Nori has slipped off to the great dog park in the sky

Our black lab Nori. She died on July 7, 2010

Our beloved black lab Nori died last week after a sudden and mercifully brief battle with cancer.

Her last month was rough. In mid May she contracted salmonella and spent several days in the animal hospital. At one point during this I actually thought she was going to die she was so ill. Susan and I were greatly relieved when she came home and quickly reverted to her normal self.

Sadly this was not to last. After a couple of weeks we noted that she had begun to put on weight, and within a few days of that we knew something was wrong – she was gaining weight too quickly for this to be normal. The vet suggested it might be gas and we spent several days trying a medication, but to no avail. Within a week she was having so much difficulty breathing that Susan took her off to the animal hospital.

We then spent several weeks trying to figure out what was wrong with her. They drained 2 litres of fluid out of her during her first visit. Her recent bout with salmonella confused the diagnosis, but long story short within a couple of anxious weeks that included multiple hospital visits and drainings and a visit to a specialist hospital in Boston, we had a diagnosis – terminal cancer, probably in multiple locations in her body, but certainly in her bladder and almost certainly in her glands.

Within a week or so of this diagnosis, Nori was dead.

Needless to say this completely sucked. Susan and I were shocked and emotionally devastated. About the only good I can say of this experience was that fortunately Nori did not have to suffer very long. She had some rough weeks, with labored breathing and a rapid decline in body weight and stamina, but she was a trooper right through to the end, still anxious for her meals, eager to please us, and ready with a kiss and a wag of her tail, even when it cost her dearly to raise herself up.

She died in our arms at home on July 7, surrounded by those who loved her. Most of the folks who knew her well got a chance to see her at least once before she died. She’s buried in our yard, in view of the picture windows which look out over one of our gardens.

I’ll miss her dearly. Soolin and Nori did everything with Susan and I – they came to work with us, they’d usually accompany us on our errands, they were our hiking companions, they even attended our wedding (in fact, they’re the only people who attended our wedding!). It’s a terrible loss for us.

We’re going to spruce up the flower garden we buried her in, and I’m going to get a memorial page up for her on this site at as soon as I have a chance to pull together enough photos for it.

Near death experience with Nori

Fortunately this story has a happy ending, but it was sad and trying to live through. Sunday afternoon Nori, our 5 year old black lab, threw up extensively in front of Susan and I, and there was troubling stuff in it – mashed potatoes, chicken bones, and other food stuff we couldn’t identify. None of it came from us or our property – she had crept off somewhere, found it, and eaten it, and it made her really sick. Nori’s very food focused thanks to her experiences as a pup living through abandonment during hurricane Katrina, and when she wouldn’t eat her supper that night Susan and I were both mildly troubled. When she wouldn’t eat her breakfast in the morning, and wouldn’t go to the bathroom, I knew something was really wrong and after some debate Susan took her off to the vet. They immediately referred her to the animal hospital.

The hospital’s first guess was a possible blockage of her innards, most likely by chicken bone. Fortunately shortly after they admitted her she got violently ill from the rear, and at the time they thought this was a great sign and that she would soon be on the mend. They x-rayed her and found nothing foreign in her, which was a relief and another good sign.

Unfortunately by Tuesday she hadn’t really improved, and they decided to keep her for observation. She wasn’t eating, and she was still throwing up and leaking from her rear constantly. By this point they concluded she had a bacterial infection of some sort. We were worried but not terribly so.

Wednesday morning Nori ate a little bit and so by lunchtime they concluded it was safe to take her home. Susan picked her up and spent the afternoon watching her, and it wasn’t pretty. She wouldn’t eat, she was still constantly and pretty much uncontrollably leaking from the rear, she was in significant pain that was causing her to constantly pant and quake, and she was completely distressed emotionally. This was really really hard to see and absolutely heartbreaking. She was looking for comfort and spent her time trying to literally crawl under our clothing and huddle against our skin, shivering in pain and staring up at us with pleading eyes. The closest I’ve come to crying in years was that night, looking into her eyes and feeling helpless. At this point I was beginning to think she would die, and the following morning was worse – while she did seem to sleep that night, when she woke up she wouldn’t eat anything, and after drinking a little water she threw it up all over Susan. We called the hospital and they had us bring her back.

This time they did an ultrasound and again found no blockage. They concluded their initial diagnosis was still the likeliest explanation, she was just sicker than we thought, but the ultrasound did pick up fluid in her abdominal cavity. Apparently this is not unusual with bad digestive infections, but it’s also a sign of certain cancers, so they sent a sample to the lab. Meanwhile she went back on the IV and Susan and I sat on pins and needles, getting an update from the doctors every 6 hours or so.

Thursday was status quo until the evening when Nori finally ate something after 4 days of eating basically nothing, which was a great sign, and Friday morning she ate again. They decided if she ate around lunchtime we could come get her, and after she did I went up late afternoon and got her.

It was like night and day. While she had clearly lost a fair bit of weight, and has a shaved belly and rear end (a rear end that looked ridiculous when I first got her – it was literally as red as a baboons ass), she is back to her peppy self – no more pleading eyes, a not infrequent grin to share, energy to bounce around the house and, most importantly for Nori, beg us for food 😉

So – she’s not entirely out of the woods (5 days of a diet of small portions of rice and boiled meat, a bunch of different medications, low activity), but things are definitely looking good. The lab results came back and there was no sign of cancer. Our fingers crossed that she comes through this just fine and with no lasting side effects, except perhaps more of an aversion to food from the trash/wherever the hell she found those mashed potatoes and chicken.

As a side note, we do wish we had health insurance on the dogs. This was expensive, owe $2k and we’re not quite done yet. I’d spend the money again without thinking twice, but man, it still hurts the wallet. This has been the most expensive month of my life, what with a new house, appliances, a tractor, and this being the capper. I told Susan we’re going to rent Nori out as a ‘companion’ to the neighborhood dogs to help pay for all of this l-)

Incredible leaping dog

Susan and I have two dogs, Soolin and Nori. On Saturday they were flipping out in the yard, so we went to check it out and discovered what appeared to be a stray dog sniffing noses with them through the ~4′ chainlink fence that surrounds the yard. We live on the corner and one of the streets is pretty busy, so we worried about the safety of the dog, and both of us tried to coax it into coming over, Susan from inside the fence and me by making my way onto the street from the other gate. The dog was skittish and ran away once, but then came back and to our great surprise it coiled itself up in a ball, made a huge standing leap onto the top of the gate, perched there for a moment like an owl, then lept into our yard. It was pretty amazing to see. This was not a large dog, standing a bit shorter than Soolin at the hips, but boy, it could leap like a kangaroo. Our best guess was it was on the prowl for a mate based on how he chased Nori around, but he lept right back over the fence when we tried to approach him to read his collar.

An ode to the Poot

My sister’s dalmation Helena (more commonly ‘the poot,’ or ‘pootie) passed away recently. Pretty sad news, I really loved her. She had a great, full life, and made a remarkable recovery from an infection of the heart to live to a ripe old age of 13. My sister’s written a wonderful eulogy to her over on her website, and you can scope out some photos of the poot in action over on her website. Give your pets a scritch behind the ear in honor of good old Pootie, I’ll miss her.

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Two dogs, one skunk

Midweek last week, Susan heard the dogs scuffling on the side of the house and tried to call them in. She saw a flash of white and thought maybe they were after a cat, but she caught a whiff of skunk and quickly closed the door then called for me in a minor panic. I was in the midst of a Team Fortress 2 match and couldn’t really hear her – all I heard was urgency in her voice. I knew she was downstairs making pickles and was thinking…who has a pickle emergency?!? But after the second time she called for me I came downstairs and could immediately smell the skunk. Still – what could we do? I opened the door and Nori, our black lab, was up on the porch waiting to come in. Soolin was out of sight. I could smell skunk in the air but when I sniffed Nori I couldn’t really smell it, so after running my hands over her I let her in then started calling for Soolin. She came up onto the porch tossing her head about, a thick white froth covering her mouth and chin and a long dribble of drool spraying about. Susan and I were a bit freaked by her appearance and behavior – she kept tossing her head violently, smacking her lips, and drooling profusely. I sniffed her and while the smell of skunk was very strong in the air, she smelled more of chemicals, like windex or something. We brought her inside, confused, as I kept sniffing at her mouth and wiping away all her drool. We started to panic a bit, fearing that she had ingested chemicals or something toxic, based on her behavior, the lack of a skunk smell on her, and the drool. Susan called the vet and pretty quickly we headed off to the animal hospital, expecting that Soolin was going to have her stomache pumped.

By the time we got halfway to the animal hospital we had concluded it really was a skunk we were dealing with, not chemicals. We couldn’t explain the different smells, but the way my car reeked made it clear that it was skunk on them.

It cost me $100 for the vet to confirm this, and I ended up feeling pretty foolish. Susan and I had a really long night – we had to put the dogs in a tub and scrub them with a solution made up of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dish soap and water. The good news is aside from their faces, which we couldn’t scrub so assidiously, the dogs smell ok. The bad news is the odor lingers around our house and most especially in my car, which absolutely reeks. Based on a conversation with a co-worker who also ended up with a skunked car, I’m going to pay someone to detail it and ask them to focus on steam cleaning the upholstery, we’ll see if that clears it up.

[update] I forgot to mention the reason Soolin was drooling and frothing at the mouth. She took the skunkblast straight to the face and mouth, which is why she was so agitated and drooley. The vet told us it was harmless, but you can imagine how disgusting this must have been, even for a creature acustomed to the occasional snack on some other dog’s poop.