen wire. You can see the underside of the plywood, where the PVC vases are screwed in.

So what's that big hole for? It's for a potted plant that the caterpillars can eat. I wanted to be able to swap out the plant that goes in the middle, depending on what was available.

Swallowtail caterpillars eat plants in the wild carrot family: dill, fennel, parsley, and Queen Anne's lace.

We only have the one dill plant, and because it's later in the summer now, dill isn't available at the nurseries. Parsley is in season, however. So we bought a whole bunch of parsley and put them into pots that would sit in the center hole.

You're thinking, hey, that's a neat idea! Well, it turned out to be kind of a dumb idea, because I soon learned that 34 caterpillars can eat one of these pots of parsley to the ground every day!

Here's what the caterpillar castle looked like right after we put all our caterpillars in.

Live young parsley plants are, frankly, too expensive to keep buying every day. After we ran out of live parsley on the fourth day, I bought some bunches of organic parsley from the grocery store.

At 99 cents for a bunch that lasts a few days, I can live with it. And the caterpillars don't seem to mind. I just trim the stems and pop the parsley into the PVC vases.

Today, we only have 1 of these 34 caterpillars still as a caterpillar. The rest have turned into chrysalides!

Some of the caterpillars pupated on the screen of the castle.

And some of them found a spot on the wood. Swallowtail chrysalides are either green or brown, and it seems that they try to pick the color that matches most closely to the surface where they settle down to pupate. Camouflage!

We had a problem with about 10 of the pupas; the caterpillars decided to use a parsley stem. In the wild, it would probably be okay for a caterpillar to pupate on a fairly sturdy stem, but our parsley was cut, and it started to wilt.

The droopy parsley stems cause the chrysalis to hang upside down, which isn't good for it. We had to zip-tie the wilty stems on to a stick, so the chrysalides can stay upright until the butterflies are ready to emerge.

They'll spend about 2 weeks in the chrysalis before emerging as big Swallowtail butterflies, which we'll release into our garden. The good thing about chrysalides is that they don't eat/poop constantly.

So we're almost done with Caterpillar Batch 1.

Now comes Batch 2!

Last Saturday, Byrd and I watched a swallowtail butterfly neatly place tiny little green eggs on the dill plant.

In four days, the eggs hatched into microscopic black caterpillars.

I tried to get a picture of one. Can you see it there? This is a two-day-old eastern black swallowtail caterpillar. It is at a stage called "first instar." Instar is the stage of the caterpillar's growth.

When the first instar caterpillar sheds its skin, it becomes second instar. Swallowtail caterpillars go through four instars before pupating.

I wanted to leave the caterpillars on the dill plant for as long as possible. But today, most of the caterpillars had reached second instar, and they were starting to get eaten by soldier bug nymphs, which look like tiny, bright red beetles.

So I removed the little caterpillars to one of our aquariums.

I counted approximately 55 caterpillars in Batch 2!

Can you see the difference between first and second instar? These caterpillars have shed their skin once, and now have more orange color.

We will probably keep these little guys in the tank for the first week. When they're larger, we'll move them into the caterpillar castle.

Hopefully, by then, Batch 1 will be butterflies.

But that's not all. Today we saw another swallowtail butterfly laying her eggs all over the dill! In another week, we will have Batch 3. :O

By the end of summer, we'll probably have raised and released over 100 butterflies. Totally worth it!

Here's a random shot of Star, since she didn't get to be in this blog post for any other reason. She had some crazy upright ears going on.

"What're YOU looking at?!"