Traveling Dog Lady: May 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Tribute to My Dog on his Gotcha Day

Today marks 17 years since Hobie's "gotcha day" (the day I adopted him).

Gotcha Day!

Of course, he's been gone two years now, and I miss him every day. He was the canine love of my life. Charlie and Cooper fill Hobie and Hector's "shoes" (paws) as well as they can, but there will never be another Hobie and Hector. They were the dynamic dog duo!

Best friends for ever!

Tails entwined in love! 

When I met Hobie, it was truly love at first sight. I had to make it look good, so I told the people who brought him to see me that I needed to take him for a walk before deciding. Of course, I had decided the moment we locked eyes -- he was my dog. I had waited a lifetime for him. I was 40 years old, and had somehow not given birth to human children. I had imagined a little girl with blonde hair would be my kid, but the universe had other plans. Hobie got plopped in front of me. He wasn't a female, but he sure was blond! For some reason, I felt that he was my canine soul mate. I still feel that way today, about him. I loved him so much, it was almost inappropriate! He filled a void in my life, and I am forever grateful to him for not only filling up my empty heart, but also leading me on this journey of writing about my dogs.

On the bed in Cape Cod!

Asleep on my lap!

In the yard on Cape Cod!

I'm still waiting for the rain and cold to subside before putting the little garden plaque I bought to memorialize him in our back yard, which we dubbed "The Timba Memorial Park" after my black Lab, Timba, who passed away in the back yard in 2001.

Timba at her favorite place: Thompson Pond. She taught Hobie how to swim and "go fishin'"!

Hector at Thompson Pond. I always said he was Timba, reincarnated!

Timba, "fishing" in Thompson Pond

Hobie "fishing" in Thompson Pond

Timba was 17 years old (ironically!) when I adopted Hobie, who would be 17 today if he had lived that long. Timba taught Hobie many things, and Hobie himself passed those things along to Charlie Brown and Cooper (and of course, Hector, who left us too soon).

Hobie and Timba in the then-un-named Timba Memorial Park (our back yard). This was Hobie's first day with us!
Timba showed Hobie the ropes, on how to be a Mueller family dog.

And, in turn, Hobie showed Charlie Brown the ropes!

One of the first things I did after I said yes to Hobie's original owners was take him to Petco and get a bunch of supplies. I kept the receipt, all these years! He was so cute in the car with me. He always loved going for car rides after that! All my dogs have been car riders. I wouldn't have it any other way.

"They take a piece of your heart, and never let go."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Remembering Anabelle

Our grand-dog, Anabelle, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge this past weekend.

Following here are some pictures of Ana from when she was a young dog, so full of Australian Shepherd life, on Nauset Light Beach on Cape Cod; and a few pics from when she visited us in 2014.

It was my honor and privilege to place my hand on her and witness her final moments. Dogs are a member of the family, and while she only lived here in Mass for a short time, I always called her my grand-dog. I'm happy she got to live out her final days at the little cottage, and hang out with Charlie and Cooper.

That afternoon, after we were done sobbing and crying, Nancy (Ana's other grandmother) and I ran some errands, just to keep our minds occupied. As we were leaving the church, after dropping off some raffle items, a young Dalmatian puppy -- with with BROWN, not black, spots -- came running into the church parking lot. He looked so excited, and we could tell he belonged to someone because he was wearing a collar and license tag. He ran up to us, and we both touched him as he zoomed past. In hot pursuit was his teenage owner, running stocking-footed through the church parking lot. The church being on a busy roadway, we all were worried. But the Dalmatian stopped and touched each of us, then ran around in circles. Nancy grabbed the dog's collar, and the teenage girl got her bearings and took the dog from Nancy, just as her sister turned up in their car. Dalmatian went home, safely with his family.  After they drove away, I said to Nancy.... "That was a message from Ana. Telling us she is ok."  Call me crazy dog lady, but I felt that the puppy was delivering a message to us that Ana had made it safely to doggie heaven, across that rainbow bridge, where I believe Hobie, Hector and "grandpa" Gil met up with her.

Goodbye, Ana. We will never, ever forget you.

The little lighthouse pole on top of the dune!
Long ago washed away!
The pole represented where Nauset Lighthouse used to stand before it was moved inland by the preservation society.

From a visit to the Pink House in 2014

Ana always got along with the boys. They adored her. I hope Hobie was there to greet her in doggie heaven. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

How to Evaluate Your Senior Pet's Quality of Life

A question I get all the time from friends, family and on social media is "How Will I Know...." (when my senior pet is ready to go). We've all heard those with experience say "You will just know." Well, in my personal experience, I have only had to euthanize one pet -- my beloved Hobie -- and believe me, I did not "just know". I spent at least two years riding the roller coaster of watching my dear dog suffer, then rally. At times, he appeared to be on death's door. The next morning, he would be running and playing with my two younger dogs, me, and the cats, or swimming in the lake. So, will you "just know"? Maybe. Maybe not.

Gee, I'm helpful!

In my journey with all the senior pets I've had the pleasure to know (I am so grateful for those experiences), one thing I learned about is the Quality of Life Scale For Pets. Sometimes this is called The HHHHHMM Scale.  I strongly recommend that you bookmark one of these links, and keep it handy if you have a senior dog or cat that is nearing the end of its life.**

Filkin, lived to be 17
Maggie, the last of the "Connie Cats" lived to be 21

Mr. Kitty, whose life we saved, lived to be 16

Love Kitty, who was hit by a car, and her daughter, Filkin, ca. 1985

The HHHHHMM Scale, or Quality of Life Scale For Pets was created by veterinary oncologist Alice Villalobos, DVM and is designed to give the average pet parent the information they need to continue assessing any dog or cat's general quality of life. The criteria is simple, and you can review each item on the list quickly and easily every day. It basically goes like this:


You rate each item on a scale of Zero to Ten, with zero being "awful" and ten being "ideal".

Here's an example I would have used with Hobie at any point in 2014 (when he was having more and more bad days):  Hurt = 7, Hunger = 10, Hydration = 5, Hygiene= 2, Happiness = 4, Mobility = 4, More Good Days Than Bad = 9 for a total score of 41. Note that a total of more than 35 points means the pet's quality of life is acceptable.  Pretty good, right? Easy for anyone to figure out, and comforting for you and your family when you're feeling stressed out because Fifi is having a bad day.

Timba, in her later years (she was 18!) and the first Charlie (Charlie the cat) 

So, even though Hobie smelled bad (hygiene), seemed somewhat unhappy and was having major mobility issues, he was still having, overall, more good days than bad, and scoring high on each of those days. Even though, WITHIN those days there was bad stuff...mainly, arthritis, difficulty standing and walking, peeing and pooping and then falling down in it (ugh) and trouble staying hydrated.... he was still more happy than not, and having more good days than bad. Eventually, that all flipped, and he began having many bad days. And I guess, you might say, it was then that I "knew".

Good day!!

Good day! Tongue out!

Another method I've heard of is a little easier to remember and much more simplified: Eating, Drinking, Pooping, Peeing.  If your pet is eating, drinking, pooping and peeing normally, on more days than not (maybe with an occasional day that seems "off") then life is still good. I would add to the list: "Moving". If the pet has severe trouble moving, that's a huge indicator of a less than ideal quality of life.  Remember, we all have sick days -- dogs and cats are no exception.

Hobie on a "sick day". He had just gotten home from the hospital
and was confined to the kitchen to keep the other pets form bugging him.

I've borrowed a phrase for the later years of a pet's life (age 12 and higher): "doggie hospice" or "kitty hospice". Some veterinarians are coming around to actually providing hospice for dogs and cats. All this really means is that, with the vet's help, you learn how to assess your dog's or cat's situation on a daily basis, and you make him or her as comfortable as possible during this time. It also means spending as much quality time together as possible -- because an animal's life is short enough already, and I guarantee that you will regret if you don't spend as much fun and loving time as possible with your pet during this phase of his or her life. That doesn't mean that you call in sick to work, shirk your responsibilities to family, or anything drastic like that -- it just means, try to make your time together truly memorable for yourself, and comforting for your pet.  It also doesn't mean playing ball, running, taking long walks, or anything that will cause your pet distress or pain. Gentle, loving time together. Maybe your dog sits beside you, snoozing, while you work in the garden; your cat sleeps on your lap (or keyboard!) while you work at your computer or surf the web -- that sort of activity. (And don't forget to take pictures!! Lots, and lots of pictures).

One thing that I did (and yeah, I'm a crazy pet lady, remember!) is that I moved my bedroom downstairs to our walk-out basement. That meant Hobie did not have to climb stairs during the last seven months of his life. The photo below is him walking on the basement floor, which I covered with doggy-safe non-slip rugs that can easily be thrown in the washing machine if an (oops!) accident occurs (as happened quite frequently).  Yeah, I'd do just about anything for my dogs and cats!

Hobie, on one of his last days. Still plugging along, but with difficulty.
One of my favorite memes circulating on the interwebs is the one that says something about the dog or cat being dependent on you, the human, for everything. You are his everything. Pets, especially dogs, crave your companionship above almost everything else other than eating and sleeping. Dogs are pack animals and need to know their pack is nearby. Whether that's one human, six humans, four other dogs, 19 barn cats, a parrot, a bunny rabbit, or a combination of critters. The pack is the pack. Reassure your dog as much as possible by providing her with human or animal companionship whenever possible. It's great if you have other pets in the household, because then the company is built-in!

Take pictures! Take pictures!
All the pets loved Hobie!

So, go ahead and bookmark, save, or print a copy of the Quality of Life Scale for Pets and keep it handy for your pets senior years. The scale applies to both dogs and cats.

Got a question about your senior pet? Drop me an email at, or pose your question in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

**This is NOT a sponsored or paid post!**