Follow or Face My Wrath

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tean-Bean, The Poop Machine: The Untold Story

As many of you reading this will already know, my dog Tini passed away about a week ago. She was fourteen, a ripe old age for a dog, and lived a long and storied life. Tini is the third dog I've lost in my life, but she was the only one I knew for such a long time. When my last dog, Sandy, passed away, I found that writing about her helped me process my feelings, so I'd like to do the same for Tean-Bean. Me and Tini went through a lot together. Many of the people I've known knew Tini, and for those of you who did, I'd like to share some memories.

For someone who is not a dog person, my dad sure has owned a lot of dogs. The first was a little mini-dachsund named Bud Light McQueeny. Bud was my first dog, and I was very close to him. He stayed with my mom after my parents divorced, and for most of my early teens he shared a bed with me. Back problems took him from us when he was still young, a common occurrence for the breed. I wasn't with him when they put him down, but I missed him greatly, and I still have a picture of him in my office, and a tattoo in his honor.

Bud's name was the beginning of a tradition that my dad kept through his next four dogs: they were all named after some form of booze. Tini's full name was Martini, and soon after we got her we got Margarita, whom we called Rita. I loved Rita, but she was "touched", as my dad would have said--she wasn't very smart. Dad wanted a smart, well-behaved dog, so when Rita didn't live up, he gave her to a family friend. The next dog (years later) was Bulleit, after the bourbon, and he was the second dog my dad passed down to me (more on him later). Stella (after the beer) was next, and she too wound up with a family friend. They were all good dogs, and all wound up being hand-me-downs, but Tini was the first.

I remember the day dad brought her home. She was so tiny she could swim laps in a thimble. When dad brought her in, we were all in the kitchen. He set her down on the ground, my brothers and I swarmed her, and she immediately squatted and peed in terror. That's my first memory of Tini. My second followed closely after: upon seeing how distressed she was by the onslaught, I scooped her up and took her to my bedroom to help her calm down. I laid on the ground on my back and she crawled up onto my neck, nestled between my chin and my chest, and fell asleep. I laid there for half an hour like that, wanting to move, but daring not, lest she be stirred.

Since that day, Tini always had a strong urge to nuzzle up on people's faces. On several occasions, she would actually cuddle up on top of my face, or in my hair. She was an obsessive kisser too; she would sit on my head and lick my hair until I stopped her. I credit her with much of my early hair loss.

I've seen and read enough Caesar Milan stuff to know now that Tini's licking was an unhealthy compulsive behavior, and it wasn't the only one. The unfiltered truth is I have a lot of guilt when it comes to how I cared for Tini. There was a lot I should have done but didn't, a lot of bad habits I encouraged through negligence, and a lot I just plain didn't know about dogs. But we'll come to that in time.

Soon after my dad and step-mom married, my little sister was on the way, and in the battle between dog and baby, dog is sorely outmatched. I knew Tini didn't fit in at my dad's house any more, but I didn't want her disappearing from my life like Rita did, so I quickly volunteered to take her.

At the time, I was staying in a crappy third-floor apartment in the Lawrence, KS student ghetto, so my parents held onto her until my brother and I moved into a house on the suburban side of town; a split-level, three bedroom with a sizable, fenced-in yard. Tini settled right in. That was 2004.

I've already written extensively on the subject, so I won't go into it here, but suffice it to say that at the time Tini became my dog, my lifestyle was an unhealthy one. My iteration of the college party life involved a revolving cast of "colorful" characters, some benign, some genuinely dangerous. The energy in that house was a hurricane of emotions, and dogs are far more sensitive to that sort of thing than humans are. I know now that the environment I raised Tini in was unhealthy. But there was a lot of fun too.

When Tini lived with my dad, she had a little bell affixed to her collar, so we would always know where she was. The first two years of her life, she heard that bell every second of every day, jingling with every movement she made. But when she moved in with me, she quit being a purse dog (not that my step-mom ever actually carried her around like that, but Tini was definitely bred to be that type of dog), and became a party-house animal. The bell had to go. Less than a week after moving her in, I took it off, and she spent the next two days searching high and low for it. Losing it was a traumatic change for her. I contemplated putting it back on, but the thing was girly and annoying, and I wasn't going to be that guy.

That was one of the funniest things about me and Tini. Here I was, this big hairy stoner dude, and instead of the fat, lazy bulldog you'd expect me to have, I have this little yippy purse dog. I always said that Tini wasn't the dog I would have picked, but I loved her as much as anyone could love a dog. Everybody loved Tini. She loved meeting people, she cuddled with everyone, and she loved to play. And if you gave her a small cloth toy, she'd be your friend for life.

Small cloth toys. Of all Tini's unhealthy behaviors, this one was the most insane. She loved bones and treats of all kinds; she'd parade them around the house, showing everyone what she had, then settle into a comfy spot and devour it before you could say "good dog". She didn't have much interest in balls or plastic toys, or ropes. She loved anything that squeaked, but give her a cloth toy less than two inches in diameter--squeaker or no--and Tini went bonkers. Bigger than two inches? She'd tear out the squeaker in a matter of minutes and move on. But little handheld toys drove her into fits of frenzy. She would rip them to shreds in minutes, and play with the shreds for weeks. I've seen a lot of hyper dogs, but I've never seen anything like Tini with a small cloth toy.

We used to play a sort of modified version of fetch, where I would sit in my big brown recliner in the corner of the living room, throw the toy into the other corner, and she would run and grab it, hop up into my lap, and put it in my hand. From there, we moved into phase two: tug-o-war. She fought with the ferocity of a dog five times her size, and growled like a rat-beast from Hell. Then, when I eventually let her win, she would sit there for a moment, calm down and drop the toy on my lap. Thus began phase three: fast hands. I would fake her out, and she'd lunge for it like a hungry alligator snatching up its prey. Eventually, I'd get it, toss it across the room, and the game began again.

One time, a good friend of mine brought an old bike horn over to the house. I can't recall why, but strange objects are always appearing and disappearing in a stoner house. Tini was immediately fascinated and enraged by the honking device. She angrily stole it from anyone who had it, and frantically tried to wrap her too-small jaws around it to reproduce the terrible honk. She grew incredibly frustrated when she couldn't, but eventually, while sitting in my dirty clothes hamper (one of her favorite spots) she managed to squeeze the thing into her mouth, and immediately began honking incessantly. I knew how pleased she was to finally conquer the thing, so I let her have at it. We left the house for several hours, and when we came back she was still right there, honking away. There was no doubt that she had been sitting there, honking that damn bike horn the entire time. I took it away at that point, and only returned it to her once after that. She took it out in the yard and honked it for a hour straight while I was trying to study. I got so angry I came outside, ripped the thing from her jaws, and threw it over the fence, into a busy street.

Tini loved that yard. She protected it like a fire-breathing dragon protects the princess in the high tower. I can't tell you how many times I'd hear Tini frantically scratching on the sliding glass door, wanting to get outside and attack whatever had intruded on her kingdom. The yard was filled with landscaping of every kind. We had gooseberry bushes, redbud trees, a shed, a basketball court. We even had wild strawberries that grew near the fence. Rabbits used to eat them, so I bought blood meal to drive them off. Tini was enticed by the scent, and ended up eating the entire crop. Not long after that, I actually saw her kill a baby rabbit that had been living in the bushes nearby.

Once, Tini caught sight of a bird perched on the edge of our deck, right by the steps leading into the yard. I waited until she was in a frenzy, then I tore the door open. She shot out like a lightning bolt, and the bird took flight. Just as it gained the sky, Tini took a flying leap off the steps and actually caught the bird in the wing. The bird twisted in midair, recovered, and flew off, but Tini came this close to actually snatching a bird out of the sky.

Tini and I shared a bed until I met my wife (even then she still weaseled her way in on occasion), but the bed in that house was the first we ever shared on a permanent basis. She was a face-cuddler during the day, but at night she liked to squeeze between my knees or in the bend of my legs when I slept on my side. For years I was in the habit of waking all the way up to turn over, so that I wouldn't crush or rouse her.

In those days, she woke up with the sun, and most of my mornings consisted of dazedly walking to the back door, letting her outside, then returning to bed for another three or four hours. When I eventually got up, Tini was invariably sunbathing in one of our deck chairs. That dog loved the sun, she was a sunbather to her last day.

In that first year with Tini, things took a bad turn for me. My brother, our roommate, and I were involved in a number of stupid activities that had gained us a reputation around town, and the cops gradually put together a picture of us as a trio of drug lords. That image was wildly exaggerated, but I did my part to cultivate it, so I can't blame the cops for doing what they did.

One night, my brother and I were watching movies in the basement when we heard the door burst open. A chorus of voices shouted "Police! Search warrant!" We thought it was a friend playing a joke at first, but when we saw the guns pointed at our faces, we knew it was real. We were both cuffed and interrogated. I have no idea where Tini was throughout the ordeal, but I can't imagine how shaken a dog would be by something like that.

In the end, we were only caught with a ounce of pot and a smattering of paraphernalia. Not exactly Scarface, but enough to shake my life up for the next couple years. My brother and our roommate moved out, leaving me and Tini alone in the house for a few months.  It was a low point in my life, but without Tini's companionship, it would have been a lot worse.

My dad had purchased the house as an investment property, and needless to say he wasn't too happy with our cavalier mistreatment of that privilege. We reached an agreement that I could keep the house if I found roommates, and lived on the rent money instead of the stipend he had given me previously. Considering the immensity of the problems we had created for him, I was thankful to be staying somewhat independent, so I agreed and sought out the first roommates I could find.

My first choice turned out to be one of the poorest of my life. I ran into a high school acquaintance at a party (we'll call him CL), and in the process of catching up, I learned that his living situation had gone sour. I offered him a room at a reasonable price, and he moved in that week.

Tini took to CL as she did to all new people. For a while, things were good. CL got a cat named Thoth (an annoying choice of name), and he and Tini became fast frenemies. One of our favorite pastimes was sitting on the couch, watching Tini and Thoth have epic Crouching-Tiger-esque battles that involved them leaping off of furniture, climbing walls, and darting up and down the stairs.

Unfortunately, CL's bad habits made mine look pretty benign. CL had history with much more dangerous drugs than pot, and the stain of that lifestyle never quite left him. He had few boundaries, and little respect for the boundaries of others, and worst of all he had terrible taste in friends. That period of my life saw a steady parade of scummy characters coming through the house. The energy always felt like danger or violence lurked around the corner. Feeling unwelcome and unsafe in your own home is a profound and unsettling thing. I made a lot of bad decisions that left me feeling uncomfortable. I knew the people around me were no good, but I insulated myself with drugs, and ignored the problem. When it became more than I could handle, I would crash at friends' houses. CL was decent enough to care for Tini's basic needs when I wasn't around, but she never got more than the bare minimum.

Periodically abandoning Tini in that environment is one of my biggest regrets. I kept her alive, but I never took her to the vet, never bathed her, fed her cheap food, and only paid attention to her when it suited me. Looking back, I'm sure that this period of our lives together was the soil that gave root to most of Tini's psychological problems. She developed a number of compulsions over her life; food/toy hoarding, obsessive licking, destructive play, inappropriate urination and defecation, and antisocial behavior toward other animals. 

Peeing and pooping inside were lifelong problems for Tini. In that period, when she needed to go, there was no reasonable guarantee that someone was around to let her out, so she did the only thing she could do. Even when we were around, there was no guarantee we were paying enough attention to know that she needed outside. Being the ignorant person I was, I engaged in the destructive cycle of punishing her for going inside, and allowing that to become an attention-seeking behavior. And when I did let her out, I left her out too long.

I was a bad pet owner for a long time. And I'm really sorry for it. I got better, but not right away.

I don't want to be comforted, and I don't want to be forgiven. It's important to me to admit that I didn't always do right by that dog. But in spite of all of it, Tini loved me the way only a dog can. That's one of the most important lessons dogs teach us, and Tini was a master professor. Her love was unconditional, even to the point of being self-destructive.

During this time, one of the few bright spots in my life was band practice. I can't imagine Tini was too pleased with the sound of a heavy metal band jamming in the basement, but as far as I knew she spent most of the time hiding from the noise in my hamper. During our breaks, we would hang out in the living room, and our bassist would play with Tini. He was a lifelong dog person, and had a natural connection with animals. One of Tini's favorite games was when he would stuff her between the cushions of the couch and let her claw her way out. I know it sounds awful, but you have to believe me that Tini loved it, and loved him.

After a second roommate and her two cats came and went, CL and I had a falling out, and he moved out. Two of my best friends moved in, along with another guy who I knew from the local coffee shop scene, and the era that followed was one of the best in my college career. There was still a revolving cast of characters, but they weren't criminal and psychotic like CL's friends, so the energy in the house took on an air of recovery.

I'll let you guess who the drunkest person in this photo is.
It was around this time that my dad told me they were planning to get rid of their new dog, Bulleit. Bulleit was a miniature Australian shepherd, and he, like Rita, was "touched". Bulleit had a number of problems associated with high-energy, working breeds; submissive urinating, hyperactivity, and separation anxiety. My dad's family wasn't able to give him the type pf care he needed, so they were going to give him away. Having found such a great friend in Tini, I volunteered once again, but in retrospect I wish I hadn't. Bulleit had it in him to be a good dog, but he needed space, he needed a job, and he needed a firm, attentive alpha. I was able to provide none of those things.

If anything, Tini was Bulleit's alpha. Tini was always very assertive about what was hers, and what areas were her personal space. She snapped at Bulleit and jumped on his neck, and generally kept him in line when I couldn't. Bulleit was popular with my friends, and when I finally graduated, one of them asked to take him, and I agreed.

After college, I went to stay with my grandmother for a few months, while I tried to figure out what to do with my life. I graduated with a C+ average and a major in Philosophy, so my prospects weren't all that great. During those months, Bulleit and Tini stayed with my friends, and when I finally saved enough money to get an apartment, I took Tini back and said goodbye to Bulleit. My friend loved Bulleit, and did his best to care for him, but in the end he couldn't. Bulleit eventually moved to a farm that raised Australian shepherds, and I imagine he had a much happier life from that point on.

After college, my life was about one thing: restoring order. The six years (yes, six, for a bachelor's) I spent in school were the most chaotic in my life. But I am not a person who thrives amidst chaos. I'm actually borderline OCD. I like things in their place. I like all the furniture parallel to a wall. I can't abide dirty dishes in the sink for more than the length of a movie. I'm not a germaphobe, but I like order and routine. My version of order looks confusing to most people (including my wife), but I am what I am. And my first solo apartment reflected that.

I moved into a 450 square foot studio apartment in a sketchy area of Mission, KS. I worked a handful of jobs, either bars or liquor stores, and I worked very hard on developing myself. If it weren't for Tini, that would have been another low point in my life. I wasn't very good with the ladies, and most of my friends were focused on their own lives, so I was lonely. But Tini was someone to care for, a responsibility that kept me anchored when I had nothing else to hold me in place.

I still wasn't the best pet owner, but I was trying. I found a vet for her, and bought a care plan that covered all her regular check ups, and helped with emergencies. Since I was in an apartment, I had to walk her, so we got in the habit of numerous daily walks. She slept with me, and whenever I was home, we were cuddling and playing.

Unfortunately, I was working at a bar and a liquor store around that time, and the hours didn't allow for much regularity. When I had two shifts in a row, Tini got left alone for as much as sixteen hours at a time, with nothing more than a few scattered toys to occupy her attention. When I finally came home, it was all I could do to walk her before I collapsed for a few hours sleep. She peed and pooped inside often enough that I lost my damage deposit when I finally moved out.

One particularly nasty memory from that time is worth sharing, for those with strong stomachs. I'll spare most of you, but if you're interested, and have a sturdy constitution, click here for the story. It's gross. Consider yourself warned.

Anyway, things were mostly good for me and Tini that year. I was half-assing it at best, but I was in my early twenties. That's what those years are for. Fraught with problems as it was, that studio apartment was Tini's first relatively stable living situation. Before then, her life was an ever-changing cast of humans and animals. Few elements were consistent for more than a few months. And inconsistency isn't healthy for dogs.

By the end of that year, I was starting to think about seriously pursuing a relationship. I had taken some time to figure out who I was and what I wanted (not that I really knew), but as I said, I wasn't very good with the ladies so I didn't really know where to start. I'm that typical, overlooked "nice guy" who could never figure out why girls went for guys who treated them like objects. I get angry now, when I think about how ignorant I was, and how easy it would have been if I had just been more confident, but I was who I was. So I signed up for E-Harmony.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, because that was where I met my wife.

But not right away. Toward the end of my year in the studio apartment, my brother and I started talking about moving in together again. When my lease was up, we moved into a spacious two bedroom apartment just down the street from my grandmother's house. My brother had known Tini as long as I had, and he was delighted to be living with her again. Having another person around to feed and occasionally walk her was a good thing, and the two of them were good friends.

I met my wife shortly after moving into that apartment, and as many guys do when they meet a girl they're really crazy about, I disappeared from my friends' lives for a while. I spent a lot of time away from Tini, but at least this time I knew she was in good hands.

Things got serious between my wife and I, and we decided to move in together. This meant moving Tini in with my wife's dog Sandy, a fifty-pound border collie.

As I've already written, Sandy was the most good-hearted dog I've ever met, and she took to Tini quickly. Tini was assertive, and tried like hell to dominate Sandy, but in the end their relationship was like that of Scooby and Scrappy-Doo. Sandy didn't take Tini all that seriously, and just sort of took her with a grain of salt, which made their interactions pretty funny to watch.

That duplex we lived in meant a lot to me. It wasn't the nicest place (though I've lived in much worse), but it was the first living situation I ever shared with a girl, and it was our first little love nest together. Not all of the parents were particularly thrilled with the idea of us shacking up, but everyone respected our decision. And besides, my wife and I were a pretty obvious match from day one. I'd be willing to bet everyone we knew assumed we'd wind up together. So moving in was just a precursor to the inevitable.

During the year and change we spent there, there were definite borders between my stuff and hers. We did laundry separately (partially due to my weird aversion to other people's clothes--a topic for another time), we kept our clothes in different closets, and we didn't mix furniture. My wife's furniture occupied the main living room, while mine was relegated to a "man cave" in the basement.

Tini lived in that basement for most of the time. Her crate was down there, as well as her food. We had to keep the dog food separate, because Tini always had a wild appetite. She was so frantic about food that she would eat anything on the floor that might have been food, just in case. Her motto was "Eat first, let the organs sort it out". I naturally tried to discourage this behavior, but by the time I got around to saying "no", she would already have swallowed whatever it was.

Tini still pooped inside a lot. My wife is an air traffic controller, and her work schedule was always in flux. I was working in the bar at a golf club at the time, and that carried the typical long, variable hours of any food and beverage job. Tini spent a lot of time alone in that basement, and when she had to go, she went. Luckily, it was a tile floor, so it cleaned easy, but the room still took on a peculiar odor. For some reason, she was fond of pooping on cords or cables, so I had a lot of computer cords ruined. I also used to keep my massive CD collection down there, and one time I was dumb enough to leave one of my 200-CD books on the floor. Tini peed all over it, and I never quite got it all the way clean.

Despite living a Gollum-like existence, Tini was happy in that house. It had a decent-sized yard, and for the first time in almost three years, she had territory to defend and a deck to sunbathe on. She and Sandy spent a lot of time basking together, chasing squirrels, and barking at neighbors.

As fate would have it, my wife's job eventually forced her to relocate. Her exact destination was up in the air at first, but the question between us was obvious. Either I left the Kansas City area--my home town, which I had planned on never leaving--or I let the love of my life slip away. For me, there was never any debate. Next thing I knew, I was engaged and preparing to move to Los Angeles.

The move was an interesting time in our life. We had to break our lease on the duplex, and my wife had to spend a month training in Oklahoma City before we went to LA. We decided I would stay in KC, finish packing up our possessions, and keep my job as long as possible. Once we were fully out of the duplex, I stayed with my mom, who unfortunately prefers to keep her house animal-free. Once again, Tini went to stay with a group of my friends. When I think about how much change and upheaval that dog went through, it's a wonder she wasn't any worse than she was.

Tini's food mania always kept her well above her ideal body weight for her whole life, but for whatever reason, every time she went to stay with someone else, I would always get her back fatter than I've ever seen her. I don't know if my friends just ignored my feeding instructions, or if they were less vigilant about keeping her away from table scraps, but whenever anyone else took care of Tini, they fattened her up.

Min-pins typically have fairly large chests for their size, and very tiny waists. But when I got Tini back from my friends on my way out of KC, both chest and waist were the same circumference. She was a little roly-poly sausage dog. It took me months to get her back down to a decent weight.

I left KC earlier than we were originally expecting. My job had gone sour (yet another topic for another time), and I opted to spend the last two weeks before the big move in Oklahoma City. My wife was staying in a little furnished corporate apartment on the bad side of town, but it was fun for Tini and Sandy because the property had a lot of green space to explore on our daily walks. During those two weeks I got the worst case of strep throat I've had in my life--possibly the sickest I've ever been--and I spent most of the time laying on the couch, buried in blankets, watching Harry Potter movies. That was actually when I fist fell in love with the series (and I've only recently finished actually reading the books).

Anyway, things were good there. It was during those two weeks that I first decided to seriously pursue writing, and it was also when I first came up with Jim Frankenstein, Rock and Roll Space Priest.

LA was a bit of a shock at first. We nearly doubled our rent, and cut our square footage down by 60%. We had a host of oddball neighbors and their animals to get used to. We went from suburban Kansas to the San Fernando Valley, with all its hole-in-the-wall restaurants, expensive gas, nasty convenience stores, organic markets, and general west-coast weirdness.

Tini and Sandy made the transition from a yard to twice-daily walks up and down Sepulveda Blvd. There were regular arguments with neighbors about whether or not I was picking up after the dogs. There were pedestrians, traffic, and food trash to keep the dogs away from. And there was noise everywhere, all the time.

Despite all the weirdness, LA was a good time for my wife and I. She gained a lot of confidence in her career, and I started building mine. I met a horde of interesting people working at a hotel in downtown LA. And Tini and Sandy got close.

It was around this time that Tini started one of my favorite weird behaviors. I think this pic should explain it:

Sorry if that pic is an overshare for some of you, but I couldn't resist talking about this one odd bit of her personality. Every time I went to the bathroom, if I didn't close the door, Tini would walk in and tuck herself snugly into my underwear--but never all the way in. She had to have at least one leg hanging out. I would have stopped her, but Tini's quirks were always one of my favorite things about her, so I just let her do it. After this became a habit, I started leaving the bathroom door open on purpose, just so she could get some cuddle time in. Yeah, I'm weird. It's weird. I apologize for nothing.

Halfway through our stay in LA, I quit my hotel job to start writing full time. It wasn't just one of the best things I've ever done for myself, it was one of the best things I've done for Tini too. The goal I set after college was still one of the guiding forces in my life: restoring order. And I can't tell you how much order I brought to all of our lives when I became the domestic partner.

When I was working, my wife and I were like ships in the night. We shared a bed for a few hours a day, had a whole day off together maybe once or twice a month, and when we were together, we were both so stressed we fought all the time. Tini and Sandy spent 75% of their time locked in crates, and their only activity was walking a few blocks. There wasn't time or space or money for anything else.

When I quit my job, suddenly the house was clean all the time. The dogs got on a regular meal/walk schedule, and for the first and only time in her life, Tini quit pooping and peeing inside. There were occasional accidents, sure, but they were much less than before.

Tini was behaving better. Not only was there a stable cast of characters in her life, but there was a routine, and both she and I thrived as a result. Looking back, those were probably some of Tini's best years; when I had my shit together enough to take care of her (including regular visits to the vet), and she still had all of her faculties available.

But sadly, Tini was already getting old by then. Our last year in LA, I noticed she was having trouble jumping up on our couch. I lifted her half the time. For Tini, that was a big change. She was always a running, jumping, scurrying-about dog, and when old age settled into her bones something changed.

LA was good, but my wife and I were never "LA people", and we always knew we wanted to move back to a place that was a little more our speed (not to mention our price range). But before we said goodbye to LA, we had to say goodbye to Sandy.

Sandy was just the best dog. She was always happy, and she had a greater-than-average understanding of human emotion and language. She was bright, energetic, and gentle. And one day, we were out for a walk, and Sandy just quit. We learned later that she had a tumor on her heart, so we took a couple days to say goodbye, and we put her down. It was one of the saddest things I've ever been through, and my wife was devastated. We both have tattoos commemorating her.

Tini took the loss about like most dogs would. She was confused for a while, and would look for Sandy around our apartment, but pretty soon she settled into a new routine without her.

Before we moved, we took a trip to Texas to see my wife's family, and we took Tini with us. She was a good traveling dog; she always loved riding in the car. During our stay, Tini got into a bag of garbage, and ate something that made her sicker than I ever saw her. The vet determined it was pancreatitis; a disease where the pancreas tries to digest itself. Tini--the hungriest dog alive--didn't eat anything for three days. She just sat in a corner wasting away, sleeping eighteen hours a day. After losing Sandy, I was scared I was about to lose Tini too. It was then that I started preparing myself for the inevitable.

Not long after that, my wife took a job in our now home of Little Rock, Arkansas, and we entered yet another phase of upheaval. This move put us in the poor house and nearly gave us both ulcers, but that too is a tale for another time.

We moved into a house north of Little Rock proper, and once again Tini had a yard. This time, though, she wasn't spry enough to defend it like her previous domains. Her joints were stiff, her teeth were starting to get weak, and her eyesight and hearing were fading. She could still jump on the couch with a little effort, but she was officially an old dog.

Not long after we moved, we got Smitty, our second border collie. My wife loved Tini, but Tini was always my dog, and my wife had reached a point where she was ready for another dog to fill Sandy's shoes. Smitty turned out to be a great choice; she has a lot of what was great about Sandy: the desire to please, the empathetic nature, the intelligence, and the happy energy. When Smitty was still small, Tini was even able to play tug-o-war with her, but Smitty quickly outgrew her. When it was just the two of them, Smitty was the little sister; she constantly annoyed Tini. Tini dominated Smitty like she did Bulleit, and eventually the two settled on some boundaries that survived until Tini's last days.

Then Davy came along (the story of how we got Davy is an article all its own, so I won't tell it now). In the beginning, Davy and Tini were best buds. Davy spent most of his kitty months bundled up at Tini's side, buried in her blankets. It was so adorable you could cry. But soon enough he developed himself a little feline attitude and that was all done. He and Smitty are best pals to this day; they're always either wrestling or cuddling, and if you follow my Facebook posts you've probably already seen too many pictures of both.

Davy bullied Tini quite a bit. I think it was partially just his cattitude, partially trickle-down beatings from Smitty, and partially the fact that by the time Davy arrived, Tini was 100% blind in both eyes, and about 85% deaf in both ears, so she bumped into him a lot. Tini would growl whenever he would swat at her, but without being able to see or hear him, she couldn't do much to defend herself.

I'm fairly certain that Tini was totally
unaware of Davy's presence here.

Tini's last year was a good one. She had the perceptive abilities of Helen Keller, but she was still a happy dog. I'd even go so far as to say she was close to her happiest ever. She had breathing problems, but we were dealing with them, and the vet assured me it was never anything life-threatening. I kept her weight in control. After pancreatitis her stomach was always fragile, but I managed to keep her on a steady diet, and she was pooping healthy. She got in a rhythm of going while I was asleep, but once I started leaving training pads out she always at least tried to go on them (sometimes she would miss). She navigated her way around the house by smell, air currents, and bonking her head into things. It sounds sad (and some people probably thought I was cruel), but my wife and I always found it funny because Tini never seemed the least bit upset of frustrated by her impairments. She was as hungry and mischievous as ever, always hanging around underfoot in the kitchen waiting for us to drop something.

That's Smitty's food in Tini's crate.
She had to carry it across the kitchen
to get it in here.

She was happy enough, but by the end, we were caring for her more than actually living with her. She spent most of her time burrowed into her blankets, fast asleep. My interaction with her consisted mostly of putting her outside and letting her back in. She could usually find her way back to the door, but sometimes I had to go out into the yard to find her. I made sure to cuddle her at least a little every day, but she couldn't lay on my lap any more because her breathing issues made her uncomfortable.

I knew the end wasn't far, but I always said that food was my clearest indicator. After seeing what she went through with pancreatitis, I figured if she would eat a whole bowl of food, she was fine. And that kept up right to the end.

In her last month, I took her to the vet to get some new meds for her breathing issues. She had brochitis symptoms that left her coughing a lot. The doc gave her an antibiotic and suggested I get her on allergy pills, which I did. Tini had a surge that last month, she was active, and her breathing issues all but disappeared. She got really skinny and bony, but I just figured it was old age, because she was eating plenty and pooping healthy.

Then, about three days before she died, her whole torso swelled up like a balloon, and her breathing was extremely difficult. I wasn't sure what was going on, but we already had a reservation to board her with our vet in a few days, so I figured we could deal with it then. We boarded her there whenever we left town, so I got in the routine of just getting whatever care she needed at the same time.

The minute I handed Tini over, the vet tech knew something was seriously wrong. Tini was having an incredibly hard time breathing, and her heart beat was elevated. The vet tech guessed congestive heart failure, and as soon as those words left her lips I knew.

I knew it would be something like that in the end. Tini was always overweight, and even when I had her as skinny as I could get her, her chest was always swollen with subcutaneous fat. She could never lose all of it. So I figured her heart and arteries would be the thing to get her.

Our vet's staff loved Tini. Tini was always a loving, social dog who took quickly to new people. She was my personal barometer for humans: if Tini liked them, they were alright. If Tini didn't like someone, I cut them out of my life immediately. That was half the reason I didn't like CL's friends.

Anyway, My wife and I were headed out of town for a three years belated honeymoon, so I left Tini in the capable hands of people who loved her, and resolved to make the inevitable decision when I got back. Just in case, I signed a release so the vet could make the right decision if necessary. They told me they would make her comfortable until I got back, and then we'd talk.

Two days later, when we were headed back into town, I got the call. Tini was gone. She had had cancer, and her liver had swollen up around her organs, which is why she was having trouble breathing. The vet decided not to let her suffer any more, and she went to sleep in the arms of the vet tech that loved and knew her best.

I'm sad that I wasn't there. There were a lot of times I wasn't there for Tini, but this one hurts. No that I regret it; my wife is the most important person in my life, and we really needed this time together. I wish I could have been there for Tini, but if I had to do it over again I'd make the same choice. Tini died in the arms of gentle, caring people who loved her, and she will always be remembered by me and my family.

Tini was a little weirdo. I'll never forget the way she loved to burrow under things and get nice and tucked in. She loved pig ears, Greenies, and other dog treats, but one of the weirdest things about her was her fanatical love of all fruits and vegetables. If you were cooking bacon, Tini couldn't care less. But if you cut up an apple, or God forbid bit into a carrot, Tini would lose it. She would trot past a pile of sausages to steal a banana from you. And she wouldn't just eat it, she would whorf it down in one piece. Tini was immortalized in song not once, not twice, but three times by my comedy-noise-rock band W.H.E.A.T. (We Hate Everything All the Time). Tini was everyone's best friend, a lovable little rascal, and the first dog that was ever really mine

Tini was an anchor when I needed one most. She was a dozen lessons I needed to learn. She was the Tean-Bean, my little squishy cock-a-roach, and I'll never have another dog like her as long as I live.


  1. Wow, Peter! She was a good pal to you through a lot of change and eventual happiness. I am sure she is running around in heaven! Love you, Aunt Sue-SUe