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.
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.
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.
It’s been a very, very long three months, but I’m pleased to report this evening that Winston has been given a clean bill of health by his orthopedic surgeon. He’s clear to resume normal activities up to and including use of the stairs on a limited basis over the next month. As happy as I am that my boy is good to go, I’m even happier that I can stop making regular monthly donations to the new wing that I’m sure I’ve been financing on the vet’s house.
When we started the TPLO process three months ago, I’m sure the vet was trying to be reassuring when she told me that a decade ago this was the kind of injury that would have been grounds for putting a dog down. The thought would have never occurred to me. Because for the last 50 years Americans have had more money than brains, it seems that just about any kind of surgery you and I can get, our four legged friends can get too. The marvels of medical science have definitely not left our pets out of their unending march of progress. In fact one of the forms I signed this morning was basically an advanced directive for Winston – laying out how heroic I expect their life saving efforts to be if his heart should happen to stop while he was getting his x-rays done. For the record, I was ok with them performing basic CPR and administering electronic defibrillation. That seemed like a reasonable compromise between “do nothing” and “crack open his ribcage and perform emergency open heart surgery.”
I’m told that Winston had a good day of wandering around with some of the techs and generally being the attention whore that he is. What can I say, my boy is a chick magnet. It was obviously hard work, because he’s been snoring in his crate since about three minutes after we got home this afternoon. I’d say he’s earned a rest.
For the moment, all is once again right with the world… but he’s a bulldog and I know that means the next medical disaster is out their just waiting to happen. Although I have no idea what it might be, I hope it hold off long enough to let me finish paying for the one we just got through.
1. The first few seconds after the alarm goes off. Yeah, I’m a morning person by force of habit, but lately that alarm clock has been annoying me more than usual. If I didn’t know that a much louder and more powerful alarm clock on the other side of the room was going to go off five minutes after the first one, I’d be sorely tempted to heave it into the wall and go back to sleep. Maybe I could just stab myself in the ear with something pointy.
2. A three day holiday weekend is a glorious thing to behold. Having a day off in the middle of the week is more or less just a tease. A tease that gives you the illusion of a weekend, kicks you in the junk, and sends you back to work. In the future I’m going to need someone to remind me to schedule a few days of leave and make the random mid-week holiday a more worthwhile endeavor. On second thought, scratch that. I’m pretty sure no reminder will be necessary.
3. Veterinary medicine. After five visits to the vet in the last two months and what seems like a ridiculous number of tests, the vet has finally struck on what she thinks is the “root cause” of Winston’s skin infections and irritation: a drug resistant staph infection. This, of course, now requires a new round of treatment with new and interesting medication. If I’m not mistaken, the pills I picked up this afternoon are also used to treat malaria in, you know, actual people. Yep, the canine version of MRSA is right here in my very own house. So, yeah, feel free to stop by and tar a big “X” on my front door, because there be plague here. At least it’s not the skin sloughing, oozy kind of plague. That’s something, right?
After a ridiculous amount of time in and out of the vet’s office, tests, retests, and the some more tests, the results are somewhat less conclusive than I would have hoped. The bottom line is this: Despite higher than normal protein levels in her urine, there doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with Maggie. She’s behaving normally and has no ill effects in terms of kidney, liver, or heart function. The phrase the vet used this morning was that it seemed likely that Maggie just has “an unusually high baseline on these tests.” I’m pretty sure that’s veterinary medicine’s way of saying the numbers aren’t right, but we have no idea why, but I let the nice vet off the hook without asking too many questions. As long as my pup is in good health and not from something causing long term damage, I’m content to leave well enough alone.
For now, I’m going to do some tinkering what her food and retry all these tests in six months to see if anything has changed. It’s not exactly the clean bill of health I usually look for from the vet, but at this point, but it seems like as good a negotiated settlement as I’m likely to get this time around. I’m mostly just pleased that we were able to rule out most of the worst case scenarios. Even so, this last week has been a bothersome reminder that I’m the single parent to two middle-aged children now. Neither one of them are pups anymore, regardless of how I still think of them in my own head. I’m not sure I like that at all.