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Being a Dog Mom is Challenging and Rewarding

Updated on October 26, 2014
Oh, the things I must doing to keep my Jack Russell happy
Oh, the things I must doing to keep my Jack Russell happy | Source

Props To The Dog Mama

I don't have any children of the two legged variety. All my children have four legs. And, there's no Mother's Day for us!

For the last couple of decades I've been a Dog Mom. Two completely different dogs with two different personalities. Each bringing something different into my life.

Owning a dog is a tremendous responsibility. But, the rewards are many.

Dogs add so much to our lives.

Dedicated to the One I Love

Yeah, she's got her own frame
Yeah, she's got her own frame | Source

Being a Dog Mom

What It Means To Me

I don't have kids, so my dog's are my children. That makes me their Mom.

Being a Dog Mom isn't nearly as difficult as being a real Mom. But, it comes with responsibilities none the less. I see my role as nurturer, parent, and pack leader.

My job is to train them, make sure they get proper veterinarian care, and provide them with food and shelter. But, I'm also there to make sure they have fun and play, get in their daily walks, and nurture a relationship where we love and trust one another. But as the parent, I am the boss--at least, I'd like to think so.

I want to enjoy my dogs as much as possible. I might provide them with all the things above, but they give me so much in return. They cheer us up and inspire us to greet the day with a positive attitude.

Sierra was my rock. She got me through the worst part of my diagnosis with arthritis. Misha is my little comedian. She provides me with hours of entertainment. She does many funny things. I've never known a dog to throw a tennis ball, sing happy birthday, or jump straight up four feet in the air from a standing position--but Misha can!

Without dogs doesn't quite seem the same. They are a responsibility to take seriously, but they also provide us with love and joy--things we need in our life.

You could do almost anything to Sierra and she would go with the flow
You could do almost anything to Sierra and she would go with the flow | Source

When Sierra Came Into My Life

From Wild Pup To Gentle Soul

One day in 1995, my brother called up and said he had something for us. It turned out to be a puppy. An 8 lb., 9 week old Lab/Golden Mix to be exact!

She was supposed to be my mom's dog but it was very clear from the start that she was going to be my dog. She followed me around everywhere and we soon became great pals.

Sierra quickly grew. With each visit to the vets she doubled in weight. At 6 months she was close to 70 lbs. I'm only 4 foot 10. Handling a dog this size was a challenge for me, but one I took on eagerly. I used to laugh when we'd take walks. I'd see big men with 10 lb. dogs and there was me with this big ol' dog.

Sierra was known for being a thief. She'd steal a piece of bread right off your plate if you weren't paying attention.

The Perfect Frame For The Perfect Pup

Admit it. You want to put a photo of your dog on the mantel or on your desk office. Oh, c'mon. Every does it. There is something universal about wanting to show off your spouse and kids. Dogs are so much a part of the family that they we want to show them off, too.

Grasslands Road "Advise from a Dog Cement Frame, 4 by 6-Inch
Grasslands Road "Advise from a Dog Cement Frame, 4 by 6-Inch
Lessons learned from our dog in a beautiful photo frame.

Dog Moms Have to Make Hard Choices, Too

Sierra a few weeks after her amputation
Sierra a few weeks after her amputation | Source

When do you give a dog a second chance?

Raising a child is a huge responsibility, much bigger than raising a dog. I can say without a doubt it is definitely easier to raise a dog! They don't talk back and they don't go through the teen years. Still, when you decide to raise a dog, you take on the responsibility that goes with it. Some of the decisions are life and death.

In 2005, I noticed a lump on Sierra's back right leg. The Vet aspirated it. No big deal. It was a fatty tissue lump. Several months later, the lump was growing. Then on Valentine's Day,the lump ruptured. It was cancer. They sent us to a specialist who was better prepared to deal with cancer.

Our options were limited. Tumor removal, skin graft, and chemo would run close to $30,000. Amputation would run us $10-000 to $15,000. We couldn't afford either of these options.

The specialist lead us to believe that Sierra had several months to live. However, two weeks later the Vet informed us Sierra was slowly bleeding to death. Family members had all sorts of advice including taking her to the veterinary school where amputation would run less than a $1,000. This was a viable option, but was it fair to put a 10 year old dog through all that? My Dad left the decision up to me and it was not an easy one to make!

That night we took her to emergency to have her leg rebandaged. While we were waiting, a family that was in for a long night went to get sandwiches. When the sandwiches arrived, I noticed that Sierra was inching towards their booth. She slowly worked her way over until she was facing them--and their sandwiches. At that moment I realized this dog wants to live. She was slowly bleeding to death, but darn it, she'd do anything for a piece of their sandwiches.

The Choice I Made

The next morning Sierra didn't get out of bed. I knew it was bad because Sierra always got up for breakfast. I called our Vet and made an emergency appointment before they opened. As we rushed to the vets, I still didn't know what I was going to do, but I hoped the Veterinarian would help me make the right choice. This would either be our last day together or she was going to have her leg amputated.

The Vet took some x-rays to look at her glands. The cancer was a slow moving type and the x-rays showed that it hadn't gotten to her glands. She recommended amputation and assured me that it wouldn't cost anywhere near $10,000.

The stars were aligned that day because it turned out that the surgeon was there that day to do a knee surgery. He agreed to add Sierra to his schedule. Not only that but he reduced his fee.

I made the decision on the spot to have her leg amputated. And, I was utterly and completely terrified. I had no idea whether she'd survive surgery or if she would have a normal life afterward. I had no idea that her recovery would take four weeks and for two of those weeks she would be completely dependent on me. All I knew was that she deserved another chance and that the decision felt right.

In the end, it was the right choice. Although Sierra developed arthritis in her hip, through medication, she was able to live another 3 and a half years. Three of those years she was happy and content. She got her special treats, went on two short walks a day, visited with our elderly neighbor, went to family parties, and slept in her favorite sunspot. She woke up every day eager to start the day. She made the most of that second chance and she inspired everyone she met. It made the burden of deciding to amputate her leg much easier on my conscience.

Sierra understood that I had arthritis in my feet. She'd come up on the bed and gently rest her head on my leg never touching my feet.

Dogs As Part Of The Family - Room On The Bed For One More

Family...dogs and all
Family...dogs and all | Source

Do you own a dog/dogs?

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Dogs are a big part of my life and my family. It's hard for me to imagine life without a dog.

Are they a part of yours, too?

Braggin' Time - These Dogs Make Me Smile

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sierra in her donated wheelchair a month before she diedMisha's favorite past timeSierra wearing her cousin's shirtMisha playing on the big dog bed, 4 pounds and 3 months oldSierra in her favorite sun spotMisha in her Charlie Brown costumeSierra, the 3 legged wonder dogMisha hiding out after a long day of playMisha showing attitudeSierra hanging out with her cousin, Summit, before her amputation.  You can see how large the tumor on her back leg had gotten.
Sierra in her donated wheelchair a month before she died
Sierra in her donated wheelchair a month before she died | Source
Misha's favorite past time
Misha's favorite past time | Source
Sierra wearing her cousin's shirt
Sierra wearing her cousin's shirt | Source
Misha playing on the big dog bed, 4 pounds and 3 months old
Misha playing on the big dog bed, 4 pounds and 3 months old | Source
Sierra in her favorite sun spot
Sierra in her favorite sun spot | Source
Misha in her Charlie Brown costume
Misha in her Charlie Brown costume | Source
Sierra, the 3 legged wonder dog
Sierra, the 3 legged wonder dog | Source
Misha hiding out after a long day of play
Misha hiding out after a long day of play | Source
Misha showing attitude
Misha showing attitude | Source
Sierra hanging out with her cousin, Summit, before her amputation.  You can see how large the tumor on her back leg had gotten.
Sierra hanging out with her cousin, Summit, before her amputation. You can see how large the tumor on her back leg had gotten. | Source

Keep Fido Close to Your Heart

Dog related jewelry is all the rage. A locket is a wonderful way to keep your pup close to your heart as you go about your errands.

Holding 2 lb Misha on the first day
Holding 2 lb Misha on the first day | Source

When Misha Came Into My Life

The Two Pound Hamster Dog

I lost Sierra on the 9th of July 2009. One day, she woke up looking fine, happy to great the day. By 3pm I knew something was up. An hour later she was sick. By 5:30, she had up and died.

Sierra meant everything to me and I felt her loss big time. A week after she died, I came out of the bathroom and my niece was standing in the hallway. She had this teeny tiny head peeking out of her jacket. A hamster sized Jack Russell Terrier. It so small I could hold her in one hand. It was hard to believe she was a dog! And, this tiny dog was for me.

I could have used a few more weeks to recover from Sierra--not so much from the grief but the exhaustion of taking care of her. But, this little dog was my responsibility now. I went from caring for an old arthritic dog to taking care of an 8 week old puppy that wasn't even housebroken. It wasn't until October that I knew what a full night's sleep was like.

But, Misha was so darned cute! I fell in love with her instantly.

Misha is a quick learner. From high five to roll over, she loves to perform her tricks.

Misha showing an allergic reaction
Misha showing an allergic reaction | Source

A Dog Mom Worries

The Day I Almost Lost Her

I fret over my Misha's aches and pains just like any other Mom. When she doesn't feel good, I'm worried about if she'll be okay.

My Dad was in emergency surgery and I was at home manning the phone. Around 11 am, I noticed that her lip on one side looked a little strange. She was acting okay, so I didn't worry too much. She was always jumping around. Maybe she had clonked into something. I was already worried enough about my Dad. I didn't need to add her to the list, too.

After dinner, her face was swollen. I couldn't imagine what she might have gotten into! I didn't have any transportation, so I waited it out.

Sometime around 10 pm, I phoned my sister to have her take us to the emergency vet. The swelling had spread throughout Misha's body from her head to her tail. She was in misery.

I was really scared by the time we got to the vets, she was so swollen over every part of her body. I could see her throat swelling up and that would be the end of her.

She was diagnosed with a severe allergic reaction to some sort of insect bite. A bump was found on the back of her neck. They were able to treat her and by morning she was back to normal.

Misha the day after her allergic reaction
Misha the day after her allergic reaction | Source

The Day After

Misha made it through her allergic reaction. But, boy did it scare me!

My poor puppy sure had a rough night. The next day she looked like she had a hangover. A side effect of the medication was her unusually large ears drooped. First one ear fell and then an hour later the other. She looked like she was wearing a little beret.

She didn't like it one bit! She kept trying to push her ears back up with her paws.

It took about three days before she looked herself again. It had been a rough weekend for all of us.

She has had allergic reactions three times since this awful incident. I now keep Benadryl on hand just in case.

Misha sings Happy Birthday to You. It almost sounds as if she's really being tortured by our singing and wants to make it stop.

Training is a Part of Showing How Much You Love Them

Sierra and Misha were so incredibly different. Getting them both into adulthood without losing my sanity took a lot of work.

Sierra was dominant and bold. She was wild and aggressive her first 2 years of life. I had to work hard with her on being the pack leader (me, not her!). At three, all the training kicked in and she became the lovely Lab everyone loved.

With Misha I have had the exact opposite problem. Where Sierra challenged me every step of the way, Misha was submissive and fearful. She was afraid of noises, people, the aluminum foil roll. It seemed that her fears were endless.

She was coming along great. Then, just before her first birthday, my Dad died and her best friend, our elderly neighbor, moved away. I was emotionally upset. The house was crawling with family members packing boxes and moving things around. It was a couple weeks before I realized the negative effect this was having on Misha's behavior. It was as if she had absorbed all the upsetting emotions in the household and was lashing out.

I moved a month later and getting Misha back into emotional shape became my top priority. Things got worse before they got better. I worked with her every day using many of the things I learned with Sierra. I took my lumps and went through a lot of band aids, but I didn't give up. Slowly but surely she came around and she began to trust people again.

Progress Has Been Made

Misha is now five years old. She has come a long way since we moved in July of 2010. Maturity has softened some of her edges. Dog training has worked out some of her problems. I will have to admit that she isn't perfect. She's a fearful dog. It's something I'm always going to be dealing with. Sedatives for Vet visits are mandatory.

She has matured in these 5 years and she even pays attention to most (I said, most) of my commands. With continued hard work and maturity, she will become a better behaved, feisty little dog. No one ever said this dog mothering was easy.

Holding On To The Memories

I like to remember different things about my dog. She does so many funny things. A journal is a nice way to save the memories.

All About My Dog
All About My Dog
This special journal is designed to help you keep track of various things related to your dog. It is formatted in fill in the blank style with many prompts.
Sierra, the amputee dog
Sierra, the amputee dog | Source

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

When Our Dear Dogs Depart

Dogs spend too short of time here on Earth. It seems just as we get them trained and comfortable their time is up.

I was very fortunate with Sierra. Her amputation gave her 3 1/2 extra years. Her last three months got progressively more difficult. Her health was diminishing and I knew that we didn't have much time left together.

I fretted constantly over when it would be time to have her put to sleep. I've faced that decision before. It is never easy no matter the circumstances. We know we don't want our babies to suffer, but it's never easy deciding to end their lives even when it ends their suffering.

But, Sierra being who she was, made up her mind to do it her way on her own terms. I am truly grateful that I was given those extra years with her. But miss her all the same.

Thank you for visiting and reading about my adventures as a Dog Mom.


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