What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The time of the year. There’s a popular perception that people’s moods tend to improve has we head into the Christmas season. Maybe that’s the case for some, but not so much for me. By this time of year I’m just about worn down to the nub from relentless repeats of leaving home in the dark and returning there many hours later again in the dark. I loath and despise this time of year for the simple reason that for all practical purposes it means living like a mole for two months. If I manage to leave work on time and if it’s not cloudy, I do manage to catch the last few rays of watery sunshine on an occasional weekday. On a good day at mid-winter that lasts for somewhere between 5-15 minutes. So while everyone else is preparing their celebration of the birth of the Christian’s nailed God, I’ll be over here quietly awaiting the solstice and celebrating Sol Invictus.  

2. Thirty minutes. That’s how long it takes my work computer to boot up from a cold start on the average day in the office. Look, I can dick around for the first 30 minutes of the day with the best of them, but it doesn’t feel like a particularly great use of time. But hey, whatever. I can only use the tools and resources I’ve been assigned… Which is why I keep a stack of magazines on my desk.

3. Bulldogs. I love my bulldog. He’s almost eleven now. He’s got a permanent limp, only hears when he wants to hear, and seems happy enough to pass the time between feeding and being let outside lounging comfortably in one of his beds. He’s an old man and I don’t begrudge him any of that. For the last two months, though, we’ve been trying to get on top of what’s become a particularly aggressive skin issue. After two month of antibiotics and medicated baths we don’t seem to be any closer to a solution than we were at the back in late October. The condition itself isn’t something unusual – we’ve been working with bad skin for years – but the amount of time it’s taking to knock this one back is far more than history suggests should be necessary… and don’t get me started on $80 bottles of pills that don’t seem to do a damned thing. I love my bulldog, but if you find yourself ever thinking you want to fall in love with their wrinkly little faces, my advice for you is to take a hard pass. I’d never deny this one anything, but get yourself a dog instead of an eating, breathing, ongoing medical disaster… unless you have a sick desire to take lots of time off for vet visits and would rather not have to worry about disposable income. Then, by all means, bring home that adorable, smushed faced little pup.

Nose job…

I interrupted a perfectly nice telework day today to take George over to the reptile and exotic pet veterinarian in the next county over. One of the most endearing qualities of your average small sized tortoise is that they are a remarkably low-maintenance animal to keep around. Keep their enclosure clean and stocked with things to push around or climb over, daily feeding and watering, and they almost take care of themselves. Except, of course, for the times when they don’t.

Despite my best efforts to provide sufficient rough surfaces to keep George’s beak in check, it was obviously growing too long and would eventually give him trouble eating. The tortoise nose job turned out to be a 5-minute exercise with a Dremel tool that people all over the internet say you can do yourself. Honestly for less than $50, it’s well worth letting the professionals handle carrying out the task and giving the old boy the once over.

Maybe I’m too use to dragging a bulldog to the vet, but a quick trip where everything was easy and there wasn’t a massive bill due at the end almost felt like a let down – like something too easy. Then again I wasn’t the member of the herd getting a nose job with a Dremel so it’s hard to say what “too easy” might actually look like. I should probably just be satisfied that for the moment all the creatures are in reasonably good health and not racking up new bills.

Impatiently waiting…

I should start by confessing that I’m almost use to confronting all manner of canine medical problems. It’s one of the less charming, but utterly unavoidable side effects of living with an English bulldog. It’s just something you come to expect. I’m not entirely sure he can surprise me anymore. Usually my response is more of a “Oh, he’s broken again.”

It’s when the Labrador retriever pulls up with the medical mystery, I’m admittedly taken completely by surprise. She’s been a mercifully healthy dog and I’m more than appreciative of having at least one that doesn’t need nearly continuous medical supervision.

Unfortunately last week I discovered Maggie had a lump about the size of half a golf ball under the skin just below her ribcage. A trip to the vet and biopsy obviously followed – and in the meantime I’ve been spending the time keeping my mind off it as much as possible. Patience, as we know, is not one of my great virtues. Since I don’t run my own diagnostic lab, of course, there’s nothing for it but to wait and see what results come back.

I’ll do it, but I will in no way commit myself to doing it patiently.

Good deeds…

Ten days ago a friend of mine who I first met as a vet tech at Winston and Maggie’s primary care joint sent me a message wondering if any associates of mine were looking for FullSizeRender (16)a puppy. They had an owner surrender come in to the office diagnoses with parvo. If you haven’t spent any time around dogs, that diagnosis may not mean much to you, but take my word for it that parvo is a nasty bastard. It’s not quite a death sentence, but even with quick and aggressive treatment, survival is something of a dice roll.

Because it’s so often difficult and expensive to treat, a common response across the industry is to let the sick pup go easy. My friend went the harder – and more expensive – route and took this little slip of a puppy home and treated her out of pocket. That’s going above and beyond in my book. I found out  today that instead of placing this pup in a new home or even keeping her, my friend got in touch with the young family who gave her up because they couldn’t make the finances of treatment work.

No one brings home a new puppy thinking that a few days later they’ll be facing thousands in veterinary bills. I know better than most that those bills do crop up though. The family made the right, but a hard decision to give her up and give her a chance at life. My friend made the even harder decision to give her back. I know she didn’t do it for public recognition, so I’ll keep names and identifying details to myself, even so I think this one deserves a pat on the back or a scratch behind the ears, whichever is more appropriate.

A tale of two dogs…

Winston, as many of you will know, is prone to all manner of medical problems. Such is life in a bulldog household. My advice to anyone before they go to pick out such a project dog is to first deposit $10,000 into a savings account. Do’t be tempted to touch it for such “emergencies” as a new furnace or fixing your car’s transmission. You’re going to need it as a downpayment on the future medical bills you are going to ring up.

As we progress through the process of treating Winston’s second blown cruciate, I’ll be filling everyone in on the details of everything from diagnostics to treatment to recovery. It’s a record I played before – almost exactly three years ago to be exact. It’s less intimidating because I know more or less what to expect, but that only makes it slightly less of an ordeal. What can I say, I take a hurting critter very personally.

On the other hand, there’s Maggie, the unsinkable chocolate lab. I was just commenting a few hours ago how thankful I was that at least one of the beasts is healthy. The gods being the fickle asshats that they are, of course, that was a few hours before she started drooling all over herself and exhibiting what looks to me like the textbook definition of “lethargy.” I’m going out on a metaphoric limb and assuming she scrounged a stomach full of acorns while I was busy working on the yard and is now paying the price for it.

Just as I ended that last paragraph, my suspicion was at least partially confirmed as I had to pause and clean up the remnants of dinner mixed with an obviously stupid amount of acorns. Sigh. So there you have it. Two dogs both sick in their own special way. I am in no way prepared to deal with Monday after a weekend that was defined almost exclusively by dealing with sick critters.

Lab work…

After what felt like a respectable battery of diagnostic tests the ophthalmologist is comfortable reporting that the irregularity in Maggie’s eye is not cancer, but rather an pigmentation issue – scleral nevi – that’s simply something to “keep an eye on” for the next few years. Since I was there for the full work up, we got the additional diagnosis is retinal dysplasia (folds) with no apparent Magimpairment of vision. It’s an apparently not uncommon issue with labs and corresponds with certain skeletal issues also present in my dear, sweet chocolate lab. Not surprisingly in a free dog, it seems my Mags does not hail from champion bloodlines. This isn’t a particularly worrying issue and was mentioned mostly for situational awareness since I mentioned knowing where many of her litter mates ended up. I suppose I’ll need to pass that little bit of information on to other parties who may have a vested interest.

The bottom line is that although her eyes are irregular by definition, they do not appear to be anything to worry about at this point. They’ll give her a once over again in nine months to make sure there are no structural changes that need addressed. If there are, I supposed we’ll just have to burn that bridge when we get to it. For the time being, I’ll just satisfy myself that my youngest is reasonably healthy and actually get a decent night’s sleep this evening. I’m looking forward to that more than I want to admit.

For the record, if you’re in the market for more than your run of the mill small town vet, I’m happy to give a good word for Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware in New Castle. I won’t hesitate to take my own back for something that needs a more specialized touch than vaccinations and food allergies.

The kids…

Where I have little to no patience for human beings (regardless of whether they be large or small), I have a decided soft spot for most of the other members of the animal kingdom. I’d rather spend a day with dogs, horses, turtles, or dolphins than I would 99.999999% of the people on the planet. After living with myself for 35 years, I suspect I’m uniquely unsuited for the role of parent by aptitude, attitude, and general level of interest. I don’t have human children and I’m completely at peace with that decision. Kids 2Whatever nurturing instinct other people have for small humans, I seem to have for animals.

Where most people in my age bracket are lavishing time and attention on their kids, for me it’s the dogs. Sir Winston, my medical misfit, will turn six in January. He’s my special needs child if there ever was one. With a host of ointments, salves, and balms for his skin, drops for his ears, a prescription diet, and a bionic leg, like me, he’s alive mostly because of the wonder of modern medicine. He’s well into middle age for a bulldog and seems to be happy enough passing his time sprawled out across the middle of the living room floor. He still has an occasional surge of the old energy that’s really something to see, but more and more he’s simply the grand old man of the house, content to watch the world pass by through the glass of the back door.

Lady Margaret, the only chocolate in a litter of black labs, clearly follows in the footsteps of her older brother. By that I mean she is possibly the most atypical Labrador retriever I’ve ever met in my life. I won’t say that she’s lazy, but she is definitely laid back. Where other people complain that labs are overly excitable bundles of energy, she’s only really bothered when the doorbell rings or someone gets too close to her yard without seeking permission first. Maggie turns five in October, so it’s safe to say she’s well past the point where I need to worry about the rambunctious puppy stages.

The two of them really have been nearly inseparable since the day I accidentally brought Maggie home. Aside from a few random days and the occasional vacation, they’ve both been pretty inseparable from me, too. They’re the closest thing to kids I ever plan on having… and they have the added benefit of never wanting to go to college, or get married, or borrow the car. Now if I could just come up with a way to claim them as dependents, I’ll be all set.

This has been the final edition of “You Ask, I Write” for August. Thanks for playing.