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.


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.

Recovery, Day 4…

Intellectually, I know that the only thing Winston did today was hang out in his crate, chew his Kong a bit, and maybe shift from one side to the other a few times. He physically can’t bend enough to bother his stitches and nothing from the last three days gives me any indication that he will have any problems today. Knowing full well that he’d be fine when I got home, didn’t diminish my feelings of monumental guilt about leaving him to go to work this morning. I’m a worrier like that.

It’s day four following TPLO surgery and my boy is almost exactly where they surgeon said he would be… his leg is swollen, there’s fluid buildup around the ankle, meal times are still a little hit or miss, and the meds are keeping him a little out of sorts. His fentanyl patch comes off tonight, so I’m expecting a little more pain starting tomorrow morning. He’s tolerating the ice packs three times a day, but clearly is not a fan. According to the doc, I’m also supposed to be doing “passive range of motion” exercises with him several times a day. As far as I can tell from the instruction sheet, it’s more or less amateur physical therapy and Winston absolutely won’t have any of it. Any attempt to put him on his side to do the exercises results in a wildly flailing bulldog and I figure that’s doing more harm than good. It’s one of the only times in recorded history I’ve wished there was a second set of hands around this place on a regular basis.

I have to remind myself that just like us, for him recovering from surgery is a game of inches, not one of leaps and bounds. It’s going to be a long twelve weeks, but at this point I’ll be happy just to get the all clear to stop using the belly sling when he gets his five minute supervised excursions outside. I just wish I had more than a halfassed idea about what “normal” was supposed to look like. Guess I should have ditched the whole history thing and got to vet school instead.