The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Baby Parker photo

I lied; I'm doing one more thing of value before heading back to my couch and book. A few days ago I re-edited one of my favorite photos of Parker from his first few weeks with me:

Other than a slight adjustment to the crop, some exposure and color correction, and a tiny bit of dodging around his eyes, I didn't do a lot. I think it's a better photo now though:

I expect you'll see quite a few Parker photos in the days and weeks to come.

We won, stop hyperventilating

Eight days after the country resoundingly turfed out the president, it seems people still have overactive endocrine systems. I understand; coming down from a stressful experience can take some time. But seriously, we have to take a collective chill.

The president will leave office at noon Eastern time on January 20th whether he believes he lost the election or not. Mike Pompeo, Bill Barr, Betsy DeVos, and every other Cabinet-level officer will go as well. I expect, in fact, that Biden will have an executive order prepared for his signature, and minutes after he takes the Oath, every political appointee in the current administration will be fired.

None of the crap coming from the president, Pompeo, Barr, et alli, has anything to do with the election. If you look at their behavior from the perspective of a medium- or low-information voter on the other side, from the perspective as someone just as wound up about things as you are but with less ability than you have to tell truth from fiction, it makes a lot of sense. Because all of these lawsuits, personnel shifts, harping about a stolen election—it's all a big fundraising effort.

These people are grifters. They're thieves. They're the most corrupt batch of public officials the country has ever known, and I'm including the Harding, Jackson, and Andrew Johnson administrations. And the president will leave office with $400m in debts that he has to pay back personally within a few months. I will bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that when his re-election committee files its disclosures later in the year, somehow a lot of the money the Republicans have raised post-election will go to pay some of those debts.

Maybe my feelings about Parker have depressed my ability to feel strong emotions about anything else. If so, it's one last gift he's giving me: an inoculation against the crazy that we will have to roll our eyes and live through for the next 70 days, 1 hour, and 11 minutes.

Quick Parker update

Parker has taken carprofen for about a year, 50 mg with each meal, to help with his arthritis and back pain. Starting yesterday I upped it to 100 mg at breakfast.

More carprofen meant less pain almost immediately. His walking pace improved about 10% today and he has seemed more active and more confident of his footing. He seems like the dog he was a year ago.

But at his body weight, 100 mg per day is the maximum safe dose. Carprofen, like NSAIDs in general, puts a lot of stress on the body, particularly in the kidneys and liver. At 150 mg a day, he would likely have noticeable and perhaps irreversible kidney and liver damage within a couple of months. Half a year at that dose could kill him.

So it's a bittersweet choice. It will make the time he has left more comfortable for him, but maybe a bit harder for me.

Update: Here's more information about carprofen, in particular that the recommended dose is 4.4 mg/Kg per day. Parker weighs about 25 kg, giving him a recommended daily dose of 110 mg.

Back to his puppyhood park

My ex and I got Parker in part because every morning we could see a doggy play group right outside our bedroom window. Here's Parker, 14 years ago today, having a great time there:

Today we went back to the same park. Parker initially wanted to go into the building where we lived back then, so I had to explain that someone else lives there now. Once in the park, though, he forgot all that and just strolled around with a happy look on his face:

Today was a good day for him, except for the parts where he pooped in his bed around 2am and in the bathroom around 9am. He seemed to have a great time sniffing all the old places he used to play. I suspect that he remembered the terroir of the park, but he might have remembered its appearance as well. And as I said, he definitely remembered the building. (Here's another post about the dog park, when Parker met the sweet Rottweiller who wanted to play a bit rougher than my puppy did.)

He's sound asleep now, despite the Roomba whirring around the place, and he's likely to stay that way for the rest of the afternoon unless the Roomba bumps into him. As good as today was, it's likely tomorrow won't be, as he really exhausted himself this afternoon. But we'll see. He's happy, which is all that matters at this point.

Geriatric wellness checkup

Parker had his semi-annual vet visit this afternoon. We decided, based on the doctor's observations, that Parker didn't need to have a flu shot this year. Nor did he need a blood test, or to have the suspected fatty cyst in his side biopsied.

I mentioned Sunday that he's going into the home stretch. Today's visit pretty much confirmed it. His heart and lungs are fine, and the doctor found no worrying problems anywhere else in his body, except for his spine. His German shepherd genes have slowly broken down his spinal cord for the last two years or so, to the point where he can no longer control his anus at all, and he's having intermittent problems standing and walking. Intermittent, however, is becoming regular. And regular will become permanent in due course. Right now he has more good days than bad, but the rate of degeneration has slowly increased and will keep on increasing.

I'm going to concentrate on the election for the next few days. After that, I might take some time off from posting regularly.

Parker on his 9th Gotcha day, 2015

The aging Parker

This will be a more personal post than usual, so bear with me.

The Daily Parker has existed in one form or another since May 1998—incidentally making it one of the oldest websites on the planet—and Parker has existed in one form or another since June 2006—incidentally making him one of the oldest dogs on the planet. He's not small, either: he weighs almost 30 kilos, and before he tore his CCL 2½ years ago he could comfortably put his paws on my shoulders and lick my face while I was standing. The shelter I got him from told me he's half German shepherd and half...something. (My vet at the time assured me he was 100% dog.)

I've always thought the "something" included some beagle, which would explain his longevity. Or maybe he's just had a really great life. For whatever reason, after 14 years, 4 months, and 10 days, he still eats like a dog and still recognizes hand signals, even if he can't actually obey all of them anymore because it hurts too much to sit and lie down. He still knows his name, he still learns new things (like how me putting on a mask means he might get to go outside), and he still says hello to all the dogs in the neighborhood who recognize how old he is and don't try to jump on him. He even says hi to the boxer puppy who tries to jump on him, come to think of it.

The thing is, big dogs don't usually live this long, especially German shepherd mixes. Because the thing is, Parker is essentially 100 years old. I hope I still have as many of my faculties at 100 that Parker has at 14½, because if so, I'll probably make it to 110. But I'm human; I can communicate precisely how much pain I'm in, and I can choose or reject treatment for whatever doesn't kill me before then.

Because the thing is, despite his cognitive abilities and how much I love him, he's not doing well. About two years ago he started showing signs of deterioration in his hindquarters. It was subtle at first: sometimes he tripped running up stairs, but shook it off and kept going. (This is how he tore his CCL, in fact.) Three years ago, we did our morning around-the-block walk in 8 minutes. A year ago, it took 11 minutes. Today it took 14. On bad mornings it takes 16. And some mornings, we turn back at the corner, because he just can't do it.

He hasn't wagged his tail in over a year, because he no longer has control over his tail. While he still has some control over his bladder, he has almost none over his anus. His nocturnal pooping has gotten so regular that I wake up several times during the night because I don't know if he's pooped while sleeping. He also has leg tremors in his sleep, so even if he's not trying to clean up the mess he made (which is why I immediately leap out of bed in those circumstances), he makes a lot of noise. He also has significant hearing loss, which lets him sleep like Rip Van Winkle no matter what I'm doing, but which also means he doesn't know I'm home until I start patting him.

You don't really notice some things until one day you realize they're gone. Parker no longer greets me at the door, because he can't hear me. He no longer wags his tail when I get home, because he can't control his tail muscles. He doesn't bark when someone buzzes my doorbell, because even if he hears the bell, he can't really bark anymore either. At least he can make really happy groaning noises when I rub his belly just right. Unfortunately, he can't roll onto his back to give me full belly access anymore, so we just make do.

Then, in the last two months, he has started losing control over his back legs to the point where he almost can't walk when he's fatigued. I took video on Thursday when he started "crabbing" because his right and left hind legs didn't coordinate properly. That was only 8 minutes into a walk, in the middle of the day. Sometimes later in the evening he doesn't even try to get up because he knows his legs won't be there for him. Other times he walks like nothing has changed since he was 10. But going down stairs has started to terrify him, no matter how strong he feels.

And yet he's still Parker. He's the same sweet dog he's been for 14 years. He still passes the same cognitive tests I gave him when I got him, though not as quickly. He's still aware of his world. He's still aware of me. He knows when I've dropped something edible on the floor from two rooms away. He knows how close I'll let him get to my dinner plate. He knows he's my dog.

So, I'm planning to talk to a hospice vet this week, after Parker has a routine semi-annual geriatric wellness exam on Thursday. His regular vet already has the video I linked above. So by the end of the week, I expect to have a plan for the thing I've always known would come but that I never wanted.

Ernest Hemingway wrote that people go bankrupt in two ways: "Gradually, then suddenly." That's also how dogs get older. Parker has entered the "suddenly" part. And the only good thing about this happening in 2020 is that the pandemic is letting me be home with him for every one of his last days. I just don't know how many last days we have.

Long but productive Wednesday

I cracked the code on an application rewrite I last attempted in 2010, so I've spent a lot of my copious free time the past week working on it. I hope to have more to say soon, but software takes time. And when I'm in the zone, I like to stay there. All of which is why it's 9:30 and I have just gotten around to reading all this:

I'm now going to turn off all my screens, walk Parker, and go to bed. (Though I just got the good news that my 8:30 am demo got moved to a later time.)