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Posts tagged ‘vet’

Now Taking Questions!

Well, hello there stranger. Is it OK if I join you?

It’s been a long, long time since we last saw each other.

I’m sorry I didn’t write, but I want you to know that I think about you all the time.

It’s just that with the job and the other job and the job on top of that and the grad school and the old dog peeing on everything, I haven’t been able to think of anything to write during my five minutes of free time that I spend lying on the floor.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it was me who sent you that random text in January. You know, the one that said: SEND ALL THE COOKIES.

Can we just forget about that? Thanks, you’re a real friend.

Anywho, we’ve got some serious some catching up to do, don’t we?

First things first:

Imagine that a professional dog trainer, a veterinary behaviorist, a social worker, and a dog walker all offered to answer your most pressing questions about living with a reactive, fearful, aggressive, or just plain old weird dog.

What would you ask them?

I want to know. Tell me in the comments section.

Here’s why: I’m interviewing some pros for the upcoming DINOS online mini-class that I’ll be offering later this year and I want to make sure I ask them what you want to know.

I’m creating this class to help you guys feel less stressed, more connected to your dogs, and more empowered with good info. Plus you’ll have private discussion boards to talk with each other. Wheee!

The DINOS class isn’t a dog training class, although the info will pair nicely with any dog training you might be doing.

The class will include, among other things, a few recorded interviews with professionals who really understand the challenges you’re facing and have good advice we all need to hear.

So you tell me what questions you have for a: professional dog trainer, social worker who runs a support group for people who live with dogs who have behavior issues, and veterinary behaviorist.

I’ll choose a few of your questions to ask when I sit down to talk with them!

Speaking of questions…

And now for my most favorite thing ever: I’m answering the questions I get through my search results. I haven’t done this in years, but I love it and I wanted another round.

Here’s how it works:

When you type words into a search engine, like Google, results will pop up. If you click on a blog that came up in those search results, then the writer of the blog will see the exact words (the search terms) that you typed into the search engine, which led you to their blog post. Bloggers get a whole long list of the “search term results” that led people to their site.

These search terms crack me up. Sometimes they make me sad. And lots of times they’re good questions that deserve to be answered!

Without further ado, here’s a lightening round of search term Q+A:

 

“List of names for a pit bull dog”

Hoagie

Francis

Snack Pack

Prince Harry

Grandma

Bagel

Garbanzo Bean

Tushie

 

What can I say, I like carbs and old people. And rear ends.

 

pit bull in car

I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me! Ba dump bump ching!

 

 

“Dog licking its balls”

To clarify, are you looking for photos or advice? Or is that you’re so stressed out by that awful slurping noise, which distracts you while you try to write important emails, that you were looking for an online support group? Help me to help you. Also, here’s the best ball licking cartoon out there.

 

“Why my dog doesn’t stand up for himself.”

Because he’s waiting for you to do it.

 

“Is it bad to let a dog dictate its life to you?”

It depends. Do you have an app to record them telling you their life story or will you have to take the dictation by hand? Because I can’t write as fast as my dog talks, so it would be a bad call for me personally. But maybe you’re a court stenographer, in which case you have the necessary skills to record your dog’s epic stories of relentless ball licking and how they learned to stand up for themselves when other dogs made fun of them for being named Tushie.

 

 

“I am a dog owner in Ireland but hate people with multiple dogs that are not kept on leashes and cant control them.”

Matching! Except I’m in America. Let’s be pen pals!

 

 

“tradmil for dog practice and make metirial Punjab”

Terrific! I’ll see you at 7.

Wait, huh?

Did your dog tell you to write that?

 

I sure do miss you guys. Remember, tell me what you want me to ask the smart kids when I interview them. Put those questions right in the comments for me to read!

Oh, and if you want to be the first to know when the DINOS class will run, please sign up for updates here! I’ll only email you about class info…no spam, ever.

 

 

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How to Talk to Your Gynecologist About Euthanasia

If I tell someone that I work with dogs, it’s guaranteed that that person will ask me for advice about their dogs. This happens no matter where I am.

If I’m getting a massage, I get asked about house training problems. If I’m at the dentist, my hygienist wants to know how she can convince her mother not to be terrified of her pit bull (who is lovely, thank you very much). And when I’m at the gynecologist, my doctor is asking me about her elderly dog’s end of life issues.

Let me say this from years of experience with a variety of gynecologists who have nothing in common with one another except that they all like to talk to me about their dogs while they root around in my lady bits:

After someone’s had their hand in your vagina, it’s pretty easy to talk about euthanasia.

 

So there I was at my new doctor’s office, having never met her before, and she’s telling me about the wonderful dog her family adopted a few years ago from the animal shelter where I used to work. The dog, let’s call him Paps (ladies, are you with me here?), was pretty old now and had a whole host of expensive medical conditions.

His meds were running about $500 a month. My doc said she didn’t mind paying, even though that meant her family wouldn’t be able to afford a vacation this summer. She was really just so worried about her dog.

Was he ok? Was he suffering? Why didn’t she know if it was the right time to let him go?

Everyone kept telling her she’d “just know” when it was time.

 

photo credit: glamour magazine

photo credit: glamour magazine

 

Around this point in the conversation I wrapped that weird plastic sheet around me and sat up. “That’s not true for a lot of us. We don’t just know. Some dogs don’t magically tell us and we can’t figure it out, even though we love them. It’s ok if you don’t know.”

Tears. Hers.

She was relieved to know she wasn’t failing Paps.  Because you know what “you’ll know when it’s time” implies? That if you don’t know, then you suck at loving them.

Doc thought that if she didn’t know the answer to this seriously important question, then that meant she didn’t really know her dog. How awful is that? On top of being torn up that your dog is old and sick, now you have to question whether or not you’re a good dog owner because you don’t “just know”?

I know we mean well when we say this (I know I’ve said it in the past) and it is true that sometimes we do “just know.” But this common advice winds up not only failing, but hurting, a lot of good people.

So, why wasn’t he just passing away quietly in his sleep? Would that happen, she wondered?

Maybe. But with the level of medical care she was giving her dog, Paps, like so many of our pets, was receiving life-extending treatment. It’s not like the old days – for pets or humans. Today we treat a lot of conditions we couldn’t years ago and that means that both pets and people may get to experience a long period of old age. And with it comes full on decrepitude and peeing in our beds (when we’re sober). Which means we need to actively make a choice on their behalf.

So when is it the right time?, she asked.

I told her what so many people have told me over the 15 years I’ve been caring for their pets:

Waiting too long, because we can’t bear to let them go, often results in a shit-storm of guilt later. If we let our pets suffer, because we’re not ready to lose them, then months and years later we’re stuck with a lot of guilt about the unnecessary pain we put them through. Often, it’s better to err on the slightly too soon side, then the slightly too late side of things.

Disclaimer: When I say “soon”, I don’t mean that the minute they have an accident or sneeze or fall over we should rush to put them to sleep (if that were the case I would have sent Birdie to meet her maker – Charles Schulz, I think – about 4 years ago). I really mean when things are already quite serious and the end is near.

But how will I know?

I told her about the Quality of Life scale which would help her measure the, uh, quality, of her dog’s life. She was so relieved to know this existed and that she would have something to help her measure this seemingly immeasurable thing. She thanked me profusely.

Tears again. Both of us this time. And a hug.

Then she stuck her hand back up my hoo-ha and talked to me about my cervix.

Later that night, when she opened my email that shared a link to the Quality of Life scale, Doc was sitting in her sons’ room waiting for her boys to fall asleep. Her boys wanted to know why she was crying. It was because, thanks to the scale, she now realized that old Pap had some life left to enjoy.

And when the time comes for her to make that inevitable and excruciating choice for her family member, now she knew that she didn’t have to hope that she’d “just know.” She’d have some help.

End of life issues are so complicated. People shouldn’t have to hope that a dog walker with no filter and no shame comes into their office for a birth control refill just so they can get sound advice about when they should put their dog to sleep.

Instead let’s make a point to talk about the hard stuff. Leave out the judgement and shaming and let’s do everything we can to help our family, friends, and clients be better prepared, so that they can make choices that support real quality of life for both them and their pets.  And veterinarians, can you please do me a solid and make sure this Quality of Life scale (and hospice information) is easy to access? It’ll save me some weird moments next time I’m in stirrups at the doctor’s office. Many thanks.

 

weimaraner

 

Here are some resources about figuring out when it’s time, including the quality of life scale:

The “HHHHHMM” Quality of Life Scale by Dr. Alice Villalobos

Minimizing the stress of euthanasia by Dr. V of Pawcurious

How to say goodbye by Dr. Andy Roark (with other ways to measure quality of life)

 

And because I get asked about euthanasia for behavioral issues ALL the time, here are some wonderful, non-judgmental, realistic resources to help with that brutally painful and individual decision (really folks, we need to do a better job of openly talking about this too. I’ve had enough with the shaming and bullying around euthanasia. It’s not helping anyone when we go ALL CAPS about something as complex as this):

When is it time to put down a dog who is aggressive to people? by Patricia McConnell

When is it time to put a problem dog down? by Casey Lomonaco

Euthanizing Aggressive Dogs: Sometimes It’s the Best Choice by Phyllis DeGioia, editor Veterinary Partner and VetzInsight

The burden on euthanizing an aggressive dog by Mel of No Dog About It

Goodbye Huckleberry by Ana Poe – I read this years ago and it’s never left me. Such brave, compassionate, honest writing.

 

Coming this Summer: Attack of the Atomic Cat Turds!

Well, hello there. It’s been awhile, huh?

The past few months I’ve been doing all kinds of serious stuff like: attending conferences and trainings, creating and teaching a new compassion fatigue class for UFL, and going to grad school.

But that’s not what I want to tell you about. After all these months of total silence on the blog, I’m back to tell you about:

Cat turds.

C’mon, you know you love it.

So, here’s the story. Our cat Penelope (pronounced Peena-loupe, like cantaloupe) was diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease this year. Normally, I’m bummed when our pets whip up new and expensive diseases for us to treat, but it was actually a huge relief to find out that Penelope was sick.

For months prior to her diagnosis Penelope had turned up the My-Cat-Is-A-Dick dial to eleven. For those of you who don’t use Spinal Tap as a reference guide to life, eleven is as high as it goes.

Always a trouble maker, Penelope had upped her game to the max. Her move: sprinting around the house at top speed and launching herself at all of us. And by all of us I mean the other cats, the dogs, friends and family, houseplants, the walls, the windows, the furniture, and all the spaces in between.

She attacked our furniture with so much passion (and by passion I mean a certain, er, how do you say, psychotic, single-minded obsession with demon-spawn-like focus) that it not only destroyed a chair, but it nearly drove our dog Boogie out of his sensitive mind.

Here’s the thing: I am not happy when Penelope scratches the furniture. Boogie is not happy when I am not happy. Therefore, when Penelope creeps up next to a chair and just starts thinking about scratching it, Boogie starts whining.

And if she scratches, he runs over and gives her a nose-butt. Boogie does not enjoy this. He’s not cut out to be a Sheriff. Or any other form of full time law enforcement. Maybe a constable on a small island with a population of 19 in the winter. Maaayyybe.

Penelope attacking the furniture all day, as if her very existence depended on it, was driving Boogie bananas. Which meant it was driving me bananas. I couldn’t get any work done between the cat scratching and the dog whining and the constant reading of Miranda rights.

So when I found out that Penelope had hyperthyroid and that being a professional asshole is actually a symptom of this disease, I was relieved. It meant the Penelope I’d known and loved for the past 12 years might still be in there somewhere.

The only problem was that I couldn’t get her to take her new medication. Not in pill pockets. Not in wet food. Not as a compounded chicken flavored chewable treat. Not as a compounded chicken flavor liquid poured over and mixed into organic cat food with prayers from me to Judy Garland who, for no good reason, I imagine to be the Patron Saint of Crazy Cat Ladies, that Penelope would just eat it because omg, I have so much work to do and I can’t spend another minute of my life doing the Methimazole Shuffle to get my cat to take her meds.

This happened twice a day.

judy cat

FYI: Judy starred in “Gay Purr-ee”, an animated movie about cats, which you can see here.

 

After collapsing from feline-induced-stress and near bankruptcy from starting a world-class collection of unswallowed Methimazole, we decided to take out a 2nd mortgage on our house and spring for Radioactive Iodine treatment. Basically it’s an expensive injection (over $1k) of iodine that emits radiation to destroy overactive tumor cells and cures cats of hyperthyroid. Medication only treats it, this ends it.

And by Garland, I needed this to end.

But here’s the best part. After she got the injection, Penelope was radioactive.

After getting the injection, it’s illegal to take your cat home until their levels of radioactivity drop below a certain level. This can take a week or two. So Penelope spent 10 days with the best vet tech in Maine (Hi Kathi!) and we all spent 10 days at home enjoying peace in the living room for the first time in 2015. I mean, er, we missed her a lot and were so, so, so sad she was away.

Finally I got the call that Penelope was only a little radioactive and legally I was now allowed to take her home.

But you can’t just take a radioactive cat home. There are RULES and PROTOCOLS.

1. Do not allow your radioactive cat to sleep in your bed.

2. Wash your hands after you pet your radioactive cat.

3. Try not to fall asleep on the couch with your radioactive cat lying on your chest because you’re not supposed to touch them for more than 20 minutes at a time and that nap was definitely an hour and you might grow a third boob where your radioactive cat was lying.

4. Do not throw out your radioactive cat’s RADIOACTIVE POOP.

atomic attack

 

For two weeks, you will be required to scoop your radioactive cat’s turds twice a day into a double bag, while wearing rubber gloves and holding your breath. You should also avert your eyes, just in case one of the nuclear turds tries to make eye contact with you.

The poop must not be stored in your home. Instead, you take the atomic cat turds and dispose of them in a plastic tote, such as a Rubbermaid container, with a locking lid that is lined with a heavy duty garbage bag.

Note: “This tote should be stored outside and away from small children, other pets, and wild animals.”

I don’t know where that magical no-living-things, not even small wild children, might be on your property, but we settled for a random spot on our patio in our back yard.

After this two week poop quarantine is over (which you know because now you are the kind of person who has “Poop Quarantine Ends Today” in your Day Planner), then you add the litter boxes and scoop to the Toxic Tote of Doom. Finally, seal this poop package in three hundred yards of duct tape.

And then you wait. For 80 days.

Legally, you cannot dispose of the Atomic Cat Turds for 80 more days. Because they’re emitting radioactive poop particles.

So you’ll drag yourself back to your Day Planner, the one that you had hoped to one day write things in like: “10 hour massage today” and “8pm – meet Tina, Mindy, and the Amys for margarita night”, and instead you flip to the end of September and mark:

“Throw Out Turds Today.”

Because that’s your life.

Note: all of this is because you have a private septic system. If you’re lucky enough to live with a public sewer system, there’s still some atomic turd gymnastics you’ll have to do, but it’s not nearly as intense. Amateur stuff really. 

And if you’re like me, then you kinda love all of it, because despite having a nuclear kitty, a schedule that revolves around crap, and an empty bank account, after a few weeks you’ll get your old cat back.

Today, Penelope has returned her former self, the one that I love. The one that does not give my pit bull acid reflux or destroy furniture in a single swipe. She still makes direct eye contact with me – to make sure I’m watching – then knocks framed photos right of the wall. But that just means she’s healthy. Praise Judy.

 

 

 

Life With Cats: How I Saved My Furniture from Total Destruction

Two and half years ago my husband and I bought our first house. Over those last couple of years we’ve slowly been replacing our hand-me-down furniture with new stuff. As if we’re real grown ups or something.

At a rate of one purchase a year, we’ve brought home a brand spanking new tiny sectional couch and a pretty Mission-style chair. Next week, our last big purchase for a while, a sleeper sofa chair, arrives. Why am I telling you this? Because having new furniture kind of sucks when you have 5 pets, three of which are cats.

Our cats are like fresh upholstery seeking puke missiles. If there is a tiny sliver of couch that is not covered by a quilt, their radar starts whooping and off they run, heaving as they go, to make their deposit right on that spot. We have wood floors and I would pay them to puke there, but nooooooo...the cats assure me that they’d be kicked out of their feline terrorist cell if they made it that easy for me to clean up. That’s why they puked down the side of a wicker basket the other morning. Wicker. Woven. So awful.

Before you email me to tell me that my cats shouldn’t be puking this much – I know. Turns out that one of our cats, Penelope (pronounced Peenaloupe), the vomit ring leader, has Hyperthyroidism and throwing up is a symptom. This medical condition went undiagnosed for about 6 months. And those six months were torture because another symptom of Hyperthyroidism is that cats act like high energy assholes, attacking curtains and crank calling old ladies.

PSA time: If your pet’s behavior changes, go to the vet. 

I waited way too long to get my cat checked out. We were more than aware that her really annoying behavior had taken a sharp upturn these last few months, but Penelope has always been a real ball buster, so we figure she was having some sort of midlife crisis. It wasn’t until she showed us some other symptoms that we realized that for 6 months she’d been acting like a meathead because of a medical condition. Whoops. I feel real bad about that one.

I spend most of my day with Penelope inched away from my face.

I spend most of my day with Penelope inches away from my face.

Sometimes, when behavior changes are subtle  and build slowly over time, which is what happened in this case, it’s hard to recognize what’s really going on. But if your pets are suddenly acting like jerks, take them to the vet and find out if there is an underlying cause to the bad behavior.

Back to the furniture. During this time period our brand new furniture was under round-the-clock siege by our cat. Besides the puking, Penelope was attacking the furniture as if her life depending on it. Our poor dog Boogie was having a mental breakdown trying to police her away from the scratching the furniture.

So what to do? I hate putting on Soft Claws, those sticky stickers don’t work, two hundred scratchers and Feliway didn’t help. But one thing did and now we have it all over every single new piece of furniture we own.

Meet the Cat Scratch Guard. Cheap, easy to use, barely noticeable, and totally effective furniture protectors:

Not my couch.

Not my couch.

They’re just simple, flexible vinyl panels (they come in a few sizes) that you attach to your furniture with these clear pins that they provide. We have them on our couch sides, on the back of the new chair, and once we even wrapped them around the trunk of an indoor tree that she wouldn’t leave alone.

If your stuff is being destroyed by your cat, you should check these out. They’ve worked so well for us that I keep a spare set around, just in case Penelope finds something new to bother in the house. As soon as I put a set of these guards on, it’s Game Over.

Now we’re just waiting for her new meds to kick in and help her feel better. It’s a bummer we didn’t realize she needed medical attention sooner, but now that we understand what’s really going on, we’re feeling much more patient and forgiving of her behavior.

Except for that wicker basket number. Blech.

p.s. I’ve received no compensation for writing about this product. I just really like these a lot and wanted y’all to know about it.

No Surgery, No Problem: Treating Our Dog’s ACL Tear

Birdie graduated this month (from physical therapy, not Yale).

Turns out, we are doing pretty ok without that surgery she was supposed to get. Conservative Management has officially saved the day by taking care of Birdie’s injury and respecting our budget. Let’s discuss: 

First of all, I’m double-dog-daring myself to believe that she really is doing as well as she seems to be doing. The pessimist in me isn’t entirely convinced. Frankly, I’m afraid that as I write about how well she’s doing, Birdie’s leg is going to spontaneously combust. I have a fire extinguisher next to my desk, just in case.

Anyway, when Birdie tore her ACL this summer (a complete tear, not just a partial), surgery was the recommended course of action. For better or worse, we couldn’t afford it, so we had to explore other options. We landed on a conservative management plan. Here’s what we did: First we restricted her activity. No jumping on and off the couch, no running around in the yard. The goal was to restrict movement and allow stabilizing scar tissue to form. Birdie didn’t mind this lack of activity as her DNA test revealed that Birdie is indeed half Beagle and half a baked potato.

That being said, Birdie isn’t overweight. If she was, we would have had to put her on a diet. Extra weight is hard on injured legs. We did add a new heavy duty joint supplement, plus lots of stinky fish oil to her diet. After a couple of weeks on NSAIDs (which were too hard on her liver and kidneys to continue using them), she’s been off any and all medications. We also added non-slip area rugs around the house, so that Birdie wouldn’t slide on our hard wood floors and tweak her leg or back.

Most importantly, we started hanging out with our physical therapist, Gayle Hickok, a lot. We started with five visits in a row that first week post-surgical consult. At each visit, Birdie got some time with the cold laser, manual treatments and exercises, and then hydrotherapy in Gayle’s heated saltwater pool.

birdie swims

Ton o’ Bricks hits the high seas


Birdie was not interested in swimming – never, not once, not at all. She chose to practice nonviolent resistance by standing still on the pool’s ramp without budging or blinking. Birdie is the Rosa Parks of canine hydrotherapy.

She is also surprisingly strong for a small senior citizen and “Ton o’ Bricks” Birdie had to be lifted into the water, all dead weight, by her life jacket. Once she was in the water, Gayle would gently guide her through exercises. Birdie occasionally faked massive reverse sneezing attacks in order to escape the pool (we know she was faking because the reverse sneezing stop the second her paws hit the concrete. Also, she was laughing at us).

On the other hand, Birdie thought the laser and manual treatments were exquisite, since that part of the rehab required that she be hand fed chicken while lying down on a soft bed. That’s my girl. I was also happy that these treatments were addressing her whole body, not just her bum leg.

Over the past three months we reduced our visits to twice a week, then once a week, then just every other week. From the start, Gayle felt that we had made the right choice – conservative management – rather than surgery, and Birdie’s improvements have backed that up.

About a month into Birdie’s physical therapy visits, we also began using a product at home called the Loop which produces a Pulsed Electromagnetic Field around her injured bits.The Loop is supposed to reduce inflammation and pain and increases blood circulation. I can’t say for sure if it’s helped, but it does compliment the other therapies we’re doing and Birdie continues to be pain-med-free.

birdie loop

Birdie, wearing the Loop, looks sad because no one is feeding her chicken right-this-second.


Last week, Gayle said that Birdie was good to go for a month or more until our next visit. This worried me (my DNA test reveals I’m part Eeyore). But Gayle swore to me that Birdie’s leg is in great condition. She has full extension, is weight bearing and can walk and run around, plus she has no obvious signs of pain when her leg is being manipulated. She’s come a long way since our first visit when she was only using her leg about 50% of the time.

Birdie won’t be competing in a decathlon any time soon ever, but our hope was to reduce Birdie’s pain and help her get mobile again. It looks like we did it. She still has days where she’s a little gimpy, which could be the injury or it might be coming from her atrophied leg muscles. We’re working on rebuilding her muscle and strength in that leg. But most of the time, she’s doing fine.

It’s hard to say which piece of the puzzle had the biggest impact on her recovery. Our physical therapist isn’t sure either. She keeps reminding me that all of the therapies and supplements are playing a part in her recovery and are working together to support her overall health and well being.

That’s the funny thing about taking this approach – it’s clearly working, but there are days when I still doubt myself and the choices I’ve made for Birdie.  The surgical option, plus the recovery and physical therapy that would have followed it, seems so much more tangible and measurable. With the conservative management approach, it’s a bit more subtle and there are fewer vets involved. Things have been going so well, we haven’t been back to see a vet since our original surgical consult.

birdie cold laser

Birdie and Gayle: What’s a little laser between BFFs?


I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to believe Birdie is really ok. Sometimes I get a little panicky with an internal dialogue that goes something like this: “What if she’s not really better? What if we were wrong and she really does need the surgery? What if her leg is only pretending to be a real leg, but it’s really made up of marshmallows and candy canes, which is why she’s always licking herself? Will we have to buy her a whole new leg then? What if? What if? What if?”

That’s why I have to keep reminding myself that when Birdie runs across the yard it’s the real deal. She’s not faking it so that I won’t worry about her. Dogs are a pretty honest bunch, which I really appreciate. They don’t put on a show for our benefit (They will do it for their own benefit. See: Birdie sneezing in pool).

Dogs don’t tell fibs or fake it to save us from feeling badly or worrying about them. If you give them a toy that they don’t like, dogs won’t play it. Or eat food they think it’s awful. Or sleep on a bed they think is uncomfortable. Dogs don’t tell white lies to spare our feelings.

So I’m starting to believe that Birdie really is as good as she looks. Her life is back to normal. Opting out of that surgery we couldn’t afford in the first place wasn’t such a bad choice after all. In fact, it might have been the right choice, even if we could have afforded the surgery.

It makes me wonder how many dogs would benefit from a conservative management approach as a first option, not a “that’s all we can afford” option. Based on your earlier comments, many people never hear a peep from their vet that conservative management/physical therapy might be an option. That’s a shame. Some dogs do need the surgery, of course, but depending on the individual dog and/or the financial situation of the owner, there are other routes to explore. Vets should at least mention it.

I don’t want to jinx anything – Birdie’s leg hasn’t burst into flames yet – so I’ll just end things by knocking on wood and sharing some resources for non-surgical options if you’re in a similar boat and want to learn more about what’s out there.

Mutt Knee Brace

The Loop

WoundWear

DogLeggs 

In Maine: Pawsitive Results K-9 Rehabilitation 

Whole Dog Journal: Alternatives to Canine Surgery

Whole Dog Journal: Laser Therapy for Rehab

Yahoo Group: Canine Conservative Management

If you know of others, please share in the comments!

Q: What Do Cat Pee and Governor LePage Have in Common?

A: They’ve both been stinking up my life this month!

First things first: I don’t know where the month of October has gone. Thanks to a handful of writing-intensive projects I’ve been busy working on for one of my jobs, I just haven’t had any brain juice left over to write much of anything here. Plus there has been cat pee. Cat. F’n. Pee.

There we were at the start of October in a clean house: smelling pretty darn fresh considering three cats, two dogs, and two humans are crammed inside. And then, the cat pee came to visit.

Do you want to talk about how awful cat pee smells? I don’t. But I’ll tell you this: it makes that hot blast of subway station air – the kind that smells like Mole People and foot fungus and ancient space heaters – smell like a summer rain.

cat pee

There are shirts.


I could never catch any of the cats in the act, but someone was whizzing on the dog beds. I didn’t know who to bring to the vet. Here’s the thing about my cats: for ten years, they’ve never had an argument with the litter box. They’re a well adjusted gang of jerks. They roll hard on litter. So when one of them started stinking up the house, I knew it was because they were sick.

Except all three of the stooges were acting fine. I couldn’t tell who the Rogue Tinkler was, until one day when our cat Penelope (pronounced Pee-na-lopue like cantaloupe) looked me right in the eye and unleashed a river of cat pee at me. There was blood involved. We went to the vet that day and saw the first doctor that was available (a dude we’d never met).

Because Penelope refused to give any of her precious pee to the vet, we got sent home with some special litter and syringes, so I could bring them back a sample for testing. Which is how I found myself the next morning, huddled over a puddle of pee with a needle in my hand. The pee was on a shelf. Not in the litter box with the special litter. Collecting cat pee with a syringe is one of those moments that makes me question the choices I’ve made in my life.

Later that day, the urinalysis revealed that she did not have what we expected: a Urinary Tract Infection. So the vet told us we needed to get an ultrasound to determine if Penelope had one of two types of bladder stones or worse, tumors. I asked him a lot of questions. But he felt sure those were the only two possible options: stones or tumors aka cancer aka my cat is going to die.

Here’s what I learned: the next time the vet sends you to a specialist for a very expensive test, ask them these questions:

  • Is this an emergency?
  • How long can we reasonably wait before performing the test? A day or three?
  • Are there medications we can try during that time?
  • What may be causing this issue that is improbable, but not impossible?

Because it turns out, hundreds of dollars I didn’t have later, that Penelope had cystitis, which is basically an inflamed bladder. No stones. No tumors. The treatment was a $5 prescription for Amoxicillin.

The specialist told me that the initial vet we saw probably didn’t think it could be cystitis because Penelope is 10 years old and cystitis usually presents in cats under 10 years old. The specialist suspected it was cystitis (even before she did the ultrasound!) because her 10 year old cat had recently had it too. So she knew that although it wasn’t probable for a 10 year old cat, cystitis was certainly possible.

She was right: One day (of a ten day run) of antibiotics and Penelope went back to normal, peeing in the box, ever since. Woo.

That’s a $400 lesson folks. Yours at the low low cost of reading this blog and imagining me in my pajamas sucking up cat pee in a syringe. You’re welcome. Now excuse me while I go back to doing three hundred loads of laundry and scrubbing every surface of my house. Cat pee. Blech.


Also in October: Governor LePage can go clean a litter box, if you know what I mean. This month I logged into my Amazon affiliate store to add some cool products to share with you (to help me pay off my cat’s ultrasound bill) and found out it had been shut down.

Turns out my super pro-business Governor (and the genius behind the “tiny beard” fashion trend for women) passed some Interwebz tax legislation this summer and now he and Amazon are in some sort of pissing contest, with me and my fellow Mainers in the cross-stream.

lepage

That’s my Governor!


Here’s the deal straight from Amazon’s mouth:

We’re writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective October 6, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor LePage on June 5, 2013, with an effective date of October 9, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after October 6, nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Maine residents.

While we oppose this unconstitutional state legislation, we strongly support the federal Marketplace Fairness Act now pending before Congress. Congressional legislation is the only way to create a simplified, constitutional framework to resolve interstate sales tax issues and it would allow us to re-open our Associates program to Maine residents.

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and look forward to re-opening our program when Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act.

So the point of this is to tell you that while my Amazon store still exists (for now), I no longer make any commission on the products you buy through the store. I wasn’t exactly making Crystal, Maybach, Diamonds on your timepiece, Jet planes, Islands, Tigers on a gold leash money from my affiliate store, but I made enough to buy a book here and there. Now it’s nada.

Just figured I should tell you guys in case any of you (MOM) were nice enough to purposely shop in my store to help support my reading-habit. 


Last up this month: I went to the No More Homeless Pets conference the other week in Jacksonville, Florida. I attended a couple of excellent presentations on stress reduction and compassion fatigue. More on that later.  All I’ll say about the conference right now was that the theme for the weekend was “Save Them All.” Someone awesome, who shall remain nameless, pointed out that this rallying cry sounds an awful lot like “Save the Mall” when you say it out loud.

So I spent the conference imagining that me, Jay, and Silent Bob were leading a campaign to save one of our many New Jersey state treasures. Save the Mall!

proud to be a native of Dirty Jerz.

proud to be a native of Dirty Jerz.

And that’s all there is to say about October. 




Your Picks for DINOS-Friendly Veterinarians

Earlier this month on Facebook I asked Team DINOS (that’s you guys):

“Do you have a trusted veterinarian that goes above and beyond to create a positive experience for your fearful, anxious, or aggressive dog? Are they compassionate about your dog’s needs, rather than judgmental? Are they skilled at handling your dogs using low-stress techniques and/or knowledgeable about behavior modification? “

You guys did not disappoint. So many of you shared your faves that it took me a bazillion and half hours to organize, alphabetize, and link your responses. But I finally have a list to share!

I posted the whole thing over on the Dogs in Need of Space website so you can always find it:

vet capture


Go on over and check it out.

But keep this in mind: picking a vet is so, so personal. A vet that comes highly recommended by one DINOS family might turn out not be the best match for your dog. It happened to me.  One person loves a particular vet, the next person hates them. It’s just the way it seems to go. So, the list is a really great reference, but you won’t know if a vet is the right match until you meet with them. Annoying. I know.

Ok, now go and look!



You’re Old and I’m Broke: Conversations With My Dog About Surgery

Remember that time my dog tore her cruciate from lying in the sun too hard? Yep, that would be Birdie. My 11.5 year old dog decided to go blow a ligament in her rear leg the other week. Super expensive surgery has been recommended. Beer, please.

Here’s the thing about working with dogs all my adult life: I’m pretty good at giving compassionate, reasonable advice to people who are struggling to make the right call for their dogs.

And here’s the thing when it comes to my own dogs: I am not very good at hearing the kind, reasonable, forgiving lady that lives in my head. She talks to everyone else, but clams up when I ask her to weigh in on my problems. Most times, I can only hear a weepy confused kid spinning around in panicked circles calling me a dick for not being a better dog owner. That kid is such a drag.

So during our recent consult with a very nice surgeon, I found myself suddenly fighting off hot tears when I forced myself to ask her what would happen if I couldn’t afford the surgery that Birdie needs. It made me feel like I was saying, “I don’t love my dog.” Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what the surgeon said, “You should feel supported if you choose not to do the surgery.”

You should feel supported. Those are some good words right there.

And she went on to say it was reasonable for me to weigh all the variables, including my dog’s age, her activity level, and my financial situation when making the decision to opt for surgery – or not.

Surgery is how much? Just cut it off. I have three more.

Surgery is how much? Just cut it off. I have three more.

 

The surgeon also patiently answered my two million questions about Birdie’s pain levels and what would happen over time to her other limbs since they’d have to pick up the slack of her bum leg.

We ultimately agreed that this was not emergency surgery and it was reasonable to give Birdie four weeks of rest combined with cold laser treatments and hydrotherapy (with an awesome physical therapist  Birdie knows and loves). And then we’d revisit the idea of surgery.

 

Of course, four weeks from now, if the results from physical therapy aren’t what we hope they’ll be, it still won’t change the gist of the conversation I had with Birdie on the way home from the surgical consult:

Me: Your dad and I are broke.

Birdie: Phumpfh.

Me: You’re kind of old.

Birdie: Phumpfh.

Me: We’re broke and you’re old. I feel like maybe it’s ok to choose not to sink an entire line of credit into one of your legs. Right?

Birdie: Phumpfh.

Me: Birdie, listen. I feel like an asshole trying to figure out how much your leg is worth. I don’t want you to be in pain, but that’s a lot of money. If you want the surgery, I’ll rob a bank to pay for it (or use a credit card). Just tell me what you want me to do. I don’t want to make the wrong choice and have you suffer for the rest of your life. I hate the idea of putting a dollar sign on your leg. You deserve all the bionic legs a dog could ever dream of having…I’m sorry I’m not rich. Just tell me: What do you want me to do?

Birdie: zzzzz-phumpfh-zzzzzzz.

Me: Dammit.

Birdie on bed rest looks just like Birdie on every other day.

Birdie on bed rest looks just like Birdie on every other day.

 

I wish dogs could tell us what they want. One of the hardest parts of caring for our dogs is making decisions on their behalf and feeling badly that we’re not doing the right thing.  A lot of us are beating ourselves up and second guessing everything – from the everyday decisions about diet and training to the excruciating choices we need to make at the end of their lives.

It’s no fun being the one in charge of making the call. As humans we carry around all these conflicting, painful thoughts – about the various options available and what the future holds for the dogs we love so much. Luckily, our dogs continue living in the moment. Knowing stuff is our burden, not theirs.

You might think that those of us who make a living working with dogs would have an easier time making choices for our pets. We know all the questions to ask about quality of life and the different scales to help measure their good days and bad days. Plus we have tons of personal stories from clients and colleagues, etc. to mentally reference in order to help us put our own situations in perspective.

Turns out, when it comes to my own dogs, like most pet care pros, I’m in need of the same sort of outside perspective and compassionate counsel as everyone else. The situation isn’t life threatening (for the record, I’m grateful the diagnosis wasn’t something more serious), but I needed someone else to help me get my footing. And to tell me I’m not a jerk.

I really appreciate that the surgeon told me not to feel guilty for considering my financial situation. And I could have hugged her for saying I should feel supported in trying a non-surgical option first.

It’s what I would have told myself if the confused, weepy kid in my head wasn’t busy shouting about how I was turning into Cruella De Ville for allowing money to pop up when thinking about what Birdie needs. It’s what I would have told any of you, if you were in the same spot.

Thanks for the compassionate advice Doc.

We’re starting rehab next week. In the meantime, Birdie still seems to love me, despite the fact that I’m thinking about the value of her leg repair versus the potential span of her life divided by my credit line. Maybe that’s because she’s thinking about snacks and smelly stuff to roll in, not surgery. That’s my job.

 

p.s. if you’re interested in some alternatives to surgery, this article at Whole Dog Journal is really helpful.

 

The Vet’s Office: Waiting Room or Dog Park?

I love going to the doctor. It’s my absolute favorite place to meet new friends.

I especially like meeting new friends at the doctor’s when I feel really sick or have a painful injury. I like to shove the icky, hurty part of my body in stranger’s faces, so they’ll poke at it, while slapping me on the back.

Sometimes I’m just there for an annual check up and I feel fine physically, but I’m nervous. I’m worried that I’m going to sit in the waiting room all day and be late for work. I’m anxious that I’m going to get a mean doctor that will pinch me and talk to me about my BMI again.

When I’m really stressed, that’s when I like to look around to see if there are any people I can make friends with in the waiting room. And when I feel this way, there’s nothing I enjoy more than when other patients run up to me and ask me to do a few Zumba moves with them before it’s my turn to see the doctor.

 

 

Yep, I love being sick and nervous, in a tiny space, with no way out, and meeting new friends at the same time.

And see that quiet lady in the corner who’s nervously eating a 100 calorie pack of almonds and trying not to make eye contact with me? I asked her to arm wrestle while I was waiting to pay my bill, but she said “No thank you”.  The nerve!

So you know what I did? I turned to the receptionist and I said, in my best stage whisper, “Some people are so MEAN. I guess that patient’s not friendly, huh?”  I sure showed her how rude she was for telling me no.

SCRREEEEECH! Hold the phone. This is bananaballs, right? No one wants to do group aerobics in the waiting room at the doctor’s. No one goes to the doctor’s to meet a new BFF.

So why are so many people doing this with their dogs in the waiting room at the vet’s office?  If there’s ever a place where dogs need space from each other and the dog owners need to ask permission before their dog approaches another, it’s the vet’s office.

Seriously, why do I have to even explain this? But I do, because this happens constantly, every day, to DINOS owners at the vet.

Lots and lots of people seem to think that socializing at the vet is a good thing and dogs who can’t do that are “bad dogs”. Is it me, or do we have some totally out of whack expectations for dogs when they’re at the vet?

Dogs at the vet are sick, injured, anxious, stressed, or just plain don’t wanna play. Almost every dog at the vet is a DINOS (at least temporarily). It’s not the dog park. It’s a doctor’s office for dogs (and other small animals stuck in their carriers).

 

 

Next time you’re at the vet, keep in mind how much you would hate it if every time you went to the doctor’s office, you had to deal with a parade of “friendly” people who invaded your space, touching and poking at you, and talking non-stop. You would hate it and rightly so.

Common sense rules for the vet:

Keep your dog on leash when entering, leaving, waiting, and paying. That’s everything except the exam room.

Lock your flexi-leads. Don’t let dogs wander around, scaring cats and upsetting other dogs.

Ask permission before you allow your dog to approach another dog.

If they say “No”, just accept it.

Don’t call the other dog owner or the dog “mean”.

Don’t passive aggressively whisper about how “unfriendly” that other dog is.

News flash: When you do that, YOU’RE THE MEAN ONE. People go home and cry about how mean you were to them and their struggling dog.

To the staff at the vet’s office: please require and enforce the rule that all dogs must be on leash. Require that all small animals be secured in carriers. Stand up for your clients when other’s treat them badly by reminding everyone that the waiting room is not a dog park and there are sick, injured, and stressed pets in the room – they have a right to their personal space. It’s just safer that way.

And a final note to DINOS families: If you can, wait outside or in the car with your dogs. Ask the staff to let you know when a room is ready, then go directly into the exam room. Ask if there is a back entrance (there usually is) that you can use, so you can avoid the waiting room entirely. Let the staff know ahead of time that your dog needs space – there may be a particular time of the day when it’s slow and you’re less likely to run into crowds.

Fair enough, right? We can do it folks. Respect, compassion, manners – we’ve got that.