The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

Three months ago, we adopted Jedi who was promptly renamed Ziggy. Here he is, on the day we adopted him, while we were filling out the paperwork.



We were told he was probably two years old1, and his slight limp was probably from his horrible maltreatment or a previous injury. He was treated incredibly badly, you see. Found chained up outside, with no hair from his shoulders back due to a rampant flea infestation, he was not, shall we say, loved. Until he came to us.

He came to us and found rather too much love in the shape of the #geekling who struggled to adjust her level of affection from Labrador to fragile Terrier mix. But still, it was love.

Over time, he started to limp a little more, to walk hunched, and to occasionally cry in his sleep. The vet suggested a slipped disc, we tried anti-inflammatory medication, and that seemed to relieve a little of the symptoms, but then it came back. His gait became much more awkward and he started shuffling, so we went to a specialist who dropped him into an MRI with a view to operating to repair the slipped disc. He instead found a mass on Ziggy’s spinal cord. A meningioma, actually, but details aren’t all that important. The specialist declined the opportunity to operate and instead referred us to a neurosurgeon.

Today, the neurosurgeon operated to remove the mass. He was in surgery for around six hours but the surgeon believes she removed it all. She expressed surprise at the size of the mass, and noted that his spinal cord is not in the best of conditions. Well, whose would be after being compressed 75%. Yet again I find myself amazed at the resiliency of the dog. With half that compression we wouldn’t be walking and there he was trying to jump up on things still2.

And now I’m sitting, waiting. Waiting to hear if his spinal cord is in good enough shape to allow him to breathe off the ventilator. Waiting to hear if he overcomes that challenge whether he’ll be walking at all. Waiting to hear if we still have a Ziggy.

Update (2015.05.29): Ziggy is off the ventilator and breathing on his own. Tomorrow we’ll find out if he’s able to walk.

Update (2016.01.06): Six months later, and not only is he walking and running, but he is more affectionate than he was before. I can only assume that he was in more pain or discomfort than we realised. Here’s to a lot more Ziggy in our lives.


  1. Uh-huh, and I’m still 28
  2. Failing spectacularly, but trying

Happy Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Day

It’s Muttville Senior Dog Rescue Day in the City of San Francisco.

As a failed foster parent of a Muttville rescue 1 I can’t recommend or praise Muttville highly enough for the work they do with senior dogs who have been abandoned by their families.

Rescuing a senior dog can be fraught with difficulty as they often come with problems, but it can also be extremely rewarding as all they really want is warmth, love, and food 2. Muttville recognises this and works hard with their volunteers and foster families to find homes for these forgotten old pooches.

It is wonderful that the City of San Francisco has chosen to celebrate and recognise their hard work, and I’m proud to be a part of the Muttville community.

  1. Failed as in I ended up adopting the little bugger.
  2. And shoft toilet paper, if Cohen is to be believed.

Goodnight Eddie

When I last wrote about Eddie, it ended up being the day that I let him go. It had been a rough two weeks for him, and as much as I wanted to believe that he was going to get better any day, he wasn’t. I saw the x-ray images. I saw how much he was quietly suffering.

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The Big Blue C

I was fine when he said it was cancer. I was still fine when we discussed different types of cancer and the prognosis for each. I was even fine when we discussed the relative merits of compassionate euthanasia. What got me was this line in the printed client instructions:

Indulge him in whatever he wants. Do not hesitate to take him to the park in the sunshine.

What a guy! Makes you cry. Und I did.

Eddie is ill. This should not be a surprise; he is, after all, fifteen years old which is a fair stretch for a dog. What is a surprise is the suddenness with which his illness has affected him.

We always knew about the  swollen liver, the heart murmour, the chronic ear infection, and the hardening retinas, but when he stopped eating and started being visibly ill every day, it was clear something else had gone wrong. After a spate of blood tests, it seems he has liver/gall bladder disease, pancreatitis, and cholangiohepatitis. If that sounds scary, well it is.

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The dog police, part 3

Part 1 here, and 2 here.

It was during the recent hearing that I realised how important it is to me that the system works. I had to trust that the process would result in a positive outcome for my family and show the complainant up for what he is: A bombastic thug. It wasn’t easy to do this, to put so much trust in a system that is often reported as broken. There are so many stories of innocent animals and owners being wrongly accused and of the system failing them, breaking up families. There was no certainty that this would not be the case for me.

I was reassured in the weeks leading up to the hearing that everything would work out just fine by everyone that knows Oliver, even by officers involved with the case, but the spectre of doubt was hanging around. Paranoia set in with me starting to think that the officers reassuring me had ulterior motives; perhaps they wanted me underprepared to make their jobs easier.

The hearing itself would have been a farce if it wasn’t so potentially serious. The complainant tried to persuade the hearing officer that we were abusing Oliver; that it was cruel to keep a hunting dog cooped up in an apartment all day; that we’d done something to cause this dog to have a psychological break. Thanks to being a pair of obsessives, we had a stack of paperwork and references showing how well cared for Oliver is, and how much exercise he gets every day. Not to mention statements from experts regarding his personality.

The complainant (and I’m trying very hard to not refer to him with more unrefined language) really showed his hand when asked what he wanted the court to do. To give a little context, the previous two cases had centred on dogs attacking people and other dogs; biting and causing harm that required medical attention. In those cases, the complainants had asked for formal warnings, enforced training, and were clearly there to give the dog owners a wake-up call. In our case, we have someone claiming that our dog lunged at him (though he did say that Oliver was going to escalate to killing or maiming someone. Really). He didn’t claim injury, or that he was attacked, just lunged at.

When asked what he wanted, he said that Oliver should be registered as vicious and dangerous and taken away from us as we’d clearly caused this. Even now, four weeks later, even writing this down still makes me angry. At the time, I was fuming and upset and it took every ounce of control not to lose it completely.

Well this story is long enough already so I’ll wrap it up quickly: It was clear the hearing officer was not impressed with the complainant and since the hearing we voluntarily went to an animal behaviouralist just to be covered if this miserable git (oops) tries anything in the future. 

I still don’t have the final result of the hearing, but I’m 100% sure it will be a positive result for Oliver.

Not that it matters: The blustering old bastard moved out. I guess the system does work.

Update: I just received the decision and it’s official: Oliver is not vicious or dangerous, and now he has the paperwork to prove it.

The dog police, part 2

Part 1 here.

And as I said at the end of that, it’s not over yet.

After the last incident, I sent a friendly letter to our neighbourhood git suggesting politely that we might be adult about things and have a conversation about his issues with living next to Oliver. Failing that, perhaps we could reach an agreement regarding our mutual behaviour and avoid each other at all times.

I did not receive a reply.

Instead, I was told by another neighbour that the police had once again been at my apartment as they were called out regarding a vicious attack claim. Being the conscientious young man (read geek) that I am, I started reading about dog law.

31602. ‘Potentially dangerous dog’ means any of the following: (a) Any dog which, when unprovoked, ontwo separate occasions within the prior 36-month period, engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury when the person and the dog are off the property of the owner or keeper of the dog. (b) Any dog which, when unprovoked, bites a person causing a less severe injury than as defined in Section 31604. (c) Any dog which, when unprovoked, on two separate occasions within the prior 36-month period, has killed, seriously bitten, inflicted injury, or otherwise caused injury attacking a domestic animal off the property of the owner or keeper of the dog.

31603. ‘Vicious dog, means any of the following: (a) Any dog seized under Section 599aa of the Penal Code and upon the sustaining of a conviction of the owner or keeper under subdivision (a) of Section 597.5 of the Penal Code. (b) Any dog which, when unprovoked, in an aggressive manner, inflicts severe injury on or kills a human being. (c) Any dog previously determined to be and currently listed as a potentially dangerous dog which, after its owner or keeper has been notified of this determination, continues the behavior described in Section 31602 or is maintained in violation of Section 31641, 31642, or 31643.

By these definitions, Oliver is not even a potentially dangerous dog, let alone a vicious dog. I should remind the reader that the gentleman bringing these claims is a lawyer and really should know this stuff.

I should also reiterate that I only know of two occasions when I’ve even seen the neighbour, and he and Oliver never had contact.

Anyway, legal technicalities aside, I have been summoned to a hearing to determine if Oliver poses a danger to society. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad that a person can be so bitter, so angry at the world, that he’d rather take the time to file a claim and go to a hearing than just sit down and have a conversation.

So here I am preparing evidence of Oliver’s temperament and pulling up logs of email conversations with my building manager, all to satisfy the whim of some twisted old coot with too much time on his hands. I just hope he realises the seriousness of his actions; that someone who is less prepared and less conscientious might have their dog destroyed, just because he doesn’t like them. I can only, in my optimistic outlook, assume that he really doesn’t understand what a dog means to an owner. How they are part of the family just as much as a child would be.

The alternative, that he understands exactly what he’s doing and is pursuing this nonsense with vindictiveness and determination, is too awful to comprehend.

The dog police

It’s been a while since I’ve had any juicy stories to post, and this is a doozy. First, as always, a little background.

In the first week in this new apartment, I had an interaction with my new neighbour. He was halfway down the corridor outside my apartment, I was at the door. We were a good four metres apart. Oliver, being Oliver, strained at his leash to say ‘Hi’ to this new person. He didn’t bark, he didn’t growl, he may have panted excitedly. A few days later, we received word that an official complaint had been entered against our aggressive dog. This is Oliver we’re talking about.

I felt briefly outraged before putting it down to some childhood experience he’d had with a dog, and resolved to stay out of his way. A few days later we were vindicated as the building manager finally met Oliver and spent some time cooing over him before apologising for the misunderstanding.

Cut to today.

Between then and now, the only glimpses I’ve had of this neighbour have been as he’s been arriving or leaving in his car; there has been no interaction between us at all. Today, as myself and Mirto entered the building with Oliver and Eddie, we saw our neighbour and his wife entering the other end of the lobby. Being the considerate sorts, we stayed at the entrance to allow them to enter the elevator first.

Instead, the neighbour walked towards us in an aggressive manner before dropping some files he was carrying on a bench that runs along the side of the lobby. At this, Oliver reacts quite normally for a dog by barking. Once. Please note that he didn’t stand up, strain at his leash, growl, snarl, snap, slobber or bite. He barked. Once.

Our neighbour uttered a phrase that is about as diplomatic a conversation starter as assassinating Archduke Ferdinand:

“You should put a muzzle on that thing.”

If you don’t own a dog, that may seem like a reasonable suggestion. If you do, however, that’s akin to telling a parent to muzzle their screaming baby. I responded by telling him he was being ridiculous at which point I was informed that if I did not muzzle him, he would report my dog as aggressive.

It’s worth an aside here to note how fearsome this threat is. The power to have a government service swoop in and take a dog from an owner parallels that of having social services swoop in to take a child into care. It is a very powerful threat and should never be used lightly to a dog owner.

Sadly, at this point I lost my temper and called him an arsehole. Not my finest hour, I’ll admit, and I instantly regretted it. Well, almost instantly. First I told his wife she should muzzle her husband.

Anyway, once upstairs I realised I’d crossed a line and decided to apologise immediately. As they exited the elevator I stepped out of my apartment and offered my sincere apologies for swearing at and insulting him. I was told most emphatically that the apology was not accepted and to get lost.

Just as the initial shock of the altercation was dying down, we had some friends arrive and, three-and-a-half hours and a bottle of wine later had mostly forgotten about the incident, or at least had relegated it to the frustrating and disappointing folder.

Then it was time for the nightly walk so we left the apartment and went down to the lobby to find, wait for it, the neighbour, his wife, and two police officers. As we walked through them, I willed Oliver to be on his best behaviour and he was a shining example of well-mannered dogginess. As we got to the front door, I heard “That’s them, officer” and stifled a chuckle at the cliche.

Turning around, I was ushered outside by an officer who asked me to stay around to give my statement. I expressed my surprise and made it clear I wasn’t sure exactly what horrible crime I was meant to be describing, and he made it clear that he didn’t know why he was there either. Skipping the gory details, twenty minutes later the police were driving away as baffled as we were about their inclusion in this tale, and I’m now trying to shrug the whole thing off as the result of a sad little man feeling scared and not knowing how to deal with it.

I have a feeling this is not over yet.

Homeward bound

After a late night with the Watchmen last night (I won’t bore you with another review, but it was everything I hoped it would be) we woke late in a mad panic to get to the vet appointment we’d booked foolishly early. Oliver’s all good, but has an ear infection that needs to be monitored.

While we were waiting for results to come back for a swab, a young man came in with a beautiful fluffy pup. The pup looked like a healthy young thing so it was a surprise to learn that he was fifteen. His owner went to speak to one of the vets in attendance. I didn’t hear what he said, but the vet stated clearly “I can’t do that.”

Myself and Mirto looked at each other as we’d both heard it, and had reached the same conclusion: Had the owner just asked for this sweet, healthy looking pup to be euthanised? Our fears were realised when the owner left without the pooch some minutes later.

Mirto was brave enough to ask after the pooch, and indeed that’s what the owner had asked. Apparently, the reasoning is that he has a tendency to pee in the house. Now I don’t know about you, but that made me surprisingly angry. I can’t presume to know the full background to this family’s story, and I must hope that the decision was not taken lightly, but when that’s the reason you give, I’m glad that you’re handing the dog over to someone else. I’m also cheered that we have a vet who is unwilling to euthanise and instead had decided to contact rescue services to try to find a willing new owner to take care of this distinguished little man.

We talked and made it clear to the staff that we’d be interested in taking on the challenge of fostering and possibly adopting Eddie the PBGV. We’re now awaiting the tests that are being done to ensure that he’s not seriously ill, and might have a new addition to the family this week.

To be clear, this is not something that we’re entering into lightly. We’ve talked about fostering and adopting a pup who needs our love for a while, and this just seems to be a great opportunity to give a home to someone who needs one. We’ll find out in the next couple of days if Eddie will be homeward bound.