Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tick Panel

Duncan’s tick panel came back yesterday. He shows a low positive for Ehrlichia (coincidentally, the same illness that Reyna was positive for a few months ago). The titer number is low enough that its impossible to tell if this is a current infection or an old one, but we’re going to throw 28 days of Doxycycline at it and see what happens. At the end of the treatment they’ll run another titer. If the number goes down, then we were mostly likely dealing with an active infection. If the number doesn’t change, then it was an old infection. Of course, even if its active there’s no way of knowing if this has anything to do with Duncan’s problems. But it’s the only thing we have left to try.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Better Living Through Pharmaceuticals

Last night was our group herding lesson. We had so much fun! One of the girls brought cupcakes for a belated birthday treat, which was a great way to start the evening. I’d given Duncan a couple of doses of Rimadyl before herding, and it made such a huge difference from the last time we were there. It was obvious to everyone that Duncan felt a lot better. He was laid back and relaxed, but his tail was wagging the entire time. He was so relaxed, in fact, that even though we had some really light sheep during our last two runs, he was able to keep everyone calm and moving at a reasonable pace (rather than the all-out running I’d expected). We worked on moving the sheep around the arena, stopping at gates, putting the sheep in a pen and getting them back out again. We had a couple of minor incidents – the first was when Duncan went into the pen to get the sheep out and he got a little grabby. I noticed later that one of the sheep was bleeding, but I don’t think it was all Duncan (apparently, the dog running before him had also been grabby). During our first run with the really light sheep, one of them bolted while we were trying to pen them. The stupid thing managed to run itself directly into the fence and then basically bounced backward into Duncan. I was still at the pen and couldn’t see exactly what happened, but everyone else did. We all agreed its not Duncan’s fault if a sheep essentially puts itself in Duncan’s mouth. I think he was just as startled by it as everyone else… The great thing was that a couple of minutes later, Duncan was able to go back into the arena and walk those same sheep around with no trouble at all. I was so pleased with how our evening went, and it was so wonderful to see Duncan happy about herding again. If a little Rimadyl has such a dramatic effect on him, we might actually be able to get back into regular training. I’m not going to push for any trials by the end of the year, but maybe next Spring…

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to walk Reyna at least four times a week. The weather and my schedule occasionally get in the way, but we’ve been pretty successful overall. We generally get started between 6:30 and 7:00am, walk at least three miles each morning, and occasionally up to five, depending on how much time we have. We average a 20 minute mile, so we’re not exactly meandering, but the walk still takes time. The neat thing about it all is that I’ve lost about ten pounds and Reyna’s in the best shape she’s been in for several years.

The route we take is generally quiet, with only a few houses along the road. Reyna loves it because there’s always something dead at some point along the walk. Occasionally she gets really lucky and it’s a deer, but its usually something smaller, like a possum or snake. She also gets to stalk the oncoming traffic, which is a huge game for her. The downside is that most of the road apparently isn’t maintained by anyone, so the grass and weeds on the shoulder are as high as Reyna’s head in a lot of places. She doesn’t mind it too much, but it aggravates me a bit to walk through all that tall stuff when we have a row of cars coming towards us. Thankfully, that hasn’t been too much of a problem for us.

Until today.

School is back in session and, based on the number of cars, most children don’t take the bus anymore. There was so much traffic today that our walk took considerably longer than usual (we slow down and move farther onto the shoulder when cars pass, since some people don’t make any real effort to avoid hitting us). By the time we got home, I was so annoyed by the whole mess. Obviously, its time to break out the flashlight and reflective vests and start walking even earlier.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Saturday evening, I took Reyna for her first herding lesson since Spring 2008. I decided to try her on tending, rather than arena style herding, since I figured she’d still be pretty interested in eating the sheep. I wasn’t too sure how things would go, but I was very happily surprised. Reyna picked up the boundary concept very quickly and didn’t fight too hard to get in the graze with the sheep. She was also quick to realize that she needed to prevent the sheep from leaving the graze. Claire and I were both extremely impressed with how well she did. Who knows, I may have another herding dog on my hands.

Just because Reyna got the boundary concept didn't mean she wasn't going to test it occasionally...

We definitely didn't have the problem of Reyna watching me more than she does the sheep. She was very focused on the sheep.

Reyna and Emily (who really didn't care about the dog) had a stare down.

Since the sheep weren't moving, Reyna decided she could take a quick break, too.

Reyna working the edge of the boundary.

And staying outside the boundary on the corner, just like she's supposed to do.

Reyna took water breaks every so often.

But even during her water break, she still kept an eye out for the sheep.

We also had the fun of a loose rabbit in the field next to the graze. The silly thing came up to the fence at one point, which really distracted Reyna from her sheep. She actually started stalking it, until the rabbit apparently realized that it was not in the safest possible location. Once the rabbit was out of sight again, Reyna went right back to her sheep.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good, Bad And Worse

I dropped Duncan off at the vet school shortly before 8am this morning. He was scheduled for anesthesia at 10, and the procedure was scheduled to take about two hours. At 1pm, the neuro vet called to tell me that Duncan was awake and moving around. I picked Duncan up around 3:30, chatted with the vet student for a bit, and got home about 4:45. Poor Duncan was so agitated when I got him – he was definitely very ready to get home.

For some reason, Duncan thinks that the chair is the safest place in the exam room…

So, the good news is that they didn’t find anything untreatable. The bad news is that they also didn’t find anything specific or treatable. The worse news is that the neuro and ortho vets have absolutely no idea what’s wrong with my sweet boy. The next step is….nothing, really. Just waiting to see if Duncan gets worse. They want to see him again in three months to evaluate any deterioration that may occur.

We are going to run two more simple tests. They’re sending off blood to do a genetic test for Degenerative Myelopathy. The vets are all in agreement that he doesn’t have it (or, if he does, it’s the oddest presentation ever), but they also agree it doesn’t hurt to check. After all, if he doesn’t have the two genes required, then we can pretty much mark DM off the list of possibilities for good. They’re also running a fairly extensive tick test. Again, no one (including me) thinks he has a tick-borne illness, but its just one more thing we can officially rule out. And then we’re done. Unless something dramatic happens in the next three months, we’re scheduled to go back to the vet school in November.

In the meantime, I get to be entertained by a very groggy puppy…

Duncan insists he’s wide awake.

But then again, maybe not.

No point in pretending any longer…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


My deepest condolences to Steve and Laura, who lost their beloved Mushka to cancer this weekend. I'm sure he and SamDog are playing together again, happy and pain free.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Vet School

Today was a long day at the vet school. Duncan’s appointment was at 9:45, and we finally saw the first vet at 10:30. After the student did an exam, the neurologist came in. We spent about an hour with the two of them, and then they took Duncan for a visit with the chief neurologist. They told me they wanted Duncan to see the ortho vet again, just to find out if there were any significant changes from our last visit. They initially said the ortho could see us between 2pm and 4pm, so Duncan and I left the vet school around 12:30 to get some lunch. We found a nice little Italian place that let Duncan sit on the patio with me while I ate. We got back to the vet school about 1:00 and were lucky that the ortho schedule had cleared up and he could see Duncan right then. We finally made it home a little before 3pm.

After all of that, we’re a little farther ahead than we were after our last visit, but not a lot. The neurologist doesn’t think Duncan has DM, thank goodness. He isn’t making any promises, of course, but he said it would be the oddest presentation of DM he’s ever seen. All of the vets are in agreement that something is very wrong, the primary problem is neurological, and his orthopedic issues are a result, but not the cause. His knee is still a separate issue, of course, but they don’t think that’s gotten any worse. They also think he’s scuffing and dragging his feet because he’s so low to the ground, not because he doesn’t recognize where his feet are. They said he basically just can’t get his feet up high enough to keep them from scuffing.

Duncan goes back in Thursday morning and will spend the day having electrodiagnostic tests done. The tests are electromyography (for the muscles) and nerve conduction studies. They’re looking for any odd results. If they find something, they’ll take biopsies of the nerves or muscles and send them to a lab for testing. There are three possible outcomes. 1) They find nothing, and I’m broke and really, really annoyed. 2) They find something, but the lab results come back very general and untreatable, and I’m broke and really, really annoyed. 3) They find something and the lab results come back specific and treatable, and I’m broke but not annoyed. Cross your paws for option three. The bad part is if they do biopsies, it’ll be 10-14 days before we get the results.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Majority Rules

Due to a very generous gift from Mom and Ronnie, I’ve been given the option of turning on the air conditioning. My first thought was to not bother – after all, we’ve made it this long, what’s a few more weeks? However, I don’t run the house as a dictatorship (unless its necessary), so I polled the residents before making a decision. The final results were 6 to 2 for AC (although Duncan voted twice), with 2 abstaining and 1 unclear (not undecided, just unclear). Khar’pern and Per’la were against the AC – they both said they were perfectly fine as they were. Belle voted for the AC, but said it had to be done in moderation, as her bones get creaky if she gets too cold. Loki thought AC was the best idea he’d heard in months. Mikey said it was okay, as long as it didn’t interfere with his sunbeam. Duncan actually voted twice, but I decided to let that slide since he hasn’t been feeling well. Niko thought it would be fun to be cool again, although he was concerned that he’d molted too many feathers to adjust to the new temps. Parm actually voted to be allowed back in the house, but since that wasn’t on the ballot, his vote counts as an abstention. I didn’t vote since I’d have made an even number and might have caused a tie. Reyna…well, I don‘t know what Reyna wanted, because she just spun in circles and barked. By that point, though, we had an obvious majority vote for AC, so I decided it didn’t really matter what she thought. Before bed last night, I turned on the AC for the first time this year. It took all night and part of the morning to cool the house down to the programmed temperature. Now I just have to find a temperature that keeps us all cool but doesn’t leave me sitting on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me. One not-unexpected side effect of the AC is a significant spike in spinning and barking. Apparently, Reyna’s feeling really spiffy now that she doesn’t have to camp in front of the box fan…

Thanks again to Mom and Ronnie, from 5 cats, 2 dogs, 1 bird, and me!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Water Games

Duncan and I were supposed to meet a friend at the lake for a swimming session Monday evening, but she canceled on me. Instead, Duncan and I took Reyna with us. I was a little concerned, because I generally don’t trust her off leash in a potentially public place, but no one else was around so it worked out just fine. Reyna had a lovely time swimming around our little cove. It was interesting to see how upset she got when I swam away from the bank. She would become visibly agitated until either she was beside me or I swam back to the bank.

Duncan, on the other paw, apparently forgot everything he learned Saturday. I had to coax him into deeper water and then hold him up while he flailed around for several minutes. All his splashing accomplished was getting water in his face, which made him even more upset. When he suddenly realized (remembered?) he wasn’t going to drown, he settled down and swam very nicely. The three of us swam back and forth across the cove a couple of times, and I had to laugh when Duncan tried to cheat by running along the bank instead. Thankfully, the terrain at that particular spot wasn’t very conducive to walking, so he gave up and got back in the water.

Duncan isn't actually swimming here, but I really like this picture...


My sweet boy is 10 years old today. Happy Birthday, Mikey!

Save The Date

Duncan goes to the neurologist Monday, August 16. Cross your paws for him.