Goodbye old friend- Spot

Spot in his favorite state…relaxed

We have lived with Spot for nearly 20 years, he is part of our family history. He came to live with us as part of a deal. When we moved from Toowoomba to Tabulam (in the far distant past) we sold all our 240 Volt appliances; one of the people we sold to had a litter of puppies (mongrel terrier crossed with Border collie) and offered to pay a good price for the TV if we took a pup…best trade we ever made.

Spot has been a loyal companion for those 20 years; chasing goanna, but never hurting them, sitting patiently by my side through various crafting adventures, staying in the car while we felled dead trees for fire wood, following at my heels as I walk through the bush. He became such a part of our lives that we thought he would always be there; a permanent fixture.

Last year he began to lose weight and sleep a lot, he also began to forget himself and pee in the house; the vet did an examination and found that he had prostate cancer and doggy dementia. He couldn’t be operated on because of his age and the dementia was untreatable, so we took him home and developed ways to deal with the issues. We never left him alone in the house if we could help it (sometimes this meant leaving someone out of a social event so he would be cared for (I never minded staying home). He was shut in a dog crate at night for the first time in his life because he would get lost at night and become very distressed (his crate was beside my bed so I could hear him if he needed me through the night). We cooked him meals of boiled chicken and rice and fed him 4 times a day when his kidneys and liver began to struggle (much to the disgust of the other dogs). Last week he went back to the vet for his 3 monthly ultrasound and she found that the tumour was now too big for him to be comfortable and that he had had a stroke at some point (which mercifully made it so he felt no pain). I made the hardest decision I have had to make in a long time and made an appointment for the vet to come to our house and end his suffering. Since then we have been keeping him happy and comfortable, just waiting for the inevitable end. Well, yesterday the vet came to give him a gentle passing.

We were all home, except my youngest daughter who doesn’t live here. I held him while the vet gave him an injection and he went quietly to sleep. I cried rivers and the vet had a tear in her eye too (probably in response to my tears). My daughter wrapped him in one of his wool blankets and I carried him out to the hole dug by my partner. We buried him and planted a fig tree over him.

We had to crate him at night eventually because he would get lost in the house and become distressed
He slept a lot in his last months

He is buried next to his companion in life; Busy (one of our previous dogs). They were the best of friends in life and when Busy died a decade ago, at 17 years old, I promised to bury Spot with him when the time came.

The larger fig tree is Busy and the little one in the front is Spot. The hope is that they will eventually grow into one tree.

He has left a huge hole in our lives, it seems he was always with us, always waiting for us to get home from work, always ready to go on an adventure with us. I will miss him more than I can say.

When I think about the relationship between old dogs and their humans I can’t help but think that the relationship lasts longer than some marriages; we spend more time with our dog than with our partner (or is that just me?) and I certainly talked to Spot more than I talk to my partner. There is a deep level of understanding built in that time; he always knew when I needed someone to sit close to me and listen and I always knew when he wanted to go on a walk or play in the yard. He knew what we were thinking a lot of the time too; I remember seeing him sneak off up the road for a little adventure on his own and frowning at him, which caused him to turn right around and come back to the house.

This is just a memorial post, for me more than anyone else, full of photos and memories, to remind me that we shared something very special and that is worth the pain losing him has caused; deep love and connection allow us to feel so much joy, and lead to so much pain when it ends.

It was worth the pain of losing you to know you old friend.

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What to do with dog poop- Bokashi

Because our old boy; Spot gets lost easily these days we have restricted the dog yard to a small area in the front of the humpy (what were we thinking?). This means that great piles of dog poop, never guessed at levels of dog poop, have gathered in the yard and have to be picked up daily. We have four dogs, who until recently, pooped either outside the yard or where chickens could tidy it up. I have not had to deal with it for years.

Suddenly I have a problem; poop. I decided to try a sort of modified, cobbled together, bokashi composting system, to see if I can turn all that problem into a resource. The compost which results can be buried in ornamental bed (which I will have to install).

Bokashi compost is a form of anaerobic composting that uses a bacteria culture grown on bran of some sort to activate it. It is great for city living; where you don’t have access to wide open spaces it is OK to be smelly in. I don’t bother with it here as the compost goes through so many animal systems that it doesn’t make sense to separate it into a bucket really. However, I think it is ideal for Composting dog poop.

The trouble is, Idon’t want to spend $100 on a few plastic props and a pair of tongs. So I decided to make my own;

An old yellow bin I found laying around will do as a container. It has no bottom (rusted away years ago) and has a lid (somewhere around).

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Yes, that old bin near the peach tree

I added an old Pooper Scooper that had ended up in our animal medicine cabinet (don’t ask me, I just work here), to make it clear what the purpose of the bin was. I collected all the poop from the yard and layered it in to bin with sprinkles of the Bokashi starter in between layers.

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I think the label should say Bokashi Maize, but it still works, even with bad spelling

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I will continue to layer the poop and starter until the bin is full. Then I will let it sit for six months or so (and find another bin to continue the process). After that, I should, in theory, have a great compost to add to the peach tree as a Spring treat.

I have once again taken over a job that nature usually deals with, all because I have to confine my old dog for his own safety. I do get to learn more about the secret world of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and how it relates to nutrient cycling though.

Why we don’t let our dogs chase anything

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Val (and Bandit) waiting for something interesting to happen.

We have four dogs, they are amazingly calm and social beings, but they are still predators. We make it a strict rule in the humpy that dogs are not allowed to chase anything. The human component of the family is in charge of chasing goannas, snakes and spiders outside and away these days. Our old dog Spot (19 years old this year) used to escort goannas out of the yard and away from the chooks, but he is retired now as he can’t seem to remember which direction to herd them in (resulting in some interesting course corrections). We keep this rule for several reasons; firstly, dogs are predators and have an instinct to hunt and kill (no matter how sublimated that instinct may be) so we don’t want to encourage any behavior which may lead to killing. Secondly we don’t want visitors like goannas and snakes hurt during their visit to the humpy.

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This is Spot, still going at 19 years old. He just doesn’t know where he’s going these days.

Yesterday we added a third reason for the rule; one of our dogs had an argument with a goanna. The poor little thing (the goanna) was asleep in a clump of lantana when I walked by on my way out to photograph some bower bird bowers, he was startled and ran past me towards the relative safety of a big tree. Meanwhile, Val; our youngest dog, saw the goanna and either mistakenly assumed it was heading towards me or just had an excess of hunting instinct that morning. Val jumped over the fence (an impressive feat in itself) and attacked the poor goanna, while I yelled myself hoarse and whacked at them both with a stick. She eventually let go and slunk back to the yard while I tried to follow the fleeing goanna to see if there were injuries. He ran away very fast and probably hasn’t stopped running yet. I never did catch up with him.

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When I got back to the humpy my youngest daughter was checking Val over for injuries and found a wound on her inner thigh via the age-old cinematic convention of suddenly finding one’s hand covered in blood. That particular daughter has a blood aversion and has been known to faint in the vet’s office or during medical procedures at home. This time was no different; she quickly handed Val over to me and prepared a sterile salt water bath and dressings for me before sitting on the floor with a grayish face and shaking hands. I began cleaning away the blood, which was copious but not frighteningly so. Once the wound was clean it became apparent that Val had three slash marks from the claws of the goanna on her left inner thigh area.

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The wound just after we cleaned it.

As goannas carry some wicked bacteria and actually have venom of a sort,  we decided to take her to the vet for a professional check over, antibiotic shots and proper cleaning. So into the car we climbed, armed with towels, water bottles and money. Val was in a lot of pain on the two hour drive to our family vet, she sat mostly quietly and didn’t even show interest in passing cows. When we got to the vet office (which had stayed open for us past the normal lunch time closing on a Saturday) Val was sedated and began to relax somewhat. In fact her face bore an expression reminiscent of my own after several bottles of home made wine. Her wound was cleaned out and she was injected with heavy duty antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents and more mild sedatives. The vet decided that she needed to stay overnight because the risk of infection with goanna wounds is very high and they can get very messy, very fast. Also the slash had just missed her femoral artery making the risk of systemic infection even higher.

We returned this afternoon (a four hour round trip) to pick her up. She was very glad to see us (and still a little stoned). We left with explicit instructions for wound care, a pile of assorted medications and our overjoyed Val. The wound will need twice daily cleaning and I will have to give her the many pills and potions, but I am confident she will heal.

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This is the wound after two days.

We don’t go rushing to the vet for every little wound, but I am glad we decided to go for this one. I am still worried about the goanna as we haven’t seen him again and he may have been as badly injured as Val. The rule of ‘no chasing’ will continue to be firmly enforced, after all, we don’t need any more injuries.

 

Edit- Val’s wound is healing well and the goanna has been spotted again. He has some small wounds around his neck but seems OK (whew).

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The wound after a week.