I’m outta’ here

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You ever feel like it’s never-ending?  Like it’s one thing after another and it just doesn’t stop?  Such is our life.  This summer it has been one thing after another.  Just when we get one dog healed, the other decides she wants equal attention.  Just when we pay off the first vet’s bill, we rack up another.  Just when we think things are calming down, it’s safe to stick our heads out of the hole, life throws us another whammy.

Earlier this summer, Amore flipped her stomach.  The vet gave us a choice of emergency surgery or to euthanize her.  Amore breezed through her ordeal and Malcolm and I both thought we had dodged the bullet.  Two days later you would never have known anything was wrong other than a shaved belly.

A month later Dolce pulled up with the same symptoms.  Again, we thought we had dodged the bullet when we were reassured her stomach was stable, but the vet thought we needed to check out her back leg.  In layman’s terms, it looked like she had torn her ACL in her left hind elbow.  We brought her home and made an appointment with the surgeon.

Malcolm and I are big proponents of ensuring quality of life for our dogs.  When we took on the responsibility of caring for the girls, we accepted this.  We took a big gulp, sucked it up big time, and headed into repairing her leg.  July 24th.  It was a Friday.  The vet planned on keeping her a good, solid week to keep the leg protected and give it a good start to heal before she would be able to come home.  Once home, she would need to be crated for six weeks. Yikes!  We knew she wouldn’t like that, not one bit.  We dragged out the crate from the garage, dusted it off and made room in our bedroom for the unsightly, huge thing in anticipation for her home-coming.

Our vet, Dr. Gruda, called late that night to give us an update.  Dolce came through just fine.  She had a few pins in her to stabilize the leg and she was groggy from the drugs but over all she was doing good.  We planned to pick her up the following week.  The next Friday, Malcolm hadn’t even made it all the way home with Dolce in the car when he had to turn around and bring her back to the vets.  Halfway home he noticed some bleeding from her incision.  Dolce was going back to the vets.

Nine days later, we were able to bring our baby home.  Yep, she had to wear the collar of shame.  IMG_1431Yep, she had to be crated at all times.  And, yep, our life was hell.  Dolce hated the crate, just as we suspected she would.  She whined, she barked, she whimpered.

When Malcolm brought her in for her two-week check up, x-rays showed the pins had slipped and her little bone was broken.  She was going back under the knife.  We have no idea what happened, just that her six weeks of crating had just been extended and another surgery was needed.  By this time, a month had passed.  Scar tissue and healing had occurred hiding the pins.  Dr. Gruda was working blind as he plated the break, repinned the joint and sewed her up.  X-rays revealed she still had one pin in her joint and it had to be removed.  A third operation was needed just days after the second one.  They say the third time’s the charm and this time it was.  With Dr. Gruda’s blessing, we kept Dolce at the vets for two weeks, almost three, just so she would heal.

September 11th, late in the afternoon, both Malcolm and I went bring Dolce home.  I sat in the back seat to keep her calm in her excitement to see us.  This time, her incarceration had been 18 days and she was done with the vets.  She was stick a fork in it done.  She wanted home, she wanted us.  Even though we had visited her on weekends, even though there were other dogs to bark with, even though she had vet techs she favored, she wanted outta’ there.

Straight into the crate she went, only to be released to be fed and to do her duty outside.  Always leashed, always under control.  We could walk her for about 10 minutes for a little exercise but other than that, she was in her padded cell.  For two days, all was well.  The third day, hell broke out.

Malcolm and I had to run into town late afternoon that Sunday.  Dolce had her brief walk, she was fed and watered and back in her crate.  We quickly took our leave.  We were only gone two hours, when I opened the back door upon our return and was greeted by two happy dogs.  WTF?  Dolce wasn’t suppose to be out.  Son of a bitch!  I checked the crate and found it still latched but the front gate was bent.  The little shit had squirmed through the bottom of the gate to freedom.  Immediately we grabbed some strip ties to re-enforce the seams and bottom. That worked for one more day.  Twice more she escaped.  IMG_1632

There was no way we were going to be able to keep Dolce in her crate.  She was not going back in.  She was outta’ there.

I texted Dr. Gruda:  We have a situation.  Dolce has broken out 3x’s from crate.  Please advise.

Dr. Gruda:  Bring her back.  We’ll keep her for another two weeks until her leg has healed well enough.

Me:  On our way.

We are on day four, ten more and she’s outta’ there!

 

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flip flop

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Flip flop.  Yup.  That’s all it took.  A quick flip-flop.

From the moment we brought Tiamo into our lives, we knew there were some risks.  There were ‘things’ to look out for.  Large breed dogs characteristically have a higher tendency to have bad hip and shoulder placements.  Bernese Mountain Dogs especially, have a higher rate of having cancer.  And there was the dreaded and deadly stomach twist, something our vet had informed Malcolm and I to be aware of.

Berners’ typically only stay in our lives 7 to 10 years, their longevity is much shorter than other breeds.  Malcolm and I vowed to love Tiamo every minute, every day, we would be lucky enough to have her in our lives. Every day would be a blessing.

When Tiamo passed, we were heart-broken.  Our hearts did a tragic flip-flop turning upside down, inside out.  We understood the hazards, knew the uncertainly of her life span and were still willing to take the gamble that maybe she would be with us for seven years, or, if we were lucky, ten.  We would take whatever the creator gave us.

When cancer took Tiamo’s life, we became even more vigilant with Amore and Dolce.  I am constantly checking for swollen lymph glands.  Malcolm and I are attentive in watching for limps of pain from their hips or shoulders.  The slightest sign of discomfort, not eating, or an abnormally of behavior in either dog will put us both on alert.

The girls have certainly seen the inside of the vet’s clinic more than enough times.  We’ve been through two shoulder surgeries (Dolce), a stuck bone in the throat that required surgery (Amore), a swallowed rope, almost requiring surgery (Amore), another swallowed bone, more surgery (Amore), grass splinters in the throat, only a local needed this time (Amore), the plague (Amore), cactus spines in the paw (Amore and Dolce) and more.  For as many times as we’ve taken the dogs to the vet’s, Malcolm likes to joke that we have bought and paid for at least two F-250’s that Dr. Bob likes drives.  We know we have, at the very least, financially helped build his new clinic.

With each vet’s visit, it’s a hit to our wallet.  Canine health care isn’t cheap.  Each surgery lowers our saving’s balance.  Ka-ching!  Each time, Malcolm and I examine how far are we willing to go, willing to spend,  and willing to do.  Our biggest concern is whether or not the surgery or procedure will continue to bring quality of life to the dogs.  Will they suffer if we do, or if we don’t, do something.

What we learned is we will do anything when an emergency hits. As we all know, emergencies only hit when you least expect it, usually at night or on a weekend…..

Our night was progressing like normal.  I arrived at home from work at my usual time.  The girls were fed their dinner before Malcolm started our evening meal.  I set the table, Malcolm was at the stove, Amore and Dolce were watching for fallen scraps.  When dinner was ready, Amore laid down by my feet, Dolce behind Malcolm’s chair.  All normal occurrences.  Then about an hour later, I noticed Amore started to get agitated.  Whinny.  Making noise.  Acting weird.

“What’s going on with Amore?” Malc asked me as he walked into the room.

“Don’t know.  Something’s going on with her,” I answered as I observed her strange behavior. “I’ve been watching her, but can’t figure it out.”

“What do you think?”

“Ah, it will probably pass, it usually does.  She ate all her dinner and I just saw her drink some water.  She’ll most likely be fine.”  Eating dinner and drinking water are good signs.  She’d be all right.

“Well, let’s just watch it for a while and if she’s still acting up in the morning, we’ll take her in”

“Ok.”

Only it wasn’t okay.  Ten minutes later both Malcolm and I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.  We knew not to wait. Some sixth sense told us to take her into the ER Vet Clinic.  Now.  Not twelve hours later.  Not in the morning. Now.

Thirty minutes later, the night-time ER vet told us we either do surgery now or she’ll need to euthanize Amore.  Amore’s stomach had twisted.  Flipped-flopped an 180.  The vet needed our consent and Amore needed to be prepped immediately if going into surgery.  Time was critical.  What were we going to do? We had no time to analyze the situation.  No time to assess. The vet explained the consequences of surgery.  Amore had a 40% chance of not surviving the surgery.  Without surgery, no chance at all.

“How much is the surgery?”  The question had to be asked.

“Depends on what I find when I go in, how bad the stomach flipped and twisted.” Dr. Mourano replied.  “Best case scenario, around $3,500, worse case would be $5,500.  Then there is after-care. Maybe another grand or so.”

Both Malcolm and I gulped in a quick breath.  Tears flooded my eyes, running down my checks.  I turned to Malcolm.  “I’ll get a second job, I’ll work weekends!” I sobbed.  We can’t lose Amore.”  Malcolm’s eyes told me he felt the same.  We would do whatever it took to save Amore.

Malcolm turned to the vet, “do it!” he ordered.  We would worry aboût how much it would cost later.  For now, our worries were concentrated on Amore making it through the surgery.  For now, we worried about how much contamination was done to the stomach, how much collateral damage was done to her spleen, if they could keep her blood pressure from dropping, and we worried if her heart would make it though.  Ten p.m. turned into midnight as we waited in the empty lobby while the techs were keeping up posted on her status.  By one a.m. Dr. Mourano ventured out to the waiting room in her scrubs.  Her smile answered our fears.

“Amore did great!” were her first words.  “Her spleen was intact and still attached, and there wasn’t any damage to the stomach lining that needed to be cut away.  I tacked the stomach down so this won’t happen again.”  All I felt was relief as she launched into the surgery specifics.  I heard phrases like, “you were lucky you brought her in when you did”, and “her blood count is rising to where we want it”.  The rest was a blur.  Amore’s flipped-flopped stomach had flipped-flopped my mental state all to hell.IMG_0342

I had to be up in four more hours for work.  I had a huge meeting I was chairing four hours after that.  I didn’t care, Amore would be okay. Our family would be okay.

At five p.m. that next day, we brought Amore home.  She had over thirty staples and had to take all sorts of pills and medication. She had three of her four paws shaved for IV’s and hook ups during the operation.  She looked like a poodle.  She was on soft foods and no running, jumping or getting excited.  The drugs kept her sedated for five days.  Our little girl was not her usual self.

A week later Amore started licking her incision.  We tried the collar cone only to find it chewed and ripped up in the dog pen, so we safety pinned one of Malcolm’s t-shirts around her torso and back for tummy protection.  She loved it!  We had our Amore back.IMG_0350

We might be digging out of debt but we wouldn’t be digging a grave.

blog signature 2-25-14

Wowouch!

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For the last ten weeks, If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! has been dark.  Seventy plus days of total radio silence.  1,680 hours or more of being closed.  Over 100,800 minutes of being turned off.  In all that time, the girls have been fine, Malcolm has been wonderful and moi…. ?

Moi has been recuperating.

In early January, I had surgery.  Nothing earth shattering.  Nothing from the hips on up north, nothing close to the heart or anything above the shoulders. It was however, a very serious and major surgery.  Recovery has been long and arduous.  I had a donor tendon attached to my previously ripped off hamstring and pinned to the above bone, recreating a single length of muscle/tendon.  Due to the condition of the muscle and extensive scar tissue on my sciatic nerve, my surgery went several hours past the expected norm.

And there you have it, why my blog has been so quiet.

The good news:  I had a very difficult surgery that went brilliantly. I also had a wonderful husband that took the absolute best of care of me.  And, I had two, sweet as sugar dogs and one cat that instinctively knew I was in pain.

Upon release from the hospital, Malcolm’s and my concern was keeping Amore and Dolce at a safe distance from my leg.  I was under strict orders to keep my knee in a brace, bent at a 90 degree angle to avoid stretching the muscle/tendon off its moors.  Most importantly, I was NOT allowed to put any weight on my leg.  For nine long weeks.  Crutches, walkers and wheelchairs were my mode of transportation. None of which I was very proficient at.  I worried the girls would knock the crutches out from under me in their frenzied excitement to see me.  The wheelchair didn’t fit through some of our door ways and had to be abandoned after the first few days.  For nine weeks, I was one-legged and at my most vulnerable. I could not afford to have 100 lbs. of canine jumping on me.

What were we going to do with the dogs? They were use to cuddling with me on the couch.  Jumping over my legs, only to land between the back of the sofa and my torso, stretching their legs out, then positioning themselves on their back for the ultimate belly rub.  They were allowed on the bed for some night-time loving, hopping up and over to lay their heads on my legs as they fell asleep.  Dolce loved to push between my legs to get some special petting, coming from behind.  Amore liked to give hugs, lifting up on her hind legs and hugging my waist with her front paws.  How were we going to keep them away from me?  How were we going to contain their eagerness, their jubilee, to see me after being gone for three long days in the hospital?

We needn’t have worried.

Dogs are amazing creatures.  They sense when their family is out-of-sorts.  They know when their humans are happy, sad, excited or, as in my case, in pain.  Dolce and Amore knew immediately something was up the minute Malcolm pushed me through the door in the wheelchair.  Though still enthusiastic to have their family back, they were cautious.  Impatient as they were to have us home, they were both careful and curious. They knew.

Dolce approached me first.  Carefully tip-toeing up to me to sniff the wheelchair, her nose fiercely wrinkling as she took in the new smells.  She moved her muzzle down to my leg, taking in the brace.  For a few minutes, all we heard was Dolce breathing in the new scents.  Unsure of this moving contraption, Amore hung back, a look of nervousness passing through her eyes as she took in the wheelchair.  With some encouragement, Amore came up to my side for a quick pet.  She inhaled a deep breath as she took in my leg brace, and slowly stepped back.  They knew.

And the cat, our most independent feline, never left my side.  Gordita stayed curled up in my lap from the moment I came home.  She slept by my side at night, never moving.  She followed me from the bed to recliner and back to the bed, only leaving me to be fed.  She offered me warmth and comfort.  She knew.

For nine weeks, neither dog jumped on the bed. In the mornings, their cold noses would press up against the covers, sniffing for my hand to offer some love.
Their paws staying on the floor.  For nine weeks, neither Dolce or Amore jumped up on the recliner as I rested to sit in my lap.  They would show up for a little petting, a little scratching on the ears, and move on.  Not once did they get underfoot as I hopped on my good leg with the walker to the living room.  Not once did they get in they way as I slowly made my way through the house.  They knew.

I am now in physical therapy to strengthen my leg and to relearn how to walk.  The day I was allowed to take off the brace was the day Dolce leaped up on the bed from the other side and placed her paws and head on my stomach. Still avoiding my leg, she knew it was okay now.  Gordita started to disappear from my lap for more than just food.  Hours would pass before she would make an appearance.  She knew I was healing, getting better. And, two days later, Amore carefully climbed up into my lap, as I sat in the recliner.  Paws and head hanging over the arm of the chair, her body stretched across me.  She instinctively knew it was all right.  Mama was getting better.

With the aid of a cane, I can hobble along pretty good now.  I went with Malcolm to walk the dogs today for the first time in three months.  And, for the first time today, Dolce came from behind and pushed through my legs to finagle some extra love.  Amore hasn’t given me my special hug yet but I’m confident it will happen.

When the time is right, she will.  They just know.