Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Icy Procrastination

Though there are very few downsides to having dogs rather than children, one is that you can't make your dog rake leaves. Leaf blower? No thank you. Whenever I'm besieged by the sound of a leaf blower, I feel like I'm in an old Star Trek episode. Alien forces are attacking the Enterprise with sound waves. Kirk and the crew grab their heads in agony, fall down and writhe until they pass out. Someday I'll join in the drama on my front lawn. So far I've refrained because I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm a little odd, why confirm their suspicions.

Leaf rakes work very well in moving fallen leaves around. They require no power other than muscle. And they are less likely to cause writhing than are leaf blowers. Procrastinate on raking leaves in November and in March the leaves will still be there, sodden. Then you must stomp on the mushy ground to remove them. This is not recommended.

You can put off indoor chores. Do your spring cleaning in summer? Why not! Most outdoor chores have a smaller window. Take the rain barrel, for example. As we all know, water freezes into ice. Leave your rain barrels out too far into fall and you have rock hard barrels. The hull of the barrel is then exposed to the damaging stress of expansion. When things finally thaw out you have a leaky rain barrel. This is not recommended.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Music to the ears

Let's get this out of the way first: yes, it's true. I frequently sing Show Tunes while on the job. Luckily I'm a dog walker, so the complaints are few.

Lyrics stick with me. It's a gift. And a joy. Even so, when it comes to selecting music to listen to, most of the time I choose instrumental Classical music. Since I'm most drawn to Baroque and Classical styles, maybe it's the strict patterns that I find pleasant or perhaps, soothing. After all, once the Romantics and Moderns got into the act, things went looser and well, less soothing.

A Jazz enthusiast once got in my face; calling me uptight, conventional and unimaginative. Jokingly, I suggested that because I go to bed early, I've never experienced real live jazz in smoky night clubs. Therefore, I never learned to fully appreciate jazz. That explanation fell on deaf ears. Instead I was deemed too closed off emotionally to appreciate the spontaneous innovation of jazz. That's just plain poppycock. If I was closed off emotionally I wouldn't be inclined to lustful thoughts of Gene Kelly.

But lets return to our musical discussion. It could be, that my ears prefer to separate sensations. Voice is meant to be more wild and free. While strings and woodwinds and pianos sound better with more structure. Give me scatting Mel Torme' or Ella Fitzgerald. But keep the piano Mozart.

Maybe music is like religion to some folks. That would explain the Jazz Zealot's heartwarming inclusion and acceptance toward other musical faiths. Like most things, of course, it's not all that complicated. What is music to you may not be music to somebody else. It's really just a matter of keeping the volume down low enough not to force others to listen and just high enough to enjoy it yourself.

As for me, I shall sing 'Whistle a Happy Tune' and 'I'm Called Little Buttercup' while I walk and listen to The Brandenburg Concertos while I drive. As I type this, Yo Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax play Beethoven.

Rock on.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Legal Issues/ dog breeders

The American Kennel Club Government Relations group tracks activity by the US Congress in matters of importance to dog owners. One of the bills being considered during the current lame duck session is:

H.R.5434 – This legislation, known as the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, would require all breeders who breed and sell more than 50 puppies in a 12-month period to be regulated under USDA dog dealer regulations. Requirements would include obtaining an annual USDA license, maintaining minimum federal standards of care, and regular inspections at least biennially. It also would require that breeding dogs receive daily access to exercise that is sufficient to maintain normal muscle tone and mass, the ability to achieve a running stride, and is not a forced activity. The AKC has expressed a number of concerns with the measure and will keep owners and breeders up to date on any changes in the bill’s status. S.3424 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry. H.R. 5434 is assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture. No hearings have been scheduled for either bill.


This bill is in response to the "puppy mills" that have gained notoriety through assorted media sources. It is surely a well meaning attempt to save unfortunate puppies that suffer through the shocking neglect by a minority of large scale breeders.

As is usually the case in adding federal standards and regulations, this will put many kind and honest smaller scale breeders out of business due to the extra expenses to comply. Consider: How much does this license cost? And who do you think pays for the inspection? The breeder. Then the breeder must charge more for his puppies. And if he can't sell the overpriced puppies?

Government is micromanaging banks, motor vehicles, insurance, food, medicines and now dog breeding?! How many industries are going to stagger at the brink of extinction before we realize that just because a law appears to do good doesn't make it a good idea?

for more information: http://www.akc.org/enewsletter/taking_command/2010/november/nation.cfm

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tail of Two Surgeries, Part 3

Two years later, everything is just peachy. Then one morning Lester is acting worried. Was this just that quirky Chihuahua behavior we have come to expect from him? No, this was different and brought on a horrible case of deja vu. Yes, sometimes you just know something bad is going to happen- again. A little while later Lester is arching his back like he is in pain. Then his front legs got that jerky out of control look. His legs and body went out of sync.

Off we go to Commerce and the Animal Neurology and MRI Center. Dr. Galle is on duty. As he shakes my hand he remarks that I look familiar. Then it dawns on him and he says, sorry this happened to you again. Some ten percent of disc cases reoccur. The luck of Lester!

The MRI confirms that it's a disc herniation. This time it's at C3-4, right next door to the last disc misadventure.

Lester's recovery was quicker this time. Old dogs and new tricks? Dr Galle said Lester was trying to get up on his front legs as he was coming out of his anesthetic stupor. A few days later, Lester walked out of there.

Heartfelt Thanks to Dr. Galle and the wonderful staff at Animal Neurology.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tail of Two Surgeries, Part 2

Turns out, Lester had a pain in the neck. All those times, when he flinched upon being touched on his neck or shoulder, we put it down to nervous Chihuahua behavior. Maybe the poor guy has had a sore neck for years. Under that fur coat was a bulging disc laying against, agitating delicate nerve endings. That would make just about anybody act like a nervous Chihuahua.

Here's the thing about spinal discs- they are like jelly doughnuts. The outside of the doughnut is attached to the disc bones. Running along side of the row of doughnut stuffed discs is the spinal cord. Sometimes the jelly oozes out of a doughnut and bumps up against the spinal cord. Pain occurs. Infringement of motion occurs. This is what happened to Lester.

The surgeon goes in and removes the disc material (doughnut jelly) taking the pressure off of the spinal cord. The cushion (outside of the doughnut) is still there. Now the discs aren't clanging against each other, there is just less buoyancy in the material between the discs then before the insides of the doughnut squirted out.

The incision was, interestingly, on the front of Lester's neck. With his hair shaved and that long scar running down his neck he would have looked pretty bad ass if he wasn't wearing a diaper.

The first two weeks post op, Lester was on bed rest. For a dog, this means confined to his crate. Lester was allowed out of his crate only to relieve himself. For that event, he needed help standing up. So he wore his seat belt harness. The loop on top of the harness, designed to attach to a vehicle's seat belt, worked dandy for Lester's toilette. A pretty pink scarf looped through the harness loop for the human helper to hold on to and Lester had stability to stand and "go".

Trouble is, Lester didn't always go while in this rig. Thus the diaper.

At our vet visit two weeks after surgery, Lester's staples were removed. What ever happened to stitches? No matter. Though one envisions an office claw style staple remover, the vet tech whipped out what looked more like heavy duty cuticle scissors.

The vet examined Lester and said because he has feeling in his limbs and is able to stand, albeit with a precarious sway, most likely he would in time return to full motion. We were to simply allow Lester to practice walking and get his balance back. "It's OK if he falls," Dr. Galle told me. That's when I knew Lester would be fine. That one sentence broke through my protective maternal mind, that Lester is not so fragile and oh so not helpless. I had to let him walk and let him fall.

Indeed, as soon as we got home, Lester staggered around our backyard, his muscles waking with each jerky step.

Lester was treated at Animal Neurology & MRI Center in Commerce, MI.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A Tail of Two Surgeries, Part 1

Lester is probably a Chihuahua. He's not one of those four pound apple heads you see at the Dog Show though. Lester is more of the street smart Taco Bell style of Chihuahua. You might say he picked me out. Some years ago, my husband and I set out to add to our pack. Dennis envisioned a goofy fun loving lab mix. He found one. But she grew up to be a terrier mix.

Anyway, while Dennis and his faux lab mix were eyeing each other, a small tan green-eyed little hoodlum stared me down. Thus we added to our pack with two puppies rather than one. (Our older dog gave us dirty looks for months.)

After eleven years of joyful togetherness we discovered, darn the luck, Lester has what you might call wimpy discs. It was an ordinary weekday. Dennis and I were dressing for work and noticed that Lester was walking funny. He was wobbling, having trouble keeping his balance. He yelped. Then his legs didn't work at all.

Off to the vet we go. She referred us to a veterinary neurology specialist. The availability of specialists is relatively new to small animal veterinary medicine. When I was a kid we had a Snoodle named Marsha. One morning her hind legs didn't work anymore. The vet said maybe she'll get better but probably not. We kept her quiet and hoped she'd heal. Every time we had to move her she bit us because of the pain she was in. Marsha's story does not end well. But in the thirty-five or so years since Marsha's disc tragedy, veterinarians have brought the MRI and surgery to the mainstream.

Thus, Lester is alive and walking today.

October was Surgery Month

At least it seemed that way to me. My dog, Lester underwent ruptured disc repair two weeks ago and just last week, my mother underwent heart surgery.

So, yesterday I'm visiting Mom in the Intensive Care Unit. As hospital rooms go, this one was pretty nice. The TV was on but happily, the sound was off. The beep beep of the heart monitor is enough ambient sound for any one room.

A man wearing a lab coat appears saying he is Dr. So and so and was referred here but doesn't know why. Talk about confidence inspiring. He's a "stomach doctor" he says and opens a binder with about four inches of paper in it. He flips some pages and says again that he doesn't know why he is there.

He looks at my mother and says, "so you've had surgery? Heart surgery?"

Now, my mother is lying there with the incision on her chest partially showing above her gown. She is clutching a red valentine heart shaped pillow with a picture of a human heart on it. I almost laughed but the horror of it all smothered that impulse pretty quickly.

Then stomach doctor asks my mother if she has nausea. She says yes. Well, stomach doctor says, you have had surgery so nausea is quite likely. How old are you? My mother tells him. The woman is so doped up, I'm impressed she can remember her age. Then I glance at her arm which bears a hospital bracelet. Her age is listed right under her name. You gotta believe that somewhere in that four inches of referral information stomach doctor is looking at, the patent's age is mentioned.

Dr Stomach asks what surgery did you have? My mother says they repaired a valve and did a bi pass. What valve? Mom doesn't know. Stomach doctor chides her- you should know these things! His eyes meet mine accusingly. I shrug. The kindly nurse who has been hovering all the while says she doesn't know which valve it was either! One assumes the surgeon was savvy to which valve a couple days ago when he opened up my mother's chest.

Meanwhile my mother is fighting to stay awake to undergo further questioning by the hapless stomach doctor. The helpful nurse flitters in waving a piece of paper and exclaims, it was the Mitral valve! OK says Dr. Stomach, you'll be nauseated for a while, that's normal. He leaves.

I say to my mother, "nice bedside manner, eh?"

"I don't know," says Mom, "I thought he was kind of cute."

This was my cue to leave and let the patient sleep.