An Exercise in Empathy

According to Oxford, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Some of you are probably thinking that empathy is reserved for humans. I thought so too and was quite excited to be embarking (no pun intended but that’s kinda funny) on a new adventure in humanness.

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Working on my “I care” face (which looks surprisingly like my “have you got any treats” face.)

But when I read about the nature of empathy, I realized that I feel this regularly, every time one of my people is upset, or sad, or hurt. It’s written in my canine DNA to go to the aid of my humans when they are in trouble. They’ve even done studies on the topic, including this one entitled “Dogs feel empathy for human suffering.”

The good news for me in this discovery is that human-ness and canine-ness may not be as far apart as I thought.

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Soaking up the snowy day happy vibes from T.

What got me thinking about empathy is my week of spending time in Logan’s world, the world of veterinarians and medications and restrictions. I’ve been a very healthy guy—an easy keeper they call me. I’ll eat pretty much anything that’s put in front of me without issue or repercussions (often finding my own snacks), I’m happy with a short walk but always up for a long one, I sleep through the night and am usually the last one out of bed in the morning.

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You’d be amazed what an easy keeper like me can find under a picnic table.

This past week I had to take painkillers that made my stomach feel a bit off, my walks were a good length but limited to on-leash, and I had to sleep with a life preserver around my neck. I know, I know, small potatoes compared to what Logan dealt with his last year. I realize my experience was just a taste of what he went through.

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I admit to a few moments of feeling sorry for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, Logan wouldn’t have had it any other way. Some dogs may have opted for an early exit rather than have their activities continually curtailed and spend every second week in a vet’s office, but that wasn’t Logan. He was a fighter, with a zest for life that carried him through his health trials with spunk and dignity.

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Logan’s final canal adventure in mid-August. Spunk and dignity.

My time in Logan’s world is almost up, at least for now. I’m spending less time in the life preserver and my stitches come out on Monday. After that it’s all systems go, life returns to normal.

If the lump they removed from my leg had been a malignant fibrosarcoma, I’d be telling a different story, but, hooray!, my easy keeper streak continues. The lab tests confirmed it was just a benign fibroma. I’m in the clear!celebration time

I’ll wrap up my thoughts on empathy with some words I’m going to try to live by:

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird11-Chico-empathy-chinooksky

 

 

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Two Kinds of Cones

Yesterday was my surgery. It wasn’t open heart or anything else potentially life-altering, but surgery is surgery and involves risks. I’m happy to report that I woke up the same dog as when I went to sleep, minus a bit of hair and one suspicious lump.

My vet, Dr. Julie, said the lump is either a fibroma (benign) or a fibrosarcoma (malignant). I’m hoping for the former and we’ll know in a week or so when the results come back from the lab. But, either way, it’s gone.

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Wednesday night. Blissfully unaware of what was to come in the morning.

I’m generally kind of a lumpy guy and have a number of what they call lipomas or fatty tumours. They’re basically little pockets of fat between the skin and the muscle. Apparently, dogs who are metabolically challenged are prone to them but they can also result from my body’s inability to rid itself of toxins. Lipomas are always benign so they get left alone unless they start interfering with movement or comfort.

I normally don’t mind going to the vet—I get tons of attention, the staff all like me, I get treats. It’s a good gig. But yesterday was different. For starters, I love breakfast and there was none. Then, after we arrived at Animal Care Centre (ACC) and we’d had a short visit with Dr. Julie, I took my typical trip down the hallway from the exam rooms to where they draw blood and sample lumps and other such activities, but instead of going right back to T and Nollind I was put in a kennel. I should have paid closer attention when T was explaining what was going to happen. She probably mentioned something about staying for the day.

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Thursday morning. Waiting for the breakfast that never came.

Early in the afternoon, one of the staff came to get me from my kennel. They were kind to me, as they always are at ACC, stroking me gently, and next thing I knew I was waking up in a very groggy state. Logan had been sedated a number of times—teeth knocked out by horse, porcupine quills in face, ear lump removed, joint injected—but I’ve managed to keep myself out of the emergency clinic. Being sedated was a new and not entirely unpleasant experience, like floating maybe, in thick soup. Mmm…soup.

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Me and Dr. Julie before the surgery. I was in good hands.

A little while later, Kristin, the vet tech, returned for me and took me back to the exam rooms where T and Nollind were waiting for me. Was I ever happy to see them! I ran over, wagging my tail, telling them all about my day, which probably sounded a little like whining to human ears.

Kristin went through my post-surgery care, which I’m happy to report does not involve skipping any more meals, she gave T some pills to keep me comfortable and an enormous plastic cone. The cone had me baffled until T and Nollind starting discussing it in the truck. Oh, it was for me. I’d heard about what dogs and cats refer to as “the cone of shame” but I’d not seen one. If I could speak I would have promised them, sworn on Logan’s grave, that I wouldn’t touch my sutures if they wouldn’t put that thing on my head.

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The thing I’m not supposed to lick.

Maybe it was because of the cone, or just the kind of day they knew I’d had, but Nollind turned left instead of right when we left Animal Care Centre, bound for Strathmore and … wait for it … ice cream cones! Did you know that Dairy Queen has “pup cups”? Yup, free ice cream for pooches at the drive-thru. For those few minutes of blissful licking, the trials of my day and the cone-wearing to come were completely forgotten.

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Good to the last lick. (Cone of shame in the background.)

Homeward bound, we were halfway between Strathmore and the farm when Nollind pulled the truck over. He did some looking at websites on his phone, T made a couple of calls, and we were driving back to town.

I love my people. They weren’t going to make me wear the cone. There was another way. I’m not over the moon about the Zen Collar either (I don’t even like wearing my regular collar) but I can drink, eat, walk around without bumping into everything, and it makes a reasonable pillow. As an added bonus, as my Auntie Sus pointed out when she said I was ready for the Titanic (she’s funny), in the event of a flash flood, I’m covered!

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Ready for the Titanic.

So, this Fur-iday finds me with a life preserver around my neck and a chilly spot on one hind leg, but grateful for the life I enjoy and the care of the people who adopted me nearly eight years ago. Life is good for one slightly-less-lumpy rescue dog.

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Enjoying my new headrest.

Senior? Who, Me?

I went to the vet yesterday for a routine exam and the 3-year rabies vaccination that I need to cross into the United States. The bill read “Examination (Senior)” and said I’d received a “Canine Geriatric Profile”. Ack! When did that happen? With five years between Logan and me, I’ve always been the pup, the youngster, the kid. I guess I kind of lost track of time. I’m about to head into the double digits!

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Time sure flies.

On the plus side, I had a put-it-on-the-fridge-worthy blood panel result for a dog my age. Kidneys, heart, liver, thyroid, red & white blood cells, blood sugar, all solidly in the normal range. I’ve even lost just over a kilo since I was last in. But the senior thing has me a bit freaked out. I know I’m not quite the bundle of energy I used to be, but geriatric?

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Waiting to go for a walk in Kananaskis. And who’s the old guy?

I hope it’s true that you’re only as old as you feel because that would make me six or seven at best. Although I do feel a bit older than that hanging out with my new friend, Ria. She’s three and a half and, man, that girl has some energy. Ria is a new member of the G & S family so you’ll be seeing more of her on Fur-idays in the future. Maybe I can even persuade her to write a guest blog. (Everyone who’d like to hear from Ria, raise your paws!)

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Ria and me at the Chestermere off-leash.

I’ve long striven to become more human. In fact, I’m hoping that my only-doggedness will help me progress in my endeavour (good human word, don’t you think?) Without the constant presence of another dog to pull me into canine-type behaviour, I’m hoping I can fine tune my being-human skills. If I can manage it, do you think I’d live longer? I know I can’t expect the 70-80 years that a human lives (man, that sounds like a long time to a dog), but maybe 20?

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Me in 2011. I admit I’m looking a little more “frosted” these days.

If you don’t think it’s possible, just check out this list on Wikipedia. The Guinness record holder for the oldest dog was a guy named Bluey who, and this is the cool part, was an Australian Cattle Dog! Pretty sure that’s what I am, or half anyway. I know, I know, it’s the quality of the days rather than the quantity, but there’s no harm in setting the bar high, is there?

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Frosted but fresh!

There was one bit of bad news from Dr. Julie today. I have to go back to have a lump removed from my leg. It’s nothing scary at this point but she’s concerned that it could develop into something and I trust her completely. Best get it gone. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to medical procedures, but they tell me I’ll be sleeping so I’m not too concerned. The part that does concern me is the no food or water after midnight the previous day. No breakfast?! They won’t need to sedate me. I’ll pass out from starvation!

Well, I’m still a little tired from yesterday’s activities and T’s taking me for a walk in a little while so I think I’ll climb into my favourite bed for a nap. Oops, that sounded a bit geriatric, didn’t it?

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I’m not old, I’m just relaxed.