Friday, July 25, 2014

Lamar Latrell, 2000-July 24, 2014

I finally let go of my handsome Frito bear, my little bitty man, my Lamar Latrell. 

I wanted to let him pass on his own, as I don't think he was in pain from the hemangiosarcoma. But he was uncomfortable enough that he stopped eating, and he wasn't interested in most things, and I just knew it would only get worse. Still, there's nothing easy about doing that to your dear friend. 

Have to remember the good times, almost 14 years of them. 

Lamar Latrell came into my life in 2000. I was working at WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, and my co-worker's wife worked at the shelter. We stopped by to see if she wanted to join us for lunch, and just for fun I went back to see the dogs. Out of all the dogs there, somehow I was drawn to Toby, a beautiful long-legged tan dog with a black mask over his muzzle, who kept presenting his paw at me in greeting. 

I told the front desk staff that if Toby ran out of time, I would foster him. 

Sure enough, a few days later I got the call that Toby needed rescuing. I had to go to Albuquerque for a hearing on a lawsuit for work that day, but I told the shelter to please hold him for me. 

That evening, I rushed back to the Santa Fe shelter and got Toby. He drove back to my studio with me, sitting in the front seat of my Geo Metro and looking out the window with a big smile and a look of dazed wonder.

I had no idea how he would get along with my Tashi, but when I got him home he lay down on the floor at my feet and Tashi came over, playfully dipping her head a bit, put one paw on his shoulder and stood on him! It was a 100% Tashi way of saying that she liked him, and Lamar responded in kind. 

Funny because Tashi was always a grumpy girl and didn't like most dogs, but something about Lamar must have lit a little flame in her grumpy heart. 

For a couple of days, I thought about how I would find a home for Toby. Then I let go of that silly thought.

I had to find him a good name. I thought I would give him a spiritual name because I thought when it's a dog's time to move on from this life, if the last word on his mind is something spiritual it will help him gain an auspicious rebirth. But then I thought of Lamar Latrell from Revenge of the Nerds, and I thought, maybe laughter will get him to a good place as fast as anything.
And there was no shortage of laughter and fun in Lamar's life. Lamar was with me when I bought my house in Santa Fe, and he and Tashi came on a road trip to California for the Zimbabwean Music Festival that first summer together. 

Lamar got his first taste of the ocean on that trip, and he also learned about the joys of sleeping outdoors with nothing but a sleeping bag, his mom, and his friend Tashi. 

Lamar was a good traveler, relaxing quietly in the back of the car and staying close when we got out of the car. Exploring, but checking in often. 

 Sleeping right at my feet.

A perfect companion to his mom, who did a lot of those cross-country road trips in those free-spirited years.

Lamar loved the ocean so much. A bit too much; he never really got out of the habit of drinking ocean water even thought it never failed to come right out the other end.  

He loved chasing seagulls, running full throttle and barking joyously. Playing with Tashi in the sand, 

or just relaxing.

On one of those early trips, Lamar learned to swim. Tentatively putting those long legs into a stream in Yellowstone National Park, looking doubtful, then taking the plunge as Tashi swam in laps in front of him. Those skinny front paws flapping desperately up and down. But it worked! 

Once he figured that out, you couldn't keep him out of the water.
What fun to be a road trip dog in the Western U.S., 

to travel across so many wild landscapes, camping out. 

Meeting new friends in Portland when we moved there, sleeping in the van on our friend's orchard in Hood River, 

or just communing with the wildness of the Southwest or the desert of eastern Oregon. 

Of course, once Mom got out of her 20's and decided to do something serious like go to grad school, life wasn't too bad for Lamar either. 

Coming east, staying with family, then meeting Florian, still plenty of opportunities for Lamar to enjoy the outdoors.

Lamar was only 7 when we moved to Maryland, and was still an incredible frisbee dog, jumping up and catching them in midair. Those frisbees must have looked like seagulls. 

Funny how shelters characterize a seven-year-old dog as a senior, because both Tashi and Lamar were still so youthful at that age. 

I guess we were lucky in that both had a ton of vitality right up until the last year or two of life. 

Now that I think of it, it wasn't so long ago that they both climbed a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado, when Florian and I decided to pretend we were 20-somethings again and took a road trip out there with the pups. 

Some incredible hikes in the gorgeous desert, and Tashi was 12 years old! Lamar was 9. 

and like a bunch of irresponsible kids, we had nothing for them to drink on one hike but Gatorade. Lamar didn't mind. 

That was in 2009. In January!   

Even when we weren't going on an epic journey with them, we have certainly gotten out and about with Tashi and Lamar, then Lamar and Fozzie and whatever foster dogs we've had. 

So many hikes on the Potomac. So many chances to get nice and wet, wade, chase sticks, and swim. 

It is really a wonderful thing to have had such a companion. A creature who encourages you to be outdoors, explore every beautiful place, get wet, get tired, move, hike, and roam, and loves every minute of it. Florian and I have a pretty good life and we owe so much of our well-being to Lamar and Tashi and Fozzie and the foster dogs.

Just like Tashi with Lamar, Lamar's always seemed to like Fozzie. 

Ever since Lamar got to be middle aged he hasn't been crazy about other dogs, but since the beginning somehow he's liked his big mastiff buddy.

Of course, he's enjoyed the chances I tried to give him to just be with me sometimes too, since he was my oldest child once Tashi passed on. 

During his last few weeks, we walked down to the creek whenever he had the energy to go and he just stood in the water, enjoying the coolness and taking big shlurps. I gave him the very best days I could, and in the end I was with him, praying that he go to a Buddha-land, holding his head and kissing him as he passed from this world.

I miss my velvety Lamar Latrell and his joyful bark, his exuberant, long, gangly paws, his love of being scratched and his habit of turning around so you could scratch his butt in just the right place. 

Til we meet again, Lamar! Give a big kiss to Tashi, Mom, and Uncle Bob for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Favorite Swimming Hole in the George Washington National Forest

Before we go to Switzerland this week, I wanted to take a day for Florian, me, Fozzie and Lamar to just go for a drive to one of our favorite places, swim, 
and relax in nature.

I've been so anxious about leaving the country when Lamar is not feeling well, and although meeting with my amazing housesitter yesterday eased my mind a lot, I knew I wanted to take a day doing what we all enjoy so much. 

So we went to one of our favorite places, a stream that is easily accessed off the road in the George Washington National Forest west of Shenandoah National Park. 

I have warm feelings about this place because the very first month after I moved to the DC area, before I even met Florian, I came to this road and went for a hike with Tashi and Lamar on the Signal Knob trail which is a bit beyond this swimming spot. 

On that occasion, I slept in the van in a parking area near the trail, which you can do pretty much anywhere on a national forest. 

Florian and I have done the same here, and we always love being here in the deep forest, in the silence. 

It was perfect for us today because the swimming hole is right by the road, so no strenuous hiking for Lamar to navigate. 

Just therapeutic, cool but not too cold water. 

A perfect temperature and deep enough for swimming. The rocks going into the water were super slippery, so Lamar didn't feel so comfortable going in there except when I was right beside him. 

But Fozzie was excited to go for a swim, though as always he was not without some anxiety. 

Which caused him to try to be extra close to us 

and to readily engage in wet kisses with Florian. 

For a long while, we had the whole place to ourselves and could just space out and enjoy the water while Lamar kept watch from his beach towel high up on the rock sloping down to the water.

Then a nice couple with a dog named Moose showed up. We are in the habit of just leaving a place when another dog shows up, but we decided to give it a chance and see how Fozzie would do. 

He did pretty well! Definitely anxious, but engaged in some totally appropriate sniffing and following around. 

The beginnings of some testy humping, but we just kept an eye on things and intervened before anything could get out of hand. 

Lamar, as usual, barked a bit from his safe vantage point. 

After a while, we loaded up and drove home on a circuitous, scenic, beautiful route feeling incredibly restored. 

We stopped in some of the many farmers market stores along the road and got yummy beef sticks for the dogs

Such a wonderful place for a day-cation, just an hour and a half away from home!

Sunday, July 20, 2014 is at it again: Nature's Recipe Oven Baked Biscuits

This month, our gift as a dedicated blogger was a bag of Nature's Recipe Lamb Flavor Oven Baked Biscuits.
We had requested the chewy treats, as my dogs can be picky eaters and not always as appreciative as they might be about dry biscuits. Especially as Lamar is not feeling 100%, he's gotten more picky about eating only the tastiest things.

Would a crunchy dry biscuit meet the cutoff for my dogs' discriminating palettes?

The short answer is yes. Even with his increased pickiness, Lamar really went for these high-quality crunchy snacks.

Fozzie, who even in his robust state of health can also be a bit selective about his food and sometimes turns down crunchy snacks, ate these biscuits readily.

It feels good to have really tasty treats for these dogs to enjoy, especially ones that I know are filling and wholesome. You may choose to save your freeze-dried, chewy, highly savory snacks for challenging situations like reactive dog training or desensitization around loud noises or nail clippers, for example, but these oven-baked biscuits are a fine treat for when the kids just need a between-meals snack. 

Or when you need a little something to supplement the chicken, rice, hot dogs, and/or filet mignon that is their regular fare. 

How do YOUR dogs like dry biscuits? 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lamar Latrell

My old man Lamar Latrell has a tumor on his spleen that's been growing for a while. Probably sometime recently, it ruptured and has been bleeding. 

He's been stumbling more and more, losing strength in his back legs, constipated, refusing food more. I thought it was just his arthritis, and the constipation was nervousness--it got better once Lars was adopted.

But when his gums became pale and he could barely walk outside to pee, I knew there was something else going on. I called our vet, who knew what it was just from me telling him those symptoms. I had to carry him to the car, and then from the car into the vet clinic, where an x ray showed his enormous spleen and a whole lot of fluid--blood--in his abdomen.

The vet at the clinic said he probably wasn't in much pain, and that it was totally appropriate to bring him home. She recommended a Chinese herb, Yunnan Baiyao, to stop bleeding and ease pain. So I've been giving him that, and feeding him when he wants to eat, sometimes helping him go outside, though since we started the herbs he's been able to go outside by himself. 

After a few days on Yunnan Baiyao, we were able to walk all the way down a long hill to the creek near my house, where the dogs love to just stand in the water and cool down. And then he was able to walk all the way back up! A huge change from just a few days before. According to the vet, things wax and wane with this condition as the bleeding stops, and then starts again--plus the herbs are clearly making a big difference. 

And Lamar still wags his tail and seems happy to be alive. 

We're going to keep him at home and feed him his favorite foods, scratch his favorite places, bring him outside when he needs to go outside, give him his herbs and try to make him happy until he's not able to enjoy those simple pleasures anymore. 

We are going to Switzerland in two weeks, and I'm not sure what we'll do. My housesitter and friend Francine says she'll take care of him. I hope Lamar keeps rallying a while longer, and I trust that the universe will take care of him, and of us, as it has for 14 years.