Sunday, March 1, 2015

Day 1902

Dot looks like a football. Her back has been shaved and right in the middle is a huge eight inch incision that is held together with fifteen surgical staples. Despite her appearance, Dot is doing great. When we visited her at the hospital this afternoon, she appeared happy and alert. She was eager to eat the treats we brought and seemed equally eager to walk on her own. One of Dot's nurses brought her to the exam room for our visit supporting her with a sling under her belly, but you could tell Dot was already doing some of the work herself. I'm amazed that Dot can already stand on her own for a considerable amount of time. She couldn't do this before the surgery. After seeing her today, I am convinced that with the proper physical therapy, Dot will learn to walk again.

Since Dot is making such good progress, she will probably be discharged from the hospital either tomorrow or Tuesday. Once she's home, the hard part begins. Very few Dalmatians know how to take it easy. I will have to monitor her very carefully, so she never tries to do something stupid, like counter surfing, or hopping up on the bed. You know how weight lifters frequently use a spotter when doing bench presses to prevent injury. I will be Dot's spotter for quite a while, using the harness to keep her from slipping until the damaged nerves can  repair themselves and her leg muscles grow stronger.

A friend let us borrow some rubber backed rugs that we can strategically place around the house to keep Dot from slipping on the bricks. I think we've come up with a good way to keep her safely confined to a small, well padded space when I'm taking a shower or taking something to the post office. Since I have little desire to leave the house anyway, the extensive rehab period should work out pretty well. Janet will be going back to work soon, because she hates retirement, but I can walk Dash a little earlier in the morning while she is still at home getting ready for work. I'm sure there will be a lot of surprises and there will be times when I'll wonder what I've gotten myself into, but right now I'm uncharacteristically optimistic. We can do this.

I wish the weather would get better. It continues to rain with the temperature hovering right around freezing. It warmed up enough today to melt all the ice off the roads, but tonight it will refreeze again and there will be another thin layer of ice in the morning. I think the cold spell is just about over though. I certainly hope so anyway.

It's hard to believe it's March already. It's time to get my tax return started. It's time to start thinking about re-landscaping the back yard. One more month and we won't have to worry about ice storms for another year. I always look forward to Spring. The next few months won't be easy, but I hope when the wildflowers start to bloom in April and May, I'll be able to walk through them again with Dot at my side.

Lucky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 1901

Although the weather got even worse overnight, Dot continues to get better. I was amazed that Dot's medical team even managed to get to the hospital today, since roads throughout the area were a sheet of ice when we woke up this morning. We were a little nervous when we didn't get our usual morning progress report phone call from the neurologist, but I imagine that things were pretty hectic at the hospital today. When we did get the call, everyone was all smiles. Dot continues to beat the odds with her amazing strength and determination. The neurologist told me that she and and others at the hospital find it hard to believe how old Dot actually is, since she continues to act like a much younger dog.

Dot is using her legs more than she was yesterday and appears to be in good spirits. Her appetite is good and she is sleeping well without strong sedatives. The hospital has already discontinued narcotic painkillers like Tramadol because Dot doesn't appear to need them. I'm glad they did this. I've never liked Tramadol anyway. It can be very addictive and has been responsible for many more accidental overdose deaths in humans than most people realize.

If Dot continues to improve at her current rate, she may end up being one of the lucky dogs who begin walking again in two or three weeks. Her nurse says she is already trying to put weight on her rear legs, although she still receives support from the Help "Em Up Harness whenever she tries to move. When I was using the harness with Dot before her surgery I could easily tell when she was trying to walk. There is a handle on the rear part of the harness just above the dogs hips and you hold it so the rear legs touch the ground without having to bear much weight. It feels a bit like being a puppeteer. As you get better at using the harness, you can sense when the muscles are working and when to provide more support. You can even encourage natural leg motion with subtle movement of your wrist. I think it is fantastic that Dot is already tentatively trying to walk, because I have heard that it can take up to three months before this happens.

The weather is so bad that Dot is much better off at the hospital that she'd be at home right now. Our yard is still slick and icy and the house is a bit chilly. Luckily, our furnace is working great this winter and there haven't been any problems with roof leaks. I'm used to spending lots of time in the house, but Janet is already getting cabin fever. She was determined to get out today and decided to go do her usual Saturday errands anyway despite the bad roads.

As the day progressed, the traffic in front of the house began to move faster and faster until I eventually became convinced that the roads were safe. I bundled up in a warm coat and left to do my errands as well. This was probably a mistake. The first thing I encountered was an enormous downed tree that had fallen across the road, blocking all but a single lane of traffic. When I successfully navigated this logjam, I quickly discovered that everyone in town had cabin fever. The roads were actually crowded today.

Most roads were clear and dry, except when they weren't. There were still patches of black ice here and there and they often caught people driving fifty miles an hour completely by surprise. Even though most of the ice had melted by mid-afternoon, I still saw quite a few wrecks. I drive slowly in this type of weather, never braking hard and coasting to a stop wherever I can. I'm always keeping an eye on my rear view mirror. I learned to drive in Alaska where the roads were icy all Winter. Ice is seldom the problem. It's the driver behind you who ignores the ice that causes most of the wrecks.

Dash has already appropriated Dot's special new dog bed. This is a minor problem though. Dogs are just like children in many ways. Tomorrow we will work on getting the house ready for Dot's return. If her progress continues, she could come home as soon as Monday afternoon.

Connor is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 1900

When Dot's neurologist called this morning to give us a progress report, she seemed pleased. Dot is already eating and drinking water on her own, so she was taken off of IV fluids today. When the nurses help her out to pee using a special sling under her belly, Dot moves her rear legs and even squats fairly normally. She can't support her own weight yet, or walk unassisted, but the neurologist assures me that this is normal at this stage of the game. Dot is still very weak and on a lot of pain medication, but everyone at the hospital thinks she's doing even better than expected. Her doctors are optimistic that she will learn to walk again.

I'm glad Dot is safe and warm at the hospital now, because the weather in Dallas has turned cold and nasty. It snowed most of the day and the temperature never got above freezing. Traffic was a nightmare and there were lots of wrecks all over the city. Janet and I both canceled afternoon appointments when we saw how the traffic was inching along in front of our house. It just wasn't worth trying to get out in this mess. You don't really worry about snow or ice when you venture out on days like this. You worry about the other drivers. A single idiot who doesn't know how to drive on snow can snarl up traffic for hours.

Dash is such a baby about walking in the rain that I didn't think he'd go out in the snow at all. Much to my surprise, he seemed to enjoy the stuff. We took a long walk where he hopped around in the small drifts, smelled the tracks left by other animals in the snow, and peed on everything. I think I got cold long before Dash did. I took some pictures while we were out to document the rare snowfall. The one I liked the best captured a single perfect snowflake caught in a spiderweb. If you look carefully, you can see the six sided flake suspended in the web.

We were going to visit Dot this weekend, but that will depend on the weather. It could get better tomorrow, or it could get worse. I think even the weather forecasters have given up trying to predict things. Two days ago, they said it was going to be sunny today. UPS delivered Dot's new rehabilitation dog bed this evening. It looks like it's about the right size and can be easily repositioned around the house when needed. Now we've just got to figure out an easy way to quickly assemble a secure fence around the bed when we have to leave. A friend said that that we could use some of the rubber backed rugs she'd used when she had an older dog who had difficulty walking. Slowly but surely, we're getting the house ready for Dot's return.

I'm glad I went to my favorite restaurant yesterday, because I certainly didn't feel like venturing out in the snow today. Apparently, not everybody shared my aversion to the wet stuff. Schools closed early and children were enjoying sledding down hills all over the neighborhood. I guess I've lost the fascination with snow I had as a child. I didn't build a snowman or even make a snow angel. It was fun watching Dash cavort around in the snow on our walk, but even he was glad to get back inside again where it was warm. I've got my fingers crossed for another sudden temperature reversal and a quick return to warmer weather. With the fickle Winter we've been having, it could happen at any time.

Thanks for keeping Dot in your thoughts and prayers. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's report from her medical team and I'll keep you posted on how she's doing. This remarkable dog has beat the odds again and again. Dot has been an inspiration to me for many years and it looks like the old girl is not ready to relinquish her role as the head of the household yet.

Princess is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 1899

I've been on pins and needles all day. Time passes very slowly when things are completely out of your control. We got up early this morning and drove Dot to the veterinary specialty center in Lewisville so she could be admitted for surgery. We filled out a bunch of paperwork, said goodbye to Dot, and then we waited. It was very quiet in the house today without Dot to warn us of cats and squirrels in the back yard. Even Dash could sense that something was wrong. I could tell Dot was scared when we were admitting her to the hospital this morning. I tried to reassure her, but I don't think I did a very good job. I was scared too

I tried to keep myself busy while I waited for the all important phone call from the surgeon. I went out to breakfast, even though it was almost lunchtime when we arrived back in Dallas. I finished a couple of writing assignments and sent them off to the client. I took Dash on a long and somewhat cold walk and then did a lot of pacing around the house. Finally, about 4:30 PM, the call I'd been waiting for arrived. The surgeon had good news. The arduous three hour surgery has gone well. The surgeon felt that she had been successful in removing the broken disc fragments in the L1 vertebrae that had been pressing on Dot's spinal cord. Now that the spinal cord is no longer compressed, the nerves will have a chance to heal and if we are lucky, Dot will walk again. Sometimes when a spinal disc ruptures, the fragments become attached to, or embedded in nearby blood vessels and are very difficult to remove. Dot was lucky. The fragments that had broken off and caused her paralysis were still clean and the surgeon was successful in removing all of them.

Dot is still not out of the woods yet, but she survived the surgery. That's the important thing. When the surgeon called, Dot was just waking up from anesthesia and was still under heavy sedation. She will be watched carefully tonight and for the next several days until her condition stabilizes. On Saturday, Dot's physical therapy vet will come to the hospital to give her acupuncture. This, along with cold pacs and laser treatments, will help reduce inflammation and speed healing.The best thing I heard from the surgeon today was that while Dot was waking up from anesthesia, she moved her rear legs. It was just a reflex action, but it means that there is still a nerve connection between the legs and the spine. There is hope.

Dot will spend the next five days in the hospital. While she is recovering, Janet and I will try to prepare the house for her return. We will need to connect the rooms with rubber backed carpet runners so Dot can safely move about without slipping on the brick floors. We will construct a "safe" area where we can leave Dot for short periods of time when we have to leave the house. It is very difficult to crate a large dog with leg injuries, so I am envisioning something that can be placed securely around a dog bed, so she cannot attempt to get up and move about on her own without supervision. Even if things go very well, we will have to continue to support Dot using the Help 'Em Up Harness for quite a while.

Our very first Dalmatian had spinal surgery to remove a tumor when he was eight years old. Spot's recovery was difficult for all of us, but he did learn to walk again and continued to live a happy life. I'm hoping that Dot can do the same. Spot's spinal surgery was the first. I'm hoping that Dot's will be the last. After dealing with nine difficult surgeries on five different dogs, I'm not sure I have the stamina to do this again.

Bingo is today's Dalmatian of the Day

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 1898

I'll never get used to Texas weather. There was rain mixed with sleet when I woke up. By the time I finished breakfast, the rain had turned to snow. By lunchtime the snow had already melted. By the time I took Dash on his evening walk there were clear blue skies and sixty five degree temperatures. This happens frequently. Actually, I think we are supposed to repeat the whole schizophrenic weather pattern this weekend.

I spent a big chunk of today retouching a photo for a client in Photoshop. It amazes me how much Photoshop has changed the way we look at things during the past twenty years. Photoshop isn't just for Sports Illustrated swimsuit models these days. Everybody uses it. We have gotten so used to looking at idealized perfection that people can't seem to tolerate images that show anything less.

Against my better judgement, I climbed up on the roof and cleared the accumulated water off the roof as soon as the skies cleared. There was an enormous amount of standing water on the roof and I didn't want it to freeze. Yes, within 48 hours another cold wave will arrive and we will have sub-freezing temperatures again. I wish I could just ignore the water, but it is so heavy that the longer I leave it, the sooner it will cause the roof to settle and buckle even more. I think the low spots are already sinking lower, because less water seems to drain off the edge of the roof than it did a few years ago. At least the roof doesn't leak anymore, but my fear is that the roof leaks will start again if I leave four inches of water on top of it continually. In July this water would just evaporate after a rain. Not in February.

I wish I could report that Dot had miraculously started walking again, but she still spends her day laying in various soft dog beds scattered around the house, waiting for me to move her around, or take her out to pee. She is in remarkably good spirits, considering her lack of mobility, but this is no way to live. I really hope that the surgery provides some relief and allows the healing process to begin. If I could ask Dot if she wanted to go through major surgery again, I'm sure she would say no. If I could ask her if she wanted to walk again, I'm equally sure she would say yes. I hope we made the right choice.

I called the hospital again today to confirm our check-in time and continue to hope that Dot will stay strong and be able to cope with the difficult days she has ahead. The surgeon told me that some dogs begin walking on their own within two weeks after her type of surgery. Others of course, require months of physical therapy. I hope that Dot is one of the lucky ones. She has been my friend and constant companion for over a decade now and I don't want to lose her. Please keep Dot in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow as she goes through this difficult but necessary surgery. The surgery itself will take about three hours, which seems like a very, very long time to me.

It feels like there is still a lot of unfinished business today, but it is getting late and we all need some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.

Cookie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 1897

Another cold, grey day. Although the temperature hovered around freezing all day, a lot of the ice melted anyway. I'd say the worst is over, except that I'm hearing we are supposed to get snow tomorrow. Our Winter is so mild compared to what people are experiencing on the East Coast, but it's still too cold for me. I'm ready for Summer. Truthfully, I think I'm always ready for the next season, never fully appreciating the season I'm currently experiencing.

Work was slow today. I think I finished all my assignments before noon. On days like this, I usually fret. What happens if it snows when we have to take Dot to the specialty center for surgery? What happen if my teeth start to hurt again before I get Dot's surgery paid for? What happens if the water heater starts to leak? What happens if I fall off the roof? The list is endless.

In a lot of ways it's better when I'm overworked and trying my best to meet impossible deadlines. When I'm trying to meet a deadline, I don't have time to think about anything else. I seldom fret when I'm really busy. I think this is one of the reasons that Janet wants to go back to work. Having time to think can be a dangerous thing.

I made a list of questions for Dot's vet and neurologist. I feel a little better now that most of them are answered. I actually learned a few things by asking questions today. Does Dot get her heartworm pill on March 1, while she is still in post-op recovery at the hospital? Nope. It's better to wait until she comes home again and is a bit stronger. Does Dot continue taking prednisolone while she is at the hospital. Yes. Actually the dose will probably be increased right after the surgery to minimize inflammation. Will Dot became incontinent again? Maybe. She will have to be on fluids for a few days.

I got a call from an insurance company in Indiana this afternoon, asking me about the accident in California. I told them that Hertz was handling the entire thing, but they didn't seem to be aware that Hertz's insurance was taking care of this or was even involved. I have a feeling that this is going to be like dealing with Medicare problems. I'll have to explain the entire story to ten different people before the whole thing gets resolved.

A few people in Dallas are looking forward to snow tomorrow. Most of us have more sense. We didn't move to Texas to deal with snow. When you've got rattlesnakes, tornadoes, and 110 degree days in August, you don't need to be throwing snow into the mix.

I must not be sleeping well. For the past several days my fitness band app has been asking me if I was actually asleep the night before. Apparently, I've been sleeping so lightly that the UP band can't tell whether I'm awake or not. When I say say "yes" of course I've been sleeping, the app prepares a pitiful chart that shows three or four hours of light sleep. I'm sure that the sleep deprivation and fretting are connected somehow. It's weird. It's so easy for me to just not care at all about so many things, but I really do care about these dogs.

Nora is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 1896

The dreaded ice storm wasn't as bad as everyone expected. There was certainly a fair amount of ice and sleet on the ground when we woke up this morning, but we still had electric power and a few brave souls were even out on the roads. I had no desire to join these people. Driving on black ice is just asking for trouble. I started the car to make sure the battery still worked in the sub-freezing temperatures, but I never left the driveway.

There was plenty to do around the house anyway. Taking care of Dot is almost a full time job. She's starting to get cabin fever, so I try to walk her around a bit using the harness whenever she appears restless. Neither of the dogs wanted to be outside for long today. It was just too cold. Dash has become a model of efficiency about doing his business lately. He used to take forever to poop on his evening walks, but for the past two days he poops and pees almost immediately. We had completed our walk and were back in the house within five minutes this evening.

There were no writing jobs today, so I took care of my usual website updates and began editing another video. I can edit using either the laptop or desktop computers, but I've got to choose one or the other. Dot must have thought I picked the wrong one, because almost as soon as I began the tedious editing process in the office, she wanted me out in the living room with her. Even though Dot mostly just sleeps, you can't really let her out of your sight. You never know when she'll try to get up on her own, and since she's still taking prednisolone, you have to be able to get her outside to pee in a hurry.

I'm so glad that our power didn't go out today. Ice and snow days seem to last forever anyway, but enduring frigid weather while trapped inside a freezing house is even worse. Dealing with all these things with a sick and very immobile dog would have probably driven me over the edge. Dot did surprisingly well navigating our icy back yard when I took her out to pee. She had lots of help of course, but it was still encouraging to see her front legs move so confidently on the slick ground.

There is already another NASA event on the horizon and it appears that two people in the group that joined me at Vandenberg Air Force Base are planning to attend. I'm a bit envious. I wonder how these people have the time and money to do this so frequently. This event will be the first test firing of the rocket that will eventually take astronauts to Mars. This is a static test, so the rocket will never leave the ground, but it will still be very impressive. The test site is located near Promontory, Utah, which is even more remote than Vandenberg Air Force Base. Lord know how expensive it would be to fly there from Dallas. Oh, well. Maybe in a year or so, when Dot gets healthy again, I can start thinking about attending these events again.

It's going to be another very cold day tomorrow, but at least the danger of ice is receding. I'm mainly worried about the weather on Thursday, when we have to transport Dot to the specialty center in Lewisville where she will have her spinal surgery. It would be nice if you could deal with all stressful things on clear, warm Spring days, but nature doesn't work that way. As long as we continue to have electric power this week, I guess I'll be OK.

Joey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 1895

I took my morning shower armed with a plunger and drain cleaning tools. Before the hot water ran out, I managed to unclog the slow moving shower drain, do several of my shoulder stretching exercises, and wash my hair. This is as close to multitasking as I'll ever get. Later in the morning, I changed the furnace filters and discovered that, much to my surprise, there was nothing wrong with the Anton Bauer camera batteries after all. Silly me. For weeks I had thought I was going to have to buy new Pro Pac batteries because they would no longer power my LED lights. I completely forgot that the Gold Mount adapter I had added to the lights actually had to be plugged into something. Oops. When I plugged in a little cable I found in my camera bag that connected the battery adapter to the power input, the lights worked just fine.

It was nice to have a free flowing bathroom drain and some movie lights that actually work, but I couldn't rest on my laurels. As the day progressed, it kept getting colder and colder. The dreaded Icemageddon storm is on it's way. I did a big load of laundry to make sure that we didn't have a washing machine full of dirty towels if the power went out during the ice storm. I started systematically charging up my electronic devices. I wish there was a way to store up heat in advance, but there isn't. We have lots of single pane glass in the house and no fireplace. Once the power goes out, it gets cold almost immediately.

I dread taking Dot out to pee during the night if the ground ices over as everybody expects. It's hard enough to choreograph our short walks as it is. The goal is to keep Dot upright using the special harness without falling over myself. It's pretty easy to step in poop in the dark as well. Maybe we won't get freezing rain and sleet tonight after all. That would be nice. I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch though. It's currently raining outside and the temperature has already dropped to 32 degrees. This sounds like a recipe for an ice storm to me.

Even with her crippled legs, Dot is still better about doing her bathroom business in bad weather than Dash. When she needs to go, she takes care of her business quickly and immediately comes back inside again. Dash, on the other hand, freaks out whenever he gets wet. I tried to use a brief lull in the rain this afternoon to take Dash on a walk. It was still sprinkling a bit though, so Dash thought the sky was falling. He didn't pee or poop at all and we both came home wet. This means that he will probably whine at the back door tonight, but refuse to go outside when I open it. He still seems to think I have the power to stop the rain and gets mad when I don't make the bad weather go away.

Janet is listening to the Oscars in another room. I can't sit through these award shows anymore. They are just too long. The Oscars and the Grammys both make the Superbowl seem short. If you count all those red carpet fashion shows that precede the Oscars, you could easily spend the entire day watching this event. I did manage to see two movies that were nominated for an Oscar this year. That's two more than I saw last year.

Jeez, I hope we wake up with electricity and heat tomorrow morning and don't see any downed trees in our back yard. Ice storms have not always been kind to us.

Maggie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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