Tag Archive | German Shepherds

Lucky No. 7 on Friday the 13th (and some bad news, too)


Big little Zuzu turned 7 on Friday the 13th – a lucky day for us.

Ah, me. I’ve been very remiss with The Lolly Diaries. So much going on, so much energy expended with the resistance, and so many appointments with Mother, partly because of a new serious new wrinkle in the fabric of our lives. And we’re still reeling a bit from the gaping hole left in our household by Tess’s departure, especially Zu. (She will get a baby sister for an early Christmas present – we hope she’s happy about that.)


Zuzu has just never loved opening presents, as all our other dogs have. But she was intrigued by what might be inside.

I grieve for our country, and for the first time in my life, I start each day wondering what fresh new hell that man occupying the White House hath Twitter-wrought. But this is supposed to be a politics-free zone (my Twitter account is another story), so I’ll move on to other topics, mainly Mother’s newly diagnosed condition.

For tortuous weeks we’ve awaited a diagnosis, since we discovered in July, shortly after she turned 82, that Mother is losing her vision at an alarming rate. Now we know she has auto-immune retinopathy, which, in layman’s terms, means her body is rejecting her retinas. This is in addition to, and not caused by, her rheumatoid arthritis. AIR, as it’s called, is very, very rare – that’s how we do things in this family. No treatment for Mother, so we’ll just ride it out.

Of course she can’t drive anymore, but we’re making do. Wednesday she had back-to-back doctor’s appointments and my battery died in her garage (!), so she had her first Uber rides. She is a remarkably resilient woman – a wonder to behold. She intends to keep painting, though she’ll probably have to go rather impressionistic or abstract from now on. I just got her two packs of playing cards for the visually impaired, since she’s still in at least two bridge clubs and will host one at her house Thursday.

And fortunately and fortuitously (or maybe nothing’s by chance), my daughter finished her master’s degree this spring in orientation and mobility for the blind, so Mother has someone who loves her and looks like her to help her adapt as her vision worsens. We’re hoping it will go slowly. It’s already gone so far.

John and I did get away for two fabulous weeks in Sicily and Southern Italy last month, which I’ll talk about another time. I turned 62 in Marsala – a good place since it’s hard to feel old an area formerly populated by Phoenicians.


That’s me looking through a street in old Pompeii toward Vesuvius. John, who took this photo, said he loves the juxtaposition of the little modern woman looking down a road to the past at the same distant view the ancients saw – I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the drift. (The three random black dots were permanent fixtures on the camera lens of his old iPhone, which he just replaced.)



Good girl gone

Tess about 4 years ago.jpeg

One of my favorite pictures of Tess, from three or four years ago. She loved a camera and cameras loved her. Her eyes were still amber then.

If anyone ever tells you that losing pets gets easier with time, they’re lying, especially if you have to make the ultimate decision for them. Over 42 years, I’ve had the great luxury of only having five dogs – they’ve all lived very long lives for their sizes, and many of those years we were a two-dog family. Trigger, who lived to be 12, came home with me when I was 20. Our beloved Tess came home with my sister and me in the last vestiges of my youth – I was a mere 49, which seems young at almost 62.

But never have I had the luxury of a dog dying in her sleep. Even little Trudy, who at 16 years and 3 months had a massive stroke, had to be assisted in her final exit. Tess, a graceful beauty – we called her “Barbie” for her delicate ankles and catwalk poses (but I also called her “Catfish” in her younger years for her silly, swishy walk when we used to go for miles) had dealt with neuropathy for a long time. She had her 12th birthday party in May, and things just seemed to swarm after that. Her dainty ankles puffed up and she fell more and more. But she never lost her sweetness or her smile.

Still a beauty.jpeg

Our gorgeous girl spent most of her time sleeping or resting the last few weeks. Our beloved vet, Tim Palladino of AllPets, made a house call so she could depart on her own bed. 

She so enjoyed our big family Memorial Day party, but she wasn’t interested in the hot dogs her dad grilled for her. She did really dig the Caesar salad, though, and cleaned the cheese grits pan.

When Tess was tiny and I was recuperating from a life-changing/potentially life-saving surgery, she stayed in the bed with me and patiently chewed on the corner of our expensive newish nightstand. We’ll cherish those little teeth marks forever.

She annoyed the heck our of Toby, who was 9 when Tess joined the family, until Tess was old enough to be her best pal. (Toby made it to almost 14.) She preceded grandchildren but loved, endured, and protected them fiercely as each came along. Zuzu is their buddy, but Tess was their guardian.

Only child.jpeg

Big little Zuzu will have to learn how to be an only child, at least for a while. She’s wearing Tess’s going-away lei in her honor.

Today we had a little memorial and gardenia-planting for Tess. I’ll close with pictures from that. My heart isn’t in this. It still hurts.

Pop planting.jpeg

Pop put the lovely bush in the ground,

Everyone Get Some Dirt.jpeg

then all the kids helped fill the hole with dirt.

Group effort.jpeg


The kids are happy to have a reminder of Tessie, but Sylvia, who said a few words along with Pop, wanted assurance that we’d never move and leave Tess’s gardenia behind. No matter what, she’ll live in our hearts forever.

Golden girl


Tess Among the Flowers.jpeg

Tess Among the Flowers

Today our darling Tessie is 12, quite a geriatric for a German Shepherd. She came to live with us in July 2005, when she was 8 weeks old and I was recuperating from a life-changing (and potentially life-threatening) surgery. Her tiny teeth marks are still on the corner of my very expensive nightstand from where she entertained herself while I snoozed.


Official 12th birthday portrait – she’s always loved to be photographed.

She’s still an elder beauty, a natural blonde, but in her early years, she was dark and her future appearance was a mystery, as is always the case with shepherds.

Tiny Baby.JPG

That face! That white-tipped tail (which she still has)!

Tess LOVES presents, so we started early this morning (early for her – she sleeps in most mornings and takes her morning pain medicine before she’s very mobile these days).


In action


Another squeaky toy!

In November, when Tess came screaming to us with bloat, formally called gastric dilatation volvulus – GDV – the emergency vet clinic wasn’t so sure she’d make it. We knew she would, and even though the vet was nervous, we opted for emergency surgery. Not only did she survive, she got to go home in record time. She was an invalid for a while, and she’s still terribly hobbled by neuropathy, her permanent condition.

A heartbreaker for us, but she’s still happy.

Party animals.jpeg

Excuse the blur – they were a little too excited.

We know her days are numbered – I won’t embarrass her by mentioning some of the indignities of doggy old-age – but for now, she still loves her family and the grandkids and still has her glorious smile, so we persevere. Her neuropathy prevents her from taking the long walks she so loved, and her glorious tail hangs down these days, still with its white tip – not from unhappiness, but from numbness.

But in our minds, she’s still the cutest puppy ever and still has so much to say. Happy birthday, Tess!

Cutest Baby Ever.JPG

Precious in pink


Whole lotta shakin’ going on

Today’s 90-degree heat coupled with weeks of accompanying Dad to two stinky restoration projects made this evening the perfect time for the first doggy bath of the season. Both big girls had a whole lot of shakin’ going on before, during and after their dates with The Furminator and the water hose.

The first step of the process was repairing the doggy door so I could insert the panel to prevent: A. Zuzu from running inside to hide and B. Tess scaring Zuzu to death by grabbing her collar to “help” us bathe her. They’d so warped the frame by crashing into the hard panel the few times we’d shut them in that it took some tweaking with a hammer to get it working again.

Furminating requires all-hands-0n-dog, so we couldn’t get pictures, but the piles of white undercoat were impressive.

The  process was to Furminate Tess while Zuzu watched, bathe Tess while Zuzu hid, let Tess shake then rub her with a beach towel – she likes that – then trick Tess into going in the laundry room (while blocking the younger one who desperately tried to get inside) so we could repeat the process with Zu.

Tess was frisky and playful post-Furminating, though she was pretty sassy during the process.

Tess was frisky and playful post-Furminating, though she was pretty vocal and sassy during the process.

Zuzu, on the other hand, was shaking and nervous while awaiting her turn but angelic during the procedure, since big bad Tess was stuck inside.

Zuzu, on the other hand, was shaking and nervous while awaiting her turn but angelic during the procedure, since big bad Tess was trapped in the house.

Tess promptly crashed into the hard panel trying to get back out, then commenced to complaining greatly about the indignity of being stuck inside.

Tess is pretty good when it comes to bathing, though she can’t help but shake and drench us from time to time. And unlike her sister, she understands that she needs to shake, and shake a lot. after a bath before going in the house.

Tess is an old pro at baths. Doesn't love them but tolerates pretty well now that she's 9.

Tess is an old pro at baths. Doesn’t love them but tolerates them pretty well now that she’s 9.

Zuzu, shockingly, was an angel for the whole process – comparatively speaking. Knowing Tess wasn’t watching ready to pounce did the trick. What she doesn’t understand is the part about shaking the water off – until she gets in the kitchen that is.

The floors needed mopping anyway. The cabinets, not so much, but hey …

Zuzu even assumed the German Shepherd show stance during her bath. What a good girl!

Zuzu even assumed the German Shepherd show stance during her bath. What a good girl!

Both dogs love bodies of water – we can’t keep them out of even a large puddle – and Zuzu never shakes after soaking. She seems to like to drip-dry. Black hair in the heat, you know.

Anyway, now the dogs are clean and we stink. Mission accomplished, old folks intact.

That’s a bigger achievement than young folks can imagine.

And, look - Zuzu has a waistline. Months of portion control - plus maturing into her 3-year-old figure – have paid off. Her coat is so thick and she's so big most people assume she's a male. But she's just a big old rowdy girl.

And, look – Zuzu has a waistline. Months of portion control – plus maturing into her 3-year-old figure – have paid off. Her coat is so thick and she’s so big most people assume she’s a male. But she’s just a big old rowdy girl.

And they call it “puppy love”

Early this morning Zuzu and I were in the living room — she playing wildly with assorted toys, me lifting weights. Suddenly Tess came trotting into the room and cuddled up next to my big red Thera-ball, from which she normally keeps a wide berth. Since I was pressing an 18-pound bar, it was a particularly precarious spot for her, and I knew something must be wrong for her to squeeze in so close. But when I asked her, “What is it, girl?”, she didn’t offer to show me anything, so I kept on with what I was doing. After a few seconds, though, I realized Zuzu had stopped playing, so I raised up to look behind me.

I wish the camera had been close by, because it was one of the sweetest scenes I’d seen in a long time. Big little Zuzu, the giant 9-month-old, was comforting Tess — lying beside her looking into her face with her big puppy paw resting on Tess’s foot. They stayed in that position until I’d finished working out. I started to go for the camera but knew they’d follow me, so you’ll just have to picture it.

Tess and Zuzu are quite close.

When I finished, I went into the kitchen and told John how Zuzu had been consoling Tess, but I couldn’t imagine what it was about. He knew the answer — he’d had an extensive sneezing attack, and the only thing Tess fears more than John sneezing is thunderstorms. Actually, they rank about the same.

Poor Tessie is phobic. Most of her phobias wax and wane with time, but the sneezing thing has been lifelong, as well as storms and the vacuum. (Oddly, if I sneeze, she runs to me to see if I’m OK. If her dad sneezes, she usually high-tails it out the doggy door, even if she has to run from the living room past John in the kitchen to get out. So this morning was a deviation.) That’s a sidetrack. The point is that dogs love each other.

When Trudy had to be put down, Toby grieved deeply. For two weeks, she wouldn’t get up in the mornings, even for breakfast, and food was definitely a motivator for her. It’s been almost two years since Toby’s been gone, but a couple of days ago, I mentioned her a little too loudly within earshot of Tess, and Tess’s eyes got wide, her ears shot up and she briefly looked for her older sister. Broke my heart.

Though they look quite a bit alike, Tess and Zuzu have totally different personalities. Tess, the thin, blonde, picky eater, has always been a worrier, and as such, she acquired prematurely gray hair around her mouth when she was quite young. Now at 6, she has a gray goatee like her human dad. She’s skittish about other dogs but loves human company. She adores babies (especially before they’re very mobile) and loves our 5-year-old grandson, Jude, but doesn’t particularly want to be near him when he’s awake.

When he spends the night, though, she guards him all night long.

Tess is in position to guard her Jude all night. She really thinks that bed should be for her, though.

Zuzu, on the other hand, is a big gallumphing girl who loves everyone, man or baby or beast. Jude is her best friend — they have a fort together in the bamboo at the side of our house — and if the babies are within reach, she’ll lick them silly. We often think she’s Toby reincarnated or at least channeling her. She “talks” loudly, especially when we come in after being away; eats almost anything, including salad and cardboard; and can’t rest until she’s used her big paddle feet to empty the large water trough in the laundry room. (All of which Toby also did, bless her.) She’s still a puppy and could mature, but I don’t think she’ll ever outgrow her exuberance for life. I hope not.

Zuzu at 6-months with her boy, Jude.

The other day, when we were all worn out and hanging out after the World Cup heartbreak, 6-month-old Annabelle, who can sit up like a big girl now, had Zuzu’s tail and was flopping it up and down against the floor. Zuzu never even looked at her. She’s a good dog. They both are.