There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Monday, August 17, 2015

State of Iowa vs. Motorists




The State of Iowa seems to be of the opinion that highways exist for the primary purpose of providing employment for construction workers and only incidentally as a means for travelers to get from point A to point B. This is most evidenced in two ways. The first is the constant construction on highways throughout the state where highway workers can be seen walking up and down behind the orange barricades seemingly without goal or purpose. Deadlines for completion are constantly pushed back and when “improvement” projects are actually completed they are built to specifications put forth years ago and entirely inadequate for traffic conditions when they are finished. Consequently new projects are immediately begun to modernize those just completed. Consequently eternal employment is guaranteed to highway workers and eternal frustration to motorists.



The second indication is the complete misuse or absence of road signs. The philosophy here seems to be that if you don’t know how to get to your destination you don’t deserve to go. Road signs in Iowa tend to be missing, misleading or wrong. My first indication of this was when traveling to Des Moines from Peoria, Il. In no hurry and wanting to enjoy a leisurely scenic drive across Iowa I was traveling on US highway 6 rather than the taking the express route Interstate 80. As I approached Iowa City, a forest of the familiar orange cones rose up and made driving through this busy college town a test of courage and determination. As I neared the western edge of the city a sign appeared “Detour US 6” with an arrow pointing to a two lane highway headed north. I dutifully followed the sign and went off into the dusk expecting to be eventually guided back to route 6 by further signs. No such luck. An hour later, far into northern Iowa I realized I was on my own and that there would be no further help from the Iowa Department of Transportation. I eventually found my way to Des Moines by dead reckoning arriving two hours later than planned.  Now, having moved to Iowa and lived here for sixteen years I realize that this is simply business as usual for the Iowa DOT. You may or may not get a sign at a junction indicating to what destination the crossroad leads. And if you do, the odds are very good that the information may be incorrect. Yet I lived so long in the civilized world where the realization is that in the maze of highways crossing and crisscrossing this country travelers need indications of where highways lead that my expectations frequently exceed what Iowa is prepared to offer. Just last weekend attempting to find a county park in Warren county I turned right at a sign indicating the park was 4 miles to the south.  Forty minutes later I had not encountered another sign or a park. Just another frustration accepted as normal by native Iowans. Myself, I can’t say I will ever get used to it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dog Stress III all things come to an end




Last post 10 months ago. Originally this was meant to be a series about the decision to give every opportunity for a good life to a pet with success, however costly, at the end. But plans often go awry and it has taken this long for me to be able to face ending the story. So finally here is the conclusion, and perhaps we can return to more frequent entries and random rants. 

After Sam’s first surgery when we visited four days later he was not improving but getting worse so we agreed to a second surgery. He came through this one as well and a week later we brought him home to begin his recovery. It was a long road since his hind quarters were still paralyzed. But over time he gradually regained about 98%. He could walk well, chase squirrels again, take walks with me and wag his tail joyfully as he eagerly went about his doggy life. There was physical therapy involved and all sorts of logistic problems helping him get around before his functions returned but we considered these things labors of love and we did them willing.

Then six months later the symptoms returned. Same routine – ER vet, then as symptoms worsened and pain could not be controlled with oral meds it was back to Iowa State and a second surgery. We were greatly encouraged when the first day after surgery he was up and walking. But two days later a call in the morning told us that he had “a setback”. He had regurgitated something and aspirated it into his lungs. X-rays were indicated to see how his lungs looked. The next thing we knew the Dr. was on the phone with us talking about did we want him on a ventilator and when we might consider humane euthanasia! To say we were alarmed is an understatement. Finally I realized that we were talking about end of life issues and the Dr. asked if we wanted to come and see him.  We were panicked and ran to get the car out of the garage and head for the clinic but then the call came that his heart had stopped. Realizing that he had had enough and anything more that we did would not be for him but for us we declined CPR since the Dr. had told us that fighting to breathe had used up all his resources. And just like that Sam was gone.



We spent a lot of money. A lot. And in the end we lost a wonderful little companion. For weeks I was racked with guilt although I still cannot see that there was an alternative. Let him live paralyzed and in pain? Euthanize him when there was still a chance he would recover and have years more of a happy life? No and no. People who have never accepted an animal as part of their family will never understand the expenditure. People who have been in similar situations will understand all too well. We bought 6 months of a happy, healthy life for him and as a bonus had the pleasure of his companionship for that time as well.

When the wound on our hearts scarred over some, and I had spent weeks at home in a very empty house we decided to open our hearts to another homeless dog. Now we have Siegfried (Siegi), another long haired dachshund. Not that anything could every replace Sam but as my wife says “Each dog brings his own gifts” and although tears still come as I remember and write about Sam, Siegi is teaching us to love another dog in his own way.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dog Stress II



Three weeks after Sam’s visits to the emergency vet when we thought he was back to normal on a Saturday evening (again! Those with pets know that these things always happen on a weekend or holiday.) Sam refused to walk up his ramp to sit on the couch and retreated to the kitchen where he huddled in a corner. Feeling his back it was clear that the spasms were back stronger than ever.  When we got to the emergency vet where the staff was getting to know us quite well, it was obvious that Sam was in a good deal of pain, quivering, refusing to stand up and panting – almost gasping loudly. After his examination we had a long consult with the Dr. on duty and concluded that conservative measures had failed and we were now looking at surgery. And now comes the point where some readers may ask “What the hell were you thinking?”. We were told that surgery would run three to four thousand dollars. We knew as we drove Sam to the clinic that we were likely to be facing this and what were the choices? Well, we could opt for palliative measures as he became paralyzed and see if he could adapt to life in a cart (a type of dog wheel chair), we could have him put down or we could opt for the surgery. Many times there are reasons to choose each one of these and most of them are financial. There are those who would say “let him go, it’s just a dog” and to those people all I can offer is a sad shake of my head knowing that they have never really formed such a bond with a dog that they realize how a dog becomes a family member. For many the cart becomes the answer and when considering surgery we were completely aware that sometimes surgery fails and the dog winds up in a cart anyway. But we had the financial means and even if we had to scrimp in other areas, Sam had brought so much love and pleasure to us that there really was no question that we would try the surgery. So Iowa State was called and they wouldn’t take him on a Saturday night unless he had lost all motor function, which he hadn’t. So we elected to board him at the clinic until Iowa State would take him so his pain could be controlled.



Sunday afternoon we got a call from the clinic that Sam was rapidly losing deep pain sensation and all motor function, Iowa State had been called and was prepared to receive him, so we picked him up from the clinic and drove to Ames. To shorten this long story, we consulted with a surgeon and he decided to operate immediately as soon as an MRI was obtained. There being nothing more we could do there we went home to wait for a phone call.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dog Stress Part 1



I mentioned last time that our dachshund, Sam, was undergoing a bout with Intervertebral Disc Disease. This is one of those breeder produced diseases that comes from those in the dog show world trying to mold living creatures to some imaginary “standard”. In addition to IVDD these ailments include glaucoma, hip or elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, Cushing’s disease, cataracts, hydrocephalus, cardiomyopathy, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, patellar luxation, retinal atrophy, upper airway syndrome, and to mention just one more result of breeding to produce a desired body shape, English bulldogs can no longer give birth naturally because of the artificial selection of narrow hips and all pups must be delivered by caesarean section. This list is unfortunately but a few of the conditions caused by generations of inbreeding, and if you are a dog lover it should horrify you. But it is the standards embraced by the show dog circuit that have led to these problems and have cut short the life of many an animal that those in the dog fancy profess to love. Personally I think what they are in love with is self-aggrandizement in much the same way parents lose all control when pushing their children into sports or other activities that they wish they had excelled in themselves. But all that is a rant for another day. See http://avetsguidetolife.blogspot.com/2014/08/messed-up-breedswere-responsible.html  for more information from a veterinarian. This entry is an “up close and personal” account of one dog and his owners coping with one specific disease.

Early last spring I got the first warning sign but didn’t recognize it. I had Sam out for a walk and just as we started, instead of eagerly plunging ahead, Sam sat down and refused to go further. I reached down to pet and reassure him and noticed his body was quivering. I picked him up and carried him back to the house and sat down next to him on the floor rubbing him and helping him relax. I thought that he was having a very mild seizure. I had owned other dachshunds that had occasional seizures – maybe once or twice in their lives – it seems that this is a breed thing and doesn’t require medical care unless it is regular and persistent. So finally Sam stopped quivering and relaxed and spent the rest of the afternoon napping next to me on the couch. Life went on and the incident was nearly forgotten. Then two months later the other shoe dropped. Coming home from playing at a wedding on a Saturday night we noticed that Sam didn’t come running to greet us. Instead he just sat on the floor panting loudly. Then he would get up and pace as if looking for something. It was definitely atypical behavior and touching his back I could feel what I now could identify as muscles spasms all along his back and sides. We had no idea what to do, so after a quick call to an emergency vet, at 9:30 at night we piled into the truck and away we went. At the vet’s he got a spinal x-ray which looked normal and his spasms stopped so we were told to keep him from vigorous activity and sent home with some pain medication.

Two days later we were back at the emergency vet with stronger spasms and it was now evident that Sam was in pain. A different vet saw him and then we heard the dreaded diagnosis “herniated disk” and told to give him strict crate rest for three weeks. Again his spasms gradually receded and muscle relaxant was added to his meds. We set up the ex-pen in the living room and began the routine of carrying him outside to do his business. Three weeks later he seemed normal and enjoyed another three weeks of regular activity. We didn’t know it but we had just been through a warm up for the main event.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer madness

Summer's half over and I'm trying to catch my breath. Late in May my mother-in-law passed away and my wife has been busy trying to help get her small estate in order and prepare the house for sale.

About the same time our dachshund suffered a back episode requiring us to take him to the emergency (read "expensive") vet twice in a three day period. After three weeks of strict crate rest he seemed to have recovered and led his normal doggy life for another three weeks before another episode. This time he was sent to Iowa State Veterinary Clinic where he underwent two spinal surgeries within 3 days. (For those unfamiliar with the dachshund breed, because of their long backs, they - along with other long backed breeds such as Corgis and Bassets - have a congenital tendency toward Intervertebral Disc Disease. I won't go into it - you can Google it.) After 2 weeks in the hospital, much of it in intensive care, he is now at home where we are trying to help him regain use of his hind legs. The costs of this are massive and ongoing. My hair was thinning and I may resemble Mr. Clean when this is over. My sisters and brother-in-law set up a gofundme page to try and help out. You might want to check it out Sam's Surgeries . If you just want to see this guy and what's going on with him you can check his facebook page The Sam Chronicles . I could go into a rant here about what the dog show crowd has done to purebred dogs from hip dysplasia in large breeds to breathing problems in bulldogs and pugs to these back problems in dachshunds, but you can research it yourself. Look at pictures of these breeds from the early 20th century and look at them now. Inbreeding has weakened purebred dogs for the amusement of dog show participants.

In the middle of all this the community theater that my wife and I play in the orchestra for did their annual summer production. This year it was "The Music Man". Every community theater in Iowa must put this one on at least once and as a result it becomes hackneyed and overdone. Surprisingly under new direction this production was a real winner. It was a pleasure to rehearse and great fun to play the performances. I've complained long and hard elsewhere in these pages about inept direction for amateur production but this was a welcome exception. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if we hadn't been dealing with an invalid pet.

All of this took place after a sort of mixed blessing in that I finally retired from my support position in the banking industry. I looked forward to having a lot of time to do things I had put off doing for years but those things are getting but brief attention as I deal with every thing else rolling downhill. I considered a lengthy rant about the horrible inefficiencies of the banking industry - you know something is wrong when a whole industry can afford to waste so much money, but I'm sure that kind of information is available elsewhere and I would just like to put it all behind me.

Now here it is nearly the first of August, with Labor Day a month away and where has the summer gone? I'm kind of glad we didn't try to have a summer trip this year, but looking forward to the early Christmas gathering of my family near New Orleans in November.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Do Not Drive Into Smoke

(Please excuse any formatting peculiarities on this entry, blogspot has conveniently decided to not let me use their full featured editor)
Long ago in a galaxy not so far away I made a trip from Illinois to California in a 1955 Chevy. People made trips similar to this in similar vehicles in those days and thought nothing of it. This was in the days before the interstate system was complete and much of this journey was made on two lane highways. On the outbound leg of the journey while driving through Oklahoma I noticed highway signs which said "Do Not Drive Into Smoke". I thought this was odd, but saw no smoke during my passage and thought little of it.

A couple of months later on the return trip in the heat of August with no AC and the windows wide open I chose to go by way of Kansas and mid afternoon near Hiawatha I saw a cloud of smoke drifting toward the highway. Having seen no warning signs in Kansas I drove on. At 50 miles per hour and too late to do anything about it, I noticed just before entering the smoke that it looked strangely particulate. No sooner had I noticed this than I was in the cloud and instantly the car was filled with grasshoppers!

When I say filled, I mean that there was not a cubic inch of space inside the car that did not contain a grasshopper. At highway speed I couldn't get pulled over until I was through the cloud and by that time I had grasshoppers in my hair, in my clothes, all over the seats, clinging to the upholstery and ceiling, covering the dash and floor, and in every vent and cranny of the Chevy. A long period of "debugging" myself and the car ensued and even a year later I was still finding grasshopper carcasses in forgotten crevices of the machine.

I was irate and freaked out at the time and wondered why more information was not supplied by the warning signs in Oklahoma. But then what would travelers of the times made of signs saying "Do Not Drive Into Grasshoppers"?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Catching up..

Last post was in March – wow. Certainly gives an indication of how interesting life is here in Iowa. Don’t know whether this may be a symptom of blogger’s block or not. It seems that even some of the most interesting blogs eventually either grind slowly down or deteriorate into minutia of day to day existence that really isn’t that riveting. Whatever the case, it seems that my creative juices get stirred the most when I am outraged about something. Maybe I’m calming down as I age. (yeah – right).

Now it seems that blogger will not allow me to edit and format this blog in their "compose" mode. I can get around in HTML but web technology has really progressed to where expecting WYSIWYG shouldn't be extraordinary. Blogger, I've moved this blog once, I can always move it again. But I digress.

Winter has descending on Iowa in full suck. Temperatures the first week of December hovered around zero at night while temperatures in Juneau, Alaska were in the 30s. What’s wrong with this picture? The first measurable snowfall of the season left 4” on the streets and the usual horde of clueless motorists learned all over again that this strange white stuff could ruin your plans as you selected your speed from two options – too slow or too fast. The Des Moines street department apparently uses snow as a Darwinian device to remove drivers from the roads since they steadfastly refuse to start to clean the streets until after the snow has stopped. Ten o’clock news casts become slide shows of bewildered doofuses standing beside vehicles firmly ensconced in ditches that arrived there by way of excessive speed coupled with a lack of understanding the coefficient of friction between rubber and frozen water.

I really find it ironic that the season of the year where people are in a frenzy of shopping, traveling and merry making has, largely because of climate change, become a season of very difficult, hazardous and dangerous travel. Years ago the coldest weather occurred in January and the holiday season experienced gentle snows and temperatures in the 20s and 30s. It’s been pretty obvious for some time that nature is trying to get our attention “Hey!! You people are screwing this up!” but it becomes particularly pointed as each December seems to get a bit worse. My extended family finally gave up and now celebrates the holidays in October or early November. I’m sure that there are some who would point to a deeper meaning of Christmas that now seems nearly forgotten.

Over the weekend spent seven hours rehearsing and the performing annual “sing along Messiah”. Tonight playing quintet gig at local hospice. In college I could play with a different group every day and performances most nights and still play dance jobs on Friday and Saturday. Nothing says aging quite like the fact that I need some recovery time.

So as I grind on toward retirement next June, after which I may have more time to ruminate by way of this medium, I’ll try to find more interesting tidbits to share here.