I Am Shiba.

Dedicated to momentary thoughts and musings of A Shiba Inu.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Again, The Woman Speaks

When I was a little kid, I remember a cartoon. It was a story about a boy born with a round head in a world of people with pointy heads (narrated by Ringo Starr I think). But there was one point in the cartoon when the song, Me and My Arrow came out, and a particular scene stayed with me for years.

Me and My Arrow

(it takes a few seconds to load so be patient).

I have always kept an eye out for that "greatest dog in the world." Throughout my life, I have been blessed with many a good dog, but never The Greatest Dog In The World until my first Shiba Inu came into my life. From the moment the two of us met, it was obvious that we were to be buddies for life. Over time, he became an integral part of my life to where basically we were inseparable unless we absolutely had to be. My husband would tell me that there were nights that he would just sit there, staring at the front door, waiting for me to open it.

He is not an in your face kind of dog. He always stays at a distance and watches. He was dubbed by my Guardian by some wiser folks than me because while he is not standing assertively in front of me, keeping you away, he is always at a short distance, watching you, waiting, making sure that I am safe. He curls up at the entrance to my office and watches. He rides in the car and watches. He very very seldom barks. He moves silently, almost like a ninja.

He still works as a therapy dog and has this very unique skill of being able to lie next to very ill individuals, completely still, as they just slowly move their hand through his fur. He has been mauled by children, walked next to individuals bound to wheelchairs, and entertained an entire garden group of elderly women by finding a chipmunk and merrily chasing it through their stunning garden.

He is the dog I always dreamed of having. Seldom listening to a word I say, he insisted that every morning starts with a belly rub and a good breakfast, is a strong believer in harmony with the outdoors (he has picked up plastic bottles on hikes and brought them to me), and a true believer in the idea that sometimes you just have to take a break and enjoy the sunshine.

In late May, as I have mentioned, I started noticing problems with his hind legs and over the course of the summer, a variety of tests were done, but everything was inconclusive. Friday, in an amongst a variety of other things that happened, I provided another urine sample, and I get the call while at work regarding what is going on.

"Canine Degenerative Myelopathy: The disease is chronic and progressive, and can result in lameness in the animal and eventually may lead to extensive paralysis of the back legs. The animal could be crippled within a few months, or may survive up to 3 years. . . The disease usually manifests between the ages of seven and fourteen and initially affects the back legs and causes muscle weakness and loss, and lack of coordination. . ."

He has his good days and his bad days, like anyone. This morning when I took him out for his morning constitutional his spirits were very high but two days ago, he was having difficulties just moving around the house but I am slowly starting to prepare myself on how to make "the decision" regarding what to do with my best friend since there is no cure. I just get to merely watch him lose control of his hind legs and bodily functions. When people come over, I ask them to be careful with petting his back because sometimes he loses his balance.

Right now, he is lying on his blanket right next to the heater. Curled up into a tight little ball, he looks as good as the day that he moved into my home and heart. His coat is shiny and healthy. If I get up to leave, he will follow me and lie down in the hallway, until I return back to my computer. But no more long hikes with my old friend, just fun car rides and trips to the park whenever we can. I loved how this morning he placed his head on the bed with his nose right next to my face and made a snarfling noise to remind me that it was 7 a.m. and it was time for him to be fed.

It was 7:03. He had impatiently waited three minutes.

I talk about him now because I know when the day does come, I won't be able to speak of it. I will be meditating in a manner, hoping that he finds his ancestors of years past, and is able to once more be the dignified Japanese dog that he still is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Woman, As you know, I have come to love Sir Cortez, and it is hard to think about life without him. I am devastated and crying in fact, and I can only guess at what you must be feeling. I don't know what else to say at this point, but I hope to be in touch. Please take good care of yourself--I already know you will take excellent care of him. M.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about Cortez. Cherish every moment with him - I know you will. You are his human and he is your dog! You are both very fortunate.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Vi said...

A beautiful post. This time comes in every dog's life. Cherish the time that you have left with him; I'm sure you will.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh No! I am so sorry to hear your news. You and Cortez (and The Guy and Belle Chan)are in my heart. I have only commented once before.......maybe a year ago, but I come Here 2 or 3 times a week. I think one of the hardest things about times like these, is that we cannot explain changes to our fur family members. Cortez will be In the Moment. Hard for humans. Take care of yourself, as well as Cortez.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for years but have never left a comment before. My heart is breaking for you as I too have had and lost a "once in a lifetime" canine friend. Revel in the time you have with him, hold him close. You will know when the time comes; may that time be a long while away. Take care. You were both so fortunate to find each other...

10:16 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm sorry. I don't know how you prepare for this. My ladies are getting old (15 or so) and I keep thinking I need to get ready myself.

10:46 AM  
Blogger jen said...

I'm so sorry to read about what you and Cortez are going through.
But I'm relieved for you that you got a diagnosis. At least for me, it is not as terribly hard to deal with when you have answers, reasons.

Cortez and Shassi were the two shiba who prepared me to take on the challenge of the Shiba Inu.. then two shibas.. then three.. then fosters..

You and Cortez are like heroes to me, you survived each other and established the sort of relationship that every human-dog bond hopes to become. He is such a lucky dog to have had a life filled with care, companionship, consistency and love. He has shown his devotion in ways only a shiba can - watching, waiting, and subtle hints of affection.

Please know that even though we aren't in your living room hugging you and gently petting Cortez, we are all here supporting you and wishing that all dogs everywhere could go on living forever.

And thank you for blogging this - it really does help to know that others are out there with their older, dignified shibas, preparing for "the decision". Rudy and I thank you, sincerely.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. Cortez has been loved the way every dog should be loved. Cherish the time with him.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about the diagnosis. I will think good thoughts for Cortez and your family.

Sukoshi's mom
(owned by the "odd couple", Sukoshi and Hoshi)

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is special devices to enable dogs to still get around. www.Dogskart.com specifically mentions dogs with Canine Degenerative Myelopathy as does the web site www.wheelchairsfordogs.com/

My heart aches for you. All the best to you and Cortez.

6:07 PM  
Blogger The Shiba said...

Cortez would not enjoy the dogcart. With him, there is a whole issue of dignity that I need to keep in mind. Belle (who gave up her dignity long before I got her) may be able to endure a cart or a wheelchair but Cortez, no. He is so self-sufficient and so vain, I think he would be embarrassed and depressed if we chose that course of treatment to keep him living longer.

Cortez is a very proud dog and like when he fell down the stairs the other day, it was more his ego that was hurt than himself (cheese is a great thing to help egos recover). I just can't see that as an option for him.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous JMS said...

I understand. We had to let our dog (German Shepherd/Border Collie/probably Lab too) go too, and it was so hard. Senor Cortez is such a fine dog.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please keep Cortez alive. As once someone said, there is no dignity in death but only dignity in living.

Do you remember late Pope John Paul II? He was so ailed and frail in his late years, I thought it was so indignified for him to still working and to parade him around in his Pope-mobile.

I only realized how dignified his last years were later.

I don't think it is so much question of Cortez's dignity, but I think it is question of if you can accept your best friend Cortez's new life status as an ailing older dog and his new life style.

My friend once said it was so difficult for her to watch her father, once a strong man and her hero who run his company for 30-years, deteriorate into frail old man with illness that she really wished he die quick.

You may have to accept Cortez as ailing older dog instead of an intelligent and dignified dog you are used to see.

But I think Cortez would be just happy lying next to you and watch you work or getting cheese strings off your hand even if he can't move. Dogs really love getting fresh outdoor air even if they can't walk and my friend wheel around her 15-year old pup in a baby cart.

Old age would come to all living creatures, human and canines, and he would not be any less dignified because of it.

Take care and I wish Cortez many more happy cheese balls.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

(((The Woman)))

Cortez is an amazing dog...I love reading about him and Belle.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous jenna said...

there are no words for how heartbreaking this is

cherish every moment

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To The Woman:

Please post many more pictures of Cortez getting old & gray, sun bathing in your living room and being spoiled rotten.

tears & hugs.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Woman,

My heart aches for you; your wordsmithing reveals how much you love Cortez, the squirrels' bane. I do not know what the future holds for either of you but I do know that you will do everything in your power to ensure Cortez is comfortable and lives his life as he has: with dignity and independence.

Growing up sucks sometimes....

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Woman,

As I sit here with the tears rolling down my face..my heart in a million pieces, I am at a loss of words. I only hope when that time comes you shall make that decision with love and confidence. Always remember the lives that you and Cortez touched and made better through your heart and love. Thank you for always putting a smile on our faces..Much love and best wishes to you and Cortez.



10:48 AM  
Blogger Nozomi's Q T Pi and Jenny H. said...

I can hardly see my key board threw the tears. Sir Cortez has a special place in mine and Pi's hearts. I am going to give my Little Guy a big hug when I get home. Our hearts goes out to All Four of you.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of Cortez' illness. He is a wonderful, inspirational Shiba.

There is a beautiful Shiba in our meetup group who uses a cart similar to the ones at wheelchairsfordogs.com. He was fine and then became ill with some undiagnosed ailment and lost use of his back legs within a few days. He's been in the wheelchair for several years now. He is a beautiful, happy dog and he runs around with ease. Please consider it. If you'd like, I can try to put you in touch with him. Post a response here and I'll send an email to Belle's breeder, EG with the info. I have her email address. Cindy

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have followed your blog since I began thinking about bringing a shiba into my life, over two years ago. You helped me make the decision to bring home my Cody, the best decision I've ever made! I've been fighting back tears all day after I saw your post this morning, I truly feel for you. I understand where people are coming from, I too have met shibas with this condition who are happy in a wheelchair. I also believe that you know Cortez best, and you can make the best decision for him. Having read your posts for years, I also know that you would make that decision 100% for him, not for what would be easiest for you. Know that we are all here for you and our thoughts are with you!

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Tuk and Jacks Mom said...

I am so sorry to read your sad news. I discovered your blog earlier this year and spent days reading all your entries from the very beginning. Cortez's adventures have brought me so much laughter and I have come to feel like I know Cortez, Belle Chan, you (the Woman) and That Guy. My heart aches and I'm shedding a few tears thinking of that sad day that will eventually be here. I wish you many more days of joy as Cortez as he watches over you.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this made me cry. your feelings are so beautifully expressed.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

This is absolutely heartbreaking news.....you both have been such an inspiration to so many, including me. Cherish the time you have left together. Cortez will let you know when he is ready to go to the bridge. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read your blog anonymously for years and have never commented until now. I was moved to tears by this last entry. You and Cortez are in the thoughts of so many, please be comforted by that during this time. We know you will do best for your Shiba.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm heartbroken for you. I will take my Shiba on an extra-long walk today, and cherish the time I have with him.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I also had a corgi (max) would was diagnosed with this disease and he had only two speeds fast and stop though stop was only for sleeping. He survived and had a happy life for 3 years after coming up lame in one back leg. It wasn't until the second leg went that I had to make a decision. He was 13 years old and had arthritis in his front legs so a cart was not an option. If cortez likes water( I know a shiba liking water) water therapy to keep the back legs in motion can possibly slow down the progression and also be alot of fun for both of you. Remember he is still here so please enjoy ever minute of your time together I really miss mad max from thunder dome my crazy energizer bunny. Give cortez a hug for me and enjoy each other. kendal, oreo, cookie

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is with much sadness that I read the diagnosis of Cortez's ailment and my heart truly goes out to you. Whatever decision you make, I know will be in the best interest of Cortez....your "soulmate" and best friend.

Although I have been reading your blog for over a year, along with many others of the SFShiba puppycam message board, a thread was set up on this board telling us of Cortez's condition. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to be a member of our board where you will find much support, love and understanding. Please come visit us here:

You, Cortez, Belle Chan and The Guy are in our thoughts and prayers.
I am known as the "Dreamcatcher"

7:49 AM  
Blogger The Shiba said...

First of all, thank you everyone for your polite comments and statements. You never realize how many readers are out there until something like this comes and sorta takes you by surprise.

To answer a few questions that have popped up, yes, Belle is older than Cortez and her health is excellent.

Cortez is still so far doing well but one thing he can no longer do is run anymore. As soon as he runs, his hind legs start to shake and sometimes he stumbles but otherwise, he is still his alert and relatively active self. He is in no pain that we can determine and he remains ever so attentive to household details as always.

Why this happened to him? No one can say- but I don't need to know the why as much as the how to just make his life the best for him. Like for example, noticing that running after squirrels now immediately causes leg shaking so he can only admire them from afar now- no more 30 ft lead squirrel chasing in the park for him.

We have debated the whole issue of the dog cart/wheelchair and dismissed it for Cortez. I honestly believe that he would hate it but there is potential for water therapy which I will be looking into for him. But Cortez hates anything on him that is different and the cart I think would be too much for him- Belle, should this every happen to her, I believe would adapt very easily but Cortez unfortunately I just don't believe would be happy.

But I really want to emphasize to all my readers. He is still moving around and healthy, albeit slightly slower. He is still ever vigilant, caring, obtuse, distant, and yet, constantly concerned about my well-being. He is still able to lift his legs to pee although he is starting to squat more. He still plays with Belle who is just her whacky insane self around him and helps bring him out of his crate and get his morning going. She is a great assistance to us and to him. I really think that he would be very depressed without her company.

But I truly want us to focus on the positive regarding Cortez. Since we got a program started, we have had almost zero mistakes and we have been increasing protein in his diet as well as fish oil to help as much as we can.

The vet tells me this process can go slow or fast- or both. We shall see. But at least now we know its not cancer, it's not kidney failure or Cushing's or a number of different things we were examining.

My buddy is just getting older before I thought he would. And while this is difficult to grasp my mind around, he continues to remain by my side, insisting upon his morning belly rub, and whining to go for car rides whenever possible. He has not changed at all.

He is just moving a little slower at this point.

Thank you again all, for all your love and support. I will keep you updated as he progresses but personally, I am hoping for the slower and not the rapid so that our time together continues and we can fit in at least one more road trip or two.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

For the Woman: Best wishes for you and your family. Like so many others, I just recently discovered Sir Cortez' blog, but have spent many hours catching up. I love reading of his adventures and am so sorry for such a diagnosis. I know you are going to do everything in your power to make his life as comfortable and easy as possible. My heart goes out to you.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Cortez,Re Wine: Some people - perhaps even The Woman - marinate meat in wine. I believe that this process results in a Meat-flavored wine, and also a wine-flavored meat.
Two for the price of one.
balix (SFS message board)

4:45 AM  
Blogger K9Trainer said...

Poor Cortez!

You are all in my thoughts.


11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear abour Cortez. I have enjoyed reading his adventures since we brought our puppy home and the humor on this blog as kept us sane knowing that others are going through the same shiba trials. And the movie that you are thinking of is called "The Point." It was a favorite of mine growing up, and you can find it on DVD if you do some searching.

11:27 PM  
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