Sunday, April 27, 2014

DIY: Outdoor Edition

This weekend we upgraded our landscaping.  It had been several years since we did anything major on the outside of the house and it needed some work.

The driving factor behind this was we had several bushes that looked ratty and/or dead for most of the year.  So with no small amount of effort on Jerry's part-we pulled them out.  This left dirt and holes behind, plus some of our landscaping rock has sunk in or washed away.  So we also needed to replace some of that.

We decided not to go the bush route again and instead bought several large pots to place where the bushes used to be and then filled them with various assortments of flowers.  I like that it added color to the house and looks "neater" than the scraggly bushes but don't like that they will require extra care on my part-hopefully I can keep them alive and pretty!

Here are all the pots...

 And here is how the garage side of the house now looks with its new rocks and new pots!
At the end of winter my phlox were looking really terrible.  Like, I thought they were all dead and I was so sad because I have been waiting so many years for them to really spread out.  But, they are ok and look great.  But for some reason only the purple thrived.  There is just one lonely little pink one in the middle.

 Here is what the front of the house now looks like!
On the back side of the house we had some bushes as well-different kinds.  They didn't do very will this winter and had a lot of dead branches and leaves.  So we cut them back to the ground and will let them regrow.  But in the meantime that side looked pretty bare.  I just loved these pre-made pots at Lowe's so we set a few of those out there to liven it up.  We are actually going to go back and get one more but you get the idea.
 I don't know what these are but I just loved the color combo!
 So pretty!

The rest of these are just some of my various flowers.  Some new, some old, but all pretty!

After we got everything we done we mowed the yard (which is way faster now with the new tractor).  Then it rained and we took a nap.  Did I mention this project involved moving more than 2500 lbs of rock, dirt, and mulch?  Everything hurts.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quality of Life

The quality of life topic was a request and I'm going to lump it in with how do you know it's "time" and other difficult choices.  Although not exactly the same, they are often closely related.  

Determining quality of life for your pet can be very difficult.  And to get myself off the hook I could say that only the owner can really make that call for sure.  And while this is true, it is sometimes difficult for an owner to be objective and unemotional so there are some guidelines I use to help them figure it out.  

As our pets age we can obviously expect changes.  Some of the things we see frequently are decreased or total loss of vision and hearing.  But these are typically of slow onset which allow for the pet to adapt, which they do very well.  Also, these conditions (unless associated with untreated glaucoma, etc) are not painful and for most pets do not adversely affect quality of life.  I often hear people "looking" for a reason to euthanize their pet talking about blindness and/or deafness as one of their reasons, but for me, I don't really think so.  

Chronic pain is one of the other conditions we see in aging pets.  Fortunately there are now many modalities for treating pain allowing for choices in every budget and with many concurrent medical conditions.  Granted there comes a time when you run out of options and pain becomes unmanageable, then you must start to consider other factors and come up with a quality of life determination for your pet.  

Dogs and cats are very good at masking pain, discomfort, and illness.  But generally when I advise owners in determining quality of life I have them think about whether or not their pet pursues normal daily activities and functions.  While we can obviously expect changes like sleeping more, stiffness, playing less, etc. an older pet with a good quality of life should still be interested in eating and drinking.  They should be eating something regularly, even it's not what they have been eating their whole life.  If you need to hand feed, or change foods frequently then it's time to see what's going on or re-evaluate the situation.  They should be willing and able to go outside to eliminate a few times a day. If they can't, or won't, then that's another sign to either investigate or re-evaluate.  Meeting you at the door, showing interest in playing games or going for walks-things they enjoyed when they were younger-are positive indicators, even if they can't play or walk for as long.  

One thing you can not go by is how they act in the clinic.  A pet will often perk up when in a new location, either from stress, excitement, adrenaline, etc.  Just they way they stop limping or itching once in the exam room, a pet who is very lethargic and depressed at home may seem more lively upon exam.  You need to go by what you see at home-this can be hard, but you have to base your decision off the overall condition of your pet.  

Another good suggestion (and I'm sorry to whoever gave me this idea because I can't remember who it was to give them credit) is to use the two jar method.  The idea behind this is you have a "good day" jar and a "bad day" jar.  Every day you put a penny, marble, or whatever, into the appropriate jar depending on how your pet did that day.  When the bad days outnumber the good, then you know you are losing the battle.  

Now for the second part of the equation.  When is it "time" and how far should I go?  We all hope our pets will grow old gracefully and then one day simple fall asleep and not wake up.  I can guarantee you it almost never, ever happens that way.  And of the pets that do die at home, I can tell you that by their condition (when brought in for cremation) that they probably should not have been allowed to pass at home and that it most certainly was not painless.  The ability to end pet suffering is a great gift, but it is also one of the most gut wrenching decisions we ever have to make.  So many people will ask did I wait too long, am I being selfish, is it too soon, could I have done more, or did I miss something?  And while there is no way to make this an easy decision, it can help to think about some of the factors involved ahead of time.

One of the first things I ask when counseling people with an older, ailing, or terminally ill pet is what are their goals?  Some people don't want their pet to ever suffer or even feel sick for a day.  These people will request euthanasia at the time of a terminal diagnosis, or shortly thereafter.  It's not a common request, but it's not wrong either and you shouldn't feel bad about choosing that option.  Some simply want to keep their pet comfortable for as long as possible without pursuing drastic measures.  Others want to keep their pet around for as long as possible as long as discomfort is minimal and quality of life is acceptable.  

When faced with decisions of how and if to treat your pet it's best to consider your individual pet's personality, concurrent conditions and what the treatment will involve. For example a very nervous pet who hates going to the vet and getting poked with needles may be one you don't want to put through chemotherapy for the addition a few more months of life.  A dog with terrible hip dysplasia may not be a candidate for front leg amputation in the case of bone cancer. A dog that is difficult to medicate won't be a good candidate for treatment of heart failure (although I believe if you have a dog you should be able to give it a pill!) It's always best to know what the treatment will involve and what the expected prognosis is when making these decisions.  Just because we can prolong life doesn't always mean we should.  And it's also not wrong to decline invasive treatments like chemo, surgery, and radiation even if your pet is a good candidate.  No one will fault you not wanting to put your pet through something potentially stressful or painful just to gain more time.  But no one will fault for the opposite either.  I have seen plenty of happy, tail wagging dogs receive these same treatments like troopers.  We have great medications to manage pain, nausea and other side effects these days and with more and more research we hope to have better treatments and cures for many diseases making treatment even more desirable.  

A final consideration in determining a treatment plan is cost.  Although not ideal in factoring into the decision, it is very real world.  And it's not wrong to decline expensive medications or procedures based on cost.  I certainly see plenty of young treatable animals euthanized based on expense so declining major surgery on a terminally ill 14 year old dog is not an unacceptable choice.  

This is such a gray topic, with so many factors, and so many different individual situations, but it does come up often.  Hopefully reading this will help people know some things to watch for, and give them some things to think about ahead of time so that decisions are a little less confusing when the inevitable time comes to make them.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Still not much

Same old stuff here. Worked every day last week again. That's really getting to be a drag. 

We have a new application for Reaghan so we'll see where that goes. She continues to be cute. 

Saturday morning we ran the Go Girl 5k. There was also a half marathon option but we passed on that this week.  I must be a better 5k runner than half marathon though. I never get close to placing in longer distances but got third for age group in the 5k, which is not uncommon. 

The cute little flower medal is a finishers medal, which I think it a little overkill for just a 5k, but the little wine glass was a nice touch. 

Then we spent a nice weekend with my family and today was back to work and running!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Recent Races

Last weekend was the Color Run.  My friend Linda joined me.  They staggered the start more this year so the color stations were not as crowded as last year, but we waited an hour and a half to start.  So I guess the goal next year will be to arrive early.  We were in the last wave.

Yesterday we ran the Camp Barnabas half-marathon.  This was the first of my three in three months.  It was warmer than last year, but with the threat of rain.  It did hold off until we finished and had started towards the car.
Not much else going on.  Reaghan's adoption fell through so we are still taking applications.  I'm beginning my quest to collect raffle items for the agility trial.  I also have a $500 budget to spend on prizes.  Which is fun, but stressful because I want to try and get the most for the money and get some good stuff!  It's cold here again.  But hopefully will only last a few days.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Random veterinary musings

Your dog didn't not grow hair for 2 years because it was so stressed out by the groomer. It didn't grow hair for two years because you are not supposed to shave Pomeranians. 

Your dog does not have separation anxiety if she does better when you are not present. 

The importance of dental care for your pet's rotting teeth overrides the fact that it will not like staying in the clinic all day. 

Puppies are a preventable phenomenon. 

Aspirin is not a remedy for diarrhea. 

Charging a lot of money for puppies does not guarantee them a good home. 

Paying a lot of money for a puppy does not guarantee quality. 

Nor do papers. 

Because she is "cute" or "sweet" is not an acceptable reason for breeding your dog. Especially a mutt. 

If you paid money for a mixed breed dog from a "breeder" don't you think they should be able to tell you what it is? 

If your dog "never" goes outside how did it get here? And yes, a mosquito could bite your dog in the parking lot. 

I don't know why your dog is losing weight, that's why we need to do the bloodwork. 

The ailment, whatever it is, is not likely to be caused by worms. Especially if your dog is 12 years old. 

Just because your dog is unsocial, shy, aggressive, or poorly behaved does not mean it was abused.  Usually it just means your dog is unsocial, shy, aggressive or poorly behaved. Do something about it. 

Dogs are not born knowing how to politely have their nails trimmed. The reason you "can't do it at home" is because you didn't train them to accept this. Also, it's not because they were abused. 

Bonus musing...not veterinary related...
Why do you think it's ok for your dog to poop in my yard? Would you like it if I pooped in your yard? If not, I suggest you get a fence. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just stuff

Not a lot of new stuff going on here.

Reaghan continues to be super cute, but also continues to be quite the mountain goat.  She can jump from the floor to the kitchen counter (among other things) like it's nothing.  We're working on it.  But she has an adoption pending so she may go to her new home with this issue.

Legend starts back to Nosework class next week.  We are looking forward to it.  Also looking forward to nicer weather and more daylight so we can start tracking again.

Sunday is the first of my three half-marathons in three months.  I have reached that inevitable point in time where I am wondering why this sounded like fun.

I'm working a lot.  Things look better towards the end of May when I go on vacation.  I kind of hope I don't get a lot of calls between now and then asking for summer dates.  Looking forward to working a little less! But the extra vacation money is nice.

We bought a new tractor this year.  It's red.  We also have some landscaping work to do and some deck improvements this spring and summer.  The neverending joy of home ownership.

So that's about it right now.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The old man

He hadn't driven his car in four months.  The journey from the parking lot to the lobby was a struggle.  But his dog had an appointment that day, and that was what mattered.  "Maggie" was a spunky 12 year old, overweight terrier mix.  It seems she had a few cumbersome growths he was concerned about.  Although likely benign, they posed the threat of interfering with her comfort and mobility.  The old man would like to have them removed, if it didn't cost too much, and if Maggie could handle the surgery.  Then, with tears in his eyes he relayed to us how his wife of 71 years had recently passed away and Maggie was all he had left.  

Fighting back tears of our own, we assembled an estimate generously on the low side.  He had a lot of questions, and it took him a few weeks to come up with the money but he arrived today for Maggie's surgery as planned.  This time he needed his walker to get to the building.  As usual, he chose the seat closest to the door and we attended to him at his seat.  He waited while we ran some blood tests, to make sure Maggie was healthy enough for surgery.  It took many assurances that we would take good care of her, and an equal amount of promises to call as soon as surgery was over and he made his way back to the car.  Where he sat and cried for several minutes before heading home.  

I'm happy to report thatMaggie's surgery went very well.  Both of her tumors were successfully removed and she was bright and alert in no time.  We made sure to fit all her medications and costs into the promised estimate even if it took some adjusting.  

When they called to let Maggie's owner know she was awake, he cried again.  But this time tears of relief and happiness.