Archive for February, 2012

Tending to Tucker
February 24, 2012

No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich. ~ Louis Sabin 

As most Tucker fans are aware, he was born with a cleft palate that made it difficult for him to eat and drink without getting stuff up his nose. Once this defect was discovered, all who knew him were amazed that he had grown and thrived despite of it. But the fact remained that he needed to have it repaired, or he would likely have continuing problems throughout his life. 

The breeder advised us to just bring him back and exchange him for another puppy, but we declined, mostly because we knew they would just euthanize him, and we already loved our very sweet, smart little fellow, who had already learned two tricks (sit and shake). 

His first surgery came at age three months. He weighed all of 8 pounds, and had only been with us for a few days. It was quite an extensive procedure, and he came home to us with a feeding tube that required me to squirt a vial full of liquid nourishment down it several times a day. 

 The doctors gave his palate another tweak when he was neutered in November, and then just last week, he had his final surgery. We were expecting it to be minor with no unpleasant after effects, but it turned out to be more intrusive than we thought, mostly because there was just not enough soft tissue to sew together to close that last little spot. 

So they got creative, and came up with a way to do it from underneath, but it involved a very intricate process with many, many stitches. They kept him overnight for observation, and then he came home the next day, once again with a feeding tube. 

It’s one thing to squirt a vial of liquid into the tiny tummy of a three month old puppy. It’s quite another to do it into the much larger tummy of an eight month old puppy who weighs 20 pounds. That vial is pretty darn small, so the feeding process requires multiple re-loads, all the while hanging onto the feeding tube with one hand. Oh, and did I mention that this time, I had to puree canned food (cut with water) and pour it into a bowl prior to filling the vial over and over again? 

 Of course, the bowl had to remain on the counter, because if I put it on the floor, I knew that Tucker would try to drink it. My thought was that it probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world if he did, but I was just obeying instructions! 

It was a long three days, mostly because our rhythm of life had been totally disrupted, and it took awhile to settle into a new one. Not being sure how often Tucker would need to go outside with all this liquid in him, I took him often. And not being sure when he would get hungry again, I just had to guess every 4 hours or so? 

And then there were the middle of the night bathroom runs. All that liquid meant he needed to go, so he would come to my side of the bed and politely tap me with his paw when the time came (our bed is very tall, and he can barely reach it while standing on his back paws). 

It was just like having a little baby puppy all over again! He woke me up at 2:30 that first night, but the next night wasn’t so bad. I just wore my running clothes to sleep in, so I could quickly take him out without having to find a robe or whatever. Not that I expected to see anyone outside at 2:30 in the morning, but you just never know! 

Saturday morning dawned with the realization that Tucker had somehow managed to pull out his feeding tube to the point that it was not wise to use it, fearing that the liquid would go down the wrong pipe into his lungs. So just as soon as the vet’s office opened, I called, and we headed that way. 

My hope was that they would tell me that his stitches looked fine and that they would remove his tube. Happily, that was the case! So Tucker really did himself a favor… finally, he could enjoy eating again, albeit a liquid diet until his final check up this week. 

It was a very happy day when we got a green light to return to our normal routine with his usual food and treats. And we are all celebrating the fact that he will never more have to endure any ordeals like this. EVER.

Oh, I mentioned above what a very special dog Tucker is. In spite of all the grueling surgical procedures he has endured over the past five months, he remains the sweetest, happiest dog! All the folks at the veterinarian’s office just love him. Dr. Young said he had another dog with a similar problem, but he said that that little dog was just plain mean. 

Tucker, on the other hand, was and is a little trouper, with happy dances for all. He marches in, wagging his tail for each and every person and/or dog he encounters there (as opposed to Shadow and Bailey who would always tremble with fear when it was their turn to go). I could hear the vet tech talking to Tucker in the back hallway, “Just look at you strutting along!” 

We are so grateful for the excellent care he has received at Sunset Blvd. Animal Clinic, and are so relieved that Tucker is now healed and can look forward to many more happy days of good health. 

Now if he would just quickly grow the fur on the left side of his ruff back, so he doesn’t look like he has a modified mohawk, that would be nice! 


He’s Part Water Spaniel!
February 16, 2012

Seventy-five percent of our planet is water – can you swim?  ~Author Unknown 

Ah, Tucker. Never a dull moment with you in the house! All Tucker fans (in the neighborhood and/or on Facebook) ask about you on a regular basis. Even that lady in the very conspicuous red Hummer stopped on the street and rolled down her window to say that you are the cutest dog ever… she said that you have “such a personality!” 

So the Timber Hill “street ladies” had their bi-weekly happy hour last Thursday at our next door neighbor’s house. You are a real favorite amongst this crowd! Your happy dance has charmed them all, and as it so happened, when I let you out to “do your business” before I left you alone and bereft while I went to be happy for an hour… our hostess of the week espied you and invited you to the festivities, even promising you a cookie! 

April said that you were welcome to come join us, and so you did. All the ladies cooed over you, and you were such a good boy. 

We nibbled and sipped, and went to admire Joe’s amazing woodworking handiwork and April’s art collection. But then you got restless, and I asked April if I could just let you out in their backyard, which of course, was fine with her. What fun you had galloping to and fro, barking and just being the happy dog that you are. 

But oops! You forgot about the swimming pool! And in you went, headfirst. Thankfully, I witnessed this happen, because if we had been in the other room, I’m not sure that anyone would have noticed you bobbing in the water. 

Who knows what might have happened then? It makes me shudder to think how this story may have ended. 

So I ran outside, yelling, “TUCKER!” The expression on your little face, which was barely above the water surface, looked as if you were thinking, “What the hell just happened, and what am I supposed to do now?” 

I was so ready to jump in the pool to save you if you went under, but thankfully, your instincts kicked in and you paddled enough to keep you upright. I knelt by the steps and called you, and slowly you swam over to me! 

It was with MUCH relief that I hauled you out, a wet, bedraggled, skinny little woebegone puppy underneath that “mucho pelo” coat of yours. In hindsight, I wish I had asked someone to document your adventure on camera. But I was too worried about you to think about that at the time. 

Your bestest friend Jeanine kept you close by (as you shook the water off) while I ran to get all the “dog towels” I had to dry you off. And then, home we went, with you wrapped up in a towel… and a cookie clenched in your teeth, thanks to hostess with the mostest, April. 

So all’s well that ends well. How grateful I am that your first swimming lesson ended on a happy note! I wonder how you react next time you see a swimming pool?

The Big Easy at Mardi Gras… Priceless!
February 9, 2012


It’s in our soul to have Mardi Gras. ~ Arthur Hardy 

I spent an idyllic childhood on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, which is the main reason why New Orleans calls to me. She calls me home. Since moving back to Houston in 1968, my visits there have been sporadic, but every chance I get, I love to drive out to the lakefront to just inhale the familiar aromas of marine life, sea breezes, pine trees and that pungent smell of the soil which is especially evident during rainy periods. 

Our neighborhood, Lake Vista was built up on claimed land, and if you dug down deep enough, you’d hit water. My dad even rigged up a little “wishing well” in our garden that you could look into and see water down at the bottom of the well. It was a gardener’s tropical paradise, and our parents reveled in establishing a beautiful one at our house at #6 Stilt Street. 70124. 

(an aside: Pete Fountain lived down the lane from us, and I remember that his dogs were Corgis. One time one of them escaped, and my friend Amy found it and got a nice reward!) 

But our 1950’s era house has long been demolished with a new one rebuilt there, and post Katrina, so have many others. It’s been years since I last visited our old neighborhood, and honestly, I think I’m a little reluctant to go back there, because so many landmarks are gone now (for instance my elementary school). Still, if I had a car at my disposal while in town, I might go there, park it and just wander about, breathing in the air that raised me up. 

This past weekend, I was back in New Orleans, but alas I had no car. 

However, we were staying at the Marriott on Canal Street (a nice, but generic high rise convention sort of hotel), so who needed a car? Walking in the French Quarter is such a treat for one who loves this city. There are few, if any, changes architecturally in this historic district, and its timelessness is another siren call to me. 

The forecast was for rain all weekend, which concerned me just a bit, because what the heck was I going to do all day if it rained while I was stuck in my generic hotel room? I guess I’d just watch the boats on the Mississippi River and read books. 

But while it was threatening, it did not actually rain until late Saturday afternoon, at which point, we were snug in our room after a wonderful, long walk through the Quarter. I imagine that all the Krewes which had parades planned must have been a little anxious, but they were ultimately graced with a cool, overcast evening, just perfect for a parade! 

What a wonderful, relaxing weekend it was! Just walking, exploring, enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the French Quarter during the day is a pleasure like none other. And at night? Oh boy! What a people watching paradise it is! 

Maximo’s, Camellia Grille, Arnaud’s, Cafe du Monde and Antoine’s were some of the amazing places we had the privilege of visiting while there. GROAN. So much good food and drink! I could only savor each bite and will just have to pay the piper going forward. 

The last night we were in town, our group of fellow TIPSters planned a trek to a bar called the Three Muses at 536 Frenchmen St. in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, just east of the French Quarter. We had to take a cab, but the driver warned us that he would only be able to take us as close as he could get us, because it was on a parade route. 

The parade had begun long before then, so we thought we would have no trouble, but as it was, we had to walk a few blocks to get there. The bar was packed, but eventually, we scored a table. We thought things would die down, and we would be able to enjoy the trio of women singers who were performing classics from the American songbook over the din of the crowd. 

The four of us seemed rather out of place, Joel in his sports coat and tie, and the dressed up women, purses clutched closely. But what the heck! Everyone was kind and welcoming, and when one young couple were about to vacate their table, they signaled us old folks to take it. Score! 

But wait! Here came the parade again! No wonder there was still such a mob scene! It had originated from that spot, and  then returned there. The Krewe du Vieux. This year’s theme was “Crimes Against Nature”, which meant that all the floats expressed a satirical view of current political and social themes. Maybe someone can explain the giant hairy ants to me, but I did understand the protest against the Superdome’s being re-named the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

Whatever! It was great fun to witness the mule drawn floats, the crazy folks who paraded alongside of them and then, there were the spectators. I’ve got to say, there is no finer people watching than during Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. 

We ended up walking all the way back to Canal Street, at some points, shamelessly holding hands in the crowd. What a memorable night it was! 

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and back to Houston we went on Sunday, with fond memories of a very special trip to one of my all time favorite destinations, the one and only New Orleans! 

Interestingly enough, we’ll be going back next month during the season of Lent. Will compare and contrast for all pewpeople fans…