Charlie and Lex celebrate a seat up front on the ride home from Camp Bow Wow.

It’s only been six days, and I hardly recognize Charlie.

In the time he and Lex stayed at Camp Bow Wow, Charlie grew almost to Lexie’s height. This, after gaining only 1 pound in the first month we had him. Matt and I slip away to Florida, and he experienced a massive growth spurt.

All of this fades away when I crouch down and pull Charlie into my arms. He wiggles and writhes, melting into a bumbling mess of puppy kisses.

Charlie hops off my lap and slides next to Matt on the couch. He nuzzles Matt’s ear, and Matt gives in, pulling him closer.

Oh yes, I think I recognize this pup. How could I mistake his gentle energy? His uncanny ability to love his way into forbidden territory on the couch?

Lex comes in close, and I lean down only to be intercepted by her gaping mouth boinking off my nose. I’m not sure about this move, but in recent months she’s taken to this awkward show of affection. I silently wonder if it’s a symptom of her dementia. She looks good, her eyes seem clearer than usual. And her energy level defies her 14 years; she even tries to play with one of Charlie’s tennis balls.

Matt said the reunion at Camp Bow Wow was emotional, with Lexie jumping up in his lap, then spinning in circles. It’s hard for me to imagine her this excited, but I take Matt at his word.

Getting them in the truck was a bit of work (Lex missed on her first try, and tangled her legs in the running board) but once they were in they staked out a spot in the front seat. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it also must make the memory grow fainter. The dogs are supposed to ride in the back seat, but Matt allowed them to ride up front for the entire 15-minute ride home.

Knowing this was a special occasion, they behaved, and slipped in a few puppy kisses.

I totally know these pups. How could I be mistaken? Upon returning, Charlie would sniff out the front room, then grab his favorite plushie toy from his toy box. And Lex would hop into her favorite spot on the couch. Matt placed their beds back in the bedroom, marveling at how they were returned in one piece (well, almost). He would later boast about how the staff members at Camp Bow Wow said goodbye to the pups, and how they told him the dogs were model campers. Awwe, proud mama alert.

Yes, I know these dogs.

I’d know them anywhere.


Leaving on a jet plane

I do not have peanut butter on my face. I swear. My finger, maybe. But not my face.

Lex is in her favorite spot, serving as a footrest as Matt sprawls on the couch. When she’s ready, she’ll adjust her position, relocating behind the pillow beneath Matt’s head. Sometimes she’ll rest her chin in his hand, for as long as he’ll hold it.

She’s Daddy’s little girl.

While Lexie’s recent ailments made me hesitate about going out of town, I know I’m leaving her in good hands. I’ll be gone almost four days, then Lex and Charlie will spend several days at Camp Bow Wow while Matt and I run away to a southern beach. It will be the first major vacation for Matt and me since we adopted Charlie.

When I’m away on Vacation Part I, I’m pretty sure the kids (Matt included) will have a blast. I imagine they will have late night biscuit parties, and Charlie may even sneak up on the couch for a snuggle with Matt. Of course, he’ll never tell me if that happens.

For Vacation Part II, we’ll have a front row seat watching the pups from afar via webcam. I even downloaded the Camp Bow Wow app so we can check on them through my iPhone. Ah, yes. I do love technology. Especially now that it connects me with my fur babies.

As I got ready for the first leg of my vacation, It occurred to me that I would like a photo of me and the dogs. Then it occurred to me that I would like to have them both kissing me in the photo. This was a problem, since it’s nearly impossible to get them to do anything in tandem.

But then I got an idea. An awesome idea.

I may or may not have spread creamy Jif peanut butter on my cheeks to inspire a canine lickfest.

I’ll never tell. But this picture certainly is worth a thousand words.

P.S. I just received notice that fellow bloggers Bella and Didi have honored Finding Furever with The Sunshine Award, for providing readers with a bit of sunshine and positivity. Super awesome!

Camp Bow Wow, interview day

Charlie and Lexie answer important questions during their intake interview at Camp Bow Wow.

Most pet owners know planning for a vacation can get complicated.

Now add a puppy and an ailing dog to the mix. To put it simply, I’m not anxious to hand them over to anyone.

Back when Lexie was younger, going out of town was easy. Sometimes even last-minute. I’d call a friend to check in on her and feed her once a day. With the dog door, she needed very little supervision. As she aged, and her anxiety rose, we started to use doggie day care or would board her for short trips.

Now Matt and I are preparing our first major trip together. On a plane, even! Between Lexie’s limited mobility and assorted medical issues, and the fact that Charlie is 100 percent puppy, we realized we would need to board them. On occasion I had used Camp Bow Wow in Ann Arbor for doggie daycare with Lexie. So we looked into it, and it ends up there’s a Camp Bow Wow closer to our house, as well.

Since Charlie had never been to Camp Bow Wow before, we made an appointment for an intake interview and tour. We were shown the cabin that Lexie and Charlie will share, their indoor/outdoor play area (monitored by webcams) and left the pups in a large playroom for their interview.

We were allowed to watch from the lobby on a large monitor.

Both dogs eagerly interacted with the woman running the interview, then different kinds of dogs with varying energy levels were brought in. Lexie mostly ignored them, and Charlie wanted to play. Afterward, I was told to leave them for a couple hours so the staff could figure out which play group to assign them to.

After grabbing lunch, I went back and spotted Lexie trotting at a moderate speed across the screen. Was that my geriatric dog? She looked great. And Charlie was running back and forth, his tail up in the air, the tip curled. Was he smiling?

Charlie takes a good photo.

I made my appointment for our upcoming trip, and received a welcome report on Charlie. Both dogs were assigned to play in the small dog group. That sounds perfect.

The guy at the front desk assured me they both did great, and will do fine when I bring them back.

I know they can’t wait.

Blood test results

Lexie in her favorite spot, soaking up the late afternoon sun.

Tonight the vet called to deliver Lexie’s blood test results.

Ordinarily this would be no big deal, but when the actual vet makes the call it’s obvious something heavy hangs in the air.

The good news came first: liver, normal; red and white cells in mid-range, normal.

Then she paused.

The results indicated Lexie’s kidney values are elevated, meaning she is in the early stages of kidney failure. I know this is common in elderly dogs like Lexie. But I also know this officially marks the beginning of the end.

The vet told me I would have to stop giving Lex the Meticam pain killer/anti-inflammatory for her arthritis because it will accelerate the kidney disease. She said I can give it to her for two more days, then only when she’s really in need.

There’s a chance this can be slightly managed through diet, but the vet suggested this was just the beginning of a rough road. She told me to watch for weight loss, lack of appetitie and diarrhea. I’m to make a return visit for more blood tests in eight weeks.

In the meantime, lots of biscuits and doggy kisses.

I detailed Lexie’s dementia symptoms, and how they seem to have progressed in the last couple weeks. My brother and his wife, who are visiting from Florida, have mentioned how different she has been. Most times, Lex looks through them, opting to stare off in space than to engage.

The vet said there is a medication that has proven marginal success. But mostly, she said it is a quality of life issue that I will have to evaluate on my own.

My heart is so heavy weighing all of these things.

Charlie has been the best little brother. He senses something is wrong, and has toned town his rough-and-tumble puppy play. By far, Lex is his favorite part of joining our household. He follows her around, and reveres her like a mother.

This afternoon Charlie has kept busy pulling out all his toys and testing the squeakers.

They all work.

NEXT: Touring Camp Bow Wow: Planning for a vacation when we have a puppy and an aging dog.