Friday, October 3, 2014

The Dogs of My Life - Part Two - Casey, (Toto), Koko, Lacey, Rosita, and Maggie

[See here for part one of the dogs of my life]

In 1976 I met my first wife, Nikki. She had a siamese cat, Ming, who ate only boiled liver (freshly boiled liver I might add) until he temporarily moved in with me into my apartment in Chicago before Nikki and I married. I flat out told Nikki I would not feed him boiled liver. There was an A&P across the street and each night I would go buy three different cans of Nine Lives. I would open them all, and put three lumps of food on a plate noting the location of each. He would ignore them all...but I didn't care, he was only a cat. On the third night one of the lumps was gone and he only occasionally had boiled liver after that. Ming passed away in the early 1980s.

Ming in San Jose, CA in 1981
In 1985, we were living in Pittsburgh and Nikki started making noises about getting a new cat and perhaps a dog. I was not opposed but we didn't get around to it due to other things going on. In October of that year I was on a business trip followed by a train trip in California while Nikki went to Chicago to see her family (and mine). When I met her at my parent's house there was awaiting me a tiny ball of fur that was a miniature schnauzer puppy. I was quite upset that this was done without me but almost immediately the doggie won me over and I named her "Casey". Then Nikki came back to my parent's house with a Siamese kitten who she named "Ming" so Casey became "Ming's Casey" to keep the tradition going. We flew them back to Pittsburgh in one under seat pet carrier.

Casey in Highland Park, IL in 1985
Ming was just a cat, but Casey was a wonderful dog. She was perhaps the friendliest of the schnauzers I've had in my life (though Tag would give her a run for her money.) And also perhaps the smartest. Soon enough, though, one dog and one cat wasn't enough for Nikki and a Cairn terrier named (wait for it), Toto, entered our lives. This was shortly before Nikki and I divorced and Casey and I soon left Ming and Toto behind.

I credit Casey with keeping me sane when I got my divorce. She was a smiling face when I would get home from work. She also was a great wingdog. Most afternoons I would take her over to Mellon Park where there was an unofficial dog park full of other dogs, and their owners, many of whom were unattached women. I did not meet my wife Barbara there, but it sure helped pass the time. Also, the line "would you like to come over and see my schnauzer" was a lot better than "would you like to come over and see my etchings!"

During this time I was heavily into road rallying and when I found myself without a navigator for some reason, I'd take Casey along. She quickly became known as Navidog.

Casey would regularly make the trip to Chicago with me, but she was (just) too big for an under seat carrier and had to ride in the hold. In Thankgiving of 1987 (I think) we were returning from Chicago and as I awaited her at the baggage claim out came Toto as well. My ex had been visiting her family at the same time. We both had parked our cars at the same off-airport parking facility and awkwardly rode the same bus. After we got to the car park both dogs were on leashes and given a chance to get reacquainted with each other. Toto basically ignored me and Casey because that is the kind of dog he was. Casey was happy to see Nikki and Toto because that is the kind of dog she was.

I fully credit Casey with helping me woo Barbara. She came over to meet my schnauzer in January of 1989 and hardly ever left! In July of 1991 we were married, but we'd been a family for most of the two+ years prior.

Casey and Barb in Altoona, PA in 1989
To give you an idea of the kind of dog Casey was, whenever she spent time overnight at the vet, whether boarding, or for some other reason, she was treated as the house dog. She'd basically have free run of the area behind the check-in counter.

Koko and Barb in Pittsburgh in 1995
Casey would get walks around the block at least three times a day and when we got about half way around we'd see a cute Bichon Frisee named Samantha staring at us out a window. So it was that in September 1991 the newlyweds went out and found Koko, a white and apricot Bichon Frisee that became Casey's soulmate (and was actually named "Casey's Koko"). Koko was a cute, sweet dog but not nearly as smart as Casey. It took her over two years to be properly housebroken. When our daughter, Lizzy, was born in 1995, Casey was 10 years old and Koko only four. We thought there would be no problem with Casey and the baby and but that there might be a problem with Koko and the baby. In fact, the opposite happened. Koko immediately adopted Lizzy as her baby and was extremely protective. Casey, who by this time was also diabetic and partially blind wanted nothing to do with the baby. She wasn't mean to Lizzy...just indifferent.

Casey and Lizzy in Pittsburgh in 1995
In time, Casey got very ill and had to go to the vet for tests and treatment and was kept over several days. The first night I went back to the vet to play with her and hug her a bit. She saw me and her tail started wagging a mile a minute, but you could see that was about all that she could manage. The next day I received a call from the vet who made the suggestion that it was "time". This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make and I was distraught for days afterwards, but it really was time and Casey was put to sleep at about 12 years old.

A couple of years later, we decided that we really needed another schnauzer in our life and found a family nearby that bred them. We went to pick out a puppy from the litter and I picked one using the same method I had with Tag...the first one to come to me in a friendly way. But I was overruled by Barb and Lizzy and so we left with another pup. We took her to the vet to be checked and he heard a heart murmur and suggested that we take another puppy. So we ended up with the one I chose from the beginning and we named her Koko's Lacey. Lacey was a strange miniature schnauzer. The first time we put a collar on her she shrieked like she was being tortured. She loved everyone but she loved food more than anything else. She was easily twice the size of any miniature schnauzer we'd had before (well Tag was close but Tag wasn't as beefy as Lacey). She was so big we'd sometimes call her Bertha after the Big Bertha guns.

Lacey in Pittsburgh approximately 2002
Did I mention she loved food? Woe the person who left a candy bar or other snack around. I had one in my brief case once and had to replace the brief case. A visiting friend, Dave, had one in his camera case which luckily wasn't locked (had it been locked he probably would have had to replace it.)

It turned out that the heart murmur that the vet heard in the other pup was present to a degree in Lacey as well, just not as obvious. She developed heart troubles and had to have an awful smelling enzyme mixed with her food. She loved it. We didn't.

In the meantime, Lizzy was in grade school and had started to take Spanish. Somewhere along the line she decided that we wanted a Chihuahua as our next dog, and it would be named Rosita Le Jos. (As far as anyone knows "Le Jos" means nothing in Spanish.) Whenever she (or Barb) would bring this up, I'd ask them which of Lacey or Koko they'd like to get rid of so that there would be room for the Chihauhua. This went on for some time until I made a mistake. I was heading off on a business trip in July 2004 when Barb asked me again. I let her know I was upset and then said the fatal words "if you have to get a damn Chihauhua go get a damn Chihuahua." Of course I meant the opposite, but Barb chose to understand me the way she wanted to and I came home to find a cute long-haired Chihuahua waiting for me.

Rosita Le Jos in Pittsburgh in 2007
While Koko loved everybody, Lacey wanted no part of Rosita. In fact, she was scared of her I think, and would hide. Barb solved the problem by leaving them together outside in our fenced backyard, where Lacey had nowhere to escape. It wasn't long before they, too, were fast friends.

In early 2005, Barb started taking Rosita to "Doggy Day Care" to socialize her with other dogs. She was just beginning to play with other dogs and was romping around with a terrier when her eye-lid got caught in the s-clip attaching the terrier's dog tags to his collar. The local vet was unable to help and the eye specialist had no openings for a while so I planned to take her to Ohio State University in Columbus where they would be able to perform the surgery. A few days before she and I were ready for our road trip the local specialist called to tell us he had an opening and so we never made the road trip. Rosie's eye is fine now.

In late July and early August I went off on a trip to Las Vegas and when I returned Barb and Liz were out. When I saw them drive up I picked up Rosita to take her to see them and, in her excitement and desire to get to Barb and Liz, she nipped at my fingers and I reflexively let her go allowing her to fall onto the concrete driveway. She limped off to the bushes and I felt awful. We spent much of that evening at the emergency vet where she was pronounced fine, much to my relief.

From puppyhood to this day Rosita has had the habit of carrying around a stuffed toy when she comes to us. One of her early favorites was a beanie baby lobster. We call her "lobster dog" when she is carrying it. She also has the habit of waking us by jumping on our bed and walking on us...again, usually with a lobster or other stuffed toy in her mouth.

Unfortunately Koko, Lacey, and Rosita overlapped only about two months. In September of 2004 I was off riding trains in Montana and on this particular day I was sightseeing in Glacier Park when I receive a call from Barb that Koko had suffered a bad stroke and had to be put to sleep. She was 13 at the time.

In Summer 2007 Barb was out of commission for a few weeks due to recent back surgery. I had a minor outpatient procedure done at a local hospital and I was looking forward to a drug assisted sleep when I got home. Somehow after I got home Rosie and Lacey got into a fight and Rosie's ear started bleeding a lot. A trip to the emergency vet was in order but neither of us were able to drive. So a friend took Rosita and I to the vet and I sat in my drug induced haze while the vet checked her and said that she'd be ok. Ears, apparently, bleed a lot.

In 2008 Lacey's heart problems got worse and it was getting so we had to take her to the emergency vet every few weeks because she was having problems breathing. Finally the vet said it was time. I was alone with her and I can still picture her jumping on my leg before they took her away for the last time. I cried all the way home.

Rosita in her "food" corner...just after breakfast

So we were a one dog family again, but not for long. In 2009, Maggie, a Yorkshire Terrier joined our family. Rosita was not happy at first and would take out her natural aggression on Maggie but we were soon able to substitute one of her toys for Maggie and now they are the best of friends (though Maggie still takes the long way to the back yard when Rosie goes out right ahead of her.) Maggie is a barker, but loves everyone.

Maggie in Pittsburgh in 2011
And there things sit, though Barb and Lizzy are making noises about another dog again. You can be sure that I will be very careful in what I say to them...I hope.

Postscript: on Thanksgiving Day, November 27 we lost Rosita to her heart problems. She had just come home from a stay at the vet on Monday and we awoke on Thursday to a dog that was clearly miserable. We took her to the emergency vet that morning and by 3pm we had to make the decision to put her out of her misery. (Then we had to go on to a family Thanksgiving dinner. Life goes on.) Rosie is missed very much. Maggie is adjusting to life as the only dog in the family...hopefully not for long.

Rosita, November 24, 2014