Once a month

I just gave Ivy her monthly Heartguard and NexGuard. The Heartguard chew is for heartworm prevention, and the NexGuard chew is for other parasites like fleas and ticks.

To Ivy, these are treats. To me, they prevent the evil worms that circulate through the body. Actually, we don’t have much of a problem with worms, except that pups and kittens are born with them. A quick mosquito bite from the nasty proboscis, if infected with heartworm, then infects the animal.

I once was in anatomy lab opening a feline heart. I never did learn how to properly open a heart. What I found stunned me-one heartworm. One. That all it takes to kill a cat.

Treating a dog for heartworm is dangerous, and the medicine contains arsenic. It used to be just treating for prevention was in spring and summer. Now, it is year ’round. I don’t treat the cats with anything, they don’t go anywhere.

Even though Ivy has been tested and treated for worms, she still must have an annual fecal test for worms to remain a certified therapy dog. Oh well, there are worse things.

Whose bed is this anyway?

Ivy has grown up to be quite the polite young lady. When sleeping in her crate next to the bed, she scrabbles on the floor of the crate if she needs to go out. I’m a light sleeper, so I hear this, and let her out. If nice outside, she will want to sleep on a mat on the patio. One bark tells me she wants in.

This morning, she rattled her tags to go out. Why? Because she no longer sleeps in the monster-sized crate. How did this happen? I’ve never slept with a dog. Huskies shed all over.

Ivy has a routine for bedtime. My lovely goldendoodle goes unconscious on the couch upstairs at the same time every night, and doesn’t move. I say, “Time to go to bed! C’mon boys; c’mon Ivy!” That’s part one. The cats only get part one. Part two of the bedtime routine is going outside. If it is not too frigid, I go out with her, taking a flashlight to see what she does. Right now, it is zero, and she can go out and come back with lightning speed. Part three is “Go to bed” i.e, get in the crate, and part four is a biscuit inside the crate (take it nice).  She settles down and the five of us go to sleep. If I’m not ready for bed, and leave the bedroom, she barks, once. I have learned to tell her I’ll be right out here in the kitchen working. Then she goes to sleep.

But things have changed. When Keli was with us, born in 1982, there was no crate training. Tipper was born in 1996, and crate training was the real deal. Since huskies shed like yetis, they were only allowed in the family room and kitchen. Huskies are more solitary than doodles, so they were quite content.

Fast forward to about three months ago. Ivy would lie down in her crate, I’d get in bed, then she would sit up. What? I told her, “down.” OK, but two minutes later, she was up again. My slow brain figured out that she no longer wanted to sleep in the crate. As a confirmed couch potato, she wanted up on the bed. How wonderful! A fuzzy dog to pet, hug and move out of the way when I wake up at the edge of the bed. Cuddling all night. Sometimes I didn’t see her; she blended into the quilt.

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, Earl and I were married twenty seven years. We had a king-sized bed. I did not like to cuddle when sleeping, had to tell Earl to turn over when he snored lightly, which he did without waking. And I could not sleep in a bed with E less than a queen-sized. Since our king bed was two twins put together with king sheets, there was a line between the mattresses. It was our joke to tell each other to get on your side of the line.

My bed now is a double (full-size). I sleep on it as do the three old cats and Ivy. Five of us. I cuddle with Ivy, and while we don’t do “spoons,” she arranges herself to be back to back. I don’t sleep through the night, but I like to listen to the radio or Dave Ramsey on my phone, so it’s all good.

Ivy wakes me in the morning to go outside either briefly, or to lie on the mat. I’m well trained now so she only barks once so she doesn’t disturb the neighbors. I hate dogs that bark non-stop. Ivy is a lady, well-trained and loving.

The clock is ticking

Resting on my lap, always purring, is Cowboy Joe. Cowboy and his brother, Franklin the author of part of my book, are fifteen years old. They are the sweetest cats. I got them in 2004 on our wedding anniversary. Earl was delighted. As I wrote in my book, Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarian’s Memoir, now available in audio book, we only wanted one cat. Well that plan fell through when Fletcher started defecating on the guest bed after I returned from a year working in Virginia. We got him a buddy, Kitty Al, who died of renal failure at, yep, 15.

At fifteen, there are the three most common conditions that cats get. The most common is renal insufficiency, or kidney failure. By the time the lab work shows this, 75% of kidney function is gone. It is treated by diet and later on, fluids.

The next is diabetes mellitus. It is treated by insulin and diet.

The third is hyperthyroidism. This last can be cured with radioactive iodine, but is very expensive. People with these cats have a decision to make. Most choose medicine and diet.

Cowboy has thyroid disease. The antithyroidism medicine, methimazole, used to  come only in pill form. It is a joy to pill a cat-not. Now, it is compounded into a plastic pen where you twist it to get the medicine out, then apply it to the inner pinna of the ear, where there is less fur. Cowboy prefers a gloved finger putting in his ear. I have to be careful because I have hypothyroidism, and I don’t need my thyroid gland suppressed any more.

Joe has lost about ten pounds so far. That’s a huge amount of weight. He was a huge cat, eighteen pounds. Now, he is what we called in vet school a “rack of bones.” The funny thing is that he has such a luxurious coat, and the longest, fluffiest tail in history, that you can’t see now thin he is. As time has gone by, I can feel all the parts of the bones we learned first year in vet school. He likes to eat Ivy’s dog food; but I recently took all three types of cat food I have tried, three bowls, and the cats can eat what they want. I fill the small-size bowls to the top so I can see if food has eaten.

Matthew, 17, is doing fabulously. He has renal failure with normal blood work. His urine is just very dilute. He is still Top Cat. He has surpassed Pruney’s record, and is the longest-living cat Earl and I have had.

Cowboy Joe is comfortable, rests on my lap or the bed, and purrs all the time as he has always done. The medicine keeps the litter plans drier, and he is calmer because his metabolism has calmed down.

I worry a little because I am only taking Ivy to Tucson. Lately, he has started to labor when he breathes. Frank, with his heart murmur and kidney failure, does too, but they are comfortable. Open mouth breathing is a sign of major distress.

That will be the time to give up, and remember what great brothers they have been. It will be hard, because I named him Cowboy Joe in honor of the University of Wyoming sports teams, and Earl was a rabid fan. One day, they will be in the Wyoming stands, Cowboy Joe resting on Earl’s lap, cheering on the ‘pokes.

Warm day, unconscious dog

After I ate breakfast today and read two papers (skipped yesterday [I mean the day] to sleep,) it was only 11:30. Ivy kept putting her head in my lap, one of her dog signs for “I want exercise.” So, we went to the dog park.

Usually we don’t do the dog park on weekends, especially this Sunday, because the Broncos dumped another game last night, Saturday, instead of today. There are too many dogs and their idiot owners usually, but today’s crowd was pretty good.

Ivy’s orange tennis ball that came with her Chuck-It broke, and she doesn’t like other balls. So we walked around  the park, with her running and looking for balls and practicing tricks, and me practicing walking without my hips falling out of my jeans and landing on the ground.

We went home to find a text from Nancy, my 50-year friend. Would Ivy like to come to her house to play with their chocolate Lab, Roux? Roux is Ivy’s best friend, even though Roux weighs twice what Ivy does.

Ivy and Roux played non-stop, chasing balls, wrestling, going in the garden, getting thoroughly filthy; then came in the house to play some more. I hadn’t had lunch, so David, who had prepared mac and cheese along with croissants filled with pepperoni, mozzarella and some marinara sauce to boot fed me. Yummy. Thanks, David.

Ivy and I got home around 4:30. Ivy promptly went out to sleep on her patio for hours. One bark at 9ish, and she came in to go into a coma on the couch.

Now she’s up again, wanting to formally go to bed, ie, out to pee, “go to bed” “take it nice (Milk-Bone)” and she settles down. I want to stay up a little longer, as I am reading a really good book: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Life.” Ivy is sitting on the couch with her head on the back as if looking out the window-except the blinds are closed.

I guess I can read in bed while Ivy sleeps, and Matthew begins his nightly round of loud meowing, trying to settle down on my left shoulder. Frank will come in later. Cowboy Joe, still losing weight, we’ll see in the morning for his meds.

All in all, a nice day for us, and for Ivy, a “two a day.”

Special thanks to my cousin, Kathy, Earl’s cousin really, for always remembering me and sending me a Christmas card with a letter and pictures. Her mother was Wild Bill’s sister, my beloved Aunt Elaine, so it is the other side of Earl’s family than the one that ceases to acknowledge that I exist. I called Kathy in New Jersey to thank her for always thinking of me, and we had a nice long chat.

A totally satisfying day.

Glad you’re still around, Franklin

On April 27 of this year, with a grade III heart murmur, dyspnea (difficult breathing), in this case an extra effort to expire-maybe not the best word to use-I took Frank to my colleague to be euthanized. This was difficult. First, Frank is tied for second as my all time favorite cat. Second, when we got to the clinic, I opened the carrier, and out walked a purring, happy cat.

The vet looked at me incredulously, as I did her. No way was this a cat ready to be put down. But I had prepared myself, and gotten him there. Dr. Kelly examined him, heard the murmur, and watched the breathing. How could we euthanize my special boy? Yeah, he used to be eighteen pounds, so much so, that I had to get him groomed for mats and a bath every other month. He just couldn’t move around his whole body to groom himself. No more, he can clean himself. And for the little mats I find, he is cooperative.

Kelly and I did a lateral radiograph of his chest, which surprisingly was perfectly normal. Go figure. Kelly laughed when I said to Frank, “Well, Frank, I guess you aren’t going to die today.”

I thought about another very important part of separating pets you shared with your spouse now deceased. I still have all three cats Earl and I shared: Matthew, 17, looking well and still Top Cat. Franklin and his brother, Cowboy Joe, are 15.

Cowboy has hyperthyroidism, and I medicate him twice daily with methimazole which, in my day of practice, was only available in pill form. Now this is in a cream in a measured plastic tube. You turn the tube twice, and apply the medicine to the inside of the ear where there is less fur. We recently measured his T4 levels, and where it was almost off the chart high, is almost normal. Good stuff. I have to wash if my skin touches it because I have hypothyroidism, one of those older age “welcome to the club” disorders.

My joy with Franklin now is how loving and content he is. All the cats love Ivy, and we all sleep on the bed after Ivy gets out of her crate in the morning to go out. When she comes back in, we all snuggle. If I am lying on my left side, Frank, who sleeps on my right, will tap my shoulder so I turn around to pet and hold him. I really love that. He is a happy guy, which is all I want and expect at this point. At normal weight now, Frank even looks right. And after seven months of extra life so far, I am really happy to have him. Let’s see what happens when I drive to  Arizona with three elderly cats and a young dog.

I am blessed with animals that fill my life with love, and take away some of the hurt of losing Earl. I’ve been on my own nearly ten years. People pretty much stay away, but with my new career of writing, I can handle it better.

So, Franklin Irving Carlson, here’s to you! Some reviewers have even said the chapter he wrote in Drinking from the Trough, a Veterinan’s Memoir, is their favorite one.

I hope you can get a copy of the book and enjoy it  yourself.

Cheers!

E. coli, or how I got sick when my dog shook cattle-infused water all over me

I like to take Ivy to the dog park. I don’t use the regular one close to home on the weekend. Too many obnoxious dogs and their more obnoxious owners.

I have a not well known dog park to go to on weekends. Sometimes, we are the only ones there. Good thing Ivy finally learned how the “Chuck It” works so she can fly after tennis balls.

At this park, there is a dying Ponderosa pine tree. Heck, with all the water they are using, it’s probably drowning. I know it’s there, but check every time by chucking the tennis ball in the opposite direction so Ivy doesn’t see me.

One day about three weeks ago, by golly, there it was, a gray, stinky pond with a tree in the middle. In she splashed. OK, I thought, I’ll wash her off when we get home.

When Ivy got out of the water, of course she came up to me and shook herself off hard. I was covered by greenish dots smelling suspiciously bovine. We headed for home, she got rinsed off, I put the dirty clothes in the wash, and took a shower.

A few days later, I was nauseous in the morning. I stopped eating. I finally called my GI doc, and got an appointment with his PA. He put me on Peptobismol, and told me to go to the lab and get a stool sample kit. Did you know PB turns your, er, stool black. Totally gross. I thought my colitis was kicking up, but it turned out to be E. coli. Yep, from a bovid. I actually ate cow shit. Eeeewww. I called the facility where the dog park is, and they were shocked, and would look into it. What’s to look into? I’m part Holstein now. I also notified the county health department.

So the treatment really is Pepto, and a magnesium oxide tablet when this turns the other way. I have my book launch coming up in 10 days, a film crew wants to film Ivy at the care center-they are working on permission forms, and I feel like crap. Maybe that’s not such a good word to use.

Ivy, by the way, is just fine, thank you.

Franklin, mine son.

Oy Frank. Mine son. You have been through the ringer; but you still come up purring.

On April 27, I took you to the clinic for euthanasia. You are fifteen years old. You have a Grade III heart murmur, a BUN off the charts indicating your kidneys are on the way out, and you have to breathe extra hard. I initially took you in to Earl’s old clinic because you used to be eighteen pounds, and now you looked like normal weight. You looked horrible.

Yet, when I took you out of the carrier, you looked like the healthiest cat on the planet. Dr. Gaffney looked at me like I was nuts! I could hear her thinking: “Why are you here to put this happy cat to sleep?” So was I! He came out of the carrier  to purr at and bump all the staff, eating snacks, leaving me scratching my head in puzzlement.  She did hear the Grade III murmur where the other vet had called it a Grade II.

We decided then to take a chest film. With a Grade III mitral murmur and dyspnea (difficult breathing), surely we would find something. That film was of the healthiest looking heart and lungs I ever saw. Dr. Gaffney laughed when I told you, “Well, Frank, I guess you aren’t going to die today.” We went home and you ate some kitty fud.

Fast forward to July. We-you three elderly cats and the puppy with their mother were watching TV in the loft upstairs. I had put an empty bowl of ice cream on the flat top of the loft banister to remember to take it downstairs. You do have a bad habit of checking out my feeding dishes, er, bowls. My eye just glanced over to the flat top just in time to see your paws on the top and nothing else. The paws went off, and in a microsecond, I heard a body hit the stairs. I screamed and ran down to find a dead cat. But there you were, alive and crouched on the floor and still. I touched you, and you cried. OMG!

I called the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and told the woman on the phone I was coming in pronto, and would stay with my cat.

After all the struggles over the years I’ve had with you, Franklin, about getting into a carrier, you walked right in.

I broke all speed records to get you to the hospital.

CSU now has a Patient Liaison. She is wonderful with crazy people, when the resident introduced herself to me as did the new senior student. They only took you away from me to do an exam. You were fine, but I wanted to see a film of your chest and spine. Totally normal.

I took all the paperwork home with  you, now in the pouring rain. Thanks for the hundreds of dollars I spent. All the stuff on the balcony is off, but I can’t keep you off. Has this happened before? How would I know?

Still good ‘ol Charlie Brown, er, Franklin. Charlie Brown was my very first cat. Now, you sleep next to my head, purring and  cuddling all the time. You are an old cat, so is your brother, and so is Matthew, who is seventeen.

I remember when I told Dr. Kainer, my anatomy professor, that I decided to go into feline practice. His comment? “That’s good. It’s hard to kill a cat.”

Overkill at the spa

Well, Ivy finally got into the spa yesterday. April could’t do her last week, because she was scheduled for a “fluff and buff” and Ivy was clearly a 34 # mat. I picked her up four hours later, and boy did that dog look skinny! April had to take the clippers down to the skin. As per usual, she left the ears and tail intact.

The butt goes up

Well now I’ve seen everything. I came in the house after mailing Betty White a letter asking her to please write a back cover blurb for my book. We are both involved with Morris Animal Foundation, but at 96, I think she is focusing more on the Los Angeles Zoo and saving sea otters.

Ivy was on the stairs, with her front paws on the lower step, and sitting one step up. She knew I wanted to get by, so instead of turning around and going up, or going down by me, she put her weight on the front paws and hitched her butt up the stairs. She did this until she got to the top.

I think I’ve seen it all now.

My dog is in love with a couch!

I sit here writing, and watch Ivy lying full out on my uncle’s old couch made new by expensive reupholstering two years ago.

Gone are the days of the fluffy doodle jumping up to watch TV sitting on my lap or next to me in the recliner.

My huskies were never allowed on furniture because they shed a lot. But my Goldendoodle does not, and they are not like huskies, who can be alone  for a long time. Doodles won’t spend hours out in the dog pen. They do their business to come back to their humans.

But my Ivy abandoning me for a couch?

I initially trained her to get on beds gently for her therapy dog training (put off by the fractured hip). Now, she just jumps on the couch like she owns it. I guess she does. I do have her sit and call for her to jump on the bed.

I was getting used to TV with a dog comforter. Cowboy Joe does that as he did before we got Ivy.

Happy Holidays!