The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The world keeps spinning

Even though Parker has consumed my thoughts since the election, there are a few other things going on in the world:

And as I sit in my home office trying to write software, it's 17°C and sunny outside. I may have to go for a walk.

Parker Braverman, 2006-2020

Parker never told me his exact birthdate. The shelter said the six Pomona Puppies—Parker, Polly, Pepper, Petey, Penny, and Poppy—were 11 weeks old when I met them on 1 September 2006, so I just counted back to June 16th. The shelter also said Parker’s dad was a 40-kilo German shepherd dog and his mom was a 7-kilo beagle/rat terrier mix. My vet said a DNA test “would likely say he’s a dog,” so I never got him one. When people asked what kind of dog he was, I would say "black."


Parker's Petfinder mugshot, taken at 8 weeks

At the adoption event, while all his siblings climbed over each other and barked like they had just invented lungs, Parker sat in the middle of the pen, ears alert, checking out the room. He looked at me, I looked at him, and I was his human from then on.

When Parker and I adopted each other, George W. Bush was in his 6th year in office; Facebook was still four weeks away from public access; Fergie’s “London Bridge” was the #1 song; and we still had no idea how Lost would end. Parker weighed just under 8 kilos. He then grew half a kilo a week for six months and ate more than any creature his size has a right to. 


Parker explores the back yard the day after I adopted him, 2 September 2006

He spent the first few months destroying my couch and chewing on just about everything else he could get his needle-sharp teeth around. He spent the first year getting into trouble that never seemed to stick, because just look at him. He traveled with me, he hiked with me, he came to work with me, and he gave me plenty of opportunities to spray Nature’s Miracle on some patch of floor he'd christened.


Parker takes a nap on his 3rd day with me, 3 September 2006

And the walks. Oh, the walks. He stuck with me for a 9-kilometer hike around Devil’s Lake, Wis., when he was just a year old. Nine years later he led the way for most of a 16-kilometer walk across Chicago. In between, he walked to the grocery with me almost every week (2½ km each way), waiting patiently outside like the good great dog he was. I regret never getting him a FitBark. He probably got more steps than I did most of the time.


Parker surveys Devil's Lake, Wis., 22 June 2007

He and I spent about 5,000 of his 5,192 days together. The longest we ever spent apart was in 2009 when I went to London for 3½ weeks. He also spent more time in North Carolina than I did, thanks to a new job that required a lot of travel, but I came back most weekends. The friend he stayed with loved having him around so much that she got a dog of her own shortly after Parker returned to Chicago.

But Parker got old, as the luckiest dogs do.

A couple of months before his 12th birthday, he tore his CCL, the ligament that holds a quadruped’s knee together. He recovered quickly, but not completely, so our walks got a bit shorter, a bit slower.


Parker after TPLO surgery, 4 April 2018

With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, dogs die two ways: gradually, then suddenly. I can look back on the summer of 2018 and notice, in retrospect, that he lost something after the injury. A walk around the block around his 11th birthday took 13 minutes; on his 12th, it took 14 minutes; by his 13th, 15 minutes. This morning it took 16, and it’s a smaller block than before we moved.

There are so many “lasts” I don’t remember. I think he last barked in July. I think he last napped on the dining room rug in the spring. I think he last rolled onto his back for a belly rub over a year ago. I think he last played with a toy a year before that.

But I know he last went to day camp on March 2nd. He last stayed there overnight on January 18th. He last had a bath on August 19th. He last went to the vet on October 29th. He last rode in a car on the 31st.

He took his last walk at 3:40pm. 

He fell asleep for the last time at 5:34pm.

Over the summer, he started telling me he was done. I didn’t hear him—couldn’t, perhaps—until a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve stayed home every day, never gone for more than an hour or two. Parker slept almost the whole time, sometimes so soundly that he didn’t hear me coming over to him. He got extra walks when they didn’t hurt too much, extra treats when we returned to the house, and extra pats just because. And many of the humans he met over the years came by to see him, socially distant from me but all pats and kisses for him. I think he had a good final month.

For his whole life, Parker knew that whenever I went somewhere, I would always come back. And I always knew he would be there when I did.

Goodbye, old friend.


Parker's last walk, earlier today

Down-ballot races

As the counting continues in the states both presidential candidates need to win, and as Biden's lead continues to increase in Wisconsin and Michigan while he catches up in Pennsylvania, I should mention that voters weighed in on other races last night.

  • Every person bar one I voted for won in Illinois, including Joe Biden, US Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D), US Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL09), my state representative Gregory Harris (D-13), and my state senator Heather Steans (D-7). (Steans ran unopposed.)
  • Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL06) held his seat after his challenger Jeanne Ives came within a whisker of beating him. Meanwhile, extreme-right-wing dairy mogul Jim Oberweis' race to defeat incumbent US Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL14) remains too close to call; at this writing, Oberweis is up by 900 votes out of 375,000 counted.
  • The Fair Tax Amendment failed. It would have allowed a graduated income tax in Illinois and slowed the concentration of wealth here, and I supported it. Plutocrat Ken Griffin provided most of the money towards defeating it, mainly so he could continue to hoard the wealth he gained through skimming off the financial system.
  • A pair of billionaires succeeded in defeating Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride. Griffin contributed millions to this effort as well. (See a pattern?)
  • Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx won re-election, but not easily.
  • Mark Kelly won a resounding victory over US Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). Because McSally was never elected to the office, Kelly can take his seat in the Senate as soon as the vote is certified.
  • US Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) appears to have won, 52%-45%, denying us a pickup we had hoped for.
  • In Maine, US Senator Susan Collins (R) is 66,000 votes ahead of challenger Sara Gideon, and looks likely to retain her seat.
  • In Georgia, US Senator David Purdue (R) and challenger Jon Ossoff may go to a runoff in January if neither wins 50% of the vote. With 94% counted, Perdue is up by 3 percentage points, at just over 50%. Georgia's special election for Senate will also go to a runoff with Democrat Raphael Warnock winning 32% of the vote against incumbent Sally Loeffler (R).

In sum: Biden will probably win, but we won't know if we have flipped the Senate until January. When the 117th Congress sits on January 3rd, we will most likely have 49 senators to the Republicans' 50, with Warnock being our only hope of getting any significant legislation onto Biden's desk before 2023.

Holding our breaths and turning blue

Good morning! We're still alive, and I still think we'll win. So do both candidates, as evidenced by the president claiming victory overnight and Biden's firm "not so fast, Charlie."

The map of called races has not changed since the AP called Arizona around midnight. Nevada will eventually go to Biden, so the president needs to win 4 other states to win. Biden needs only 2. And since I finally got back to sleep around 4am, the counting has shifted Michigan and Wisconsin blue. And all evidence suggests they will stay blue.

In Wisconsin, with 95% of expected votes counted, and many of the remaining absentee and early votes concentrated in Milwaukee, Biden leads by 21,000 votes. In Michigan, they're still counting in the heavily-Democratic Detroit and Flint, and Biden has crept ahead to an 18,000-vote lead; the state believes it will be done counting in about 11-12 hours.

Pennsylvania has so far counted only 64% of the votes they expect to count, with only 58% counted in Philadelphia and 73% counted in Pittsburgh. Biden trails right now by 660,000, but there may be a million ballots left to count.

North Carolina has counted 94% and Biden trails by 80,000. In Georgia, he trails by 102,000 with 94% counted. Those states look like losses for us. But wow, what narrow losses, in states that haven't voted Democratic since 2008 and 1992, respectively.

It surprised me how little anxiety I experienced yesterday, but I realized it's because I'm sad about Parker. Who knew a good helping of depression could make a stressful time easier?

And here he is as a puppy, demonstrating the proper attitude for today:

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.

It's the end of October as we know it (and I feel fine)

Milestones today:

Also, this is the 600th post on the Daily Parker since last November 1st, and the 7,600th since May 1998. In each of the last 6 months, the 12-month running total has hit a new record, mainly because if I post once more today, this will be the 8th month in a row of 50+ posts. In the 22-year history of this blog, I've only posted 50+ posts 13 times, including those 8. So in future, when I look back on 2020, I'll have at least one good thing to talk about.

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.