Zen On Dirt

Dogs in Boulder

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*Warning – All about dogs. I love dogs.

Two days before I was scheduled to leave for Boulder for dog sitting, I called my mom to confirm flight times and that someone would be able to pick me up from the bus station in town and take me home. I received news that I didn’t want to hear.

While Sparkes was, well, Sparkles, their old hound dog Huckleberry had collapsed that morning and hadn’t been able to get up all day. My old dog, Miss Maia, had had a similar episode where she collapsed on a walk and had to be carried home. Huck was scheduled to visit the vet the next day since he didn’t seem to be bouncing back.

This was the same day that I’d found out that an old ski buddy, Kip, had been killed in an avalanche in Washington. It was definitely a bad news bears type of a day and I was ready to go to bed before anyone else could tell me something bad.

The vet diagnosed Huck with Senile Dog Vestibular something-or-other. Basically, his inner ear was messed up and he probably felt like he was on a tilt-a-whirl. He’ll most likely be fine within a week, they told my mom.


When I got to Boulder on Friday morning, he still couldn’t stand. My dad had to carry him out to relieve himself. I gulped as I looked at the 13 year old, 70lb hound…how was I going to do that alone? We were force feeding him water through a syringe and plunger. He had no interest in food.

Sparkles on the other hand, was still a sparkling ball of energy who was far too excited about anything and everything.

She’d also bonded amazingly well with my mom, which was so good to see. Even if she puts herself in the most unfortunate locations…


On Saturday morning, my parents got on a plane bound across the big pond. Huck looked at me forlornly, head tilted drastically to the side. Sparkles bounced, and bounced, and bounced.

You and me, dogs. Two weeks. Let’s do this thing. I honestly didn’t know if Huck was going to make it. Anytime a dog stops eating and drinking and moving, it’s not a good sign. I had full permission to make any hard decisions that had to be made, but I really didn’t want to have to make them.

Every morning when I woke up, I dreaded going to upstairs to see what I would find.

My brother came over to help me get Huck out that night and the following morning. We even got him, with a lot of support and very slowly, to walk around the neighborhood before we had to carry him home. He still wouldn’t eat on his own. He still wouldn’t drink on his own.


I called the vet 6 days after he’d first collapsed. ‘What do I do? He can barely stand, he only eats if I put tiny bits of food in front of his nose, and his water bowl isn’t getting any lower on its own.’

‘Give it two more days. Sometimes it take more than a week to see any improvement,’ they told me.

We waited. I discovered that Sparkles loved to watch other dogs on the computer.


I took Sparkles to the top of Mt Sanitas so that she could be considered a real Boulder trail dog.


Two days later, as if Huck knew that the stress he was causing me was making me reach my limits of sanity, he struggled to his feet when I came upstairs, and when I carried him outside, he made his way, very unsteadily, to the gate and looked at me, ‘We’re going for a walk, aren’t we?’

Two days later, I actually had to put a leash on him because he’d trot away. Still, he’d fall to the ground every time his shook his head, the first steps of the morning were always unsteady, peeing on one leg was always a dicy proposition, but he was eating, and drinking, and even growling at Sparkles when she was being a little brat.


Well, old hound dog, I think you’re going to make it.


But damn, please no more scares like that!

Through all this, it snowed a lot. The sump pump failed in the basement and the water alarm went off at 2am. I pretty much saved the house from flooding by bailing water all day because RotoRooter was on a travel advisory. Thanks snow.


Sparkles thought the snow was the greatest thing ever.


She loved to pretend that she was a snow dolphin, bouncing non-stop. There were many visits to the dog park to let her burn off spare energy.


And to chase the birds who loved to fly low over the park and taunt her.


She wouldn’t believe me that the Meadowlark wasn’t going to come down.

It was quite the contrast at first. Sparkles, so full of life, and Huck, who seemed resigned to lay in his bed until the end of his days. It made me so sad every time I went to visit him and scratch his ears.

But by the end, he’d come hang out with us in the main room. He’d wait patiently for his post-walk Greenie before settling down for his mid-morning nap, and he’d throw a fit when I took Sparkles out for a run but left him behind.


Probably for the first time in his life, he got praised for barking at the UPS man.


After two weeks, he was nearly back to normal.

I met my parents at the airport for a beer before they went home and I got on a plane back to the desert. ‘That was the most stressful two weeks ever!’ I told them. Thankfully, all was forgotten after a beer (I really am that much of a lightweight) and before I knew it, the metal tube was flying over Tucson, the red towers on Mt Lemmon seeming to blink at eye-level, I-10 headed north to Phoenix.


Scott picked me up with the Scamp in tow. It was time to get back to Scamp Life. I missed the doggies already, but my mom had already scheduled my dog-sitting services for the end of June. I guess I get to be the cool pet-sitter who does all the fun stuff. That’s a position that I can be okay with.




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