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The tale, finally, of Paddy’s new sister Gwen

It must be pretty obvious by now that we added another family member back in in December, and I thought I’d take the time to finally explain how that came about. When we tell someone we got a new puppy, they invariably ask what she is, and when they hear us say that she’s a Pit Bull/Irish Setter mix the response is usually something like, “wow, what does THAT look like?”

Which is exactly what got us in trouble in the first place.

It all started when I was sitting at the computer surfing Craigslist one day. I routinely scan the Pets section for lost animals that might be at the shelter as well as flagging the puppy-mill people that post in violation of Craigslist policy. My eye was caught by the all-caps posting for free Pit Bull and Irish Setter mix puppies, and thought, “that’s crazy, this I gotta see.” I clicked the link…


…and came face to face with a little chocolate puppy with the cutest fuzzy ears I had ever seen.

I stared at the picture a while then I showed Joy, and she too was smitten. We began playing the ‘what-if’ game, since, you know, we had been planning on getting Paddy a companion at some point… but we quickly dismissed the idea because we’d really wanted to wait until Cricket was gone, and wanted to save another shelter dog, and didn’t want a puppy. And that was that. Until we went back and looked at the picture again and again. Maybe Paddy needed a friend now? He was out of his crate (this was before the Chair Incident) and it would be nice to have the two dogs grow up together… Eventually we decided that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to at least email and ask about her.

We got an almost immediate response; the lady said that puppies were the result of an accidental breeding of her brother’s Pit Bull and an Irish Setter belonging to a neighbor, the mother couldn’t deliver the pups and her uterus was rupturing, she’d stepped in an paid for the C-section to save the mom and remaining puppies, and raised the litter in her house. We had been interested in coming to meet the pups and mom, to get an idea of temperament, but she said she was all the way down near Clemson, SC and offered to meet us halfway in Greenville with the puppies.

At the last moment we stopped and asked ourselves: ‘what the hell we were doing’? We didn’t need a puppy in the house, this was a 12-16 year commitment we were talking about, and here we were about to meet some stranger in a McDonalds parking lot and try to evaluate the personality of a (probably carsick) puppy in that setting… and with all the dogs sitting in the shelter needing homes we were going to drive to SC to look at a puppy, all based on a photo…had we lost our minds? We decided to tell the lady that we were sorry to but we’d decided to wait on getting another dog – the day we’d agreed on meeting, Joy had to work late and it was sleeting, anyway.

But even so… at the last minute, we decided to add a P.S. to the note: to let us know if little chocolate puppy with the fuzzy ears puppy didn’t get a home within a week or so.

A week passed and we didn’t hear anything. Relief warred with disappointment, but it was all for the best, we figured. And then the following Sunday afternoon, we got an email that all the puppies had gotten homes… except for the little girl we’d taken such a shine to. Uh-oh.

The biggest reason we were so conflicted over this was not so much the addition of another dog – it was pretty much decided that we’d be getting one at some point – it was the fact that we felt really guilty that she wasn’t a shelter dog. If we did this, that meant the space we’d saved for some future dog that really needed saving would be taken. But, looking at it from the other side, we weren’t financially rewarding a backyard breeder, the mom was now spayed so we weren’t perpetuating a cycle, and ‘free’ puppies often become shelter puppies once the novelty of an impulse adoption wears off. From this standpoint, if we brought her home, maybe we weren’t saving a shelter dog this time, but we might well be keeping one out of a shelter. We decided that we would at least meet the little pup; if she was not the temperament we were looking for, we’d walk away. Even if we did take her and she turned out to be too much for us, we could foster her for a while, get her started on vaccines and training and then find her a more suitable home.

Off to Greenville Joy, Paddy, and myself drove, to meet in a park with the fuzzy-eared puppy and her mother. It was dusk when we arrived, and bitterly cold. There were two puppies – the lady’s brother had decided to keep one of the smooth-coated little girls and she came along for the ride. The little fuzzy-eared puppy was even more beautiful in person, and it was clear watching the pups that she was definitely the calmer of the two. The other one, who looked like a little miniature Paddy, was wild and fearless. The darker one wasn’t shy, but thought about new situations before rushing forward. The mother was awesome, she had a perfect temperament – confident, friendly, and well-mannered. We also found out the poor thing was eight years old and this wasn’t her first accidental litter. At least she’s spayed now, and I sure do hope they get that other pup spayed too.

Gwen’s mother, Sheba

Paddy ignored the puppies but was, of course, totally smitten with their mother. It was getting darker out and the wind had picked up. I think it was flurrying a bit. We’d really seen about as much as we could see of the puppy’s personality under those conditions, and she really did seem like what we were looking for. It was time to make a decision… we walked off a bit and discussed it quickly one last time, then walked back and I scooped up the little chocolate puppy. The four of us headed back up the mountain pass for home, one snoozing in the back seat, another curled up in my lap, and the other two of us alternately excited and worried we’d just done something really dumb.

The puppy, who became “Gwendolyn Fiona” is now just under 17 weeks old, housebroken since the first week, she’s doing really well with the cats, and Paddy absolutely adores her.


I think we chose well.

The day Gwen learned how to climb up on Paddy’s chair…



Gwen at 16 1/2 weeks with Paddy. She looks like a little Paddy mini-me today. 🙂

Simon’s cancer scare


We didn’t want to post about this until we had the pathology results back; and now that they are we can not only tell the story, but let out a big sigh of relief as we do so.

Last Thursday, we noticed that Simon appeared to have an ear infection. We cleaned it out as best as we could (it was really painful so we didn’t want to dig around in there too much) and used some Otomax we had left over from Calvin’s ear trouble a few months back. By the weekend, however, the ear was getting worse instead of better so off to the vet we went. Joy was working that weekend, so we had to drop him off on our way to go take care of the shelter animals on Sunday. We knew they were going to have to sedate him to get a good look, so it was just as well.

A few hours later, we went back for a slightly stoned cat and a troubling diagnosis;  it wasn’t really an ear infection, at least not in the usual sense. Simon had some sort of badly necrotized patch in his ear, not deep down in the ear canal but rather in the flap, and the vet wound up having to cut away a big circle of necrotic inner ear skin and cartilage. If the area had been any larger, in fact, the ear might no longer have stood since the only thing left once she was done was the outer skin. She sealed the raw area with a patch of wound glue and sent him home with a clown collar and a few days worth of pain meds.

What made us all nervous is that the area wasn’t so much infected looking as just… rotted. We discussed the possibility of a venomous spider bite… and the big C. Under the circumstances, she wanted to send the tissue off for a biopsy and we were happy to agree.

One good thing was that we had told her to go ahead and take an X-ray of his back end while he was out, since he’s pretty painful back there. We’d talked about doing this before, but it wasn’t something we wanted to put him under for; we’d always said if he had to get anesthesia for some other reason we’d have it checked, and here was our chance. His hips where he had the two femoral head ostectomies (in simpler terms, he’s had the ball part of the hip joint removed on both sides because he had a rare disorder that caused them to crumble away) looked great. It’s his spine that’s causing him trouble, he has arthritis. It was good to find out what’s causing his pain, and we’re going to start him on some glucosamine to see if it gives him some relief.

The biopsy results came back “necrosis secondary to infection” so we can stop worrying about some sort of nasty cancer, and he got started on some heavy duty antibiotics. Our best guess is that he was wresting with Calvin, and got kicked in the ear with a claw that had something foul on it.  He seems to be on the mend, and we’re very relieved.

A new year comes bounding in…


…like a hellhound out of some frozen Hell. That is what a friend jokingly said about the above picture, and that description seems to fit the weather of the past month rather well. It’s a shiny new year, but that’s because of the glare bouncing off all the snow and ice. We’ve had four snows – three of them significant, the last one still with us. Each time the snow was followed by days of bitter cold. Yesterday morning, it was four degrees outside when we got up. It’s very unusual for NC to get weather like this, and with this being the second year of it, I think we’re beginning to suffer from snow fatigue.

The dogs, on the other hand,  (Cricket being the exception here) are loving the snow. They frolic in it until they are exhausted. Paddy eats it, snorts it, digs in it gleefully. Gwen bounds through it and ends up coated in snow, looking like some sort of miniature yeti. At least someone is enjoying it, right?


If you click on either of the above pictures it will take you to a gallery of their “Fun in the snow” from January 10.

Last year wasn’t the greatest one, but I am thankful for everything we have. These are hard times, a lot of people are struggling hard, facing incredible losses, and we’re fortunate to have stable jobs and a roof (of our own, yet!) over our heads.  We lost Lindsy this past year, and it’s still weird and sad to have her gone. She was part of our lives for what felt like forever. We had Paddy and Gwen (who I still haven’t properly introduced here, that’s coming) join the family, and the little kitten we adopted in December of 2009 blossomed into the most wonderful big hunk of orange cuddliness. We adore our Calvin.

Cricket – amazingly – is still with us and thanks to some advice from our vet, her stomach trouble is better than it has been in years. Olive reached her fourteenth birthday! Simon is nine – nine! Holy crap, how did that happen? Winter, the ‘baby’ before Calvin came, will be six this coming June. Time just seems to go faster and faster.

This year ahead is going to be a tough one, I think; we have family members facing serious health challenges and it feels like there is some uncertainty and change possibly in the wind with other parts of our lives. But I also feel that these are all things that everyone could emerge on the other side of better than before. We just need to buckle in for the wild ride, and remember to be grateful for all the good things in our lives.