Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Gourmet Breakfast

Early this morning, I saw Reyna in the yard crunching on something, and it occurred to me that I might have to fuss at her later about eating acorns. Because they’re not really good for dogs. And then I moved on to dealing with the six furry monsters that kept me awake for several hours before dawn.

Going into the living room, I started our work-day routine by playing Oh-My-God-I’m-So-Happy-You’re-Awake with the dogs, opening the front and back doors, and checking my email. Back in the living room, I was gathering a few items together and happened to glance over at the back porch. Just beyond the door was a little carcass. I assumed it was a bird, since Reyna has brought me a couple of birds over the years. Not that I think she’s ever killed one...its much more likely that they’ve flown into a window or the side of the house and snapped their neck and she decided to take advantage. So, I get my gloves and walk to the back door and realize its not a bird. It’s a rabbit. Sort of. Actually, it was just a rabbit head and part of a front leg. And then I realized Reyna wasn’t crunching on acorns.

After tossing the rabbit head over the fence, I grabbed my shovel and started checking the yard. I found the back legs, still connected to each other but in a position no rabbit would ever enjoy, with just a smidge of fur still on one set of toes. I also found various innards scattered around. The dogs didn’t seem upset with me throwing the remains of their breakfast over the fence, so they were probably done with it. If I’d left it in the yard, they might have worked on it some more, but I was worried they might decide to bring parts inside. And, after all, Reyna does like to bury things in the couch and chair.

Based on the parts I found, it was a pretty big rabbit. I’m betting Reyna’s the one who killed it, because Duncan would probably just try to play with it. But they’d obviously shared the spoils. And I have to admit, I was impressed that there was no damage to the rabbit’s head – other than the fact that it was no longer attached to the rest of its body, of course. For a second, I thought about taking a picture so everyone could share, but you know what? Fluffy groundhogs stuck in fences are cute. Decapitated rabbit heads, not so much.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I'd forgotten how liberating it is to lose 4 inches of hair....

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Decisions: Update

Found out today that Ashley's Angel Fund isn't going to help with Reyna's surgery. According to them, I make enough money that I should just be able to pay for it up front or put it all on a credit card. I wish they'd look at how much goes out and not just how much comes in...

They Come, But They Don't Like To Stay

Update: John has informed me that he did not drop the groundhog, he just put it down very qiuckly.

Early Sunday afternoon, the pups and I went outside to play. Duncan immediately went to the back left corner near the rose bushes and started checking the fence. He was so interested and focused that I started looking at the fence. The first thing I saw was a couple of areas along the back that I thought were mole holes into the yard. On closer inspection, I realized they were holes dug by something trying to get out of the yard, but with no success. By this point, Duncan was nosing around one of the rose bushes, so I went to see what was so interesting. I saw a grey fluffy body beneath the bush, and my first thought was “Oh, crap! The neighbor’s cat is in the yard!” Then I realized the tail was all wrong for a cat. And then I realized I had a groundhog stuck in the fence.

By this point, Reyna realized Duncan and I were looking at something, so she came over to check it out. Thinking the groundhog was just wedged under the fence, I tried moving the bottom edge of the fence a bit to see if that would help, but it didn’t. That’s when I figured out that the poor thing had tried to go out through one of the openings in the fence, rather than underneath. Checking the area, I could tell that his intended exit point was where he’d originally come into the yard. There was a hole dug there, with the dirt on the outside of the fence.

I got the dogs inside, since they were bugging the groundhog (plus, I was afraid if it got loose it would do some serious damage to one of them, and another vet bill really isn’t on the list of things I need these days). And then I called Trusty John. We talked about snipping the fence, but I was worried about hurting the groundhog worse trying to get snips between its neck and the fence. So John said he’d come on over and help. I went back outside to see how it was doing, and found that he’d flipped over onto his back.

John came over, and Operation Groundhog Rescue commenced. John didn’t want me taking pictures of him, so there aren’t any of the rescue. He managed to slide the groundhog’s chubby cheeks back inside the fence, and its head slipped free. And that’s when John got curious. As he was looking at the groundhog, it started struggling and bit him (John was wearing gloves, so no damage was done). When he dropped it, the poor thing was still on the wrong side of the fence and clearly confused about how to get out. He finally got back to the rose bush and crawled under the fence (its original plan, I’m sure). That little groundhog probably broke the current groundhog speed record, running away as fast as it could. With luck, it’ll tell all its little friends to avoid the yard.

Duncan was devastated to realize his new buddy was gone. I’m sure he would have hugged it and squeezed it and called it George. But Reyna probably would have tried to eat it. Since then, every time we go outside Duncan runs to the corner to see if his friend has come back. And Reyna has decided that if Duncan is looking at something at or near the fence, she has to go look, too. Because you never know, something interesting might be there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How Duncan Hides Things

Here is Duncan, pretending to be asleep, but really just hiding a bone from Reyna. With his foot.

And here he is, hiding a pig snout (yes, I said pig snout) from Reyna. With his mouth.

The sad part of both of these incidents is that Reyna didn't seem to realize that he had a bone. Or a pig snout. But then again, maybe she knew, she just didn't think it was worth the effort.

Friday, September 12, 2008

YouTube Is Educational

Yesterday at Target, I happened to get in a check-out line with a cute guy in front of me and a kid working the register.

Kid: You want cash back?
Cute Guy: Yes, one $20 and four $5s, please.
Kid thinks about this.
Cute Guy: But you can give me more than that, if you want.
Kid stares at Cute Guy, then stares at the cash in his hands. Cute Guy and I grin at each other, waiting for Kid to figure it out.
Kid: Oh! Huh. I get it.
Kid hands cash to Cute Guy.
Cute Guy (to me): The Jedi Mind Control almost worked that time.
Me: You were so close.
Cute Guy leaves, Kid starts scanning my items.
Kid: Was he serious about the Jedi Mind Control?
Me: Excuse me?
Kid: Beause I’ve been learning about it on YouTube.
Me: Really?
Kid: Yeah. So, was he serious?
Me: No. If he was serious, we’d all be using it.
Kid: Oh.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Reyna has been deteriorating physically over the last few months. She’s been seizure-free for over a year now, and her allergies are under control. Unfortunately, her joints are causing a lot of trouble.

Two years ago she was diagnosed with severe dysplasia in her right hip and moderate dysplasia in her left hip. We’ve been treating that with glucosamine, chondroitin, omega 3 and Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory. She would have occasional bad days, but most were good. The exception was last summer with the Phenobarbital, but once I got her off of that, she went back to normal. That’s changed.

Over the last 6 months, I’ve had to increase her maintenance meds twice and finally upped them a 3rd time this weekend. She’s had to have a higher dose on weekends (when I’m home and she’s more active) just so she can function. Every week or so, I see a new indication that she’s in constant pain, although I do think the severity of that pain changes throughout the day. In May, the vet found arthritis in her right front shoulder. Friday, the vet found early signs of arthritis in both knees. And when he made her bear her weight on her right rear leg, she bit him. Politely, of course. But, still. We’re rapidly reaching the point where I have to decide what’s the right thing to do for my girl. I have options. I just don’t know which one I’m going to select.

The first option is to do nothing. Keep her at the current (max) dose of anti-inflammatories and just wait it out. I don’t see this happening, because I will not be the person who says, “But she’s only been crying every time she gets up or lays down for the last few months...”

The second option is to start creating a cocktail of anti-inflammatories and pain killers, trying to find the right combo that eases her pain but doesn’t make her stupid or sick. This would be a slow process, figuring out which meds are the most effective and at what dose. Basically a trial-and-error process that is based solely on my observations of her behavior. And she would be on these meds for the rest of her life, making alterations when some new indication popped up that they weren’t working as well as they should.

The third option is surgery. The vet checked her x-rays from 2 years ago and said she is not a likely candidate for a hip replacement, because the neck of the femur bone of her right hip was already deformed. He is recommending a Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO). In an FHO, the femur’s head and part of the neck are removed. Muscle is pulled up and over the remaining bone. This creates a “false joint” and prevents any more bone-on-bone contact. Its generally considered a salvage surgery, because once the bone is removed, nothing else can be done. The dog never gets back full range of motion, but the amount of pain should decrease significantly. Rehab takes 2-3 months for an active dog and involves a lot of work from the owner. The good thing is that the dog cannot damage the bone by too much activity (which is important, because I don’t think there are enough drugs in the world to keep Reyna quiet for several weeks), but they can set their recovery back a bit by making themselves sore. The surgery is generally done on one hip first, and the dog is given time to heal. If there appears to be a need for it, sometimes the second hip is also done. It just depends on how the dog reacts.

The fourth option is putting Reyna to sleep. This is the option I REALLY don’t want to do. The vet is against this because she’s young, active, and her pain is still manageable. Of course, the vet isn’t the person who has to pay for surgery or a lifetime of drugs.

The vet is suggesting either the drug cocktail or the surgery. I don’t want Reyna on a lot of drugs for the next several years. Never mind the wear on my bank account, I just don’t see how loading her with drugs can be a good thing. Especially since the pain is likely to continue getting worse over time. And its not like she can tell me if she doesn’t feel right...she just has to hope I see every behavioral change.

At this point, though, the surgery is pretty much a non-option, just because of the cost. An FHO is a lot cheaper than a total hip replacement, but I’d still be looking at a significant lay-out of funds. And even with the surgery, Reyna would still likely be on a low dose of anti-inflammatories for the rest of her life because of the arthritis in her shoulder and knees. Granted, there’s a good chance the arthritis wouldn’t get much worse, because she would be able to actually use her back legs more than she can now.

The vet and I talked about the financial aspect on Friday, and he told me this morning that he’s contacted Ashley’s Angel Fund to see if they would help us. The Fund is set up to assist with the cost of procedures that will either save a dog’s life or significantly increase the dog’s quality of life. If they agree to help us, the Fund would pay for 50% of the costs, which would already be dropped by 20% because of the arrangements between the vet’s office and the Fund. We should know in the next week or so if they’re going to agree to help Reyna. If they do, that puts the surgery option back on the table. I have to admit, I am extremely touched that he thought about this over the weekend and went through the process of applying for us. And my dear, sweet boss has already said he’ll arrange for me to work from home for a couple of weeks so I can take care of her, if this is the route we take.

For now, though, I’ve decided to add one new pain med to see if that helps her get through the day. She had trouble this Sunday during her SAR session – her first short search went fine, but she was hurting enough that she didn’t even pretend like she was searching the second time. Beyond this, I just don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t really like any of the options, but I know I can’t let her go on like this, getting worse on a steady basis, and not do something to help her. I know some people will say, “Its just a dog.” And to those people, I say, “How sad for you, that you’ve never experienced the joy of having a Reyna in your life.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What A Weekend

The weekend was a colossal failure in the sense that I didn’t manage to get anything on my list done except taking the dogs to the pond. On the upside, I did manage to do a LOT of relaxing. The dogs had a great weekend, too. I know that by how hard they slept when we weren’t playing.

We got in two trips to the pond, and Duncan looked very handsome in his life jacket. Unfortunately, me being in the pond in my canoe wasn’t sufficient to get him swimming. He did moan and run along the bank a good bit, but wouldn’t get any deeper than his belly. Here he is, telling me it just isn’t worth it to actually swim.

I think the next step is to go somewhere with a nice, shallow bank so I can walk in with him. Carrying hot dogs. But not this hot dog.

And here are the pups in what became the standard activity of the weekend when I was sitting on the couch, reading or watching TV. Yep, all the horror stories are true...they have very hard lives.

And now I get to spend the rest of the week reminding myself that we're a day ahead of what my brain thinks.


Can't leave Reyna out of the funny picture posting, now, can I?

Caption This Photo

This is one of my favorite pictures from this weekend. Duncan really has the most expressive face.