Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Well, the good news is.....

Sadie is apparently fine. At least, they can't find anything that explains her lethargy, disinterest, collapse, and weird run of health problems. The xrays show the heart is normal size, no fluid in the pericardial sac, lungs are clear. Her bile acid tests show the liver function is good.

They could do an echocardiograph to test the strength of the heart muscle, or an ultrasound which might pick up stuff an xray can't, but since everything else seems okay the vet doesn't recommend it. So we just continue the antibiotics to clear up the UTI, and continue to watch her for anything alarming.

On the other hand, Charley went to the groomers today, and they reported there was smelly green slime on her back end. I'm hoping she just sat on a slug and it died in her fur. Wouldn't be the first time. But I will keep an eye on things and have her checked out if necessary.

At least the pension cheque arrives in my bank account tomorrow. I think it's spent already. Is it just a coincidence that my vet leaves on holidays tomorrow???

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canine Health and Empty Wallets

Sadie spent several hours at the vet's today, having medical tests to try to figure out what ails her. In the past few months, she has had a series of problems - sudden deafness, occasional nasal discharge, sunken eye, urinary tract infection, collapse on a walk, extreme lethargy, and lack of interest in her social or physical world.

Except FOOD - I'm still interested in FOOD!

Some of these issues might be related - the change in behaviour may be explained by her loss of hearing, for example. The hearing may be related to the eye and nose problems, though no infection, foreign object or growth is visible in those areas.

But when a series of unexplained problems arise in such a short period of time, it is important to look outside the box for other explanations. Our Sadie is simply not herself.

A blood test late last week showed some possible liver problems, as did her urine test. While her heart sounds fine (except for a bit of sinus arrythmia, which she has had ever since she came to me), it is quite soft and her respirations muffled. (The vet did make me laugh when he accused Sadie of purposely holding her breath while he tried to listen to her chest - funny man!)

Yesterday we repeated the urine test and found her UTI from two weeks ago is back. Today she went in for bile acid tests (blood tests done after fasting, and then again two hours after eating a somewhat high fat meal, to test for liver function), and for chest/abdomen xrays to determine what might be going on to cause the collapse and the lethargy - possibly fluid around the heart, called pericardial effusion. We should have the results in a couple of days.

So why am I writing all this?

I am often frustrated when  people complain to me, as one did today, about the cost of adopting a rescue dog (which, by the way, is a bargain compared to the prices asked by breeders, brokers, and owners selling their dogs online. And that rescue dog, if from a reputable rescue, will already be spayed/neutered, dewormed, vaccinated, and often has had medical problems like dental issues or ear infections taken care of. The fee they ask doesn't BEGIN to cover those costs! )

While I don't wish to suggest that having a companion pet should only be an option for the well-to-do, the reality is this: If you can't afford to pay the price that most responsible rescues and shelters ask, you can't afford a dog. Just as it is irresponsible to add a human child to the family without thinking of the financial implications, so too a canine addition.

A good quality food (not a dogfood from the grocery store shelf, but something which contains real nutrition for a healthy canine), occasional purchases of grooming supplies or visits to the groomer, leashes and collars, licences, supplements when needed, treats, toys, beds, etc. - these basic necessities represent a significant addition to a family's budget.

These costs are small potatoes compared to the cost of veterinary care. Professional health care is part of what we take on when we take on a dog, and I know of no province in Canada whose health care plan covers canine dependents. Of course there are pet insurance plans available, provided your dog qualifies; then you must add those monthly payments to the budget as well. And many people are willing to take their chances, thinking the sum of the monthly payments for the lifetime of the dog would far outweigh vet costs - which, in many cases, is correct. After all, the companies wouldn't be in business if they weren't making money!

But when a dog does need vet care, a need which often increases as the dog ages, the budget can really take a hit. I think people are often shocked at what a few tests or a vial of pills for their canine companion cost, and even more shocked if their furry friend must stay overnight or needs surgery. Caleb's bills, when he was diagnosed with cancer, ran into the thousands in just two short months (without putting him through chemotherapy). Princess Belle's two night stay, hooked up to an IV just before she came home to die, was over $800.

Sadie's vet bills for the last ten days? $645.74 and climbing.

True value of that health care? Priceless.

Ya better believe it!
(Photo by Red Dog Photography, 2008)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sad news on Bobbie

This morning I received sad news about Bobbie, the senior sheltie who is at Delta Community Animal Shelter and has had major surgery for bladder stones. I was to pick her up day after tomorrow.

Sadly, she has cancer. Not in the bladder, but the leg. Her 'bum leg' that we thought was just a case of severe arthritis started swelling late last week and a needle aspirate was done. On the weekend Bobbie stopped eating, the swellling continued to spread outward and inflame, and this morning the test results came back - tumor.

Unfortunately it isn't a good tumor so they have put her on steroids at the vet for the next 24 hours to see how she does, but will likely help her to pass tomorrow. The tumour is painful, and the prognosis for any success with chemo is not good, and none of us want her to suffer....

DCAS will keep me posted. Meanwhile, send pain-free vibes for our sweet, sweet girl.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Crofton Cooks, but not fer me,

By Sagacious Sadie

My mama spent the morning cooking. There’s a new recipe book called Crofton Cooks, sponsored by the Crofton Catering Group. It’s being sold to raise money for an extension to our beautiful Crofton Sea Walk.

Sadie and Charley on the Crofton Sea Walk

Mama is hosting her writing group tomorrow, so she decided to make some of the appetizers and desserts in the book to serve at the luncheon. And she didn’t give us ONE SINGLE BITE! And there’s even a recipe for dog bone cookies in there, that our Auntie Mary from across the street submitted, but did mama make any of those? Of course not.

She made Oatmeal Cookies with Avocado and Pear. Now, I’m not so sure about the avocado part, but they sure smelled yummy and mom made lots of lip smacking noises when she tested a couple. Did we get a bite? Nope. Not even a nibble.

Oatmeal Cookies with Avocado and Pear

Then she made Doreen’s Bars, which are like Rice Krispie squares made with Mars bars and topped with chocolate. Now I know dogs can’t have chocolate (it's toxic to us - that means POI-SON-OUS!), but rice is good fer us ....dunno why she couldn’t leave the chocolate out and give us dogs the rice part.

Doreen's Bars

Next she made Artichoke Squares. Okay, I don’t think I’d be too keen on the artichokes, but oh man, ya should have seen all the cheese and eggs that went into those. I LOVE cheese and eggs!!! They’s practically my favourite things. Next to liver squares. But did she leave the artichokes outta any and make some plain ones for us? Uh uh. Big Meany.

Artichoke Squares

She tried making some cheese balls, but there was somethin’ wrong with that recipe becuz you is supposed to roll it and it is soooo sticky and soft, ya can’t. But mama figures they just got the instructions wrong – it says to roll it into balls, then chill, then bake. She thinks ya gotta chill the dough, THEN roll into balls, then bake. So now the dough is chillin’ and she still hasta roll and cook them. Since there’s nothing in there that we can’t have, maybe we’ll get one each when they are done. But I bet we won’t.

Cheese Ball Dough

And there’s still a couple of things to make. Some meat roll ups – well, there’s pickled ‘sparagus in the middle of them, so she can leave that outta mine, but I’m sure I’d like the meat part. And some smoked salmon cups. Now those sound good too, and nothin’ in them I don’t like or can’t eat. She’s gonna make those things later tonight.

I gotta get me a fridge-opening piggy (like Comet from Hearts on Noses) or beagle (like Gus at Broken Promises Rescue). Then when mama is sleeping, us animals could have us a feast!

If you live in the Crofton area and want your own copy of Crofton Cooks, it’s available at Lito’s, Galleto’s or Ocean Soul for just $10. No need to thank me – just bake me a batch of them dog cookies, please. And maybe some artichoke squares wivout the artichokes!

Love Sadie.
(c) 2011

This Morning

The dogs said 4:45 AM was a good time to get up.

I told them it was too early.

They said it wasn't.

They were right:

View from my back yard, 4:45 AM June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

One who wouldn't fly, and one who flew too soon

As I worked on the garden earlier this week, I was entertained once again by the family of birds living in the birdhouse under the shed roof. As I finished off the second planter, papa and mama bird hopped around from fence post to fence post, from ground to wheelbarrow to roof, chirping noisily as they called to their two little ones in the nest to “fly, children, fly!”.

Papa bird chirps to babies

It was only a matter of hours before the first one glided smoothly down to the ground, then hopped up on the edge of my planter, up to the crossbar of the fence, and finally fluttered away with mama and papa singing and following at a distance as he or she found the way to the pear tree across the back lane.

Their encouragement from a distance reminded me of a poem in a book I had received when my daughter was born many years ago (which reminds me – Happy Birthday this Sunday, kiddo!). The poem, which I think was by Ogden Nash though can't find online to confirm, read:

I see him stumble on the rung
But do not run to get him.
He’s learning how to climb, and I
Am learning how to let him.

I repeated that mantra to myself, changing only the pronoun, a zillion times as my daughter learned to spread her wings and fly fly fly, and I am sure mama and papa bird were saying the same thing. And, just as I did, I bet they breathed a sigh of relief when junior was safely launched.

Back at the nest, a more reluctant young’un refused to come out. He (or she - they are too young to tell apart yet) refused to even stick the still fuzzy head out to check on his sibling’s whereabouts. He cried piteously, occasionally venturing near enough to the opening for his shiny eyes and funny beak to be visible, but never so far as to stand on the rim and prepare for flight.

I'z NOT comin' out!

The whole day long, his mom and dad flew back and forth, back and forth, from fence to birdhouse and back again. They refused to take him any food. They chirped loudly at him, maintaining a steady stream of encouragement. They demonstrated flight patterns for him.

Mama bird call's to baby

Eventually the mama bird took off, perhaps to keep an eye on the liberated fledgling, but papa kept working with the bird who wouldn’t fly. Papa would land on the little branch that sticks out the front of the bird house, stick his head in and talk to the little one. It was clear he was saying, "C’mon, you can do it! Here, watch me!" And he would take a short glide to the ground or to a nearby section of fence. Then he turned around to face his offspring and chirped loudly again. Offspring would cry back and then shrink back into the nest again.

Periodically, a flock of relatives would show up to lend a hand, four or five of them perched on the fence near the nest chirping and flittering and flying and singing to the baby in the nest.

Need some help there, George?  Hilda sent us to see if we can coax him out for you. 

And so on it went – all morning, all afternoon, and on into the evening. Adult birds singing encouragement and modeling the behaviour; baby bird refusing to come out. Mom returned just before dark, and the two parents conferred on the fence. Then mom flew off and returned with a beak full of nourishment which she finally fed to the starving youngster. After repeating this act a few times, mom took off, dad hopped into the nest with the babe, and all was quiet for the night.

At five the next morning, when I let the dogs out, the flight lessons had already resumed. Dad was noisily singing on the nearby fence, and babe was warily looking out the hole, but keeping the feet firmly inside.

Iz a scary world out there!!!
I chose to remain inside that morning so I wouldn’t interfere with flight training of this very nervous fledgling, checking from the window periodically. Sometime between 10 and 12 o'clock, the birdy flew the coop. After several hours of seeing no activity, I cautiously climbed up on a stool and peered in, to be sure the house was empty. It was. I took advantage of the vacancy to remove it, unscrew the bottom, and do a long overdue cleanout – last year, even in the middle of winter, there were always one or more birds in residence so it had not been cleaned for at least two years. I don’t know how that family of four managed in there – it was completely full to the roof with well-packed nesting material.

I cleaned out the old stuff, washed and scrubbed and screwed the house back together, and rehung it. Within an hour, a pair of sparrows (was it the same mama and papa or a different one?) were checking it out, and flying back and forth with straw and grasses, taking short breaks to do the hanky-panky on the arm of my Adirondack chair. I spread some cotton wool and dog hair nearby to help rebuild the nest, and by the next morning they had disappeared and the birdhouse looked full once more. And so the cycle begins again.

While I was watching the reluctant baby on Monday I also received some very sad news. Patti, the vibrant, smiling, nature- and animal-loving woman who had just recently started dogsitting for me, passed away after collapsing in her mother’s garden last weekend. Patti was a single mom of a 19 year old son - far, far too young a woman to leave this earth. The dogs and I often chatted to Patti and her mom, and her mom’s dog Etta, on the beach – there were very few days when I didn’t meet them down there this spring.

My heart goes out to the family – to her son Chris and mom Pat, and all others who loved Patti. Pat and Patti were best friends, always together, both sharing a love of dogs and a love of gardening. Mothers should not outlive their children, and teenagers should not have to grow into adulthood without moms. Crofton is a richer place for having known Patti, but oh she has flown away too soon.

Fly free little bird, as you go out into the big world. And fly free, Patti, fly free. May your spirit soar.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hi out there!

My mama's ignoring us.

And YOU - her blog readers - heh heh heh

She's still too busy building stuff.

And watching baby birds learn to fly.

Story coming.

(and she has switched to an updated blogger editor, so needed to write something short to see how/if it works! Aaack  - things are totally unfamiliar!  And inconsistent!  Please bear with me! )

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Birds, Blooms, Bullheads and Bladderstones

It was been a busy week - with the longer days and occasionally drier weather (still more like April than June), I have been enjoying the outdoors and trying to get some projects done in the yard.

It all began a week or so ago. I decided this year I would plant some veggies in containers, but my patio was already crowded with the the flowers and herbs I put in last month:

And money was tight, so other than buying some mismatched plastic pots from garage sales, I really didn't want to buy anything other than seeds and seedlings. I remembered there was a monstrosity behind the shed, among the blackberry triffids who have once again come back to claim my yard.

The white lattice thing used to be a privacy screen/fence around my patio, which I had removed in order to securely fence the yard for the dogs. Figuring it might be useful some time, I had the workers stick it out of the way and there it sat for the past two years. Time to haul it out - eight feet high and ten feet wide, it was a heavy sucker.

Once out, the task of taking it apart began. I loathe nails. Truly loathe them. Everything I build, I build with Robertson screws for a reason - if I make a mistake, it is easy to correct, and when I need to rebuild, it is easy to dismantle. Not so the privacy screen. Danged eighteen inch nails banged in at twenty-six different angles (okay, maybe I exaggerate a little), none of which wanted to come out easily.

The crowbar finally did the job. Some old fence boards, some salvaged 2x4, the lattice for trellis, my power drill and driver, my mitre saw, and a fistful of screws and we were in business.

Have I mentioned lately that I love my power mitre saw?

By the end of the day, I had built an 8'x2'x2' planter box in which to sit the various mismatched containers, thus keeping it looking tidy without paying a fortune for dirt or making permanent changes to a yard I hope to have professionally landscaped this fall. For now, this is 'good enough':

And I still have enough left over for a second one, which will be my project tomorrow.

Sometimes I forget how much I love working with my hands and being outdoors. It was one of the best parts of living on the acreage in Mission - next to the animals, of course. When I began the planter project, I hadn't noticed that the birdies in the little house under the eaves of the shed had just hatched. All day long, I had to back away every few minutes so mama and papa bird could feed the hungry mouths.

And Robin Redbreast also kept me entertained, as he struggled to grab his dinner from the lawn near my workplace:

This morning, I headed to the marina to capture images of the Crofton Annual Father's Day Bullhead Derby to accompany our next newspaper column. Bullheads are catfish-like critters that hang around the dock and are relatively easy to catch. Ugly as sin but easy to catch. The place was alive with colour, and parents were only too happy to give me permission to shoot their kids (um...with the camera, that is). I was delighted to see the number of girls out fishing - in fact, I think they easily outnumbered the boys. Fishing with my dad is one of my favourite childhood memories.

I have nearly two hundred images to sort through now, but here are just a few of my favourites:

Dad shows Ella and Travis how to remove the hook

Sometimes chips are better than fish(ing)

Kassidy concentrates on getting the line just right

Ryan and his mom fishing together

Spencer gives Chloe a helping hand

Busy dock

Mom helps Andrew land a baby bullhead

Kids along the dock


And bladder stones? What are bladder stones doing in the title of this post? Well, Bobbie (the senior sheltie I went to meet a couple of weeks ago) received her much needed surgery for bladder stones on Wednesday, and at last word was doing well. She will remain in foster for two weeks while she recovers and her status is reassessed, and then she will probably come here.

Meanwhile, Sadie decided that if Bobbie can get lots of attention for bladder problems, she would develop some too. Friday night, she started pacing and peeing and passing blood. She is now on antibiotics and much improved - we will xray for stones or other issues if the antibiotics don't do the trick. Sadly, there may well being something more serious going on with Sadie - in the past couple of months, she has had strange problems with her eye, had nasal discharge despite no visible ear or nose problem, has gone profoundly deaf, has collapsed completely on a walk, and now this. Her last blood tests came back normal, but it is likely time to repeat them and check for significant changes. Still, she is such a good girl and never complains - just sleeps and eats and sleeps some more. Sadie is about twelve years old, to the best of our knowledge.

And so that gets me caught up on my adventures with birds, blooms, bullheads and bladder stones. Time to do something mundane, like the laundry or vacuuming. Blech.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Don't forget to take your children fishing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Letting Sam Go

Sam Jones, 1994-2011

It is never easy. But Sam let me know it was time. His pain could not be managed and he started crying and trembling. And then he looked at me and the message was clear.

I did the only thing I could. I made the call. And I gave Sam two valium to sedate him until the vet could get here. He slipped in and out of consciousness, as the drugs had the desired effect of easing his pain and letting him rest. Every now and then he would look at me with his dark shining eyes, and without moving a muscle or making a sound, he told me he was ready.

The vet came, and together we helped him to pass. It was peaceful and blessedly quick. He didn’t move a muscle during the pre-sedation or the injection, and within a mere second or two, he had slipped away. He was gone.

Sam was a very good dog. We had a wonderful month. Day before yesterday, the day before he crashed, we had one of our best days ever. Sunshine, warm breezes, salt air, sand and sea and someone to walk with. I have no doubt he was very happy.

Margaret and Peter had a wonderful sixteen years with him, and he with them; from the time they adopted him from the SPCA at a year old, he has been an integral part of their family. I am so sorry, Margaret and Peter, for your loss, and that it should happen before you could say goodbye. I have always said that I would prefer to help a dog to pass a week too early than a day too late. And the vet and I both agreed: to wait until tomorrow would have been a day too late. As your new granddaughter made her way into the world, your beloved old dog was preparing to leave it.

Such is the cycle of life – a child is born, an old friend passes on. Sam knew he was very much loved. He knew.

Run free, Sam. Run free, beautiful boy. And welcome to the world, Baby Girl Jones.