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.

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  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"?