Zoe (11/24/06 – 10/8/16)

October 10, 2016

We always told ourselves that if we were faced with our dog getting lymphoma again, we’d make a different choice. It was a learning experience with Abby, and I thought we were doing the right thing at the time, but in retrospect it was too hard on her and us.

We found some huge lumps under Zoe’s neck, and she was diagnosed with lymphoma in late August. After meeting with our vet, we decided to keep her comfortable for as long as possible, but not pursue chemo. We put her on prednisone, which caused the lymphoma to go into remission for about 45 days.

She panted a lot, drank a lot of water, and peed a lot. She had a few accidents in the house at first, and we worked with the vet to manage the dose. He wanted to make sure the time with our girl was enjoyable, and it was.

We made sure she went outside often, and we set the alarm for 2:30 every night to get up with her. She woke us up again around 5:30 or 6 to let us know she was hungry.

She slept on the bed until the last month, when she was too weak to jump up, so we put her in the kennel at night to limit nighttime accidents. We gave her toys filled with peanut butter or cheese. She would remind us that it was time for treats about an hour before bed.

Zoe loved food. It was her favorite thing. I’ve never met a more food-motivated dog in my life. We gave her lots of extra treats, but she still lost weight and became weaker. We started to give her a few bites from our plates, which resulted in constant begging now that our previously off-limits meals were in play. We had to be careful giving her treats, because she would try to take your hand off in her quest for nourishment. We played the Bil-Jac game, where we would toss liver treats in the air and she would catch them.

She still had great eyesight and hearing. She treed a squirrel in her last week, and she barked at delivery trucks. My mom came to visit in mid-September and she basked in all the extra attention.

The prednisone bought us about 45 days with her. She fell down a couple times in the house, and was getting reluctant to descend the steps from the deck so she could do her business. We wanted to let her go while she still had her dignity.

On Saturday, I went to McDonald’s and got her a plain cheeseburger and six chicken nuggets. They were out of ice cream, so I stopped by Dairy Queen for a small cup. I’m glad I did, because the ice cream was her favorite. Her eyes got huge every time the spoon got close to her face. We fed her a little bit at a time, not wanting to overload her system.

A little before two, we got into the car and drove to the vet’s office. She was still able to stick her nose out the window, although her back legs were trembling.

We were led into a room decorated with soft couches and boxes of tissue (the same room where we said goodbye to Otis). The vet tech took her in the back and outfitted her with a catheter and gave her extra treats, and said that she would miss her too. Our vet walked us through the procedure again, and we petted her a few more times as he warned us that she might have a couple last breaths or bowel movements. He put the needle in the catheter and she started to relax. We helped her to lay on the floor, and she left.

And then she farted, which made my nose feel awful but made me laugh in the middle of the sadness.

Thanks for everything, Zoe. I’ll miss you, my bear, my cuddle pal, my moose, my angel butt.






Otis, ???? – February 19, 2015

February 22, 2015

In the summer of 2008, we were looking for a companion for Zoe. Minnesota Boxer Rescue sent us an e-mail with this picture of a dog named Thunder attached.

Thunder boy

I don’t remember having a specific reaction to the picture other than wanting to meet him to see if he and Zoe would get along, but six and a half years later, I immediately think, “That’s my guy.”

Pam (who was fostering him at the time) brought him over, and he and Zoe chased each other around the yard and had a good time.

We weren’t able to adopt him right away because we had a trip to Vegas booked. While we were in the Diamond Lounge at Paris, we made a list of potential names. At the top of the list were Otis and Elvis. He just seemed like an Otis, so that’s what we called him from then on. He was afraid of thunder and loud noises, and it seemed mean to call him by something that scared him.

Otis was the first and only dog we considered to be Zoe’s brother. He came to live with us on August 23, 2008. They were instant pals. They spent most of the day wrestling in the yard and throughout the house.

Zoe Otis Yard Lounging

Unfortunately for him, his arrival coincided with the start of the Minnesota State Fair, which had a fireworks display every night for the next 10 days. We sat with him in the hallway, petting him and saying soothing words until it was over.

He was very skinny at the time, so we worked on putting some weight on him.

Skinny guy

Like Abby before him, Otis was a picky eater. It was a rare week when he ate all 14 meals. But he ate enough to keep his bones from protruding. Plus, with his hip issues, we didn’t want him to get too heavy.

We never knew how old he was. When we took him to the vet for his first checkup, they estimated that he was between three and five years old. Because Zoe was almost two, we estimated that he was a year older, so we used that as his age whenever people asked.

We know little about his history before he came to the rescue. He was owned by a guy who owed another guy money. Instead of cash, the first guy gave the dog to the second guy. The second guy ended up in jail, so he left the dog with his cousin, who gave him to the rescue. And that’s how he found his way to us.

He was a little aloof the first few months he lived with us, and understandably so. He would cuddle with me in bed at night for a while, but he didn’t seek out a lot of attention during the day (at first–that changed later). He never did enjoy being hugged, though. He jumped down moments after this picture was taken.

rare cuddling

At some point, he and Zoe had a discussion about who belonged on the bed, and he decided to sleep elsewhere even though we tried to encourage him to stay. He would jump down as soon as we turned the lights out.

Otis and Zoe had an ongoing feud for dominance. Zoe usually won, but he would get her back in subtle ways. He would walk by her and swipe at her with his paw. He would also mess with her at meals. He would drop a kibble or two out of his dish to taunt her before eating them. He would also divide his meals into a few sessions so it made it seem like he was getting fed more than once. Zoe would linger attentively in the living room while he ate in the kitchen. She was ready to pounce on kibble at any minute.

He had many silly facial expressions. His teeth would occasionally get caught in his jowls. He also had a long tongue that didn’t want to stay in his mouth when he was sleeping.

Mr Tooth tongue


One of his favorite toys was a red squeaky ball with a rubber rope on the end. Here he is playing tug-of-war with Zoe.

Tug of wasTug of war

Otis also loved to sneak toys onto the deck. When the weather allowed, we would keep the sliding door open so he and Zoe could go inside and outside as they pleased. Before we knew it, he had brought four or five different toys outside.

deck toys

He loved to play. One of our favorite indoor games was “fishing for Otis.” Tim would sit in a chair in the living room, dangling a rope toy behind him. Suddenly, Otis would leap out of nowhere to grab the toy.

Whenever he got riled, he would get a toy and shake it around in his mouth. He loved playing fetch indoors and outdoors. He would do a little wiggly dance as he trotted back to us with the toy, wanting us to throw it again. His eyes would get huge as we lifted the toy, ready to toss it across the room or the yard.

Otis didn’t care much for the company of dogs other than Zoe. We found this out the hard way when we took him to the Minnesota Boxer Rescue picnic in September 2008. He got overstimulated with the number of dogs there and started barking and lunging. Our friends Steve and Susan, who had fostered Zoe, were great at helping us calm him down.


On the way home, he fell asleep on Zoe.

sleepy after picnic

I enrolled him in obedience class and a special class for dog-aggressive canines, but he never consistently enjoyed the company of other dogs. We tried using calming tones, gently petting him to hold his ears back, giving him a toy to walk with, but nothing really worked. We managed it as well as we could–keeping him away from other dogs at the vet and on walks, and  crossing the street to avoid dog-on-dog conflicts. He seemed to walk better with Tim than with me, so Tim took Otis and I took Zoe when we went out for strolls.

When there were no children around, he loved to explore the structures in the park.


He gradually got more affectionate and asked for head scratches and butt scratches every day. He would gently nudge our hands to let us know it was time for some attention.

He loved to sun himself on the deck. I think the warmth felt good on his joints.


A few months after we got him, Otis appeared to be in pain. We brought him into the vet and found out he had hip dysplasia, not uncommon in Boxers. We initially thought he would need surgery, but we were fortunate that we could manage his pain with Rimadyl. The surgery would have been hard for all of us, especially Zoe, who would have been confused that her playmate could no longer wrestle or jump off the upper part of the deck for a while.

A few times this winter, he would see that it was sunny and want to go outside. He was a little confused when it wasn’t warm enough to lounge. He did sneak in a quick session a few weeks ago, though.

One night in February 2012, Otis kept asking to go outside every couple hours. He vomited in the basement, and the vomit contained blood. I drove him to the emergency vet clinic at the University of Minnesota, which was only a few miles from our house. They kept him for the rest of the night. He was dehydrated, so before they sent him home, they injected him with a bunch of fluids that left him with a hump on his shoulders and back for a few hours. He also had a pain patch that they put between his shoulder blades, so he spent a few months growing out the spot where they had shaved him.

Other times we almost lost him:

  • Tim had hauled several bags of leaves to the compost facility in St. Paul, and didn’t latch the gate. He came home, let the dogs out, and wondered why they didn’t want to come back in yet. He saw the open gate and started calling their names. They both came running from a few yards away.
  • The next summer, we put a new door in the front but it didn’t always stay closed. I was working from home one afternoon, went to get the mail, and thought I shut the door, so I went into the office to work. A few minutes later, I went into the living room. Zoe was sitting there, but the front door was wide open. I went outside and yelled for Otis, but there was no response. I went back inside, found some shoes, and went in pursuit. I just got onto the street, still yelling, when Otis came bounding from across the street. I’m sure he left a lovely present somewhere. I was just glad he came back.

Most of the time we didn’t have to worry. He spent the day sleeping on every surface imaginable.

At night, he changed his sleeping routine many times. For a while, he slept on a pillow in the living room. Then, he would sleep in the basement. Then, he would sleep on our four-season porch. For a few weeks, he would covertly jump onto the living room couch and sneak down just before we woke. He overslept a few times and we caught him. He also jumped onto the couch when I was working in the dining room. I sat down and turned around, and there he was. I think he felt that he belonged there because he matched the color so well. We moved that couch into the basement when we got a new one, and he was extremely happy to have permission to sleep on it.

Otis would sometimes demand an escort when he went to the basement to sleep. It might involve standing at the top of the stairs and watching him descend, or it might involve accompanying him downstairs and giving him a few scratches before he went to sleep on the couch.

couch basement

He kept me company in the office when I worked from home or did schoolwork. Sometimes it was hard to work because I was distracted by the cuteness.

IMG_0974 IMG_0505 IMG_1093 DSC02238

(That face. I can’t get over that face.)

Other times, it was hard to work because of the farts. That dog knew how to clear a room. I’d be productively typing and I would hear a “Pffffft” sound coming from the little tan man, and I would have to find oxygen.

Otis made sure the rug near the front door was to his liking. We would be sitting in the living room watching TV, and we would hear some scratching noises on the carpet by the door. Sometimes we would tease him by putting shoes on the rug, and he would still rearrange it. He usually used it as a pillow, but sometimes he just wanted to make a rug sculpture.


He did this with other pillows around the house, too. He couldn’t sleep unless things were in the position he wanted.

I think cheese was his favorite thing in the world. His eyes would get huge when one of us would unwrap a piece of string cheese. Toward the end, he refused to eat breakfast unless it was sprinkled with parmesan. We thought about investing in one of those graters from the Olive Garden at one point.

One of his least favorite things in the world was his blue pill. He had to take medication for his thyroid, and we would put the pill in his meals. He would usually leave it in the dish, but we would find it in random places in the kitchen, well after he’d eaten.

He was full of wiggles and joy. Every day when he would wake up, he had wiggles to share with us. I am experiencing a severe wiggle deficiency right now. Zoe wags, but she never had the full body joy shakes that he did. She’s comforting us in other ways, though.

Last week, Otis had been lethargic and uninterested in food. We got him to eat some soft food, but he wasn’t eating the way he should have been. When he refused cheese, we knew it was time to take him to the vet. They took x-rays, and they found several spots in his lungs along with some fluid that indicated lung cancer. Tim brought him home, and I came home from work. Later that day, he was struggling to breathe, and we decided to take him into the vet one last time. Tim drove and I sat in the back seat with Otis, rubbing his neck. It was only a matter of time, and we didn’t want him to suffer. The staff at our clinic was extremely kind, and made a difficult process easier. We petted him gently, telling him he was a good boy, and he was gone.

It amazes me how quickly six and a half years went. It’s hard to believe it was even real, but we have the memories and pictures and stories that tell us differently. The hardest part right now is thinking that he’s around the corner or downstairs. I keep turning around and expecting to see this at any second, and it’s killing me.


As much as it hurts, it was totally worth it to have this little guy in our lives. I’ll love and miss you every day, sir.

A Few Things Here and There

May 6, 2010
  • We took Zoe in for her vaccinations recently. Her disdain for her Gentle Leader grows with each visit to the vet’s office. She alternates between pawing at it viciously, trying to bury her face in my crotch (awkward for all involved), and lying on the floor while moaning loudly. She wants everyone passing by to think she’s being tortured (and that she never, ever gets any attention at home).
  • While we were waiting for the bill, a man, his two children, and their dog came in. The girl was very chatty and asked what my dog’s name was. I told her, and she exclaimed, “My dog is named Zoe too!” She wandered off, and a few minutes later yelled “The power of penis!” much to her dad’s chagrin (and my amusement). He took her aside and quietly explained why she shouldn’t do that, while I stifled a giggle in the other corner of the room.
  • Otis has decided he wants to be king of the couch again. I was working from home a couple weeks ago, and I was sitting at the dining room table. When I looked down, Otis was no longer lying on the floor, but making a little nest for himself in the blankets on our living room couch (which he is not allowed on). I was surprised at his audacity, with me sitting a few feet away and all. We learned that he had probably been doing that at night for a while, because when Tim got up the next morning, he was curled up in a little ball on the couch again. We’ve been covering the couch with newspapers at night to prevent further shenanigans (especially after we found a drool spot that has refused to fade).
  • Otis hasn’t been sleeping on the bed at night. I’m not sure if he lost a bet with Zoe, or if there’s some sort of dominance thing going on. He’ll jump on the bed after we first tuck ourselves in for some reading, but after I pet him for a few minutes, he heads for the living room.
  • Otherwise, they’re still energetic and healthy. Zoe has a weird skin tag on one of her jowls that we need to investigate because it doesn’t want to get any smaller, but they’re enjoying the longer daylight hours and lying in the sun.
  • I’ll continue to post sporadically when I have something to say, but it might not be too often. I had planned to post more regularly, but work has been taking a lot of my energy and creativity. I’m hoping things remain placid and uneventful at home!

Not Helpful

February 27, 2010

Dear dogs,
I love you. And I think you love me. I would like to suggest you show your affection by cuddling with me at night, licking my face (and not after you’ve licked certain areas), or wagging your tail, for example. I would not suggest zipping around the yard and then tracking poop all over the house, especially when I’m in the anxious throes of packing for a trip and have a plane to catch in a matter of hours. This might result in a mild nervous breakdown and possibly some yelling.

Give this some thought while we’re away, please. You’ll have a few days to think about it. I’ll give you lots of hugs when I get back, I promise.


P.S. Happy belated National Love Your Dog Day!

Two Years

January 15, 2010

For 10 1/2 years, we were lucky to have her.

Abby in the Fall


January 15, 2010

A song by Def Leppard, or our dogs’ new hobby?

I was running errands, and Tim was downstairs. When he came upstairs, he was greeted with several matchsticks strewn across the living room floor, with the dogs wrestling over the box. Luckily, no harm was done and Tim was able to separate the dogs from their new toy and clean up their mess. Then we had a little chat with the dogs regarding the dangers of playing with matches.

My mistake was leaving the box within their reach. We have a bookshelf full of Vegas souvenirs (slot cards, shot glasses, swizzle sticks, and matchbooks). I must have carelessly tossed the matches onto a low shelf while unpacking after our October trip. They remained undisturbed until a few days ago.

This does not help their petition to roam freely throughout the house when we’re gone.

At least the shot glasses are on a high shelf, and I’m hoping we don’t have to have that talk with them anytime soon.

Today in Dogs

December 31, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I ordered new kennel pads. These were thicker and more comfortable, especially for Otis and his sensitive joints.

Today, I arrived home to discover that Zoe had chewed the zipper to expose the padding within, and tiny bits of foam padding were scattered all over her kennel, along with the safety tag. This creates a serious setback to the “let the dogs roam the house freely” plan. Luckily, I don’t think she swallowed any of it, but we’ll find out in a few days.

Update: Zoe woke me at 2:30 this morning with the heaving sounds dog owners know all too well. Happy New Year! Luckily, she had no problems eating her breakfast and she’s her usual active self.

Otis just tried to take one of their Christmas toys outside as I yelled, “That’s an inside toy!” to no avail. He played canine soccer with it on the deck and I grabbed it as he got it near the door, and pretended to throw it. Confused, they looked out in the yard for several minutes while I laughed inside.

Here are the Christmas toys, which are still intact, to my great surprise.

Zoe with her new toy:
Zoe with her new toy

Otis with his new toy:
Otis with his new toy

Both dogs with their new toys:
Dogs playing with their new toys

Then, of course, they had to switch:
Dogs playing with their new toys

Time for sleep:
Christmas snuggling on the bed

Snowpocalypse 2009

December 24, 2009

We are having what the local newscasters like to call a “weather event.” It means snow, and a lot of it.

Tim has shoveled the driveway twice, and that’s just today. He’ll probably shovel at least once more tonight.

We’ve received  about 5 inches already, and we might get a total of 16 to 21 inches. I’ve never been so happy to be able to work from home.

We’re pretty lucky we’re not traveling. Tim’s brother arrived from Nebraska on Tuesday, and we only have to go a couple miles to his parents’ house.

Here are a few pictures of the fun we’re having (and by we, I mean the dogs).

  • Otis likes to help Tim shovel, by biting the shovel and barking at it.
  • Tim shoveled a path for the dogs, but Zoe decided to race around the yard in other spots.
  • They did a lot of wrestling with each other.
  • As with leaves in the fall, they like to pick one particular chunk of ice or snow and pretend it’s the only one in the yard worth fighting over.


December 22, 2009

So my excuse for not posting lately is this really annoying back/shoulder pain that’s been hounding me for two weeks. I’m trying to limit my time on the computer outside of work, because that’s what tends to aggravate it, with sitting still and peering into a monitor and moving the mouse and all.

I’m hoping to have a few new posts in the next week or so, including the dogs destroying their latest Christmas toy, along with a review (with pictures) of some chewy things we’ve been giving them lately.

We got some sad news from Zoe’s foster family. One of their dogs had developed cancer over the summer, and they had to take him to the vet one last time. I know what they’re going through and I had flashbacks all night. I was rattled by how it all came back so quickly. I’m hoping the holidays serve as a distraction and not a painful memory, even though they still have to grieve.

On a happier note, Otis and Zoe are still doing well. Last night, Zoe was growling in her sleep and she got so riled up that the fur on her back stood up from her neck to her tail. I would love to know what she was dreaming about.

Zoe’s Day of Freedom

November 9, 2009

On Friday, I pulled into the driveway and I saw Zoe peeking out from the living room window. I thought my husband must have come home early, even though he was scheduled to work for another hour. When I went to the door, it was still locked. After I got inside, Zoe bounded over to me. I looked for Otis, and he was still in his kennel, probably upset with the events of the day. I’m sure Zoe was taunting him.

I glanced around the house, and there were no surprises in the form of bodily fluids or inappropriately chewed things. Zoe had helped herself to plenty of water and was ready to go outside. One of her toys was by the window, so I suspect that she spent most of the day looking out the window, observing the neighborhood and waiting for one of us to come home.

We think that one of us (that would be Tim) forgot to completely latch her kennel door, and she discovered the security breach and sprang to freedom. We’ve been checking the latch carefully ever since.

At some point, when Zoe mellows out a little more, we’ll probably leave them out for longer periods of time. But given their tendencies to wrestle, and Zoe’s interest in the trash and recycling, we’ll wait a while for everyone’s safety and our sanity.