Friday, October 31, 2008

Decisions: Update #2

Reyna had her appointment at the NCSU vet school Wednesday. Its taken me a couple of days to get this posted, partly because of a crazy schedule and partly because I’m still absorbing the information.

Dr. Roe is the ortho vet we saw. He specializes in dogs with bad hips, due to dysplasia, trauma, or other joint issues. The visit went really well. Dr. Roe spent a lot of time with us and answered all of my questions (some of them more than once). The student who took Reyna’s history and did the initial exam was nice enough to not put Reyna through a complete physical exam twice – she let Dr. Roe do the joint manipulations. After about 10 minutes of ignoring him, Reyna decided to forgive Dr. Roe for messing with her shoulders and hips.

Dr. Roe confirmed my belief that an FHO is not the optimal solution for Reyna, given her weight, activity level, and general health issues, but he did say that it was always an option to consider. Surprisingly, though, he said that he thinks Reyna is a good candidate for a total hip replacement (THR). I say “surprisingly” because my regular vet had already told me he thought Reyna’s femurs were too deformed to do the replacement. Granted, an ortho vet should know more about it than a general vet. I talked to my regular vet about it today, and he said the condition of Reyna’s hips (based on x-rays from two years ago) are in the grey area where he can’t say a THR is clearly an option, but he thinks that if Dr. Roe said she’s a good candidate, then she’s a good candidate.

The THR sounds like a much better option for her – Dr. Roe estimates she’d be 95-100% pain free with minimal damage to the other bad joints. Reyna would eventually be able to do the things she loves like running through the woods, SAR work, chasing her ball, wrestling with Duncan, and spinning frantically after her tail. Dr. Roe said that only about 20% of dogs ever need the second hip done, and those are usually performance dogs or giant breeds. He also said that most dogs can stop taking pains meds completely, or at least significantly reduce the need to incident treatment versus every day maintenance.

The recovery is pretty rough. The first four weeks the dog has to be kept very quiet, with the only exercise being short walks outside to potty. The second four weeks allow for a bit more exercise, very short walks on leash. The third four weeks are still on leash, but with more time and distance to the walks. The vet sees the dog after three months for an evaluation, and determines how much more exercise the dog is allowed to do. The next three months progress much the same way, with gradual increases in controlled exercise. At six months, the vet sees the dog and (ideally) gives the dog a clean bill of health. Dr. Roe told me about a medication they’ve been using to keep dogs with anxiety issues calm, and they’ve recently started using it on post-op dogs to keep them quiet so they don’t damage themselves. He mentioned that we could put Reyna on it a month before surgery to make sure she’s responding okay and get the correct dosage, and then she’d stay on it through the recovery period.

There are some potential complications, like dislocating the new hip, infection, or a cracked femur. The chances are fairly low, but they’re still there. The biggest downfall, of course, is the cost. Its only a few thousand dollars. Not sure how I can manage it, but I have a few ideas. If I decide we’re going to go with the THR, the earliest we can do it will be February, because of my work schedule. So that gives me a little bit of time to try and save some money. And I’ll keep putting in applications for a part-time job. I told Reyna that she needs to get a paying job, and she just grinned at me. I’m thinking that means she’s not going to make any real effort on that. Maybe I’ll just put Duncan on a street corner with sunglasses, a cane, a tin cup and a sign that says “Donations Accepted!”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mutt Strutt, Here We Come – Again

The Mutt Strutt, which was originally scheduled for September 6, was moved to Saturday, November 1, courtesy of Tropical Storm Hanna. Duncan and I are still scheduled to demo, but I’m a bit confused about who’ll be joining us. We’ve lost one or two of the original group, and gained someone else. I think. We have a practice scheduled for Thursday, so I guess I’ll find out then. If you’re in Raleigh on Saturday, come on out and support the Wake County Animal Center!

Monday, October 27, 2008

We’re So Proud Of Us

Reyna had SAR Sunday morning – only three sessions left before we wrap up for the year. They’ll start sessions again in January, but I don’t know if Reyna and I will participate. It all depends on how she’s doing.

Yesterday went very well. Our session started at 7:00am, but the trainer made us wait until 7:30 because it was still too dark to see in the woods. And he very nicely didn’t want me and Reyna tripping over every stick and falling in the gullies just to go find someone. When we finally started out, the trainer made a few suggestions about the best way to approach the exercise, based on terrain and wind conditions. What he apparently forgot was that telling me doesn’t mean a whole lot – I go where Reyna wants to go, so if he want us to take a specific path, he needs to talk to her. We started out following the trainer’s suggestions, but Reyna kept getting annoyed by a fence that was blocking her from a slightly easier route. She decided she was done with that and veered off to find a new path. In fact, she found a very nice, wide path. We followed it for a ways, and then she turned around and trotted back the way we’d come. She took me into an old family cemetery, sniffed at a couple of headstones, and then trotted over to our missing person. After our “You found her!” party, I told Reyna to “take me home.” (Note: “Take me home” means different things to Reyna, depending on where we are. During SAR sessions, it means that she needs to lead me back to the truck. When we’re in the woods behind the house, it means that she takes me to the pond where we always play before we go back to the house.) She took us through the woods – using a shortcut of her choosing – straight to the main road. As we walked towards the vehicles, I saw the trainer working with another team. He left that team and met us, looking worried. He seemed very confused, and glanced at his watch.

Trainer: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing. We found Megan, so we’re headed back to the truck.
Trainer: You already found her?
Me: Yep.
Trainer: Already?
Me: Yes. We started out the way you suggested, but Reyna didn’t like it, so she found an easier path to take. We overshot the cemetery at first, but then she went right back to it and found Megan.
Trainer: Really?
Me: Yeah.
Trainer: That should have taken longer.
Me: Um, okay. Why?
Trainer: That was a very advanced exercise.
Me: Okay…
Trainer: It should have taken Reyna longer than 10 minutes. It was a very hard search.
Me: Heh. No one told Reyna that.
Trainer: Take her home. She’s done for the day.

Reyna and I strolled back to the truck, smug expressions on both our faces.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When Good Rabbits Go Bad

It seems like the rabbit that the pups had for breakfast one morning about a month ago is coming back to haunt them. Reyna has tapeworms, which dogs can get only from eating fleas. And since neither of the dogs have fleas and they haven’t been hanging out with other dogs, the rabbit is the likely culprit. I was surprised to discover that it can take a month or more between eating the fleas and showing indications of tapeworms. I’ll be picking up meds for Reyna and Duncan from the vet today. Duncan has not shown the same indications of worms, but he has been throwing up every day this week. Then last night and this morning, his poop was, let’s say, unpleasant. The vet thinks Duncan may actually have tapeworms and they’re irritating his intestinal tract. So, both pups get deworming meds today, and Duncan gets to take Pepcid AC for the next few days to see if that settles down his innards. Paws crossed...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When Cold Is Bad

For the last few months, Reyna’s been the one who decides how long we stay outside. Most of the time, we'll stay out for a long while, running around the yard, playing keep away or catch. The days that she doesn’t feel too great, though, we usually don’t stay out too long. On rare occasions, I’ll stay out with Duncan for a few minutes after Reyna’s gone inside and throw his ball. This morning was a bad one for Reyna. She went outside just long enough to potty and make one lap around the yard. Before she finished that lap, she was limping. I’m hoping that she’ll adjust to the cooler temps soon and won’t have too much trouble as Fall and Winter progress. But I’m more worried that, if she’s having this much trouble now, its just going to get a lot worse as the weather gets colder.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Pooped Pup

Sunday, Duncan and I met Marie and Sophie at Lake Johnson for walk. We did about a mile with Marie and Sophie, and after walking them back to their car, Duncan and I set off in the other direction. I had a vague idea of only going a mile or so and then turning back, but we ended up walking the entire loop. According to my pedometer, Duncan and I covered a bit more than four miles. He was acting like he wanted to keep going, although I’d noticed that on the last couple of hills he’d eased back from walking at the end of his leash to walking beside me. Since I didn’t feel like doing another nearly three mile loop, we headed on home. My big, strong boy - who was so ready to keep walking - collapsed when we got home, and spent the next three hours unconscious on his bed.

Well, Yes, She Does Have Her Quirks

Late last summer I bought some crunchy treats for Reyna. I got them specifically because they didn’t contain lamb, beef, chicken or wheat, which meant she should be able to eat them without ripping out her fur later. One bag was carrot flavor and the other was apple flavor. She didn’t like them. In fact, she turned her nose up so fast I’m surprised she didn’t wrench her neck. They sat in the cabinet until a week ago. Reyna was bugging me for a cookie, so I decided to give her one of those, figuring she’d look at it and leave. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did she eat it, she asked for another one. So I pulled out the other bag to see if she’d eat the other flavor. She did. And Duncan started eating them, too. Friday, I bought new bags of the carrot and apple flavors, and I bought a bag of blueberry treats, too. Last night, Reyna started pestering for a cookie again, so I brought out the three bags. She ate all three flavors of cookies and kept asking for more. When I put them away, she sat in front of the cabinet until she realized I wasn’t going to bring them back out. I don’t know what has changed from last summer to now, but I’m glad I didn’t just toss the treats away last year.

Duncan had his annual check-up Saturday (and he’s just fine). While we were there, I talked with the vet a bit more about an FHO for Reyna. He admitted that there would most likely be damage to her other hip, her shoulder, and her knees during the recovery period because she’d be compensating for the surgical hip. He then said there’s no way to estimate the amount of potential damage; we’d just have to wait until the damage was done to see how bad it was. Gee, that’s a comforting thought. He also said that yes, it was very possible that the recovery could go horribly wrong, just because of Reyna’s quirks and other health issues. He said that, if I decide to put her through the surgery, I should assume that I’ll be dealing with all the stuff that could go wrong (infection, ripping out fur, chewing the tail, seizures, injuries to the other joints, etc), and just hope for the best. I should have asked him if he’ll make house calls when she starts trying to eat her tail.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Just A Dog

From time to time, people tell me, 'lighten up, it's just a dog,' or, 'that's a lot of money for just a dog.'

They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for 'just a dog.'

Some of my proudest moments have come about with 'just a dog.'

Many hours have passed and my only company was 'just a dog,' but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by 'just a dog,' and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of 'just a dog' gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's 'just a dog,' then you will probably understand phrases like 'just a friend,' 'just a sunrise,' or 'just a promise.'

'Just a dog' brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.

'Just a dog' brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.

Because of 'just a dog', I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it's not 'just a dog' but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

'Just a dog' brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it's not 'just a dog', but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being 'just a man or woman.'

So the next time you hear the phrase 'just a dog' just smile...because they 'just don't understand.'

- Anonymous

Monday, October 13, 2008


Duncan discovered a new game Saturday night. Its called Herding The Neighbor’s Children. Not really the best game, considering he weighs more than the kids (and more than the two girls combined). The game started in the usual fashion: one of the kids dropped their ball, Reyna picked it up, and keep away ensued with much shrieking. Duncan got a bit too excited, though, and after about 10 minutes he started herding. With his mouth. He nipped one of the girls on her calves several times, and then he started nipping at various arms. He never actually bit anyone, but he was very mouthy and the girls were terrified. By the time the fun ended, all three kids were plastered up against their dad and Duncan was running around them, occasionally reaching in to try and grab one of them. I wouldn’t be too concerned about it, but Duncan has shown before that he really doesn’t know how big and strong he is and he tends to forget that he has to be gentle with everyone other than Reyna.

And speaking of Reyna, weekends are obviously the hardest for her. She did better this Sunday than last, but she was still limping by the afternoon. And she seemed to be much more tired than usual. She handled the SAR session well, and the trainer made a point of laying a track for her on the easiest terrain. She has next Sunday off, so we’ll see if that makes a significant difference. If it does, I may cancel the rest of her sessions. Unfortunately, doing that means we’re just one step closer to the end.

Belle’s doing much better these days, which is nice. Her eye has finally started clearing up. I don’t think the flip-flopping temperatures are helping much, but I’m not closing my windows just for her. The other day, Belle was drinking from their water bowl when Khar’pern decided to lay down on the opposite side of the bowl. Without any warning, Khar shoved the bowl straight at Belle. I’m not sure what upset Belle more – the sheer rudeness of it all, getting her legs bumped by the bowl, or snorting water up her nose…

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Belle had her annual check-up two and a half weeks ago and was given a clean bill of health. The only problem was her hatred of the other cats. And, really, if she quit having such an attitude, I’d probably think something was wrong with her. And the attitude makes sense, when you consider that Loki likes to play “I’m not touching you,” Mikey likes to sit on her head, and Per’la pounces on her when she’s sleeping… Last week, though, Belle woke up with a cold. She’s still feeling pretty cruddy and her eye is all ooky. Nothing the vet can do for her, so she just has to tough it out.

Last night, I discovered Khar’pern under the sink, reposing very regally upon a package of toilet paper. She looked rather put out that I’d had the nerve to open the cabinet door.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Last night before bed, the dogs kept checking out the back fence. They were obviously hearing or smelling something in the woods. Whatever it was, it apparently came back, because Duncan woke me up a few minutes before 1:00, running out the back door. Reyna didn’t bother to join him, but Duncan was rather fierce (i.e., vocal) in his determination to make the intruder go away. What was so funny about it was that his voice cracked twice. Both times he started out barking his loud and deep Big Dog bark, and both time he ended up baying. And both times, he turned into an adolescent male. I really wish I’d had my video camera – nothing to see, but certainly something funny to hear.

Reyna had a rough weekend with her hips, but she was feeling a lot better this morning. She kept teasing Duncan after breakfast with her stuffed hot dog. She didn’t play with Duncan much over the weekend, but I did get a couple of neat pictures Saturday when they played for a minute or so. Notice the stick in Reyna’s mouth…

And here she is, staring obsessively at Niko. Niko didn't seem bothered by her at all, even when she knocked his cage over (I caught that on the video camera, along with me cussing at Reyna...).

Reyna has an appointment at the NCSU Vet School on the 29th. John suggested contacting them for a second opinion. Not sure why that didn’t occur to me, so I’m just going to blame the stress. They’ll look at her old x-rays and do new ones. I don’t really expect them to offer a new or significantly different solution, but I’m hoping they might have more/better statistics they can show me. And since they haven’t been her vet since she was 10 weeks old, they have no emotional investment in her. I wish they could see her sooner, but that was the earliest slot available.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Duncan The Dancing Dog

Duncan and I did a freestyle demo Wednesday night for the German Shepherd Dog club, along with two other members of our Tailshakers club. It was definitely a success. Duncan and I danced to “Its in His Kiss,” Melissa and Kai showed off a few moves (their CD wouldn’t play), and Mandy and Socks danced to “Yes, Sir, She’s My Baby.” Then we did our team routine, gave a brief lesson on a couple of basic moves, and answered questions. And by popular demand, Mandy and Socks went back on the floor to show off some fancy steps. Duncan performed beautifully, even though we haven’t practiced in over a month. Something about following the scent of hot dogs, I’m sure. But the nice thing about the GSD club is that everyone there knows and loves Duncan, so they would have applauded anything he did. They even laughed and cooed when he flipped over on his back during the business meeting and kicked Deeda in the leg a few times.