Sunday, May 29, 2011

The State of the Pack

It has been a very hard and sad week. Also probably one of the longest weeks in recent history. We still miss Rudy every day. Our house seems so strange without him. On Thursday we got his ashes back and it was really sad.

The other dogs have had a really hard time, especially Mill'E-Max. She was with him when he died and she was very upset. So upset that she stopped doing hearing alerts in the home. I took her with me when I went to a doctor's appointment on Wednesday and she alerted then, but that has been all. She was also refusing to retrieve for the first couple of days but has now returned to her work as our "House Elf." I'm sure with time and some positive reinforcement, she'll begin alerting again as well.

There is some excitement on the horizon for Laveau and me, however. On June 17th, I'm leaving to attend the American Association of the Deafblind's symposium, which will be held in Ft. Mitchell, KY. I'm taking the train since my ears are too damaged to adjust to pressurized aircraft. The train will take about thirty-six hours each way.

On the leg of the trip going to Kentucky, we have a seven hour layover in Chicago. Yes, it's kind of ridiculous that I have to travel through Chicago to get from Louisiana to Kentucky, but efficiency has never been Amtrak's strong-suit. Returning to New Orleans, I have a Layover in Charlottesville VA.

I'm actually excited about these layovers because it means that I can meet internet friends who live in these cities, and because I always love going new places. We have a sleeper car from New Orleans to Chicago, but the rest of the time, we'll be in coach.
Ft. Mitchell KY. is right on the boarder and is very near Cincinnati, OH. I'm excited to see both cities. If you are in these areas and want to meet up, leave me a comment. Also if you are going to the symposium and want to get together, let me know and I can give my number for texting.

I've already started making lists of "must haves" and have gotten a new bait bag and some really tasty treats for Laveau to have on this trip. Now I just have to work out her food. Laveau eats a raw diet so this always takes some advanced planning. :)

I hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Doing the Math

In our house, everything comes in 4's, or in multiples thereof.

4 dogs
64 nails to clip
8 ears to clean and check
4 heads to count at bed time
4 cold noses prodding us toward the fridge for breakfast in the morning.
Treats and perfect bones and chewies all come in multiples of 4.
Flea and Heart-worm preventive do, too.
2 harnesses rest on the cupboard out in the front room.
4 crates are scattered throughout the house.
There are the 4 spots around the kitchen table, everyone has a place, and everyone in their place come meal time.
... and now it's not that way any more. We are suddenly counting in multiples of three. When you live your life in multiples of 4, multiples of 3 is so wrong and unnatural. I like 4, 4 is a good number. 4 means health and safety and family and that everyone is ok at home, with us, where they belong.
But now there are three. And three is a very small number, so much smaller than 4.

Friday, May 20, 2011

All About Rudy

I meant to write this post several days ago, but life got in the way. I'm writing it now because today I learned that life is short, and so fragile.

Rudy was found wandering in a strip mall parking lot. He was taken to an animal shelter where he lived for a month. In 2004, my husband, Mister Pawpower, was looking for a dog to train for his guide. We found Rudy on pet finder, and decided to meet him.
He was living in a small animal shelter on the north shore of the lake pontchartrain, and some very kind shelter volunteers brought him over so we could meet him.

I knew when I first saw him that he'd be a wonderful guide. The one thing about Rudy was that he was so full of life. He loved going, it didn't matter where, as long as he was going.

Training him was a very difficult job. Rudy loved to go, and he wanted to be the one who decided the destination. He loved looking down the perpendicular streets as he guided Mister Pawpower. It didn't matter how we traveled, as long as we were traveling.

He rode buses, streetcars, cars, trains, and airplanes. Getting the harness on him was always such a challenge because he'd get so excited he couldn't hold still. He loved it best when Mill'E-Max, or Laveau and I were traveling with Mister Pawpower and him. He had his favorite places, and while some of them, like Wendy's restaurant were logical, he also adored Walgreens. He could find any Walgreens anywhere. I've frequently said that Walgreens should hire Rudy as their spokesdog because he loved it there. He loved airports, and shopping malls, and the french quarter.

At home, he was a laid back dude; preferring to nap in a patch of sun on the floor or in his crate as opposed to chasing balls. His favorite treat was pizza, and whenever we would order out, he would wait patiently for Mister Pawpower to bring the box inside. Then he would give the pizza an "honor guard" all the way into the kitchen. He would start grumbling if we didn't share. He ignored every other type of food, but pizza was just too good for him to decline.

In June of last year, Rudy was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. He slowly, and very unwillingly began easing into a life of semi-retirement. Mister Pawpower works from home, so he was able to work Rudy on trips to the store, or the coffee shop.

Today Mister Pawpower was in the tub when Rudy came and hung his head over the side and began nudging to go outside. Mister Pawpower let him out, but when he called the dogs back inside, Rudy didn't come. In his younger days, Rudy was a bit of an escape artist. Thinking that he had had a relapse of judgement, Mister Pawpower began scouring the neighborhood for signs of Rudy. He couldn't find a trace of him.

He went into the back yard to try and locate the place in the fence where Rudy may have gotten out, and instead he found that Rudy had died while out in the yard.

It was very shocking and horrible. I got the call at work, and I called the vet to come while making my way home.

When I got out of my friend's car, I saw the vet tech standing there with Rudy's 85 pound body in his arms. I knew then that Rudy was gone. Rudy was the kind of dog who went places on his own four feet, or he didn't go at all. I've never seen him so still, and quiet in a person's arms before today. I ran up and touched him on the leg. I just couldn't believe he had gone.

When you live through a situation like this, all of the "what if's" crash down upon you with merciless force. What if I hadn't gone to work and stayed home and had found him in time to do CPR. And What if I had missed some kind of crucial signal that he was unwell.

Two days ago, Mister Pawpower and I harnessed up Rudy and Mill'E-Max for a jaunt to our local coffee shop. Rudy was just as thrilled as always to get up and go. He loved the coffee shop. He loved working and getting out there.

Our vet has examined him and has determined that he died of heart failure which is sadly, very common in larger breed dogs.

We are all at such a loss. He has left a huge gaping hole in our lives.

Go in Peace, Rudy Dude. You will always be remembered with love. May you run fast and free, and your road be ever-open.
Walk within You
By Nicolas Evans
If I be the first of us to die,
Let grief not blacken long your sky.
Be bold yet modest in your grieving.
There is a change but not a leaving.
For just as death is part of life,
The dead live on forever in the living.
And all the gathered riches of our journey,
The moments shared, the mysteries explored,
The steady layering of intimacy stored,
The things that made us laugh or weep or sing,
The joy of sunlit snow or first unfurling of the spring,
The wordless language of look and touch,
The knowing,
Each giving and each taking,
These are not flowers that fade,
Nor trees that fall and crumble,
Nor are they stone,
For even stone cannot the wind and rain withstand
And mighty mountain peaks in time reduce to sand.
What we were, we are.
What we had, we have.
A conjoined past imperishably present.
So when you walk the wood where once we walked together
And scan in vain the dappled bank beside you for my shadow,
Or pause where we always did upon the hill to gaze across the land,
And spotting something, reach by habit for my hand,
And finding none, feel sorrow start to steal upon you,
Be still.
Close your eyes.
Listen for my footfall in your heart.
I am not gone but merely walk within you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Laveau puts on a show, and other randomness

Sometimes school children take field trips to my place of employment. They learn about assistive technology, modified ways of completing necessary activities of daily living, canes, and of course assistance dogs. We had one such tour today. I was right in the middle of my speech about what a guide dog does, (I've affectionately named this the dog and pony show), when the fire alarm went off... again!

And Laveau flew into action, got me out of there, down the hall, out of the building, down the sidewalk, and across the road. We were the first ones out of the building. I felt bad that I couldn't explain what was going on to the kids, but when she alerts, I go.

It was a perfect "Animal Planet" alert and response! I mean picture perfect. I was so proud of her.

They are adding on to the building where I work, so lately there have been many fire alarms as they install, and test the alarm system for the new part of the building. I'm glad Laveau is responding so well, but honestly I'm ready for these alarms to stop ringing because it is extremely disruptive.

laveau has also made progress on her working retrieve. She will now put her teeth on the dumbbell for about 1/2 a second. She is about 80% about putting her teeth on the dumbbell without nosing, but I don't want to start adding duration to the "hold" until I get teeth grabbing 100% of the time.

Yesterday I went shopping for a new bait-bag and for treats. It took me three hours to find everything I needed. Laveau has a soft trachea and can only eat soft treats when doing rapid-fire clicker training, or when working. She also takes too long to chew hard treats. I think she's the first Doberman on record who actually chews things before eating them. With the option of hard treats out of the picture, I needed to look only for soft treats. Only my dogs are raw fed, and do not eat cereal grains. Laveau won't eat treats unless they smell meaty. See why that took me so long?! I'm excitedly waiting for my package from
<"Clean Run">
to arrive via UPS.
Shopping at this store always makes me long to build Agility courses in my backyard. I first need a large enough backyard for obstacles!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Dat Is?

Yesterday I was reading a story with one of my clients about football, or baseball, I don't really remember which since I'm kind of a moron when it comes to sports. I mean, I cheer for the Saints for football, of course. During baseball season I cheer for the Boston Redsocks or the San Francisco Giants. But I don't actually, y'know, get all into it and I am still trying to figure out the whole point of football and what is a 1st down, anyway?

My client is reading this story about a water boy who brings the players water and towels and such when they have a break, or whatever. Anyway, my point of my senseless rambling is that my client came across the word "Gridiron."
I have never seen that word before. The client was reading to himself and he had a problem identifying one of the words after gridiron. I start reading the sentence aloud so he can tell me where he is having a problem. Only I mispronounce gridiron since I never heard the word when I was hearing. As a synesthete, the way I pronounce unfamiliar words largely depends on what color they are. Vowels are lighter, as is the letter D. Usually words tend to end with lighter colored letters, therefore, it seemed perfectly logical to pronounce it "Gridi ron."
Uh... that's not how you say it. My client laughed at me and he told me it was grid, like a graph, and iron, like iron your clothes. Ok ok, I get it.

That evening I'm telling the story to Mr. Pawpower and he tells me that I am mispronouncing the word "iron" which is the way I have always said it like "I Ron." So he had to explain to me that no it's not said like "I Ron" but like " I Earn." So I'm practicing how to say it correctly because now I'm paranoid. Also I have to teach the ironing lesson in a Daily Living Skills class very soon, and I don't want to look like an idiot because I can't say words correctly.
This entire experience makes me question why a sports field is called gridiron to begin with because it's made of grass, not iron and I don't think it's shaped like a grid, or maybe it is and I just don't know.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Dish on the Dish

One of Mill'E-Max's jobs is to bring me the dogs' water bowl when it is empty. I filled it up just last night so I was surprised when she came into the kitchen where I was sitting, and jabbed the rim of the bowl into my side.

I grabbed the bowl, and headed to the kitchen sink to fill it. I usually fill the dish in the tub and she was not letting me fill it anywhere but the tub. She was still holding the bowl, and gave a mighty yank! So with me holding one side of the dish and Mill'E-Max the other, she walked backward from the kitchen, into the bedroom, and down the hall. She looked like she was doing a canine version of the moonwalk. She was making these gur gur gur noises and I could feel their vibrations in the dish as I held on to it. I was laughing so hard at the moonwalking and the gurring; I dropped the dish. She came around behind me with the dish and commenced to poking me in the butt with her dish in an attempt to get me to walk faster. Poke, poke poke! I'm sure she was still gurring!

Finally we arrived in the bathroom and I started filling the dish. She hung her head over the side staring at the rising water level.
She is a very impatient dog is our orange Mill'E-Max. Now if Laveau will keep her feet out of the water dish, maybe I won't have to refill it before afternoon.

I wonder sometimes, what do people who don't have dogs do for entertainment?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Energizer Brissy

This morning I needed to make groceries. I walked out to the front room to grab the harness and Bristol pushed her way between Mill'E-Max and Laveau, to the front of the line, and shoved her head through the whole on the harness. Ok, I get it; the Queen has spoken. I finished harnessing her up and off we went. We hopped on the bus, got off at the grocery, and walked around the store getting what we needed. She had a blast and one little kid kept pointing her out and saying "Hi pretty doggie!" It was very cute.

I decided to buy Bristol a new tug toy since tug is her favorite game. I got her this cat on a rope. The cat is blue and has spikes all over it. It is wearing purple shoes and a purple stocking cap.

I got home and let all the dogs out in the yard while I put away the groceries. Then I got laundry together and let the dogs inside when I went out to the laundry shed to start the wash. I came back in and noticed the dogs playing with the new toy which I had left on the table. Unknown to me, I had also left a whole chicken next to the toy. They left the chicken and took the toy. I should say that Laveau took the toy because it was in the center of the table and neither Bristol, nor Mill'E-Max can get up there. Laveau knows that she can't take food from the table, but toys? That's open to interpretation, I guess.

Bristol played 4 games of tug with Mill'E-Max, and 3 games of tug with Laveau; winning them all. Then she wrestled on the floor with Laveau, playing a game which I have affectionately dubbed "Growly Spithead."
I think Bristol is tired at last. I'm sitting at the kitchen table typing on my Macbook and she is sleeping under the table.

That old gal sure has a lot of energy! I may need a nap after all that. Unfortunately for me, I need to go hang laundry on the line!

Oh and one last thing. I can use AIM on my iPhone to make IP relay calls. It's like the very modern version of those old TTYs. While I was in the frozen food section, picking out ice-cream, I called my taxi to take me home. I figured out that if I brace my braille note and iPhone on the cart just so, I can make relay calls while walking! The person helping me shop was very distracted by my phone and braille display, though and almost walked by the ice-cream. LOL!
It's laundry time for me, then I am going to bake peanut butter cookies, because my kitchen isn't already hot enough. :)
Oh well, cookies will make up for it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hide and Go Seek

Today I was doing some obedience games with Bristol, Mill'E-Max and Laveau. We did some group obedience, and then played hide and seek. This involves me putting all of the dogs in a stay in a room of the house, and then go to hide somewhere and calling them to come find me.

I had them all on a sit/stay in my kitchen and went to hide behind the bathroom door. Once I was safely hidden, I called for them to come find me. Laveau arrived first, quickly followed by Mill'E-Max. I waited a few seconds, after all Bristol is thirteen and not as fast as the younger dogs. Bristol didn't come. I wondered if she had lost interest in the game and went to lay down.
I went through out the house looking for her. I'm deafblind and Bristol is deaf so she doesn't come to her name. I walked around the house stomping my feet which is the cue for her to come find me. I searched all of her usual favorite places, and nothing.
Finally I went back into the kitchen, and there she still sat, in a perfect sit/stay, waiting for me to call her to me.

What a good dog. I got in her line of sight and made the sign for "come and she trotted over proud as punch that she stayed even when the other dogs ran off.

Usually if we're doing group obedience, each dog has to wait until their name is called or signed to do the action. I might have all the dogs in a sit/stay and ask one dog for a heel. While the one dog is heeling to my side, the others need to remain sitting.
Bristol didn't think I had called her yet, so she waited until I had.
Man I love that dog! She is just fantastic.
I've once again begun training Laveau's working retrieve. We've gone about this in fits and starts for various reasons but I've decided to work on it again since I need it more in public now and Mill'E-Max is usually at home.

I think I may let the girls have a rest and then take them for a walk later.
On a random note, Bristol's eye drops fell out of a drawer a few days back and Mill'E-Max, for some reason known only to her, picked them up and stuck them in her crate. When she was helping me pick up around the house this morning, she got them out and gave them back. Sometimes, I wish she could talk.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lets Do the Smoke Alarm Shuffle!

Lately I've been experiencing quite a bit of vertigo due to my Meniere's Disease. This is an inner ear disorder which effects hearing, and vestibular function. In February of this year, I noticed a definite increase in vertigo symptoms, but being the big procrastinator I am, I took vestibular suppressants, and hoped for the best. The best didn't happen. I got tired of being stoned off my arse all of the time, and besides the meds weren't working anyway, so I took myself off of them. I'm scheduled to see my doctor on May 25th. She will hopefully prescribe more vestibular therapy.

It is a kind of physical therapy which aims to "retrain the brain" to accept the wacko vestibular system as "normal." I did it for about three months last summer and it helped quite a bit. Well, at first it made me sick as hell, but after about a month of drastically increased symptoms, things got a lot better. I'm hoping to go back for a second round. Until the therapy starts working, I'll be walking around, slamming into walls, and falling over quite a bit.
I use a wheeled walker in my home, but when I'm outside, Laveau does counterbalance work, and is able to keep me upright-- mostly.

Today was just another ordinary day at work. I was sitting across the table from my first student of the day when an announcement came over the PA system. They were working on the sprinkler system and the smoke alarm may go off. It was just a test, and we were to disregard it. In addition to being a hell of a walker dog, Laveau is also a great hearing dog. I taught her that when she hears the smoke alarm, she is immediately supposed to get my attention, take me out of the building, down the block, across the street, and then body block me from the building until the alarm stops.

With a hearing dog, there is no such thing as a "fire drill." Just like with a guide dog there is no such thing as "pretend traffic." It's a very serious thing, and even if the alarm goes off five times in a single day, Laveau is to follow her routine. I can't take the chance that she begins to ignore those alarms, because one day, it could save my life.

So there I sit, mid-class when the alarm goes off, and Laveau flies into action. before I knew what was happening, we were navigating the hallways swiftly and it was all I could do to stay upright. Vertigo, meet hearing dog with a mission. Down the hall, out the door, down the sidewalk, pausing a few times to brace me or to yank me upright. Cross the street, and stop. I wanted to throw up because all of the walking was making my world turn upside-down, literally. No time to puke because my dog just did a really awesome thing and I need it to be highly reinforced. So I gave her treats and scratches and let her jump up and give me a hug, meanwhile speaking to her in the high squeaky voice she so loves.

The alarm stops, and we go in. Thankfully I had explained the situation to my client, so she knew why I left her unexpectedly.

That client leaves, and a new client arrives. I give him the same song and dance about fire alarms and hearing dogs and bla, bla, bla. Which was a really good thing because someone in the Activities of Daily Living classroom burned the corn bread and once again! The fire alarm went off. and... Once again, Laveau and I were off, weaving down the hallway, out the door, down the sidewalk, and across the road. I was swearing through gritted teeth by this point because it took one hell of an effort for me to walk at all. We made it though, and we had more hugs and treats and snuggles.

Thankfully that was the last alarm for the day. My balance crapped out altogether on me this afternoon as I was walking home from the mini mart. I don't think I'm going anywhere tonight. Sometimes I feel like I'm at war with my ears, and right now-- I think they're winning. However it gives me great satisfaction to know that Laveau has ears enough for the both of us!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

All about Mill'E-Max

She is orange.
She is hyper as hell.
She is the smartest dog I've ever met.
She is stubborn.
She is devoted to me.
She is Mill'E-Max.

In 2003, I was up against a brick wall with Gracy, and her training. I decided to get another dog and perhaps let Gracy mature for a bit. I'd been tossing around the concept of having two dogs-- one who works inside, and the other who works outside. I decided that if Gracy and I got over our issues, then I would explore this thought, but if not, I'd keep her as a pet.
I met Mill'E at a Golden Retriever rescue. They didn't know what to do with her. She was, as stated above, hyper, yet brilliant. These can be troublesome traits to manage, when coupled together. Aside from my first dog, Rhoda, I had never met another dog and had an immediate attachment to her. It was that way with Mill'E, though. Her actual name-- given by the older couple who had surrendered her to rescue was "Miele" which is Italian for honey and is pronounced me-ay-lay. It had been shortened to "Millie" but I didn't like the way "Millie" looked because the "IE" letter combination at the ends of words is very displeasing.
See, this is what happens when you are a synesthete; normal things, like fingernails on chalk boards don't annoy you but certain combinations of graphemes will.

Therefore Millie became Mill'E because my name also has an apostrophe in it, and we matched. I soon learned that Mill'E did not do anything half-assed. She did it to the maximum. She then became "Mill'E-Max." I usually only call her "Mill'E" when she's guiding me.

Mill'E-Max was a lot of dog. I mean, she was hyper, flighty, had bad canine social skills, was bossy, demanding, clever, inquisitive, and even more characteristics which I could not list if I tried. She kept me on my toes, that dog.

She was attacked three times by loose dogs or dogs on flexy leads. She became very fearful and dog reactive. This was a problem. I loved this dog, and she loved me. She loved being a guide dog and I loved having her by my side. I began trying everything to "fix" the reactivity issues. From straight Koehler training, to Bridge and Target training, I tried anything I could. I read about reactivity, from both a training, and a veterinary behavioral viewpoint.

I noticed that clicker training, and the use of operant conditioning received the best results. Becoming a clicker trainer changed my life. It got passed all of the blame, and broke behavior down to its component parts for me. Many dog trainers, view a dog/person relationship in very adversarial terms. I frequently heard things like "Don't let your dog test you; they'll do what they can get away with." or "You've got to show her who is the dominant one, and be the leader or she will take advantage of you in an attempt to gain leadership." I learned that behavior is behavior. We, the humans are the ones who assign value to it. E.g. taking things from the trash, that is "bad behavior," where as walking nicely on a loose leash is "good behavior."

When I chose to become a clicker trainer, I had to take all of the adversarial, emotion-laden training that I had been indoctrinated to believe, and throw it out. Only then was I able to begin anew; establishing a training method built on impartial science and mutual respect.

I used clicker training to re-teach guide work. She learned retrieve, and tug based tasks to help with my other disabilities. Her favorite chore was the laundry, and she would empty the dryer all day long, if she could.

Mill'E-Max made great improvement. We worked fluidly as a team and things were going along in their normal routine way, when we needed to evacuate for hurricane Katrina. We ended up in Memphis, TN. and when the levees failed, that is where we stayed.

I didn't evacuate to Memphis because I had a support system in place; I evacuated to Memphis because it was the city closest to New Orleans which was not forecasted to sustain damage from the storm. I got on the last train leaving the city and my choices were limited.

So there we were, me, Mr. Pawpower, Bristol, Gracy, Mill'E-Max and Rudy in a strange city full of unknowns. There was not a day that passed that I did not thank the powers that be for Mill'E-Max. She was the rock to which I unashamedly clung. She remembered where places were even after going there just once. She navigated me through this strange city and was always there for me, no matter what. When you are in the middle of a protracted crisis situation, your brain doesn't work like normal; or at least mine does not. If you ask me now, to recall those first few weeks of exile, I won't be able to tell you much of anything. I was not myself, I was not able to be strong for my dog, so she was strong for me. She remembered where my hotel room was, where the grocery store was, later, where my new apartment was. She remembered all kinds of routs to all kinds of places. She sat through countless meetings for food stamps, unemployment, and FEMA benefits. We would frequently be in waiting rooms for hours, and the displaced children would flock to us. The stories of pets lost, or left behind fell from their lips, along with their tears. I was there to listen, and Mill'E-Max was there to lay a paw, or her head on a small knee and to look up with her brown eyes. She quietly lay close as their tears wet her fur. I will never be able to repay her for the gift of her steady patience during this time.

We eventually moved back to New Orleans and in March of 2008 she was diagnosed with advanced degenerative joint disease in her right knee and upper patella. It was devastating. We were both completely broken. She loved working and I loved walking along beside her at full speed. It was necessary for her to stop doing work outside the home on a daily basis. One of the hardest parts of choosing to work with an assistance dog, is putting their needs first. Even when it hurts them, and they would rather work, you put the needs of their physical body first. It was hard because as with Bristol, I couldn't explain to her why she was no longer taking long walks with me.

Thankfully, she was still able to do her indoor work-- retrieving, locating, and tugging. She loves to do these tasks and we've nicknamed her the "house elf."

One of Mill'E's jobs is to wake me up in the morning. One day, I decided to try and fake her out; what would she do if I wouldn't wake up? She tried everything she knew. She rolled around atop me, licking every exposed inch of skin. This didn't get a response. She then removed my pillow, and blanket. I continued to pretend to be sleeping, in the hopes she would leave me alone. Once she had removed all of the covers, she left, and I sighed, very satisfied at out smarting her. Or at least I did until she brought her water dish into the bedroom and dumped its remaining contents on my head. I do not try to fake her out any more!
Mill'E-Max loves emptying the dryer. I think she must have been a jock in her past life because nothing gives her quite as much pleasure as tugging a towel from the dryer, and then spinning to snap me with the end.
I miss walking with her. People would call out warnings when they would see us charging down the sidewalk. She would wait until the last minute to dart me around an obstacle in our path, but she never ran me into anything. She was very aware of traffic and I knew that I could trust her to stand between me and whatever was coming my way.

She will be 9 years old this October and she is still as full of zest and love for life as she always was.
When I first read the following poem, I thought of her. The author is unknown, but I think they must have had a dog like Mill'E-Max in mind when they wrote it.

I asked for strength that I might rear her perfectly;
I was given weakness that I might feed her more treats.
I asked for good health that I might rest easy;
I was given a "special needs" dog that I might know nurturing.

I asked for an obedient dog that I might feel proud;
I was given stubbornness that I might feel humble.

I asked for compliance that I might feel masterful;
I was given a clown that I might laugh.

I asked for a companion that I might not feel lonely;
I was given a best friend that I would feel loved.

I got nothing I asked for,
But everything that I needed.

Author unknown