Elderly Pets

I enjoy having elderly ferrets around.  It is a bittersweet time.  They still play, although not as long.  There are still adventures to be had: games to play with their ferrant and ferret buddies.  Tunnels to explore.  They get tired faster and don’t play as hard.  My ferrets have all become more affectionate and enjoy cuddling as they aged.
They become more dependent on their ferrants.  Sometimes we have to hand feed “soupie.” Often, that means getting up in the middle of the night.  They might need medication.   We bond closer.  But, the passing of the ferret to the Rainbow Bridge is coming.  Soon, we have to help them by releasing them from pain.
Too many people walk away from their animal comapanions when they need their “owners” the most.  The animals don’t understand why their “family” is leaving them behind. Years of love and companionship left behind. 

I wrote this poem many years ago following an online discussion about elderly pets being dumped.  At the time Jester was old and had health issues.  I got up several times a night to feed her and give medications. She  still had a good quality of life.  I could not imagine just walking away.  We loved each other.

   The Old Ferret

Will you still love me when I’m old?

When my mask is grey?

When end my adventures bold?

I’m slower now and I sleep

more than in my younger days.

I can’t run as much nor can I leap.

I don’t feel so well and it’s hard for me to eat.

The kibble is too hard. And I miss my litterbox.

Will you feed me ducksoup and keep me clean and neat?

Too many humans leave their old friends

to die in a strangers care.

Will you stay with me until the end?

I look into your eyes and in your loving gaze

I see my answer and know 

You will love and stay with me all my remaining days.


(In memory of Jester and for all elderly pets now) 
Lydia Hales

Jester in her fish


Life Post TBI

It is hard to believe that the accident was over three years ago. While I have made a lot of progress from the days and weeks following the injury, I still struggle daily with issues caused by the injury. It is no longer a matter of therapies and diagnosis. Now, it is learning how to compensate for what has been permanently changed.

A vital step in the process is acceptance. Accepting does not mean I am giving up on continued improvement, no matter how slow or small. Acceptance means I recognize this is how I am, right now, today. I no longer look back with sadness over all I lost. I try to remain in the moment, not judging the moment. It allows me to look for solutions or work- arounds for what I no longer do well. I recognize that I need to stay on a schedule, plan ahead for shopping, rest when I’m tired. I also use ear plugs, sunglasses, and hates to help reduce sensory overload. I still run- not as far or fast- but I get to do what I love. I even went to the Gem and Mineral show last weekend. It was a short trip but I found a really sweet amethyst and quartz that is adding a bit of beauty in my office.

Riley at three months old.

Riley is my service dog in training. He started his training at 49 days old. He is now six months old and doing well in training. This past weekend, he passed his Canine Good Citizen test. He also knows 4 tasks. This means he is moving on to the next phase in training: intensive task training and partnership. We will be spending much more time together.

Two weeks ago, I was working with Riley in a pet-friendly store. He performed his blocking task three times without prompting. At the end of the session, I was in line waiting to pay for something I found. His trainer was standing nearby watching us. I asked if it was possible to train Riley to block behind me. Sometimes, people crowd me in line. A friend drove me to Richland. She started crowding in behind, joking around. I gave Riley the block command and pointed behind me. I didn’t really expect him to understand, as he had not been trained in this variation. He performed it flawlessly. His trainer laughed and said she didn’t think it was going to be hard to teach. Riley also knows how to brace, open doors, and nudge when I’m overloaded.

Riley last weekend- 6 months old

Riley has about 4 more months of training. When he comes home, he will be such a help in my daily life. Hopefully, with him, I can be more independent and less afraid.


GoFundMe Campaign

As I write this blog, my ferrets are climbing up the back of my kitchen drawers in an attempt to get on the countertop. So far, they only succeed when I don’t have a drawer closed all the way. Neither one has learned Tosca’s trick of getting on her back and clawing the drawer open. Bobby and Kaliyah are always full of adventure. I bought a new tunnel for Brigid (the cat). She has yet to discover the joys of running through a tube. The ferrets immediately claimed it.


In short, my life is proceeding as smoothly as possible.

The anti seizure medication seems to be working well. I’ve had a couple of seizures on the higher dose. So it may go up again at the next neurologist appointment.

Never give up hope.

Bravery is ….

Bravery is ....

He is a brave dog. He will defend you against robbers, dogs, birds, errant cats, and other creatures of the night. He will run beside you loyally and follow your every move. He is a brave dog. But, bravery has limits. He has fears. The defarious, obxnoius, evil vacuum. It bewails its evil presence, howling as it attacks and retreats- attacks and retreats. It ties the human to its evil presence. Fortunately, it is easily banished into the closet, yet it always returns. Usually during a nap or playtime. But, he is, in all other things a brave dog.

Our lives are much like this. We, too, are faced with monsterous vacuums. They are vile, loud, and threatening. Yet, they are often banished into closets, to appear again in other forms. Usually when we don’t expect them.

A vacuum will not harm a dog, although it is a frightening thing to behold. Many of our problems have resolutions and will not hurt us. They are opportunities to grow. If we make mistakes, we can recover the short term harm that comes. Some of our problems are temptests in a teapot.

Depression tends to make everything seem like a huge storm. Between TBI and depression, I feel like my judgement is not in the best form to make long term decisions. Am I missing critical information?

Today, I found out that my clinics (patient) hours were cancelled so I can do the phone project I mentioned earlier. I wasn;t getting many clients to start with. Now, I will be getting fewer. Over the past two months, I have come to the conclusion my supervisor views me as broken. She consults with the other social workers, never with me. She cut my patient hours even further. At this point, the only reason I continue to stay on is the pay check. At some point, the VA will retire me as “disabled.” I guess I am broken. Funny how the US government can take something damaged but recoverable and break it.

Am I barking at a vacuum?

Service Dog Wanted

The TBI really changed my life.   My health care provider recommends I get a service dog to help with some of the symptoms.  She thinks a service dog can help improve my life by providing assistance with things like the startle response and sensory overload.  Having a dog with me would help with safety and the dog can also make sure I’m in a good location if I “shut down.”  I’m excited about it!

The local VA provided me with contact information for the Walla Walla Penitentiary dog training program.  Shirley partners with the local Humane Society to get dogs into the program.  The dogs are trained by inmates in the minimum security unit.  They learn advanced obedience skills and can also have some of the service dog specific tasks trained.  Shirley has experience with service dogs and said she can help with some of the more advanced tasks.

Precious, one of the dogs “doing time” at the Penn!


I met with Shirley and Precious last week.  Shirley interviewed me about what my needs were in regards to a dog.  We talked about energy level, my current fur-family, running, etc.  We met at a local park and Precious accompanied Shirely.  Precious is a two year old Pit Bull mix.  She is a sweet dog and will make an excellent companion for someone.  She is a terrier, and a bit stubborn.  I didn’t see her as fitting into the family.  But, if you’re looking for a lovable, loyal, friendly dog for a family pet, Precious may be the dog for you!

After work today, Carol and I went past the Humane Society.  I met Scout and Tony.  Scout is an 8 month old black lab mix.  He is a bundle of energy!  Scout learned to sit for a treat within a few minutes and is a bright boy.  He is very people-oriented but loves his food.  However, he has a very gentle mouth when taking treats, which is a good quality.

Scout. What a handsome boy!

Scout and me.


Tony is a 6 month old Rottweiler mix.  He is scrawny and underweight right now.  He just came to the Humane Society as a stray a little over a week ago.  He didn’t fair well on his own.  He seems to be a calm boy, until it suits his purposes not to be.  More about that later.  He learned how to sit quickly and takes treats like a gentleman.  Tony is also focused on humans and enjoyed a good scratch.  I ran a little with him and he was a gentleman on the leash.  No tugging.  We visited about dinner time but he was more focused on spending time outside with us than the feeding taking place inside.  When we took him inside, he demonstrated his puppy abilities.  His collar was too loose.  He slipped the collar as we were putting him back into the pen.  He trotted around the area, inciting the other dogs into a barking frenzy!  Carol finally corralled him.  Stupid humans.  We put the collar back on him, over his head.  Um. Like that will work.  No, he slipped the leash a second time.  Mind you, a full dish of food was in his pen but he wanted to be with us, not back in the pen!  He trotted around, clearly keeping us in sight, but as a playful, not fearful action.  He came around to the pen.  I got his attention with a treat and tossed it in.  He’s a hungry puppy.  Treats rule.  I closed him in and took one final look at his soulful face.  I think he’d fit in.  Just like my ferrets.  Little escape artist with a sense of humor!  My friend was taking this picture and somehow got the camera unto video, so it’s like a 3 second clip.

I’m conflicted.  I really like both Scout and Tony.  They’re wonderful dogs and both can be very successful in the training and a great addition to the family.  Part of me leans towards Tony.  He’s had a rough go but still retained a gentle nature.

What happens next.  After I decide, the dog will be sent to prison!  He’ll go to the “care camp” until the next round of training sessions start in four weeks.  They’ll start socializing him and getting his weight back on.  Then, the training is anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks more.  During this time, he’ll have a few weekend “furloughs” to come home.  Shirley will observe and work with me to help any problems in the house.  If any further training needs to happen, the inmates will be told, so they can work with him.  After he graduates, he comes home.  At that point, we start with some of the more advanced service dog activities, such as getting him used to being in stores and crowds of people.  I have a service dog check-list for him to get the certification he needs.





Danger Dog


Winter 2010


This mini-Schnauzer only looks sweet and innocent.  She is truly dangerous to your health.  Danger Dog’s favorite game is tug-of-war.  Today, she was in rare form, demanding a game from every human in the house.  As the game became more intense, her soft growl rose in pitch and volume.  How she loves to tug! Being human and gifted with a opposible, I won the match.  The toy was tossed, the dog gave chase, and returned.  Every once in a while, my grip slipped and Tessa would prance about the room with the toy in her mouth, proudly broadcasting her victory.  Tessa has not learned the fine art of humility.  As if she had anything to brag about; I beat her 9 out of 10.  In the end, my victory was my painful undoing.

The game was a close one.  Tessa had an iron grip on the end of the rope toy and I had the opposing end, the knot firmly gripped in my hand.  Grrr!  Grrrr!  Then, it happened!  Tessa lost grip on her toy.  I maintained my grip.  In my surprise, I continued to tug on the toy.  The other side of the rope also had a knot.  That end, which Tessa was previously gripping, behaved in a predictable manner.  Her end flew up and smack! It struck me on the left eye.  Tessa barked and ran off happily.

Next time I stay with my parents, I’m bringing safety goggles.

At least with ferrets, I only need worry about a gentle nip to the toe, if Tosca is feeling frisky.