Saturday, October 15, 2011

Connected by helping hands

This week, some lyrics of Bob Dylan have been noodling through my head - "May you always do for others, and let others do for you..." I appreciate all the encouragement sent to us this week, and last night as I collapsed at home, it was with a real sense of being connected by those acts that we do for each other. I am happy to know that Ginny was touched by the little quilt her Canine-L friends dispatched me to acquire for her at last week's auction, and I know Maribeth is also going to enjoy the ones I put in the mail for her too. Those transactions inspired me to purchase quilts for two other people as surprises and I'm looking forward to making those friends smile. As I struggled with Luther this week, I got a kind email from Maura offering to run any errands I needed, Terisia appeared at the shop yesterday to express her concern and to thank me for supporting her in a dog problem via a late-night phone call the evening before. And as I try very hard to ignore all of the pressing needs of the weekend, Sue has offered to help me with attending to Kearney's much-needed grooming, and Ina just told me she's bringing over a home-cooked meal for us.

May we always do for others, and let others do for us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I'm posting the photo of Luther before surgery because the ones afterward are grim. Here he is with his "don't cut off this one!" warning label on his front leg (which they allowed him to keep through surgery - the label as well as the leg, I mean). He is in inconsolable misery tonight.

First: it was an abscess, a large plate-shaped one under the skin that had found the external cyst as a release valve. Dr. Ron said the abscess itself is larger than his hand and he couldn't just excise it because there would be about a 4-inch skin gap that couldn't be closed. He was concerned that he was seeing a mast cell tumor in the middle of the mess, but all of the cells he looked at under microscope appear to be infection, not cancer. (This is the only piece of good news so you can stop reading right here if you like.)

This is why I love a doctor who practices the art of medicine as beautifully as he does the science of it. I want a surgeon who knows when something could snowball and doesn't need to showboat over it. So this has become a two-surgery process. For today, just the external growth came off, the area was explored and a good deal of it cleaned by flushing, drains installed and antibiotics begun.

Managing drains for the next several days - I can probably pull them out this weekend. Two weeks of heavy antibiotics to try to knock down the infection. Recheck in two weeks to determine next steps; Ron says another surgery is likely, hopefully where more of the problem can be removed but with a more feasible way of closing him up.

He refused to get up when it when it was time to leave the clinic. I waited out front and finally Dr. Ron said come on back, maybe he will get up for you. There was really no reason why he couldn't or shouldn't, but he just wouldn't. We put him on his feet and he slowly got part of the way, carried him the rest. Ron says it isn't from anesthesia - it was pretty brief, minimal, and reversed hours ago - so maybe he's just exhausted and sick and miserable. On the way home he just melted into the car seat, and when we stopped by Dog Tired for some supplies and Miss Lindsay came out to say hello, he wouldn't even lift his head for her.

Once home, there was no moving him off the car seat without cries of pain and weak attempts to bite. Matthew and I just worked at it slowly, lifting him slightly and shifting him an inch or two, again and again until we got him out of the car. Again he refused to walk, so was carried into the house and onto his bed, covered him with a blanket and he has not moved an eyelash since. He isn't sleeping, he is just staring and....holding. very. very. still.

Now we just wait, and go through it together until we get to some place that isn't this place. I'm holding it together, but my stomach is just in tense knots and my jaw is locked tight to keep any feelings from falling out unexpectedly!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The shadow passes

I think Luther has finally let go of a grief burden today. Lately he had seemed so abruptly changed. Quite old all of a sudden, sleeping a lot, not even wanting to get up for school nor caring that he was left behind. Though it could be a natural part of old-age sinking, there also seemed to be a depressive aspect that I presumed could be from grief at Saylor's disappearance. Yesterday I saw very subtle signs that he was brightening, and today for the first time in weeks he got out of bed without coaxing, and moved with purpose into the day. More interested and engaged, snuggling and playing. I haven't seen this smile (Luther with Miss Sue, Dog Jog 2011) for two long months, but now I believe its return may come. Luther, my sweet boy, my best boy. You have such a dear, precious heart.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11

I remember waking up, cold and aching, on the floor of the crew connex box at Prudhoe because Logistics had blown my camp booking. I was puzzled to see that my email inbox had exploded, but with the stalled dialup connection, I couldn’t see why. Back at camp, I saw people standing twenty deep around the large-screen TVs. Besides the East Coast situation, news came of a Korean Air jet headed to AK and transponding the code for a hijacking. The rest of the crew were stuck in Anchorage so I did the field work alone. I remember sitting in the truck, eating an egg salad sandwich and listening the radio discussing the target potential of the oil pipeline over which I was parked. I felt extra alone because just a week before, the final death knell had sounded on 13 years of loving someone who didn’t care if I lived or died. I wondered what would happen to my dogs if I didn't get back home. Three days later I was in the first group to fly out. We were the guinea pigs for new security measures, and the two-room airport in Deadhorse had become a military installation.

A few years later, I stood at the temporary memorial at Shanksville, near where I was born. Down a dirt road past a junkyard with old refrigerators and dead Pepsi vending machines, there was nothing but a length of pink tape to separate us from the view of that scar in the land. I hooked an Alaska keytag to the sections of chain-link fence that served as a makeshift memorial cache.

My only contribution to the story of that day was later on, to write the "Hero" television PSA, which touched many people across the country and won some recognition. Mostly I just remember worrying about my family a couple hours west of NYC, and I remember eating that sandwich out on the tundra.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Êtes-vous out of your mind?

Nigel has been back with us for a visit, and it's that face that led me to the danger of perusing rescue listings for French bulldogs this week. I am not a peruser. That was bad enough, but at one point I found myself typing to one rescue group "At this point I would really only consider taking frail elderly or medically compromised / disabled dogs" aaaack-DEL-DEL-DEL-DEL-DEL-DEL-DEL-DEL

However, thoughts become things, and so. Not for a while yet, but it's coming.

a Puppy joins the pack

One of our daycare clients, the eponymously named Puppy, joined us at home a few weeks ago when his mom faced an emergency hospitalization. He was expected to be a guest for a day or two, but that has stretched into weeks, and as circumstances have worsened it looks that he will be with us at least for some weeks to come. But Puppy is a happy little man, seemingly unconcerned about his abrupt change of scene, and has done just great with the various dogs who come and go here. His zest for life is contagious and he's constantly delivering hugs and kisses. This is what happened when I said 'enough already' of holding him early this morning. (Can I just say that Luther is the

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nose to tail

The Banks boys went in for their procedures yesterday and much was learned - so much that I have felt really tired at the idea of writing it. This is the breakdown.

- Dental cleaning, but no excisions because the ones that needed to come out fell out during the exploratory; abscesses under treatment
- Ear flush to get rid of a lot of debris and infection; Saylor has no left eardrum and only partial right eardrum; infection under treatment twice daily
- Bloodwork has high AlkPhos but nothing else remarkable. Thyroid okay, so problems with thermoregulation are probably due to the constant exposure of tongue and mouth tissue.
- Full body x-rays indicate no other particular concerns

- Bloodwork basically okay except high AlkPhos
- Dental cleaning, removal (and a cosmetically beautiful removal) of gum tissue overgrowth which does not appear cancerous
- Ears were actually rotting from the inside, despite constant treatment since October. Doc was amazed at the amount of impacted debris that came out and says he can't wait to show me the video. Luther has evidently had serious ear problems all his life; ear canals are scarred and are only 25% the width that they should be. Both eardrums are gone. Ears were not surgically closed at this time because we need to treat them further first; they may not actually have been completely cleared despite all the time spent on them. This boy has been miserable for a very long time with no complaint.
- Left lung cloudy and scarred, possibly from a serious aspiration at some time in the past
- Heart is enlarged and elongated, but cardiac blood values were ok. Not sure what this may portend for him, if anything
- X-rays revealed shot pellets around his ribcage
- The most recent, large hot-spot-that-doesn't-look-like-a-hot-spot isn't a hot spot, it's a deep pyoderma. On high dose Cipro to see what that gets us. Ron felt this whole area should probably be excised, but after spending so long on the ears and knowing that was going to be painful and traumatic for some days to come, he said he didn't want to send him home with a 6 inch incision to manage too. This may have to happen at the same time as the ears get closed up. They tried some laser therapy to see whether that might help. Looking at it 24 hours later, I think it may have.
- Now the real problem. Spinal x-rays show severe spondylosis encompassing lower thoracic vertebrae, all lumbar vertebrae, and sacrum. Large bony growths at the lumbar/sacral junction. Causes? (age, trauma, overcompensation - did he get hit by a car and lose the leg as well as bust his back?) Arthritic hips but the issue of intermittent lameness in the right rear leg is diagnosed as neurological due to spinal degeneration. None of this has a good outlook (will his leg quit before his back finally snaps?, etc). He'll be on pain meds for the duration now.

Luther came home from the doctor acting like nothing had happened, but is rubbing his ears a lot. Saylor had a few hours of post-anesthesia psychosis and we just weathered that until he was done and we all got a small amount of sleep. Both boys seem to feel relatively well today and soldiered up for their ear cleaning tonight.

Followup in two weeks. More surgery for Luther likely. Discount on all services and drugs, and they did the laser treatment for free. (I love my vet.) My client and friend Dr. Kufel will take a look at Luther's radiographs to see what he may be able to contribute to his comfort. (I love my chiropractor too.)

Peg and kids