a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: February 2003

Friday, February 28, 2003

It's Evening And We're Going To Turlock

Remington's no worse. Can't tell whether he's better. Wagged his tail gently and did a play bow when I got home and again later when we went out to the yard to play dog games. Didn't really want to play, though. Last night he slept well--no gag/coughing, no restlessness or lying in positions indicating discomfort.

Enjoyed his chicken-and-ground-beef dinner. I wouldn't describe it as scarfing, but he was definitely pleased to have it, ate steadily, and landed soundly on Tika when she tried to sneak in to pick up some scraps off the floor next to his bowl.

Vet said I could go out of town and wait for something to happen or I could stay home and wait for something to happen, and the outcome would probably be the same. She said, if Rem enjoys the trips out of town, then do it. I had to think about that. He usually likes to travel, look at cows, be out at the site doing tricks and agility. He won't be doing agility, has been doing tricks but slowly (although he seems to like getting goodies), he might not have the energy at the moment to sit up and look for cows, and I don't know whether there'll be cows at this site, although I suspect not. But I do usually spend more time with the dogs, share my lunch with them, let Rem sit on his (nominally my) chair for long periods, which is an especially good thing, and I'll have time for snuggling, I believe. So. I guess I'll go.

Just made some updates on Rem's cancer FAQ.

And STILL Watching

Rem's blood count is at 24, so he's up 2 pts from yesterday but still way below low end of normal at 36. So he's appparently stopped bleeding but no real big improvement yet. He's slow but not as droopy as he has been at other times. Enthusiastically ate beef baby food at vet's and a cup and a half of actual chicken here, not really fast but happily. I am postponing making the final decision again.

I have to go visit a client; I'll write more later probably.

Thursday, February 27, 2003


The thing is, the way he's acting this afternoon, he's better than when his bloodcount was much higher at 32 on Tuesday morning. Moves around more. Ears and eyes alert, head popping up at interesting events. Performing his Evil Overlord job of barking from his bed at a perceived noise outside, which sets his dark minion Jake off on a tirade. Scratching normally. Cleaning his wet feet normally. Yawning normally. Even half rolled over onto his back after my afternoon nap to let me rub his tummy, although it didn't turn into a full Upsidedown Dog. Doesn't get up immediately, but fairly soon follows me from room to room and lies somewhere near me instead of just slumping on his bed the whole time.

I think he looks better than he did this morning. And I don't think I'm grasping at straws. It's only 6 hours after his blood test.

The Time Draws Near

Rem's red blood cell count is down to 22 again. Probably hasn't stopped bleeding all week. We'll check his blood again tomorrow morning and see where he is. I'm not sure that I want to do another transfusion--that's another 6-8 hours in the hospital, which he doesn't like, and the last one bought him really only a couple of healthy days out of the last 10, where his appetite was full and his enthusiasm was high. I also don't want to watch him bleed to death. He remains half perky and very interested in eating chicken. Not sure I want to wait until he feels so bad that he can't lift his head or eat.

We're supposed to be going to Turlock this weekend for an agility trial for me & Jake & Tika.

I don't need advice. I need inner strength.

And Still Watching

Took Rem to agility class last night. Got there about 20 minutes before Jake's class so he could stand around on a chair and watch the proceedings. Was very alert, checking out the driveway where there are often sneaky cats attempting to take over Power Paws Agility. Loved the junk food offered by other people. Took mine halfheartedly--also that was the first time I've ever gotten a limp-wristed Shake from a dog. Walked around the area and he was interested but not pulling on the leash. Offered him a 4" jump to go over so he'd feel part of the process, but he walked around it.

He gag/coughed a couple of times during the night again. Not as much as previous night. Slow this morning. Became somewhat animated when I headed upstairs to get dressed, but when he lay down in the hallway to watch (well, he's a watchdog, right?), it looked like his was breathing so hard that he was rocking. But that stopped after about 30 seconds, so I don't know what that was. When he got up later, I thought it looked like he staggered, but I've seen no signs of it since.

I took only him out to the gopher park, which has Gopher Hill and Squirrel Copse. As we drove, he sat up in the car, leaning lightly on the seat, and looked out the window with some interest. In the past, when we drove into the neighborhood of gopher park, he'd be on his feet and whining with anticipation. This time, he sat upright and emitted a whine or 2, but you could tell he's very subdued. The old method of attack was to run full tilt straight across the first meadow to the gopher condo area and check everything out. This time he walked slowly around the path with me, sniffing a little bit and mostly eating grass.

When we got to the gopher condo area, he checked a couple of them desultorily and went back to eating grass. He walked with me around the big hill, very slowly. Stopped for a minute or two to gaze out over the lands below in search of official Cows or perhaps mere amateur Sheep, but saw only a few schoolchildren. Every time we hit a stretch of land or walkway that had the slightest downhill slope, he'd break into a ground-eating trot, but the rest of the time he remained slow. Checked out the squirrel trees casually, sniffed a few obstacles extremely thoroughly. Ears were only halfway up most of the time, although he looked mildly interested in what was available (as in: more grass to eat) but mostly walked slowly fairly close to me. We wandered around for about half an hour. He didn't seem to want to get back into the car, so I took that to mean that he didn't *feel* like he was done with the park, but I brought him home anyway.

He went and lay down in the other room instead of waiting for breakfast, although when I asked from the kitchen if he Wanted Breakfast, his ears perked right up and he came on in. Sniffed slackly at the chickeny dogfood substance, though. Watched the other dogs eat their kibble for a bit, took a couple of bites of the dogfood, then walked out into the hallway. I defrosted some genuine chicken for him, which he scarfed. At the end of the 3rd small batch of that, though, he was slowing down, too.

I still don't think his gums look that pale. But the vet asked me to call in every day & give status, and maybe we'll see about another blood test just to see. It could easily be getting to where the tumor is taking too much of his heart's energy, or has metastasized more into his lungs (remember these were on the very first original list of known probably outcomes, along with tumor ruptures). Those aren't as easy to diagnose and are less easy to treat than the tumor bleeding, although that's iffy enough.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Still Watching Rem / Tika Has A Busy Day

Remington: Not much new to report on the Remington front. (Half an hour ago I said there was nothing new, but now I'm adding this.) I took the dogs out back for their predinner playtime. In the ancient past, Rem would play ball or tug-of-war or chase, and we'd usally end up with a good rousing game of Box. (As in cardboard.) In recent months, it's mostly been Rem standing around and watching or cruising for squirrels, jumping up onto the hot tub to get scritched, and then sometimes when he's feeling good, a little bit of shake-the-Box. Tonight, he went out, peed on a shrub, and went back inside to lie down on the carpet and watch. Not good.

Went inside to see if he felt like doing tricks for doggie junk food, one of his favorite sports. He did some in slow motion. When I offered him the first freeze-dried liver junk food, he took it gingerly, spit it out, sniffed it. I picked it up and offered it again, and he took it, chewed it methodically, and looked sort of like he was thinking that he ought to want more but wasn't sure. I gave him a bunch after each slo-mo trick, and he took each one carefully and again chewed each about 40 times. (These are about the size of my fingernail, understand.) This is not normal, either.

Gave him half a can of chickeny substance with a little kibble for dinner. He didn't do the dinner dance, but didn't go hide in the hallway like he's done before when feeling crappy. Ate it slowly. Left a few spoonfuls (and kibble) in the bowl and backed away and looked at it. He ate the rest of the chickeny stuff carefullly when I offered it on a spoon. Then he went to his bed and lay down.

As a test control, I offered him a few hunks of actual chicken, for which he perked up a little and scarfed down in true better-not-let-it-get-away style.

His gums are not robust pink, but I'm not sure that they're graying, either. Still, I am not optimistic. And I still haven't really seen the signs that I'm looking for, and it's hard because I'm not exactly sure what they are.

As for Tika--I was just thinking this morning how much she has learned since I first got her. Now, when she's lying on the bed and I tell her to move, she knows what it means and knows where to move to. No more wrestling matches. She almost never grabs the bedding and yanks it around anymore--the few times she comes close, she mostly just closes her mouth on it. She really doesn't bark all that much any more, either. I don't know when or how it slowed down, but it just suddenly occurred to me that she's not a nuisance that way these days. She does love to bark at the yard guys with the blowers and mowers. I try to bring her inside so that (a) I don't have to listen to it and (b) she doesn't get injured. This morning when they arrived and she was in fine barking-at-the-blower mode, I leaned out the door and called to her--and she came right in! It wasn't so long ago that we were playing catch-the-naughty-doggie-if-you-can around the back yard. Stuff like that.

So when things fell completely apart in our agility class today (following our weekend in which things went from good to awful), it was in sharp contrast. She did all the I-don't-have-to-pay-attention-to-you things that she used to do way back when our agility classes started--when was that, 6 or 8 months ago? Not staying at the start line, running off to chase squirrels or birds, not coming when called. She got Rachel really pissed off at her, too. Rachel suggested a couple of time-outs in the car while I got Jake out and did some agility with him. She'd be better for a few minutes and then go back to it. Near the end, just trying to stand there with her on leash and get her to pay attention to me, she was yanking me off my feet. A couple or three hard-to-enforce down-stays, and she'd come back to looking a me for a brief bit, then go off again.

On the other hand, she did stick her contacts, so the practice I've been doing in the yard for 2 days has probably helped, because she certainly did NOT want to stick them on Monday when we first started. Sigh.

Rachel said, oh boy, you're going to have your hands full this weekend in Turlock!

Little Things

He was happy to go for a walk but dragged at times. Dragged most when heading home--he's always been reluctant to end the walk, but he was especially draggy today.

He didn't do the breakfast dance but ate the half can of canned chickeny stuff calmly vs. enthusiastically). Avoided the kibble I added until he established that no more of the canned stuff was coming, then ate that slowly.

Last night he woke me up several times--no longer remember how many--with the hork/cough thing that I've come to associate with fluid in his chest. Vet says that the last ultrasound did show nodules in his lungs, so it's possible he's reacting to those, or they could be bleeding a little into his lungs, or who knows. Not clear that there's any point at this moment in xrays or ultrasounds. Vet did look into at least one other chemo treatment she'd heard about, but oncologist says it wreaks havoc on dogs, isn't likely to be effective on this kind of tumor, and strongly advised against it.

Nothing really to do at the moment except keep watching and waiting. It's nasty game of whether the disease will make it obvious and easy on when it's time to go, or whether it's going to be a gradually increasing spate of downs, in which case I'll have to decide whether this is any kind of a life for a dog to lead. I also don't want it to end the way it has for some hemangiosarcoma dogs--where the tumor ruptures so badly that the dog bleeds to death in front of his owner. That's no way for a dog to go, either. But I think that if that were going to happen to Rem, it would have already happened. Those dogs have mostly been undiagnosed or earlier after the diagnosis, I believe.

Hanging On

Today Remington's perkier. Stands up to see what I'm up to instead of just lying in a slump like he did yesterday. Ears are up and alert instead of being held flat against his head like yesterday. Gums still look a little pale to me, but not so grayish like yesterday.

He's hanging on. Thanks for all your wishes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Signs Are Bad

Last night, an hour after doing the dinner dance and scarfing down a bowl of mostly dry kibble with some canned chickeny dogfood, Rem refused the popcorn that I offered to share while watching a TV show. He started looking droopy.

He wanted to get up once in the middle of the night and go out. When I woke up in the morning, he wasn't on the bed--he was lying near the door, leaning against the wall, giving accusing "I don't feel good and you're not fixing it" looks. I've *never* found him not on the bed in the morning. I'm also surprised that I didn't notice him getting up again; I *was* very tired, though.

We went over to the vet's to get a CBC (blood test to check white & red cells this time), and he was kind of droopy about going out to the car, although he insisted on leaping up into his seat rather than climbing in as he's been mostly doing for the last couple of months except when he was feeling his best, but it was a labored leap.

At the vet, while waiting to get checked in, our vet came through the lobby and I mentioned that he wasn't feeling good this morning and was kind of droopy. She petted him, lifted his lip to check his gums, and said, "Oh-oh."

So he seems to be bleeding again already. His red blood count is down to 32, which was 43 on Friday. We discussed a variety of options. Choice this time was to just put more fluid into his veins, which can sometimes make them feel better. It can also increase the blood pressure enough to exacerbate the bleeding. So I sat on the floor with him for about 4 hours while he got an IV drip.

If he keeps bleeding, we could do another transfusion, although the vet is concerned that we're now in the area where we're simply rescuing time after time, grasping at straws. It's no joy for him to be penned up at the vet's for 6 or more hours while the transfusion or anything takes place. I hate to waste the last day or days of his life, if he keeps bleeding, at the vet's instead of at home.

He's home with me now, but he looks tired. He refused the vet tech's jerky-like dog treat today, which is the first time he's ever done that. I took him some cooked chicken over at the vet's after a quick trip home, which he wolfed down. He refused pretzels in the car on the way home, which is like him refusing popcorn last night--not a good sign. I just offered him dinner (well, breakfast/dinner since he didn't get any breakfast this morning). He quickly ate first half can of chicken-like dogfood but nudged the kibbles aside. I gave him another half a can, which he also ate. Tried another half can, but he wasn't interested. (Something under 1 can would be a typical meal for him.)

I know there are ups and downs. He could stop bleeding again on his own; has happened a couple of times before. But now I'm back to thinking in terms of days remaining instead of weeks remaining. Intellectually I can consider this. Emotionally it's very hard.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Talked to Vet This Morning

I talked to Rem's vet this morning. We just talked about what could/should/might happen in the future. She says that I could probably just bring Rem in once about every 3 weeks for a blood test, and we can decide each time whether we need to do anything else. She also said coming in once a week just to test his red blood cells would be fine if I preferred it, and I think I do.

He's had 5 doses of adriamycin, which is 150 out of the max of 240 (measurement not remember--I don't think it's CCs, but maybe) that they'd ever want to give a dog, which is entering the caution zone. She said that by the time they hit 240, most dogs have developed heart problems. So before they give more doses, they'll want to do a measurement of how well his heart is contracting, which they do by ultrasound.

Meantime, we hope for no more bleeding (because they can't give it all that often even in an emergency because of what it does to them) and we test white blood cells to see whether he should be getting antibiotics again. I was thinking about that this weekend while he was grabbing mouthfuls of horse manure, how his white blood cells have been very low every time after the adria.

He's looking happy and healthy today; his appetite's good.

Just Randomizing Again: Upsidedown Dog

Remington started the Morning Upside-Down-Dog thing. I don't remember when exactly it started, although I do remember that I never saw him upsidedown for any reason for months after we got him. It was very difficult to teach him to roll over because, as soon as there was the slightest danger of his belly being exposed, he'd panic and jump to his feet.. After our allegedly world-famous animal tricks trainer sort of gave up on figuring out how to get him to roll over, I worked at it one inch at a time. He was willing to lie on his side, so I'd lift one of his feet an inch or so, praise, treat, and release. Repeat ad infinitum over a period of a few weeks, gradually lifting the legs higher, then both legs, rubbing his legs and sides and tummy, until finally he was willing to expose his belly to the world, and after that we could manage the full roll-over.

Sometime after that is when he started being willing to roll around on his back to show he was a happy dog, and somewhere in there it became part of his morning wake-up routine: Groan and unfurl far enough from his curled-up position to be on one side--but with his feet all still tucked together into a tangled mass of long slender toes, long slender legs, and fur. Usually next step was to rub his face with one paw, and leave the paw resting on his face. Then unfurl completely, and finally with a bit more groaning and happy understated growling, roll fully onto his back and start wriggling around, kicking his rear legs into the air, muttering happy things under his breath. I could join in by rubbing his tummy--for which he'd freeze for the duration, then go back to upsidedown dogging--or by putting pressure against his back feet, encouraging him to kick harder and push out with more intensity.

When Jake joined the family, he'd jump up in startlement when Rem started his thing, and kinda watch and sniff. And then, not too long after he moved in, and never being one to let his one brain cell go to waste, he decided that that's how dogs in this household were supposed to start their morning, and he joined right in doing upsidedown dog. He's a little more manic than Rem--as well as digging his shoulders in and writhing, he twitches back and forth and jerks and pops, puncutated with little yelps and minibarks along with the usual grunts, groans, growls, and giggles.

Rem has cut way back on his morning upsidedown dog over the last couple of months, but it re-erupts at odd times. Last night, I went to bed a little early. Had been in bed maybe an hour when Jake remembered that he had unfinished business in the back yard, so while I was turning on the light and finding my slippers and bathrobe, Rem went through the morning wake-up routine including the full upsidedown dog whoozie. Go figure.

Tika hasn't bought into the upsidedown dog routine. She always just stretches out and crawls up alongside me. Sometimes she rolls onto her back and exposes her white furry underparts to the air for gratuitous rubbing, but I don't know that I've seen her actually rolling and growling in that happy dog manner, except for a couple of times out on the back lawn last summer.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Jake's A Champ

Running Jake at the Performance level instead of regular ("Championship") level feels so anticlimactic. He jumps 6" lower than the regular 22" he's always jumped. All of our friends & classmates & most of our competitors jump 22". There were only 3 or 4 dogs in Jake's 16" Performance class each time, and it just isn't the same as trying to beat 30 or 40 other dogs, most of which are taller and have longer strides, including former national champions etc.

But he was generally a very good boy. In Saturday's standard run, he wasn't superfast but got all his contacts and took a first and Qed. In his Grand Prix run, he had to run at 22" (there's no Performance level in the Grand Prix), and he not only got all his contacts and Qed, but he was 11th out of all these dozens of top dogs! He had an excellent opening in his Gamblers run and almost got the gamble, but went only halfway up the Aframe and then I think I must've dropped my focus and pressure and looked ahead, because he jumped off halfway up. Still, none of the performance dogs got the gamble, so he took 1st again.

And he was a very good boy in pairs, but his partner forgot to grab a baton before she ran, so we got an automatic elimination.

Today I got him really revved up for his standard run and he popped his contacts enthusiastically and then went off course when I overassumed what he would handle automatically. But he had a very nice jumpers run for another 1st and Q, on a course that eliminated a lot of dogs for off-courses. We ended with an excellent snooker run, although I chickened out and didn't do three 7-pt obstacles in the opening--did 2 7's and a 5 because I thought we bobbled something enough to not have enough time, but we got all the way through the course AND exited the field and still had time left over-- so we ended up taking only 2nd for our Q, one second behind another dog with the same number of points. If I'd gone for the 3 7's anyway, we'd have probably had that SuperQ. (Or if we hadn't bobbled in the middle and wasted the time, then even with only 49 of a possible 51 we'd have been faster & won anyway... Oh, well, more What Ifs. Point is that Jake did great and his handler mucked up again.) Oh, yeah, and he got his Aframe contact very nicely, even revved up.

Tika: Big Ups and Downs

What an interesting weekend. After her first two trials, where everything was clicking, things went from awesome down to horrible this weekend. I think I learned a lot. I hope she learned some things, too, and that they weren't the wrong things.

We had 7 runs--I must tediously say something about each for my future reference. At least read "Grand Prix"--

Pairs Relay: A standard numbered course but one team does the first half and the other team does the 2nd. Tika had a nice run, did a Touch on her contact but didn't stick there, missed a weave entrance when I got overconfident and didn't work it, but she wasn't faulted for it at the Novice level. Her partner made a couple of errors, though, so we didn't place. That's fine--I just want the practice in the ring. Very light on the stay at start line--I think she might have taken off when I raised my arm instead of waiting for "OK."

Standard: Definitely light on start-line stay--or maybe didn't stay-- Again did touch on Aframe but didn't stick, even though I was waiting for her to do so. The next to last obstacle was the dogwalk and she just raced past the end for a popped-contact fault; I made her come back to me and then sent her over the last jump. So no placement there (lots of high-quality novice dogs jumping 26"!)

Grand Prix Qualifier: This is a standard numbered course except that it's a special regional class that qualifies you to compete in the (Inter)National championships. So it's a masters level course, competing against all 26" dogs, mostly Masters level, many of whom have competed in the final round of National Championships before (or at least their handlers have)--and of all the dozens of dogs at her height, she not only ran clean, but did it fast enough to place 8th! It took me 4 years with Remington, I think, before we ever qualified in a Grand Prix. She was definitely hitting her contacts but not sticking them, and I think I might've been a little excited out there--

Gamblers: Last class of the day Saturday, and I made a mistake--let her play with her boyfriend Travis in his pen for half an hour or maybe even longer because I forgot she was in there. Pulled her out about 45 minutes before her Gamblers run, but she was obviously a bit more subdued before we went into the ring--then everything that I could've imagined might go wrong did. I dont' recall whether she stayed at the start line, but she ran past a number of obstacles instead of taking them, jumped up and barked and grabbed at me after almost all of them, popped her dogwalk contact completely, missed her weave pole entrance (which was partly my fault for not handling it and partly hers for popping the DW), jumped onto the teeter sideways--and then got down to business when the gamble whistle blew and did a perfect gamble. So we had a mere 5 (!) opening points, purely by accident, I assure you, but still managed to place 4th because the gamble was worth 20 points and most novice dogs didn't get it.

Sunday Snooker: Rachel, our instructor, pointed out in a firm instructor-like manner that I needed to get my excited handler act together and make sure that Tika sticks her contacts. She said that it's clear that Tika knows what she's supposed to be doing, and if I have to take her off the course when she doesn't stick them so that she doesn't get to play, so be it. Indeed. I know she's right. SNOOKER is another kind of cool course in which you invent your own opening sequence following a few specific rules. So I created an opening sequence that started with jump-Aframe-jump-Aframe. Before we went into the ring, we practiced a bunch of touches with a target on the flat ground, then without a target on the flat ground, then coming down a convenient flight of stairs, then again on the ground right before going into the ring. She blasted off the first Aframe and I made her come back to me and do a touch on the flat before going on, and then she blasted right off the 2nd Aframe. This time she wouldn't come back to do a touch on the flat, barked and circled and then put herself through a tunnel. I called her to me, made her do a down, and took her off the course.

Someone I know--who saw a lot of Tika when she was a freshly rescued dog-- met me and said what wonderful control I have with Tika. I grumbled about popping contacts, and she said yes, but look, you called her and she came, you told her to Down and she did so immediately. I guess she's right-- I just don't want to get into situations like that, where she stops coming & stops downing because she knows that means she's going to be taken off the field.

Standard: We did a whole lot more Touches going down the stairs. She hasn't done them going down stairs before, so I think she was a little unclear on the idea of where the bottom of the stairs were, but mostly she did good, and got better as we practiced. She stayed at the startline. She slammed down the Aframe into a 2-on, 2-off pose but she was going so fast that her butt just kept going and she didn't stick it, but she did stop and look at me, so I made her do a touch (she just barely did a dip of the head, but I thought, well, she tried to stop--) and continued the run.

She hit the dogwalk--and it's hard to explain, but I could see halfway through that she suddenly wasn't focused on me or on the dogwalk, but on something out in front of the dogwalk and that she had no intention of stopping. I figured it was the next obstacle and that she just didn't want to stop her forward progress. She fairly launched herself from the downramp, and to my surprise went *past* the next obstacle and then started trying to get around the solid wall on that end of the ring--she was dashing back and forth along it, and at one point I thought she was going to scramble out between the rungs of the open fence on the other side. She was oblivious to me and to "come", and I had to get her under control and get out of the ring. Finally realized that she loves agility so much--I lined myself up between her and a random jump, called to her to come "hup," which she did instantly, then I spun and said "Come" as on a sharp turn, and she came right to me and, again, I had to take her out of the ring. Sigh.

Then I discovered, when I took the dogs for a quick potty right after that, that the ranch had just stashed a bunch of cows in a little ring IMMEDIATELY on the opposite side of that solid wall that she'd been facing on the top of the dogwalk, and that you could SEE the cows from the top of the dogwalk! It's not a great excuse--there are rules the dogs gotta follow to be allowed to play in the ring--but it certainly explains what happened there.

Jumpers: Last run of the weekend. No contact obstacles! Just a numbered course with jumps and tunnels. Stayed nicely at the startline but I tried a stupid lead-out trick, thinking I could get ahead of her. I had barely taken a step or 2 of the 6 I wanted to take, and she went blasting by me. Afterwards I thought how totally dumb I was to think I could do this--I'm not really all that fast, and this is a dog who covers 17 feet per second on a jumpers course! Sheesh. So she went past one jump and I had to call her back around, then I was out of position and called her at the wrong time for another jump and she knocked a bar--again called late on another one for another knocked bar--but in-between she was barely touching the ground, she was moving so fast. I was handling her, barely, 20 or 30 feet away from her, which disoriented me and I misjudged which jump I needed to turn her to so I called her off the RIGHT jump, so had to go back around and try again. So we were clean except for 2 knocked bars, but wasted a lot of time on circling back around. But she paid great attention to me and--and--MAN, she's fast!

The Future: Rachel says she has some suggestions for us and we'll talk about them next time. They involve taking a time out and regrouping. I wonder whether she'll suggest that we ought not to be competing in the next 5 weekends for which I'm already registered--yikes-- I promise I'll be a good handler! Really I do! Our first two full weekends were so awesome, I figured we'd be taken down a notch or two eventually, and this certainly did it (but whoever was counting notches misjudged by allowing us to Q at 8th place in the Grand Prix! :-) )

Remington: Cow-Watching Beats Everything Except Maybe Chicken-Like Substance

The ranch wherein our agility trial was held conveniently provided a whole bunch of Cows for Remington to watch right up close. He could've touched noses if I'd let him. My concern was that he would choose to touch noses with something other than his nose, as in, for example, his teeth, and seeing as how they weren't at the moment my own Cows, I thought it unwise to experiment.

Lots of people commented on how healthy Rem was looking, and he was. Lots of spring in his step. Scarfed down all the free goodies and people food offered by everyone. When we'd head out to examine the Cow situation again, he'd be so eager & leaning into his leash so hard that you'd never know there was a sick corpuscle in his body. I took him over to one of the practice jumps so we could pretend to be waiting at the start line and then going over a jump--previous user had left it at 26" and, when I simply walked up to it to drop it to 8", Rem simply popped over the thing almost from a stand-still. We did a couple of sit-stays and then a release over the jump, and he was SO alive and fast and healthy looking that it almost hurt, at that moment, not to be able to run him.

His appetite might be getting better. Last night I offered some standard canned dog-food which claimed to be chicken-like chunks with chicken-like gravy-like substance, and he scarfed an entire 22-oz can. Did another can for breakfast. He was so enthused about eating both those times that, this evening, I mixed in a half cup of dry kibble, and he scarfed that, too. So perhaps the appetite thing was a passing discomfort from the adriamycin or from his yucky experience earlier in the week.

One of the vets called and left a message that his chest xrays showed no random fluids in his chest, which is excellent, although there were the appearance of tissue masses that are probably tumorous matter (I rephrased that a bit). We need to call in tomorrow to discuss in more detail what's next.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Chicken is Good. Agility Weekend

I bought a variety of ummy-yummy baby foods today, but Remington won't touch the chicken/noodle (mostly vegetables) or the chicken/rice (mostly vegetables), but the chicken (mostly chicken) is slurp-worthy. So I cooked him up some real chicken and offered it with cottage cheese and rice. Won't touch the rice or the cottage cheese but ate every spot and blot of the actual chicken.

I don't think this is a well-balanced diet.

We went for a nice stroll, just the 2 of us, and he's got quite a spring in his step and a pull on the leash when something's nifty-smelling. He did tricks with great enthusiasm for doggie junk food. He balked at taking a guard-the-house goodie (dry biscuit) when I left for a while this evening, but he finally took it reeeeeelucccctannnnnntly (poor thing being forced to eat doggie biscuits), but some of that might be because it's a guard-the-house goodie. I think it was him who, when he was younger, figured that maybe if he didn't take it, I'd have to stay home. Maybe he's thinking that again.

We'll be off doing agility in San Martin this weekend, so probably don't expect any updates.

Aced Blood Test but Not So Hungry

Remington studied really hard and passed this morning's blood test with flying colors--43%, solidly in the middle of normal. So no bleeding's going on now. They did chest x-rays but the doctor is out today so we won't know how the fluids in the chest are looking until Monday.

He's rarin' to go on walks, but still prefers to lie down and rest most of the time.

He ate more than half a can of canned yuck* for dinner last night, but that's only about half of his regular serving. This morning he sniffed it but wouldn't eat any, nor kibble. He snarfs down the doggie junk food strips offered by the vet techs, and freeze-dried liver treats, and sucks up the chicken baby food I offered him.

So I'm worried about the loss of appetite. He's not that active, I understand that, and he does get some goodies, but that never stopped him from being excited about meals before, no matter what they consisted of. I tried smearing chicken baby food all over chunks of canned yuck, which didn't fool him for a minute. He nosed them to find places where it was thick enough to lick off the baby food without actually ingesting any molecules of canned yuck, but wanted nothing to do with the rest of it.

Guess I'm going to have to buckle down and boil up more chicken for him. His weight is down to 50.8 today, which is almost 2 lbs less than it had settled in at after his operation.

We're doing agility this weekend in San Martin, so it's not a long drive away and we can sleep at home at night. Since I retired Rem Tuesday, he won't be participating, but I've been told there are horses at the site, so we can go out and look at livestock instead, which is definitely high on his A-list of activities. Sheep and cows are better, but horses will do in a pinch.

*canned yuck (kand yuk): n Special canned dogfood designed for dogs with cancer, which he thought was infinitely better than kibble for a while. Smells to high heaven. The mom of Sparky (who also has cancer) calls it Roadkill. Sparky got tired of it eventually, I believe (I'm sure I'll be corrected if that's not true) but I'm not sure whether Rem is tired of it specifically or just of anything ordinary, which this has become.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Squirrelhund Is Back On The Job

Yesterday Rem spent a while sitting under the plum tree and monitoring a branch that might be thinking about having a squirrel on it. He likes being out in the yard, but any more it's only when I'm out there, and I don't think I spend as much time puttering around as I used to at the old place.

Went to agility class last night and he wasn't happy about staying in the car while I ran Jake. I came over to the car every 10 minutes or so and asked him to do tricks, which he did as if he could barely move there in the front seat (as in "I can lift my paw only 2 inches, slowly, in a pretense of shaking hands, I'm soooo neglected"), and took the doggie junk food I offered him sooooo slowly and tentatively. Near the end of class, I put Jake away and brought Rem out just to wander around, hang out, do tricks out on the lawn. He perked way up, did tricks with enthusiasm, grabbed junk food wolfishly. So perky that it was hard not to simply spin around and have him go over a couple of jumps. But he seemed happy enough just being out, sniffing the lawn, standing on his usual chair and checking for perimeter cats.

When I gave him dinner after we got home--mix of canned yuck and kibble--he again mostly glared at Jake and Tika. Finally reluctantly ate a few mouthfuls of the yuck (well, HE seemed to have thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world for a while) but spit out the rude bits of kibble that stuck to it.

I don't understand it--he ate all the liver treats I gave him with gusto, and all the liver/oatmeal cookies that Gail gave him, and all the pizza crusts-- Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin' about him getting so much good stuff from so many people that mere canned yuck doesn't cut it any more? I *refuse* to start cooking him chicken and rice every night unless he really needs it. I don't even cook for myself!

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

It's Promising

Remington's blood count was up to 31 this morning, so--hail and hosannah--the bleeding seems to have stopped. We'll double-check it Friday and also do a chest xray to be sure that his body has resorbed most of the large quantities of fluids that were still in his chest yesterday.

He's still not super perky; at breakfast, preferred to snarl at Jake (eating on the far side of the room) than eat much food, although he scarfed the goodies that the vet techs gave him and the pizza crust I offered later. But he's wagging his tail, alert, thoughtful, in between long bouts of curling up and sleeping intensely.

He's been wanting to go out and scope out the squirrel situation today, which come to think of it he hasn't been all that interested in for a couple of weeks. Might be all the red blood cells rushing to his head.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Blood Count Update

Vet's just called; Rem's red blood cells are at 28%. Still below normal, but considerng that he was at 15 last night-- Over Xmas, he dropped to 17 and climbed only to 24 after the transfusion. Since I'm looking for reasons to be hopeful anywhere, this looks like as good a reason as any.

He wasn't thrilled about being offered kibble for dinner. Started to munch a few pieces after glaring at the other dogs for a while, so I picked it up and gave him canned yuck instead. He was pretty thrilled about that--scarfed it down, but stopped halfway through and said that's enough. He might have just had enough junk food & lunch scraps to satisfy him, or he's just not feeling up to snuff still.

Home and Hanging In There

Just picked Rem up. Waiting to hear what his blood count was; doctor was in giving bad news to some other clients and I just wanted to come home. When I arrived to get him, there was a pitched battle over who got to go get him from the back. (Well, OK, one person preempted the first person--) He's so popular there. He doesn't bark or make a fuss, walks nicely on leash, doesn't need a muzzle or other restraint for pretty much anything, does lots of tricks (although this time they just gave him lots of puppy junk food sans tricks). She said they had taken him on a walk through the lunchroom so he could see what everyone was having for lunch (not to say that anybody SHARED anything with him--) and they'd been out for a nice potty walk in the sun and everyone gave him lots of pats.

He's much happier and livelier, although the vet tech guessed that he'll probably want a good long snooze tonight. Me, too.

We'll go back at 9 tomorrow morning for a follow-up blood test to see whether he's still bleeding or has stabilized. Y'all know what I'm hoping for. They want to do another blood test on Friday along with repeat chest xrays to see whether all that fluid in his chest has been resorbed.

Jake was a little annoyed to see him come home, I think. He stalked around, grumbling and growling and whining. Of course maybe that's his way of telling Remington he loved him and missed him. Sure.

AND I'm hoping it doesn't rain again tomorrow; we all missed agility last week due to rain and I always hate missing multiple weeks in a row, especially with Tika.

I sent email to all the trial secretaries for the upcoming Feb/March trials for which we're already entered, pulling Remington entirely. Even if we're lucky and he starts to feel better, I think I'll get more mileage out of just taking him for walks around the trial grounds instead of running him on a course. I don't know how he'll react. He likes walks but he also knows the routine and doesn't like it when we don't follow it. But that's it. Just like that he's retired.

And not sure what I'll do with agility classes. He is SO unhappy to be left in the car while I run Jake. Um. I think that's a problem I'd rather deal with than the looming alternative.


I visited Rem for a while around 8:30 and went back for about an hour just after 11. The transfusion was *still* dripping, which is just an annoyance at how slow they set it, although I understand why. Chest x-ray this morning shows "a lot of fluid in his lungs." That means that the bleeding hadn't really stopped yet, or if it has, it's so recent that we can't tell. The big question is whether all of this blood they dripped in is just dripping right back out. They'll do blood tests when the drip is done and then again tomorrow morning. This afternoon they're going to give him a dose of adriamycin, since it hasn't appeared to make him sick in the past and, in my limited ability to observe, seems to have knocked the tumor back a bit each time. So he's going to be there for a few more hours.

He was very excited to see me and to scarf some doggie junk food. But he settled down very quickly, dumped his chin on my leg and went back to sleep. Tells me that he's still weak, probably not feeling his best with all the fluid in his chest.

Time creeps closer to a moment when I will have to make a decision for him. I keep hoping that the line will be clearly cut, but I don't know that it will be so. He was not a happy dog yesterday, although he wasn't in obvious acute pain. But he couldn't even monitor the cow situation while we were driving, and he so clearly wanted to in the back part of his brain that hadn't gone completely fuzzy.

I wait.

Wonderful/Miserable Weekend in OR

Rem spent the night at the emergency room here getting a transfusion again. I'll be heading over shortly to visit & hopefully pick him up.

Crystalwood Lodge near Klamath Falls offers a wondrous get-away for dogs and their human companions. My beasts loved being off-leash and running amok among the marshes, fields, and forests. Remington showed signs of internal bleeding again, though; Sunday morning he refused his kibble (but ate a full can of smelly food), and when we went out for a short walk, he stayed fairly close to me on the way out and on the way back just stayed right at my heels, and I slowed down some for him. After that, he didn't much want to stand up at all. His gums weren't quite as pale as the snow that fell Saturday night, but they were awfully close.

Janet, the chef (one of two full-time resident staffers, who were both wonderful), called the on-call weekend vet, who listened to my description, said they'd have no way of doing a blood test on a sunday (which pretty much blew me away--what do they do for emergencies?), and that Rem's symptoms made it sound like he could wait until Monday morning, just keep him completely quiet (he actually said this to me on the phone: "Exercise would be contraindicated." Maybe my careful & detailed description of Rem's illness made him think I spoke the language like a native? Yeesh.), make sure he got plenty of fluids, and if he showed signs of respiratory distress, call him again. The vets are all over in Klamath Falls, which is about a 40 minute drive away--over curvy, sometimes icy, dark (and, to me, unfamiliar) mountain roads. There is no "emergency clinic."

By dinnertime, when Rem was breathing at a rate of about 30 or more a minute while just lying there (Tika and Jake between about 15-20), and kind of almost but not quite moaning or whining or wheezing with every exhale, I realized that I didn't know what qualified as "respiratory distress" . Called vet again. He said "panting and gasping and 60 times a minute." I said that sounded pretty nasty, but he said that I'd have at least 3 or 4 hours after that started before he'd really be in danger. Oh joy.

At that point, Rem just stood there blankly when I took him outside to potty. Looked disoriented. Needed some hand-holding (an odd analogy) to get up and down the slightly steeper front steps.

When we went to bed, me exhausted, he tossed and turned and tossed and finally got off the bed and lay on the floor on the opposite side of the room. I was too worried to have him out of my reach like that, so I moved my blankets and pillows onto the floor next to him. This probably worried him more, him being a worrying kind of man, but I couldn't stand being away from him. He continued to toss and turn and breathe noisily until about midnight, when he suddenly decided it was time to get back on the bed (needing assistance each time), and then he finally dozed off. We slept until about 5:30, when he started being restless and uncomfortable again.

The residents' regular vet (among the owners & staff they normally have 19 dogs on site! Only one this weekend, though--) was off at a conference for the week, and the next vet on their list was in surgery until 11:30. But by the time I had taken the other dogs for an icy-crunchy walk, eaten another wonderful home-cooked breakfast (Rem had no interest in kibble, canned food, or even liver treats by this time, but he snarfed down bits of ham from my breakfast, so I knew he wasn't really on his last legs), and packed the car, it was almost 9:30. Janet and her husband had to drive into town anyway, so I followed them. Arrived at the vet's about 10:45 after a stop to fill the gas tank (what fun--drive from Klamath Falls to San Jose on one tank of gas, with left-overs! There are things I like about the van--).

Rem wanted to walk around and explore, even though he was taking little tiny puppy steps and still had that vague disoriented look every time I would try to go back in the other direction. He *wanted* to go inside the vet's office and sniff around, so we did, and then he hopped onto my lap on the waiting room bench and just wilted onto my lap.

The vet was a nice man and as helpful as he could be under the circumstances. He did the blood test that I requested, which showed Rem's red blood cells at 17%. (Normal is 36-50 or so; transfusion level is less than 20--for his practice, he says he avoids it until it drops below 15%.) The very good things were that Rem was *not* dehydrated this time, AND his pulse was still very strong. Challenge is that, once a dog (or person!) has had a transfusion, the risks of a bad reaction to another one go up dramatically. They don't have any kind of blood bank up there; he sounded a little wistful when talking with me about the treatment Rem's been getting down here. For an emergency transfusion, he said what he'd do would be to go home and get his dog-- Anyway, I asked as many questions as I could think of, and then we agreed the lesser risk would be to beat feet for San Jose and get him a transfusion here if he still needed it.

I called my vet when we were about halfway home & gave her the story, and she pulled Rem's file to leave it for the emergency staff and asked them to call her when we got in.

It was a long drive. Rem tried to prop himself up for the first hour or so to look out the window, leaning back on the partially reclined seat--I also stacked dog beds next to him so he could lean on them--but even that was too much for him and he dozed most of the trip. Took just over 7 hours, including a few stops to potty myself or the dogs. (Tika drove me nuts, as she has occasionally at agility trials, by not pottying for the entire duration of the trip from the lodge--leaving at 9:30--until I finally got her home about 9:30 that evening.)

Blood test showed red blood cells at 15%, so he hadn't stopped bleeding. A transfusion of red blood cells primarily just makes them feel better--they'll have enough oxygen, at least for a while, to brain and body. Then we just wait to see whether it all bleeds away again.

No calls during the night, so that means the transfusion happened with no complications. I'd better take the other beasts out for a W-word and then go over to the clinic. I'll fill in the *wonderful* parts of the weekend, including marsh slogging, bald-eagle sighting, canoeing, eating gourmet meals, later. Here are some photos.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Off to the Wild Wet Yonder

Today we're leaving for a wonderful 4-day weekend up at a dog-friendly lodge in Klamath Falls, OR. It's supposed to be raining and cold. Dang. I took lots of changes of clothes plus boots and rain gear. Lodge has a dog-washing station, so that should make it a little easier.

Rem has been happy, cheerful, active--and then this morning (*before* I started packing), he didn't want to eat breakfast. Dang again. I hope it's just a fluke and not that he's not feeling well again.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Poor Ellen (With the Sound of the World's Tiniest Violin Playing Sad Music)

Ribs Seasoned With A Touch of Teeter-Totter: A couple of people have asked how my ribs are holding up. They're sore. My torso has a bruise and a scrape. I'm waiting to see whether it turns that really nauseating yellow-blue-blackish color, but not so far. It seems to hurt more each day rather than less, although I'm reluctant to spend the time & $ to go see a doctor because, the last time they said i might have a cracked rib, it was "bummer. Hope you feel better soon." There's nothing they can do for it.

It's not as though I'm disabled. Still, I was joking earlier about it hurting only when I breathe, but today that's true & it's a bit exhausting, just always in my psychic peripheral vision.

But HEY! maybe I'm another legend in the making! I still find it funny that Rem thought it was exciting. Wonder what else I can come up with on course to give him an energy burst? I'll try to think of something a little less painful--

Really Know How To Hurt A Gal-- I mentioned that I really messed myself up over the weekend. Understand that mentally I'm doing fine, so this is all sort of funny in a pathetic kind of way. Not only the teeter thing-- Saturday morning, I had finished unloading the car, setting up the chairs and dog crates, and assembled and unfolded my canopy. The only thing left was to raise the canopy to its full height. I grabbed one leg, started to lift, and my upper back snapped into spasm. I was able to just lie down and work very hard on relaxing, then do a little bit of stretching, to keep it from going into full agonizing knots. It's been a very long time since this has happened. Years, maybe? Fortunately I also had some muscle relaxants with me (because of my leg muscles from my sciatic nerve problems--are you crying yet?). Today's the first day that the pain back there seems to be mostly gone. Don't know what the precipitating factor was. Maybe the cold--?

Then when I was trying to walk the dogs to the exercise yard, I somehow got tika's leash wound around my finger right before she gave a big yank--that remains slightly swollen, stiff, and sore even today.

It was so dang cold in the morning (where the frost-covered grass crunches under your feet and the dog water bowls have frozen overnight--that kind of cold) that I couldn't really feel anything while I was playing warm-up tug-o-war with Tika and then with Jake. In Tika's case, I got to the ring with her and discovered I had blood all over my thumb from where a tooth had apparently confused it with a dog toy; in Jake's case, I got to the ring and discovered I had blood dripping from my pointer finger where a tooth etc. etc. The next day I made it 3 fingers in a row when I scraped the skin off the knuckle of the middle finger on the same hand.

PLUS I broke 3 fingernails somewhere along the way. Do you feel sorry for me yet?

I could've stayed home and trimmed the roses--no, wait, that *always* scars me traumatically. I'll take my chances with the vicious beasts.

Random Finchester Dog Notes, Part 2

Another day for jotting random things.

Glowing Eyes Canidae: Sheba's eyes, which were a clear blue in the light of day, glowed red in the dark when scattered light hit them right. Jake and Remington both have soft brown eyes. One night in the unlit exercise yard up at PowerPaws, both turned my way and caught a little reflected light--to my surprise, Jake's glowed green and Rem's were deep gold. I don't know Tika's secret fluorescence. Way back in the old days, we were teaching Sheba to be a wolf; now I'm apparently teaching Tika to be a coyote. Wonder what color coyote eyes glow?

Descending in Style: I remember so little about Amber and Sheba any more, although they were with us 13 and 16 years, respectively. I have no idea how they went down the stairs in the morning. Remington had a pretty predictable process until recently: hop out of bed, shake himself off, stop just before the top of the stairs and stretchhhhhhhhh his front legs and stretchhhhh his back legs, wag tail, then descend with quick but careful attention to each step. Jake, who pretty much goes everywhere at a minimum of a trot, runsfulltilt down and has a style over the last 3 or 4 steps that I would call, professionally, "falling." Tika takes the whole flight in about four bounds and lands halfway out into the hallway. I wait at the top until there are no more plummeting dog bodies and the all-clear has sounded.

Agility as a Motivator in Life: Reminton is almost always happier and more eager to do things the Monday and Tuesday after an agility trial. Same is still true, even though he clearly didn't have lots of energy over the weekend. I think the psychic boost is a big one for him. Eventually he realizes that I've gone back to being the boring weekday mom and settles down. But why would I ever want to stop this as long as it helps to keep him more interested in life and the world around him? Life takes some odd turns sometimes.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Radom Finchester Dog Notes

This is a day for just jotting things down, mostly for myself.

5.77 yards per second. That was Tika's speed on her jumpers course. In the 2 years I've been tracking my dogs' YPS performance, Jake has managed to exceed that pace only once. I think about that--that's over 17 feet per second, WITH jumps. Someone told me afterwards that she bounce-jumped a couple of times--that's one landing between 2 obstacles, which in this case were probably about 15-16 feet apart. It just astounds me.

Remington's purple furry thang. Remington has always been very particular about *his* spot on the bed. That's at the very foot, at the very opposite side from me. When I brought Jake home, I tried to convince Rem that he had the right to other spots on the bed closer to me, but he'd have none of it, and so Jake got the spot closest to my head. It has been like this for almost 9 years. In very recent months, Rem has been creeping more and more over onto my down comforter, to the point where the last couple of weeks I've been discovering that I have no room for my lower legs because the prime footing area is dog-occupied. I move him back to *his* spot, but it doesn't last.

Some of it might be the warmth or softness, but understand that he's already on flannel sheets on a nice soft pillow-top mattress. But I'll make concessions for poor sick suffering doggies (who know how to milk it for perks). I didn't want to let him have one of my good blankets. I did have this really nice velvety-soft thick fleece piece of purple fabric, about 6' x10', that I had used as a curtain in the Horrid Rental. It was a very nice piece of fabric that I've been saving for something special. I also haven't touched it in 15 months. And I guess Remington qualifies as "something special." So I spread the purple thang on his corner of the bed, kinda pushed the edges in so they're all crumpled up around the area in which he sleeps. It's nowhere near as fluffy as a comforter, and probably only a little fluffier than flannel sheets.

That was a week ago, and he's been perfectly happy to stay in his own corner now, even though the purple thang has since flattened out and the sides have fallen down--he has his own special thang, and that's what he needed. Never mind all the thousands of little white Remmie hairs thta are now permanently embedded in this lovely hunk of fleece--

Teeter Totters Are Hard

I walked the standard course on Sunday and the teeter totter was in my way, with the high end facing me as I came towards it. I noted that it was in a place where I could easily run into it, didn't say anything about it (moving it would require major course redesign and I figured I could either run inside it or layer it), and continued walking without really planning how I'd handle it. It was inside a large arc of several jumps in a row where the dog would be hauling butt. When I ran Jake, I almost ran into it but caught it out of the corner of my eye and sidestepped in the nick of time, getting a little behind Jake but fortunately he's an experienced dog and kept going.

Even that wasn't enough for it to sink into my tiny brain. With Remington, I was ahead of him coming along the line of jumps, so my head was turned more in his direction as I ran. With a sudden sharp shock of extreme pain, something plunged into my ribcage and rammed m me to a halt in midstride, the upper part of my torso thrown forward. I froze, doubled over The Attacker. (Just read an interesting article in Discover about the built-in fear/flight/fight response in humans that bypasses all logic circuits and causes, isntantaneously, the freeze response first.) Took a few seconds for the initial intense pain to fall way back and for my logic circuits to kick in again, at which point I was able to determine that (a)I had run into the stupid teeter and (b)people were starting to come towards me and if I didn't say something quickly, they'd have me on a stretcher and hauled off to the MASH.

I discovered I could inhale without pain. I discovered I could move. I pushed myself away from the teeter and called to Remington, who was kind of circling back, wondering what the heck I was doing. Judge, coming up to me, asked whether I was all right or something to that effect. My ribs hurt, but I discovered I *was* OK, just a little shook up. I reached out to Rem as he came close, and I tried to laugh, and Rem decided that this was the funniest thing he'd seen in months. He said, hey, maybe if I run faster, she'll do that again! I spewed as many assurances to the humans around me as I could while Remington got himself revved up and challenged me to keep going. I stood up, discovered I could move easily, and we continued on around the rest of the course, Remington moving faster than he had all weekend and grinning the whole way.

My ribs/muscles hurt. I somehow managed to scrape the skin off one knuckle, and that just stings constantly. But it could've been so much worse if, for example, the teeter and my teeth, or the teeter and my gut, or the teeter and my neck, had been at the same level, that it's really not so horrible.

I'd like to not do that again.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Evening Update

Vet says Rem doesn't need to come in until next Wed, at least for a blood test & then will decide what to do next.

Rem very playful this evening, but wouldn't stick with one toy for more than a brief time. He never did have a long attention span for toys, but this was even shorter. I think, the thing is, well, hmm, he LIKES agility weekends! I'm paying attention to them all day, doing interesting things, giving them goodies for tricks during warmups & at other times, lots of walks with interesting smells, and then we come home and I sit at the computer all day (or try to sleep off a nasty headache, as the case may be).


Tika's Doing Great

I was so frustrated with her first thing Saturday morning at Elk Grove; I couldn't take 2 steps towards the exercise or potty areas without her throwing herself at the end of the leash. I was nearly in tears with frustration. A couple of very experienced dog people told me this weekend that their very driven, high-energy agility dogs did that their entire lives til they got too old to do it any more. Small comfort, I guess. I *did* want a dog with drive--

She did her best to make it all up to me with some really spectacular agility this weekend. It's working some, because this morning as she pulled at the leash on our walk, images of her Full House run kept whipping through my brain and the endorphins just kept going right off the scale.

She is a blast to run! Rem and Jake at their very best sometimes were like this, but Rem did it all out so seldom, and he never did have a lot of speed on contacts or weaves even at his fastest, and even Jake was at his best only with a little bit of revving beforehand (and I'm so lazy--).

Wish I'd pestered someone to tape all our runs this weekend. Man.

Results summary: Here's the scorecard for the weekend. Six runs, six qualifying scores. You know how often I've gone 100% for a weekend with my other dogs after 6 years of competing? Once, with Remington. Admittedly, both of these were CPE trials, where they're a little more generous about faults allowed, but she also did it in style: Five first places out of 6! Again, admittedly, there were only 5-10 dogs in her class each time. But get these bonuses:

  • There was that dream-like Full House run very first thing Sunday morning. This is a game in which you invent your own course, where each obstacle has a certain number of points, and following a few basic rules you try to accumulate as many points as possible in 30 seconds. She blazed through that thing and followed my plan beautifully. Here's the thing--ALL levels, from 1 to 5, used exactly the same course and had the same amount of point accumulation time (well--not quite--big dogs get 30 seconds, little dogs get 35 seconds), so in an extremely rare occurrence, I could compare her to all 126 dogs in the trial. One other dog, at Level 3, got the same number of points. Only one dog got more--and that was an extremely fast little Level 3 dog who had 5 more seconds in which to accumulate points. At her second trial ever! Man, I find it hard to believe myself--

  • In her Jumpers run at the end of the day Sunday, she did 110 yards, including 3 sharp right-angle calloffs, in 19 seconds. I don't think she slowed down even a scrap anywhere on the course, and I felt really good about my handling, too. She was a Level 1 dog (lowest out of 5 levels). Usually every level has a more complicated course, but in this case, all Level 1 and Level 2 dogs ran the same course, so I could compare her time to 75 other dogs, all heights and breeds. She beat all 75 of them! (Closest one was .02 behind her, so, OK, it's really a wash when you consider the human factor in clicking the stopwatch, but OFFICIALLY we did it!)

Full House was first thing Sunday morning, and people rushed over to congratulate us on our run, and for the rest of the day I encountered people saying, "Oh, that's the *fast* dog!" You can only imagine what kick this gives me. The biggest compliment came from Ralph Frazier, whose new dog Tally Ho! was also at her second-only trial (Tika's too). Entered in a different jump height, but as I had been scanning the results from the various runs, her times kept coming up so unbelievably fast that I knew there was another star in the making there. I watched her run, and boy, Ralph has done a great job with her. I kept thinking to myself, "Boy, I'm sure glad we're not competing in the same jump height category, 'cause Tika wouldn't be getting all those 1st places!" Ralph came over later on Sunday after Tika's first couple of runs to say, "Boy, I'm glad we're not in the same jump height category; Tally Ho! wouldn't be getting so many first places."

I was just floating.

You also have to understand that the quality of competition has increased so much. My jaw was just about dragging on the ground, watching so many Level 1 & Level 2, new, dogs and their speed and their level of skill on the courses. We're going to have to keep working at this to keep ahead of them.

Jake's Getting Older But Still A Champ

Lots of signs that Jake is getting old, and I really started putting them together this weekend.

Arthritis: In August of 2001, Jake's back became suddenly extremely painful, and xrays confirmed that he had some arthritis in his lower spine. A month of rest and anti-inflammatory meds, and he seemed completely recovered. Have seen no signs of recurring pain or disability. I did notice at the early January trial that he didn't want to jump up into my arms at the end of a run like we've always done, and I thought maybe he was just a little tired. Actually I'm trying to remember whether he was doing that occasionally at a trial or 2 late in the fall, but I don't remember clearly. In any case, this weekend he didn't even look like he was thinking that jumping up was an option--just wiggled around all happy dog with all 4 feet on the ground, every time.

Anyway, I've also noticed that, in the morning, when he always leaps into my lap at the end of breakfast for a little snuggly, lately (how long?) he's been approaching slowly instead of dashing up, jumping barely high enough instead of flying into my lap, and often not propelling his back parts high enough, so especially in the last couple of weeks I've started preparing to catch his backside so it doesn't fall back to the floor.

Another morning ritual has always been that, as soon as I show signs of being awake, Jake pops up, stretches a little, and comes wagging right up into my ear to nuzzle and push and then roll immediately onto his back and wriggle around making snorking and moofing sounds. Last couple or 3 (how long?) weeks I've finally noticed that he doesn't do that any more. Lifts his head but doesn't immediately get up. Rolls over onto his side and lifts his paw to allow some stomach rubbing. Gets up casually and comes over to say hi. Maybe a little rolling around but not as much or as enthusiastically.

At the trial this weekend, where he usually leaps into my lap on the chair when we return to our set-up after a run, he didn't want to leap onto my lap. Got onto the chair itself, carefully. And once, when he started to leap, he yelped and stopped.

As for the foot that disabled him for a couple of months in Oct & Nov, the bone spur is still there but I've seen no signs of pain or limping since then. Still, in class Wed. night a couple of people said they thought he was holding back when he was running, not reaching out all the way. When I started watching, then and this weekend, I'm pretty sure I noticed it some of the time myself.

Decisions: So what to do about agility? I've been entering him in more veterans classes, where he jumps 12" or 16" depending on the organization (compare this to the 24" he started at in USDAA and earned his ADCH at!). But in a couple of the upcoming trials, when I sent in the entry forms last month, I entered him at full height because he had seemed to be doing so well. I know that I need to contact the trial secretaries and ask them to move him to all vets, but the bigger question is--should he be doing agility at all?

You'd never know that there's anything going on to watch him chase he squeaky, or a ball, or a frisbee. (Note to self: he did some jumping for frisbees this weekend even though I was trying to keep it low--I'll bet that's what made his back more sore.) He still can rev up spectacularly for the agility courses, too, and he did very well this weekend, earning 1st, a couple of seconds, and a couple of thirds--sometimes only a second or so behind a couple of much younger, very fast shelties. He's so wiggly and cheerful after a run.

And I worry about the same thing about NOT entering him that I do with Rem--if we're at an agility trial, and other dogs (i.e., Tika), are running, he'll want to come out and run. I probably need to scale back--not enter him in everything possible like I usually do because he's always had the energy and enthusiasm to do as many runs as *I* could handle.

But I also believe that being as active as he's been has helped to keep him as active as he's been, if you know what I mean. I know that some sources think that agility causes some of the problems, but I've seen more healthier dogs doing agility & being active longer than many couch potato dogs. I dunno. Hard to say. Amber started showing signs of arthritis & slowing down I think when she was around 10 or 11, although I don't remember any more, and she of course never did agility. Sheba didn't show it til 13 or 14 or maybe later.

To the best of our knowledge, Jake turned 11 around November 1. A lot of dogs are retiring from agility much earlier, so he's had a darned good run, so to speak.

Getting old sucks.

Remington's Doing OK

Remington continued through the weekend in his happy, alert, but reserving energy for really important things mode. Haven't been in to the vet for any reason now for almost 2 weeks. We're probably past due for *something*, but it's been a nice break for both of us.

He entered 2 runs Saturday and 3 runs Sunday this weekend in a CPE trial (Canine Performance Events). Each time, he was happy and excited to be heading out to the ring (although I could tell he was still reserving energy--excitement showed mostly in his eyes and ears, body remained calmer). He sat at the start line leaning forward, like he does only when he's about to blast into a fantastic super-Rem run, and then he'd mostly do the course at a slow run varied by casual strolls thru the tunnels and occasional trots. Then, at the end, he'd be gleeful and pleased with himself, so he's clearly putting the energy that he has into it.

Qualifiers: And even so, he managed to meet the qualifying criteria 3 out of his 5 runs, which is a really fine showing for any dog, let alone one who's got a fatal illness. His *fastest* running was after I ran into the teeter, which he apparently thought was pretty exciting--but that's another story. And he'd have probably Qed a 4th one if I hadn't wasted so much course time entangled with the teeter.

Slow Tunnels: Not sure why so slow on the tunnels. I used to think of them as dog accellerators. Thinking maybe it's because he's really as tall as the tunnels, so he has to lower himself some to get through him. When he's running all out, his center of gravity and body are lower so it's not an issue, but when he's slow, he'd actually have to duck to go through or else his head and back would hit the tunnel with each stride. So he slows to a walk to avoid it. Anyway, that's my working theory and he hasn't contradicted me.

Pacing Himself: In some ways, I'm less worried about him running slowly than I was at the trial in january where he actually did blast through a couple of runs, because then I started worrying about whether he'd rupture the tumor.

At the end of the weekend, when I turned him loose in the open field, he did become a wild dog for maybe 30 seconds or so before he slowed down again, but he was definitely running faster and harder than he had on course. Like I said--saving his energy for the really important things.

Random Notes and Thoughts: His appetite remains good, he's on no meds at the moment, like I said, he's active and alert, but not at the peak of his life.

Waiting for me when I got home was his license renewal. Due no later than April 25. Weird to not know whether you should even send in a 1-yr renewal.

Talked to 2 folks over the weekend whose dogs had died of various cancers. One said that she used to have her dog's blood checked a couple of days before an agility trial, and if red blood count was low, she'd know he wouldn't have much energy to spare for agility. Other lady talked about her dog, who became suddenly ill and was found to have severe, inoperable, incurable cancer, with probably only a couple of months to live no matter what--she had her put to sleep. I said it must've been hard to make that choice, and she said, no, it wasn't a choice, because when her dog looked at her, she could see that the life and the joy had completely left her eyes and there was nothing left. I hope I will know as clearly if that time arrives.

A Mostly Pretty Good Weekend

Spent the weekend out at Elk Grove, Starfleet K9 Facility, doing agility, and it was mostly pretty good. Lots to ramble on about. I think I'll post everything separately. Rem's doing OK, Jake's getting older but still a champ, Tika's doing great, I really made a mess of myself.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Tootling Along

Rem's doing pretty good. This week, however, I've noticed that he's losing muscle tone or strength. Now that he's frisky and active again, his rear legs are slipping out from under him quite a bit. Happens in the back yard when merely tossing a Box around, happened once in agility class Wed. night. He wanted to play Agility all evening, but after the first slip, he slowed down. Hope it was from caution from all the slippage and not because he'd bruised himself. But he seems happy and perky this morning.

Not to say that he isn't sleeping more than "normal." Yesterday I was gone most of the day, at work & catching up on a little socializing, and when I got him, boy, he was clingy. I sat & watched KSTV (Stupid TV) for a while late in the evening, and he was digging his head and shoulder right into me instead of simply lying next to me or resting his chin on my leg or lap.

Our cancer doc is out of town this week; we haven't had a visit down there since last Wed when he got his adria, so we've had no blood tests, no meds at all of any kind for a while; he finished his antibiotics and he doesn't seem to need the stomach meds at all.

I've taken him off the special canned diet and he's back on the same ol dried kibble that the other beasties continue to chow upon, and he seems perfectly happy with that, too. His stools are firmer than with the canned stuff and he seems to have lost the aromatic gasses that the canned goop induced.

Hope you weren't eating breakfast while checking in!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Rem Continues Well/Tika's Still Got STuff To Learn

Not only was Rem happy and active last night, but we actually got an Official Upside-Down Dog in bed this morning, which is a flag that things are going well, and which we haven't had since he started feeling cruddy Jan 22.

Tika's a maniac on the leash. This week I've been working hard on her leash-pulling and, as usual, I can't see that it makes any difference. She also got out the side gate last night when I took the trash out. I *listened* for the gate latch behind me and heard it, so I'm not quite sure what happened, but all of a sudden she went flying past me after a cat that just happened to appear across the street. I grabbed a frisbee and tried waving it--I know that yelling "Tika, Come!" will have no effect & so don't want to get her more in the habit of ignoring it--but she was so involved in figuring out which fence the cat went behind that she never so much as glanced in my direction before heading off around the corner. Fortunately she came back around the corner looking for the cat, glanced my way briefly, saw the frisbee, and abruptly changed direction and charged over to me to grab it. Well--it worked, without her flying out in front of moving cars or me chasing her all over the neighborhood. It's not the best solution. Maybe nailing her feet to the sidewalk would work.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Not Only Is He Hanging--

--He is happy, active, demanding to play, running in circles in the yard, flinging boxes wildly around, taking jumps and even tunnels at a run. Eating dinner enthusiastically even though I've gone almost entirely back to his old kibble (but with a little chicken water on it). He hardly slept in his bed all day. Lots of checking out the front window for possible invaders like cars pulling up across the street. Our vet is gone all week this week so I can't tell her all this.

Whichever gods allow this to happen, please let it continue.

Rem Hanging In There

Rem continues to do fairly well. There were about 35 people here yesterday for about 6 hours, and for a good portion of that he was standing up & hanging around & checking out things that might have dropped on the floor. He was pretty danged tired by the end of it, at one point hiding behind the big armchair and suspiciously peering out from behind (that was when the 2-yr-old nephew had gone into 2-yr-old fun mode). Even demanded to sit on my lap and rest his head on my shoulder for a while, and *that* is a rare occurrence. And he finally went up to bed a few minutes before I did, and he usually won't even start up the stairs unless he thinks I'm coming.

Today he's alert and ready to go for his W-word.

Saturday, February 01, 2003


17 years and four days ago, we watched tapes of the Challenger explosion over and over in stunned disbelief. Now it's Columbia's turn. It is certainly nothing compared to the WTC attack, or, as one friend has put it, nothing compared to what we've been expecting to hear given some of the leading news stories. But it still sucks in a big way.

Remington is doing fine. He's much better than he'd been for the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, while I was in the yard, for about half an hour he monitored and attempted to extricate a lizard from its haven of pots and containers. So he's up and active and interested. I hope it lasts a while.