Friday, July 31, 2009

Goodbye Caney "Wonder Dog" Serpico

In The Mountains of NH, Men are made.

Born: January 20, 1999  Died: July 31, 2009 at 5:25pm

Justin was his person:  June 8th 1999 - forever.

Love you, and thank you for showing us Wonder Dog one more time last weekend. You are indisputable proof that no matter how bad things are that there is no such thing as a bad day on the trail.

I miss you already but I know you are arrogantly leading the pack somewhere. Go play with your best friend Russell. Say hi to Mom (just try to pretend you know/want to heel when she walks you).  Go find Madi, she wanted a white dog, and now she has a really good one.

I always felt like you were a person trapped in a dogs body. If that is true, I will gladly be your dog next time around.

Right now I can't imagine having to go so long till we spend time on the trail together again, but we will always be closest to you when we are in the mountains.

First or Second Overnight Paddling Trip (2000)

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Hike and Swim at the Kayaderosseras

Thursday Caney had that bored Border Collie look on his face, he isn't feeling better, and he is less and less mobile each day but he still
has plenty of life in him to get out on the trail.

A day on the Kayaderosseras

Friday we just spent a few hours on the grass chillin but it was hot humid and unbearable, and Saturday we didn't do much of anything but watch baseball and movies with the weather being much the same, so he was due for a day out if he was up for it.

A day on the Kayaderosseras

After last night when he wanted to play with the random 150lb Bull Mastiff, we realized how boring we humans were and needed to get out and be more BC like.

Kayaderosseras Creek

So today we are hiking and swimming at the Kayaderosseras Creek south of Saratoga Springs. He isn't swimming much because I think it hurts him, but he has been wading chest deep in the creek before and after we walked a mile on the trail. His big thing has always been to herd water surface bugs by swimming after them, or looking in the water for frogs or fish, ever since his first backpacking trip. For a second he even showed us a glimpse of 1999 Caney from the Buffalo River at Kyles Landing when he dove for a group of bugs on the water.

Caney At Kayaderosseras Creek

For the last 20 minutes he has walked and waded a 200 foot stretch of shoreline and gravel bar over a dozen times. Before the hike he spent another 20 minutes wading in the water.

Caney At Kayaderosseras Creek

He just took a break for 10 minutes where he laid on the gravel bar and intently watched the creek flow by
as he scanned the forest for birds and animals.

Sometimes it amazes me how much we are alike. I'm not a gym rat or a neighborhood jogger. I enjoy walking around town at night when it is peaceful to think and relax, but other than that I get most of my exercise on the trail or water, and am most motivated to be active in preparation for those days.

I remember pre surgery in 2000 being in constant
pain most of every day, but for a few days a week when outside in the
mountains my pain was so much more manageable that it was either gone or at least not overwhelming. I think Caney is very much the same.

We forded the creek to the wide gravel bar on the opposite shore,which made for a nice place to layout and watch Caney explore the Kayaderosseras. Unlike the trail walk above the shoreline and through the open fields, the mosquitoes, whom have been as bad this summer as I can ever remember, didn't bother us a bit.


After an ice cream, and a stop by the grocery store to get Caney some food (steak and chop meat which he is eating between 1.5 and 2lbs of a day), we rented a movie from Red Box. First time we rented from the "Futurama" style machine, and I forgot how bad upsampled DVD is on a 60in DLP. We usually rent 1080i via the cable box but Red Box is $1 per night, or $3 cheaper. Caney doesn't care about the visuals, he loves the surround sound (as do I), so he was plenty happy with the sounds of Indiana Jones. As usual when the movie was over, he got up and went to bed. Some things never change!

Red Box

(photos from palm Panasonic FX01)

-- Sent from my Palm Pre wireless device

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sweet Kisses For You...Thank You Very Much

Second backpacking trip to Harriman (1999)
(photo: November 1999)

From July 12th 2009:

When we got Caney in June 1999 he came out of the box with the ability to give kisses. You would do the kissy sound, and say kisses, and he would give them. Pretty cool.

Several years down the road he realized that kisses were special and only for when you deserved them. He developed what I call "sweet kisses" and "fake kisses." He still acknowledged the kisses command, but he would not kiss your lips or face. Instead he would come up short, almost like a peck that didn't quite reach. If it did reach it was quick and half hearted, just barely a peck. Sometimes I wouldn't accept that, and I'd grab his snout and give him a big fat kiss right on his lips. Believe it or not, I've had vet techs and veterinarians comment on his lips, and for a dog they are pretty nice. I once had a vet tech give him a kiss right on the lips while he was in for an appointment. When he was a puppy they were pink so they really stood out like real lips, along with pink spots on his nose. As he got older they turned darker, as did his nose, but they are still handsome.

Today we were sitting on the shoreline of the Hudson River and just hanging ou at the Pines and Caney came over unprompted and gave me sweet kisses, and lots of them. That made me feel good because I felt like he was saying we are doing a good job, and he loves us.

What Aim and I have noticed recently, is that while he has always been nervous and less happy when we were separated, he seems to not want us to be apart at all right now. If we leave together he wants to be with us, and if we are apart he seems much more larthargic. He won't walk with me to the mail boxes, but tonight Aim came out with us, and he was eager to walk.

During the course of the day Caney made a few friends, ate a hot dog that was offered from some people BBQing on the river, and got his usual attention and compliments from strangers every time we crossed paths with someone.

He obviously didn't have a ton of desire to get in the river and swim, but he did swim for about 5 minutes, and chase a few sticks. Overall we walked about a mile through the forest along the shoreline. Not a big day for a border collie, but he had a little pep in his step and was definitely happy to be out there.

He even amazed me when Aim wanted to go down a steep shoreline embankment, I said I don't know if he can make....(and as I was in mid sentence) he shot down the near vertical incline in 3 hops. It took us quite a few more. On the way up, I was certain he would need help but he was up top giving us one more encouraging (and arrogant) look of encouragement, coupled with disappointment for his much slowy 2 legged hiking partners.

Aside from the 1lb of steak he had, the 1/4lb of ground beef, and the croissant, he had pizza with us on the deck of Nino's in Lake Luzerne. The pizza was actually pretty good but in hindsight this was way too much for him. Nevertheless, it was nice to spend a beautiful day together outdoors.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hey I'm still a border collie!

No he isn't gonna climb a 6000 ft peak or hike the Great Range but he keeps reminding me why he is Wonder Dog, and why he is borderline invincible. Even Achilles had a heel, Bolt had styrofoam, and Superman had kryptonite.

Today after breakfast I got ready to leave for my PT appointment, gave him a kiss and opened the door. From laying down 10 ft away, he was up and out the door before I could react. I should have put him back in but it was too nice out to do that. So I did the only thing he would let me do, got a bowl, a water bottle, and a leash and headed out the door with him. He flew down the stairs toward the car like he was 110%.

To late for PT and with no suitable shade to park we were forced to find alternative entertainment before our lunch date with Aim.

We walked along the bike path on what is a sunny, dry, cool-ly breezy, 75F degree day, near perfect as far as we are concerned because we both hate the heat and humidity. We walked a half mile, and now we are laying in the grass, in the shade watching cyclist and rollerbladers, walkers and joggers occasionally pass by.

In a few minutes we will be on our way to lunch at the Control Tower. Time for a hamburger and buffalo chicken wrap.

-- Sent from my Palm wireless device

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Today was a good day...

Today was a good day, first time I was sort of happy since Wednesday afternoon.

Lunch at 5 Guys...Petsmart...and then a short hike before it stormed.

Caney woke up and had a croissant with his pain meds, I made him some ground beef and cheese for his main course. Yes it was a departure from steak, but better than his diet of the last 16 months.

Then we took a shower together. Amazingly I only learned he preferred showers when we got in together, rather than me wash him solo, sometime last spring. He never has been tough to bathe but he gets right in like this without any trouble. He wants to be treated like a person, and I think he feels we are equals like this, rather than a dog forced to get a bath.

Had to be careful drying him so he was pretty wet when we went out to lunch at 5 Guys. We ate outside and he ate a hamburger hot off the grill in under a minute. It was insane. I ate my burger a bit more slowly, it was delicious but I haven't been hungry. I ended up giving him half of it, and Aim gave him the last of hers. He still wanted more, so we gave him fries. You could tell he was only eating them to be polite. While (healthy) humans don't consider french fries a veggie, a dog on hospice sure does. Meat and dairy only please.

As we walked back to the car someone had a little pep in his step, just like he did when we left home. We were planning to go to PetSmart anyway which was about 1/4 mile down the road, with the pending rain we were gonna drive but Caney looked like he wanted to walk. We started walking and when we got to the intersection we needed to turn hard right, no joke Caney made the turn before we did towards PetSmart. I don't know if these places have dog whistles or dogs have a homing device to go there but he does the same thing with Petco. Only PetSmart was out of sight and still about 1/8th mile away.

When we got to PetSmart he turned directly towards the doors which magically open for dogs (ok that isn't true, they open for everyone but Caney thinks it is). We walked every aisle and he visited all the animals, smelled every single bag of food, every bin of treats, and eventually picked out some Bil-Jac Gooberlicious peanut butter treats. I asked him if he was sure -after picking a $9 1lb marrow bone the other day and not touching it because he hates heavy toys and treats- and he grunted YES. I opened the bag, and he gobbled up a treat.

We walked back to the car, and he passed a few stores he stared into but didn't have magic dog doors or any interesting looking stuff in them, Caney kept walking.

We got back to the car, he refused to get in the back, apparently he doesn't like the skid plate or door opening on the rear of the SX4. So he had to get in the driver seat where he was going to stay till I convinced him while it was a small car we he had no hands and couldn't reach the pedals. Yes, there are some things Wonder Dog can't do (at least legally).

We got home and he wouldn't come out, I said he could come out the front if he wanted or I would help him. He just looked at me with those eager eyes saying, "it's a good day, lets do something else."

So I went inside without him and told Aim to change shoes we were going for a walk at Ushers Road Preserve before the storm. 15 minutes later we were at the preserve and Caney jumped right out of the car. He was ready to go.

Well he did great, keeping up easily even at a fast pace we kept to get done before the storm. We finished just as the rain came down.

Back home he got right out of the car with a little help, and got up stairs where he drank a bowl of water and got on the couch with us for a nap.

Time for a cheese omelet.

Yes it was a good day!

-- Sent from my Palm wireless device

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wonder Dog Gets Unleashed

We got the terrible news today that Caney definitely has cancer and it has spread to his spine. Fortunately he didn't have to undergo the biopsy to confirm this, and fortunately, we waited long enough on the planned surgeries that he didn't spend the rest of his life recovering from a needless and complicated surgery.

We are obviously heartbroken, not only because we love him, or because he is still so young and energetic (even at 11), but because he has been a part of Aimee and my life really almost from the beginning. He was born at just about our 1 year anniversary, and we got him after just 16 months together. Really a whole stage of our life has been spent with Caney, and he was a big part of it.

For some time he hasn't been very energetic around home, not seeming to want to take walks, but he has been a different dog on the trail. I joked that he was saving his energy for the trail, and maybe he has been, but the tumors on his spine have sapped him of his mobility, regardless of his boundless desire.

I knew something was wrong 3 weeks ago when he wasn't keeping up on the steeps on Hadley, he finished the hike though, 4 miles and 3000ft gained and lost. Then 2 weeks ago he wouldn't walk with me to the mail box after I noticed he was having trouble on the steps. For a dog that would get faster the more technical and steeper the terrain, this was a definite sign something was wrong.

Although I feared there would be a day he would have to be carried out from the mountains, he has yet to ever let us down on a trip. Now I wish that would have been the case rather than this.

Caney never ceases to amaze us, even at almost 11, with tumors on his spine he was able to walk the same muddy rutted portage path as us multiple times this past weekend after I wasn't even sure he should come, and when we finished he still looked the least tired of the group. The only difference was he didn't carry his usual load, but he still no doubt had the toughest job of all. He did his job, keeping the group together and making sure we got done at a reasonable pace. We have never hiked with anyone who wasn't impressed with him on the trail, even those who normally don't like dogs always seem to say, "If I could get a dog like that, I would get a dog, he is such a cool dog." We have always been equally impressed and equally proud of his abilities.

While there isn't a lot to be happy about, the good news is he still feels well enough to eat, and maybe take a few more easy hikes and camping trips over the next few weeks.

For the last 16 months he has been on a restricted diet of what looked like dried carboard to increase his urine output and acidity, and for the last 2 months a highly restricted diet to keep him well hydrated, due to the problems that are now clearly more than stones and an abscessed prostate. He was such a different dog post cystotomy in 2008, the old Caney, even playing with the cat 4 days post op, and we just hoped that the problems could be fixed again. We always had the hope and belief that what was wrong with him was fixable, and we just needed to get him well enough to have it all fixed. As a result he wasn't able to eat any of his favorite foods.

Today he had steak with cheese, and as soon as I can find him some edible bagels or croissants he is going to get a dozen of each. Believe it or not, for a dog he is very picky about bagels. We once got him those stale hard bagel treats at the pet store and he refused to eat them, he never liked Milk Bones either and thought the Border Collie on the front of the box was a sellout.

On the menu canolis, bagels, croissants, steak, cheese and more cheese, and no more peas Caney...not in stews, and certainly not pureed!

Everyone loves you Caney!!