Monday, July 30, 2012

Finding comfort with creativity and love...

MAXMOM here...

"Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway."
-Emory Austin

It's been a weekend of mixed emotions...

Yesterday, South Africa received its first Olympic Gold medal.  Our country was buzzing in celebration...

Congratulations to our own Cameron van der Burgh for his incredible performance in the 100m breast stroke and a new world record! You have made South Africa proud!


All this elation has been against the backdrop of our own sadness of having to say farewell to our sweet little Toffee last week.  As expected, the latter was hard. But today the sun is shining and Spring feels like it's just around the corner.  Why do I feel so much better? Well,  I put it down to a little trick I discovered during Maxdog's era:  My secret to managing grief:...

"Create! Create! Create!"

If, perhaps, you are wondering about that very last page.... 
Well, it's a picture of  "The King" peeking his nose through a hole in one of the boards we'd put across the scullery doorway during feeding times. He was so cute.  
Take a closer look...

My catharsis happens when I allow myself to get lost in creativity - in a manner that honours the person or animal I have had to say good-bye to. 

In this case, I decided to make a mini-scrapbook of TOFFEE.  It is a 15cm x15cm little booklet and is the perfect gift for Miss "R".  It's small enough for her to take back to her university residence, if she so chooses. 

The picture on the left is of a younger 'Miss R' and her pup. We musn't forget that King Toffee was brought into our home as her little pet when she was only 7 years old.  
Nowadays, she lives at university during the week.

Toby's response to Toffee's absence has been to take over his smaller bed....

As usual,Tammy simply accepts any given situation. This time she's decided to stretch herself out in a much more spacious manner - on the larger, double dog-bed in the corner of our room...

I also had time, during the weekend, to give some attention to our sweet guinea-pigs.  My readers will know that I recently 'rescued' little TWIX...

Well, the little thing has settled in beautifully and is growing stronger by the day. All her injuries have healed up and she is a happy little critter now.  She's very tame too and enjoys spending time resting on our chests while we feed her tit-bits. 

As you know, we have two other GP's in our household - SCOTCH and SODA...
 (Above: "SCOTCH" with "SODA" behind him)
 (Above: "SODA")

  They belong to "Miss R" and only come home over weekends when she returns from university.  Twix is still far too small to feel settled with them and earlier attempts to introduce them have resulted in unnecessary attacks on poor little Twix.  So,we've decided that she must get a little bigger first so that she can stand up for herself. For the moment, she can stay close to me - in her spacious indoor crate.

Nevertheless, I decided to construct a makeshift "outside" play area for the two larger pigs. We've had beautifully sunny weather recently and I know they'd enjoy some time outdoors.  I want 'weekends with Granny' to be a fun time and they were thrilled with the opportunity to explore a different, sunny environment.  Perhaps we'll construct something more permanent for the GP's in the near future - especially when Twix gets bigger. We'll see.

My vegetable garden is becoming very useful indeed:  All guinea-pigs get their fair share of leafy vegetable tops, carrots, spinach, parsley, apple slices, beans, hay and top quality commercial guinea-pig food. 

Our new favourite saying:
"Nothing can be happier than...a pig in our home"

I would also like to take a moment to say thank you to all my friends around the world.  Thank you for your messages of condolence and support over the past couple of days.  Yes, Toffee has left a huge hole in our heaerts.  He was a small doggie, with a large spirit, but he did, indeed,
 "Live life to the Max!".  

This has made the whole process, of saying goodbye, a lot easier.

Thank you again.
With love

Thursday, July 26, 2012


1 June 1997 - 26 July 2012

We loved you, sweet pup.
Run free with Maxdog, Tommy and all our beloved fur-friends.

Deja vu...

(Toffee 2004)

As I sit here, in bed, typing out this blogpost, a sense of deja vu engulfs me.  Just over two years ago, I was in the same place – a place of agonising decision-making.  This time, however, I feel stronger and more prepared to cope with the inevitable road ahead.

On the floor next to me, in the small little dog-bed, lies Toffee – ‘the King’ – a small, ageing Maltese terrier, who has been in our household for over fifteen years.  He’s sleeping comfortably and one has to look carefully to see his gentle breathing.  He’s ensconced in a fluffy white blanket which matches his soft fur.  He’s hardly moved over the past 12 hours except for the short while when my husband picked him up this morning to take him outside and place him on the grass so that he can relieve himself. 

Another visit to the vet, yesterday afternoon, revealed that Toffee’s time with us is probably running short.  His advice was expected - to start thinking about euthanasia.  It’s never easy so, in the time ahead, we’ll watch him for that subtle change which suggests that the time has come. My heart tells me that it’s approaching fast.  Perhaps it will just happen naturally, who knows?

King Toffee has brought such delight into our household over the past fifteen years.  He has faced many odds ... and survived.  He’s lived through the trauma of being mauled by a Rottweiler (A miracle when he was about 5 years old).  He coped (albeit reluctantly), all those years ago, with the adjustment of the small pup – “Maxdog” – being brought into our home, and another equally large Golden retriever – Tammy – a year and a half later.  One had to feel sorry for him as I saw him observe, in obvious dog-horror, how these two Golden pups exploded in size, and how the eventual territorial battle ensued. 

When I think back to Toffee’s puppyhood – that tiny little bundle of soft fur – I remember the sick feeling we got when we thought he was lost, and how we had frantically searched every corner of the neighbourhood only to find the  little pup fast asleep amongst the soft toys in my daughter’s toy-cupboard.  He’s graced her lap ever since and slept alongside her as she grew up.  I wonder, too, what role he played in her decision to take up the challenge of working and studying towards becoming a vet.
Toffee has sat on my lap too – in her absence – and sometimes sneaked into my bed as well.  He’s practically become a teddy-bear at the times when I needed to embrace my own inner-child. Each dog in my household has played a role in my emotional well-being and Toffee is no exception.

But, behind that sweet little personality has been a formidable war-general.  This little 5kg dog has assumed the fervent responsibility of guarding our home’s perimeter wall from any potential intruders.  He’s scoffed at other dogs sniffing him up and given them a clear reminder to keep their distance.  He’s challenged the postman, the cat and also a rat which broke the immigration rules.  

Toffee’s agility has complimented his independent nature.  No chair has gone un-tested and he’s learned to jump through hoops in the same way that Max did. 

Jumping into the car, too, has never been a problem either.  Up until recently, he’s enjoyed his walks and has watered every tree in his path, pointing one of his hind legs to the sky in a manner befitting a much larger breed.  Throughout his life, his spirit has remained unconquered. This little dog has exuded the spirit for life to which we should all strive.....

... the spirit of "LIVING LIFE TO THE MAX!"

 (Above: Toffee in the arms of a young Miss "R" 2003)

But now I look at him as he sleeps…

There is no pain.  He’s still and silent and beautiful as his life’s circle moves towards completion. I think about his transition to the dark world of blindness and how it has changed him into one of utter dependence on us.

The vet says that he has virtually no sight left.  He’s deaf too and he's gone off his food.  It appears, that he’s perhaps had a small stroke during the past couple of days because he’s rather unbalanced on his hind quarters.  The fact that he has torn tendons in his hind legs adds to the problem.  

Toffee’s panting and shivering continue every time he is awake.  A feint odour of urea on his breath suggests that his kidneys may also be closing down.  There are many other signs which reveal his condition. He's definitely on a different road.

I am sad for Toffee, but also know that his life has been lived ‘To the Max!’  At this stage, I can’t predict when his time will come, but it is inevitable. For the moment, however, Toffee sleeps on  in comfort. 

As they say...
 ‘When you bring a dog into your household, you take on inevitable heartbreak. 
But, it is all worth it!’

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes mistakes can be VERY COSTLY....READ THE LABELS!!!

MAXMOM here...
 Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes they can be REALLY BIG mistakes and they can become life-threatening!

 My own, recent mistake has left me with cold shivers and a serious taste of bile in my mouth. Even though my error of judgement could have had serious consequences, (and I am likely to be slated by my readers)  I feel that I should share it ... in the hope that another negligent person won't make the same mistake as me.

 Today, my very earnest apology goes to our sweet, ageing doggie...


Regular readers will know that KING TOFFEE is already 15 years old.  Up until now, he's been very active in his reign.  He does, however, suffer from arthritis, is almost totally deaf now and has very little vision left.  His teeth functionality is substantially diminished which has necessitated us changing his diet to totally soft food

For a while we tried all the high quality tinned foods, as well as cubes (which had to be watered down into a soft mulch).  Toffee hated almost everything I offered him, until we discovered the Pedigree range of soft food. My vet's opinion was that, since Toffee was so old, we should honour his tastes.  

"Give him whatever he wants..." he suggested.
"And Soft Pedigree dog food?" I asked
"If that is what he prefers, give it to him!  Why should an old dog spend his twilight years being forced to eat food that he hates? Give it to him!"

At first, I purchased the tinned food and would feed KING TOFFEE half a tin in the morning and a spoonful at night.  I kept the residue in the fridge, but have always hated feeding 'left overs' to my animals.  I was overjoyed to discover that Pedigree made small, sealed pouches of the same food for easy dispensing, so I purchased a large quantity for my little dog. The 'jack russell terrier' picture on the front of the packet suggested a similar size dog to toffee.  All I thought at the time was "Yay! A full meal in a single pouch."

TOFFEE enjoyed one pouch in the morning and one at night - and he relished every last morsel.

What I didn't notice, however, was that the poor little guy was getting thinner and thinner over the weeks that past.  He has always been blessed with thick fur and always been remarkably independent.  In addition, he's been sleeping more, so he's not wanted to be cuddled excessively. We simply let him be.

About two weeks ago, Toffee became ill.  He started licking his paws excessively and also developed a penis infection.  He also started shivering and panting at the same time.  More veterinary checks  (which suggested that everything else was okay) secured him the correct meds: We put him on Prozac (which stopped his habit of paw-licking) and anti-biotics for the infection. 
 But Toffee wasn't getting any better..?
 He was getting more listless by the day.
Despite all this, he was still enjoying his food and his regular walks. It was puzzling.

Last night, the shivering got worse and an inspection of his gums showed them to be extremely pale.  We gave him his supper and the shivering stopped for a short while but, as he was sitting on my husband's lap, he started shivering again.  
My hubby remarked: "I think Toffee is hungry."

By this stage we have been prepared to try everything, so I took him back to the kitchen and gave him another packet of the food.  
Thankfully a small voice inside me told me to "READ THE LABEL!!!"

Only then did I discover my terrible, terrible error...

Over the past month, I have been slowly starving my poor little dog.  We have been giving him only TWO packets of the food instead of the required FIVE per day.  The pale gums, the shivering, the excessive sleeping and the general deteriorating condition now all make sense. My error may have have been extremely costly to my poor little dog. I just hope he recovers fully.

Yes, I have rectified it:  Toffee is back on his required volume of food and is doing much, much better (after 24 hours), but it doesn't make me feel any less guilty. He's been suffering in silence all this time. 

I accept that this is all my error, but I would also like to give a caution to the manufacturers of these pouches.  PLEASE ...Your labelling can be made clearer!  

Is it not reasonable to think that one of these packets is the correct quantity for a full meal?  
I thought so and Toffee has paid the price.



Oh dear!

I am so, so sorry, SWEET KING TOFFEE!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Run free, sweet K ...

Today I pause to say goodbye to a very special cyber-friend
After a long battle with cancer our sweet friend has finally left us - to join other special heart-dogs in the heavens.
My sincere condolences goes to KB and her family, and thanks for her incredible courage in sharing this difficult journey. She has been an icon of strength throughout the past, painful months - in allowing us all insight into the amazing love and strength which exists between heart-dogs and their owners.
 Now, its our turn to offer her a word of love and encouragement at this sad time.  


Ship passes in the night
touching dreams. ‘Behold the Light!’
Stops only a little while
to take aboard a Golden smile.

Sails waft in gentle breeze,
waits the dog to be at ease,
boards the ship, the sun descending,
to a greater mission, perhaps pending.

Sniffing salty air of preservation,
drops to deck to take his station.
Captain smiles, ‘Dog’s day is done!’
‘But come, my boy, to another one!’

I feel the weight of a leaded heart
to say farewell, for now we part.
Seagulls cry, ‘Oh! What a glow!
His brilliant light, don’t we know!’

In the distance, ears alert,
eyes focussed, away from hurt
to a bridge, to be sailed across,
a rainbow to behold, NOT a loss!

Barks say ‘Enter’! Up he stands.
Sounds of welcome from distant lands.
The sea sends back his gentle soul
to touch my heart, to make me whole."

.........(from 'MAXDOG')

With love   

Friday, July 13, 2012

A WHIRLWIND IN MY LIFE - writing, dogs, blogs, business and Guinea-pigs

MAXMOM here...
I was thinking of words to describe my life at the moment...
  The closest I can think of is...

"A fuzzy 'Whirlwind', with minimal direction."
I seem to be in a period of life where there are many 'potential' doors opening, but nothing concrete as yet.  There is a lingering anxiety of indecision, but also a simmering excitement about the variety of vocational possibilities which lie before me. 
It's an emotional whirlwind for sure!

On the home front, Toby continues to be the most energetic of us all.  
Throughout the day he drops various retrieved tennis balls at our feet in the hope of a quick game, and he is always the prime negotiator for the dogs' evening walks in the park.  Both he and Aunt Tam are inseparable and they are constantly at my feet.  My home seems to be a magnet for dog hair and the vacuum cleaner is taking immense strain. 
 Aunt Tam is getting on in years now (she's 11 years old now), but is always up for a game of sedate bitey-face with our energetic "Sweet Hooligan".  Our dry winter climate has necessitated more medication for her dry-eye syndrome.  For an old lady, however, she's doing extremely well.
Thankfully "Aunt Tam'" is very enthusiastic about taking her 'arthritis' medicine too and comes charging down the passage whenever she hears the sound of the tablets been shaken in the bottle.  All three dogs congregate for what they think is their daily peanut butter treat.

"King Toffee" hasn't been too well lately (nothing life-threatening, thankfully).  His old habit of paw-licking has risen its ugly head again.  His skill has also improved and he's licked one of his paw-pads raw.  The onset of deafness and blindness has also created some anxiety for him, so we've had to put him on a course of Prozac to address his affliction. It seems to be doing the trick and he now enjoys snoozing in the sun for longer periods while his paw gets better.  In addition, he's also had a severe and unusual penile infection which has surprised our vet.  It's now in its third week and is being treated with a second set of antibiotics.  He's not a happy chappy, but lightens up visibly for his afternoon walk - staying close to our ankles for guidance along the path.  He's 15 now, so we have to offer him far more patience than usual. Poor little guy.

The recent re-homing of the little guinea pig - "Mr Tot" - left a rather big hole in my heart. I didn't realise that I could pine so much for such a small creature and resolved to get another one when the opportunity arose.  I mentioned this to my 'Vet student' daughter and put her on the lookout for "that special little Guinepig" who would eventually become mine. 

 "We'll know if it's the right one when the time comes," I told her, with confidence. 
 "If you find one that looks like it's 'mine', please let me know. But make sure it's a female so she can socialise with the others."

Well, a troubled little "Twix" was found in a large cage, two days ago, with a number of other, much larger, guinea-pigs. By chance, or design, she is now comfortably settled in our home and ready to accept all the love we can offer. 
 I effectively 'rescued' the poor little thing from a truly "suspect" pet store.  She's hardly a month old (far too young to have been separated from her mother) and in very poor condition.  She's undernourished, terrified and has been bitten by the other larger Guinea-pigs which were in the cage with her.  (She has a small puncture hole piercing right through her little ear).  In addition, I suspect that she has been sprayed with disinfectant.  

Quite frankly, I was appalled, but chose to keep my mouth shut and simply bought her on the spot.  I prefer, however, to consider this act as a 'rescue'.  If anything, I am the best person to nurse her back to health.  She is a cute little thing, but very thin and in desperate need of some care.  She's been with us for 48 hours now and is getting accustomed to the continuous variety of fresh vegetable leaves, carrots, parsley, cucumber and top-class commercial Guineapig food on offer to her.  She still shivers when we cuddle her, but it's just a matter of time before she begins to realise that we are not the enemy. 

In summary, my heart went out to this little creature and she now belongs to me!
Meet little 'Twix'...

That's all the news for the moment.  I'm sorry that my blogging activities have been scanty but, as they happens.

Sending lots and lots of love to all our friends around the world.  
Have a wonderful weekend and remember that we love you too.

"Live life to the Max!"