Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Chink in the Armor?

I'm not sure if it is a good sign of starting to heal or just a harbinger of the next stage of grief but there was a definite chink in my armor today. For the first time, I stopped wallowing in my own self-pity and looked at someone else to feel some compassion for their plight. I've always thought that one of the best ways to heal is to reach out to someone else in need but haven't been able to do so this time. I hate to admit it but I've had such horrible thoughts running rampant in my head like wondering how it is fair that a friend's dog that has cancer is still feeling great months after I diagnosed it or resenting that another friend is depending so much on me to watch her dog that has a terminal illness while she is away on a trip of necessity. I was asked to promise that the dog would live until they returned to which I replied honestly that I couldn't make that promise but only that I would take the best care possible while the ugly thoughts were running around in my head that I couldn't keep my own dog alive what makes you think I can do better by yours? How is it that I can find all these nasty diseases in friend / employee pets and somehow those pets have all lived longer than the last 3 of mine that were lost? My heart screams that it isn't fair but I know that I am wrong to feel that way.

I'm sure that those who don't have the multiple pet household that I do have wondered why I have said so much about the loss of Rusty in comparison to the others. It's kind of hard to explain unless someone has been there. I love all of my herd. It's like having several kids, you know each one intimately and love them all equally albeit not in the same manner. As many of you commented, Rusty was my "heart dog." Much like special needs kids have a special place in their parents' heart, such is the way with special needs pets. The other thing that factors in, weird though it may sound given that he was 16, the loss was so sudden, quick, and unexpected. With Choo Choo, Stormy and Ellie, not only did I recognize that they were aging but they also had at least one disease process that I could point to with a name that I knew was terminal. It was much like the difference in losing my grandmother versus my brother. With Ma-Ma, she was 93 and had many health problems that were clearly progressing thus allowing the grief process to begin before the actual death. My brother's death was sudden, quick, and unexpected; although we knew he had a severe health issue there was no indication that he would die at that time. Gracie was a little different because she was also sudden, quick and unexpected but she came so close on the heels of Ellie I think I was still somewhat shocked therefore the blow was softened in an odd way. With Rusty, I had just done a senior work-up that showed nothing abnormal so the sudden onset of the seizures or syncopal episodes or whatever they were was very unexpected and the fact that it progressed so rapidly left me not even knowing which way to turn. I had not even managed to work out what was going on much less the best way to treat it...

I'm not sure how I feel about this chink. In some ways I've been enjoying the numbness; putting on a nice mask for those around me and functioning in a way that fools them as to what is going on deep inside. Not that taking that course is exactly new for me which is probably why it is the easiest to fall back on during this time. Almost like being in a catatonic state and there is definitely a part of me that resents the attempts to awaken my sensibilities again. The other part that knows I cannot continue to practice vetmed in such a state is tentatively probing the wound and the chink. My hat is definitely off to people who live through major calamities such as loss of an entire family or live with cancer, etc. while still maintaining compassion for others. They have a lot more guts than I do.

On an entirely different note, I'm trying to get Can'tSpell to do a post about her nutty dog, Keegan, with a link to a recent article about a dog that ate $10,000 worth of diamonds. It would be a funny and cheerful post for a change that y'all would enjoy... If she doesn't, I'll try to do it at some point soon.

The last puppies that I wound up finding, Guess and Maybe, have grown like weeds; I refer to them as the "horse puppies." At 8 months, Guess was 81 pounds. I need to weigh them before their heartworm prevention this month in case he's topped 100. They have finally slowed down in both their growth as well as their food intake and now are using their brains for the forces of evil, to steal a phrase. The other day, they dug a hole about 6 inches deep right in the narrow part of the walk in their fence then covered it with an old plastic bag they dug up from who knows where. When I came in the fence they then tried to herd me into the hole... They probably figured that if I fell in they could keep me there for a long time. Guess's dentistry work turned out really good. His mandible was too narrow and the lower canines were sinking painfully into the upper palate. The dentist made an inclined plane (okay, multiple inclined planes over the course of a few months since Guess kept finding clever ways to remove them) with the result being both canines were moved outward. The bite is not "perfect" but is comfortable. The unfortunate result is that Guess has now decided to catch up on all the chewing he missed out on as a teething pup... I would post pictures but I can't keep them still enough to get a decent one. Maybe is built like a greyhound and about that size but is black with odd splotchy patterns of tan and white here and there over her body and face. Guess looks like a hound with floppy ears that stick out a little to the side of his head and is blue merle with tan legs and eyebrows that give him a look of perpetual surprise. They have selected Tag as their hero and copy him in everything that he does which is funny because when he was the foundling pup, Bogie was his hero and he did the same thing. In fact, that's actually how he got his name; we had gone through several ideas none of which seemed to fit until I saw them running through the woods one day. Bogie was a Chow / Afghan hound mix and had long flowing black hair with a huge ruff. He was trotting along with Tag beside him holding to the ruff with his mouth; instantly he became Tag-A-Long.

The rest of the crew is doing well and definitely enjoying the cooler mornings with a little less humidity. Sam tried to run and chase the Nut and Scout when they were playing the other morning. It was cute to watch him do his little old man run.

There is a relatively new product that I discovered with which I'm very impressed. NurtureCalm collars for cats and dogs. They look much like flea collars and are impregnated with pheromones that calm anxiety. I don't yet know the extent of their efficacy but I snagged a couple of samples at AVMA to try. Since putting it on, I've not had to give my thunderstorm anxiety dog, Flower, any medication and she typically required valium, ace, and ProQuiet during a storm plus would usually still be shaking and hiding some. The collar plus a ThunderShirt are all she needs now during bad storms and the collar alone is enough for mild ones. Also my cat, Lil Gray Mouse, who has always been excessively timid and shy is now out and interacting with the other cats. It has really made a difference for those two and, for me, is a much better alternative than drugs not only because of fewer side effect risks but also because of the practicality of catching the cats to dose. On the side effect note, a client that tried it on a very small dog with storm phobia said that the dog acted drugged and behaved oddly although not scared by storms. Upon removing the collar, the dog returned to normal activity within 2 days so apparently it can be too strong for some individuals. I need to notify the company about that one since I found no comments on potential side effects in their literature. It seems to take 2-3 days for maximum effect but where it works, it's amazing. The other story that impressed me was the dog one of my employees was keeping for a friend that had destroyed multiple crates, dishes, etc. in her home then suddenly was a model dog after putting on a collar...

That's about all for me other than the usual struggle with work, problem employees, problem boss, and problem clients. In reading other vet and M.D. posts though, I know I'm far from alone in that part. I suppose that misery really does love company, right?

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