Tag Archives: dogs

Fraggle Friday: Stella Milestones

Today marks two months from Stella’s first seizure.

When that seizure happened, I hoped I had one month, prayed for two months, with her. I heard brain tumors grew quickly, and 1-2 months was a reasonable prediction for how long she would have.

Stella had back surgery on April 10th. On that day I hoped she would make it through surgery and regain some mobility. I hoped she could walk on her own again. I never expected her to walk up stairs or run. At 14 years old, I kept my expectations in check for what this dog would be able to do.

But apparently I forgot it was Stella who had back surgery and a brain tumor. Stella, the dog who I joked, if she were a human, she would be a multi sport Olympian. This is not a dog who is going to sit around and let anything stop her.

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This photo was taken 7/13. Clearly she can run…. PC:Nate Liles

And, so, a summer of adventures began. And, because it was summer, our adventures have involved a LOT of time in the water.

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Amazing weekend trip to Stanley, Idaho. Stella hadn’t been in the water yet this summer, and I worried she would have trouble. She didn’t.

On this trip to Stanley, Stella realized she felt GOOD. She took off down a trail thinking that’s the way we were going. Bring that she is basically deaf, and totally independent, I ended up running after her down the trail for 5 minutes when it became clear she was not coming back to me.

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She’s still one of the strongest swimmers. Siri does her best to keep up

She still loves to play fetch, although sometimes she can’t actually see the stick once I’ve thrown it into the water…

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Ready to fetch!

And to be honest, some days are better for her than others. Yesterday she just wanted to sleep. It’s been hot and smokey so I pretty much feel the same way. I’ve stopped thinking “is this your last day?” every single day, and instead am just enjoying every single day we have together.

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Siri is really good at convincing Stella to cuddle

It’s been an incredibly fun summer with her, and I am so thankful I get to continue having her in my life!

 

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Fraggle Friday: A Lifetime of Worry

Not surprisingly, lately, I have a lot of angst about Stella.

I worry she won’t eat. I worry she won’t sleep through the night. I worry that she will have another seizure. All I seem to do is worry. Which, I guess, considering her condition, is “normal.”

But then I realized that I have spent pretty much Stella’s entire life worrying about her.

Seriously.

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Young Stella looking for birds

When she was a young dog, I had a friend look after her when I went out of town. I left a 5 page instruction sheet and called at least once a day to check on her. When I returned, my friend joked that Stella had a great time just being a dog without someone worrying about her all the time. It maybe wasn’t the nicest thing to say, but now, 12 or so years later, I kinda get what she meant.

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Stella has driven across the country with me 5 times. She really enjoyed Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

I have worried every day that Stella would get hit by a car.

I worried that she would get hurt while running like a maniac in the hills

I worried that she didn’t get enough exercise.

I worried that she didn’t get enough to eat.

I worried that she was home alone too long.

I worried she had to potty while I was out and couldn’t.

I worried more about Stella’s general well being than I have worried about anything else. For almost 15 years. And weirdly, nothing terrible has ever happened. She ate when she was hungry. Was smart enough to avoid getting hurt when out on runs. She’d have to be slow and idiotic to be hit by a car (at least in her mind) so THAT wasn’t happening. She never went potty in the house and seemed fine snoozing away the day until I got home.

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How is her hair so perfect in the water??

So, really, she’s had a pretty great life, catered to her by my angst.

And while I probably wouldn’t change a thing from our past, my hope is that with Siri, maybe I can chill out just a little bit.

I’m also hopeful I get to worry about Stella for a while longer.

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Back in 2009, right before I left Ithaca NY for Idaho.

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Fraggle Friday: Horse Show Fun

Stella has been a horse show companion with me for the past 6-7 years. She’s great about being tied up when necessary, she stays out of the horse’s way, and she always loved to join me on course walks.

And while this most recent show was a bit different for her, and she didn’t get to do a course walk per say, she still had lots of fun.

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She trotted all over the place and explored as much as I would allow

We got lucky in that the facility is very dog friendly and while we were setting up the day before, after horses had finished schooling, dogs were running around all over the place.

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Exploring the canal was her favorite part of the day. I had to keep her on leash or I wouldn’t have been able to get her out of the water

She slept at the trailer while I was working with June, slept in the trailer with me overnight, but otherwise was a total busy bee having as much fun as she possibly could

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Can’t get enough of her playing in the water

She’s always game for anything, with anyone, especially if someone wants to throw something for her. (She’s lost at least one tooth when someone threw a rock for her to fetch..)

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In her younger years, showing Siri the ropes about being in the water

I think the best part of Stella as a dog, overall, is how friendly she is. I could take her anywhere and not worry about her. Sure, sometimes she would cool off in less than appropriate places…

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With Squirrel at Millbrook Horse Trials

But, she was never going to chase a horse and rider, or really, leave the trailer unless it was with me on a walk.

So fun to be able to take her with me again, and realize just how great this dog is and why I’ve enjoyed the past 15 years with her so much!

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June’s Birthday Weekend

 

So, not long ago, (like a week ago), I decided it would benefit June and I to go to a local-ish derby and school the cross country course. The facility is a little over 2 hours away, but it has great obstacles AND I knew there would be lots of riders. I really haven’t been able to get her out and about into situations where there is a lot going on, and I want to see how she handles these situations in preparation for the FEH competition in August. I’ve been reluctant to go anywhere that involves a sleep over because of Stella, but she has been doing so well that I figured I’d bring her along and find a pet sitter for Siri. The idea of taking young horse/young dog still stresses me out a bit.

I loaded June up early Saturday AM and headed over. She loaded well but then the baby horse antics began. She was back there pawing and dancing and it was kind of annoying, especially since the wind was so strong, I really couldn’t drive over 65mph.

When we arrived at the facility I realized she had untied herself. The trailer I was borrowing didn’t have a divider so I imagine she spent some time walking around back there. She had eaten all her hay though, so she clearly had her priorities. Interestingly, about halfway through the drive the wind had died down and I didn’t feel the trailer pulling any more, so she must have just started munching at that point. Things could have been far worse I suppose.

What I am learning about June, and perhaps is true of most baby horses, is that she is prone to tantrums, but they are short lived. She still struggles with being tied alone, whether on the trailer or off, but she knows to settle down eventually. She got off of the trailer, tied nicely with minimal pawing while I groomed her , was calm while we walked around before our lesson time, and then was all business for the lesson itself. She could have cared less about the other riders, horses, or any of the chaos around us.

We schooled a ditch, log, and A frame before moving to the bank complex. She was unfazed by all of these and the bank was no different. She seemed to really be enjoying herself!

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We took a short break and then headed over to the water complex. She was a bit freaked out by the water. There was some snorting, and side eye, and she was reluctant to get in it. Or near it. In her defense it was dyed a crazy turquoise color. But I have no idea if horses can see that color? So, anyway, it took some time. And lots of Sarah telling me to just be patient. But then, about 30 minutes later, someone was happily trotting through the water!

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The water was great for pictures even if it was a bit unnatural looking!

We called it a day on that, and June headed back to stabling where she got to rest, relax and think all about how great water was. Meanwhile, we returned to the event and volunteered to get it all set up for the following day. Unlike June, Stella thought the water complex was the BEST THING EVER.

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This is her “please throw rocks for me” look.

She was pretty damn adorable- especially since she can’t really see so she would miss about 50% of the rocks I was throwing. She had probably one of the best days ever, and I can’t tell you how great it was to have my best horse show dog with me.

Because I could, and because we felt it was good for June to get right back in the water, I loaded her up early the next morning and took her back to the facility. (We were stabling just 5 minutes down the road.) She didn’t want to get in the trailer, especially after a night of hanging out with her friends. But, we got her loaded (yay for people helping!) and off we went. She was a bit more high this time, but in her defense, I was in a hurry and just like “we need to get out there asap, before the event starts” which is really never the best mind frame to be in with a baby horse. They don’t always respond well to people hurrying.

I did minimal lunging and then walked over to the water complex. We walked the edge with no issue. I lunged her on the bank with no issue. I then asked her to lunge into the water and there was no issue. Within 5 minutes we were lunging in the middle of the complex and she was perfect. So, I snapped a pic, gave her some big pats, and we were done!

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This is her “I’m fine with water” look

I was going to be volunteering for a few hours and debated about taking her back to her stall. But, I was running out of time and figured this could be a great exercise in just standing for her. So, I tied her and her hay bag to the trailer and hoped for the best. As I was leaving I could hear her pawing away, and figured that at some point someone would complain about the unruly horse that’s tied to the trailer.

An hour in and I heard no complaints.

An hour and a half in, and Sarah texted me that June was standing quietly at the trailer

Two hours in and a colleague told me June was being so good at the trailer!

And at three hours, when I got back to the trailer, there she was, just hanging out. She was completely calm and relaxed.

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Hi mom! Where have you been?

I just can’t fully express how great this weekend was. I achieved so much with June, and got such a good sense of what I can expect from her. She was such a rock star about ALL of it. From being left alone, to being introduced to jumping xc obstacles, to working among chaos. She wasn’t barn sour, or scared, or difficult, at all. If I can remember to be patient with her, and really plan for the fact that I am working with a baby horse, I think the sky’s the limit with her.

And as for Stella, this weekend just reminded me how lucky I am to have had her for almost 15 years. She was the cutest, best behaved dog, who just rolled with the punches all weekend. Whether she had to be in the truck, or tied to the tent while I was volunteering to score for the event, she was cool with all of it and friendly with everyone.

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Plus, her bed head in the morning is amazing

I realized, driving home, how badly I needed this weekend. A weekend where my animals brought me nothing but joy. A weekend where I could see the future with one and enjoy the present with the other. And while I don’t know what the future holds with either,  a weekend where I could just enjoy everything about them, in two very different ways, has put a smile on my face that I can’t seem to shake. These are the moments we live for, right?

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Fraggle Friday:When Life Hands You Lemons

Oh man. Life threw me a curveball that has kinda rocked my world.

Two months to the day of Stella’s back surgery, she had her second seizure.

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Siri does her best trying to comfort her

The fact that it was her second was significant. She had her first seizure 70 hours prior. We were on a walk and she fell over and started paddling. Stopped, sat up, and then got up. The seizure lasted maybe 5 seconds? We walked slowly back to the house and she slept most of the day. After speaking with her surgeon (who I literally have on speed dial) there were a couple of possibilities. 1) Hopefully it was a one time event. 2) She has some deficiencies, and we can see if calcium and other levels are low 3) She has a brain tumor.

So, when Stella had her second seizure, after going to the vet and her blood work being absolutely perfect, we’re left with really just one option.

I cried all day Tuesday. I tried to go to work and was just a blubbering mess. I kept apologizing, but was unable to talk about why I was crying, so basically I was just super awkward and super unprofessional. Fortunately, I work in animal welfare, with a bunch of caring, compassionate people, so they handled my blubbering mess well.

And while that Tuesday was horrible, and I know my time with Stella is limited, here is the lemonade part of this story.

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We started her on Keppra, an anti seizure med, and she is like a new dog. She sleeps through the night, she eats all her meals, she gets up to greet me at the door, she drags me down the road for walks, and yesterday, when I took her to the banks of the river, she wanted to play fetch.

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Momma throw sticks?

The meds made her a bit more unstable initially (and gave her serious diarrhea, but that has resolved), so walking hasn’t been as easy for her, but now that she seems acclimated to the meds, she is really feeling great. Like, pre surgery great. For weeks before her first seizure she would get up one hour after I went to bed and begin to pace. The pacing got worse and worse and lasted longer and longer. And it was after a particularly bad night that she had her first seizure in the morning.

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Searching for sticks…

I think Stella hadn’t been feeling right for a while. And I’m not an idiot. A brain tumor is not a diagnosis anyone wants to get. I know my time with her is limited (they say it is a rapidly growing tumor and if lucky I will have 1-2 months with her). I know that one day she will probably stop eating again. She’ll start pacing. And while it scares the crap out of me, she will probably have another seizure, and it could be far worse than the last two.

So, I’m literally enjoying every moment I have with her. I’m so thankful I get to see “normal” Stella again. I’m so glad she feels good. I love that she drags me around on walks again. Knowing the end is near gives me anxiety and I’m so sad, but instead of dwelling on it, I try to focus on the now. And how lucky I am to have had this dog in my life for nearly 15 years.

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And taking lots of naps. She still enjoys that!

So, be prepared for lots of Stella posts, she’s pretty much going to rule my life for as long as she possibly can.

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Fraggle Friday: Siri’s Tough Life

If Siri could talk I have a feeling she’d tell you all about how rough she’s got it.

I’ve never met a dog who has it so good and yet feels completely neglected.

The other day I brought her to work and during an all office meeting she literally went from person to person trying to get into their laps. In Siri’s mind, laps are for her to lay in.

As my friend said to me recently, “it’s Siri’s world, we just live in it.”

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See the dog bed off to the right? Why would she lay there when she can be in my chair?

Lately the dramatics have been upped a bit. After breakfast she gets back into bed.

My bed.

And trying to get her out of my bed is nearly impossible

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Why would she get up when all the dogs on the sheets clearly aren’t going anywhere?

I mean, how am I expected to get her up when she looks like this as I enter the room?

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Her “Do Not Disturb” pose

Clearly if there is a bed or a lap, she’s in it.

In other news, Stella is doing GREAT, has been cleared for 10 minute walks twice a day, and she loves it! She drags me around the barn and begs me to let her off leash. Hasn’t happened yet, but I am excited for the day she can run free again!

Happy Fraggle Friday everyone!

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Fraggle Friday: She Walks!

We are ALMOST 4 weeks post surgery, and Stella is improving week by week. Her veterinarian had told me we should start to see some positive improvements beginning at 2 weeks, but she may not be able to walk on her own for 4 full weeks.

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She still looks pretty rough but sutures are out and hair has begun to regrow

Well, Stella is proving just how tough she is, and began walking on her own at 2 weeks, and now at 3 weeks is looking stronger and stronger.

She still needs help with stairs, and she is still a bit wobbly. Her biggest problem is that she doesn’t want to limit herself. I have to keep her on a leash or she will jog down the road with no concern about the fact that her back end can’t really keep up. I don’t use the sling at all anymore, just help her up and down stairs.

My house, which is completely hardwood, now has a maze of carpets and rugs so she doesn’t slip when she walks to her water bowl or to the front door.

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Siri and Peekaboo think all the new carpet is GREAT!

I’m so happy to see her progress, and hope it continues as she gets stronger and stronger. I had to check myself the other day, and remind myself that she is 14. She’s never going to walk perfectly, she didn’t before surgery, as she still has one torn ACL. She’s also still mostly deaf, mostly blind and 100% opinionated. It’s been nice to see those opinions again though. She is off all of her meds, and is back to being the dog I know and love.

In the meantime, poor Siri has been playing second fiddle. But, quite honestly, she seems fine with it. I tried to make a big deal about her made up 2nd birthday (her “gotcha” date is more of a big deal around here) and took her on a hike and gave her some special treats. She seems to know Stella needs extra attention now and plenty of attention will come her way again soon.

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Could Siri be any sweeter? That’s her head under Stella’s….

I took a video of Stella at 2 weeks post sx and 3 weeks and posted them below. The difference is subtle but she is definitely headed in the right direction.

2 weeks post sx: https://youtu.be/zrAe1CJxFzA

3 weeks post sx: https://youtu.be/O81IaPVMxaM

Yay for Stella! Thanks for all your positive vibes, they certainly helped!

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Update!

After spending two nights in the hospital, Stella came home yesterday! I can’t even describe how much I had missed her. I would be out doing something and think “I need to get home and let Stella out” forgetting entirely she wasn’t home. Or, worse yet, I’d wake up at night and think “I need to check on Stella” only to sadly remember she wasn’t home. When feeding the dogs I filled her bowl as well, out of habit. I’ve literally never spent a night at home without her. In over 14 years.

So, she’s home again, just this time with a huge scar along her back.

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#frankenpuppy

She’s really, really, doped up. I forgot how badly Morphine kicks her butt. She was on it for her TPLO surgery as well, and she can barely walk, and just seems a bit zombie like when she is on it. That said, it does keep her very comfortable and quiet and she slept from the moment we got home at 9:15 until I woke her at 4am for some water and a potty break. She reluctantly got up, went out to potty (with the sling, she still doesn’t have full use of her back legs) and then went right back to sleep until it was time for more meds at 6:45am.

Because I am not getting a lot of sleep and because she gets all sorts of meds at all sorts of times I created a bit of a pharmacy and log for myself.

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There’s nothing worse than not knowing what med to give or wondering if you remembered to give it at 4am.

Siri still wants to cuddle with her, which is sweet, but I worry if Stella really enjoys it, so I limit it a bit. Even though it is adorable.

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Being very respectful of Stella’s space

We’ll see how Stella does once she’s off the morphine. She’s trying to use her back legs a bit, which is encouraging. We’ll begin weaning her off of the Prednisone Sunday, according to my chart, which is a relief but I always worry she may become painful again. I took most of this week off of work, and expect that for the next week or so I’ll be in full on nurse mode.

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It’s great to have her back home, fingers crossed her recovery goes smoothly. Thanks for all your well wishes! I will say I’m excited to update you on June, she’s been doing so great, but didn’t want to leave you all in the dark about Stell. So, get ready for upcoming June posts!

xoxo

Stella, Siri and Nadia

 

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Decisions

Ten days ago, walking with the dogs, Stella lost control of her back end. She was swaying back and forth, as well as stumbling and falling down. I took my coat off, used it as a sling, took a video, and once home, with her resting comfortably sent the video to a veterinarian friend.

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Screenshot of her drunken sailor walk

She immediately called me and thought Stella may have had a “spinal seizure” or embolism. She recommended Prednisone and to see if she improved any.

She didn’t improve much, and so Stella and I took a 2.5 hour trip to see our favorite orthopedic specialist. He suspected a herniated disc, and because of her age, wanted to see if meds and acupuncture might get the inflammation down and the disc to stop being so angry.

That was a week ago and what a roller coaster it has been. Stella would get a bit better for a day, then regress. Then better to where she could take a few steps, and then fall. Then it got to where she really needed my help walking all the time, and I realized I needed to make a decision asap before she became more neurologic.

During my first trip to see the ortho vet, I was speaking to a friend and said “I need you to be the voice of reason and make sure I don’t agree to doing surgery.” When she didn’t respond I realized the connection had been cut off and she hadn’t heard me. But at the time, I was adamant that my 14 year old dog would not be having back surgery.

But, then I had a week with her. A week where she was the same, opinionated, dog I loved so much. Not being able to get up on her own was frustrating for her, but she had me trained pretty quickly. A mumble and grumble that lasted more than the time it took for her to get comfy on her bed meant she was thirsty and needed me to bring her water bowl to her. When she was feeling good, she’d try to trot and go smell things, despite the fact that I was attached to her via a sling around her back end and was asking her to go the other way. The steroids made her hungry, but she would still look at me like “this is the best you’ve got?” before voraciously eating her kibble. She patiently waited for me to get the crazy dogs out before getting her up, and she always let me know if she wanted to go out the back door or front door (front door if she had to poop because then she’d get a longer walk).

Two days prior to the herniated disc, my old dog went on a trot about with me and Georgie. She had a blast. One day before she hurt her back she was gleefully trotting around the barn eating as much poop as possible before I put her back in the car.

And while she certainly can act much younger than the number assigned to her, she is still an old dog. She tore her second ACL (for which we decided not to do surgery as she was getting along ok and had the other repaired one to lean on) and gets stiff and sore with lots of exercise. She is like an old lady that hates being out of her routine. She wants to be at home, on a walk, or in my car. She can’t see or hear very well anymore and chaos or change really stresses her out. Getting her to eat, some days, is nearly impossible. She literally won’t eat the same thing two days in a row. So yeah, she’s old. And some days are harder for her than others.

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Siri tried to comfort her as much as possible

So in the past week, I have gone back and forth about surgery. For one thing, the cost was incredibly prohibitive. I hadn’t been saving for some elective procedure, this was a surprise that I was not prepared for. But even more than that, how would an old dog do under anesthesia? Is she strong enough to bounce back from spinal surgery? Should I put my elderly dog through this complicated a procedure?

My veterinarian felt she was a good candidate for surgery. Her blood work and chest x-rays were all within normal limits. The procedure has a 90% success rate and she would be under anesthesia for far shorter a time than I had anticipated. She should feel immediate relief even if it takes her a little longer to gain full use of her legs.

So, after 10 days of my dog not doing well, and not improving, I felt I had to say yes to surgery. I had had ten days of the Stella I know and love. The Stella that rules my household and likes it that way. Ten days with the easiest patient, who trusted I would take her out to potty every four hours and make sure she always had fresh water. She was no different from the dog she had been 11 days ago except that she couldn’t use her back legs very well.

Euthanasia was not an option for me. For my dog Squirrel, who had cancer and one night was in so much pain trying to breathe, euthanasia was the kindest option. She wasn’t going to get better. Her condition was not treatable. But Stella’s condition was treatable. She wasn’t getting better with meds and acupuncture, so, for me, the decision was clear. I had to do surgery on my 14 year old dog.

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My dogs laying together does not get old for me

I was surprised by the reaction I got from some about this decision. The grimace they would make when I told them I was going to do surgery. The judgement I felt about a decision that was so incredibly personal. A decision that none of them had to be in, and I hoped never would have to be. And to be honest, if they made a different decision when presented with the situation, that’s completely fine by me. The toughest part of caring for an animal is that we have to make decisions for them. We try to make the best one we possibly can. It’s not easy, and for me, I have cried and cried and cried over it. But I believe I made the right decision.

Stella is in surgery as I write this. I am anxiously awaiting a call from the doctor in the next 10-15 minutes telling me she’s in recovery. Please let her be in recovery.

I have no idea how hard it will be for her post op. But I’ll be with her literally every step of the way. I know she’ll be in less pain and I am hoping my stubborn, tough, dog will make a full recovery and have some quality time left with me. If she doesn’t, I know I’ve done everything I could for her. I know I’ve given her every chance to keep going, and even if she can’t anymore, I did what I could.

So for any and all of you who are struggling with decisions, I’m sorry. I now understand how deeply personal they are, and how sometimes, there isn’t “the right” decision. There’s just the decision you make that you think is best. And I believe that’s all we can do for the animals in our lives.

*** I just heard from the surgeon and Stella is out of surgery and recovering in ICU well!

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Fraggle Friday: The Trouble With Old Dogs

Is that they’re old.

Or, at least, their body is old.

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Lots of sleepy time in her bagel bed

And while age is just a number, at 14 1/2 years old, it’s a number that is beginning to take its toll on sweet Stella.

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One of my all time favorite pics

On Saturday she began to walk like a drunken sailor. Just, out of the blue.

So, a vet visit later and some serious steroids, she became a bit more stable, but is still requiring a sling around her back-end for support.

On Tuesday we visited the orthopedic specialist I have on speed dial and he confirmed she had a herniated disc in her lumbar spine. He sees this in old dogs quite often.

More steroids, anti inflammatory drugs and acupuncture were all prescribed.

But only 50% of dogs get better without surgery.

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When we were both much younger

So, can you send Stella some healing thoughts? I need her to be a part of that 50%.

 

 

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No animals were harmed in the making of this blog...

Horse Listening

Horses. Riding. Life.

EquiNovice

Becoming a student of horsemanship.

Chronicles of a "Mini-Pro"

Celebrating the incurable addiction which is being an equestrian

A Horse For Elinor

Dressage On A Dime

Charley's Angel Eventing

Just a High Schooler Living for Jesus & Ponies