Tag Archives: dogs

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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Fraggle Friday: Welcome Lucy!

When you work for a humane society, people expect you to have lots and lots of animals. I feel very strongly that my home environment can’t be chaotic, it’s not fair to my pets. So, I limit myself to two dogs. There are certainly days two feels like twenty, but for the most part, it works and my two dogs get plenty of attention and exercise.

Now, that said, when a fantastic dog comes into the shelter, I do my damndest to find it a home…and sometimes, if the dog is bearded and fantastic, that home is with one of my family members. My Dad more specifically.

So, when a dog named Peekaboo got posted on a nearby shelter’s FB page, I had to call them and find out what her deal was.

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Her story was a sad one. Her owner had died and she had been brought to the shelter.

I went and picked her up the next day. She was in raging heat (so gross) and incredibly scared. But she loaded up into the crate, and I brought her to our shelter where she’d be medically and behaviorally assessed.

I figured I had done what I could for her. Her days of being a breeding dog were behind her and with the rave reviews she was getting from our behavior evaluator and the rest of the staff, I knew she’d find a home soon.

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And while there were lots of inquiries, no one adopted her.

So, I called my Dad and asked if he wanted a 3rd dog. All it took was showing him her picture and telling him how lovely she was and he was sold. Unlike me, he has a horse farm with lots of acreage and can handle a third dog. He also requested a name change, and my theory is “you adopt it, you can name it whatever you want.”

So for now she’s with me, and my crew.

Until I figure out a way to get her back east. She’s as perfect as I had hoped and the easiest houseguest. She gets along with all my animals, loves to go for hikes, and is even fairly great off leash for the breed.

I’m glad she’s one of the ones I could help and I’m lucky to have family that support what I do. So. welcome Lucy, formerly Peekaboo, to our family!

 

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Fraggle Friday

We actually got some snow this week which was SUPER exciting!

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This is Stella’s excited face if you can’t tell

What was less exciting was that I also got the flu. And was OUT for two days. But, I’m feeling human again and excited to get out with the dogs!

Right before I went to bed for 48 hours my friend Bekka and I took the puppers on a fun hike in the snow.

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I’m happy when she’s tired

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Rocket, Siri’s one ACD friend…

My dogs were excellent at laying low while I slept and Stella was even feeling generous enough to let Siri cuddle with her. This is still my favorite thing that almost never happens

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Siri wants so desperately to be Stella’s bestie

I hope you all have a lovely week with your pups!

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Fraggle Friday: Ski Joring

Ski Joring with your horse is a pretty popular sport here in Idaho. And while ski joring with our dog isn’t as well-known, it’s also a lot of fun.

Back in the day Stella was pretty amazing at it, and she won our shelter’s fund-raising ski race a couple of times. Once with me, and once with a friend when I got to the race and realized I forgot my boots.

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The look of happiness

For a dog not bred to pull, she sure could pull. As long as she got to run, she was happy. She even had a guest appearance as a sled dog and carted around some kindergarteners.

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Pseudo sled dog

Stella is by far the most athletic dog I’ve ever had. I joke that if she was a human she would have been a multi sport Olympian. And if she was a horse, she would have won multiple 4* events.

In her prime she could do it all, and do it WELL.

And even as she aged, and I didn’t ask her to pull me down a ski trail anymore, she still just loved to come and run alongside me.

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In fact, she got to run ahead of me, free and happy far more than having to pull me around. She loved running down the path, believing it was groomed just so she could run as fast as she wanted.

Skijor champion, sled dog and incredible athlete, Stella has sure shown me just how versatile and fun the Fraggle can be.

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These days she’s a champion napper

 

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Fraggle Friday: Cold Weather Hacks

We’ve had a pretty mild winter here in Idaho this year, but I’ve learned a few things about having dogs in cold weather over the years and I thought I’d share that with you here! This list is in no way comprehensive, and it is based completely on experience, not fact.

While I think my dogs, Stella in particular, prefer cold weather to very hot weather, there are still a few things I find really help with having them stay comfortable when temps drop.

The first one is to keep them dry in cold weather! Siri is pretty hardy, but the minute she gets wet in cold weather it’s all over. She becomes a pupsicle! So, for senior Stella, I make sure she wears a coat if it’s cold and raining or snowing, it seems to keep her nice and comfy!

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It’s also adorable

This coat on Siri is nicely insulated and fits her  well. Plus it was cute so I forced her to wear it for a photo

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Another helpful hint in snowy weather is to use something called Mushers Secret on your dog’s feet in the snow. It keeps their feet from becoming snowballs and is really helpful! I’ve used cooking spray in a pinch, but this works way better

Mushers Secret All-Natural Paw Protection -- 60g

And lastly, just like when it’s really hot out, when it’s really cold it’s best to keep your four legged friends home, and not in your car. My dogs love going everywhere with me, but the inside of the car can get very cold once it’s turned off and dogs can get very cold as well! If you do leave them in the car consider an insulated crate, putting a warm coat on them and make sure they have access to water.

Any ideas you have for winter that help you get through the cold months?

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