Monday, March 3, 2014

Jamie stories, Vol. 5: Miscellaneous moments

• Jamie was a firm believer in the merits of rising early. Apparently in his formative years, I set him for 5:30 a.m. and that was pretty much non-negotiable for the rest of his life. Jamie’s day began at 5:30 a.m., regardless of whether it was a work day, weekend, holiday, vacation day or sick day. Failure to rise at this pre-ordained time meant nose pokes that started gently and grew steadily bolder until they reached the level of bodily assault and the humans were forced to get up in self defense. The nose jabs were accompanied by vocalizations of increasing annoyance at human sluggishness. Wise acquaintances advised me to "ignore it and the behavior will extinguish." Yeah. No.

In the summer when the sun came up earlier, Jamie didn’t always wait until 5:30 and often woke me even earlier so we could start the wonderful new day together. Phoenix sees no point in getting up before the humans and will happily sleep as long as we do. Now that Jamie is gone, you can expect me to be late for all sorts of things.

• Back in the day, DMOTC held their autumn agility trials at an outdoor venue. The very last year they had their trials at that site, it poured rain on the final day. Excellent classes ran little to big, so by the time Jamie and I went in the ring, it was a churned up quagmire and rain was still falling. He needed one leg to finish his AXJ and it seemed like we’d been on the frustrating “one leg a year” plan for a long time. Course time was 40 seconds. Unknown to me, Jamie was a great “mudder.” We took it slow, kept all the bars up and crossed the finish line with a time of 40.99. God bless the AKC for rounding down.

• In the days when we were tracking a lot, I would often bring his articles into the house and dump them on the kitchen floor so they could dry out. (If you’ve ever experienced the particular funk that rises off a bag of wet, muddy tracking articles that never get aired out, you understand.) Jamie would deliberately collect them, one at a time, put them in a pile and lay on them. I have no idea why he did this, it wasn’t like anyone else in the house wanted anything to do with them.

• Jamie had two medical crises in his life. The first one turned out to be a very expensive non-crisis and the second nearly killed him.

The first one came in the summer of 2005. He had just finished his OTCh. and was absolutely at the top of his game in the obedience ring. Then he decided to try eating one of our feral farm cats (he did that from time to time, when he thought they had grown too bold). He ended up with a fungal infection on his muzzle that wouldn’t heal, courtesy of said cat (who escaped unscathed). The vet and I threw a lot of medicine at it but it would not go away. In the mean time, the fur and skin were peeling off one side of his muzzle like multi-layered sheets of plastic wrap.

This refusal to heal, combined with blood work that revealed an alarmingly low white cell count, convinced my vet that Jamie had a hidden cancer. She referred us to the veterinary school at Iowa State University for more testing. This brought with it a great deal of stress for both Jamie and me, since he had to stay several days at the vet school where strangers assumed a degree of familiarity he did not feel they had earned.

In the meantime, I remembered reading an article in Tervuren News Tales, the ABTC publication, written by Dr. Cathy Greenfield, a terv fancier and DVM at the University of Illinois, about a population of tervuren with abnormally low white cell counts. I contacted her and asked her get in touch w/the doctors at Iowa State regarding Jamie. As it turned out, Jamie was one of those weird dogs for whom an abnormally low white cell count was perfectly normal.

And he was allergic to the medicine we were using to treat the fungal infection. When I stopped using it, his face healed and his fur grew back in no time. I joked that I’d paid more than $1,000 for a vet to tell me not to do anything.

• The second medical crisis came in 2010. Jamie started profuse vomiting, vomiting blood, refusing food and having bloody stools. He lost a substantial amount of body weight and even if he ate, he could not keep food down. Gastric cancer was running rampant in the breed at the time (okay, it still is) and I was terrified this was the end for my big red dog as he was showing all the classic cancer symptoms.

We started doing diagnostics and treating symptoms and Jamie ended up in the ICU several times before eventually being diagnosed with moderate inflammatory bowel disease. In spite of our vet’s prediction that he would be on prednisone for the rest of his life, he was able to wean off the drug after four months. He was on a restricted diet for the rest of his life but his symptoms never returned and he enjoyed four more years of robust health.

• One day the UPS guy was wheeling a cart full of boxes past my desk at work. He stopped to watch the screensaver slideshow on my computer, which is mostly candids of Jamie and Phoenix. After watching a few frames, he pointed at Jamie on the screen and said excitedly, “I know what kind of dog that is! It’s one of those . . ."  He screwed up his face in concentration and pronounced, "One of those  Barvarian Tarvarians!” We were both laughing pretty hard by then and he said, “I’m not even close, am I?” I assured him he was closer than a lot of people, for whom Belgian tervuren is simply unpronounceable.

• Jamie would eat about anything (raised by shelties, remember?) but he did not like bananas. If you were eating a banana, he would go through all sorts of drooling contortions to convince you he desperately wanted some of it but if you gave him a bite, it never ended well. His signature move was to take the banana, make a horrible face, spit it out and smash it with his paw. Then he would look at me like, “Do something. I have banana on my paw.”

One time I bought a dehydrated raw food to use while traveling. It contained dried banana chips but I thought, really, how many can there be and what are the odds of him being able to specifically isolate a banana when it’s stirred up with  a bunch of other stuff? I mixed up Jamie’s food that first night and set the bowl down. It was a good thing I had fed him in the motel bathroom (I was rooming with a friend) because within seconds, Jamie made a face, pulled back from the bowl and spat out (yes, dogs can spit, I’m convinced) a huge mouthful of rehydrated dog food.

By the time he was done spitting, food was splattered over the walls, floor, toilet, shower curtain and counter. He fixed me with a reproachful stare. There were BANANAS in his food and would I PLEASE make them go away? I spent a lot of time picking dried bananas out of that brand and never bought it again.

Next: the show ring
Me and the "Tarvarian"


  1. Enjoying all these stories-what a nice tribute.

  2. Really enjoying these stories - what a wonderful dog! I can only imagine how much you miss him. I will forever remember Barvarian Tarvarins - LOL!!

  3. I dont know how you remember all these storeies but they are great!

  4. I'm impressed with his Bavarian Tarvarins!