obsessed with dogs

Archives: Health

On the receiving end of a pet therapy visit

At 4:30 today, I will finish my first week of interferon.

At 4:30 – a mere five hours from when I’m writing this – I get to walk out of that horrid chemo room and have two whole days without blood tests, IVs, a stream of doctors and nurses… just home with my boys! (Okay, the chemo room isn’t that bad. Everyone gets their own little cubby with a recliner, and they bring you blankets and drinks. But. Still.)

Though this week has been rough, rough, rough, I had an unexpected but pleasant surprise: I was visited by a therapy dog!

That scruffy little girl is Molly Brown, and she visits the oncology wards at the hospital where I’m doing my treatment. They have 25 therapy dogs, all of which are Cairn terriers and Westies because the woman told me they’re hypoallergenic. (I haven’t researched this, but… can anyone verify whether or not that’s true? I was thinking that she just meant they don’t shed, but when I looked at their pet therapy program, those are the only two breeds they allow in… thoughts??)

Anyway, when they wheeled her in I was super excited to have a dog there, a little fuzz ball I could pat for a moment. It was different from Emmett’s and my experiences because this little gal couldn’t walk on the floor – she was wheeled in the wheelchair – and her person had to hold her while the patients patted her. I wanted her on my lap! Boo!

While I was really happy to have a dog there, it gave me a patient’s perspective on therapy dogs, something that I never could have had as just a handler. I took away some thoughts for do’s and don’ts for the future, especially if Emmett and I ever work with patients getting chemo.

This hasn’t been an easy week, but having Molly Brown visit definitely helped! Well, that and my guys crawling into bed to snuggle me every day when I get back from the hospital!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

On dogs, love, and pawprint socks

Happy Friday, everyone!

I spent yesterday having my third – and final! woot! – surgery to get ready for interferon on Monday. For the first month it’s two hours every day, so posting might be even more sporadic than it is now. We shall see! Because I’m looking for silver linings and such, imagine how excited I was to see these were my hospital-issued socks yesterday!

Um, yeah, my giant feet need XL adult socks, but I was so excited about the pawprints I made John snap a pic!

Um, yeah, my giant feet need XL adult socks, but I was so excited about the pawprints I made John snap a pic!

Anyway, I meant to post this poem on Valentine’s Day, but the week got away from me… Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog
by Taylor Mali

First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Taylor Mali

Mali. Taylor. “How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­?887012-­?17-­?6)

Lucas’ big adventure

Lucas always has been our healthiest dog. (Since he has the most behavioral problems, we think it’s a fair trade!)

Who? Me?

The other day, he started to behave strangely, not his usual self. When he doesn’t feel well, he follows us around like a little piece of Velcro on our pant leg. He paws at our legs and cries.

Now, as an aside, Lucas is a barfer. He’s seen three vets over the years, and none found a reason for it… he just barfs, usually when he’s hungry.

All day, Lucas tried to “go” but just couldn’t. He’d get in position, but nothing would happen. Then he threw up, and it wasn’t his normal barf. (Sigh. Typing that sentence just now made me realize that, yes, I can identify my dog’s “normal” barf. Please tell me I’m not the only one?!)

That afternoon, he kept pacing. He wouldn’t settle. When he started doing laps around our living room, I went from worried to panicked.

I worry about bloat with him. He’s a big, active guy. Logically, I should have realized that it couldn’t be bloat because his symptoms weren’t particularly acute and didn’t coincide with eating any food or drinking any water. Plus, Cooper was at doggy daycare, so it wasn’t wrestle mania all day.

But when John got home from work, Lucas still couldn’t settle, and he started to drool. We called the vet, who thankfully agreed to see him even though they were about to close.

They did x-rays as soon as he walked in the door and found tons of gas bubbles and… something. A lump of something soft but without a defined shape. She gave him medicine to relieve the gas and gave us two options: surgery on the spot or come back at 8 am to repeat the x-rays. She said that if it were her dog, she’d wait until morning. (I LOVE when vets say that. It makes me feel much better about my decision when they contextualize it to their animals if that makes sense.)

So we decided to wait. Before he left the vet, she gave him a shot of an anti-nausea med on his back.

At this point, Lucas – our fearful, dog-reactive dog – had been in the waiting room with other dogs. He had been taken by a tech to the back for x-rays and held stretched out, crying, while they got the films. He had gotten pills and pokes and prods. As she was giving him the shot, he had reached his limit and bucked trying to get away.

Ten minutes later, John brought him home. He walked in and the first thing I saw was blood caked in the back of his fur.

When he bucked, the needle jabbed him. The poor guy was uncomfortable, had an upset stomach, and then was pouring blood. Since his stomach was still under pressure, he didn’t want to settle still. We bribed him onto his bed (thank goodness for canned salmon), applied pressure, and – 10 minutes later – it stopped.

We got him cleaned up, tucked in his bed, then we ate dinner and settled in to watch TV.

Every few minutes we’d check on him in his bed.

And that little bugger… After a horrid, stressful, painful day, he wagged his tail in tiny little flickers each and every time we checked on him.

Even though he felt terrible, he was so dang sweet the whole time. Yet another lesson to take from my dogs…

(By the way, he was totally fine at his x-rays the next day. She said that it could’ve been a chunk of food that fermented in there – who knew – or that he had been stressed or something, which can cause their stomach to stop working temporarily. It was a weird situation, but thankfully it turned out a-ok.)

Gentle giants (and a gentle pipsqueak)

Sometimes, these monsters just amaze me. I’m not as patient with the dogs as Maggie is. I don’t always think everything that they do is cute. Frequently, I get annoyed with things that they do, even though they’re just being dogs. Granted, the last few weeks have been stressful for me (Maggie, too, I suppose…) and I’ve felt a little stretched at times. But, for all of the barking, the jumping, the messes, the pulling things out of the garbage, the refusal to allow a new toy to survive longer than 20 minutes, every day these guys make me realize just how special and unique dogs really are.

Not once have the jumped on Maggie since all of this has started. Not once have they gotten too pushy with her, or gone after her medications, or the other items associated with her recovery. In fact, they’ve been nothing but gentle with her. I’m amazed that they’re still terrified of the vacuum cleaner while simultaneously realizing that they need to be careful around Maggie.

Any instances like this where your dog seemed to just know?

To update everyone, we got the pathology results back from Maggie’s last surgery. That set of lymph nodes that were removed came back cancer-free, which means that even though the cancer started to spread it didn’t get very far. The past month has sucked, but “cancer-free” did a pretty good job of cheering everyone up.

The post that’s only a little bit about dogs

I kept thinking that I wanted to wait until I had something meaningful or insightful to say before I wrote this post, but today it occurred to me: I got nothing.

Two weeks ago I got word that a pink splot on my back is actually malignant melanoma. Hence, only two posts in the last two weeks. Hence, I dropped off the Facebook and Twitter trains. Hence, the dogs are now allowed on the bed.

I entered this bizarro stage of inertia where time slowed to a stop, but I didn’t get a single thing done – other than watching TV and scratching the dogs.

We’re getting doctors and tests and surgeries lined up. Things are moving along, though slower than I would like. My big surgery is on the 23rd, and I realized yesterday that sitting around and waiting just isn’t me.

I’m not the kind of person to do nothing, so now I’m trying to catch up on everything, get ahead on work, maybe/finally post the holiday coupons I have for you guys, and so on.

Honestly, though, it’s times like these that make me realize just how wonderful it is to have dogs in my life. A pile of pups snuggled up in bed with me is just the thing to turn it all around. (Not to mention all the help from my amazing, incredible, fabulous hubby, friends, and family, too!) Right now, in fact, Emmett is splayed across my legs so I have to hold my laptop at an angle. Cooper is snoring right next to me. Lucas is usually here too, but he’s busy barking at the UPS guy right now. Plus, they still need attention, they need food, they need walks, and they need to play, so caring for the dogs has been a huge relief… just to do something normal when nothing else seems normal.

So that’s that! We’re trying our best to keep it light, focus on the positive, all those old cliches. If you know any cancer jokes, please share! Laughing is so super helpful right now!

In the meantime, snuggle your pups! These guys are the best doctors I could ever ask for!

Weight loss with a wag: 5 fabulous tips

Editor’s note: Ah, the season of indulgence! What begins with a candy binge on Halloween ends with a champagne toast on New Year’s. All the decadence and celebration can cost not only your waistline (or is that just me?), but also your pup’s (or are my guys the only ones who get a full Thanksgiving dinner?)!

In today’s guest post, author Peggy Frezon shares her five fabulous tips for a healthy and happy holiday season!

The seasons are changing and so is my weight…but not for the better! Diets are difficult to maintain in times of transitions. The weather changes and often, so do our routines. It’s more difficult to get out in the wind and cold, and maybe even snow and ice, to walk our faithful friend. It gets dark earlier. Snuggling up with a TV show or a good book after work seems more appealing than exercising. We may be more motivated to cook and try out some tempting fall recipes. And then there’s the holidays! What’s a gal and her dog to do?!  Here are a few tips I learned while dieting with Kelly that helped us stay on track.

How precious is Kelly?!

1.      Find new ways to get physical together. Walking is always good, but if you can’t get motivated for a long walk or hike, rack up some extra play time. Playing with your dog in the leaves is totally fun! And when the weather is yucky, move playtime indoors and fetch, chase or tug!

2.      Keep a before picture on the fridge or cupboard. When my diet motivation droops, I think of how far I’ve come. I’ve lost 41 pounds, and I don’t want to start back at square one. Looking at that “before” picture helps keep me from slipping up. If your dog has lost weight, too, why not add his “before” picture nest to the doggy treat jar?

3.      Make holidays about the people (and the dogs) not the food. We probably can’t get away without thinking about turkey and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, at least a little bit. But be sure to put your main focus on socializing with loved ones, counting your blessings and spending some quality time with your pooch. 

4.      Seek out support.  If you’re having a real hard time keeping up your good habits, join a weight loss support group such as Weight Watchers, or join the gym with a friend. Surround yourself with supportive people who will help you stay on your program. 

5.      Remind yourself that its good for both of you! Being overweight can contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, joint problems, and even some types of cancer…for both people and dogs. Losing weight helps us feel better.

Peggy Frezon is the author of Dieting with My Dog (October 2011, Hubble & Hattie). She is an award winning writer and regular contributor to Guideposts magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and staff writer at Be the Change for Animals. She blogs at “Peggy’sPet Place.”  Kelly loves her pink bunny toy, and chasing squirrels.

VCA Offers Free Boarding for Pets Affected by Texas Wildfires

I received this information today and thought it was important to pass along on a Sunday evening. Our thoughts are with the families who have been affected by the wildfires.

*****

To help those affected by the Texas wildfires, select VCA Animal Hospitals in the state of Texas (in and around both Austin and Houston) are offering free boarding for companion animals.

Austin-area hospitals:

VCA Ben White Animal Hospital
2417 W. Ben White Blvd
Austin, Texas 78704
512-444-7518

VCA Northwest Hills Animal Hospital
3426 Greystone Drive
Austin, Texas 78731
512-345-5067

VCA Tanglewood Animal Hospital
2110 Slaughter Lane, Suite 120
Austin, Texas 78748
512-280-0878

Houston-area hospitals:

VCA Tomball Veterinary Hospital
28800 Tomball Pkwy
Tomball, Texas 77375
281-351-5441                            

VCA Woodlands Animal Hospital
428 Rayford Road
Spring, Texas 77386
281-367-7553

VCA Spring Animal Hospital
1811 Spring Cypress
Spring, Texas 77388
281-353-5167                                      

VCA Ashford Animal Hospital
12633 Whittington
Houston, Texas 77077
281-497-3917

And then there were fleas…

Cooper and I returned home from BlogPaws on Sunday, both jazzed and exhausted! More to come about our experience, including tons of amazing pics of the dogs of BlogPaws. If you’re on Twitter, you may have already seen his road-warrior photo, but here’s my favorite Coop pic:

We also came home to unwanted visitors…

Lucas returned from “camp” with fleas. (He IS on Frontline!) There was a good discussion on Facebook about dealing with fleas, and we’re trying everything we can think of!

Have you faced fleas before? Any tips or tricks? How long did it take to get rid of them? All advice welcome and appreciated!! 

 

The Cooper story

For the past three weeks, I’ve been staring at Cooper.

It’s getting to the point, I think, where he’s ready to move out. “My lady is WEIRD,” is what he’s thinking. Because I felt like as soon as I took my eyes off of him, something bad would happen.

I am, in fact, aware that I’m neurotic.

Anyway! If you missed the last Cooper story, here’s the summary: He has horrible, painful, fur-falling-out allergies. We put him on an antihistamine. A few days later he started convulsing. We took him off the antihistamine. He kept convulsing.

Which brings us to last Thursday.

He had been off the antihistamine for long enough that it was definitely out of his system, yet he was still having episodes of tremors. His blood test and urinalysis from the initial exam came back clean. His vet decided to repeat the urinalysis and do a neuro exam.

So here’s where we need to pause the story for a quick aside: She’s doing some eye test where the lights are off and she’s examining his eyeballs with a bright light.

“Oh,” she said with a slight hint of surprise. Since I was already on edge, I had another cardiac arrest at her “oh.”

She flipped on the lights. “He has a hemorrhage in his left eye,” she said. She goes on to say something about the blood vessels are a good sign or something as she put drops to see if it had ulcerated. (Vets, I’m sorry. I’m probably getting these words wrong. I was very busy hyperventilating and only caught one or two out of five terms.) Then she said, “Does he crash into stuff?”

Um. Yep. So anyway, that’s unrelated to the allergies, unrelated to the tremors, but we did get an antibiotic ointment that we need to smear on his eyeball three times a day. So that’s awesome.

Anyway, he passed his neuro exam and his urinalysis was fine, so our vet called a neurologist to consult.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I kept saying over and over again, “This is serious. This isn’t nothing. Your head doesn’t shake uncontrollably for no reason. It’s not nothing.”

Well, turns out it’s nothing.

You know that saying that goes something like when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras? We were, of course, operating with that philosophy. He started a medication –> he got head tremors —> probably it was the medication.

The neurologist went through his info and came back with a different diagnosis.

Idiopathic head tremors.

Of course, “idiopathic” is just another way of saying “we don’t know what’s going on here.”

But it’s a genetic situation. It’s common in bulldogs and dobermans. It doesn’t have anything to do with brain function, organ function, disease, etc.

It’s a muscle thing. It just happens.

So after all that…. it’s nothing.

His vet doesn’t want him on the antihistamine anyway, which I’m totally on board with because it sort of makes me wonder if this genetic situation wasn’t latent, and then the drug kicked it into gear. I don’t know?

So unfortunately, he’s still suffering with his allergies, but now on top of it we have to smear eye ointment for another week. And I’m still watching him very, very closely.

He had one other bout of head tremors on Saturday night but hasn’t had another since.

I think that every single time it happens, I will have a heart attack. We’re going to monitor the situation really closely, and we have a great vet who’s reading up on the literature about the condition.

For now, though, I’m starting to slowly get used to taking my eyes off of him for short periods. I don’t want to stop watching for even a second, even to blink, because I’m still worried, though I’m also a little relieved.

For now.

Lastly, I chose to include all these cute pics of Cooper sleeping not because he sleeps a lot… He does, in fact, crash a lot as he rips around the house, wrestles and plays with the big boys, pummels bugs in the backyard, and so on. When he does rest or nap, I photograph it as evidence. So these four pics are the four naps he’s taken over the last week or so!

A vent on allergies and medical mysteries

I know I’ve talked about our struggles with Cooper’s allergies probably a dozen times (more if you count Facebook posts!), and this post is only tangentially related to that situation. First, though, a quick update: It seems he does have a food allergy, probably chicken, and the duck and potato food has thankfully cleared up all his stomach issues. His fur is still falling out, he’s still super itchy, and his eyes are faucets. His vet was thinking it was an environmental allergy, too, so two Fridays ago we started him on an antihistamine.

"I like to keep my lady on her toes!"

Which brings us to…

Last Wednesday, I was in the kitchen making my lunch. I saw movement from Cooper’s bed, and when I looked over, he was convulsing. I dropped everything and dashed over to him. He got out of his bed and started pacing around the kitchen. His head was shaking uncontrollably. I called John. “Something’s wrong with Cooper. I think it’s a seizure.” He said he’d meet me at the vet.

As I sped  drove cautiously to the vet’s office, he calmed down, and by the time we got there, he was wagging happily and smiling at everyone in the office. The vet examined him and decided to do a blood test and urinalysis.

Incidentally, that morning Cooper had eaten something green and gooey in the park. So, his vet seemed to think he might be having a reaction to something toxic, so she gave him activated charcoal.

For fear that this post is getting painfully long, I’ll sum up the next few days: Wednesday night, another round of tremors; Thursday, back to the vet; blood test and urinalysis came back clean but she suggested it could be a reaction to his new antihistamine so we stopped giving him that altogether; Friday night, another round of tremors; Saturday afternoon, another round of tremors and a call into the vet’s office, but his vet wasn’t in, so the tech just said to keep him off his antihistamine (duh); this morning, another round of tremors.

I’m waiting for a call back from the vet.

The particular antihistamine he started the Friday before the tremors started does have rarely reported side effect of tremors. It seems likely that that was causing the issue, but he’s been off it for almost 6 full days now but is still experiencing the tremors.

On top of that, without taking any allergy medicine, his eyes and skin are a mess, and he’s incredibly itchy.

There’s no real point to this post, I suppose, except to vent. It’s killing me that he’s so miserable from his allergies and this head tremor thing is terrifying. Each time it happens, my heart stops and my hair gets a little bit grayer.

Has anyone experienced anything like this before?