Thursday, March 26, 2015

Speaking of Changing the Environment--

SUMMARY: Yep, blog appearance changed.

Just felt as if, like other things in my life, it's time for a little change. Dang, should've done a screen capture of the previous format. C'est la vie.

So here's a capture of the new format. This should look freaky.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Clearing Away

SUMMARY: It's not that I don't want to remember Tika--I do--but I don't want things ambushing me everywhere I turn.

After she was gone, I started right away in clearing away everything that I knew would sucker-punch me in the gut if I were to see them.

In the first few days, I:

  • Picked up, washed, rolled up, and put out in the garage all the extra carpets that I'd purchased and gradually spread more around the house to help her get to her feet or stay on her feet. Most she hardly ever had a chance to use. I hadn't realized how quickly she was declining that last week when I bought several of them.  
  • Oh, and peeled off all the sticky reusable carpet holders, washed them in warm soapy water, and put them back into their storage box after they dried.
  • Emptied her weekly pill minder and hid that away. 
  • Offered all her meds to my agility club (most, no takers), so bundled them up--along with all the specialty foods and samples and baby food (lots of jars) that I had bought for her and dropped them off at the shelter.
  • Removed the carpet stair treads that she never used. (Took me four times longer to remove than to install--that was most excellent double-stick tape.)
  • Took her leashes out of the car and the front hall closet and put them into the garage for storage.
  • Likewise her food dish.
  • Washed the harness that a friend loaned us over 2 years ago for temporary use.  Not sure when I'll be seeing the friend again, so it still hangs in the laundry room, where it, yeah, sucker punches me every time I see it. I suppose I should package it up and mail it.
  • Cleaned out the special quilt and harness and water dish for her sleeping area in the car.
  • Took her ramp out of the car.
  • Gave the other 2 dogs what was left of the baby food and snacks that she didn't finish the last couple of days and tossed the rest.
  • Have been working at emptying (by feeding to Boost and Chip for meals) all the fractional bags of kibble that had accrued because she has been picky about kibble for so long now--a year? more?--and I'd rotate through a variety over a week or so. So far I've emptied 12 bags of various sizes, have almost emptied another. Have 5 additional open bags and one unopened one that I bought that last week because it was a new one to try.

I can't put away or dispose of all the places and times and actions that hit me suddenly when I encounter them.  I open the garage door after coming home, and there are only 2 dogs, and I wonder where-- oh.  After 2 years and 4 months of dispensing pills and treats every morning and every evening, no breaks ever, suddenly that ritual is gone and I feel an emptiness about that time every day, or when I think, Wait, did I give her her med.... oh.

When there's no dog lying on the back porch in the cool evening air.

When I think that I should go check on her to make sure she's OK.

When I pull out the bully sticks and give out only two.

When I can take Boost and Chip for a walk and don't have to make time to take her for her own, slow, walk. Wish I did have to make time for it.

When I pull out the treats and she's not instantly there, obsessing about how to get me to give her some.  The other dogs are not nearly that involved with their treats.

Noticing the ribbons and championship poles and plaques on the walls and remembering that they're almost all hers. And we'll never ever do agility together again, or anything.

So many things.  Crap, I didn't think that this would all make me cry, but of course it does.

I have been looking at photos of her, evening after evening after evening.  I think that maybe I'll pull out a big selection of them and make a slideshow. And then I think that I couldn't stand to do so.  But I can look at photos. As long as I remember to remember how much fun we were having and to not remember that she...


Chip is lying here with his head against my arm. Warm.   Boost is dozing on the floor near my place on the couch. They're good dogs.


Oh, Teek.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

She's Done With It

SUMMARY: Now doesn't want to eat anything.

During the afternoon, she happily ate most of two Girl Scout peanut butter sandwich cookies (a few pieces at a time, spread out) and probably a large handful of Zuke's minis (over 2 or 3 opportunities).

But she's now refusing the ground beef "soup" or even the broth or the meat separately. And the baby food chicken. Ate one Zuke's just a little while. Took four more into her mouth, then gently laid them back onto the floor.  Didn't want any of the fish or rice that I cooked for myself. Doesn't want peanut butter sandwich cookies now.

I wanted to give her fun things to eat. Hope that they're not actually the cause of her feeling worse--but I don't know how this works.

I just can see that she is, now, pretty much done.  I hope that someone is available to help us on tomorrow morning (Monday).

Ice Cream

SUMMARY: A tiny treat, a few licks and small bites.

For pretty much her whole life, Tika has eaten standing up. It's as if she couldn't eat while lying. Now, the last 3 or 4 days, it's all lying down.

Also, in the very old days, when she was done eating... oh, wait, she was never done eating. OK, in recent months, when she was done eating (yes, there'd be food left), she'd turn abruptly and go out the dog door. That was her clear message. Now, in the last few days to a week, while eating lying down, that's not an option, so she-- well, OK, hold on a moment:

OoooOOOH, that MIGHT be interesting, if you'd stop taking photos and actually give it to me.

Oh YUM! Nom nom nom.


Really? Are you sure? Do you want some more?


Holding Steady

SUMMARY: Sunday morning, first day of Daylight Savings Time.

Despite the fact that I slept fine Friday night (except for waking briefly to check that she had made it into the house, which she had), I didn't sleep much last night. Cried a lot. Coming to the conclusion that it will be kinder to send her on her way than keep her here breaks all the dams.

It's so hard to know with dogs. If I were in her state--aware, intelligent, able to eat, could go through the doggie door on my own--well, you know what I mean--but otherwise in a failing body, I don't know whether I'd want to continue.  I don't mean failing in any random way (I'm thinking of Steven Hawking, of course), but in this way, with organs failing and looks like no hope of recovery.  I applaud the right-to-die states that make it legal for someone with a fatal illness that's nearly done with to take a painless way out instead of a long drawn-out agony. Would my friend with cancer have chosen that as the last weeks came and everything fell apart? I don't know.

Anyway, Tika's about the same this morning. Mostly just lying there. Not going towards the light, yet.

Had some "beef soup" eagerly, but again not a lot.

However, she was delighted when I started tossing her pieces of my English Muffin Sausage/Cheese/Egg Sandwich. But-- she wouldn't move if I missed my toss and it was just out of reach, instead just staring intently at it until I came downstairs and fixed that.

(The other dogs gladly move around when there is food afoot for Tika.)

I've said through most of her life that, if Tika had a bowl of food and a squirrel ran past, I don't know which she'd choose. She had a very strong prey drive, and yet she loved loved loved her food. More than any other dog I've had, I think. (And, oddly enough, was one of the pickiest eaters I've ever had, which maybe ties in to how picky she's become over the last year or two.)

So--she is aware--watches me, sometimes, when she can, especially if I have food, but usually doesn't move anything but her eyes to do so. She is intelligent--still can "shake" and "touch" when asked, even if lying down, and just Friday I think was the last time that she was standing up enough for me to ask her to do Right and Left and she did. And she does still loves food--well, depending on what food and when/how often it's offered.

I don't know whether she's in pain. But her body is so clearly failing her.

I'm going to go try some ice cream on her for size.

It's Almost Over

SUMMARY: My good old girl.

Friday evening.

Message from the vet when I got home in the evening, giving initial blood-test results. Summary: "She's only somewhat anemic but in 90% renal failure." Details for my records:
  • Anemic: 36-60 is normal and she's 30.
  • Kidney measurement 1 (didn't catch the name): Normal is 6-31; in September, she was 78; now is 125
  • Creatinine: 1.6 is high normal and she's at 3.1
  • Phosphorus 6 is high normal and she's at 9

Vet should have rest of tests back Monday and we'll talk then.

Tika ate a whole jar of babyfood turkey, quite a few Charlie Bears, and--something I haven't tried in a while--maybe a quarter of a stick of string cheese (don't want to give her too much dairy at one time). That's a good "meal", one of the best in the last 3 days. Even if I do have to break it up into small servings every 20-30 minutes or so. She's still walking around on her own when she *has* to.

But--Tonight was the first time in her life, other than when she was out of hearing range, that she didn't greet me at the garage door when I came home. Just lying there on the carpet and panting. I have tears.

She has kept on going way beyond any predictions ("2-3 months") when the heart failure was discovered that ended her agility career (Nov 2012). Good old sweet noisy talented annoying clever now-skin-and-bones Merle Girl.

Saturday morning.

She wanted to be out on the lawn when I went to bed. This is normal, except that before now, that would be the back porch. Lawn usually during the early evening.

I didn't leave the sliding door open although I wasn't sure whether she'd be able to get through the doggie door on her own.  I woke up at half past midnight and went down to check on her. She had moved inside onto the carpet and was sleeping soundly, so I guess the dog door was fine, so I left her alone and went back to bed.

This morning, was in a different spot than when I went back to bed, so she is moving around on her own, just oh so rarely. I did insist once that she stand up (I'm leaving her padded harness on all the time now so that I can haul her or help her to her feet as needed) to be sure that she still could stand, but she went right back to where she'd been.

Her gums were pink again this morning, so ... intermittent anemia? Could be: Internal bleeding. Sporadic failures of the heart to pump enough blood. Random other things.

I cooked up a batch of ground beef, added a bunch of water, and gave that to her--I think that she's not drinking much now, so more liquid the better (except, oh, yeah, yesterday she was still insisting on drinking out of that rancid pond out there, walking right past the water dish)--and WOW she was absolutely delighted to make the acquaintance of Tika's Special Beef Soup.

Saturday evening

I left the house for a few hours after that, and then the rest of the afternoon and evening, same things--she laps/eats eagerly for a very short time and then is done again. She's not getting tons of food or liquid this way.  I added minced cooked green beans later to her Special Beef Soup, and she didn't mind that.

Still, not eating very much at any one time. Mere mouthfuls, really. Still happy to take a few mouthfuls more 20 to 30 minutes later. Until yesterday, Charlie Bears were awesome, but now they've joined the list of things that she won't eat. Can still walk out through the dog door to the back yard, but now can't remain standing after squatting to pee. After a rest, can get herself standing and moving again if she thinks there's a good reason to, which mostly she doesn't seem to. But still likes to have the ol' ear/face rub.

When I'd check on her, she'd usually be where I last left her--but then she'd suddenly be lying somewhere else. So, very little mobility. She's become like the Racetrack Playa stones in Death Valley: she has moved, but no one sees her move.

I found her at the base of the stairs inside the house twice; she maybe wanted to be closer to me in the living room, but not sure whether she tried to go up and slipped, or just lay there deliberately (or couldn't turn around and so lay down as the only other option).  The problem with having spread no-slip carpets out for her is that now I can't hear when she's struggling.

I don't think this is a good life for this dog.

I will talk to my vet Monday morning.

I've got the numbers for a couple of mobile vets who also do in-home euthanasia and I'll call them, also, and talk to them.

How odd--my face is all wet.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Update Post-Vet Visit

SUMMARY: Anemic.

Yes, Tika's breathing is labored as I noticed at home particularly last night. But the doc says that her lungs sound clear, despite still having a lot of fluid in her abdomen. Means that probably the right side of her heart is doing worse that the left side, because the left side more likely causes fluid in the lungs.

Her heart rate is much better than it has been in recent visits--I said that's probably because she's out in the car having the vet check her instead of in the office.

No, there's no sign of infection in her mouth--in some ways, darn it, as we could have thrown antibiotics at it.

When he took her inside for a blood draw and brought her back out immediately, he said that she was very good and probably the sedation contributed--I said, there is no sedation, I didn't give her a pill this time, that's all her deteriorating health.

Yes, her gums are pale. OMG they're almost white this morning; last night they looked pale to me, but not white.  So--very anemic.

And now, back home, I'm realizing that I'm recognizing the symptoms of anemia from when Rem had his cancer and it would rupture and start bleeding out. Lethargy, staggering when trying to walk after first standing up, lying there and looking around as if in a fog.

So we're doing a blood test. It might give us something useful. For example, if her organs are closing down, then that could cause the anemia and there's not much that we can do--it's been a long time coming.

But if all it shows is that she's anemic, we're back to the question of--how much testing do we do to figure out what exactly is causing it? On a 14-year-old dog with congestive heart failure who has outlived her predicted lifespan by two years?

But also, how quickly will the results come in, and will it be too late by then?

Vet says that he looks particularly at four things: Can the dog eat, drink, pee, and poop on their own or with minimal help from me? Then they might not be done yet. But it's becoming an observational game, I think, as in, is her quality of life good?

She has yet to miss greeting me at the garage door when I get home (except when she's been somewhere where she couldn't hear it.) That includes last night, even after not wanting to eat much, not wanting to walk much, and mostly just lying there. One of the other dogs bumped into her, though, and she droopped to the ground-- but, still, she was there.

I'm not sure whether that's enough. As of yesterday, she hasn't wanted to come up the steps to the couch where I spend most of my home time now, so she's a bit isolated--although she was always pretty independent and often spent her time outside or in another room anyway.

Soooooo,waiting for blood test results, some of which might be available this evening.


SUMMARY: Tika not doing well

She hasn't gone up any stairs since Wednesday evening (it's now Friday morning).  Wednesday evening (before yesterday's post), she didn't want to eat much. At a few mouthfuls of juicy canned dogfood. Ate a couple of teaspoons of Gerber baby chicken/veggies. Ate several Treats and several more of a different kind of treat, then vomited up the latter.

To summarize yesterday's food:

Morning: Most of a watered-down tiny jar of baby-food chicken. A few treats.

Evening. The same.

She's moving herself around--she stayed out on a far corner of the lawn last night, and when I checked on her during the night, she had moved inside to the den, near the stairs. Don't know whether she tried to go up and gave up or didn't even bother. I suspect the latter.

And this morning she's back out into the yard.

I have a vet appointment to see whether there's anything obvious like an infection, maybe do a blood test to see what state she's in-- renal failure? Something else? -- it's just that it has been such a fast slide from 2 weeks ago.

My long-time vet (multiple dogs, 30+ years out of that clinic although he's younger than that--at any rate, his whole career spanning a good portion of that) has agreed to come out and look at her in the car so she doesn't have to go in to the vet, which has always overwhelmed her (gave her tranquilizers until recently).  The receptionist told me that he never does that. So I'm grateful, but who knows what he can really check there.

Feeling: Scared.

I love you, Teek; hold in there.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Modifications for Tika, who is flagging

SUMMARY: Floors and stairs

Some amusement and some downers.

Over the last couple of weeks, Tika has had a harder and harder time getting to her feet, particularly on slippery floors. And has been giving me a "you can't really mean that" look when she's needed to go up or down the 4 steps on my deck or split level--and I could see why, watching her going up and down and seeing her feet slip as she goes.

So I've spent a few days poking around at Home Depot and Bed, Bath, & Beyond looking for solutions that are useful but not too drastic or expensive to help.

New treads for the steps up the deck leading to the doggie door and kitchen:

After I installed those, Tika put her foot on the first step, took it off again, and glared at me. Still, she managed to accept the change and to continue to go up and down them on her own.

On the stairs between my office/den at ground level and the main floor:

I figured that she needed these carpet mats only on one side of the stairs and I could continue to walk up and down the side with the railing. When she started to go up the carpeted side, she glared at me, veered off to the slippery tiled side, and slipped her way up to the top.  Maybe I should've gone with the light-colored one even though the colors and pattern were uggghly.

Dinette floor (doggie door feeds in here, and this leads into the front entryway where I have additional carpets that I already had, and from there into the carpeted living/dining area):

I decided to go ahead and get a 5'x7' gray carpet and some new runners with light rubberized backing to which I added sturdier no-slip backing. She seemed to be OK with that, as the next morning she was sleeping on the gray carpet when I came downstairs, instead of on a bed or the little mats that had been there before.

However. I hope that it's not in vain.

Her appetite has flagged more and more over the last two weeks. I began to worry when she started refusing her Guard The House Goodie (a Milkbone treat) over the last week. She went from eating nearly 2 cups a day of kibble just 2 weeks ago to eating less and less of anything. I thought that maybe it's because I stopped going for walks (with her or anyone) during February--before that, I'd been walking her slowly for about half an hour about every other day for the previous month and a half or so.

So I vowed that I'd start walking her again. This morning, she seemed semi-interested in going for a walk, but hesitated in the doorway. I encouraged her. Hesitated at the top of the porch stairs, and again I encouraged her. Walked very slowly down the driveway, staggering a bit. (She has been doing that off and on for maybe a couple of months, but so much more yesterday and this morning.)

We got past the house next door, no sign of sniffing at anything or looking at anything. Then she just abruptly collapsed. Head down. Didn't want to move or raise her head. I knelt next to her and petted her for a while. Wouldn't have been so bad had we not stepped off the curb and been in the middle of the street just around a blind corner. Nice choice, Teeks.

I finally convinced her to stand (by hauling up on her harness) and we walked very very very very slowly back across the street and home. She collapsed as soon as she hit the back lawn and didn't move for an hour.

Today, she doesn't want to eat anything. Ate two treats that are a tiny bit bigger than Zuke's Minis. And gradually, over an hour, a small jar of Gerber chicken baby food, watered down so that she could lick it up.

Won't eat anything else so far that I've offered her. She NEVER turns down treats. Until now.

She finally did come into the house, but just barely--I left the downstairs door open into the office, and she walked in just far enough to be on the carpet and lay down there. Hasn't moved since that I can see.

I stand (sit/lie) corrected: I just checked, and she did move a couple of feet from where she had originally lain, and was sleeping until I walked through to adjust the door. Her head came up, eyes bright, ears perked. Head down again when it became clear that nothing interesting was happening.

She has been on the down side of this roller coaster ride before over the last couple of years, but I think that this is the lowest dip yet.

Oh, come on, Teek, pull it together--I just did all this footing stuff for you; you need to take advantage of it! Pleeeze.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Twin Beaks -- The Hummingbird Saga Part 1

SUMMARY: Originally posted on Facebook (and ongoing); reposted here for posterity and those who aren't on FB.

Feb 6, 8:23 a.m.

I guess that I shouldn't fret so much over my hummingbird. I mean, if she weren't living on my porch, I'd never know one way or the other what happened to her. But her nest last year blew over twice on the decorations on which she built it,and then she gave up. She moved over a couple of feet, but it's on a precarious end of a wire and it's sooooo windy out there..... Fret fret fret even though really there's nothing I can do about it. I did so enjoy watching her 2 previous years worth of twins grow up.

Feb 7, 9:40 a.m.

The hummer nest survived this storm--and I'm SO glad because this morning I caught a glimpse of her feeding a chick! (She has always bred pretty early--I'll have to check my previous years' notes to see whether this is even earlier.)

Feb 9, 9:02 a.m.

Struggling with a hummingbird possible tragedy.

I've been so worried about the hummingbird nest--so windy and it's been looking as if it's tilting slightly. When I first came downstairs this morning, I looked out at the nest. Mama hummer not there, but not unusual for her to go look for food.

I happened to glance down and there was a tiny piece of something on the carpet underneath--I bent down, and it was a baby! Crap! I touched it gently and it moved--still alive! It was very hard to pick it up (and it struggled in its very tiny underdeveloped way) as it has very long, thin claws that had become tangled in the carpet fiber (and this is a very flat, tightly woven outdoor carpet). I was afraid I'd break something so I was as gentle as possible. We're talking a baby who's just about the size of a finger joint and delicate talons thinner than a hair!

Managed to pick him up, got up on a stool and gently tried to tumble him into the nest--but I'm guessing that his claws must have gotten caught on something because I could see him above the edge of the nest struggling and struggling. I can't see into the nest--it's only a few inches from the ceiling. Mama came by briefly and I could see her feeding--I don't know whether she has one or 2 babies this time, so don't know whether it was that baby. She then sat on the nest for a minute or so, doing something very busily--I'm guessing that she was trying to get him better adjusted. But I can still see his little back about the edge of the nest, and if his tiny claws are stuck higher up, where his back is still exposed to the weather and he can't move around, he may be doomed. I don't know what to do. :-(

Feb 10, 8:45 a.m.

Oh em gee-- I really should just let things go their own way and not worry so much. Remember I said yesterday that the tiny tiny thing that I held in my hand looked like it nearly filled the nest? Well, I forgot this one thing about hummingbird mamas: Once the chicks get to a certain size, she no longer needs to sleep there to keep them warm and won't fit anyway! So apparently the little guy fell out at just that point in his life. He is alive and well this morning!

I'm still not entirely sure what's going on--is there another chick in there under him somehow? what's the bare spot on the lower right--can't tell what body part I'm looking at there. The feathers don't seem to be going in the right direction for him. And as I've also noted there have always been twins before. Well, if there were twins and one is still there, I'd say that it's a goner. I don't THINK there is, but I can't make out what's visible here.

But, anyway, here you go--a hummingbird chick that's just a bit more than the size of my finger joint and growing like crazy daily.

Feb 11, 9:02 a.m.

Hummer twins! All is right with the world!

Feb 12, 8:48 p.m.

This is this morning's photo--2 babies hanging out in their slightly tilted nest.

People asked about their size.You can see how the nest is listing to starboard.

Hummer update: For those watching this soap opera, I really do have to warn you that this might not turn out happily.

Thursday evening, Feb 12, just got home, and *&*@#, one of the babies is on the carpet again!

Yes, again one has fallen out of the nest. Again I have to disentangle his tiny fragile claws from the carpet, and this time he's struggling mightily, too. I don't know whether I've hurt one of his feet as he struggles. I gently dump him into the nest from my cupped palm, and he starts to fall out again. I catch him and then I ever ever so gently try to hold him upright between my fingers to drop him in feet first, and he lets out a tiny fragile high-pitched squeak, which I've not heard from the babies before.

Oh, lord, I hope that I didn't kill him--their bones are so tiny and fragile! But he's in the nest, gasping for breath from the terror and hopefully not from pain. Then I did some rebending of the wire near the nest again, trying to get it straight--and SO scared I'm going to break the wire. An hour later, still seems to be in the nest. But I can't check them all the time--so I fear for the worst long-term.

Feb 13 9:00 a.m.

Friday morning--two chicks still in nest but apparently aren't speaking to each other.

Scary--now I'm leaving town for 3 days. Who will check for babies falling out of the nest while I'm gone? No one. Sigh.

Feb 16 11:27 a.m.

The latest drama from Twin Beaks--The Hummingbird Saga: I left town for 3 days, and what a delight to look up this morning at home and see this!

This cracks me up.

Not a great photo (i'll try again later). But you can see the start of the green irridescent feathers on the nearest one. (Does the farthest one look a little scraggly? Not sure. Definitely calls for a better photo later.)

To be continued--

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Agility weekend come and gone

SUMMARY: It was the best of times, it was the not best of times.

I did it again. Agreed a couple of months back to drive down to Turlock for 2 and a half days of agility to work the score table, because I love going down there, despite my better judgement telling me that it was a bad idea.   Waffled all the way up to closing on whether to try entering Boost in a couple of things again as long as I was going anyway, but since I'm still not running, decided not to.

I thought it would be a good weekend, anyway, seeing good friends and doing a necessary job, plus they have that big fenced back field in which Chip could run around and meet lots of dogs and I could play lots of frisbee with Boost and Boost could get to run after other Border Collies playing frisbee, her favorite game, and Tika could wander around sniffing at things to her heart's content.

Here's what really happened:

I thought Tika was going to die right on the spot, all weekend.

Boost got only about 3 minutes of BC chasing, although we did get a lot of frisbee together.

Chip did not run at all. And got to meet only a couple of dogs only briefly. And mostly ignored me when I did let him off leash. And hated being in the crate for such a long time.

I sat, and leaned, and adjusted, and stretched, and supported, and made all kinds of awkward positions of my body, and got more and more and more and more sore. And so tired and sore that the preceding post of Chip was the only photo I took at the trial all weekend.

Today, home again, I am very very very sore.

And that is because (a) Sitting is a very very bad thing for me to do, and I know it. I can't even work full time as a result. But surely it would be different at the score table, since I hardly have to do any writing at all, just a quick few marks on each scribe sheet, and I can stand up any time I want. Ha!

(b) I just forget how many things have to be lifted and carried to & from the car, and set up, for an agility weekend. And I forgot how much more lifting and carrying Tika's condition entails--getting her in and out of the car by lifting her or by lifting & setting in place her ramp, then taking it down, then putting it back, then taking it down, then putting it back... etc.

(c) And how much bending is involved in having dogs in crates & like that.

(d) Not realizing that having Tika restricted to a crate in the car all the way down and then all day would really tighten up her entire body so that she had a terrible time trying to stand up and then half the time couldn't stay standing up after she got up. Walking--"just a little walking" around this site was way way way way too much for her. She slumped. She sagged. And I had to work to get her up and keep her moving. She refused to eat much of anything for two and a half days.

Oh, right, she ate people food mostly ok.

The hotel room looked cheap--broken safety latch on door, plaster coming off wall, laminate coming off the table. I paid extra for microwave and fridge and didn't realize until I arrived back at the room at 10pm with my leftover dinner that there was no fridge. And, oh, when I made the res online, they forgot to mention that there's a pet charge. $10 per night per dog. For 3 dogs, 2 nights. Are you effing kidding me? They did agree to charge me only one night's fees, but I'm done with that place. ("We've always charged a pet fee." "Oh, no, you haven't, because I've been staying here more than a dozen years, and I didn't used to pay a pet fee.") Compare and contrast to the Disneyland Hotel two weekends previously. (Oh, did I not get around to posting about that yet? Heh.)


Weather was gorgeous. Mid-70s F (23ish C) in mid-February, can you believe it? Near-record temps for the dates.

Friends were wonderful to be around.

And I had a great show on my way home.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dog notes of shame?

SUMMARY: Or not. Chip. Really.

"I ripped a hole in the door and tore the zipper of the brand new softcrate that mom put me in this weekend [ELF notes: see background] and then ripped holes in her ground mat [lower right] after she locked me up in a borrowed wire crate. And I'd do it again, dammit!"

Friday, February 06, 2015

MUTT MVR passes a milestone

SUMMARY: 200,000 miles! I can hardly believe it!

Here it is!

I pulled out at the Moffett Field exit, perfectly placed for the obligatory many-zeroes shot.

And, for history's sake, here are links to some previous ones:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Past and Present

SUMMARY: Dogs in front of the hot tub.

Update Feb 6: Additional photos

2002: Tika, Jake, Remington

Check out Tika's tipped-over ear tips! That pretty much went away very quickly and they went upright, with one tending to tip backwards.  Look how comfortably they're all sitting--these are dogs who are extremely accustomed to sit-stay!

2015: Tika, Boost, Chip (better arrangement of dogs and better poses than the one I originally posted)

2015 again: Love Chip's expression!

2015: Tika, Boost, Chip (the original photo I posted)

Tika now can't sit very comfortably and not surprisingly kept standing up (this is her in the process of getting up already, even though she was the last to be seated, and hence put her ears back as she did so).   Boost looks like she's accustomed to sit-stays although she's nearly doing the border collie vulturing thing.  Chip--was very concerned about why I wanted him to come over and why I wanted him to sit, and it shows a bit. But I did get his tail on the same side as Remington's!

I took a bunch of shots and this was the best. Might try again with chip closer to the camera and to Boost.  Never satisfied--

Measles vs Disneyland

SUMMARY: Idiots don't vaccinate, and now we have this media frenzy and what could be a health catastrophe.

A personal journey into measles--

November 2009:
Friend comes from Australia to do Disneyland. We make plans to meet again in 5 years and do it again.

Jan 2015:
Tickets are purchased, plans are made, friend arrives from Australia for the first time since then  specifically for that planned Disneyland trip. But braces yourselves--

From AP:

"While still a scourge in many corners of the world, measles has been all but eradicated in the U.S. since 2000 because of vaccinations. But the virus has made a comeback in recent years, in part because of people obtaining personal belief exemptions from rules that say children must get their shots to enroll in school."

From AP, Jan. 23, 2015 (that would be yesterday):
"A major measles outbreak traced to Disneyland..." [starting in mid-December] ...[has sickened 70 people, most traced back to Disneyland.] "To control this latest outbreak, those who are not vaccinated were warned this week to stay away from Disney theme parks."
"Disney employees who have no proof of immunization and may have come into contact with sick colleagues were placed on paid leave until they are given the medical all-clear."

From CNN, Jan 22:

Forty-two of the state's 59 measles cases since December can be linked to initial exposure at Disneyland and the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California Department of Public Health officials said. 
Since Friday, California's public health department had been saying the disease linked to Disney was over. 
But on Wednesday, Kathleen Harriman, chief of the Vaccine Preventable Epidemiology Section for the state public health department, said the most recent case was diagnosed, in a park employee, on Sunday. 
This outbreak, health officials said Wednesday, is ongoing.
Read more:

From USA Today:
A quarter of the patients in this outbreak have been hospitalized.
Measles is damaging and deadly. From the Immunization Action Coalition:
The 1989–1991 measles outbreak in the U.S. resulted in more than 55,000 cases and more than 100 deaths. In the United States, from 1987 to 2000, the most commonly reported complications associated with measles infection were pneumonia (6%), otitis media (7%), and diarrhea (8%). For every 1,000 reported measles cases in the United States, approximately one case of encephalitis and two to three deaths resulted. The risk for death from measles or its complications is greater for infants, young children, and adults than for older children and adolescents.
From a friend:
"Measles is THE most infectious disease known."
From the IAC again:

How contagious are measles, mumps, and rubella?
Measles is highly infectious. It is primarily transmitted from person to person via large respiratory droplets. Airborne transmission via aerosolized droplets has been documented in closed areas (such as an office examination room) for up to 2 hours after a person with measles occupied the area. Following exposure, more than 90% of susceptible people develop measles. The virus can be transmitted from 4 days before the rash becomes visible to 4 days after the rash appears.

 And IDIOTS continue to not vaccinate.  Back to AP:
The vast majority of those who got sick had not gotten the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine.
From the CDC:
"You do NOT need the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) if you had BLOOD TESTS that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella."
Well, that's scary--how quickly can I get a blood test done?

... But wait--

From the LA Times:
 "Do I need a shot if I had the measles long ago?
A: No. "The people who had measles a long time ago, there's good evidence they're protected for life. The only exception to that is if they got it in the first year of life," said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA research professor and primary editor of the Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Virtually all people born before 1947 would have had the measles, Cherry said."

(That last sentence-- wow.  We don't realize how lucky we are that the vaccines were developed.)

From my baby book:
April 26, '62. Came home from school with fever of 102. 4 days later, developed measles rash. Maximum fever recorded--104.5. Back in school after 2 weeks.
From my doc, when I asked about whether I shd get a blood test anyway:
All patients born before 1957 even without clearly documented history of Measles are considered to be immune and do not need any additional immunization.
Well, there ya go, I had it "long ago" (doesn't SEEM like that long ago) and so I shouldn't need a blood test or a vaccine. Guess I'm going to DISNEYLAND!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ranting sadly

SUMMARY: "Balanced training" vs "Positive training"

Update Jan 22 11:30 a.m: List at end of some studies that show the results on dogs and on their relationship with their owners for reward vs punishment-based training.

For all the stuff that I've done with dogs, I'd never heard the phrase "balanced training," which came up in an online discussion. I did some reading via Google. And--what a bunch of uninformed people! Here's one page--

"Balanced" uses both positive reward and positive punishment and seem to believe that negative punishment isn't a valid training method.  Here's their preferred positive punishment method: "startle tactics-- A simple, humane leash and collar correction (which is tight for only 1 second) is given."

SIDEBAR: Definition of terms.

In operant conditioning, you can have 4 types of responses to a behavior (I swear that I wrote this before but can't find it):

  • Positive reward: You give them something that they want.  Example: Sit and you get a treat.
  • Negative reward: You take away something that they don't want. Example: I'll stop shocking you as soon as you Come to me.
  • Positive punishment: You add something that they don't like. Example: A jerk on the leash.
  • Negative punishment: You take away something that they want. Example: Dog jumps up on you, you turn away and ignore them (taking away the attention that they want)  until they put all 4 feet on the ground, then you use positive reward of your attention.
So "positive punishment" means that you are explicitly doing something negative to the dog when they don't do what you want them to. Also called aversives.

(I just wanted to be clear about that.)

From their page--one of the completely nonsensical quotes:
The problem with the all-positive training method is that you can never teach your dog to obey you simply because you are the "pack leader". Touch-free training, clicker training... they all involve coaxing, luring with treats and simply put - pleading for your dog to listen. 
Oh what a complete misunderstanding! I don't plead for my dog to listen! That's no way to train a dog! I give them opportunities to do what I want them to do and I reward it. And I don't need to be pack leader--I just need to be the person in charge like a parent is in charge, and I need to communicate clearly to my dog what I want. And I don't have to hit them or shock them or jerk them around to do it.

Another quote, this about why "balanced training" is supposedly better:
The dog is trained to respond to your command immediately, the first time you say it. That's right! No more chanting the commands (stay, stay, stay....), no more looking silly when your pooch ignores you and runs away." [stating that "all-positive" training causes these bad results]
Holy moly, more crap--I have competed in agility with four dogs, earned multiple championships, and you betcha that I needed a reliable stay so that I could lead out ahead of my fast beasties--I never chanted "stay stay stay"--and that they responded to my verbal commands immediately. I'm also stunned by her description of what "positive training" schools looked like (if you read it). Wow. I'm appalled and sad that someone who doesn't fully understand operant conditioning is training other people the same way (and maybe the classes that she observed anonymously weren't experts, either--most of what she described I've never seen in any of the many classes or seminars I've taken).

Negative punishment in my view is far better than positive punishment. I'd rather ignore a dog that's doing bad things to get my attention and let them figure out how to behave and reward that--now I have a thinking dog who has figured out what he needs to do and will abandon the behaviors that don't work. It's that simple.

What you get out of the training is what you put into it, no matter what method you use. I've come to believe that hurting or jerking dogs is more than just cheating; it's the lazy way of training that also can have negative effects on your relationship with your dog. When I worked at it, my prey-driven dog would call off of a running squirrel, and all I used was treats and praise. No shock collars, no jerking. No "proving that I was the boss/pack leader," just proving that I was more interesting than running squirrels.

As someone in the discussion board said:
In general it's way better to set a dog up for success and reward the success, rather than set the dog up for failure and punish failure. The dog decides what is aversive. If adding something unpleasant (positive punishment) is sufficient enough to make a dog stop doing something, then it was aversive. Some dogs might enjoy a spritz with water. Other dogs might completely shut down. Another dog might not care either way.

A stern "no" might not be a big deal to some dogs. But can be a huge deal for others.
That's why we just set dogs up for success so we don't need to use it.
I pick the things that I'll concentrate on with each of my dogs at different times, it's true. Don't expect perfect angels by your own definition when you meet them. But they're smart dogs and they learn quickly when I apply myself.

Sorry, I think hat I'm ranting. If you can train small children without "startle tactics" or any other aversive, then you can train dogs the same way. And chickens, and horses, and dolphins, and pigeons--  there is plenty of research to prove it.

So, there you go. I've ranted out now.

SIDEBAR: Some research (if you're not already tired of reading) showing that dogs trained with positive rewards/reinforcement tend to have lower stress levels and react more positively towards their owners than punishment-based:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tika Update

SUMMARY: Hanging in there. By a toenail or two.

I've got so much recent history to fill in about Tika, but I just never want to sit down and write about it.

Her endurance and strength and appetite continue to fade gradually away.


She still wants to go for walks. Walks in a slow but excited circle when I get her leash out--versus bounding into the air and racing in circles screeching for most of her life.

Walks about half a mile in half an hour, very slow but very steady. Likes to sniff at things and I let her. I no longer walk her with the other dogs as they have so much energy and she has so little. She doesn't usually seem to want to go home, but I insist. I don't want to have to carry her home, and i have no really good way of telling whether she's had too much.

She no longer pulls on the leash, versus me trying to teach it for months and months and months and then just giving up and managing it for the rest of her life until the last year maybe. (See, if I'd been doing regular posts, I'd know.)

This morning for the first time I thought that she was going to say no. She struggled to get up from her bed, had trouble, lay back down, and just lay there, head down. But I asked again, and she managed to get up and get excited.


She still, sometimes, wants to play, gives it a very slight effort--a playful paw on a toy, or a tiny sort of half pounce--and then it's over.  Poor girlie.

Tricks and treats

She will still do tricks for treats, in fact, begs to be involved if I bring the treats out.  I don't do "Bang!" any longer or anything that requires her to lie down and get back up again, because it's such an effort for her.  But just this evening she did some backing up (Beep! Beep! Beep!) and figure 8s around my legs and back legs on the small wobble board and the usual lefts, rights, shakes, shake lefts,high fives, and Behinds.  Very slowly, but eagerly.


Appetite can be a problem. Some days she wants to eat a regular meal and is happy with some kind of kibble, but that happens less and less often. I've got so many kinds of kibble here, now, and she so seldom wants any of it.  And hardly eats any of it when she does.

She more often wants some canned food, but not very much of it, and probably not the same stuff more than one meal in a row (leaving me with 2/3-full cans).

She always seems to want to eat baby food... but SO expensive! But even that she won't necessarily eat all of.

Always seems to want to eat people food, but not always a lot of it.  Two nights ago she was happy to share a bunch of tortilla chips, but snubbed the hummus (!). Last night she had a bunch of my frozen meal of chicken risotto with veggies but didn't finish all that I offered her, which wasn't really very much. Today, a little diarrhea as a result. Tonight she had a taco for dinner and sucked it down with enthusiasm.


She has to work to get up and down them--but does all the time, to go out to the yard and come back in, and to go down to the office-level of the house and come back up. (About 5 steps in each case.)

However, it had been a long time since she had been all the way upstairs to the bedroom hallway (about 12 steps), maybe a couple of months or more. And I had been thinking that that was it, she'd never come all the way upstairs again.  However, two and a half weeks ago, my sister's dog stayed with us, so there was quite a bit of activity and angst.  I went upstairs to get dressed, and the other 3 dogs followed me upstairs as normal.  Then, cruising in through the bedroom door as calm and cool as could be, came Ms. Tika.  She checked things out and then lay at the top of the stairs in her favorite old location--where she could keep an eye on everything upstairs and down.

However, she hasn't been back up since.

Tired, Old, Depressed, Sore, or Whatever

She spends a lot of time lying around looking pathetic, not raising her head, just watching or sometimes just listening to what's going on. Very un-Tika-like.

She particularly likes the raised bed under the table.  (Not so much the raised bed that's next to the table; not sure why.)  I've figured out that that's because it's easier for her to get up from--she basically walks her front legs off and then works her much-weaker back legs after them.  That is--if her front legs don't slip on the floor and leave her stranded half on and half off.  This is why there are now a bunch of rugs around the bed, to give her front feet traction.  Makes it hard to sweep the floor, though.


If I'm out in the yard, she'll come out, too, and wander around all over, checking things out, then come by for some butt-scritching and other snuggling, then go wandering off again.  For a while. Eventually she lies down and just watches, which would not have been the younger Tika.  But she doesn't go out much on her own.

Still, she does occasionally do a yard patrol. Just a few minutes ago I heard her out there, barking at something that needed her opinion.


I sometimes find that she's been lying in her own urine.  I don't know, though, whether she's somewhat incontinent and isn't aware that she needs to pee, or whether, seems equally likely, that she gets stuck on the smooth tile floor and can't get up.

She can get stuck if her rear legs slide out from under her in the wrong directions. She'll struggle some and then give up for a while.

So I wonder.

Meds and infections

I go in circles, trying to find ways to get her to take her meds without my having to pop them down her throat.  At this point, she's willing to take pill pockets with the smaller pills in them and I just have to pop 2 larger halves down her throat.  I dread the day that she figures out that there are tiny pills in the pockets because then I'll be scrambling again to find some way to get them down her.

She's off the antibiotics, though, yay!  About a week before her 2nd round of 20 days completed, I realized that I no longer smelled the foul infection/decaying smell from her mouth, so, for now at least, that's gone. (this most recent was in the floor of her mouth under her tongue--there was  a break before tha and after the first one, in her cheek. So, hoping there won't be more.)

And in the end

I dunno what'll happen or when. Discouraged about the decrease in appetite in particular.  But she's still my good girl and she's still seeming to enjoying being here in various ways.