A bloody mess…

The morning feeding here starts most every morning at 5:30. It’s usually a completely uneventful part of the day. Today it wasn’t, of course. It was a bloodbath.

For the prior 24 hours Maggie had been growing a fearsome looking lump under her incision. It was worrying enough that I changed her follow up appointment to this afternoon rather than waiting for Thursday, when it was originally scheduled. We fell seven hours short of that appointment when she dove into her breakfast and the dam broke – leaving a trail of blood tinged fluid dripping down her shoulder and quickly spattering the floor.

“Not good,” my initial early morning response. Maggie didn’t seem bothered at all. She didn’t even slow up on inhaling her breakfast.

Over the next three hours, what I’ve now learned is a common post operative condition called a seroma, steadily grew smaller as the fluid continued to drain – mostly into the kitchen floor. I’ve mopped today. A lot.

Our vet assured me this is all fairly normal. He was happy enough with her progress to take her sutures out, and advising “just let it drain” while handing over another 10 days worth of antibiotics just to ward off any future issues.

So here we all are, confined once again to the kitchen in an effort to keep random canine bodily fluids from soaking in to more sensitive parts of the house. I can only hope this iteration won’t take nine months.

I’m happy my girl is on the mend… though I wish it would involve just a little less oozing.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Numbers. This blog is my own little catharsis and never really intended as clickbait, but sometimes I really do wonder what sorcery is behind the numbers. My view and visitor numbers have been all over the map for the last few weeks. There’s no seeming rhyme or reason for days that are up or down. Posts that I think should be a hit end up idle and those that I thought fairly bland rack up visits. After fourteen years of doing this, you might be tempted to think I’d have a clue. If you thought that, however, you’d be 100% wrong.

2. Incredulity. The number of times in the last six weeks that I’ve been asked some version of “Aren’t you starting to go stir crazy?” is telling… if only because it reveals how many people don’t really “get” me at all. I’ve got books, critters, ready access to food and liquor, the ability to have almost anything on earth delivered to my front door, and can leave at any time for goods and services that need to be sourced locally. I feel no fear of missing out. Staying home isn’t punishment for me. It’s the life I thought I was going to have to wait another 15 years to have for myself… and after sampling it, I can assure you going stir crazy is the very least of my worries.

3. Persistence. Maggie has been quite a trooper, never so much as attempting to lick or scratch her enormous incision. Keeping a certain white and brown young canine sibling from trying to lick it all the time has been my other full-time job this week. Seven days into healing and he’s mostly stopped – though not before a few full-blown screaming fits on my part. I can sense him still searching for an opportunity. I usually appreciate and even respect that kind if persistence, but in this one case, I’m going to need him to knock it the hell off.

Do not resuscitate…

One of the convenient features of the Great Plague is that more places will just email you things that usually have to be filled out in their office so you can take care of them at home. Anything that removes that human to human interface is a net good overall in my book. Look, I know some of you out there thrive on this human contact foolishness, but in a lot of ways I feel like I’m over here living my best life in a world finally designed for avoiding people.

The joy of being able to dispense with a bit of one-on-one human interaction this morning was tempered somewhat because I was filling out Maggie’s pre-surgery paperwork. The 4-page packet included basics like my contact information, what medication she’s currently on, and a summary of the procedure and expected costs for my initials.

This particular pre-surgical packet also included, what I can only think of as “advance directive for dogs.” The vet wants to know just how heroic the measures should get if something goes horrendously wrong during the procedure. The forms I’ve seen in the past include everything from the standard do not resuscitate, to providing CPR, to using electrical defibrillators and even more invasive options. Since this surgery is being taken care of at the local vet’s office rather than one of the big emergency clinics we frequent, we were limited to DNR or performing basic CPR.

I’ve probably filled out a dozen or two of these forms over the years – mostly for myself, but more than a few for the animals. My own advanced directive is relatively straight forward and I’ve passed it out to a slew of doctors over the years – CPR is fine. Machines are fine. But the moment we hit the point where my big beautiful brain is damaged or I’m alive only by virtue of the machines, go ahead and pull the plug. I’d like to hold out for the point where the techies can download my consciousness into a computer, but if that’s not an option feel free to let me go. 

With the animals, though, the temptation for me is to keep them with me at all costs using whatever tools veterinary medicine can bring to bear. I always resist the strong temptation to tell the vet to be heroic, though. It’s not the easy choice, but it’s the right one. 

My life with dogs…

I was talking with a friend of mine last night – and by talking, I mean keeping up a decade old text conversation – and mentioned if I ever write another book I’m pretty sure its title is going to be My Life with Dogs and Other Things that will Fucking Bankrupt You.

Here’s the backstory:

Maggie has had a fatty lipoma on her shoulder for the last five years. We’ve treated it as a cosmetic thing up to now, but it’s finally grown to the point where the medicos tell me it needs to come out – or at the very least be “de-bulked.” For the last year or so I’ve been rolling the dice in determining if we’d go to surgery or if an old dog with Cushing Syndrome would make it to the point where surgery was necessary. Doc tells me where at that point now. The good news is that means my girl is relatively healthy. The bad news is it means we’re putting her under the knife fairly soon.

I talked to Maggie’s vet last night. Given her age and the general presentation of Cushing, I was prepared to hear that the results of her bloodwork were all over the map. They weren’t. Everything was basically where it should be for a dog whose disease is well controlled. So, small mercies there. In trying to decide how to approach the lipoma on her neck/shoulder, we also did a series of chest x-rays – mostly a due diligence to see if benign had become something more problematic or infiltrated her chest wall. The pictures show that it hasn’t.

The only minor pre-surgical issue we have was a slight presence of bacteria in her urine. It could easily be something that was introduced during the collection process, but in an abundance of caution prior to putting a decent incision into my girl, we’re starting a course of antibiotics to make sure all is clear before she heads in for surgery.

The doc did give me the option of taking Maggie in for an MRI – which would give a far more detailed view of the mass than simple, old fashioned x-rays. If I thought we were looking at something more involved than removing a large, but reasonably simple lipoma, I’d have probably given it more consideration, even knowing it would end up being a $2,000+ bill. I appreciate that this vet walks me through all available options, but doesn’t attempt to push in the direction of the more expensive tests. Even as he was discussing the MRI, he was clear that level of diagnostic testing was probably overkill in Maggie’s case.

I’m working with the scheduler to get a time for surgery and Maggie is getting an extra ration of cheese to hide her enormous antibiotic capsule. All that’s left to do now is wait and see how it goes. I’m sure that won’t cause any gnashing to teeth because I’m well known for my patience and low key approach to animal care.

Lumps and bumps…

Having an old dog means there’s really no end to the lumps and bumps you’re going to find on them today that weren’t there yesterday. I’m told fatty lipomas are particularly common in old Labrador’s – and Maggie has more than her share of those. As long as we confirm that they’re not malignant, I’m more or less happy to leave them be rather than subject her to an invasive surgery to correct something that’s basically cosmetic.

The story is a little different when it comes to the most recent tumor. This one is growing under her right eyelid and if left unchecked could cause damage to her eye. That falls well into the category of “not cosmetic.”

We schlepped over to the most local of the region’s specialty vet’s offices this morning to meet with the veterinary ophthalmologist for the first of what’s likely to be several consultative visits. They ran a few tests, poked and prodded, and looked deeply into her eyes… and confirmed that “yep, that’s a tumor and we should probably cut it off.” At least that part wasn’t a surprise.

Maggie’s overall prognosis is good. The procedure is fairly straightforward, so we’re not breaking new ground in veterinary medicine. That’s not to say the procedure is inexpensive, of course. It’s not the kind of vet’s office you ever walk into thinking that the visit is going to be budget friendly. It’s the price of progress. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

The only question now is whether I want to get another consult with the surgeons to see if taking off one of the large fatty masses on her shoulder is something we should think about adding in to the surgery. On a younger dog in my mind the decision would be a no brainer. With my girl pushing 12 now, I’m hesitant to take on anything invasive that isn’t strictly necessary.

At least I know what I’ll be spending the weekend pondering.

Diagnosis…

After several rounds of testing, we have a preliminary diagnosis for Maggie of adrenal-based Cushing’s disease. Not being a vet, but being one hell of a good researcher, I won’t attempt to explain exactly what Cushing’s is beyond the fact that it’s a disorder likely being caused by a small tumor located on the adrenal gland that’s making her cortisol levels to go wonky and producing a host of potential symptoms.

In Maggie’s case, the symptoms include excessive thirst / drinking and the accompanying excessive urination, hair loss, and general weakness. At this stage, the disease doesn’t make her feel bad or cause any pain. Based on my observation she’s giving absolutely no indication that she even knows she’s sick. The primary treatment, should it prove to be adrenal-based, seems to be surgical removal, although there are some non-invasive options based on my cursory reading.

I won’t dwell on details at this point, frankly because I don’t have many real details to dwell on yet regarding Maggie’s particular diagnosis. Next week, we’ll be taking a bit of a road trip to a specialty vet who will do an ultrasound to visualize the suspect area and, hopefully, confirm a diagnosis so we can identify the appropriate course of treatment.

I’m already racking up a list of research I need to do between now and then – the success rates of the surgery in question, post surgical life expectancy, impacts on quality of life, and so on. I’ll also have to take a long hard look at my personal ethics with regard to invasive surgery for a dog that by any standard definition has already reached into the “old age” range. Believe me when I tell you it’s times like this when I hate being an analyst by professional and disposition. It’s one of the rare moments when being dumb and happy would appear to be a blessing.

The research and worry is all for a bit later though. Right now it’s Friday evening and I have a happy and contented, if not exactly healthy, dog sitting next to me wanting undivided attention. Tending to that feels like it’ll probably be the most productive and cathartic thing I’ve done all day.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Snapchat reality. People are apparently having plastic surgery to make themselves look more like their favorite Snapchat filter. I’m perfectly willing to accept that there are good and valid reasons to have cosmetic surgery… but isn’t the whole point of Snapchat that it lets you look different without someone jabbing pointy objects into your face? Lord knows I’ve got an ego big as all outdoors sometimes, but thank sweet merciful Zeus it’s in absolutely no way dependent on the way I look and doing batshit crazy things to keep up an illusion that I do.

2. Getting handsey. You probably wouldn’t expect this, but I tend to go out of my way to be polite to people. Please, thank you, sir, ma’am, excuse me, are all words that come frequently from my face hole. Being a natural misanthrope isn’t a reason to behave like you’ve never learned any manners. I’ll gladly return courtesy with courtesy. I’ve always followed John Wayne’s basic rules for civilized behavior, of which the Duke said, “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” If, however, someone feels like they need to get handsey with me, I’ll happily drop all pretense of civility.

3. Dogs. No, not really dogs in general. It’s well established fact that I value and love dogs over all other living creatures. The one and only time I find dogs at all annoying is when you’re trying to get away for periods longer than their bladders are able to tolerate. With dogs (or at least the way I insist their care and feeding take place), getting away for anything more than a day trip involves herculean logistical feats which usually reach the level of requiring unjustifiable levels of effort. Yes, I know there are dog sitters and boarding facilities of which normal people might avail themselves. Frankly I can’t think of any more than half a dozen people on the planet who I’d willingly allow full, free, and unfettered access to my home. The number of people I’d trust with the care of the dogs is significantly lower than that. Yes, of course I realize this problem is self-inflicted based on my utter lack of faith in humanity, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying… and it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

10 week update…

I realized this afternoon that it’s been a while since my last Winston update and figured with this being a slow news day it’s as good a time to correct that as I’m likely to find. For those of you playing along at home, tomorrow will be 10 weeks since his surgery. You’ll remember the first two weeks were close confinement with walking kept to an absolute minimum. The last six weeks have seen slightly less confinement, but still have kept activity rather limited. In two weeks when we go back to the surgeon for his alleged last post-operative check up, I desperately hope that she will give the all clear for him to resume as much of a normal life as possible.

I really don’t know which of us will be more excited to finally see the plastic pen disappear from the middle of the living room. That the current Rental Casa de Jeff is a tri-level split gives me a moment of pause, though. I think it’s safe to say that my boy has climbed his last set of stairs, which means that he’s more or less limited to the kitchen and living room for the foreseeable future. That’s a lot more space than he’s had in the last two months, but still feels pretty confining. The pitch of the steps and their location make any kind of indoor ramping prohibitive, but I’m still casting around for a better idea than throwing up baby gates and calling it a done deal.

One thing I do have to say is that he’s getting around far better than I would have expected given how much work they did to his leg. I suppose in the wild a dog either plays hurt or lays down and dies, so there’s probably more than a little evolution at play. Still, even with high quality medication I’m not sure two days after having my knee rebuilt I’d have much interest in getting up and looking around.

Winston has been a real trooper through the whole experience and it seems like the hard part for him is wrapping up. Now if I can get past the notion that 50% of dogs that blow out one knee also blow out the other, everything will be just fine. Until then, I’m going to spaz out a little inside every time the poor dog takes a step.

Seven weeks along…

So if the flood of facebook posts, emails, junk mail, and phone calls going on are to be believed, there’s an election happening tomorrow. Another rant here about politics would be the usual go-to for this time of year, but instead, I’m going to bring you up to speed on something important: Winston is (believe it or not), returned from his seven week post-surgical round of poking’s, prodding’s, and x-rays, and has been pronounced approximately 70% healed from his TPLO experience. The pins and plates are holding up well, there’s no infection, and aside from the expected muscle loss from 7 weeks of mostly doing nothing, the surgeon blessed him as “within normal limits.” I learned a long time ago that when it comes to bulldogs and health, within normal limits is pretty much the best report you can hope for, so overall I’m pleased with the current state of things.

The next six weeks look like they should be more of the same. He’ll stay in his expended pen, get three or four 15 minute walks a day, and otherwise be prohibited from doing anything that might approximate having fun. That’s going to make our yearly Thanksgiving trip to the menagerie something of an experience, as running, jumping, and interacting with other animals is going to be frowned upon. The good news is that by Christmas, the worst of the restrictions should be lifted. This is a good thing, because I wasn’t looking forward to toting and hauling his exercise pen, two crates, and gross of baby gates with me to Western Maryland for the holidays.

So yeah, I’m pretty pleased with how things went today… and maybe now I can be slightly less paranoid every time he moves. I’ll always be haunted by the prospect of him doing the same thing to the other leg, but at the moment, I’m all about the good news so let’s just leave that for a separate discussion.

P.S. Yes, there is an election tomorrow… and despite what Facebook tells you, it does matter who you vote for. It does matter that you make informed decisions. And it does matter that you exercise the right that makes all the other rights possible. So please, for the good of the Republic, spend some time tonight boning up on the issues and then get to the polls tomorrow.

Three week update…

Sitting here after scarfing up entirely too much dinner, I remembered that I promised an update on how Winston is making out in his third week post-surgery. The short version: after three weeks and three days, you wouldn’t know that he just had his leg broken in two places and a respectable size chunk of steel jammed in there. He’s not limping, and has once again started pulling hard when we’re out on the leash. So far he’s tolerated his old puppy pen set up in the middle of the living room, but judging from the amount of snorting and general malcontentery, it’s only a matter of time before he puts his shoulder into it and drags the whole pen to whatever part of the room he wants to be in at any given time. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to address that when the time comes.

As of right now, the way ahead looks alot like the past three weeks: Strict confinement for the next nine weeks at a minimum, no steps, no running, no playing, no time off leash, and three to four 15 minute walks every day to keep up as mush muscle mass as possible. He’s due back at the surgeon’s office at the end of the month for his six week checkup and x-rays, but unless something blows up between now and then, I’m expecting a good report. So far, everything has been good news, but because every cloud has a lead lining, I’m going to spend the rest of his natural life worrying myself sick that he’s going to blow out the other one or do something to undo what’s already been fixed.

Being a single father of two is damned hard work.