Posts Tagged ‘cocker spaniels’

Maggie relaxing in my daughter's chair after today's grooming. I can't help but notice after each grooming these days, her once pure black muzzle gets grayer and grayer. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.” Franklin P. Jones

 Travels With Maggie

My traveling companion, Maggie, is a cocker spaniel with thick, fast growing fur that needs to be trimmed and washed every 10 days so as to keep both her ear infections and allergies at a minimum.

My previous cocker could go six weeks between groomings, and when I owned her I had a steady paycheck coming in weekly and a great groomer who charged only $25.

The cost of sending Maggie to a groomer these days ranges from a low of $42 to a high of $53 – and I live on a pretty low fixed income. So Maggie gets home, or shall we say RV-groomed since that is our home.

When the weather is warm enough, and when my RV, Gypsy Lee is hooked up to electricity, it’s an outdoor job. I sit on my RV step with Maggie in front of me and the clippers plugged into an outdoor outlet. The wind usually blows the clipped hair away.

On cold days, I sit on my toilet seat with Maggie propped up a bin in front of me and then sweep and vacuum the hair up afterward. It takes about three days before the last few pieces are finally discovered and discarded.

One or the other of those procedures works everywhere except my oldest daughter’s home, where I have no place to plug in Gypsy Lee. Today, since it was too cool to groom Maggie outside, I used the small downstairs half bath as my grooming saloon. I sat on the toilet and put Maggie on a stool in front of me. With the door closed, her cut fur was confined and didn’t get all over my daughter’s house. Clean up was much easier than in my RV.

I keep the grooming routine as simply as possible, using only two clippers blades for the job, a No. 10 for her back, throat, face and ears, and a No. 4 for the lower body and legs. Neither Maggie nor I have much patience, so on a scale of 1 (great) to 10 (disastrous), the outcome is usually in the above 5 range.

Today’s might have actually been a 4. But that’s not what pleases me. Every single time I have groomed her in the past, which is over 200 times in the nearly 12 years I’ve had her, today was the first time I didn’t have to fight her to get her right ear groomed. It has been extremely sensitive all her life.

I suspect the reason for her cooperation today when I was working on that ear is the new medicine that she was put on two weeks ago to fight her most recent ear infection. That infection was an extremely painful one for her, so much so that if it couldn’t be controlled it might have ended with me losing her.

I felt like shouting for joy when I finished. Maggie just wanted her treat. She always gets one afterward – whether she’s been good or not.

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 Out perfect companions never have fewer than four feet. “ – Sidonie Gabrielle Colette


Maggie taking in a campfire conversation. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

It’s raining outside this morning, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re hoping for a rainbow. And I am, in the form of a magic bullet to finally solve Maggie’s chronic cocker spaniel ear problem. It’s a last-resort solution for the canine companion who became a part of my life in 1999.

I rescued Maggie from an Ogden, Utah, animal shelter where she had ended up twice. The first time she had been found wandering the streets as a tiny, barely weaned puppy. It wasn’t known if she was dumped or if she had simply wandered away.

Sadly, her first adoptive family had teenage boys who abused her, and the mom in that family finally returned her to the shelter. She was skittish of humans, although clearly wanting their company, when I adopted her.

My then aged cocker spaniel, Peaches, was in need of a companion after my cat of 18 years died. Peaches died a few months later and Maggie then became my only pet. I thought of getting a doggie companion for her, since I was working long hours at the time, but Maggie communicated to me that she preferred being an only child


Companions -- Photo by Carol Landau

And yes, she really does communicate with me, more so than any animal I’ve ever owned. Of course it’s Maggie who owns me

For the past seven years, she and I have been 24-hour-a-day companions. We’ve both aged in those years. I’m not as spry and Maggie’s muzzle has become grizzled. But as a dog, she has a much shorter life expectancy, which is a cruel reality.  

I fought her ear infections from the first, watching as they continued to get worse with every passing year. Tuesday night, however, was the first time I’ve seen her in extreme pain.

A deep sleeper who never even budges when I get up to go to the bathroom, Maggie was awake all night suffering and trying to get comfortable. I grieved because I couldn’t help her. And still am grieving because there might not be a solution to her pain.

When I went into the vet’s yesterday morning, I brought with me the box full of all the half-used prescriptions and over-the-counter remedies that not only hadn’t solved the problem, but which often made things worse.

The only sure solution, the vet said, was an expensive operation to remove all her ear canals, which I don’t feel is an option since Maggie is 14. Stymied herself, the vet called a specialist, who recommended a new drug that has proved somewhat successful in treating such difficult cases.

I pick it up today.

In the meantime, the vet gave Maggie a steroid shot to ease her swelling and pain, and I gave her a tiny bit of Pepto Bismol to counteract the diarrhea a steroid shot gives her. She’s had quite a few over the years and I know how she reacts.

The good news is that Maggie slept through the night. What follows now is simply hope this new drug is the rainbow after the storm that I desperately want it to be, and which Maggie’s life depends on it being. 

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Travels With Maggie

            “Soon or late, every dog’s master’s memory becomes a graveyard; peopled by wistful little furry ghosts that creep back unbidden, at times, to a semblance of their olden lives.” – Albert Payson  Terhune.          

Maggie on a trail in the Tonto Basin -- Photo by Pat Bean

  When I came across the above quote, it moved me to remember all the dogs that have made my life better.

            There was Curley, my grandmother’s stand-offish white spitz, who once jumped out of a car at a grocery store and wouldn’t let anyone approach him. They came and got me out of my second-grade school class, and he came right up to me.

            Blackie is the second dog I remember, a cocker-mix, who shared my childhood tears of injustice as we hid away in the center of a large hedge in the side yard.

            Tex, a beautiful big gray weimaraner, whom was inherited from my ex-husband’s dying grandfather, came next. Tex could jump the backyard fence from a standing position, and gave my young toddlers horsie rides.  

             Two dogs named Rev, for reveille came next. They were loving family dogs, more attached to my kids than me, although I was the one who fed them.

Albert Payson Terhune with one of his collies

            Then there was a period of time, following a divorce and several moves, when I didn’t have a dog. It was a busy time in my life and I didn’t know how much I missed having a canine companion until Peaches came into my life.

            I got her from a young couple who were moving when she was about five years old. It was instant love and bonding between the two of us. She never wanted out of my sight, and it gave her great joy to watch over and please me.

            She was my hiking companion, instantly by me knee when anyone approached on the trail, but otherwise circling around, seeing the scenery with her nose. And if there was a group of us, she felt it her duty to keep us all together. She would run up to the  leaders and urge them to slow down, and then back she would go to hurry the laggards among us along.

            The last long hike she and I took together was Negro Bill Canyon, a five mile hike to an arch near Moab. It was a very slow hike as I was recovering from foot surgery at the time and Peaches was blind.

            A few weeks later, when she and I were out on a short walk, she gave out. I had to carry her home. I babied her, cooked chicken and rice for her meals, and watched over her for another few months before it came time for me to bid her good-bye.

            Maggie, my current black cocker spaniel traveling companion, came next. I rescued her from a shelter when she was a little over a year old.

 She’s as different from Peaches as a bluebird is from a raven. She’s a whimpy hiker, and she thinks it’s my duty to protect her.

Maggie in her favorite spot in our RV -- Photo by Pat Bean, July 2006

She’s my boss, not the other way around. And everyone knows it

            And now she’s 13, gray around the muzzle and slowed by age. Time has become our enemy. Her life expectancy is shorter than mine. And as I acknowledge this, the tears flow on this page.

            Albert Payson Terhune, whose words inspired this blog, was my favorite author as a child. I read all his books, which are mostly about dogs. He was especially partial to Collies. His first, and probably best known book, is “Lad: A Dog,” published in 1919 and still in print today. .  

Who would have thought that the words of this favorite author from my past would return and now haunt me.

            Thankful the good memories of my pets, while not obliterating the pain of loss, outweigh it.

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