Tag Archives: pets

Throwback Thursday: When praying for the dog seems reasonable

It’s Throwback Thursday at Minnesota Wonderer, and today we’re grateful for an 8-pound miniature schnauzer.

Ten-year-old Chloe contracted pneumonia recently, and her very life hung in the balance for a few days. The vet recommended an overnight stay in an oxygen tent (to the tune of $1,000+), but we settled on a round of antibiotics and lots of pampering. She barely ate anything for a week (her weight dipping to a boney 6.8 pounds), and she started experiencing seizures again.

Her epilepsy, which was diagnosed a few years ago, had been under control with medication, but something about the pneumonia (breathing problems? stress of a visit to the vet? lack of sleep? antibiotics?) was causing breakthrough seizures.

Oh, God, not this again.

That was two weeks ago, and the good news is, she’s on the mend, but the whole experience reminded me of when she first started having seizures, which I recount in this post from Feb. 9, 2014.

A story about canines (both species and the teeth), Rimadyl and patience

Caregiving is stressful.

By telling the story below, I don’t mean to minimize caregivers of human patients who I realize most certainly are far more invested in their patients and the stakes are far higher. I can’t even imagine the stress of a someone whose wife has dementia or whose child is battling cancer.

The past 48 hours around here were tough in a much smaller, 8.4-pound way.

My dog (yes, this is a pet story — if you don’t like domestic animals, you’re hereby excused) had her teeth cleaned Friday.

Apparently, dogs bite when strangers stick their hands in their mouths (who knew?), so veterinarians anesthetize dogs in order to clean their teeth.

(Seriously? Dogs require dental care? Yes, I was incredulous, too. My miniature schnauzer had bad breath for years — literally years — and I came to love her stinky mouth. Yellow teeth? Who cares? She’s a dog, right? That’s what I thought until one of her teeth literally fell out of her mouth in my Beloved’s gentle fingers. It was so decayed, it was rotten. Rotten teeth, as it turns out, not only cause bad breath, they cause gum disease which can lead to terrible things like organ failure and death. It was clear my lame tooth-brushing routine was doing no good, and my sweet dog’s teeth required professional intervention. And so, D-Day, that is, Dental Day, came on Friday.)

She remained at the veterinary clinic all day. Anesthesia is serious business, you know. As this was the first time my dear Chloe was undergoing such a procedure, you can imagine the mess the technician found. Five teeth were so rotten they had to be extracted.

“How will she eat?” I lamented. Even toothless dogs figure out how to consume hard dog food pellets, I was told. Survival instinct, I guess. These creatures sometimes eat rabbit turds and lap up muddy puddles, so they’re not too discerning, I guess.

She was ready for pick-up at 5 p.m. and though she was generally listless, she looked OK. And her teeth were sparkling. I’m not kidding. They’re whiter than my teeth now.

I carefully listened to the after-care instructions, which included doses of pain killer and antibiotics and took her home. She sat on the couch with my Beloved and though she acted weird once, gacking strangely, we simply took her to bed as usual.

Then the horror began.

She started experiencing a seizure every two hours all night long. After the first one, I took her off the bed and put her in her kennel next to the bed, but I woke up every time her little legs violently pummeled the kennel from the inside.

You can’t stop a seizure. You can only speak softly and gently hold the victim (or, if they’re bigger than my little dog, get out of the way) while you wait for the gagging and the foaming and wide eyes and open mouth and kicking to subside. Forty seconds feels like 5 minutes. In the moments after the seizure, the victim still isn’t really there, looking spacy and stumbling around in a haze. I could only hold her sweaty body, feeling her racing heartbeat.

I’ve never had babies, so I don’t know what it’s like caring for a sick child through the night. But I can tell you caring for a sick pet is no walk in the park. Every moment waiting for another seizure was torture.

We stupidly followed the dosing instructions the following morning, giving her 25 mg of the antibiotic Clindamycin and 6.25 mg of Rimadyl, a pain reliever. The seizures occurred less frequently but did not abate.

I finally got in touch with the vet who assured me neither the anesthesia nor the medications could be causing seizures. She wanted to examine her and do more blood work (which they did only 24 hours previously before surgery), and she suggested maybe injecting an anti-seizure medication.

Great. I’d already paid $461 for the tooth cleaning surgery and $343 for the extractions. For that, my sweet little dog with bad breath had turned into a convulsing mess with sparkling teeth.

I should mention my dog continued to eat, drink, pee and poop as usual, so her systems seemed to operating normally except for the occasional brain reboot in the form of an ugly seizure. Seizures are caused by many real ailments and should not be left untreated (I am not a vet and I don’t play one on TV), but they also occur for unknown reasons, and it seemed clear the vet knew no more than I did. Like a lot of doctors, she wanted to do more tests and administer more drugs. Ugh.

Like all modern patients, we resorted to internet diagnosis, and we didn’t like what found online about Rimadyl. Correlation does not imply causation, but what’s the variable here? Chloe was perfectly healthy and seizure-free before surgery.

So we stopped the meds.

And Chloe slept peacefully through the night.

chloe in new bedThis morning, we gave her half the antibiotic and no pain medication. She was back to her frisky self, galloping around the house, bounding down the stairs and barking her obnoxious-but-joyful-to-hear bark.

She clearly was not in pain.

I share this story both as a warning (beware of Rimadyl) and as a lesson.

As I waited those long moments through Chloe’s convulsions, I reminded myself of the body’s power to heal, that time heals all wounds, that patience is a virtue. There was no other balm for this chaos and stress but to accept it and embrace it and move through it. My prayers were answered (yes, I wasted God’s time with the health of a dog — what’s time to an eternal being?). And I’m so grateful.

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Dog trap

Through all the turmoil of the past few months, the dog’s been a trooper. Paranoid that we’ll leave her behind at every step, maybe, but a trooper nonetheless.

The day we whisked the last of our belongings out of the house, the nine-pound miniature schnauzer followed at our heels and howled like a much bigger dog every time we stepped outside with another load. “Don’t forget meeeeeeeee!” she telegraphed in her unmistakable dog tongue.

Of course we didn’t forget her. She, in fact, was probably our most important bundle.

She also endured many long days as we drove south, chasing weather warm enough in which to camp. In the cab of the truck, her space was cramped and so was her style. “No! You can’t be on Daddy’s lap when he’s driving in eight lanes of traffic, hauling two and half tons of our belongings!” Some days, she didn’t get to eat until the sun went down.

Now that we’ve arrived in mid-central Texas where it’s warm (if not green), she romps through the streets of the RV park trailing all sorts of scents, blissfully content to live in the moment (like always). Persevering. Like the trooper she is.

dog-trap

Today, we came home after performing a long list of errands to find her new dog dish in the middle of the floor, a good yard from its normal home by the cupboard.

How strange, we thought.

An hour or two later, when she was eating (for the third time today, making up for lost meals last week), we heard her dish go ka-THUNK!

Huh.

Upon investigation, I discovered her collar, which taps the bowl in an urgent patter during a feeding, could slip into the pretty spaces of the wrought iron dish holder.

Light bulb!

During an earlier meal when we were gone, her collar probably got caught in her bowl and she dragged it halfway across the room.

My heart broke, thinking of her, panicked to be trapped by her own food bowl, pulling her little bearded face away from the place she normally found comfort food.

At some point, she probably relented, and that’s when he collar came free.

Free! Free at last! And off she went to nap, leaving her bowl askew in the front entryway.

Among all the things I’ve shed in the past few months (we even dropped another load at Goodwill last week during our journey south!), I still have the dog’s former food bowls. So I can give away the new bowls that represent an entrapment danger and reintroduce the old, less scary ones.

Serendipity. Feels like Someone’s looking out for even the canine.

 

The upshot of upchuck: A lesson in gratitude

Today’s post is about vomit.

Perhaps for a bulimic, a post about purging on the day before we stuff ourselves makes sense, but for the rest of us, the connection may be lost.

To be fair, it’s not entirely about puke, but in any case, if you’re of queasy stomach, you may take a pass.

My dog, my sweet little miniature schnauzer who turned 7 this past summer, got sick on Friday. We returned home from a little trip and found one of the purple chairs in our living room covered in greenish puke.

Oh, sweet girl, what’s wrong?

Over the course of the next 24 hours, Chloe proceeded to barf on the living room carpeting, a throw on the sofa, the quilt on the bed, a throw on the bed, her own bed, the hallway carpeting and my sweatpants.

I did a lot of laundry.

Naturally, we couldn’t find a reason for her illness. We hadn’t changed her food, we didn’t think she’d eaten anything unusual, she hadn’t spent time with strange dogs and she didn’t have any weird bumps or lumps. I hate mysteries like that.

I was getting worried so I played detective. As she listlessly went out in the back yard to do her business, I learned she was still peeing but she was also suffering from Hershey’s Squirts.

By Saturday night, Chloe quit barfing (because she was empty) but she refused eat or drink anything.

Of course, Murphy’s Law was in effect. She got sick on Friday, the day before a weekend. So we toughed out Sunday by convincing her to lick on ice cubes. She continued to get up twice in the middle of the night to attend to her diarrheal impulses.

At 4:30 a.m. Monday morning, she was whimpering.

If it wasn’t bad before, it was now.

When I pray, I try very hard to pray “Thy will be done” rather than making a long list of demands. I believe prayers are answered but honestly, I’m not a big fan of getting “no” for a response. I confess Imade an exception in this case. I reasoned with God on this one. “I don’t see how it would be that much trouble to make my dog better, God. It’s not that hard. It isn’t going to have cosmic ramifications. It couldn’t hurt. Could you see about working up some healing here? Please?”

We called the pet emergency room but decided to wait for our regular veterinarian to get into the office. We were sitting in the waiting room by 8:10.

Finally, we were about to get some answers.

Nope.

The veterinarian couldn’t figure it either, though he did say she wasn’t dehydrated. We sprang for X-rays, which were as inconclusive as the visual exam.

She might have a bug, the vet said. She might get better naturally. Antibiotics could help. If she has an obstruction we can’t see, she might get worse.

Great.

So he gave her a shot and sent us home with a round of antibiotics, the doggy version of Pepto Bismol, canned dog food specially made for sensitive intestines, canine probiotics and brochures for three different animal hospitals that might be open on Thanksgiving if that were to become necessary.

The price of this peace of mind or, rather, piece of blind? $273.76.

Is this the sweetest little puppy face ever?

Is this the sweetest little puppy face ever?

This story ends happily.

I gave her a bath and brushed her teeth so she smelled as sweet as she looked. She loves the bland food and has been gobbling it up since about an hour after her first shot of antibiotics. She’s not a big fan of the eye dropper full of not-exactly-Pepto-Bismol but she quit puking.

She got better.

I thought for sure she had cancer and was going to die and that visit to the vet on Monday morning would be her last trip anywhere.

But she got better.

My dog had the flu and it was inconvenient.

She got better.

My prayers were answered.

I am so thankful.

Why I torture myself with worst-case scenarios, I don’t know. But I don’t think I’m the only one who’s paranoid and untrusting of the universe.

“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.”

~ Buddha

The lesson here is that all of us who would sooner assume the worst need to make room for an abundance mentality. Our thoughts shape reality. Think positive. Be grateful.

Nest test

Nothing like a slaughter to put you in the mood for spring, right?

You’ve heard of the phrase “first, do no harm”? It’s a doctor’s guiding principle (though I sometimes think oncologists walk on the wrong side of the line).

We don’t abide by that theorem here. No sirree, here on Minnesota Transplant, our principle is “anything for the blog.” I’ve posted pictures of me dressed as a Klingon warrior, I’ve made ricotta cheese, I’ve even mucked through an arid 155-page report to determine how much teachers are paid (a relic written in 2009 but still one of my most popular posts to date).

Today, I almost killed a baby bird.

Whaaaaht?

Yeah, but the worst part is, it wasn’t on purpose.

So I let the dog out in the backyard. A common occurrence when it’s not 50 degrees below zero. And this angry bird starts dive-bombing her.

I’ll remind you, my dog weighs 8 pounds, and while she’s energetic and territorial, she’s not a birding dog.

So I leave my usual post behind the patio glass to investigate, and I heard chirps coming from the nest built in the rafters of the deck.

A-ha! Mama robin is defending three baby robins in the nest.

Do I think, “Oh, Mama robin has a point, maybe I should get the dog back in the house?”

Noooooo.

I think, “I’ve gotta get a picture of this for my blog!”

So I grab my camera and venture up the deck steps to get a closer look. Like paparazzi after a Bieber pic, I stick the camera in the babies’ faces and boom! One of them flies out of the nest — or drops out of it, it was sort of awkward so I’m not sure — and I hear Mama robin going even more berserk. Eek! I’ve disrupted the ecosystem for sure. That baby bird won’t be able to get back into the nest, and I’m in big trouble.

Meanwhile, the dog is peacefully sniffing rabbit turds in the corner of the yard.

I realize I’ve got to get the dog back into the house so Mama robin can cajole baby bird back into the nest, so I approach the dog in the perimeter of the yard.

She thinks it’s a game, and starts running in circles around me.

I shriek.

The dog thinks we’re having a good time now! She makes her way to the patio where, of course, she spies something even more interesting than her shrieking master.

The baby bird.

Oh! My! God!

I’m screaming, “No! No, Chloe! No!” My dog is about the examine baby with her mouth.

Baby is skittering away on the cement. Mama is chirping somewhere in the background. Chloe is intent on catching her first ever bird.

I race to scoop up the dog, and I snatch her into my arms just before she chomps on a chicken a la robin sandwich. In the house we go.

I didn’t touch the nest.

I didn’t touch the bird.

I didn’t mean to get baby almost killed. I hope nature’s balance returns baby bird to Mama’s nest.

But I got my picture:

robin nest

Every cloud has a silver lining

I’m trying to count my blessings.

I mean, the snow in northern Illinois did melt today.

Wednesdays are garbage days around here, the days to get the trash and recycling containers to the curb for early Thursday morning attention from the trash collectors. I hate crushing boxes, but we have so many boxes every week, they have to be crushed in order to fit them all into the can! So I remind myself what a blessing it is to have so many boxes in the first place.

I hate grocery shopping. At a minimum, it’s a two-hour commitment because my supermarkets of choice are 30 minutes away. Today, it was a three-hour commitment because I stopped at the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Between picking up dog food and buying four kinds of bread at the grocery store I also stopped at Victoria’s Secret, and I got six pair of underwear for $7.78! Rocked those Secret Rewards, Angel Rewards and coupons in the mail! Awesome! Picking up a treat for me makes grocery shopping better.

Last night’s supper was an epic fail. The lemon sauce was … too tart. My Beloved asked for “normal food” for supper tonight, so I went with pork chops. Pork chops are pretty much as normal as you can get (only chicken gets more points for “normal”; thanks to the butcher, we’ll have that later this week). The experimental cook in me chafes at normal. So I couldn’t summon the will to make mashed potatoes. We had extra-thick grilled pork chops on a bed of polenta, topped with roasted cherry tomatoes. And it was delicious.

My dog jumped off my bed at 6 a.m. this morning. That’s not an unreasonable time to get up, but it’s earlier than I would normally choose. But this is big news! My dog jumped off the bed! For the first time in a week! Last Wednesday, she was having terrible seizures. Last Thursday, I feared we’d have to put her down. But she has gotten progressively better since came home Friday from the doggy hospital, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we can successfully fight her epilepsy while preserving her perky personality.

My typical Wednesday also included an effective early-morning workout (thanks to the 6 a.m. wake-up call), time to work on my manuscript in progress, a call from my dad and an episode of “Survivor.”

Counting blessings.

‘Loss aversion’ as it relates to pet ownership

My tolerance for loss might be lower than most people.

And most people have low tolerance for loss.

It’s called “loss aversion,” and it’s a powerful motivator, according to Brigitte Madrian, a Harvard professor who appeared recently on NPR’s All Things Considered. “The literature suggests that people are twice as sensitive to losses as they are to gains.”

NPR was examining loss aversion as it relates to investing for retirement, but since I heard the story I’ve been examining my life in terms of my loss aversion.

People who know me well would describe me as competitive. For example, while playing a simple card game with my 6-year-old nephew last week, I actually weighed in my mind the relative benefits of winning. Really? Beating a 6-year-old was somehow important to me? (Just to prove I’m empathetic as well as competitive, I’m compelled to tell you my nephew won the game. Fair and square. Mostly.)

Am I competitive because I want to win? Or am I competitive because I don’t like losing even more? “Loss aversion” would suggest it’s the fear of losing that drives my impulses.

My aversion for loss explains a lot. Why did I get straight A grades in high school? Because I hated Bs more. Why do I hate weight lifting so much? Because as an ectomorph, I’ll never be good at it. Why did I tolerate bad behavior for 16 years in my first marriage? I did it not because I wanted to stay married but because I didn’t. Want. To get. A divorce.

I’m particularly conscious of my inclination toward loss aversion this week as I’ve attended to a health crisis in my sweet little dog.

chloe epilepsyRegular readers will remember the seizures experienced two months ago by my 6-year-old miniature schnauzer, Chloe (read that story here). We thought the incident was caused by a pain medication prescribed to her after a dental procedure. We thought Chloe was healed of her seizures. We were wrong.

On Wednesday, she started seizing again, and in the period of 22 hours, she had nine seizures. I’ll spare you the description of the sleeplessness, hand-wringing, financial repercussions and sorrow. Here’s the short version: We consulted our hometown veterinarian who referred us to an animal neurologist (!), who administered Valium to stop the seizures, diagnosed her as having idiopathic epilepsy (read: seizures of unknown cause), recommended hospitalizing Chloe overnight and prescribed Keppra, an anti-seizure medicine. Chloe will have to take anti-seizure meds forever.

Chloe is back home this afternoon. She’s not having convulsions, but she’s not herself.

Only time will tell if Keppra is the solution to Chloe’s epilepsy.

In the meantime, I’m left to question: Am I trying to save my dog (to win?) or am I trying to avoid losing my dog? Am I properly motivated to look out for Chloe’s health and, too, make sound financial decisions? Or am I willing to spend any amount to avoid my own emotional pain? If the medication causes permanent personality change in my little dog, am I willing to embrace a new normal or will I forever be mired in the grief of losing the sweet, healthy little dog I used to have?

I don’t know, and to be honest, not knowing feels like losing, too. Given my loss aversion, I need to remind myself that closed doors mean opened windows. And other bits of wisdom.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

~ Winston Churchill

Coyotes intrude on suburban security

two tracks

Let’s establish this much up front: I couldn’t track my way to dinner even if I was starving and my prey was blind.

But I’m 100% sure these are the tracks of two coyotes that crossed behind the fence in my back yard yesterday.

I have witnesses, your Honor.

My Beloved, his office colleague and a neighbor all saw these two interlopers — possibly a male coyote and his mate — patrolling the so-called wetlands beyond our fence.

Coyotes are enemies in suburbia. They have killed at least three dogs in Wheaton since November (read about it here). Wheaton is a long way from Hampshire, but I’ll confess to species-ism: I judge all coyotes by the actions of a few.

My dog is a babied victim of overindulgence (and low body weight), so I know she wouldn’t stand a chance against one of these territorial tricksters.

The good news? I found no evidence of coyotes inside my fence, and the tracks I found outside it kept going. When I inspected the area to take these pictures, the only other tracks I found were likely left by a rabbit and birds (but on the other hand, see caveat at beginning of this post).

sign tracks

Do not disturb. Or else.