Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 1689

It was a long day. Dot is having trouble getting up and down. We're kind of between a rock and a hard place. She's still too weak for physical therapy, but it was the physical therapy that was keeping her strong in the first place. She's lost a lot of weight along with some muscle mass, but we sill have to feed her a bland diet with small portions until her incisions have fully healed. It's a balancing act. I know Dot would like to eat large meals to pack on the pounds and then go on a long walk. She's not ready yet, unfortunately. First she needs to be able to get out the back door without stumbling on the single small step down to the patio. It's hard to tell this to a sick, but very stubborn dog. Especially when she thinks she's ready to go anywhere.

It didn't help matters that it poured rain during the morning and the stock market dropped over 300 points during the afternoon. All in all, it wasn't a very auspicious day. I probably shouldn't worry about Dot so much, since she has been making steady progress every day. I know that this is going to take time, but it's sad to see her muscles start to atrophy again, especially since we've all worked so hard this year to keep her active and strong.

There were more website problems to unravel today. First on the list were calls to technical support to find out why a client's online forms weren't working properly. I'm beginning to hate online forms and databases, since they tend to crash every time the hosting company changes servers. The rest of my day was spent trying to figure out how to modify a site that I didn't build in the first place. Working with other people's code can be baffling at times. Why did they do it that way, I wonder? Sometimes I learn something from unraveling these mysteries, but mostly it's just irritating.

There will be no trip to my favorite breakfast restaurant tomorrow morning. I had initially thought that I might be able to get away for short periods when Dot's condition stabilized, but since she's having trouble getting up and down, I need to stay nearby. Dot needs to rest. The last thing she needs right now is to get frightened while struggling to get up after she's been sleeping. Old legs sometimes need a boost, and I've had lots of experience keeping senior dogs walking. I talked to Dot's physical therapist today and hopefully we can get her back on the water treadmill soon. Water therapy is great for older dogs, because the buoyancy of the water takes weight off the tired muscles while still allowing a full range of movement.

I'm still having trouble comprehending that it's August already. I guess it will be OK to give Dot her monthly heartworm pill in the morning. One more question I forgot to ask. We were told to go ahead and continue heartworm medication after Dash's surgery, and after Spot's as well. I'll probably still call the cancer center first thing in the morning though. I hate ambiguity.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. My Jawbone fitness band said I slept less than three hours last night. I think I need to rest just as much as Dot does.

Shelby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 1688

Janet took Dash to dog training class tonight, while I stayed home with Dot. Our instructor initially thought Dot had made an amazing recovery as he watched Dash sail over some high hurdles. "That's pretty good for an old, sick dog," he told Janet. Hey, it's an honest mistake. They both have spots. Maybe he got the dogs mixed up because Dash behaves better with Janet. She told me that he made it through the entire class without any of his typical annoying barking.

For her part, Dot had a very good day as well. We made it through the night without any accidents. She didn't even leak on the waterproof baby crib liners strewn around the house for her to sleep on during the day. We're all learning our new routines. I take her out every three hours to pee, and once again during the middle of the night. Dot is off pain medication now and her vet says that we can begin transitioning her back to her regular diet. You can tell that Dot is happy to slowly be returning to normal. She is holding her head up high for the first time in weeks, and her tail is starting to wag again. Dot doesn't understand the concept of baby steps. My big concern now is to keep her from overdoing things while her body continues to heal.

As Dot gets off the critical list and continues her recovery, my own life is returning to normal as well. I spent a busy day revising and adding pictures to one website while finalizing the design of another. I still can't leave the house, but that really isn't a serious problem, since I seldom leave the house anyway. It is usually boredom, not necessity that causes me to get in the car and go somewhere. I certainly haven't been bored this year, but I think I would prefer boredom to dealing with a constant barrage of major medical emergencies. This has been a rough year. It would be nice if life would stay in balance, but it seldom does. I'm still hoping for healthy dogs and a little variety in my workload.

Can you believe that tomorrow is the last day of July? This year has literally flown by. I'm grateful that so far this has been one of the coolest Summers on record. To be approaching August with only one or two days of triple digit temperatures is almost unheard of in Texas. There have been quite a few mornings where the temperature was in the low 70's while I walked Dash around sunrise. Most of the wildflowers are gone by now, but I did happen to see a few Lanceleaf Coreopsis flowers still blooming this morning. It will be nice when I can walk both dogs again. This is usually my most relaxing time of the day.

We'll waterproof the bed again tonight, but hopefully Dot's incontinence is nearing an end as well. She certainly had a good day today. Tomorrow, I'll continue taking things one day at a time. It's been working so far.

Penny is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 1687

We got Dot's pathology report today. The growth that was removed one week ago today was a Low Grade Soft Tissue Sarcoma. Yes, this is cancer, but it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Most soft tissue sarcomas have a relatively low chance of spreading to other parts of the body. Since Dot's tumor was located in her intestines, it was not attached to surrounding tissue and it was possible to remove it completely with clean margins. This means that a healthy segment of the intestine was also removed on either side of the tumor to ensure that no cancer cells were left behind. The oncologist told me today that since Dot's tumor had clean margins, there will be no need for chemo or radiation treatments. With any luck, the surgery will be all that is needed.

I also found out that Dot's incontinence probably has nothing to do with the surgery itself. Her internal medicine specialist told me that incontinence is very common when a dog has been receiving IV fluids for an extended period of time. These fluids help prevent dehydration and are used to flush toxins out of the body, but they can also interrupt normal kidney function. "Sometimes it takes four to six weeks before the incontinence goes away," the doctor told me. At least we've got a plan now. Whenever she wakes up and starts looking around, we assume that she has to pee. I took her outside around 2:30 AM this morning, and she made it through the rest of the night without incident. I try to take her outside every three hours and that seems to do the trick. There were no major accidents today. I only had to wash two small baby crib liners, instead of all the bedding we own.

I'm starting to get cabin fever from watching Dot 24/7. Her condition continues to improve, but she's still not stable enough to leave on her own. She still has a bit of trouble getting up and down and needs to be kept off the bed and furniture. Usually, she follows me around anyway, so keeping her nearby is not a problem. Dot has clearly regained her appetite. I decided to fix myself a nice breakfast this morning, instead of just eating my regular oatmeal and both Dot and Dash wanted the sausages I fixed. Instead of a relaxing meal while watching old Dr. Who episodes, I had two dogs barking at me. It's good to see Dot active and engaged though. Slowly but surely, she's getting back to her old self.

Last night we made elaborate preparations to ensure that Dot wouldn't wet the bed.  In addition to the layer of waterproof baby crib liners, we placed a thin sheet of vinyl between the comforter and Dot's blankets. This might have been a mistake. The bedding didn't breathe anymore and I woke up about 3 AM in a pool of sweat. At first I thought that Dot had managed to get under the covers with me, but then I realized the problem was me. It was Niacin flushing. Live and learn. I guess taking a big dose of Niacin at night for cholesterol while laying under a sheet of vinyl isn't a good idea.

I hope Janet and I stay healthy. Having two dogs with cancer at the same time is just about all I can handle. We're doing pretty well though. Against some pretty long odds, Dash is making a spectacular recovery and Dot is doing her best to follow in his footsteps. For my part, I'm trying to take things one day at a time even though this doesn't come naturally to me. One way or another, we'll pull through this.

Tink is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 1686

We hit a little snag today. Incontinence. Dot began having urinary incontinence when she was hooked up to IV tubes in the ICU. Now that she's recovering from surgery and beginning to eat normally again, we expected the incontinence to stop. She doesn't wake up in a puddle of pee every night, but last night she did. What a mess. Despite the fact that Dot was sleeping on top of three waterproof baby crib liners, all our bed linen got soaked. I'm glad I had the forethought to get a waterproof mattress pad years ago when we bought the bed, or the mattress would have been ruined as well.

Until we can resolve this issue, we need to be a lot more diligent about getting Dot outside in the middle of the night to pee. Three hours seems to be the maximum amount of time she can hold it. Needless to say, we didn't get up last night and I spent most of the day doing laundry. If I didn't need to keep a constant eye on Dot, I would have gone to a commercial laundry. The bulky comforter and mattress pad took forever to dry in our dryer. Everything is fine now, but I must have done ten loads of laundry today. If you think the solution is just to have Dot sleep in a crate or on the kitchen floor until her condition improves, you haven't owned a Dalmatian. They all insist on sleeping in the bed with you. Heaven help you if you try to get them to sleep somewhere else. Dalmatians are very stubborn and tenacious dogs.

When I was throwing away junk mail and trash today, I came across some financial papers I should have signed and returned three weeks ago. That's the trouble with the mail these days. So little of any importance finds it's way to our mailbox anymore that I tend to ignore all the mail. Checking the mail had become just like checking the spam folder on my computer. Mostly it's all junk, but you still have to check, because every now and then something important winds up there by mistake.

I got a call from my hepatologist this morning telling me that the lab results from last week's tests had come back and I was still virus free. This is probably as close as I'm going to get to being declared officially cured of Hepatitis-C. Since I was one of the first to receive the new Sovaldi treatment, I'll probably continue to get tested periodically indefinitely. That's OK by me. With all the advanced testing the dogs and I have been subjected to recently, I've become somewhat addicted to test results.

Sometimes technology is just too complicated. There is no sound on the TV in the bedroom. The sound works fine on the TV in the kitchen though. My deductive mind tells me that either something is wrong with the TV, or something is wrong with U-Verse. Hmm. The TV in the kitchen is receiving the U-Verse channels, so U-Verse is apparently working. The TV in the bedroom gets sound from the Hulu channels, so there's nothing wrong with the TV itself. Why am I getting cable on only one of the two TV's when they are getting the same signal from the router? It's a mystery. I guess I'll just go to bed and hope I remember to get Dot up at 2 AM to pee.

Queenie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 1685

Dot has turned the corner. We discontinued her Tramadol last night, because it made her so loopy, we couldn't tell if she was getting better or worse. She slept well without the powerful drug, and when she woke up this morning, she was almost back to her old self. Hoping for the best, we fed the dogs their breakfast and took them down the hill to the park for a short walk. All systems were go this time. After eleven long days, Dot finally pooped. I don't think I've been so happy to see a dog poop in a long time.

We've still got a long way to go, but the surgery now appears to be a success. Every day, Dot gets a little stronger. We're starting to mix some dry kibble in with her critical care diet and she's eating it. Today, she walked about 200 yards, instead of yesterday's 50 feet. She doesn't need my assistance when getting up from her dog bed anymore. She's rather do it herself. These are baby steps, but they are important ones.

It's still not wise to leave Dot alone, but Janet and I were able to take turns running errands and got a lot done anyway. We were each even able to go to the gym. I haven't been to the gym for several weeks during this extended dog crisis and my body let me know I was getting rusty. I'll be sore tomorrow, but still not as sore as Dot. She's still got to be uncomfortable from the surgery, but from all appearances, she seems to actually feel better now than the days just before her hospitalization. This tumor must have been bothering her for a long time.

I'm still worried about the pathology report on the tumor that was removed last Tuesday. There's nothing I can do about the results. We'll just learn what Dot's body already knew some time ago. Whatever happens, we'll deal with it. We haven't come this far to give up. As Dot's life slowly returns to normal, I need to make an effort to get my own life back to normal as well. I'm behind on several projects, but I'll get caught up. I'm glad my priorities put the dogs first, but you can only ignore work for so long. There are always bills to pay.

I stocked up on food at Central Market this afternoon, so I won't have to leave the house while Janet is away at work. I can still walk Dash very early in the morning while she's getting dressed. Dash seems to prefer these early walks anyway. Long quiet days with a convalescing dog are actually pretty conducive to website work. Hopefully Dot will continue to improve day-by-day as I sit nearby, writing the code that will eventually pay her vet bills.

Deuce is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 1684

Dot passed another milestone today. We took her back to the cancer center this morning, where they removed her surgical bandages and examined her incision to make sure it was healing properly. There was no leakage or infection at the incision site and the doctors were pleased with her progress. Now all we've got to do is get her to poop. We've already passed the initial deadline when her gut was supposed to start working again, but the doctors still tell us not to worry. They say that some dogs take five or six days after surgery before the intestines start working normally again. Hmm. Unless I'm doing the math wrong, it's already been five days. Dot did lose a lot of weight during her week on IV fluids. Probably a lot of the special low fiber food she's eating now is just being absorbed to help rebuild her body.

Dot's appetite is pretty good now, but we don't want to feed her too much until she starts eliminating what she's eating. After all we've been through so far, we definitely don't need a blockage. A week without eating can change a lot of things. Dot's rear legs have been weak for quite a while. That's why she's been using the underwater treadmill for physical therapy. Since she lost five pounds during hospitalization, her muscle tone isn't as good as it should be, and her legs are shaky again. She definitely can't take the long walks in the park that usually inspire her to poop. I know she'd like to eat more now, but until food starts passing through her system, it could be dangerous.

To complicate things further, the Tramadol she has to take for pain often causes constipation. We've got a dog that isn't pooping, but pees when she sleeps, since some of the many drugs she's taking impair bladder control. I'm convinced that all this is temporary and am still hopeful. Dot appears to be a little stronger with each passing day. We did go out and buy some waterproof crib pads at a baby store for her to sleep on though. She still likes to sleep on the bed and I'd hate to ruin the mattress. Needless to say, we're doing a lot of laundry.

Our cooler than normal Summer appears to be over. It got up to 103 today. The brutal heat is hard on Dot. She likes spending time outdoors, but not in this kind of weather. None of us like this kind of weather. When it got a bit cooler after dinner, we tried taking Dot and Dash on a very short walk in the park, thinking the familiar smells might put Dot in the mood. It didn't work. Dot was too tired and we returned home after a walk of only 50 feet.

Despite my disdain for Walmart, I got a prescription filled there today. My doctor told me that the drug, which is not typically covered by insurance, would be cheaper at Walmart. I didn't expect that it would be twice as cheap. It really makes you wonder what is going on in the world of medicine when the cost of a drug can vary by 100%, just depending on where you buy it.

Against my better judgement, I made a short social media comment supporting a good friend's position on Israel. Almost immediately, I was chastised by another friend all the way over in Norway for not supporting the Palestinians. I usually don't talk about politics on social media and this is why. The world has become so polarized that it is almost impossible to talk about anything without starting a flame war. I still prefer to talk about dogs. Everybody loves dogs.

Smokey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 1683

I was Dot's nurse today. I really appreciate what the nursing staff did for Dot in the ICU last week. It is not easy keeping a sick and very tired dog on the path to recovery. I'm a worrier too, so anything abnormal about Dot's behavior freaks me out. Dot has a laundry list of meds that she needs at various times during the day. The doctors want to get her up and walking about every two or three hours. She doesn't need much activity, but staying in one place all day isn't going to help her recovery. It's dificult to get Dot up again once she's lying down on her blanket, but once she's up she seems to move about fine. There's a fine line between keeping her mobile and pushing her too hard and sometimes it's difficult to know exactly where the line is.

I walked Dash so early this morning that there was still dew on the leaves, even though it was a hot July day. When we returned, Janet left for work and I took over nursing duties for the rest of the day. I thought Dot seemed hot, but when I took her temperature, everything was completely normal. I though her heart was racing after a very short walk down the back alley, but when I compared her heart rate to Dash's, who had been sleeping, they were both exactly the same. I worry that Dot hasn't pooped yet. Up to a point, this is completely normal for a dog recovering from abdominal surgery. After that point, it can be serious though. The trouble is that I have no idea where that point is. Every dog is different.

I'm glad the weekend is here. I could really use a good night's sleep. My primary care doctor wants me back on statins again, now that my Hepatitis-C treatment is finished. I started taking Simvastatin and timed release Niacin last night and the combo seemed to have the same irritating sides effects as it did before. Niacin flushing is common and it makes me feel like I'm burning up. When I woke up to check on Dot last night, my skin felt like it was on fire. The flushing only lasts a few hours, but when I'm awake, this is two hours too many. My liver specialist wants to re-test me in 12 weeks to make sure the Simvastatin and Niacin combo aren't screwing up their good work. Both drugs can have an adverse effect on the liver. Once again I am caught between dueling doctors. Is it my heart or my liver that is going to win? I haven't got a clue. I'd much rather be having a cheeseburger and a beer.

We go up to the cancer center tomorrow morning to get Dot's surgical bandage removed. The stitches will stay in, but the doctors want to remove the big bandage covering her belly as soon as possible to help the wound heal. It is easier to check if the incision site is leaking of becoming infected if you can actually see it. I have a long list of questions for the nurses, because I hate surprises. Doctors and nurses probably hate me because I'm always asking questions and slowing them down. I know the nurses are busy, but I'm a person who needs to know. I'll be polite, but I'll still ask all my questions. I'm curious about these things. Maybe I should have gone to med school.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day

Watch of the Day

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 1682

Dot is finally home again. After spending an entire week in intensive care being poked with needles, hooked up to IV tubes, and being cut open by a surgeon, I think she is very glad to be back on familiar turf. The cancer center officially released Dot late this afternoon, sending her home with a big sack of meds, and special instructions on how to care for her for the next few days. She still isn't eating well, but her doctors thought that being back in familiar surroundings would encourage her to resume eating normally. So far, the plan seems to be working. Within two hours after returning home Dot ate a small can of Hills A/D Critical Care. I'm glad she seems to tolerate this special prescription diet, because as much as dogs would prefer cheeseburgers, bacon and fried chicken to help them get well, people food just isn't a good long term solution.

Dot has been through a lot this week and is very tired. After eating her small special dinner and surveying the house and yard to make sure everything was still there, she settled in on top of a soft pile of her favorite blankets in the living room and went to sleep. We'll go back to the cancer center on Saturday to get her surgical bandages removed and then two weeks later to get her stitches out. I'm hoping that is all we'll need to go back for. Assuming that everything goes well with her convalescence, the next major milestone will be getting the pathology report on the tumor that was removed. If the growth is not malignant, all Dot needs to do is continue her recovery and get healthy again. If the growth turns out to be cancerous, we'll have to come up with a plan of action. That can be dealt with later. Right now, the important thing is recovering from some very major surgery. We'll take things one day at a time.

While Dot was being evaluated by her doctors this afternoon, I paid a visit to my own doctors. They wanted to do another series of tests to determine if my Hepatitis C treatment was still working as expected. I keep waiting for a final thumbs up from these guys, but it appears I may never get one. When I asked whether the disease ever returns after this type of treatment, my doctor essentially said that nobody knows yet. I was among the first large scale group of people in the world to receive the new Sovaldi drug and there are no historical records to compare. I am one of the test cases that will ultimately determine whether Sovaldi works as well long-term as it does during the initial treatment phase. So far, the drug appears to be a home run. "You were real lucky to be included in this first batch of patients," my doctor told me. "Insurance companies are starting to deny coverage already because of the high price, and there is talk of reserving the drug for the most serious cases." Rationing a drug that actually works exactly as promised seems like a stupid idea to me, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is what the government decides to do. Why would you want to ration a pill that costs a small fraction of the price of a liver transplant and has none of the rejection issues or transplant side effects? At any rate, I'm glad I got approved for treatment before Sovaldi got on the evening news as the world's most expensive pill. Insurance companies hate it now.

I won't be going out to my breakfast restaurant tomorrow. We have a new schedule now. I'll walk Dash very early in the morning, while Janet is still home and getting ready for work. We want to make sure that one of us is there to watch over her at all times. We'll see how tomorrow goes. So far, Dot seems to be improving a little bit every day. Today was a very good day.

Molly is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 1681

Dot started eating solid food again today. She ate a small jar of baby food yesterday, but this was the first time she has been able to hold down solid food since last Thursday. Janet and I fed her some canned chicken when we went to visit this evening and she enthusiastically devoured the entire can. If she doesn't vomit tonight and is able to pass the chicken she ate through her system, we'll finally be able to take the catheter out of her leg and unhook her from all the IV tubes.

Considering that she'd had major surgery less than 24-hours ago, Dot looked great today. Her medical team is very pleased with her progress. We continue to take things one day at a time, but if she continues to improve at this rate, there's a chance she'll be able to come home with us tomorrow evening.

Fifteen years ago, our first Dalmatian had to go through a very similar type of abdominal surgery. Spot survived, but he didn't have the advantage of the advanced medical care Dot is receiving now. I continue to be amazed at the resources veterinarians have at their disposal these days. Getting a CAT scan for Spot in 1999 wasn't even an option. The surgeon just opened him up and started looking around. Surgical techniques and medications are much better now. Actually dogs have more advanced care options than you or I do, since progress isn't hindered as much by government and FDA restrictions. Laser surgery, genetic testing, stem cell transplants, MRI imaging and much more are all commonplace in today's veterinary world.

It is terrible that Dot has to deal with the complications of major surgery and possibly cancer. She is lucky to live here in Dallas though. We have some of the best specialty care facilities in the country right here. I like to think that Dot is in the Mayo Clinic for dogs right now. Her doctors are taking very good care of her.

I'll have to admit that I'm getting some very good care myself. Tomorrow I go for my last regular  visit to the liver clinic. I will repeat all the tests I had at the beginning of my treatment, and if all looks good, I am officially cured of Hepatitis-C. Technically, I've been virus free for several months now, but these doctors are very cautious about over promising things.

We took Dash to dog training class by himself tonight. Janet thought it would be good for him to be around other dogs again. Dash seemed to enjoy himself until a cold front blew through and he sensed a change in the weather. Rain was on the way. I don't think Dot can hear the rain inside the hospital. I hope she can't anyway. She needs to get a good night's rest.

Jewel is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 1680

Dot is resting in the ICU after a very long and arduous day. Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing of all. I could hardly breathe until I got a call from Dot's surgeon toward the end of the day. "The procedure went exactly as expected," he told me. This is as close to joy and elation as you'll ever get from a surgeon. Surgeons are extremely matter-of-fact. This is a good thing. You wouldn't want an overly emotional surgeon cutting you open. I've talked to surgeons before and I was delighted with his short message. I could tell from the tone of his voice that the surgeon was pleased. He should be. This was a difficult and somewhat risky surgery and he had succeeded in allowing Dot to move forward and continue her journey to recovery. Dot isn't out of the woods yet, but a thumbs up from her surgeon was the best news I've heard all week.

It was a very long day. I got up at dawn to walk Dash before we drove to the cancer center to have a consultation with Dot's surgeon before she was wheeled into the operating room. You have to bite your lip when talking to surgeons. He mentioned risks that I had never even considered. I trust him though. This was the same surgeon who had expertly removed Dash's cancerous thyroid without any of the complications that are often associated with thyroid tumors. Later in the day when he called to let us know how Dot was doing, he told me that he was very glad that Janet and I had been proactive and gone to the extra step of having a CAT scan. "Sometimes, this is the only way to find these tumors," he said, adding that the growth was even larger than he expected and that if it hadn't been removed, Dot would have definitely died.

As soon as we got Dot checked in for surgery, I drove Janet across town to another hospital and we got her checked in for her colonoscopy. We both have a colonoscopy every five years and today was her turn. I basically spent the day driving back and forth between one hospital and the other. Veterinary Specialists of North Texas is much smaller than the huge complex of buildings at Baylor, but it is every bit as advanced. If you have a very, very sick pet, I would highly recommend VSNT. If I was very sick myself, I would want to go to Baylor. My own liver doctors practice at Baylor and most of Janet's doctors are there as well.

The next few days are critical for Dot. Ileus is always a risk after abdominal surgery. This intestinal paralysis is usually temporary, but if the tiny muscles inside the intestines do not begin functioning again after surgery, food can't move through the intestines causing serious complications. There is always a danger that the sutures won't hold either. It usually takes four or five days before you're out of the woods with abdominal surgery. I'm going to remain positive though. Dot passed a very important milestone in her road to recovery this afternoon.

I'm glad that Dot has so many friends. Three different vets who have Dot as a patient contacted me today to check on her progress. Her medical team is larger and much nicer than mine. Sometimes I worry about what will happen to Janet and I as we grow older and start to fall apart. Dot and Dash will always have someone to look out for them. I think we're going to be on our own.

I'm not sure if we'll be able to see Dot tomorrow. She's still pretty fragile. I hope that she sleeps well tonight and that her intestines begin working normally again as soon as possible. If we're really lucky, the doctors say she might be ready to eat a little food tomorrow evening.

Pongo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 1679

Dot is going in for surgery tomorrow morning. When we visited her early this morning, there was a lot to be encouraged about. Her temperature had remained stable. Her white blood cell count was slowly returning to normal. She even wagged her tail when we arrived. The doctors were still worried though. Dot hasn't eaten since last Thursday and was still refusing to eat this morning. The specialist wanted to do a CAT scan, and told us that based on Dot's vital signs she could safely handle the anesthesia. I was worried about the anesthesia required for a CAT scan, but everyone assured me that Dot's vitals signs looked very good. We gave the OK for the CAT scan and Janet and I went back to work.

Later in the day, we got a call with the results. The doctors had found a golf ball sized growth in her small intestine and wanted to do surgery tomorrow morning. They were confident that this growth was the source of her problems. Janet and I are both reluctant to subject an older dog to surgery, but we listened to what the internal medicine specialist had to say. She told us that since the growth had not yet become large enough to perforate the intestinal wall and cause systematic infection, the chances for a successful outcome were excellent. She didn't call the growth a tumor because, as she explained, there were literally dozens of benign growths or lesions that could attach to the intestinal wall. She said that surgery on the small intestine was routine these days and that Dot would have the same surgeon that performed the thyroid surgery on Dash earlier this year.

If we did nothing and Dot still refused to eat, she would die. Even if she did start to eat, the growth in her intestine would continue to grow larger, until it eventually caused the intestinal walls to burst. Dot was still weak when we visited her this morning, but her eyes were bright, her tail was wagging, and there was no question that she wanted to go on living. As frightened as Janet and I are of major surgery, we decided to give her that chance.

I think we made the right decision. The surgeon who will be operating on her is superb and was largely responsible for saving Dash's life. The specialist took the time to explain exactly why it was so important to remove the growth now, before it grew even further and caused her intestines to rupture. When I talked to the specialist on the phone earlier in the day, I imagined that the growth she was talking about was the size of a grape. When we heard that it was already the size of a golf ball, Janet and I became convinced that we had no choice.

There are no promises when you are wheeled into a surgery suite. It doesn't matter if you are a dog or a person, there are literally hundreds of things that could go wrong. We have been through this before and it never gets easier. We made the right decision with Dash. We made the right decision with Spot. And we made the wrong decision with Greta. The key thing with any serious medical condition is that you've got to be able to make a decision. You've also got to be able to live with the consequences, even if something goes wrong. Hiding from problems and pretending that they doesn't exist is almost always the worst decision you can make.

When we came back at the end of the day to visit again, Dot greeted us warmly. I walked her outside in the grass in front of the hospital and she squatted and peed normally. We brought her favorite blanket and let her rest with us in an exam room while waiting to see the specialist again. Her doctors wanted to see if Janet and I could get her to eat something. It is apparently important to preserve normal Peristaltic movement in the intestinal tract prior to surgery. Without any food to process, there is a danger that Peristalsis could stop. Dot wasn't interested in dog food, but when we opened a small jar of baby food, she eagerly ate the entire thing. This was a very good sign. It was almost as if Dot was telling us that the surgery was OK and that she definitely wanted to live.

Tomorrow is going to be a rough day. Not only is Dot having surgery, Janet is having a Colonoscopy on the same day. Neither of these things could be postponed or avoided. I hope we made the right decision with Dot. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I do know what would happen if we did nothing. Dot deserves better than that.

The thought of having two dogs with cancer at the same time is both emotionally and financially draining. It's hard to believe this is even happening. It goes without saying that this has been a very tough year. Many people think of me as a negative person, but I am totally positive when it comes to the dogs. I believe in them. Dot is incredibly strong willed and tenacious. She may be old, but she loves her life and wants to keep on living. Our efforts may not succeed, but we're going to give her the best chance she's got. When she ate the baby food out of my hand this evening, I think she gave me her blessing.

Katie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 1678

I keep looking at the last happy picture I took of Dot. Although she was just being transferred from one vet to another, she thought she was going home. Her tail was tucked under because she was still in pain, but she was happy. Dot's eyes practically sparkled as she was eagerly awaiting me to close the tailgate and get out my car keys. I'm so sorry to have disappointed her. Happy dogs make me happy and I am still sad.

We don't know much more than we did yesterday. The good news is that Dot is still alive. The bad news is that her medical team still isn't sure what is causing all the problems. I was afraid that we wouldn't hear anything at all until Monday morning, but we were surprised and delighted to receive a call today from her internal medicine specialist with an update on Dot's condition. I had initially thought that the specialist would leave Dot under the care of her support team during the weekend, but she was in the hospital herself on a Sunday morning, examining Dot and working on a diagnosis.

She told us that based on everything she knew so far, she suspected that Dot's problems originated in her liver. She thought Dot was stable and would make it through the weekend, but she still wasn't eating. This is bad. We won't know anything more until they do an abdominal ultrasound scan on Monday morning to check for hidden tumors, but there are strong signs that Dot may have acute Hepatitis, or even worse, Liver Cancer. I know a lot about Hepatitis after spending the past 30 years living with Hepatitis-C. Hepatitis can be managed and in many cases, completely cured. There are far fewer options available if you have Liver Cancer. For dogs, surgery is just about the only option, since organ transplants for dogs are still just a far-fetched fantasy. We lost Greta to Liver Cancer. We found the best surgeon available and elected to do the surgery, but it didn't work. Greta died four days later. She never even made it out of the hospital. I don't think I could subject a dog to that ever again.

I am not an emotional person, but a sick dog can still make me cry. It was hard to spend the day waiting, knowing that there was absolutely nothing we could do. I will be up at the hospital as soon as it opens tomorrow morning to visit Dot. All I can do though is hold her and hope. The next steps are up to Dot and her team of doctors. I was encouraged to hear the specialist tell me that she thought  Dot wasn't as depressed today as she was yesterday. She is still alert and engaged. That's a good sign, because she hasn't given up yet. Her incontinence appears to have stopped as well. The nurses take her out every four hours so she can pee normally. The doctor was even going to go to the store after we talked this morning and buy some fresh chicken for Dot to see if she could entice her to eat again.

I'm a worrier, but I really wish I wasn't. Worrying only leads to further worrying. I went to the gym today and cleaned all the water off the roof yesterday afternoon, knowing that lots of physical activity makes me tired. Maybe if I'm really tired, I will sleep better tonight. All I did last night was worry about Dot. Thanks for your support. It means a lot.

Lady Jane is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 1677

We had to make some tough decisions today. When we returned to the animal emergency clinic early this morning to check on Dot, it was clear that she wanted to go home. It was equally clear that her condition was becoming worse. Her temperature was still normal, but she refused to eat anything during the night and was having trouble controlling her bladder. When we took her outside to see if we could get her to pee normally, she headed straight for the car. We wanted to take her home as much as she wanted to go, but we had an appointment with an internal medicine specialist first.

The doctors at the emergency clinic had arranged the appointment with the specialist for us during the night and luckily it was right next door, at the cancer center where we have been taking Dash. The doctor we saw was very good. She did new blood work and told us that with the exception of the severe infection that was making Dot so sick, her basic vital signs were good. She also agreed with us that it was important to get Dot home to eliminate the stress and depression that was probably making her condition even worse. She thought that if we could get Dot to eat anything at all without vomiting, we could take her home for the weekend. Dot could have hamburger, boiled chicken, rice, anything she wanted. She prescribed some new antibiotics, anti-nausea drugs, and pain medication that she thought would be more effective. She explained that Dot's incontinence was caused by being pumped up with fluids and she should begin urinating normally again after she was off the IV fluids for a while.

When we asked about danger signs to look out for, she told us that the biggest near-term danger was if she became dehydrated or started vomiting. If she started vomiting, we were to get her back to the emergency clinic immediately. The doctor prepared a package of medication to get Dot through the weekend until we could bring her in for an ultrasound test on Monday morning. We really thought we were finally going home. The nurse gave Dot an anti-nausia pill in a little meatball for the car ride home. As we were walking through the lobby on our way to the car, Dot vomited. She wasn't even able to keep the small amount of food she had just taken down for a minute.

When Dot vomited in the lobby, the doctor's tone changed immediately. She said this was a potentially life threatening situation and that Dot needed to go back on fluids immediately. She recommended that Dot be kept under observation during the weekend or we might lose her. We had two choices. It was a Saturday and the cancer center closed to the public at noon. We could leave her under 24-hour supervision at the cancer center, but we wouldn't be able to visit her at all during the weekend. Alternately, we could take her back to the emergency clinic next door, where we could visit or even take her home if her condition improved. If we did this, we wouldn't have access to the veterinary specialists and comprehensive support that the cancer center provided until Monday. It was a really tough choice. If we left her at the cancer center, we couldn't even call in to check on her condition until early Monday morning. They said that if her condition deteriorated, they would call us. This was harsh, but I understood why they had this policy. The cancer center routinely deals with the sickest of the sick. All these pets owners are just as worried as we are. The doctor told us that if their overnight emergency team accepted inbound calls, and had to answer constant questions from worried owners, they wouldn't be able to provide the dedicated level of of care that their patients required. I appreciated their honesty. These were people who were more interested in keeping Dot alive than they were with customer relations.

We could do whatever we wanted, but if we left Dot at the cancer center with the specialists, we had to trust them. I brought in a blanket from the car and we sat with Dot for what seemed like the longest time on the lobby floor. I was very sad. I knew Dot wanted to go home. I also knew that these doctors saved Dash's life. They are amazing. We finally decided to leave her at the cancer center over the weekend, even though there is a small possibility that we will never see her again.

I have to remember that Dot's basic vital signs are good. These doctors are the very, very good. I have seen how quickly a dog can die if help is not nearby. If she was at home over the weekend and we had to get her back to an emergency vet in a hurry, there's a good chance we wouldn't make it.

It's going to be a very long and very lonely weekend. I know that Dot is not ready to die. If anyone can save her, she's in the right place. Please keep her in your thoughts this weekend.

Jade is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 1676

Dot took a turn for the worse today. We were really optimistic this morning. When we picked her up at the emergency clinic at 7 AM, her fever had subsided and she was a lot more steady on her feet. Dot looked like she was getting better. We had to take her back to our regular vet for the day, because the emergency clinic is only open at night. Dot's regular nurse called around noon to say that she was eating solid food again. This was encouraging too. It was only at the end of the day when our vet did new blood work that we realized her condition had actually gotten worse.

Dot's white blood cell count has significantly increased during the day, while her liver enzyme levels have gotten worse. This is not good! What it means is that the inflammation within her body that is causing all the problems is not being effectively controlled by the antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications she's currently taking. Janet and I really thought we'd be able to take her home with us this evening, but since her condition was deteriorating, we went straight back to the emergency clinic instead.

She is spending the night hooked up to IV tubes again. Tomorrow morning, Dot will see an internal medicine specialist at the same cancer center where Dash is being treated. We stayed with her tonight at the emergency clinic until she got sleepy and was comfortably settled in for the night. I wish I could have just pulled up a cot and spent the night with her, but that was not allowed. I hope she sleeps peacefully and shows just as much improvement tonight as she did last night. One of the vets we talked to today told us that the anti-inflammatory steroids she was given today can cause a temporary increase in white blood cell levels. I hope that is all that's going on. Dot's escalating white blood cell levels could mean something far more serious.

It has been a very long day. I got a lot of website work done, but I was really just sitting by the phone all day waiting for updates from the vet. It is frustrating that nobody has been able to pin down the source of the inflammation so far. I've talked to a lot of people too. If we knew what was causing the problem, it would be much easier to treat it. I'm really hoping that the internal medicine specialist we're seeing tomorrow can shed some light on this mystery before Dot's condition becomes even worse.

Dot's sudden illness is the last thing I expected. Sure, she's old, but she is the healthiest Dalmatian we have ever had. I guess in some small, unrealistic corner of my mind, I kept thinking she would live forever. I"m hoping for the best this weekend, but things don't look good now.

Beemer is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 1675

What a difference a day makes. This morning Dot seemed fine. Now she's hooked up to IV tubes at the emergency vet. We still don't know what's wrong. The day certainly started out normally. Dot ate a good breakfast. We took a nice walk. It was just an ordinary Thursday. After lunch, I let the dogs out in the back yard to pee, and then Dot took a nap by my desk, just like she usually does every day.

I became alarmed when she didn't get up again. Instead of following me back and forth around the house like she usually does, she stayed under the desk, panting heavily and appearing visibly uncomfortable. When she still refused to move and wouldn't eat her favorite treats after I let her rest for a while, I called her vet. Actually, I called all her vets, because she has several. When an old dog refuses to get up and isn't enticed by food or water, you really start to worry.

After a quickly scheduled exam, which included x-rays and new blood work, we discovered that she had an unusually high while blood cell count and was running a high fever. This usually indicates severe inflammation or infection. There were no immediate explanations as to how her condition could have changed so rapidly, but everyone agreed that the most important thing was to get her fever down and get her on some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications. The vet thought that she might have a bacterial infection, a virus, or even pancreatitis.

Dot needed to be on intravenous fluids so she wouldn't get dehydrated, antibiotics to fight the infections, and pain medication to relieve her obvious discomfort. To get this kind of care, we needed to take her to a 24-hour emergency vet. She is resting at the emergency vet now. Her fever has subsided a bit and after further testing, we now know that she does not have pancreatitis. Hopefully we will know more when we pick her up in the morning to take her back to our regular vet. The emergency clinic is only open at night when regular veterinary hospitals are closed. I hate to haul her back and forth like this when she's sick, but there is really no choice.

Hopefully we will know more in the morning. It's possible that she might have a type of cancer that is undetectable in the early stages. I'm going to be optimistic though. I'm hoping that she has an easily curable bacterial infection that she got from eating something bad. All I know now is that Dot is very sick.

Riley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 1674

Someone has been sprinkling ground up bits of broken glass along several of the paths in the park. I don't know if this is to cause passing bicycles to have flats, or an effort to hurt animal paws, but it is definitely malicious. One more thing to look out for every morning. This city is wearing me down. Daydreaming is one of my favorite things, but it's just not as easy to absentmindedly daydream during our walks anymore. There's always something to look out for.

Dot worried me today. She was very slow and a bit stiff on our walk this morning. You could tell she wanted to walk, but just didn't have the energy. She went to sleep as soon as we returned home, but even her sleep wasn't restful. She kept changing position and groaning occasionally as if something was bothering her. There were no visible injuries. She was breathing completely normally. And she didn't appear under any stress. She just seemed tired. I'll ask the vet to check for any hidden warning signs, but I think she's just getting old. I know how she feels. It doesn't take much to wear me out either.

We don't get much mail anymore. I used to always look forward to getting the mail everyday, but the steady stream of magazines, circulars, and catalogs has almost come to a standstill. I think the battle for shoppers hearts and minds is over and that Amazon has won. Practically the only thing I get in the mail these days are bills to pay. Even the bills come with admonitions and enticements to get me to switch to online payments. Switch to online payments and we'll give you a $25 Starbucks card they say. No thanks for now. I still like printed statements. I prefer reading a book to looking at the same thing on a Kindle. I'd still rather read a magazine than visit a website. My days are numbered though. I've become a dinosaur.

A few more observations about my day at the courthouse yesterday. I think you can divide people into two categories. There are the ones who check their e-mail and texts obsessively. And there are the others who play Candy Crush Saga obsessively. I hate waiting and paced up and down the courthouse halls all day while the lawyers were deciding what to do with us. I was virtually the only person walking around though. Most people were just sitting on a bench and staring at their phones. They couldn't leave them alone for five minutes. It's kind of sad. I suspect the smart phone has already had an even larger impact on society than the automobile. For the Millennials, the phone has actually replaced the automobile as the iconic object of their generation.

Even though Dot was tired today, we still took both dogs to training class tonight. Dot spent most of the evening sitting in the grass with Janet, while Dash and I went through the exercises. Dot was happy. She doesn't like to be left out and there is no reason to leave her out of anything. We'll all just slow down a bit and let her enjoy her remaining days

Laura is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 1673

The wheels of justice turn exceedingly slow. I arrived at the courthouse around 8 AM this morning for jury duty. By 9:30 AM, everyone sitting in the central jury pool had been administered the oath and assigned to a court. The rest of the day was spent in a lengthy and often tedious Voir dire process. I'm sure the attorneys eliminated some people as soon as they opened their mouth, but nobody was excused until well after 5 PM. This came as a shock to many prospective jurors who expected to be back at work by lunchtime.

This was a murder trial and the proceedings took forever as lawyers for both sides tried to find jurors who would be sympathetic to their case.  I don't think anyone wanted to be selected for this case. It appeared that a gang member had murdered another gang member and the defendant, who was in the courtroom, looked somewhat menacing. The defense lawyers asked prospective jurors if they could still be fair and impartial if they knew the testimony was coming from someone who had already been convicted of another crime. They asked us if we thought a uniformed police officer automatically has more credibility than someone with gang tattoos. Both sides asked us so many questions about what we thought constituted self defense that a lot of people, including myself, began to worry that this might turn into another Trayvon Martin trial. Nobody wanted to be on that type of jury. I was sitting on the front row during the selection process, so the judge said we would automatically be on the jury unless the prosecution or defense lawyers used one of their ten allotted strikes to eliminate me. As the day progressed, I became worried that I would be seated on the jury, since I really didn't have any good reasons why I couldn't serve. Luckily, one of the lawyers didn't think I would help his case and I was eliminated at the last minute. I was relieved. I wouldn't have wanted to be on this jury.

The dogs were relieved as well when I finally arrived at the vet around 6:30 PM to take them home again. I had to board them for the day, because I knew I'd be away too long to leave them alone. Nobody, including Dot and Dash, though I'd be down at the courthouse this long though. It was a very long day. Both dogs were indignant when I picked them up after their normal dinner time, but all was forgiven when I fed them as soon as we got home,

Since the judge admonished us several times not to say anything to anybody about the case if we were selected as jurors, I began to worry about the blog. What was I going to write about? Sometimes murder trials can go on for a long time. I even told the bailiff that I was a blogger and had posted something every day over five years without missing a single day. I wanted to know the specific ground rules, because as I told him, I had to write something every day. I wasn't going to let a murder trial stop me. If I couldn't write about the trial, could I write about the judge, or the other jurors? Maybe this is what eliminated me. Or maybe they didn't like that I had a hard time believing everyone truly enters the courtroom on an equal basis. Who knows? Maybe they though it was strange that in over a dozen visits to this courthouse, I had never been selected to sit on a jury. I'm still a jury virgin. Whatever the reason, I was glad to be able to go home at the end of the day and return to my normal life. They asked me to answer their questions honestly and I did. I'm glad they didn't ask if I thought the defendant was guilty, because he sure looked guilty to me.

Lizzy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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