Posted by on 10 October 2006 at 9:39 am  The Beasts
Oct 102006

I’m heartbroken. My beloved dog Abby was given a diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy last night. It’s a degenerative neurological disease most often found in German Shepherds. It’s not painful, but her hind end will slowly become paralyzed. Little is known about the disease; no treatment is available.

The diagnosis was fairly straightforward. Toward the end of the summer, I noticed Abby slipping in her hind end on occasion. Three weeks ago, the problem suddenly and dramatically worsened: instead of slipping every few days, she was slipping every time she walked across the room. While running around outside, she looked drunk in her hind end. I took her to the neurologist at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital as soon as possible. The various tests performed clearly showed neurological weakness in her hind end. Given her good health otherwise, the major question was whether that weakness was due to disk disease or degenerative myelopathy. After a week of absolutely no improvement on steroids (the treatment for disk disease), degenerative myelopathy was the only logical conclusion. (It cannot be tested for directly, unfortunately.) Based upon what I’ve read — and given the degeneration I’ve seen since August — I fear that we’ll have to put her down sometime in the next few months.

The disease cannot be reversed. However, it might be possible to slow the progress of the disease with vigorous exercise and certain vitamins. Although it’s hardly clear that such measures will make a difference, the vitamins are no trouble at all and walks for exercise will be fun for both dogs and humans. I’m even going to see if acupuncture works, as I’ve heard that it can help somewhat.

Still, I’m not hopeful.

Abby, Diligent Homeland Defender

Abby, Lasagne Pan Cheesy Bit Demolisher

Thunder Thunder Go Away

 Posted by on 21 June 2004 at 8:48 am  The Beasts
Jun 212004

Given the weather of late, I feel like I may as well be living in the Pacific Northwest. For over a week now, most days have been cloudy and stormy and rainy. According to our rain gauge, we received over an inch of rain last week, about half of it in a single day. Last night, we even had a major thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning, which is unusual. Given weather forecast for the week and the present storm overhead, I expect more of the same this next week.

The moisture is absolutely wonderful, but the thunder is quite another issue. Our dog Abby is terrified of the booming noise. Nothing seems to quiet her anxiety. She paws at us, attempts to climb onto the sofa and into bed, and generally makes a massive nuisance of herself. It is getting quite intolerable. Anyone who has any good suggestions about how to solve her problem will receive my undying gratitude.

Not A Good Ride

 Posted by on 3 June 2004 at 8:15 pm  The Beasts
Jun 032004

Today’s ride of my mare Tara started with Abby refusing to leave the ring, as she is required to do while I am working in it. (She makes a huge nuisance of herself.) That was quite annoying, as I had to get off Tara to get the dreaded shock collar from the barn.

Then, out cross-country, we encountered thunder, lightening, barking dogs, and eventually rain. Tara was nervous over the loss of her stable mate Jackson, that being compounded by the disturbing weather. She was generally good, although she did pitch a small fit at one point. (I’m just getting her going again after a long winter break.)

In the middle of the ride, just after successfully navigating past potentially hostile neighbor dogs without incident, Abby, who is terrified of stormy weather, was walking next to Tara but too close to Tara’s front legs due to anxiousness. Tara, who was a bit more concerned with her own troubles than with the location of the dog, ended up stepping on one of Abby’s front legs.

Abby yelped loudly, leapt out of the way, and then refused to put any weight on that leg. Thinking that she must be seriously injured, I got off (yet again) to inspect the injury. I wasn’t much relishing the prospect of a return to the vet, to say the least. (Yesterday, we had to take Kate in to be restitched after she pulled out a number of staples.) Of course, the drama queen doggie was exaggerating greatly, as it was just a bad scrape.

It then rained all the way home. Joy.

In all honesty, it wasn’t exactly the most pleasurable ride ever. Nonetheless, it’s good to be riding again… particularly riding a mare as elegant, polite, accommodating, and athletic as Tara. Unfortunately, she is creeping up in age; she’s 21 this year. She’s definitely grown more stiff over the past two years, but I hope that slow and moderate work will help her. After all, I do want to enjoy many more rides much better than today’s!

Two Tales of Doggie Trauma

 Posted by on 29 May 2004 at 8:21 am  The Beasts
May 292004

Tale One: Abby and the Post

A few weeks ago, I was holding one of the horses for the farrier just outside the barn. As usual, the dogs were with us. At one point, Abby spotted a magpie and bolted after it at full speed. (This is standard behavior, for one of Abby’s farm dog jobs is to chase the magpies off the property. No, it’s not actually necessary or even beneficial, but she thinks it’s fun.) Normally, Abby has impeccable timing. She can leap through the bottom and middle strands of our smoothwire fence without missing a beat. This time, however, she missed. Somehow, she ran into the large wooden post on her right side.

She seemed physically okay, just a bit shaken up. Although I saw the whole action unfold, I wasn’t quite sure where on her body she hit the post, for she was moving too fast. Nonetheless, she didn’t have a head injury and her ribs weren’t sore; she seemed fine.

On the other hand, the large wooden post didn’t fare so well. Abby broke it completely in two, so that it was only being held up by the smoothwire. Really, I kid you not:

The post next to it was all askew as well. Because these posts formed a complicated corner, I decided not to try to replace the broken post myself. My fencing guy was good enough to repair the whole mess while I was away at the Grand Canyon. (Apparently, it was rather difficult, as the posts were set in concrete.)

Before the repairs, I took a picture of Abby next to her handiwork:

What a dog!

Tale Two: Kate the Artificial Dog

The day before we arrived home from our trip, our dog Kate broke her left hind femur. We don’t know how it happened, since the dogs were alone at the time. All we know is that Friday evening, when our excellent housesitter came by, Kate was simply refusing to put any weight on the leg whatsoever.

So upon arriving home on Saturday after many hours of driving, we loaded Kate into the car, drove yet another hour up to Alameda East Veterinary Hospital. (Some of you might be familiar with Alameda East if you’ve ever seen the TV show Emergency Vets on Animal Planet.) Despite the substantial pain that Kate must have been suffering, she was her usual cheerful and compliant self.

Since Alameda East is so far away, we don’t use it for our ordinary, run-of-the-mill veterinary services. However, Kate’s many orthopedic problems have long been the province of Dr. Robert Taylor, an excellent orthopedic surgeon at Alameda East. In March of 2002, he performed a bicep tendon release on both shoulders for arthritis. In May and September of 2002, he installed bilateral cementless hip replacements for hip dysplasia. All of those surgeries went well. Kate more recently developed painful calcium growths along the bones in her front paws, which were being managed well with medication. Clearly, the dog is an orthopedic disaster. (Since we adopted Kate as an adult from an animal shelter, we have no idea of her history or even how old she is. Since we’ve had her for over four years now, she must be at least seven.) Although we didn’t know precisely what was wrong with her leg this time, Paul and I figured that she was probably in need of the high level of care that Alameda East provides. We were right.

From the initial x-rays, Kate’s left femur was indeed badly fractured. It was displaced, meaning the bone on either side of the break was no longer properly aligned. The emergency vet told us that she would likely require a plate. We left her at Alameda, so that she could be properly medicated and observed. On Monday, she was seen by Dr. Taylor. On Tuesday, he installed the plate. On Thursday, she came home.

As it turns out, the break was mostly likely just some kind of freak accident. It was not any kind of stress fracture from the hip replacement because it was below the bottom screw. It was not due to weakness from bone cancer, as all the biopsies came back negative. I suspect that Abby simply knocked her down on the concrete of the garage or the flagstone of the patio. (Abby tends to leap about with little concern for the objects around her when she gets excited.)

So I’m presently stuck at home, playing nursemaid to Kate. Paul and I are pretty much living downstairs, in our walk-out basement, in order to keep an eye on her and to keep her company. (Unlike upstairs, the downstairs is carpeted and without any stairs on the way outside.) She isn’t yet putting full weight on her broken and plated leg, probably because it is still quite swollen. But she’s doing better on her short walks outside. As usual, she is cheerful and compliant.

Instead of showing you a picture of my strangely shaven and swollen doggie, here’s a picture of her in the garden. (My tulips were really quite lovely this spring.)

Let’s hope for no more orthopedic disasters! I’ve had enough!

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