Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Transportation

This is my car:

The Super Sonic Saturnator

     This beautiful piece of machinery is a 1995 Saturn SL1 four door sedan with a four cylinder engine in sapphire blue.  It has somewhere just south of 500 000 kilometers on it, but it's hard to say for sure because the odometer only works sporadically.  You might be wondering why it is here, on this blog, let me tell you a little story.

     On Friday, October 14 at about 6:40 am I was driving to work in the dark and rain.  With me I had Duke, Nuka and my co-worker Lynn.  The night before I had mentioned to Jeremy that I thought something in the steering with the Saturn felt a little off.  He asked me if it felt loose.  I said no.  He asked me if there was a delay when I turned the wheel, I said no.  Just off, it felt off.  But, when your car is sixteen, a lot about it feels off.  I chose not to worry about it.

     That was a mistake.

     All was well, Lynn, myself and the canines were toddling along quite nicely.  We stopped at a red light at a busy intersection.  When the light turned green, I, like all well functioning people, proceeded to keep driving.  Unfortunately, I failed.
     There was a very loud grinding sound that is difficult to describe.  It was quite acute, and yet, the car did not move forward even though it sounded like it was trying very hard.  Lynn and I looked at each other in what must have been a hilarious exchange of faces, and I believe we both literally said, 'uh oh!'  The Saturn continued to do its stationary grind and then the front right side sort of thudded over.  The only way I could make it stop making horrible sounds was to put it in park and turn off the ignition.  I put on my four way flashers.

Lynn: "Try it again."

Me, appreciating her positive attitude, but knowing with a deep car-bond that it was over: "No, dude.  It won't help.  The Saturn is dead."

     So, on a busy Friday morning and totally blocking a popular intersection, Lynn did what most people do when they get into a sticky situation, she called her mom.  I am happy to report that Lynn's mom arrived promptly and did the most important thing: got the dogs out of the car.  If this blog has shown anything, it's probably that Duke and Nuka aren't the brightest bulbs in the box, but they definitely know when things are amiss.  We've had Duke for just over a year and in that time he has known no other real transportation then the folded down, blanketed back seat of the Saturn, this is a familiar spot for him, but boy, he was whining like a baby back there after a few minutes.  He too must have realized that the Saturn had taken its final drive.
     Lynn's mom arrived and successfully whisked Lynn and the canines off to work, for which I was now late. Then I was alone, sitting in the cold, dark rain, with the poor, dead Saturn.  I had informed Jeremy of the developments via text message, but he wasn't much help in Ohio.  So I sat, and waited, in my final moments with the Saturn.  It was an emotional time.
     Jeremy bought the Saturn in 2000.  In 2003, I learned how to drive in it, and in 2004 I took it over after my relationship with a 2004 Hyundai Accent didn't work out.  I have driven that car every day since that time.  It is, quite literally, the only car I have ever really driven.  Many things went through my mind during this quiet period of reflection in what was affectionately known as 'the dog car' in our house.  The kajillion trips up north, to Toronto, to Quebec city, to the US.  The Saturn's many repairs, it's lack of heat, air conditioning, functioning passenger doors and ability to keep its rear licence plate attached to the trunk.  Yes, it was the dog car, it was my car.
     My manager, Michelle, arrived on the scene with her husband, Brian.  Since Michelle has CAA, (I think that's AAA in the states, but I might just be making that up.) she offered to have it towed for free, which was amazing.  The issue was where to tow it.  I texted Jeremy, my heart all aflutter.

Me, in text form: They need to know where to tow it.

Jeremy, in text form: I think you probably know.

Me, text form: Yes, I do.

Michelle: "I just have to tell them where it's going."

Me, petting the steering wheel, and with a big sigh: "You can tell them...that it will be going to the wrecker."

     Michelle and I stood in the pouring rain under an umbrella while the CAA guy hooked up the lifeless vehicle.  It was a somber moment, and the cold grey rain was very suitable to the occasion.  Michelle remarked that it was like a funeral, and it was, of a kind, a funeral for a trusty little beast of a car.  Jeremy and I had decided some time ago the we would stop fixing the Saturn, but that didn't make it any easier.
     Brian drove us to work after the Saturn disappeared over the horizon, towed limply behind a tow truck, to its final resting place.  I worked all day, distraught, and received many condolences, and a sympathy card from my caring co workers who knew what a ninja the Saturn was.  It was a sad time.  The dogs and I were suddenly transportation-less, adrift in a world that we had no way to participate in.  Because of this, the mourning period was short.
     Saturday morning we went to the wrecker and there sat the poor little Saturn, dead, lifeless, waiting to meet its fate.  I collected the stuff from inside and was handed the licence plates and a cheque for $150.00.  I was surprised by the sympathy and caring expressed by the workers at the wrecker yard.  There was a moment of silence and many stories were exchanged about old vehicles that worm their way into your emotional range of being.

Me: "What will happen to it, the Saturn?"

Doug, wrecker guy: "Well, we drain all of the fluids and strip it for usable parts.  We recycle most of the metal and plastic."

Okay, that didn't sound too bad.  Me: "What about the rest of it?"

Doug screwed up his face and made a squishing motion with his hands. "You don't want to be around for that."

     No, no I didn't.  As we pulled away from the auto wreckers, I looked out the back window of the Volvo until I couldn't see it anymore.  Unfortunately, there was no time for sadness, as every minute without the Saturn was another minute the dogs and I were immobile.  Jeremy and I drove straight from the wrecker to the car dealer, heartless, I know.  I had hoped the Saturn's final drive would be in a demolition derby, but alas, it was not to be.  Stay tuned for Part II of Nuka and Duke vs. Transportation and our dramatic struggle to become mobile again.

Good bye, Saturn, the dogs and I will miss you terribly.

Me and my Dogmobile.  Rest in peace, little buddy.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pip the Cupboard Mouse Puts Things in Perspective

     Jeremy came into my office this morning and looked toward the mouse habitat.

Jeremy: "Where's Pip?"

Me: "He's in his nest sleeping.  He hardly comes out during the day, he's very nocturnal."

Jeremy: "That's all he does, sleep all day?"

Me: "Yeah, he comes out at night."

Jeremy moved closer to the cage and peered into its apparent emptiness: "I wonder what he does in there?  Just hangs out, thinking?"

Me: "I don't know, he might be thinking.  He hangs out at night, eats, runs on his wheel, walks around, builds things out of old socks, you know, he does stuff."

Jeremy, still contemplating the cage: "So, he basically does what we do then."

     I almost laughed at this, but stopped myself, after all, that's probably true, isn't it?

Pip hangs out in the big blue bubble at the top of the cage = Jeremy and I sit in the basement on the old green couch and watch movies.

Pip eats seeds and lettuce = Jeremy and I wolf down lasagna and garlic bread.

Pip runs on his wheel = Jeremy and I go to work.

Pip walks around = Jeremy and I go grocery shopping, sweep the floor, walk the dogs, do laundry, etc.

Pip builds various creations out of old socks and paper towel tubes = I write novels, Jeremy records cd's.

Pip does stuff = Jeremy and I do stuff too.

Pip sleeps in his nest all day = Jeremy and I sleep in our bed all night.

Jeremy: "I wonder what he thinks about."

I wander over to the mouse habitat and peer in beside Jeremy: "I don't know.  He could be plotting world domination for all I know."

Jeremy takes a sip of his coffee: "Yes, he could be."

     This short conversation this morning gave me a whole new respect for what goes on in the mouse habitat.  I'll be sure to supply Pip with a more varied selection of snacks and building materials in the future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nuka vs. The Land Walrus Introduce Pip the Cupboard Mouse

     Last winter a funny thing happened.  In the cupboard above our stove, the popcorn kept mysteriously vanishing.  At first I figured this was probably due to a porthole from another dimension, but then other things started happening in the cupboard.  Little gnaw marks appeared on containers and various foodstuffs, and then small, little black kernels littered the cupboard floor.  What could be happening in this cupboard?
     Jeremy quickly deduced that it was a mouse and presented with the evidence, I was forced to agree, so we did what most people do when confronted with a mouse, or, at least, what I assume they do, we went to the store for traps.

     That's where the trouble started.

     Your local hardware store has an aisle that will present many options for dealing with a mouse.  We took them all in and Jeremy started grabbing.  For better or worse, I am not a grabber, I am a reader, so I started reading and I didn't enjoy it at all.  Turns out the best way to deal with your mouse is to crack it with a metal bar or poison it.  This might seem like a perfectly reasonable way to deal with vermin, unfortunately, I cry when I see road kill, so I could only stare at Jeremy aghast.

Jeremy: "It's a mouse.  It's vermin.  We can't let it live in there and eat our food."

Me:  "I am not snap trapping it.  What if it doesn't die right away and it's half alive in the trap?  I will freak."

Jeremy:  "No problem, poison."

Me: "Jeremy, it is not safe to have poison in a house with dogs, and why should we poison the mouse?  He is only trying to live his mouse life, he just likes Orville Redenbacher."

Jeremy, glaring at me: "Well we have to get rid of it somehow."

     I surveyed the aisle of mouse torments and picked out two live traps designed specifically for overly sensitive babies like myself.  You put bait in there, and mice are dumb, apparently, so they walk in and then a lever goes up and the mouse can't get back out.  Captured mouse, alive at least.  Jeremy shrugged his whatevers at me and we bought the live traps.  I dutifully baited them at home and put them in the suspect cupboard, determined to show Jeremy that we could get rid of the mouse without killing it some terrible way.

     It didn't take long.

     The traps say to check them daily, so the next morning, first thing, I did just that.  Lo and behold, there, through the murky grey plastic, I spied the popcorn eater, a little brown mouse.  Gotcha!  I had captured the culprit on the first try, there was only one problem, something I failed to take into consideration upon my purchase of the live traps; what should I do with it now that I captured it?
     The trap literature helpfully recommended drowning the mouse, throwing it in the garbage, or releasing it somewhere not in your house.  Good ideas, right?  Problem is that in February, in Canada, my mouse would be a mouse-cicle in five seconds if I released it outside.  Admittedly, I had not considered this.
     I felt bad for the mouse, who was clearly not enjoying its time in the trap so I poked some holes in the lid of a coffee can and dumped him in there, like a five year old with a grass hopper.
     We named the mouse Cartman and purchased a CritterTrail habitat for it.  The mouse hated us, but at least it was alive and we could release it in the spring.  This should be the end of the story, but it isn't.  Turned out, the popcorn still wasn't safe.  Within the next few days, we caught another mouse, we named it Chili Cheese and dumped him in with Cartman, they seemed to be acquainted.  After this, thankfully, the cupboard cleared up.  I took everything out, bleached it, and nothing else violated the Orville Redenbacher.  Chili Cheese and Cartman hated us, but adjusted to life in their new habitat.  I figured that it didn't really matter anyway, because as soon as the weather warmed up they would be cheerfully released back into the wild, and that's exactly what happened, mostly.

     Chili Cheese and Cartman had four beautiful mouse babies.

     I was pretty stressed out when the mouse babies came.  I had not planned on one mouse, two mice, and then mice babies.  But, I'd come that far, so I stuck to my guns.  We would keep the mouse family until the snow was gone, then off they would go.
     Turns out our mice were White-footed mice.  I read about them, cleaned their cage once a week, fed them, changed their water and so on.  They were not much trouble as far as pets go.  The babies started getting big and I started to get worried, fortunately, the weather was beginning to break and I knew I could let them go soon.  Once the grass started to grow, I detached the portion of their cage that had their nest in it and put it out back under a large flower pot with the open end of the tunnel sticking out.  Finally, the mice were free to go when they wanted.
     The first to go was the dad mouse, Chili Cheese.  I was surprised he was the only one to make the break to freedom on the first night, but it was still early spring, so I brought them back inside for the day.  I would repeat this mouse ritual every morning and night for the next two weeks.
     Cartman went next, and then slowly, one by one, the mouse babies (now full grown) trickled off to find their own mouse lives in the wild.  It was a special time, watching my cupboard vermin be released into the wild, but of course, there was one, (isn't there always one?) that just wouldn't go.  For about a week he was the only one left and every night I would take him out back and put him under the flower pot and every morning I would go and find him still there, still nestled in the nest made out of old sock pieces and paper towels.  Eventually I tried dumping him out, (go, be free!)  but that little buggar dug his tiny hands into the side of the tunnel and held on for dear life.

Me:  "Go, little mouse!  I'm freeing you, go into the wild with your mouse family!"

Mouse: "Go to hell, lady!  I am not giving up free food and a cat-free environment!"

Me: "But you're a wild animal, it isn't right to cage you."

Mouse: "I was born in this cage, moron, and I will die here."

     I sighed and brought the mouse back in, and reattached him to the rest of his cage.  I told him I would give him one more chance to leave and then he could forget about it, because I was tiring of the charade.  That night I put him back under the flower pot and left some food scattered around.  Maybe once he got out in the world he would realize freedom was where it's at.

     No such luck.

     The next morning, I brought the stubborn mouse in for the last time and put his cage back together.  "That's it, you know." I said to him. "I am not putting you outside again, you are stuck here now."  Not surprisingly, the mouse did not reply, though he did run on the wheel with extra gusto that night.

Pip enjoys sunflower seeds and running on his wheel.
     Welcome to the blog, Pip the cupboard mouse, we're happy to have you!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. The Dog Sitter

     For six days I left the mutts out of my care.  I am sure this was liberating for all involved parties, (I know it was for me!) except perhaps Allison, the dog/house sitter.
     If you read my last blog, (Nuka vs. Olie's Ear) then you know that things did not begin well.  Nuka decided as a going away gift for me, she would bite her buddy Olie's ear.  I am happy to report that Olie has since made a full recovery.  After this ominous beginning to my holiday, it took me a few days of texting to leave Allison the hell alone, competently in charge of both my animals and my home. Upon our return, Allison informed me that all was well, the dogs were well behaved for her and things went smoothly.  I figure because of her inherent good nature, she is probably covering for them, but I digress.

I don't know where my mom is, but you're feeding me, so I'm good with it.
I just never know what is going on, because I'm a special guy!
     Allison informed me that she wrestled with Duke and Nuka regularly and allowed them to sleep in the bed with her, that fact alone probably makes them prefer her to me.  I, myself, cannot sleep with Duke and Nuka.  They take up too much room and kick a lot, so kudos to Allison for snuggling in at night with my fur children.  Her greatest success was bringing Duke and Nuka to her parents house for the day to play with her family's dog, Lily.  Such an endeavor is an act of bravery seldom rewarded with success.

Lily and Duke.  In spite of barking non-stop in dog's faces, Duke makes friends easily.
     Allison had asked me before I left if that was all right with me.  Since Allison has known my dogs for as long as I have known them, I told her to do whatever the heck she wanted with them, and she did!

I see no evidence of bloodshed...
MWAHAHA!  That's what you get for inviting me over, sucker!  This baby pool is mine.

Lily: Gee, Nuka, why are you such a jerk?
Nuka: Back off, kid, you have tasty looking ears.
Because of his nubby legs. Duke fears anything to do with water except drinking it.
Lily: What is he doing?
Nuka: Flinging giant gobs of slobber everywhere.
Lily: Ew!  Why?
Nuka: That, my dear, is a wonderful question.
     All in all, our time spent apart was refreshing for everyone.  Nuka and Duke got a break from me and I got a break from them.  They also made a new friend, Lily, which is good, because Nuka bit her last friend and that position is currently open.  Allison also left my house even cleaner then how I left it for her.  I don't even know what to say about that, except that I hope the dogs really were good for her, because she's going to have a very difficult time getting out of watching them the next time I go away.  Thanks, Allison!

We're going to get a treat for sitting still, right, Allison?  Because that's pretty  much how we roll.

*All of the pictures in this post are courtesy of Allison Branch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nuka vs. Olie's Ear

     Ah, summer holidays.  A time to leave work and the hustle and bustle of the city and take on a more leisurely pace, something a little more relaxed.  Sometimes this includes the dogs and sometimes it doesn't.  This year, it didn't.
     Between hurricane Irene and some car trouble, just going on holiday at all was a bit of a struggle, but we got it all worked out and in the end it came to be that a coworker of mine was going to both house and dog sit, the poor girl.
     No matter what, I have a lot of anxiety about this kind of thing.  Never mind the fact that Allison is a perfectly capable human and already knows my dogs, I still have anxiety.  Nuka gives me anxiety.  But in any case, Tuesday morning I rose bright and early.  Allison was working all day, so I was going to drop the dogs off with her at work.  That way, when she was done, she could just load them up and drive back here.  No problem, right?


     I got there before seven o'clock am to give her my house key, get the dogs settled for the day, then I could drive back home and Jeremy and I could load up his car and be on the road nice and early.  This would also ensure that the dogs wouldn't see us load up and leave town without them, an added bonus.  Let me set the scene for you.
     It's a nice, sunny day, birds are chirping, it's cool but you know that in a few hours it will be a beautiful August day.  I get to the kennel and let the dogs out of the car.  What is that I spy?  Ah, Olie and Nikki, a boarder collie and a husky are running around in a yard together.  Isn't that convenient!  These are another coworkers dogs and Olie is pretty well Nuka's only friend.  Wonderful, I think to myself.  I can leave Duke and Nuka out here with Olie and Nikki to play and go give Allison my key.
     The dogs run into the yard with their friends, there are greetings, and I go inside, leaving these four little soldiers unattended as I have everyday for the last three years or so.
     I talk briefly to Allison and my coworkers, but was conscious of time.  Lynn, the owner of Olie and Nikki, stopped me before I left, there was the usual chit chat, and then our conversation went something like this:

Lynn:  "Hey, Erin, Nikki has a weird little lump on her back, I was wondering if you could look at it before you leave."

Me: "Sure, I left my dogs out there with your dogs, let's go."

Lynn: "Cool."

(Lynn and Erin walk to dog yard.  Lynn has to work momentarily and Erin must leave for holidays.  Time is of the essence.)

     We open the gate and Nikki runs over ahead of the others.  I feel along her spine and Lynn directs me, there is a small little lump on her lower back.

Me: "Well, I'm not sure, but it feels like a cyst to me."

Lynn: "I'm worried about it because she's old."

Me: "It doesn't seem to be bothering her."

Lynn: "No, it isn't."

     At this point, the other three dogs run over to us and we can't help but notice that the right side of Olie's head is covered in blood.

Lynn: "Uh oh!"

Me, turning to Nuka:  "YOU %#$&(*> ")&^%$!!!!"

Lynn: "I think it's his ear."

Me: "%^&*(  &*$$@!"?>*())|"}$#%&*(?><"{*"%$!!!!"

Lynn: "We should take him up to the groom room, rinse it off and have a look at it."

Me:  "#:*%!"

(Erin and Lynn take Olie to the groom room.  There is smoke coming out of Erin's ears.  Olie is bloody, but appears unperturbed.  He jumps into the tub.)

Olie, the innocent victim.

Lynn: "Yep, it's his ear."

Erin: "Why is my dog such a %^("@?  What is wrong with her?"

(Michelle our manager appears and quickly stops the blooding with cotton pads.)

Michelle: "Yeah, stick some Polysporin on it.  It will scab up and he'll be fine."

Me: "I hate my dog!"

Lynn, sticking Polysporin on it.: "They were probably roughhousing and she caught him, no problem."

Me: "I'm so sorry!  I feel awful, I'm sorry my dog is awful and horrible and bites your dog's ear!  I'll pay for the vet bills!"

Lynn: "Meh, he'll be fine.  Don't worry about it."

Me: "But I am worried about it!  I am very, very worried about it!"

Lynn: "Don't be!  God, he's fine!  He doesn't even notice it.  It just bleeds a lot because it's his ear."

Me: (Insert pitiful whining sound)

     Eventually I am convinced to leave for my holidays after reassuring myself that Olie's ear will not fall off and he will not bleed to death.  I refuse to look at Nuka on the way out.
     When I get home, I tell Jeremy about the tragedy at the kennel and our conversation goes something like this:

Jeremy: "Did you see Nuka bite him?"

Me: "No, we were inside when it happened."

Jeremy: "Then how do you know it was Nuka?" (Pause) "Maybe it was Duke."

Me, trying unsuccessfully to picture my overweight basset hound flying through the air, jowls back, snarling, ripping Olie's ear.: "There is no way it was Duke.  It was Nuka."

Jeremy: "Nuka always gets blamed for everything."

Me: "That's because she always does everything!"

Jeremy: "Is Olie alright?"

Me: "Well yeah, but still."

Jeremy: "Don't worry about it then.  We're on vacation."

     I spend the next few days texting Lynn, assuring myself that Olie will not die from this vicious ear injury and am finally convinced he will make a full recovery.  I think of Nuka, oh, Nuka.  You have only one friend in the world and you bit his ear.  And your timing, well, it was probably premeditated.  I guess that's what I get for leaving this big girl behind.  Thanks for the send off, Nuka!

The perpetrator of the vicious ear assault.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. Mingling

     I don't have kids, I have dogs.  My dogs are at least as well behaved as most people's children and since people cart their snotty, ignorant little brats everywhere and assume everyone thinks that they're cute, I do the same with my dogs.
     As with children, however, some places are just not appropriate.

     This was a quandary I ran into this weekend.  I can finagle my canines into many locales, especially when family is concerned, but a memorial service just isn't one of them, nor should it be.  There was no question that the dogs would not be accompanying us this weekend, only a question of what we would do with them.  Nivek was so easy, he used to go stay with my parents, but to be perfectly blunt, my parents are not dog people, they are cat people.  In many ways, Nivek was like a big cat, so that was no problem.  Nuka and Duke, on the other hand, well, lets just say I would be more inclined to ask someone I don't like to watch them for me then people I love.
     I also wasn't sure what our schedule would be, so to be safe, I booked the dogs into the kennel for Friday and Saturday night and dropped them off Friday afternoon.  I packed their food and some treats and that was it.  It was a little weird without them underfoot, but also kind of nice.  There was plenty on my mind this weekend without two foolish animals thrown into the mix.
     What really struck me Saturday, after all of the depressing stuff, was the family gathering afterwards.  There were two dogs present, my uncle's dog, Holly, a long haired Jack Russell, and my cousin's dog, Molly, an American Eskimo (I would have taken their picture, but it did not occur to me to take my camera to this kind of event.  Lesson learned, take camera everywhere).  It didn't bother me that they were present, I am never going to complain about dogs, what struck me was how good they were!
     My Uncle has a very cute bungalow, with a very cute yard, and both are on the small side of things.  Let me tell you, it is no easy task to cram thirty members of my boisterous family in this type of space and keep them comfortable, break out the dogs and the kids, and you have a family tragedy in the making.

     Not so!

     Holly and Molly greeted everyone calmly with wagging tails.  No jumping, no barking.  They did a lot of sniffing and following around, no doubt trying to make some sense of all the loud, obnoxious weirdos suddenly in their midst.  Mostly though, they just found a shady corner and laid down, completely out of the way, no trouble to any one or anything.

     I wish!

     To be fair to less stellar animals, (example = mine) once the barbecue began, there was some definite begging on the part of Molly and Holly, but to be fair to them, there was some definite covert feeding going on as well.
     I officially stand back in awe of these two sweet and well behaved little girls.  I also have to ask myself a tough question, are my dogs so unruly because of me?  Surely temperament has something to do with it, as does age, training not so much in this particular situation because I know that these two animals have no more formal training then mine do.  Is it because mine are rescues?  Because they have some, ahem, issues?  Or, is it because of me?  Do I somehow bring out the worst in my animals because I'm anxious about their behaviour?  Food for thought.
     At the end of the day, I'm sure it's a combination of reasons, but in the future, I will make a conscious effort not to sabotage my dogs performance with my own worries.  Then maybe they'll have a better chance of putting on a quality show.

     Thanks, Molly and Holly!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Nuka vs. The Vet

     So, Monday morning I took Nuka to the vet for her annual check up and vaccinations.  Taking Nuka anywhere is an adventure, and one that I look forward to with an interesting mix of curiosity and dread.  I had the added anxiety of leaving Duke at home, thankfully, he was not alone.  I don't think they have really been separated since his arrival last August and he is a huge baby.  I had visions of him baying forlornly at the light fixture in the kitchen until our return, thankfully, Jeremy was around to distract him with shiny objects and food.
     Experience has taught me that a good vet is hard to find, so instead of going to one of the 20 offices within ten minutes, I drive 20 minutes outside the city to go to the same vet I used to frequent when I lived in a smaller town outside the city.  I have never begrudged this drive, not even once.
     There is something nice about going to the veterinarian for something as routine as vaccinations.  As my animals have aged, I have come to increasingly relate these trips with something terrible, some horrible news or unwanted revelation.  Twice in the past three years I have travelled to my vet with one of my dogs only to return home without them.  That stays with you.
     Out vet is a bright, friendly place where my dogs and I are addressed by name and Nuka, in all her Nuka-ness, is not seen as a problem or potential danger to society, but a big, exuberant girl whose 'hugs' only show her affection for people and enthusiasm for life, not a body check by an eighty pound German shepherd mix that clearly needs more training.
     As a special bonus, the resident cat was out of sight, (phew!) and the lobby was void of waiting patients, yay!  Nuka and I sat nicely and even when a little terrier mix trotted out in a cone, Nuka only offered a brief throat rumble, nothing too serious.
     Topping the scales at just about 80 pounds, Nuka is doing fine.  She got all of her needles like a trooper and withstood a physical exam with nothing more then a mildly irritated look I've come to think of as her 'bath time face'.  This face is made by the lowering of her substantial ears, not back, but out to the sides, giving her a Yoda-esque appearance.  The real challenge came with the Bordetella (canine cough) vaccine, which Nuka needs because she comes to work with me every day.  This vaccine is administered one of two ways, by injection, or by a quick shot up the nose.  My vet, this time Dr. S, happens to prefer the shot up the nose.
Our conversation on the subject went something like this:

Dr. S: "How do you think she'll take it?"

Me, eyeing up my bad dog's giant head like a deadly weapon: "I honestly don't know."

Dr. S, now also eyeing up my dog's giant head, probably like a potential deadly weapon: "I'm pretty fast.  I've learned to be."

Me, picturing Dr. S's pretty face ripped to shreds by Nuka, and Nuka licking her chops in gruesome satisfaction: "I don't know Dr. S.  It's totally up to you.  If you want to give her the injection instead or muzzle her or something, that's totally fine with me."

Dr. S: "Let me try.  She's been good so far, let's give her a chance.  Plus, like I said, I'm pretty fast."

     From behind, I held Nuka's head and took slow breaths in the hopes that my anxiety would not travel to my dog.  Dr. S said something reassuring to Nuka, then whistled, and when Nuka glanced up at her, Dr. S shot her magic serum right up the ol' nostril.  Piece of cake.
     There was visible confusion from my canine, then annoyance, and then a grudging look of irritation for the both of us like she knew she'd been had and was not too pleased about it.  Dr. S offered some praise and then a cookie, but Nuka snubbed it now, she's like that.  I should mention here that when Dr. S and I were engaged in conversation Nuka did eat the cookie off the floor, but she hoped we wouldn't notice, no doubt.
     We talked a little about Nuka after that, all is well.  I asked how old Dr. S thought she was, but apparently her teeth are very good so it's hard to tell, somewhere between four and six, maybe.  We also talked about spaying, a cloud that has hung over both Nuka and myself since she came here in January, 2009.  Nuka is not spayed, for reasons that are a whole other entry, but she needs to be done, as all dogs should be and all of my previous dogs have been.  In this, as in everything else, Nuka is an extenuating circumstance.
     I found our conversation reassuring, however, so before the end of the year, after summer holidays and before the madness of Christmas, Nuka will go under the knife, something I have both dreaded and craved for her since the moment she barrelled through our front door.