obsessed with dogs

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Do you have a pet care emergency plan?

Several weeks ago I had a reaction to one of my many medicines and landed in the emergency room in the middle of the night. (Stupid cancer.) Thankfully, my mom was able to make the hour-and-a-half drive down to help me and take care of the boys.

Emmett is busily researching emergency preparedness.

That experience, combined with the heartbreak of watching people across the country dealing with fires, floods, and more, got me thinking about my pet care emergency plan. Do you have one?

Some things I’m thinking about:

  • I have fabulous pet sitters who my guys know really well. In an emergency, I know I could count on them and that the boys would be comfortable and happy with them. If you don’t have a pet sitter or boarding facility lined up, consider arranging something in advance so in case of emergency, your pup isn’t meeting a new person or going to a new place.
  • Beyond professionals, or for an odd time of day, I know I can call my mom and my wonderful next-door neighbors anytime, day or night. Although, I asked them both if that was okay first – not everyone wants a midnight call.
  • For additional preparedness, consider making an emergency kit for your car that contains a little food, leashes for each pet, and a photocopy of their shot records. If you’re ever in the unfortunate situation of being evacuated, you’ll be ready to go – with your pets.

I’m sure I’m skipping over a lot of things you can do to have a solid pet care emergency plan. What am I missing? Do you have a plan in place? 

This was supposed to be a Wordless Wednesday post

Whew, have I been tired! This is an outward reflection of how I feel on the inside:

If I were to perform my exhaustion in some sort of interpretive dance, it might look something like this:

The bottom line? I’m learning that I can’t keep up right now and – here’s the hard part for me – that’s okay. I’m trying to let go, at least a little. I’ve been watching TV (umm… how did I miss Gilmore Girls when it was on originally?! The show is fab!) and snuggling the pups. I’ve been reading blogs and clicking around on Pinterest, but I can’t get up the energy to actually comment, post, or write.

But I wanted to stop in and say hello! I also wanted to post these sleepy, snuggled-up pics for Wordless Wednesday, but I somehow missed the entire day. Ah, well.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Idiopathic head tremors

If you’ve been reading for a while, you might remember when Cooper first experienced his head tremors. I thought it was a seizure. It was horrifying and scary, but after tons of tests and a consultation with a veterinary neurologist, the diagnosis was “idiopathic head tremors.” In other words: his head shakes, but we don’t know why.

It doesn’t seem to cause him pain. He seems a bit disoriented during the tremor, but then he’s totally fine immediately after. I can usually distract him out of it by asking for some very basic behaviors (sit or high five) and doling out treats. I noticed that he tries to get it to stop by turning his head all the way to the right and holding completely still.

We’ve tracked the tremors – time of day, duration, notable events, food, exercise, and so on – but there is no pattern that we’ve been able to discern. It’s so frustrating.

Anyway, he was snuggled in bed while I was folding some laundry. I looked over and saw him start to tremor, so I got a few seconds of video so you could see what we’re up against. You can see him try to hold his head to the right, then I tried to give him a treat. Thankfully, if it happens when he’s in a relaxed position like this (versus standing or in the middle of play) it seems less severe and doesn’t last as long.

Have you experienced anything like this with your dogs? For me, it’s not even the worry about the tremors, but it’s that the medical mystery aspect is so frustrating!

Also, please check out this article on idiopathic head tremors contributed by a veterinary practice.

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On the mend

 

Howdy, folks. John here again. I figured it was about time for another update on Maggie, the dogs, and even me! Maggie finished her daily chemo treatment two weeks ago. Right now, it seems like that was all went by in a blur, but I know it wasn’t like that for Maggie, who felt completely miserable the entire time. She’s now on the second week of the 11-month portion of the treatment. She has to give herself a shot three days a week. Last week when she started, it was pretty bad. Migraine headaches, nausea, fatigue, all of the same stuff she’d been feeling for the past month. The side effects aren’t as bad now, mostly she’s just tired all the time. But, she’s able to work on some of the projects she put aside while all of this was going on. We had our weekly meeting with the oncologist today, and he seemed pleased with how everything was going, and told her that since the shots weren’t kicking her butt, he saw no need to lower the dose. Everyone reacts different to the chemo, so throughout the treatment, the oncologist will lower the dose as needed. Maggie made it the entire month without having her dose lowered until the last two days of her treatment. Most people need the dose lowered the first week. I tell you this so you’ll know how tough she is… Anyway, she’s doing well, and the dogs are of course keeping her perfect company.

During her month-long treatment, she was spending her time at her parents’ house in Indianapolis and Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper were her round-the-clock nursing staff. They had so much fun, but I think they’re glad to be home. We’re happy, because it means we can get Cooper back in doggie daycare, which means it’ll be quiet around here to get some work done! Trust me, we love him, but he is one loud (and sometimes annoying) little bugger. Since there aren’t any major dog-related revelations or happenings, here are some recent pics of our guys (I got an awesome new camera for Christmas…).

 

Emmett's so distinguished...

 

He looks tough, but he's so small!

 

Pasta!

 

More pasta!

He's guarding us from the children who dare ride their bikes in front of our house...

 

 

I take the pictures, but I don't edit them. He's still handsome!

 

Give us that treat and no one gets hurt....

A quick update

John here. I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on how Maggie is doing these days. Yesterday, she started her third of four weeks of daily chemo. Some days are better than others in terms of the side effects, and even though it’s a pretty rough process, we know it’s for the best in the long-run. However, knowing that doesn’t really help much, especially on the bad days.

We’ve had some amazing support from family and friends, and we couldn’t be luckier when it comes to the doctors and nurses we see every single day. Through all of the surgeries, blood draws, infusions, meetings, follow-ups, check-ups, and all of the other daily activities, we are constantly reminded of, despite everything, just how lucky we are. Seriously, if you’re a doctor or nurse, you should know how much you’re appreciated. If you’re not a doctor or nurse, thank any that you know.

Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper haven’t left Maggie’s side in the past months since all of this has been going on. Surprisingly, Cooper has actually stepped up to be Maggie’s protector. She’s been staying at her parents’ house during the week since she gets her treatments in Indianapolis, and I’ve been going back and forth from there and Bloomington, and the dogs have stayed with her. The first few nights, when things started getting bad, Cooper slept on Maggie’s feet the entire time and even growled at her parents when they came to bring her food, tea, medication, or even another blanket. He finally came around and realized they were there to help, but you’ve got to appreciate his level of concern for Maggie. Truly amazing that little guy is…

These next two weeks are going to feel like forever, but once they’re done, things should start to get a little better for her. Again, a big “thank you!” to everyone who has sent a kind word, had a positive though, sent a card, or even just posted something nice on her Facebook page. Your continued support means more to her than you can ever imagine, and I truly appreciate everyone keeping Maggie in your thoughts.

I apologize that I don’t have any cute dog pictures to go along with this post. Hopefully, we’ll have some good pictures of Maggie feeling better covered in a pile of dogs in no time!

 

*Maggie didn’t proof this post, so I apologize if there are any grammatical errors!

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!