Sporadic Blogging (but I have pictures)

School is over, I graduated (in August...)! Now I just have to take my VTNE in December. The dogs haven't been getting out as much because of a lot of reasons (my injuries, their injuries, time, daylight, I can think of more excuses if I need to) and I also haven't used my camera all summer.

Yesterday we remedied that.

I haven't used my camera in ages, and neither Gabby nor Diego are used to being photographed so most of my initial pictures look like this. They looked nice but as soon as I crouched down to focus, they started moving toward me. Oops.

And then I forgot I had a zoom. But Gabby gave me some great faces anyways.

I always seem to end up with a lot of photos like this. And I'm always worried she's going to stick her nose on my lens! This worry is justified, because she has!

And then I took a bunch of Diego rolling because I find it so adorable.

He really is a handsome dog. He just doesn't often stop long enough for me to admire him!

Oh the derp. I can't stand it.

Rolling was the theme of the day I guess.

Again with the handsome!

Group photo time! Diego looks nice, Gabby looks nice... and Bailey looks stoned.

Diego looks moderately sad. Gabby looks great. Bailey looks less stoned.


Gotcha Gabby

Gabby's "official" gotcha day is October 6th. She entered my care on June 4th. And her date of birth is November 30th. 

On September 30, 2013 I emailed Ellie, one of our regional coordinators, "a hypothetical situation." 

If I were hypothetically interested in keeping Gaby, would I be allowed to?
 Anyone who knows me a little bit, knows that I adore this dog to pieces. She does virtually nothing wrong and she is as good as gold. Gabby came into my life when I needed her most. She learned so many important lessons from Buzz, she helped satisfy my desire to train when Buzz no longer could, she provided company for Buzz when I worked long hours, and she sat with me while I cried and cried and cried when he was gone. She has been invaluable in helping my heart to heal from the immense loss of my heart dog. Gabby and I have bravely forged our own path where we are learning how to work together. She makes me so happy. She is so joyful. 

And she wouldn't be mine without the compassion and generosity of English Springer Rescue America. Being Gabby's foster means that I know how much money was spent on her care. And I know that her adoption fee was less than half of her veterinary care cost. Thank you for helping me find my Gabby.

Happy gotcha day Gabbers.

Aroha's ESRA Gift of Gab RLV


Bailey's Behavior Modification Medications

Some of you know that Bailey has been struggling physically and mentally lately. Really struggling. She couldn't seem to settle unless she was sleeping and she was often restless even then. Unfortunately her "just not right"-ness has actually been going on for about a year with quite vague symptoms that seemed to change week to week.

She takes a variety of prescription medications as well as supplements. I've learned it can be quite difficult to manage so many medications successfully, there are so many potential interactions! One of the things her vet(s) and I have discussed recently was the possibility of incorrect medication doses. In medicine there are "relative overdoses" and "frank overdoses." The simple way to explain it is that a "frank overdose" means the patient received too much. A "relative overdose" means that even if the correct, calculated dose was administered, it was too much for that patient.

I'll start by saying I am so very lucky to have the resources I do. As we reviewed Bailey's symptoms, time-frame of onset, various diagnostics, and medications for the hundredth time I heard "what if one of her medication doses is now wrong for her." And we all paused. So we started looking up side effects of ALL the medications she takes. Fluoxetine is metabolized by the liver. Earlier this year, Bailey's liver values were elevated. She was started on a supplement from Standard Process and at her next recheck, her liver values had normalized. She, however, did not normalize. Hyperserotonin syndrome is not common as far as I can tell, and the onset is usually very quick with serious consequences if it isn't addressed. However, many of Bailey's symptoms were the same. She was more anxious, she was nauseous, she was ataxic (all four limbs didn't seem to get the correct signals from her brain), and she was restless (just to name a few). We had tried to rule in or out so many other causes without success. Nothing else added up the way this did.

Bailey was weaned off her Fluoxetine completely (and very carefully) over the course of 6 weeks. The lower her dose got, the more she improved. Both physically and mentally. She is no longer ataxic, she has more coordination than I've seen in a year. Her appetite is much better. And she is able to relax.

I've hesitated to share this publicly, because I am an advocate for behavior medication in dogs. Her life changed, for the better, because of it many years ago. As dogs age, their bodies change. It was a lesson for me to keep looking for an answer, because there was one for Bailey.


Geriatric Care: Exercise/Pain Management

A very delayed part two in my Geriatric Care series.

Exercise is important for cardiac health, muscle strength, and mental health. Many older dogs struggle to maintain the amount of muscle that was easily built in younger years. At work we tend to see older dogs losing muscle as a result of pain because exercising becomes increasingly difficult.

Step one has to be pain management. Talk to your veterinarian (or a rehabilitation veterinarian if you are lucky enough to have one nearby) about diagnosing and managing pain. A general place to start is finding a high quality joint supplement. Dasuquin is recommended by many veterinary professionals as the go-to joint supplement. In addition to that, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management is an organization devoted wholly to the management of pain. There is a "search for member" tab at the top to assist in finding a local veterinarian experienced in pain management. In Minnesota alone, there are 51 members!

An alternative complimentary approach is using Low-Level Laser Therapy (therapeutic laser) as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Buzz benefited greatly from regular laser therapy. His overall comfort level improved, his mobility was better, and he certainly didn't mind spending quality time alone with me. Not all lasers are created equally, so it is definitely a treatment that should be prescribed and overseen by a professional.

Once pain is under control there are so many options for strengthening. At work we utilize underwater treadmill therapy in conjunction with specific exercises tailored to each dog. We have exercises that target specific muscle groups to engage them, or relax them, based on the needs of the dog. 

An example of Buzz's exercises at home included a chest elevation stretch, weight shifting, and front limb range of motion. The exercises were prescribed twice daily, and I was pretty good about getting them done at least once daily. Doing his exercises took about 10 minutes start to finish. His exercises changed frequently based on how he seemed to feel while I was doing them, and after. A few exercises he really enjoyed, I made a point of doing regularly (chest elevation stretch and spinal traction). Before I started working at TC Rehab, Buzz saw Dr. Julia every month or two for re-evaluation. 

Structured exercise is very important in keeping a geriatric dog happy and healthy. While enjoying smells in the backyard and interacting with other dogs is still considered exercise (and can be great mental stimulation), an exercise regimen can help to keep your dog more comfortable and active as they age. It is very important to remember that we want to give them enough exercise erring on the side of too little rather than over tax their bodies and make exercise painful.


How to make a Happy Gabby!

I picked Gabby up on 5/4/13. She did a lot of lying around. Her previous owners described her as a turtle. 
exhibit A: lying in the kitchen
Well, we discovered she moved like a turtle because a) her vision is poor, b) she has hip and elbow dysplasia, c) she is hypothyroid, d) she was obese, e) had a bladder infection, and f) she had broken/infected/painful teeth.

she was just a little "thick"

Over the last 12 months Gabby has:
a) gotten a diagnosis of PRA 
b) had her hips and elbows xrayed to confirm arthritis and dysplasia
c) confirmed hypothyroidism with bloodwork and she started Soloxine last fall
d) lost 20 pounds -- TWENTY POUNDS
e) treated the bladder infection with antibiotics
f) had a dental last summer and very obviously felt so much better after

she frequently looked angry
I have a lot of photos of her that I never shared publicly, because they really aren't flattering, but because of how far she's come... I'm sharing them today!

tubby lumpkins

exhibit B: she looked like a pregnant pig
As she started to feel better, she started doing more. Like playing with toys, and playing tug with me!

She enjoyed going for walks where she could just putter around at her own pace.

I took this picture the day I announced to the world I'd decided to keep her!

A few people have asked what I've done and continue to do for Gabby. Some people even asked if we were going to do surgery on her hips. The answer to surgery is more than likely, no. As she continues to lose weight and build muscle, we have only noticed decreasing pain, not increasing. That's very promising for us to be able to manage her well with all the things we've been doing, for many years to come.

This is what we've done for Gabby:
  • I started her on Cosequin as soon as I got her. It is my go-to joint health supplement, because they've done the research. A couple months later, she was switched to Dasuquin (the next level). Just like everyone in the family, she continues to take her Dasuquin every morning.
  • The first week I had her, she went to the vet for a general health check up where we discovered she had a UTI and an ear infection. She was put on medication to treat both conditions.
  • I added in a Vitamin B complex. B vitamins are great for everyone and they seemed to put a pep in her step. She continues to get this on a regular basis (we both take it every morning).
  • In early July, she had a dental with four extractions. She felt SO MUCH BETTER getting those teeth out of her mouth!
  • By August, her vet and I determined there was likely an underlying cause for her to be losing weight so slowly despite a very strict diet and exercise plan. So a thyroid panel was run. She is hypothyroid and was started on Soloxine.
  • At some point around here, it was decided she should be on an omega 3 supplement. She has been on Grizzly Pollock Oil and Solid Gold SeaMeal since then.
  • On October 6, 2013 I announced I'd decided to keep her!
  • In November, Gabby had an eye exam with Dr. Larocca. It was determined she is afflicted with PRA. She had been taking an eye supplement for some time, but the supplement was changed to Opti-Vue with Floraglo Lutein. So far, her eyes seem to be holding steady!
  • This winter was a little tough for all of us with it being so cold but I continued to monitor her caloric intake and she really enjoyed playing in the snow. She learned to wear boots and a coat so we could be outside for longer than to just potty.
In the last couple of months, she's had a full functional exam at work. This entails taking range of motion measurements of all four limbs, checking for pain, measuring muscle mass, assessing gait, and determining core strength. She has started Adequan (an injectable chondroprotective). She's had her four-doses-every-four-days already and now we're at the four-doses-once-a-week before we go to once every 3-4 weeks. She has also started working out in the treadmill at work regularly as well as doing exercises at home! Last, but certainly not least, regular veterinary spinal manipulation therapy (chiropractic) rounds out her "get fit, feel great" health care plan. 

Gabby's current medication/supplement list:
So, even though her xrays look pretty terrible...

With weight loss, joint support, and rehab... Gabby is having a blast in life.

**Disclaimer, I am not a veterinarian. Gabby's protocol has been developed and adjusted as needed by a veterinarian!


Seven Days

My life changed forever. Buzz deserves a tribute, and he'll get one, but I'm not ready yet. My heart and my brain can't seem to get on the same page. I know he's gone, I witnessed his death, and yet... I keep looking for him, thinking I hear him, and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night sure I'll just look across the room and see him sleeping soundly. I miss petting his ears. I miss the weight of his head on my lap as I type on my laptop. It's been seven days today. Seven days I haven't see his smiling face, or laughed at his insistence it IS MEAL TIME! It is also seven days I know he wouldn't have enjoyed.
I was getting his dinner ready.
Each dog has very different categories in a quality of life assessment. I paid very close attention to what quality of life meant to Buzz since his mobility deteriorated to the point he needed quite a bit of help every day.
Cuddling with Buzz. I miss it.
On Sunday May 18, I made the heartwrenching decision to set an appointment for Buzz. For the last week, he had been having difficulty eating. His jaw very obviously hurt. He would pick up food but then roll it around in his mouth trying to figure out a way to chew without it hurting. I tried soft food, I tried warm food, and I tried hand feeding him. He would eventually eat, but it was evident it wasn't comfortable for him. Buzz also hadn't done well in the heat since last summer. 70 degree weather was as warm as he could enjoy. Just going out to potty in 70 degree weather made him pant for quite a while after we got back inside. He couldn't enjoy his sniffs when it was too warm. And his mobility was continually decreasing. This was the part that broke my heart the most. He had such a difficult time adjusting to not being able to get up on his own. I came home from work on Sunday to find him stuck. He was panicked. He got himself in a position he couldn't get out of. I had no idea how long he'd been there. It shattered me. This was my brave and stoic Buzz. We'd occasionally dealt with him being stuck in a few other places in the apartment before, but he'd never been this upset about it. I tried an xpen, I tried a crate, neither had the desired effect.
Buzz and Rascal

Even though I was in no way sure I could actually follow through with the appointment, I gave Buzz the very best last hours on this earth I could dream up for him.

Monday he spent the day at work with me. Up front, behind the desk, in the bed he was always so sure he fit in but didn't. Well, we made it so he fit in there.
Extra blankets made it work.
He went in the treadmill at work. Not to work out, but to enjoy the warm water spa. It had become his favorite place to be. He could stand up easily with the support of the water. We just stood in the spa and let the water circulate around us as I fed him snacks. Dr. Julia adjusted him, she knew.

We got Arby's on the way home. I'd been stopping to get him french fries more often the last couple of months and he definitely had a preference for Arby's curly fries. So that's what we got. I even shared a roast beef sandwich with him. Then he got two servings of dinner at home.

When we got home, Tim said "we're having movie night with Buzz." So we moved my mattress to the floor. I hadn't cuddled with Buzz all night long in months. Having him up high on my bed was dangerous, because he'd lost bed privileges due to trying to get off by himself to get a drink in the middle of the night. He slept soundly between my legs until a very early morning potty call. When we got back inside, I just pet his head for hours while he slept peacefully. He was due for his Adequan injection, and I very consciously administered it. I wanted his last day to be as happy and painfree as possible.

Tuesday morning dawned sunny and clear. It was perfect. Lauren graciously offered to meet us at the park bright and early to take pictures. This is where I really, really just wanted to call everything off. He was happy and alert, he was so vibrant. We had so much fun while Buzz ate his McDonald's breakfast. I might have cried just as much as I laughed.

The handsomest.
After our morning park adventure, we came home for breakfast (another double serving with some extra pain meds) and a nap. Going to the park and eating breakfast is tiring (also, being ridiculously full of food may have made him tired, too).
While he was napping, I was getting more and more anxious. I wanted the day to be over, but I didn't want it to end. Logically, I'd gone through every option. Instead of continuing to dwell on what would happen later, Buzz and I went for a drive. I had no idea where we were going, but we got in the car and headed down some less traveled roads. Buzz loved the wind in his face. Just him and I, enjoying the beautiful day. I kept passing back treats as I was driving. My goal for the day was to make him as full as I could. Our drive eventually led us to a pet supply store where we bought even more treats. These were supposed to help his tummy... And then we drove around some more. It was my escape from reality. We eventually ended up at my work.

I had emailed my coworkers earlier in the day, and Julia had known since Sunday. Buzz and I enjoyed the spa together for the last time. I fed him, I pet him, I filled the tank up as high as I could and he thoroughly enjoyed the jets. I cried. I cried so hard. This was the most difficult decision I'd ever made. I wanted to pick Buzz up and drive far, far away. Away from reality, away from death.

But we had important places to be. Lauren, Tim, Buzz, and I went to Dairy Queen. Buzz ordered a banana split and cheese curds.
Why you move the ice cream away?!
A little something on yer face.
Buzz didn't want the banana. He wanted the ice cream off the banana.

After DQ we went to a pet supply store to look at the fish and small animals, a very favorite Buzz activity. Oh, and also to smell all the things in all the aisles. He picked out some more treats too.

When we arrived home, it was time to settle in on the bed again. It was time to pet Buzz for the last time. To watch him sleep peacefully. My only wish was that he would be so tired and full and content that he would be sound asleep when Dr. Raeyna arrived. I sat next to him and I pet him. My best laid plans had worked. He quickly dozed off. 
So full. So tired. The last picture I took of him.
And then he was gone.

My heart was broken.

My Buzz Lightyear. I whispered how sorry I was. And I thanked him for being the best dog ever. As I sobbed into his fur for the last time, I said good bye, for now.

To Infinity and Beyond.