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.