Monday, December 28, 2009

BELIEVE IN MIRACLES; Another milestone for Jinx


Jinx celebrated Christmas 2009 with a large knuckle bone. She is my Christmas Miracle and the best gift I could ask for. Recall that when we left the UW-veterinary hospital in Madison in September they sent us home to manage the pain and die. They told us that she had a peripheal nerve sheath tumor and that it was terminal. If they amputated her leg, the median return time for the cancer was projected at 7.5 months. Without amputation, they told me to expect the tumor would invade her spine in 2 months.

We returned home, grieved and regrouped. I took Jinx to Dr. Strickfaden in Depere, who is a holistic vet. Anyone who follows this blog has read of the path we have taken. Jinx takes biocome treatment every other week, to support pain management and energy levels. She only gets 1/2 deramaxx each day, along with Chinese herbs for energy. I watched in trepidation for any sign that she was stumbling or losing the battle. Thanksgiving came and went and she remained strong and happy. In fact, I asked a friend to give her a bite with the bite pillow and she hit so hard she knocked him off his feet, as he did not expect she had that kind of strength! She is on three legs, with the affected foot atrophied but gets along well as a tripod.
A wonderful friend, David Jackson, volunteered to take photos of Jinx for me. I wanted to get a photograph to have a nice portrait of her and to use in my Christmas cards. Jackson is a professional photographer who does some very interesting things with lighting. He took the photos of Jinx gratis. I am eternally grateful. We took the photographs in front of twisted metal at a rubble site similar to the type of environment in which we worked.
Shortly before Christmas, Dr. Strickfaden told me of a new drug that has had some success in "eating" cancers. It is preferably injected into the tumor, but with Jinx that area is so near to her spine and under the scapula so it is inaccessible. Instead, we use an oral version. The drug is called "Neoplasene". It is expensive, and if it shows success she will continue to be on a maintenance dose. I asked Tom to pick up a refill for me and when he returned home he was shaking his head and said, "we have to start bagging Jinx's poop." I figured they must need to examine in for sloughing cancer cells or something but I asked "why?" He replied, "because at the price of this stuff, she must be shitting GOLD!"
One thing that I did discuss with the vet was the bad advice I received from one of the assistants who called to tell me how to apply the medication. The gal told me to use soft food and to conceal the medicine, which has a nasty taste. She said dogs can lose their appetite with this treatment. I told her that dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and also are not stupid. If you take a food they like, and make it taste and smell terrible, do you think they will eat it the next time? Not a chance! And then you are set on a spiraling downward path of trying new things to entice the dog to eat. Instead, I use a liquid syringe and just pop the icky stuff down her throat. She knows she has to do that in order to be released to get the GOOD STUFF!! The good stuff includes two tablespoons of yogurt (any dog on medication needs probiotics) with some canned dog food and her Deramaxx tab in the morning, and a bowl with 1/2 cup Orijin dog food soaked in hot water. She eagerly waits for meal time and her appetite has not diminished in the least. When I explained the logic, Dr Strickfaden agreed with me and understood. I suggested that they might be causing dogs to actually stop eating with the advice they had given me.
But here it is Christmas 2009 and the dog that the UW told me would likely be dead in two months (actually suggesting they thought the cancer had already invaded her spine but wasn't showing on the MRI based on her neurologic reactions) and she is still here, still happy and still the same sweet yet crazy malinois she has always been. Tonight, just for giggles, I asked her to do an Object Guard on a food bowl and she gladly and SERIOUSLY complied!! I gave her bite rewards and I swear she smiled! If she is dying, no one has told her yet.
I know it is possibly too much to ask or expect that the cancer will disappear, but I do hope. And I do wonder whether she might regain use of her foot and whether I will need to massage the toes to loosen it up again? I'm very afraid of amputation because it has been my experience that the cancer cells just go crazy when you insult the body like that, so as long as she can get along on three legs but holding up the fourth, we'll continue that way. The story to this point is certainly a Miracle. She has survived and blessed us for two more months than was predicted. Yes, I realize that cancer is unpredictable and both people and animals outlast diagnosis at times.
But today, we have another Miracle.

Christmas 2009

Wow! Another Christmas has come and gone. Here in Black Creek, Wisconsin we received over 16 inches of snow in a season opening blizzard. That makes things difficult for managing the property. Driveways and paths have to be plowed, kennels shoveled out. Shortly after that, a dose of freezing rain left us with a hard, slippery shelf that I hesitate to let dogs run together on.

Tom and I decided to go for a stroll around the property on snowshoes. His are much bigger, the traditional warden snowshoe and worked better on the surface. I have the small ,light weight metal version and they broke through slightly and I ended up following in his wake. We took Quinn along for the walk and even watching him I worried, as he would travel well on the crust and then break through. It made me very happy that I didn't have two dogs racing around with abandon and injuring themselves. The Quinnster was grateful for the opportunity to take advantage of the adventure; perhaps a little too much so! He would routinely turn around, wind up and run back to pummel me, or to throw himself at my feet, ON my snowshoes for a belly rub. Hard to resist!

Ridley, my newest stripey addition (Dutch Shepherd) had her own outside time. Cooper FINALLY got tired of having her harrass him when he tried to pee, and he ground her into the snow. She is none the worse for it. I want her to experience a Quinn correction but will have to wait for better weather. She loves the snow, as well.
She has one very bad habit, which I observed when I picked her up at the breeder... she is a shit eater. This is not an attractive quality and I had been successful at avoiding the issue by picking it up in her pen or correcting her physically, but with my shoulder injury and Tom being in charge of getting her outside, she has had too much unsupervised outdoor time to play with frozen turds. Sorry for the graphic nature, but that's the way it is. This is a horrible habit that can be eliminated by keeping the puppy area picked up but now I have to deal with it.

The hoar frost made a winter faerie land that could not be ignored. To be able to walk in such beauty is something that can not be underappreciated. To live in, and be able to share it with people and dogs that you love is a blessing. This is the beauty of the world that Christ gave us, a shining celebration of His birth.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It Takes a Village

Oh my gosh, what can I say about the terrific friends I have? As anyone reading this blog knows, I am a hunting widow this week. If only it were that simple! I am a hunting widow who is recovering from shoulder surgery, had a dog injured during the week requiring her to be kept indoors and hand-walked, another extra dog in the house in preparation to being shipped to his new home so that he can be acclimated to the crate time, in addition to taking care of a kennel full of dogs. Prior to Tom leaving, I had barely left my recliner but I assured him I could take care of things while he was gone.

I have the best friends in the world.!! Sue drives me to physical therapy, and checks in via text messages to make sure I am doing my home exercises. It is tough to watch a friend in such pain, and she masks it well by yelling at me like a coach. (or at least, I assume it is masking. Her husband said I should have known better than to ask a Hatcher for sympathy!!) I told her she makes a better hockey coach but the truth is, it is exactly what is need for this typ e of rehab. It does hurt and I do have to push through the pain. There is no getting around it. I use this as an excuse for the two of us to visit Barnes and Noble after every session, so it has worked out nicely from my perspective!

Yesterday Laurel B came over and cleaned kennels and took Chica out for a walk while Denise W took Ridley and then Epic for their turns. When they asked what they could do to help, I felt one of the nicest things was to get my poor poochies out for some exercise. Tomorrow Sam is driving up from Madison to do the same. I feel better just knowing that my dogs are taken care of. When I posted on FB of my difficulties this week, I had so many friends offering to help and I appreciate it so much.

I've been handling the feeding with no problem. The morning routine takes me an hour, to get everyone out and taken care of. Jinx goes out first. She is always in a hurry to get back in for breakfast. She gets multiple medications with her meal. While she is out, I feed Kia, the Siamese cat, who begins protesting and attempting to lead me to where her food is at first sign of movement in the morning. Toyota, my other Siamese, is in a cat cage as he does not tolerate changes to his routine well, and will mark in the house when disturbed. With all that is going on lately, keeping him sequestered is the safest thing to do. I check his food and water. Once Jinx is fed, she goes back to the bedroom. I let Cooper and Ridley out together to run around abit and then Cooper goes to the outside kennel and Ridley goes to her little exercise pen on the back patio, where she gets a morning meal. Inevitabley, she will spill her water dish in play. I really do need to put a bucket in there, attached to the fence. Next, Epic goes out to his outside kennel. Finally, Chica comes out of her crate, satellite dish in place. I take off the collar, and she sits nicely while I tape a plastic bag to the paw with the sutures to keep it clean and dry. She doesn't mind the bag at all but I have trouble keeping it in place. I have to hand walk her to potty because she does not realize she is injured and would run with wild abandon if allowed off leash. Yesterday I asked Laurel to walk her a few minutes in the yard but when I called for her, she was way down on the lane and Laurel said "it doesn't seem to bother her!" Well, no, it doesn't. But the silly little dog has a high pain threshold and I have to be the careful one so that the foot does not become infected. When we come back in, I let her run around in the house for about an hour while I check the computer. I give her the Clavamox and make sure she doesn't cough it back up, as she has done several times. She mostly sits in front of me, waiting for me to acknowledge her, or tries to get closer by putting her front feet up on the chair to get petted. Eventually, I replace the elizabethean collar and put her back in the crate. Whew! House critters taken care of.

Then I walk to the kennel to get those dogs fed and watered. I bring extra treats so that when I remove their dishes they don't run out but wait for an additional yummy. They are blowing coat, silly things! Didn't they see the snowflakes this morning? Even Ali, who was bare naked last year after his allergic reaction, has a lovely thick coat in need of brushing. That will probably be next on my "to do" list, though brushing my require more use of my arm that I have available right now. By 10:00 I have the morning routine finished. During the rest of the day I will have to alternately get Ridley, Chica, and Jinx out again. Evening medications, another feeding and that is pretty much the doggie day.

This morning I received a call from the greenhouse in Seymour, asking if I would be home because they had a delivery for me. I naturally assumed it was from Tom, a sweet apology of sorts for being gone. It is a lovely bouquet but the name on it is from Tom, alright, but not MY Tom! It is from Tom S, a very nice man who comes for private obedience lessons. How sweet and thoughtful is that! I will definately mention to my husband, though and maybe turn it into two bouquets!! ha ha! The flowers did indeed brighten my day. They are one more reminder of the wonderful people that I have around me.

I love my Village!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

new treatment for Jinx

Jinx and I visited Dr. Strickfaden today for our regular biocom treatment. We have been on a 2 week protocol but I felt we needed to get an extra visit in after discovering she was experiencing pain in her spine last week. Both of us have been disrupted this week with Tom gone, Jinx trying to comfort me in my own therapy, and two extra dogs in the household.... it's enough to drive a healthy dog to their bed! I felt that an extra session would be helpful, if only to relieve stress and renew energy.

Dr Strickfaden mentioned a new treatment to try for Jinx. She had discussed it with the doctor who has used it successfully and felt it was worth trying. It is called "Neoplasene" and is apparently a combination of eastern and western medicine; in reading it is derived from the Native American bloodroot. Ideally, we would inject it into the tumor itself, but the location posed a problem. In reading about the drug, it can open up a wound as the cancer cells slough off, and that might be difficult in the location of the tumor, so near the spine and under the scapula. So we are trying the oral medication. I was warned that it tasted very bad and to disguise it in something yummy, but I know what terrific noses dogs have--- Jinx in particular--- and that trick would work only once! I need to make sure she ingests it, so I just drop it down her throat using a syringe. Clearly, it DID taste like crap, but this was quickly forgotten amidst the extra Natural Balance treats I placed in the dish. It is not cheap, and I don't want to become one of those crazy people who will try anything to prolonge an unsustainable life, but a deep spark in my heart asks "what if THIS is the treatment that works?" Afterall, the UW-vet hospital staff left me with no options other than pain management. And, you know what, I'm okay with not chasing rainbows and attempting unworkable solutions or keeping Jinx hanging on just for my sake. However, if this medicine can truly cure her, wouldn't that just be something? We are already over our "expiration date" and have nothing to lose.

In the course of researching the Neoplasene, I also found the dog cancer blog that I posted above. It seems to be an interesting site for questions and answers. I don't think I am going backwards in the grief process by now discovering a thread of hope, and I'm not being unrealistic about it. I am open to anything that will assist Jinx and I on this journey.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Chica Crisis

Oh my gosh! Within hours of sending Tom on his way, with assurances that everything would be fine here, it wasn't. I thought I would go up to the kennel and feed while it was still daylight, get things well in hand right off the bat. There was the usual ruckus when I entered. I can't say that I noticed anything unusual about Chica other than that she was jumping up. In hindsight, I wonder if she was already clinging to the fence at that moment. I started on the far end, with Ali. The empty kennels of the two pointers made things go a little faster and I was almost to Chica's end when I heard an unusual noise. It caught my attention, but it wasn't a shriek of panic or hurt and I called out "just a minute, Chica, I'm almost there."

A couple dogs later and I stood in front of her kennel. Chica seemed to be attached--- stuck --- to the kennel fence. I dropped the food where I stood and ran to her. At first, I thought somehow the toes were twisted and caught and tried to pull her off. She was stuck fast. I examined it more closely and my heart went to my throat to discover she was actually impaled on the wire. Imagine the four squares of a section of chain link. The top cross bar had broken the weld, most likely from her incessant bouncing off the sides of the kennel. When she jumped against it in her excitement, that top piece bowed outward under the pressure and the foot slipped through the opening. When she withdrew, the wire went through her foot. She struggled long enough to run the wire through and tear the flesh, but not enough to completely damage her foot by tearing it loose. It is a credit that she has her momma's temperament, as she seemed to understand I was there to help her and she did not bite or struggle against me. Where I found the strength to lift her with my injured left arm, I do not know. Adrenalin, I'm sure. For a moment, once I got her up there, I didn't know how I would get her off. I thought I might have to call someone to help me, and worried how long she could stay like that. I knew I couldn't leave her. I carefully pushed back the piece of wire from the broken weld and slid the foot sideways until it was free. Frankly, I thought I would vomit.

Once freed, what did she do? Ran immediately to her spilled dinner and began to eat as if nothing had happened. I let her outside where I could see better and she ran on the foot with no demonstration of pain. However, when I examined it, the injury looked bad. I was unable to restrain her and look adequately, so I called my friend, Sue, who drove over and agreed that a vet visit was in order. Chica seemed oblivious.

I drove her to the Animal Referral Center, which I think any animal owner in the Fox Valley, hates to hear mention of in an emergency setting. First of all, you know that you will first need to assure them you can pay for treatment and secure it by check or credit card. We were first seen by a triage nurse who looked at the foot and agreed that it needed treatment (duh! isn't that why we were there??) but since Chica didn't seem to be in pain and wasn't bleeding all over their floor (this was odd... I even looked in the kennel today and found no blood at the scene. The wound never bled) so we apparently weren't a high priority. I was in pain with my shoulder, which was just beginning to realize it had been asked to do things it wasn't prepared for, and I had not taken any medication. My plan had been to feed dogs, then take some medication, do a physical therapy session and put my feet up. So much for plans! I asked if we could wait in a room so I didn't have to keep hold of Chica, and we were escorted to a room where ultimately Chica curled up on the floor and I on the small bench seat, and we both fell asleep. When I woke it was an hour later, I was cramped and sore and we still had not seen anyone. Finally, the PRE-treatment assistant came in and took a history. More waiting. I was beginning to wonder if the wound would just heal itself as we waited. I walked to the front desk and advised them I was going to sleep in my vehicle and to call me when they were ready to see my dog. Another hour passed. FINALLY, they were ready. I asked how long the treatment would take and the vet told me 2-3 hours. I opted to drive home where I could rest until they called me to pick her up, but the layers of treatment and length of time at that place, especially considering what they demand of the animal owner, is ridiculous. When the vet called, I told her that I would pick up medication at the vet in the morning, to save money. When I paid the almost $500 bill, I found they had charged me for meds. By that time, I was just too tired to argue or care. In my opinion, they are a necessary but unpleasant evil. I had arrived at approximately 4 pm and at 10:06 I was on my way back home with my repaired poochie.

They said they sutured three layers. Her foot is bandaged and she has to wear a plastic hood, which she hates. Almost as much as she hates having to be in a crate. I have to put a plastic bag over the bandage when she goes out to keep it from getting wet. Tomorrow the bandages come off and I hope there is no sign of infection. I do notice that she is limping a little today, but that could be because she finally notices it is hurt! I hope she does not tear the foot up, trying to escape the crate. To have to go through all this again-- and the expense-- would just be awful. And I have had quite enough drama for the week, thank you very much!

I have observed how dear Chica is. She has the temperament of her mother, Roya. And probably the high pain threshold ,as well! Despite her injury, she never snapped at me and has been such a love. I take the hood off for her potty walks and then let her roam around the house for a little bit and she is very good in the house, stopping back to me for cuddles and hugs. I guess I wasn't lying when I told Tom I could handle things here well enough. I did. But I had help.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Annual Boys Trip

Tom is busy packing for the annual boys' bird hunting trip to South Dakota. There is a small group of friends who make the trek annually to hunt pheasants. One of them will make a trip to the cheese factory and stock up on good old Wisconsin cheese curds to plie the locals with. The original introduction to the area came through a friend I worked with at the police department, whose family still lives in the area. Generally Tom will come back home with new stories to tell about Ray in his youth, shared over a cup of coffee at the local diner. The boys stay at Miss Ruby's boarding house.

His brother, Jerry, is part of the group, as is our good friend, Jerry and another friend from the D.A.'s office who owns one of our Small Munsterlander pups. This year I imagine Jerry will bring his labrador and Tom will probably bring two munsters, and Rob will bring his youngster, Eddie. I am looking forward to seeing photos and hearing how they do, particulary young Eddie who sounds to have had quite a good season so far. Our two, Easy and Arec, both love to hunt and are easy dogs to work. We boarded Arec's sister, Atienne, who is known only as "Booger" and she looks so much Arec and their mother, Aryan. She is a beautiful dog,and also quite a good hunting dog. She went home today and her owners admired how handsome Arec is. He is a sweetie, too. I really like him. I may be one of the few wives who encourages her husband to GO! HUNT!!!

I'll be holding down the fort here in Tom's absence. This will be my first week of being functional, post-surgery. Tom was worried about me and asked repeatedly if he should go on the trip. This is really the only recreational trip Tom takes and it would take more than a mere shoulder surgery to cause me to tell him to stay home! I just hope the weather is relatively nice so that I don't spend my week slogging wet dogs around! I'll look forward to hearing all about the hunting, the practical jokes and tall tales when they get home and until then, pray for safe travels and a safe trip that brings them all back home.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Today is Thanksgiving 2009. Tom and I were invited to the home of Ute and David Anderson, where we spent Thanksgiving last year, as well. I work with them and their autism assistance dog, Gracie and they are wonderful, wonderful people.

The evolution of how we spend our Thanksgiving, and I suppose, holidays in general, is interesting. When I was young all the men would be out deer hunting, and usually stay at my Uncle Ray's cabin, and on Thanksgiving everyone would join at my parent's home for a huge Thanksgiving feast. My mom is a great cook and we could count on dinner to include turkey, potatoes and gravy, cranberry salad (a delicious family recipe!), wild rice (REAL wild rice), many other side dishes and a host of pies for dessert. The house would be filled with relatives. Men would relax for a few hours, watch the football game on TV, and then head back to the cabin. Through the years, my parents even built an addition on the house, off the kitchen, to hold multiple tables for such feasts.

When I moved away, I came back for quite a few years to celebrate. Eventually, the cousins moved, we all married and holidays were split between other families. Little by little, the crowd dwindled. After my father in law was widowed and living alone in Milwaukee, we celebrated Thanksgiving with him. When he was still able to drive, he sometimes drove up to join us for buffet at the Paper Valley Hotel. Later, Tom and I and and his brother's family would travel to Milwaukee and take Joe out, or bring dinner in to prepare. When Joe passed away a huge void was left. Thanksgiving meant Joe. Now what? We thought we would probably just go to a buffet in town, but Ute and David invited us to a family dinner and I guess a new tradition was born.

Back home, the family now gathers at the home of my nephew, Nicholas. When dinner is at your parents, you assume you are invited, or at least, if you show up they will throw an extra plate on the table for you. Not so much when it is at someone else's house. I *think* if I had said I was interested to come up, I could have attended but there was no invitation extended. As events unfolded in the past two days, I would have had to rearrange that plan, anyway, after my sister un-friended me on Facebook. Shocking, isn't it? Apparently not as uncommon as you might think, as many of my FB friends responded to advise of their own family tribulations. I'm going to give up my age when I mention that I graduated high school in 1974. Without having to take off your shoes and socks, suffice it to say that is MANY years ago. I have lived apart from my family for more years than I was with them. For people who live near their families and stay regularly in touch, you have a different dynamic. I don't know if that is better or worse, but the fact is I have an existence separate from that of my family. They know peripheal events and information, but they aren't out on the dog training field with me on Saturdays. They aren't traveling to competitions and sharing tears of wins, losses, death and injury. They don't see movies with me, or go shopping for crafts, attending fairs and seminars. When I was still working as a police officer, many of the stories were withheld. They know very little about who I am now. In some respects, I can't blame my sister for wanting to keep me in a comfortable defination for her, which is leftover from high school. She commented, in her farewell post, "I forgot who I was dealing with." I wanted to ask "who is that person? who do you think I am?"
Because I don't think she has any idea. To strike a further blow, a niece and nephew also posted comments in a format known as "facebook fishing". Silly me. I thought they liked me. But again, they don't see me or know me, either, so will be influenced by the people closest to them. Still, it was a particularly hurtful couple of days.

My brother and sister and I are essentially strangers. We know a little about one another from half a century ago. We see each other perhaps once a year. These are not the people I spend my time with. In fact, sometimes I find myself wondering what there is to talk about, since we don't share the same interests. Or the same political afflilation, which makes it even more difficult. If they took a quiz, chances are they would know more personal information about a particular movie or TV star than me. And, I them.

So Thanksgiving this year is particularly bittersweet. A new line was drawn, separating me from the family of my past. It does make me much more grateful for my friends, however-- the people who do know me.

A few things I am grateful for include:
+for the God who has blessed us in so many ways, even though we fail to appreciate it at times
+ My dear husband, who sometimes drives me crazy, but is always there for me, even when I drive HIM crazy!
+ good friends who are there in the good times and bad
+my family. They might not like me, but they're family and I love them
+the love of good dogs! and a passion for training that has taken me across the country and to Europe, and put me in touch with so many terrific people
+ two parents, still living and in relatively good health who love me enough to drive 5 hours to bring me homemade chicken noodle soup!
+that my husband and I are both in pretty good health, considering. so what if I have rebuilt shoulders? rehab is going MUCH better this time, which is another reason to be grateful!
+no family deaths, illnesses or tragedies to mar the holiday. My heart goes out to those who experience such things
+this great house and property, where I can explore and dream
+every extra day with my Jinxy
+for the men and women in the armed forces and Law Enforcement who sacrifice and keep us safe
+for this free country. might not always like the leadership, but the system allows for change and the ability to disagree
+possibilities. always great things to dream of and plan for. the glass is always half full.

I love Christmas. I love the 24-7 radio stations playing holiday music. I love the specials, particularly classics such as "White Christmas", "Miracle on 34th Street", "Christmas in Connecticut" and "Rudolph". Yes, Rudolph. I don't know where or how we will spend Christmas. There is a chance we will visit my parents shortly before the holiday. I don't want to miss an opportunity to spend time with them, because they will not be here forever. So I will look at that glass, and do everything I can do to fill it up with love. To acknowledge that the people who want to be mean spirited toward me, have their own issues and are just angry that I don't fit in the box they prefer. I love them because they are family, but I can't make them like me. I am Thankful that we are still ALIVE and able to make repairs, if they so choose.

Be Thankful every day. God Bless you all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On the Mend

After a year of recognizing I had a problem, alternately attempting to treat it through physical therapy and to ignore it, I finally underwent surgery on November 11th for adhesive capsulitis. About ten years ago, I had surgery on the other shoulder (right) for the same repair plus a small tear repair. I recalled a long and painful rehabilitation and did not want to go through that again. As driving to dog competitions became more miserable, dressing myself became more of a challenge and ultimately getting a restful sleep impossible, I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.

I had Dr. Timothy Mologne at Advanced Sports Medicine do the surgery. I remember wanting to finish reading my "People" Magazine as they prepared me for surgery and the nurses laughing. And I remembered to ask if I could keep my "parts" for the purpose of human remains detection dog training but there weren't any big chunks or anything easily saved, so that didn't happen. The doctor didn't even looked shocked at the request! Something new was added this time; a nerve block. A nerve block was inserted in my neck that numbed my entire left arm. Immediately following surgery, I was walked next door to physical therapy where the arm was manipulated. With capsulitis, every fiber of repair that the body can summon cries out that the arm has just been injured and to send all forces to repair it ASAP! The healing/capsulation begins immediately and so must the therapy. It was unnerving to lay on the exam table and look over to see my own arm being moved around and have no sense of belonging to it. Shocking, actually. The block did not wear off until evening. I wore my arm in a sling, I suppose to keep it from falling off and going unnoticed! If it slipped from the sling, it would swing free and I would have to recapture it and put it back, with the arm not feeling connected to me at all.

Since the surgery I have had physical therapy appointments at Peak Performance Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, located next door to the doctor's office. My therapist is Brad McMahon. Because it is a small office, I have the consistency of having the same therapist follow me throughout my sessions. Brad has been very good, patient and understanding. I bring my "Linus blanket" with me to each session and wrap it around me for comfort. And then I take my mind away to another place, visualizing other places and activities. If the pain twinges in my shoulder I say "it's not me, it's not me". I can't tell you where I got the idea from but it has helped tremendously. At first Brad would try to make conversation to distract me and I told him "don't talk to me-- you're not HERE."

I am at the point now where I don't need that quite as much and I can concentrate on forcing through the painful parts with my own will. I have oxycodone for pain and generally take two pills about a half an hour to an hour before a therapy session. They cautiously extended the prescription for me and I am not trying to string them out as much as possible, with extra strength tylenol and one oxy, or just tylenol unless it is preceeding therapy. Last night I just used tylenol and had resisted taking any more medication during the day as I visited the dog training club but by the time I returned to the house I was in pain. Perhaps that wasn't a bright idea. I believe they switch now to vicodin? At any rate, my greatest fear was that I would be in too much pain to make the improvements I need to make in therapy. The therapy this time has gone much better than last and I think I have made good improvements. Not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but better.

My dear parents drove down this week to bring me homemade chicken noodle soup and tart shells. To the uninitiated, tart shells are just mini pie shells that you can fill with pudding or fruit. Mom's homemade chicken noodle soup is made from scratch, from making the broth with chicken and the carcass to the noodles. It is so delicious and famous that it is what most of my family requests when we get to choose our birthday meal. My parents knew I was not feeling well enough to visit, but yet they made the five hour trip just to make that touching gesture. They stayed at a bed and breakfast in town so as not to burden us here, and took us out to dinner. I found that to be such an incredibly loving thing to do. Even more than that, my liberal Democrat parents gave me money to buy some flowers or "that Sarah Palin book that you wanted." Now, THAT is LOVE!!

The person this is most difficult on is not me. All I have to do is lay here in a chair, take drugs and contort my shoulder at regular intervals. My dear husband is the one who not only has to care for me, but also for all our other critters. A full kennel plus dogs in the house. A fairly new puppy of mine who can't hold her bladder as long as the adults and has to go out more often. Tom fills the polar cuff and adjusts it, guides my therapy sessions as my coach, even though I am sure it pains him to see me in such pain, and at times to be the cause of the pain. He prepares meals and brings me soda to drink. He even placed a whistle on the table next o me so that I could wake him in the night, when calling his name failed to rouse him. No, I don't have the hard part at all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Congratulations Christoph and Sparti!

One of the D litter Small Munsterlanders that we bred was selected with lofty goals in mind. His owner, Christoph Bichsel, wanted to join a Search and Rescue team. As he continued to research and discover what is available in his area, they ultimately joined a USAR, or disaster dog, team. Before shipping Sparti, I hauled him around with me so that he was familiar with traveling in his crate. I even took him to Rubbletown near Milwaukee, where he was able to climb on the fringes of the piles and pose for a photo.

Now he is a grown up dog who just earned his FSA, which stands for Foundation Skills Assessment. Having done it with Jinx, I know how difficult it can be and what determination it takes to accomplish. Christoph's team members laugh to recall his early days of training, having never taught a dog to do so much as 'sit' before and having as a first dog one with limitless energy. He persevered and together they learned the skills that may save a life someday.

Gravy Days

We're living in gravy days and appreciating every minute of it. Jinx is now past the short timeline given by the vets for the movement of her tumor to the spine. I held my breath to that point but am no longer counting the days. It's all gravy from here. There was a time shortly after diagnosis when I couldn't bear to look at Jinx without crying. Now I can watch her shop for attention, running between Tom and I and laying her head on us, and laugh at the antics. I giggle when she lays in a silly upside down wiggle-waggle position, with all four legs waving and her lips pulled back in a goofy malinois grin. She makes an evening ritual of greeting the dogs coming in from the kennel for the night, and has a particular 'thing" for Arec, the munsterlander. She will play bow and solicit attention from him and all the while he stands regally as if entertaining his court.

I don't feel I have robbed Jinx by not amputating her leg. She gets along well on three and I firmly believe amputation would have called all the cancer cells to high alert. If there is a seminar going on, I take her down for some fun bites. If she insists on riding along with me, I give in. I certainly wish we would have been granted more time to accomplish things, but those things are on my list and apart from spending time with me doing them, Jinx likely values a trophy less than an extra biscuit in the bowl. Right now she is serving extra duty guarding my recovery from shoulder surgery. When I lay on the bed for physical therpay sessions, I can twine my free hand in her hair, stroking her and talking to her instead of acknowledging the painn emanating from the other arm.

Her presence is comforting to me. Jinx and Sofie have been my two best friends. Both of them females. Sofie was a dutch shepherd who died at age 10 from cancer. Jinx is far younger, also a victim of cancer. Both dogs were my best buddies, my bed bugs and the light of my life. Funny how certain dogs can do that to you. I have dogs I work, dogs I love working, but only a couple that have been elevated to this level. I do a much better job these days of understanding what things the dogs value, and what things are important to me and my ego.

I had shoulder surgery last Tuesday. I'll miss several competitions I would like to have been at, but the fact is, the world won't end with my absence. My dogs would just as soon have me home with them, anyway. The first couple of weeks are the worst because I can't do anything with the dogs so far as training. I can cuddle and give belly rubs, so Jinx is still in fine form. And I can dish up her food and pills. Tom has to take care of the crew in the kennel and here at the house, however. Dogs in, dogs out. Dogs fed, dogs picked up after. Plus watching after me. The poor guy will really appreciate his hunting trip in December! Christmas is coming and that is my favorite time of year. If I started a year in advance, it wouldn't be enough time for me to properly prepare because I would surely leave something to the last minute, but I have so many projects to finish. One thing I would like to do is to have a photograph taken with Jinx, possibly to use for our Christmas card. At the Referral Center there are photographs in the exam rooms of the vets and their own pets done in black and white, and I think something like that would be nice.
Every day I want to celebrate the gravy. One more day that was given to me to use with purpose, not to waste. Maybe a contact or two where I had the power to make the difference in someone else's world, or to cheer them up. One day to see the sunshine and not the bare trees, or to celebrate the graceful silhouette of the trees. Celebrate the gravy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ridley meets more of the family

Little Ridley met two more family members today: Roya and her son, Bart. Roya is Cooper's mother and Bart is a full brother, from a previous litter. Because she had not been exposed to other dogs and seemed suspicious of their intentions, I have carefully introduced Ridley to new adult dogs whom I know will be good with her. It wouldn't do at all to have her meet a new dog who acts aggressively toward her and reinforces her opinions, so I do not take her into pet stores or (never, never, never!) to a dog park. If all goes well, she will learn how to understand and speak appropriate dog body language and will not react aggressively.

She met Cooper and adores him. Next she met Arec, the Small Munsterlander and she likes him, too. He outruns her and doesn't play like Cooper does with her, so she doesn't find him quite as intriguing. Cooper runs in circles around her, engaging her to play. She met Pre, a young male malinois, within days of coming home and his enthusiasm was too much for her! He threw himself into an exhuberant play bow and when his front legs slapped the ground, she gave a shrill little half-bark, half-shriek. She was brave enough to follow when he moved away, but the face to face was a wee bit much for her at that time. Still, he was not aggressive toward her in any way that would leave her with a bad impression.

So today it was time to broaden her horizons and meet two more adult dogs. Ridley lacked exposure with adults, and if she does not learn how to respect them and respond properly she may start unintended fights. The time to learn those lessons is before she is big enough to fight rather than submit. Roya is a wonderfully patient teacher of puppies. Bart doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Ridley accompanied me to the kennel, where I let Roya and Bart out. They came tearing out into the grass, chasing and leaping and Ridley jumped right in. She did not show the hesitancy that she originally did when meeting new dogs, so that is good.

I took the gang of three for a walk (me: walk, them: run, run run!) around the property. Ridley chased them both, and jumped on their heads when she had the chance. I was surprised with Roya's patience, as Ridley made growly puppy noises and bit at her.

Apparently it did not cross the threshold to requiring action, Roya ignored it and Ridley stopped. Go figure. I have seen Roya squash devil puppy antics by pushing her shoulder into them and laying on them until they cease resistance, and I watched Cooper do the same thing to Ridley last week. But today, Ridley was allowed to be a puppy and none of her behavior rose to the level of correction. I called the three of them to me and fed them and also threw food on the ground. Wisely, Ridley did not attempt to guard the food or challenge the big dogs for it. And the big dogs both knew this striped squirt was no threat, so they just ate what they wanted.

It was a good walk, and a good lesson for Ridley.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cooper earns CGC at EWWBK

Last Saturday I loaded some of the crew and headed to Rosendale, where the EWWBK held a CGC and training day. Although the weather outlookwas bleak on Friday, Saturday actually turned out to be a nice sweatshirt-weather day. There were probably half a dozen dogs there for the Canine Good Citizen test. My dog, Cooper, was among them. My Search and Rescue team requires their canine team members to have a CGC, and I do it with all my dogs. It is a basic test that is easily in reach of any dog, no matter the age or size and is well recognized. It demonstrates that a dog can be a good citizen of the community, not aggressive to people or other dogs when accompanied by the handler. As simple as it is, it is still nice to hear the words "you passed". With that evaluation you receive a certificate from AKC and can order special collar tags and even a patch for your shirt or jacket. Minna Nousiainen-Becher put together adorable gift bags for the participants, with Halloween decorations on the front and doggie cookies inside. I think they may have been from Two Paws Up bakery, as they were those cute iced, decorated doggie cookies. I know, because they smelled good and I gave one a nibble just to sure it was meant for the dog!

The club-- or Klub, as it is called officially-- also held a Halloween costume contest. I forgot all about it until the last minute, and then time and lack of creative thought got the best of me and I didn't bring a costume. I wish I had, as there were some cute ones there. Those present got to vote on the winners and the winners also got a special gift bag. They served a delicious lunch, as well.

After that, we did a little training for the afternoon. I took the opportunity to practice the same things I was working on at home with Cooper, so he could see that it is really just the SSDD. (anyone read Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher?" SSDD) I have taught him to run blinds on the down field side and so we reinforced that and the little man did it perfectly! Ran one blind, with a catch in the middle, then the other, then two blinds. We worked on a couple other exercises and he gripped well, worked hard. It was a nice addition to his CGC day. Little Ridley came out, as well, and got to visit a new location and to do some biting play. She is showing improvement every day at finding her comfort level with being in new places.

The end to a perfect day was attending the Green Bay Gamblers "Caps for Cancer" game that evening, having them win against the Indiana Ice 3-0 in a shut out and purchasing my favorite player's jersey in the auction! And now, for your enjoyment, some hockey photos. My favorite player this year is Anders Lee, who is from Edina, MN. I forgive him for being a Vikings fan so long as they win games.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cooper- the little boy is growing up

Cooper is growing up! Oh, do I love that dog! It is hard not to make comparisons with other dogs but we inevitably do. Cooper turned two years old on July 30th and for the longest time I thought he was just a puppy-head. At some point, he turned a corner and all of a sudden my puppy had turned into a wonderful young adult. In disaster work, he is more focused and thoughtful than Jinx. I have always compared Jinx to the energy of a shotgun blast with bird pellets-- shot flying everywhere! She would run out at a hundred miles an hour, without stopping to focus on where she was going. Ladder? Why climb when I can just jump to the top! Cooper, on the other hand, takes direction well and is so willing to try anything I ask. He is sociable with dogs and people. And he is one handsome dude! Our obedience isn't quite where I want it for schutzhund competition but it will be there by next year's trial season. We started as a puppy with the Knut Fuchs methods, between the legs, and so I have very nice position. Cooper is very fast. His grips as full and hard and I am looking forward his career. He is a Nico van Neerland son, and I think he looks very similar to his father. I predict that once he is out and competing, people will be asking for Cooper vom Foxtal puppies....

My name is RIDLEY

I have a new puppy. Her name is RIDLEY! And Good Lord, look at those ears!! I've looked and looked for something I liked that had more size and also great hip scores. I had been supposed to get a pup from Ridley's breeder last December, but only one pup was born and it died shortly after birth in a litter sired by Titan. In the meantime, I found Izzy, who stole my heart and then broke it when it turned out her hips were horrible. So, when Sam Reed called me to tell me that Elka had three female pups and it so happened I was supposed to be in Connecticut at the same time the pups would be ready to go home, it was game on!
I wished that there had been 10 boys and 1 girl but I was willing to look and see if I liked any of the girls. Elka has the BEST PennHip scores of all Dutch Shepherds in the database. And I really want that. Again I made a choice of a puppy that I wouldn't recommend to someone else. There was little communication as the pups grew. No photos, no video. No Volhard puppy tests.
No contract to sign. On the plus side of the column the parents had PennHip scores and the litter is UKC registered, and the pup was up to date on shots. No tattoo or microchip. I did not get to see the parents work. And the pups had not been exposed to the wide variety of things I do with my own litters, even to the extent that when placed on grass, only the pup I chose felt confident enough to move and pursue. They were on concrete in their kennel and on the deck, but apparently not anywhere else.
So, as I said.... I wouldn't recommend this as a selection process! However, Ridley was totally focused on biting the towel no matter what environment she was in. We carried the pups to a weight room they had not previously visited and she continued playing tug. When the tug was "dead" the other puppy was bored and left it to explore while Ridley guarded it and continued to interact. She also showed a natural retrieve. When I dropped my big ring of keys, she ran to it and carried it off, playing keep away with the other pup. I decided that I could work with that.
She had never been in a crate, but after only a couple whimpers she never whined again during our 20+ hour journey home. And no messes! No anxious drooling or worry. She got out and potty and played at the rest stops and was an excellent traveler.
On our first vet visit she weighed 16 pounds. I had her microchipped and she gave no indication that she even felt it. whoa. high pain tolerance! She wasn't thrilled with the vet and even at her age will growl and bark. She has issues with suspicion she has to overcome, due to her lack of exposure. I have a couple months of intensive work while I can still imprint, so will drag the little munchkin everywhere with me!
It took me the first week to really create food drive. She tended to pick at her food and leave it, so that changed immediately. Now she is very food driven and will take food from strangers, even if suspicious. The world was big and scarey but between the food and the prey drive, she will go through anything. One lesson she has had to learn is that jumping on me and randomly biting is not acceptable. She would throw a little hissy when restricted from something she wanted, or just try to get my attention, by flinging herself at me and biting. NOT acceptable. The first time she got her little muzzle whapped she sat and licked it and looked puzzled like "THAT never happened before!" Slowly but surely, she is learning.
We take walks around the property where she is exposed to different terrains and covers and the sounds of nature. Today I threw her toy into the tall grass and the weeds and she showed very nice hunt drive. She has terrific prey drive and when I am carrying the toy she has intense focus as she looks up at me. But the hunt drive is so nice to see. I restrained her and threw the toy into cover and then released her to find it. She couldn't see it with her eyes, and I could see her working the scent. What a delight! I was very pleased with her persistence. She did not give up and come to me to fix things for her; she kept searching until she found it.
She thinks Cooper is pretty cool and likes to play with him. It's funny, she will chase him and play, but when Pre gave an enthusiastic play bow, slapping his front legs to the ground, it startled her and she yelped! But here she is in action with Cooper, her pal.

At the very least, I will have an interesting lesson in what can be overcome in lack of early socialization. The window has not yet been closed, so I think we can get it done. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jinx update

I don't cry any more. The punch line to that is "I don't cry any less" but that isn't true. I've come to terms with Jinx's illness to the extent that I can now appreciate the days and moments we have and not dwell on what we'll miss. I got the prognosis the first week in September and here it is October 18th, so we are a month and a half into it. The vet felt that Jinx would have approximately 2 months before the tumor invaded her spine, if it hadn't already. The symptom would be that she will start to stumble on her rear feet. I have not seen that yet.

I do look. I wonder sometimes if today will be the day I notice it. As I write this, she is laying on her back next to the couch, trying to catch Tom's eye to scratch her belly. She is doing that because she came to each of us to try and convince us to go to bed and we refused. She gets along well on her three legs. I think she may be dropping the injured leg more and sometimes it drags in the grass but not enough that it is causing abrasion yet. So far as treatment, she is only getting 1/2 deramaxx each morning for pain along with 2 chinese herbs pills twice a day, as prescribed by Dr. Strickfaden. Every two weeks she has a biocom treatment, to keep her energy level up. Jinx seems to be in good spirits. Sometimes she insists that she should go somewhere with me, and I take her. It is important to her -- and us-- that she remain the centerpiece to our daily lives that she has been.

At night, she is a bed hog. Sometimes now, however, she will scoot herself over and place her head across my chest. She presses it there and will move as close as she can. Finally she will lay her head on the pillow and go to sleep.

I am feeding her raw patties, along with kefir. When I returned from CT she looked FAT and I wondered how that could be?? As it turns out, there was a kitty conspiracy in my absence. Kia chewed a hole in the bottom of the dog food bag so that it spilled out and Jinx could clean up the loose kibble. Jinx would never tear open a bag herself, but if it just happens to be on the floor, what is a dog to do??

I whisper to Jinx that she can be my Miracle and some days I convince myself it could happen. She ran down to the schutzhund field on Saturday and showed off her change of positions, her repertoire of tricks (actually only two: lay and sit pretty) and she did a revier, bite, out. She carried the bite pillow up to the house, pushing at me and shaking it fiercely. I like to be able to make her happy. If we can make it another few weeks, we are already in the plus column. I think we can.

Cooper and the FSA that wasn't

We trained in preparation for the October 11th FSA (Foundation Skills Assessment) that was being offered by the CT USAR TF. They were offering a CSS (Canine Search Specialist) course but at a price of slightly over $1000, I opted not to attend. I have already attended two CSS courses, one at College Station, Texas and one at the same location in CT. There was a problem with communication, and apparently no one else was interested in testing and the night before I was to leave, I contacted the host and was dismayed to find there was NO TEST. Crushed. Disappointed. Angry. All those things ran through my head but I was already packed, and had also made arrangments to look at a new puppy while there. So I elected to remain positive and was offered hope that perhaps they could still put a test together for me.

I have a wonderfully supportive team, and they scrambled to put on a pre-test for me, as is required, and even to be there the morning I left on my trip to offer one final training session.

I drove straight through, stopping to let Cooper out and sleep a few hours in rest stops. Illinois oasis's are dirty and scary. Ohio has the best, with multiple offerings for food, very clean and well monitored, with good potty areas for dogs. Pennsylvania ranks highly, as well. New York has little pull-in gas station areas just off the road with no real area to rest or potty dogs. I was so blessed with good weather for my trip! Had I been traveling one week later I would have been driving in snow and rain and that 20 hour drive or so would have been purely miserable.

Once I arrived, there was still a minute chance the test might occur. On Saturday morning I showed up and learned there would not be a test after all. Instead, I spent the day training with the group there. I was able to watch the "Focused Scenting" exercises being taught by Konnie Hein and Elizabeth Kreitzler, which is their USAR adaptation of the Randy Hare detection exercises. It was quite interesting and I can see the application. Cooper was able to work on the agility elements and do a couple rubble sear ches, so it was all positive. He traveled well, eating and pottying on the road, and working once we arrived. Those are all important aspects to a dog you will expect to go on the road and work whereever you land, whether it be in schutzhund or other dog sports, or USAR. Various people expressed anger over the lack of a test and I chose to view it as a "glass half full" rather than the reverse. I had a good trip, Cooper traveled well and we got to train, so to Cooper it was all very good. If I wanted to be angry over the whole thing, it would have made for a miserable trip and potentially damaged relationships with people who may be evaluating me in the future. Do you think I have STUPID written on my forehead?!!

I am pleased with Cooper's progress and he will only get better with the time we have before the next test. I am so happy with his work and how he learns and firmly believe he is on his way to being a great dog. My team members are going to try and put together a test in the spring. I wish I could have gotten his FSA done and out of the way, but it was out of my control. Why waste energy on something I can do nothing about. Instead, we will keep training and knock the socks off our evaluators when we do test.

Friday, October 2, 2009

all things considered

All things considered, we are all doing well.

Jinx is still with us and I am grateful for each day. She is in good spirits and happy, even though she negotiates on three legs. It took me quite a few tears to get past the grief stage of her cancer. Just the mention of her name, or someone inquiring how she was doing would set me off. I am better now. Slightly. She visits Dr. Strickfaden at Countrycare in DePere for biocom treatments every two weeks. They are so good to us there. If Jinx should take a turn for the worse and we need to get in sooner, there is a note in her chart to squeeze us in. It is acts of kindness such as this that mean so much. She gets one half a deramaxx with breakfast and chinese herbs twice a day. Not bad. At first, we let her eat what she wanted and Tom liked to treat her with Frosty Paws but at our last doctor visit I noticed she had added approximately 10 lbs! yikes! Ten pounds wouldn't be such a big deal, except that I know it puts additional stress on her good leg, so she is back on a diet. I'm trying to hide it, though, by feeding her raw meat patties with frozen vegetables and so far I think it's working. If we are going somewhere and Jinx wants to go along, she goes. It's all about keeping her happy for as long as possible. She came down to the training field during our seminar with Greg Doud and took some sleeve bites, happily carrying the sleeve all the back to her bed in the house. The following week I took her with me to disaster training in Milwaukee where she would have jumped right on the rubble pile to begin searching had I not called her! Instead, we did the bark barrel exercise and she barked with the same intensity and focus as she has always had. I can't fix her, cure her, but I can make sure whatever time she has left is good.

I took Quinn to the North Central Regional Championships in Harris, MN a couple weeks ago. He earned another SchH3 title, his 11th. 87-91-90. Quinn did not give me his best in tracking; in obedience he was at his 100%. He was correct in the exercises except for being slightly crooked in two returns. Other than that, it was primarily a case of the judge wanting to see more speed in the exercises, and Quinn simply isn't going to be faster. In protection he was one of the few dogs to actually run the blinds properly and his guarding was close and intense, barking was continuous. There were a couple bobblies in secondary control where he made the return to heel slightly ahead of heel position, and then flinched on the escape, jumping ahead prematurely. Because he had injured his leg, prompting a visit to the othopedic specialist since I am sooo gunshy now about such things, we did not train for two weeks preceeding so he wasn't as clean on those things as he would have been. His other point deduction was in slow outs. I did not have to give a second command, but he did not immediately release and lost points. I was happy to earn another SchH3 but really had hoped to at least place on the podium. It was funny, in a way, in that 5 or 10 years ago I would have been thrilled with scores in the 90's but now I want V scores! My expectations have changed. I had to do a little self evaluation, however, and really ask whether I should continue to campaign Quinn just to earn more titles? I do want to earn our FH, but knowing that he is trial wise about letting go and not going to score higher in many areas, despite our best efforts, I have to question whether pursuing schutzhund is for my ego or his benefit? Fernando Dosta was working dogs after the trial, helping Lisa Geller prepare for her MR Championship. I decided to work Quinn on him and see whether Quinn might have a new career in Mondioring. He asked Lisa, "so how old is this dog?" "7" "and he is a schutzhund dog?" "yes, 11xSchH3". Ferndando apparently thought he would give a couple leg bites and be done with my foolishness. He told me to post Quinn and he would deliver the bite and if Quinn didn't do that, well, then there was nothing more to be done. I had told him that Quinn had a foundation in suit/leg work and exposure to accessories but I'm sure he wrote that off as novice blather! I posted, he presented, and I gave Quinn his leg command and he hit that suit, pushing into the grip and turning his head properly. I think Fernando was surprised. We did have an electric collar on Quinn as I had said that if I elected to change sports, I was not going to exchange one "out" problem for another, and that from his first exposure "out" would mean "out" on the first command. Quinn remembered his down/guard position between the legs, and bite again when the leg was presented. So then Dosta directed me to send Quinn to the blind, saying he knew Quinn knew that but that he wanted to see the transport. Quinn had a tab on his collar and Dosta said I might have to hand it to him, as "many schutzhund dogs will bite the arm if I reach". I told him it I was quite certain he could take the tab but I would hand it to him if necessary. Well, it wasn't. Dosta moved out of the blind, with Quinn transported and then biting when be tried to escape. Next, Dosta directed me to send Quinn to jump the agility tunnel to a bite. I think he expected Quinn would land and then go back up to upper body, but he did not. He came in and bit the legs. We repeated that four times, with me calling Quinn back to me, over the tunnel to a tug bite. (I had forgotten my whistle!) Dosta told me that Quinn had the foundation for the work and that it would not be difficult. And that was that. I know Dosta is a world-class decoy and all that, but I really expected more props for the schutzhund dog!! haha!! At any rate, what I noticed was that I think Quinn was smiling!! He seemed so happy, and his tail was straight up in the air! That was more joy than I have seen in his schutzhund work lately, so I think we will pursue his basic MR titles. What the heck.
So the good, bad and ugly of Quinn is that we earned another title but found a new career.

Cooper and I are off to Connecticut next week, to take his Foundation Skills Assessment test. We did our pre test last week, and had some rough spots but Cooper is showing great promise. He is so agile and driven in his rubble search, and a monkey on the agility elements. I think he is further ahead than Jinx was at his age. With all those other things going on to tax me physically and mentally, things have caught up to me in the form of bronchitis. I started feeling sick when I got back from the Regionals, and hit the wall a few days later. This has set my training behind with Cooper and I hope to feel well enough to make the trip. My journal writing has taken a back seat to all the "doing". Maybe when I get back and things slow down I can get back into the regular routine of writing!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bringing Jinx Home

I brought Jinx home yesterday, after the final consultation with the neurologists. They wanted to amputate her leg today, but I opted to bring her home and take a minute to breathe and talk to Dr. Jay. The diagnosis was Peripheal nerve sheath tumor of the caudal right brachial plexus. On the MRI I could see the mass, which was described as "a contrast enhancing lesion at the level of C7-T1 vertebrae, 5 cm ventral to the spinal canal in the right brachial plexus. Although the mass is not invading the spinal canal, they were surprised to find that, since she showed delayed responses in the rear. Prognosis is fair if clean margins are achieved, however, tumor cells may have seeded away from the main lesion and recurrence is possible within 6 months to 2 years. All the literature indicates that this type of cancer does return, and usually within a short amount of time, the median being 7.5 months.

Jinx was anxious when they first returned her to me, which may have been the result of the anesthetic; she finally relaxed when we were about an hour down the road. Poor baby. they shaved her sides for the ultrasound. That is one part I hate. I hate seeing her shaved. I've seen too much of that. I called Tom and asked him to pick up some hamburger and cottage cheese, since I knew she would be very hungry but not able to tolerate rich food. She wiggled all over when we got home and gobbled up the food, licking the residue in the dish to be sure and get every last morsel.

She slept in her usual spot on our bed, nestled in the space between Tom and I. This morning she crawled to me and placed her nose to my nose in typical fashion, breathing me in and waiting for me to get up. I, of course, reward this behavior with nose kisses! She got a breakfast of cottage cheese and hamburger with another deramaxx chaser, but still seems abit sluggish.

I talked to Dr. Jay, who has been trying to reach the DVM from UW to get further information. He confirmed that my research on peripheal nerve sheath tumors is correct; it does not have a good prognosis. I am waiting now to hear back from him in regard to the conversation with UW and then will have more decisions to make. My first was to simply get Jinx back home and surround her with love. Right now it is unthinkable to me to consider life continuing without Jinx. I know it will; I know it has to. But I truly cannot imagine not having her there with me when I sleep, never having her poke her nose into my face or smother me with tiny kisses of her tongue, or just BE there with me. For me. I prayed hard that this would have a good outcome. I know God could cure her. I'm not so sure why he didn't. I know loss and I know pain, so do I need to learn those lessons again? I'm not quite sure how to consider this but I am not alone in having loved a dog and had to make a difficult decision. I try not to feel badly about having forced Jinx to walk and do rehabilitation exercises, when she was struggling with cancer. I just didn't know it, but I feel so, so sorry for causing her any unnecessary pain.

I kept a private lesson appointment this morning, and it did get my mind free for a short time. I can't spend every hour crying but it is so hard to look at her and know that she will not be a part of my future. She IS (I cannot say "was") the NC Region Schutzhund 2 Champion. She has her Mondioring 1 title. She is a Type 1/CE disaster dog. She is a loving, talented dog. She is the best dog I have ever owned. I never imagined I would be saying goodbye to Jinx ahead of some of the other dogs in the kennel who are getting up in years. I question how long I can continue to hurt my heart with the loss of my dogs, when it just gets more difficult.

Today is the anniversary of the death of my father in law, Joseph Krsnich. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of his wife, Janis. Jinx was Joe's favorite dog. For reasons known only to him, he called Jinx "Tricksy" and asked for her visits. She even visited in the hospital, performing her tricks for the residents and sitting next to his arm for petting. I like to think that when it is Jinx's time, she will hear Joe call "Tricksy!" She wont' recognize Eros, my patrol dog, or Sofie or Mitsubishi. Or Tom's old lab, Arlie. She wasn't friends with Aryan but she would remember Kilo, the hairy dog. Hero, Shari's German Shepherd, will have stories to tell about his days of living on Glendale Street with us, as well and I'm sure they will all greet Jinx and show her around. It brings a smile to my other-wise tear stained face to think of all of them running with the health and exhuberance of youth, no illness or injury shortening their strides. The only thin missing is me and one day they will meet me at the bridge, as well.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. And Jinx. For now, she is here with me, sleeping on her dog bed in the living room. I will wait to hear from Dr. Jay and determine what comes next. I only wish none of this was so.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hope for Jinx

Jinx and I are at the UW-Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Well, actually Jinx is at the hospital and I am nearby at a hotel. My head hurts and my face is swollen and blotchy from crying, as I struggle to find rays of hope in this situation.

As you remember, Jinx has had a difficult year. First, the emergency surgery for pyometra. She recovered to pass her Type 1/CE test with flying colors as a disaster dog. In the fall, she started showing a slight limp and when the vet could not elicit a pain response to help diagnose, I was told to continue with our regular training and not rest and she earned her SchH2, becoming the North Central Region SchH2 Champion. The limp got worse, and she was ultimately non weight bearing on her right front leg. It was when we reported to the Animal Referral Center for an MRI that the vet, in one last exam, found the origin of the problem and Jinx underwent surgery for a near complete tear of the medial glenohumeral ligament. We thought the worst was behind us and that Jinx was on her road to recovery.

Things seemed to be doing well. You saw our photos of her rehab appointments, and she had been walking and improving in the water therapy. Since it was warm enough to walk outside, we transitioned to walks on the trail and around our property. She would put her foot down when reminded to "walk" and seemed to be making good progress, walking several miles at a time.

Approximately three weeks ago, Tom suggested that we rest Jinx a day in between walks as she seemed to be excessively worn out and would want to sleep the next day. And then she stopped using the leg entirely. I first noticed when I let her outside to go potty and instead of returning to the porch, I saw her laying in the yard. Jinx has never just lounged in the yard on her own, and this was unusual. I could not longer order her to use the leg. It simply was not a possibility, and if I picked up her rear legs, she would collapse. And then, the kicker... our goddaughter, Eeva, was visiting and accidentally brushed Jinx's foot/leg as she walked past and Jinx was on her doggie bed. Jinx ROARED. Had it been any other dog, that roar would have been accompanied by a bite. I had already made an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon again, but this sealed it. There was a big problem.

The shoulder post-surgery was stable. No problems there. I had Jinx in muzzle after seeing such a dramatic pain response, and it was a good thing. Pressure over the shoulder area resulted in a distinct pain response. Poor Jinx would look at me over the edge of the muzzle and her eyes would get wide and I could hear her swallowing hard. She yiped loudly on pressure. Bone cancer was the concern, so they Xrayed the shoulder. Nothing. They suggested I make an appointment with a neurologist and get an MRI.

In the meantime, I had several appointments with the holistic vet whom I fondly refer to as "the witchdoctor" for her use of Biocom therapy and the tensile that looks like a magic wand. In our first visit all she got was "Pain! Pain! Pain!" through the shoulder and down the leg, in the joint and the brachial nerve. Since she was clearly in pain and our appointment at UW was not for another week, we started Jinx on deramaxx. Within 12 hours, I swear I could see a smile on her face! It was clear that it offered her relief from pain and moved from depression to a more similar version of her happy self. Still resting alot, but happier. On the second visit, the pain was no longer masking the location and the vet said that the indications were that the pain was now high in the scapula area near the spine, in the thoracic spine area.

I clung to the possibility that further tests would reveal a magic diagnosis that would allow Jinx to work again, or even just exist without pain. Both the orthopedic surgeon and the holistic vet noted that her right leg was a hindrance and mentioned amputation, but for various reasons. Not finding bone cancer, the orthopedic surgeon considered the possibility of brachial nerve tumors. I didn't want Jinx to be on three legs, but if that was the solution to have her pain free, I was accepting of it... but only after I was sure that was the proper way to proceed.

Today we met with the neurologist. Actually, a neurologist, an intern and two students. All women. They all handled Jinx with respect and care, talking to her sweetly but without that overly careful tone of suspicion that some vets use, which actually serves to create suspicion in the dog. With their greeting, I was very hopeful. More hopeful than I have been for over half a year. They asked if I would like it if they could get Jinx back to work. Wow! I hadn't considered that might be an option! For a moment, I let myself be carried away by that possibility. Then they examined her. I had noticed that the knuckling on her front right was much worse, even to the extent that she would occasionally bend it over at the pastern. But how did I fail to see that problem had extended to her rear? When they lifted first the right foot and then the left, placing the foot in the knuckle under position, she was unable to right either foot.

Various other pinches and pops with the little hammer, and even my untrained eye could notice the impaired reactions. The phrase "peripheal nerve sheath tumor" has never sounded so harsh and cruel, and so belittling of the great strength of the dog it resides in. I was able to listen and ask intelligent questions until we reached the part where they advised that, if that was indeed the problem and it had progressed to the spine as was being indicated, it would not be treatable with chemotherapy. She would have two or three months and could be managed on pain medications. This was the conversation we had prior to any tests. So final.

I left my sweet baby at the hospital. How horrible it was to walk down that hallway, leaving her behind. They called this evening to advise that the Xray and abdominal ultrasound showed no masses. No surprise, as that isn't where they think the problem is, but wanted to eliminate that. So it is on to the MRI tomorrow. And I am here in this stupid hotel room, within walking distance of where my Jinxy is sleeping without me, when she should be here on the bed. She should be here iwth ME. She should BE. She should BE. Damnit all, she should BE!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

back to the drawing board

Quinn and I ran our FH yesterday and did not pass. Initially I wrote that we were "unsuccessful" but that isn't true. Quinn approached his track in a happy state of mind and the judge commented that he was a "dog who likes his handler". He did not pay any attention to the cross track which was layed to cross the first and third legs, apparently contrary to the rules but that was the best location. Jessica Levin, who is a waif of a thing, laid the cross track so it is entirely possible Quinn dismissed it as a bird walking across the track! I also experimented with feeding him prior to tracking (Science Diet ID, since he tends to get "loose") in the hopes having something on his stomach would prevent grass grazing, and that apparently was a good choice as we had none of that occur.

Tracking was held at a sod farm near Sun Prairie. The area we were in was a harvested area, with strips of weeds and bare, hard ground and then strips of grass. The other schutzhund dogs had tracked in the lush, squishy grass. darn!!

None of the three FH dogs passed, but frankly, that doesn't make me feel any better about our own failure. It just means none of us were properly prepared. One of the other competitors dismissed her dog's performance to the fact that he had been bred the previous night. But unless it ruined his sense of smell, that is a silly argument. If I say "track" then we "track". I have trained my dogs around bitches in heat and they understand that a snootfull of girl is no excuse not to work.

At any rate, I had high hopes for our track. Quinn started nicely, and crossed the expanse of harvested sod and onto the next piece of grass. However, the track made a right turn in that hard soil and continued and I had not trained properly for this. I had practiced crossing stuff like that, so of course, Quinn continued straight ahead and then check back and forth on the grass as if to say "okay, so where did it go??". He completely missed the turn. Judge Nikki Banfield was extremely patient and granted me more time and help than I probably would have given someone else. Quinn searched and searched and finally came back to me. My heart sank there as that is one of my biggest pet peeves; a dog who quits. But I could tell, he was totally lost. Risking the consequences, I took a couple steps in the direction of the turn and encouraged him to keep working. He did!! He followed that track but although I could see it, he did not seem to be committed to the scent as I was keeping him more on track than his nose was. He then missed the next right turn. He gave no acknowledgement and just did not pick it up on his search, once he recognized he had no scent. It totally surprised me.

I had made arcs in the deep, plowed dirt where I practiced but never turned on the harvested area. Contrary to my instinct to rest Quinn for a day before the event, I ran one last track on Friday because I was worried about the dirt. I made it very rewarding and figured he would certainly be able to work his way across it in the trial. arrgghhhh.... poor planning= poor training.

The judge called the track at that point, which I absolutely understood. She said that I could finish the track if I wanted, for the experience, and I did that. That was very nice of her. I kept a close line and offered alot of verbal encouragement and we worked our way to the end, where he got a well deserved belly rub! I had opened his can of sardines for our ending and although I had intended it as a celebration, he still earned it, and so he was treated for his hard work when we got back to the van.

So it's back to the drawing board for us. Accomplishing the FH and FH2 is my goal, and Quinn is a good tracker. I do need to work on making his corners more precise, and making turns in difficult cover or surfaces. He has ignored cross tracks, but I won't neglect that aspect. One thing that I like to do when I have other people along is to have them walk 5-7 feet to the side of my track and cross it randomly. I know where it goes straight ahead and so there isn't a question and especially if I have them walk up-wind of us, it teaches him to always follow the scent he is started on and not just follow a wind borne scent. I also have people walk with me when I run the track BUT this judge walked almost next to the dog and that did throw some of them. Quinn rolled his eyes at her once at the start but after that didn't seem concerned, but it is one more thing to add to our tracking regiment. With consistency and practice, we WILL earn our title. But Quinn is already a success, in my eyes. After all, he puts up with me!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

T- 1 to FH

Today is today, so I'm not even counting it. Which means there is only one day until Quinn's FH. WOW! Now I'm starting to get nervous! Frankly, once the track starts the only thing for me to do is to follow my dog, so I actually have the easy part on trial day! Tracking is going to be on sod and dirt. The conditions we have trained in have been much more difficult than sod and I haven't been able to get him into much dirt, so I hope we negotiate it successfully.

There aren't any lesson plans that I have found on preparing for an FH, but I pieced together other words of wisdom to come up with a plan:
Al Govednik once said to make excessively long legs when training for an FH and head for the next farm.
Greg Doud said to train with more difficulty so that on trial day the dog has a cakewalk in comparison.

From my own trial experience, I have found that when I have trained for standard, regulation-sized tracks, in the national level and even regional trials there are so many entries that the tracks suffer in length and so you have to exercise caution in having the dog *assume* through repetition that a track will actually proceed the regulation length. More than once, I have been surprised by articles not where they should be, by turns just after an article, etc. I think it tends to throw the handler more than the dog, but that can run right down the leash, especially if the handler believes the dog must be wrong!

I find that diagramming your track is critical, so that you can follow your progress and also ensure you don't get lazy with your turns and article placement and become predictable. Mix it up. Right angle turns, scent circles, 5 step, 3 step, serpentines. Place an article after a turn. Make a turn from an article. Linger on the track and create a hot spot where there is no article. Alternate your reward locations and your reward sources.

Despite these "best laid plans" I have found lately that the tracks I intend to be fairly simple, have, through circumstances, become the tracks from hell. I only hope that makes Quinn a stronger tracking dog! I have had to trust him in more instances, and allow him to problem solve to find success. I think that if a dog is taught with force he may not trust himself when he gets into trouble on a track. I want Quinn to think that HE can search and be successful without my help. Anyway, I digress.

Since I am aging Quinn's tracks for 3-4 hours that means I usually lay them, and then go to breakfast. Then Sue returns with me and lays her track and finally I run Quinn's. We returned to run one to discover that someone else had apparently been there while we ate and laid a track across mine. Quinn has been good about ignoring cross tracks, but in this instance he turns onto this superhighway of ground disturbance and I had to encourage him to get back to work on his own track.

Another day, I laid was was intended to be a track with multiple turns and a road crossing, but not aged as long and not challenging other than that. It was at a local county park. I knew there would be plenty of scents from the weekend activities but as I started out, I discovered a hearty game of football or catch had occurred as the grass was smashed and turn with imprints of bodies. I simply baited a little more to make sure Quinn was rewarded for working through all the scent. I found a pair of sunglasses lost in the glass. Then a beanie baby. Clearly, lots of activity had occurred there! Moving out of that area, I crossed the outfield of the baseball field, making a sharp double back turn. At the far end of the park I crossed the main gravel road of the park, crossed some grass, and then crossed the walking path several times.

Well, the track had been down about 1 1/2-2 hours when a family pulled up at the far end of the park near by road crossings. Two children, a dog and a mom got out and proceeded to walk over my track. The children raced each other back and forth across my track. The dog ate his way along the bait left to reward the successful crossings. As if that wasn't enough, the mother decided she had to use the bathroom and walked across the entire remainder of my track to the shelter building and back again. I pointed out that her dog was eating my bait and explained it was for tracking, in case she wondered what it was doing. Even as I explained, she denied that HER dog would eat anything from the ground. REALLY??? I guess when she saw what it was actually doing, she packed up the kids and dog and left!! I was now worried about what ugliness I might encounter, but the tracking gods weren't finished laughing at me. It must have been lunchtime, as a parade of heavy equipment and an ATV made two passes down the gravel road, once again decimating my road crossing. But do you know what? Quinn worked that track like a champ!! I couldn't believe it! He carefully worked through the plethora of other scents, following mine and made all the turns and road crossings! At that moment, I had the greatest confidence in his ability to do an FH.

Yesterday we worked at the sod farm. My goal was to lay a cross country track negotiating multiple terrain changes. Not terribly difficult other than that and road crossings. It moved from short grass to plowed dirt, to harvested sod dirt (REALLY hard and dry) back to grass, crossing the road to grass, then through harvested sod, grass, plowed dirt and back to grass. Naturally, it couldn't be that easy. After I chased the sand hill cranes away, a flock of geese landed on my track. While we at breakfast, it rained. And it ended up being aged much longer than I antipated because Sue needed to get her track run first. Sooooo.... he worked through the first part beautifully. Oh! I forgot to mention that we also tracked through a burned area next to the ditch! Anyway, that was all good but he overshot the turn where I crossed the road. He did come back, search it out and make the crossing. Had some difficulty in the second plowed dirt area because I walked in an arc and the scent was carried down the furrows. I did have to help and encourage him to be successful there, which makes me a little nervous about our FH, but the track was so old and so long at that point that I could see he was pretty tired. We ended with a series of articles where he could get food reward on the grass.

I have tried to alternate complex turns with those long, long conditioning distances. Areas of food, and areas of no food but with opportunity for reward at the articles. I guess we will know on Saturday whether we are on the right track. Today he gets the day off and tomorrow I will do a short, rewarding grass track and be done with it. I WILL resist my impulse to lay some crazy cross country test and leave that for Saturday.

Wish me luck!