a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: November 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tika Update

SUMMARY: Activity, attitude.

Tika has now been on all her heart meds (3 pills) plus antibiotics for a week now--over 2 weeks for the diuretic.

The coughing has gone away almost completely--guess I should've pushed the issue more with the vet earlier. Her stools are a little soft (sorry if TMI) but not really bad--vet suggested looking out for that sort of thing. We'll see how they look when the antibiotics for her anal gland finish up. Nothing wrong with her appetite.

But her energy level or enthusiasm for playing are still lower than they were before The Incident. She played a bit more yesterday and today than she has since The Incident, but not for very long at all. It might be good that she's self-regulating. But I'm also concerned that there seems to be a notable difference.

She likes to just sit or stand there and be rubbed. She always did like it, but now is choosing that instead of toys, which is unusal.

Friday morning I ended up at a drop-in agility class. Ran Boost--mostly good except all the bars coming down--and got some additional pointers on handling (move sooner! where have I heard that before?). Tika looked eager to go, standing up and pawing at her crate. So we set some bars at 12 inches and I ran her over about 5 jumps and then gave her a bunch of rewards, and she seemed satisfied with that.

She's definitely drinking a lot more than she used to--result of the diuretics, I'm guessing.

Anal gland looks better every day. Don't notice any swelling under the surface now. Just 3 more days of cleaning and antibioticking that, thank goodness, although she seems to not mind me massaging it a bit as I clean it and apply the ointment. (Oh, and of course give her a ton of treats.)

And she participated happily in the nosework seminar that we did this weekend--but that's the topic of another post.

All in all, she's acting generally healthy but more like an old dog than she did just a few short weeks ago. I hope it's temporary. Good old girl.

Friday, November 23, 2012

All About the Heart

SUMMARY: Well--not all about--just some useful stuff in general and Tika's in particular.

Tika has congestive heart disease. Depending on which veterinary web site you visit, either cancer or congestive heart disease is the leading cause of death in dogs.

So, what's going on in her heart?

Here are the parts of the heart. A dog's heart is essentially the same.

(image from this site.)

Found this video that shows how the heart works, and a dog's works the same way.

The vet kindly drew a sketch on a paper towel of what's going on with Tika's heart. High-tech! This drawing is reversed from above--Left Atrium (LA) and Ventricle (LV) are on the left here.

Tika's mitral valve--between LA and LV--has become enlarged and hardened. So (a) it doesn't close all the way and (b) it's prolapsed--it opens in the wrong direction as well (picture a door that should open inward now opening outward). So, when the heart pumps, instead of the proper fluid staying in the proper direction as shown in the video, some of the fluid squishes backwards, increasing the pressure in the Left Atrium. (That's about as technical as I can get.)

The additional pressure has caused her Left Atrium to become greatly enlarged--the dotted line--which means that the muscle wall is stretched badly and no longer pumps as well; also, it's encroaching on the Right Atrium, making that part work harder to do its job and to get enough blood flowing.

What happens eventually is that the valve or the left atrium stop working entirely, for various reasons. In that case, it's all over, and it could be very sudden.

Some places have done valve-replacement surgery on dogs, but not that many and (a) it's really, really expensive, (b) very involved surgery with lots of risks, which I don't really want to put Tika through, (c) Tika's left aorta is in bad enough condition that it's not really worth it to try fixing just the valve, and (c) she's nearly 12, so even if everything else were to go right, I don't know that I'd get more than a year or 2 anyway.

Example discussion: http://www.vetinfo.com/vets/answers/can-dogs-get-heart-valve-replacement

And now you know.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for my family, friends, beasts, and this amazing world

Duz we smellz turkey?

 Our team.

There is so much to be thankful for, if you stop to think about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tika and Boost

SUMMARY: Resting, playing, training.

Tika doesn't seem to have any side effects from the new meds so far; whew!

This evening marks the first time that she has wanted to play since last Wednesday evening. At the time I thought maybe she was sulking or confused because I wasn't playing "properly" with her, but in retrospect, I realize it's because her butt hurt so much. Glad that she's now feeling a bit better.

So now I had to go back to not playing properly with her while at the same time throwing the toy enough for Boost to chase. The challenge with dang Boost is that she won't play with a toy while Tika is--she wants to watch us. So I can't distract Tika with one toy while I throw another one for Boost.

On the other hand, the last few days where I've been able to work with Boost while Tika hung out inside the house of her own volition, it's been so much easier to practice some agility things that I know we need to practice.

It's a reminder that I used to be adamant about the not-being-trained dog staying up on the porch while I worked with the other dog, and have let that slide a bit; and also that at the moment I'm actually enjoying working with Boost on a few issues:

* Send to the opposite end of a tunnel
* Rear cross tunnel and turn in the opposite direction
* Rear cross curved tunnel
* Blast out of tunnel and go straight ahead over a jump with me way behind
* Dang weave entry approaching from the left, and some from the right to keep it balanced.

And we've got 3 months to just casually practice stuff like this before our next competition. Sigh--just hit me again that Tika won't be competing. It has been a very, very long time since I've deliberately run only one dog in agility. It'll be odd, but maybe good for a while.

So things are, at the moment, relatively at peace.

Monday, November 19, 2012

There Is No Joy in Mudville Except for Tika

SUMMARY: Bad heart, bad anal gland.

As I reported here, I've been waiting for this morning when we had an ultrasound and follow-up x-ray scheduled for Tika's heart and lungs.

Meanwhile, she' been licking at her anal area. Since she has a history of anal gland abscesses, I checked when she started licking maybe 3 or 4 weeks ago, saw and felt nothing. Checked again a couple of weeks ago, maybe just before the last agility weekend, I'm pretty sure. Nothing.

Set my alarm for 7 this morning so that I could drop her off at the vet's at 8:00 for the various tests. 5 a.m., bam!, she hits the floor with all four feet and assumes the, you know, "about to poop" position. I rush her out to the yard, where she does that for about half an hour, in between stopping and licking.

I took a look--bright purplish red under there. That can't be good.

In short, we never could get back to sleep, as it was bothering her too much and she kept returning to that position. Clearly in a lot of discomfort.

By the time we got to the vet, lots of bleeding, too. Gads. When it rains...

Anyway, vet *thinks* it's just an abscessed anal gland again. Reason I didn't see anything is because the swelling was all inside this time--possibly all the scar tissue from previous infections was keeping it from showing outwardly. We're *hoping* it's just swelling from the infection and not something worse. Vet had to give her local anesthesia to clean it out, then they kept her longer so that he could do it again a couple of hours later.

But on to primary news: Tika's heart is in very bad shape. If she were a human, she'd at least be looking at valve surgery and isn't far from what would require a heart transplant. How she kept going at all is beyond me. So the other heart medications that we thought maybe we'd add gradually as the need arose--? She's now on them.

They didn't bother with the x-ray to check fluid in the lungs--they sound very clear and the heart is the bigger challenge.

There is no way she's going to be doing any more agility. But, because she's an active and eager dog, I'm not going to keep her from running or chasing a ball or playing tug--but we might try to keep it to a minimum. No more long hikes in the mountains, I'm thinkin'. Although she does like those interesting off-leash explorations.

She's now taking antibiotics for the anal gland and diuretic and 2 other meds for her heart. And my checkbook is down another $1200. Gads.

The vet thinks that the heart could give out at any moment, or she could last a year, or maybe longer. But probably not a lot longer.

She's not even 12 yet! I really had hoped for a longer old age for her, as she's been so active and (generally) healthy. Well, it ain't over till the fat lady sings.

Goal is that she's happy, comfortable, not in pain.

And, right at the moment, she is VERY happy to be home and to be having dinner.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Class This Week and Stuff Like That

SUMMARY: Boost: Bars. Tika: What the heck?

Tika is on two weeks' rest per the vet's instructions. No running, no tug of war. Walks are OK. She, of course, wants to run and play and is starting to look dispirited when once again I'm throwing the toy for Boost to chase while distracting Tika with treats tossed into the lawn. Oh, she likes the food, but it's so clear when we go outside and she bounds into position, ears up, eyes bright, and then instead of running, all I'll do is nudge the toy around while she's hanging onto it--she likes that, but not as much as running and tug and is just kind of giving up on me.

Last night was class, so Boost ran all the exercises. Had several bars down. Of course, usually Tika does half the exercises, so Boost had more opportunities to knock bars. After knocking hardly any last weekend.

Maybe the lawn was too damp.

AND she still can't do that entry bearing left into the weaves--you know, the entry that's supposed to be easy because the dog wraps around the first pole? This is the same entry she's always had trouble with. I don't think she ever really got that "the first pole is to your left," but instead thinks it's "go between the first two poles." Well, we have 3 months in which to practice. If I feel like it.

Tried to keep Tika feeling not attention deprived during class. Between runs, did some tricks for treats, trotted her out to the backfield to go over an 8-inch jump a couple of times, practiced some downs on the table. And gave her a lot of rubbing. Still, she went from looking excited about being there to "ok, whatever."

This will be hard on both of us, another week still to go. I'll be glad when we get the ultrasound done on Monday to find out what her heart's strength really is right now.

And my knee suddenly started hurting last night after a few weeks of wonderfulness. Seems OK today so far. Just weird.

Thinking about how/when i want to have a retirement cake for Tika. Well... for me, anyway. I'm sure she'd get some, too. Any excuse for frosting, though.

The emergency vet last weekend said she was busy admiring what great teeth Tika has. Guess we've done something right--and/or she had pretty good teeth genes. Except for that one cracked/abscessed tooth that had to come out a couple of years ago, and a few tips that look like they've broken off (versus worn down), they look pretty good to me, too.

Planning on going for a 4-6 mile walk on the level tomorrow with a friend. Normally I'd take the dogs, but I'm thinking that might not be what the vets had in mind when they talked about a walk to the end of the street. (Actually we've been doing about a mile and a quarter a day, which is less than our "normal" walk, and doing it somewhat more leisurely than usual.) Hm. Maybe I'll just leave them home this time. :-(

Still, generally, I've been pretty lucky with my dogs. Tika has done very well until a pretty good age. And Boost *likes* doing agility, even if we have some issues out there on the field.

Anyway, I think I'm rambling. Off to bed early tonight and hope for another sunrise like yesterday's:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Muggles and Their Dogs

SUMMARY: A compendium of experiences.

In Harry Potter, a muggle is a person who is born into a nonmagical family and is incapable of magic.

Sometimes I have dog-related experiences with nondogical muggles. Here are some that come to mind from the last 20 years, mostly without comment.

These might be amusing, or they might be depressing. Or both.

A co-worker, who knows that I do interesting stuff with my dogs, emailed me a call for help from her sister:
"I have a small dog which I got about 3 years ago to be able to have her inside as a companion dog. She was impossible to housebreak, which I later learned is a characteristic of her breed (bichon frise). So, she lives primarily outside, as she ruined the carpets in my last house and cannot be trusted inside.

"She is headstrong and will not come if you call her and generally goes her own way. Now she has taken to barking at the birds in the trees ALL NIGHT EVERY NIGHT and since she won't come when called, I can't catch her and put her in the garage overnight. Last night I had to sleep on the floor in the guest bedroom because that was the only place in the house to get away from the noise.

"Please advise: 1) is there something I am missing here? Something I should do differently?
2) Should I hang on and hope she gets better on her own? Or adopt her out?"
I responded with some detailed instructions, the primary one being run, don't walk, to get some training. She sent me email a couple of months later, thanking me for my advice and telling me that she gave away that dog and got another one, but that she took my advice and first thing sent the new dog away to training camp, so that, when the dog eventually comes home, he'll be completely trained.

The day after Christmas, I walked to the end of the driveway to get the newspaper, and a cute little dog, probably 3 or 4 months old, no obvious breed, came wiggling up to me. He seemed well-groomed generally, but a bit dirty, and had a big red ribbon around his neck that looked bedraggled and torn. No other collar or license or identifying marks.

I put up posters around the neighborhood and a notice in the paper. Took him to the pound (because that's the first place I always looked when my dog got out). He was not microchipped. No one ever claimed him. The shelter put him up for adoption.

I agreed to meet an older gentleman whom I met on an online dating service in part because he has a dog whom he dearly loves. We got to talking about dog training and he made some comment about how sometimes the dog has an accident and he has to hit her with a rolled-up newspaper and rub her nose in the mess. I suggested that he was joking, but he assured me that he was serious.

I noted that dog training knowledge has advanced considerably through the years and that no dog trainer nowadays would ever suggest doing such a thing. He said that it worked fine for his grandfather when he trained his dogs so it's good enough for him.  [I did NOT say, your grandfather probably drove a horse-drawn buggy--if that was good enough for him, why aren't you driving one?]

The mentally deficient white-trash neighbors across the street [seriously, I am not exaggerating--picture old appliances rusting in the front yard, in the middle of well-groomed suburbia; the police regularly showed up at their place with lights flashing; one guy hit another guy in the head with a board because they both wanted the lady as their girlfriend] had a big black dog named Blue who went everywhere with them in the back of their truck. I suggested once that the dog be securely fastened and their response indicated that I was clearly ignorant about dealing with dogs. One day I noticed that Blue wasn't around any more and asked about it. Oh, they'd been at a park up in the mountains off Skyline and he wandered off, so they came home without him and assumed he was happy where he was. No, they never reported him missing, no, they didn't look for him, no, they didn't put up posters or put a notice in the paper.

The people next door, a large family with many children of various ages, got a puppy of some sort of bully breed. He was cute but very concerned about the size of my dogs. He played with the kids all the time he was growing up. He also was out in the back yard barking for hours on end, often well into the night, despite repeated requests from me and my renter to shut the dang dog up. Then they got a Papillon, too.  A big dog barking for hours is annoying; a tiny dog yapping for hours late into the night is like the Chinese water torture.  Sometimes I heard what sounded like the two dogs having a loud disagreement (frankly, it always sounded like the Papillon was winning) and someone would run out of the house and yell at them.

One day as I drove onto my street after shopping, three police cars and an Animal Control truck were parked on the street. Three cops were at the neighbor's front door along with an animal control guy with one of those long poles with a collar on the end for snagging critters. Another cop with a notebook was walking away from another neighbor who was standing out on his front porch. My neighbors had the door open only slightly, talking to the cops. I didn't stick around outside to see what happened next. I never found out what was going on, but the dogs are no longer there.

A neighbor whose backyard abutted ours had a young beagle. The beagle used to sit out in the yard during the day and bay. Wasn't too bad for me because it was wayyyy in the back. After a couple of years of this, I noticed one day that I wasn't hearing anything and asked about it. Oh, the beagle had stopped eating and they'd taken him to the vet. He had a fever. The vet suggested doing some tests to find out what was wrong. The neighbor said that no way was she going to pay for medical tests for a dog and had him euthanized.

Every time I go to the nice park up the street--the one with the huge lawns on which kids play soccer and baseball--the one with the poop-bag dispenser next to the garbage can--and walk around the perimeter, I pick up several random dog poops. Every. Damned. Time.

Another neighbor whose shared our back fence had a huge Rottweiler who used to throw himself at the fence while I worked in the yard. Came home one day to find him in our [huge] back yard with Remington and Jake--Remington who always had a chip on his shoulder about other big dogs--and they were just cruising around companionably, sniffing shrubs and peeing on things. After that, I didn't worry about the dog, and he fairly regularly broke through the fence and came visiting.

I suggested strongly to the neighbor that he needed to have the dog neutered if he was going to keep going walkabout. He said no, he planned on breeding him. I said, oh, so he's a champion at something? He said no, he's just a really nice dog. I said oh, so his parents are champions at something and come from really good genetic lines? And he said he didn't know anything about that, but his dog was cool so it would be neat for him to father some puppies. I said that fathering random puppies on some other naive neighbor's unspayed female dog and having mixed breed puppies with no built-in market for them was one reason so many dogs are euthanized. He didn't really care, that wasn't his business; neutering guy dogs is just mean because then how will they have sex--*he* wouldn't want his balls cut off; and of course when he was ready he'd find a good female Rottie.

While I was walking the dogs around the neighborhood, a woman in the front yard of a random house (which contains a yapping dog) said something nice about my dogs. So I stopped, told them to sit so that I could talk to her, and she said, "Oh my god! Are you a professional trainer?" Me, puzzled: "No." Her: "How on earth do you get them to do that? [Sit. On command.] My dog never does that!"

I drove to a stranger's house to pick up some free plants; the dogs were with me in the car. He struck up a conversation about dogs. I noted that I compete in dog agility with my dogs and explained what that is. He asked whether they know all the commands that a dog should know. I said that they know what I've taught them. He said, oh, his cousin has a dog [of some specific breed] that was born knowing how to understand commands in English. So if he ever got a dog, he'd get one of that breed because they don't need any training.

I'd like to get one of those, too. Preferably that is born knowing how to do agility as well.

I'd bet you've got a lot of stories like these, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Campaign Is Almost Over

SUMMARY: List of goals--most accomplished, much progress made.

Thirteen months ago, I announced The Campaign to try to complete a specific set of titles for both dogs.

I've been marking off the completed items under the "The Campaign" link at the top of my page. I also pretty much stopped frantically chasing things back in September--too many weekends of agility once again, got tired of it once again.

Assuming that Tika is retired, then her Campaign is obviously over, with much success. Boost is still working, but also made significant progress.

Here's the original set of goals, and what we achieved in these 13 months:

For Tika:
  • PTM-Platinum: Performance Tournament Master platinum, that's  50 Performance Tournament Qs (Grand Prix, Steeplechase, and DAM Team, with at least 10 in each).  What Tika still needs: A DAM Q and any other Q. DONE! [In fact, she now has 68 total Perf Tournament Qs.]
  • LAA-Platinum: Lifetime Achievement Award Platinum. That's 500 Qs in any Masters, P3, or Tournament class, with at least 50 in each regular titling class (Standard, Jumpers, Snooker, Gamblers, Pairs). What Tika still needs: 95 Qs. 76 Completed.
  • PDCH-Gold: Performance Championship Gold: At least 35 Qs in each regular titling class and at least 35 tournament Qs. What Tika still needs:  9 Standard, 4 Pairs Relay, 1 Gamblers, 9 Snooker, 6 Jumpers. DONE!
  • C-ATE: CPE Agility Team Extraordinaire. That's 5000 points at level C (which, unlike lower levels in CPE, requires clean runs for Qs), including at least 20 Qs in each of the 7 classes. Point values vary by class; for example, Standard is 25 points, Jumpers is 20, Colors is 15. My estimate is that, on average, runs on any given weekend average about 21.5 points each. What Tika still needs: 965 points, roughly 46 Qs (she already has her 20 in all 7 classes). DONE!
  • ExST ExSN ExJP ExFH: Extraordinaire [class], 30 of that class at level C. So my stretch goal is for Standard, Snooker, Jackpot (Gamblers), and Full House Ex titles. We might also end up with our Wildcard, Colors, and  Jumpers Ex, too, but those aren't specific goals.  What Tika still needs: ExST: Oh, we got this last weekend! Yeah! ExSN: 2 Qs. ExJP: 1 Q. ExFH: 2 Qs.  Completed Standard, Snooker, Jackpot, Full House, and Wildcard; need just one more for Jumpers and two more for Colors. (We pretty much stopped doing CPE after the C-ATE and CATCH completed.)
For Boost:
  • ADCH: Agility Dog Champion. That's 5 Qs in each of the regular titling classes--3 of the Snookers must be SuperQs--plus 5 tournaments with at least 1 of each tournament. What Boost still needs: 2 superQs, 2 Jumpers. (You'd think this would be easy--just 4 Qs. Apparently not.) 2 Jumpers completed. [And if we can ever get those 2 Super-Qs, that would complete not only the ADCH, but also the Snooker Champion Silver!]
  • ADCH-Bronze: (stretch goal) 15 Qs in each of the regular titling classes plus 15 tournaments with at least 3 of each. What Boost still needs: ADCH plus 3 Gamblers and 10 Jumpers.   The Gamblers and one of the Jumpers completed. [In fact, she has also completed her GOLD Relay Championship (35 Qs).]
  • C-ATCH: CPE Agility Trial Champion. You compete at Level 5 to earn this, where you can still have some faults but fewer than you can at lower levels. For example, you can still Q in Jumpers with one bar down. It requires 10 Standard and 5 each of the other 6 classes. What Boost still needs: 6 Standard, 5 colors, 2 Wildcard, 3 Snooker.  DONE!
Annnnnnnd that's all for tonight.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tika Update

SUMMARY: Consulted with the vet.

Tika was just about jumping out of her skin with enthusiasm this morning to go play ball in the yard. I explained that the emergency vet had said no running, be sedate, for a week. Then I gave her the usual sedative and headed off to see our regular vet. Poor Tika, shaking in her crate when I pulled into the parking lot.

We went over the results from the emergency clinic and talked about possible progressions of the disease, possible treatments, and next steps, which are:
  • Keep her sedate, no intense things (running, tug) for TWO weeks!! Ack!
  • Next week, repeat the chest x-ray to see how much the diuretic has helped.
  • Get an ultrasound for detailed info about the strength of her heart.
  • Keep her on the diuretic for the rest of her life. Later, add more heart meds as needed.
Ka-ching! Ka-ching!  Was I complaining not long ago about how much I've spent in vet bills the last 2 or 3 months? Well, dang, that number is rising quickly.  We'll survive, I suppose. Good thing I wasn't planning on any agility entry fees for the next 3 months.

Tika helping at the score table Sunday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Agility in the Autumn Recap

SUMMARY: Sometimes nothing goes the way you expect it to.

Picking up from where I left off--Tika again coughed most of the night Friday night, so even though I had no trouble drifting off because I was so tired from lack of sleep Thursday night, when 4 a.m. rolled around, I was then operating on two nights of sleep deprivation. Still, when I headed out on the road, I felt pretty good and even looking forward to the weekend.

The trip to Turlock was uneventful and I arrived half an hour earlier than I had anticipated, so turned on my alarm and napped in MUTT MVR for half an hour. First time I think I've ever done *that* (although I have often stopped & napped on my way home from trials).

The weather cooperated nicely. Cold and crisp on Saturday, with no rain at all. Tika in particular likes the cooler weather, so I figured that we might get some good fast runs. (Sunday was a bit warmer but still nicely cool for the dogs.)

We started the morning with Pairs Relay. Boost and her partner did great--her partner (a half sister) knocked a bar, but Boost was spot on perfect and I felt great running, knee again not bothering me, felt faster than I've felt in a long time. We had THE fastest running time of all 16 teams, wooohooo! but the 5-second penalty for the bar knocked us into 2nd place. That's very cool; Boost very seldom finishes with a placement ribbon even when we Q.

Tika and her partner did good, although once again Tika stunned me by popping out of the middle of the poles. I always made a high-pitched "brrrrrrrrr!" noise as she did the poles, and so now I'm wondering whether she's not hearing it so is thinking she's in the wrong place. But we still Qed and placed 2nd of 6 teams! A great way to start the morning, and Tika looked quite happy to be out there.

Next up, Standard, and OMG OMG OMG Boost and I had *another* spot-on perfect run! I felt fleet and fit; she did everything right, and placed 4th of 26 dog with a Q! Like, truly, WOW! On only 4 other weekends, ever, has she placed in the ribbons in 2 runs the same weekend! Happy happy happy, we both looked pretty pleased coming off the course. I also decided this weekend to do quick releases off all the contacts rather than stopped and telling her she's good. I liked that.

I'm thinkin'--oooh, this COULD be our day for a Super-Q in Snooker! Everything is clicking!

In Standard, Tika took the first jump and started coughing. I kept going, because on the few times she's coughed while running, it's gone within 3 or 4 coughs. She kept going, doing everything perfectly, but still coughing coughing. By the 10th obstacle--a chute (collapsed tunnel), she was obviously slowing. Next up, the dogwalk, and I decided that if she was still coughing on the dogwalk, I was stopping. But, you know, Tika doesn't stop on the dogwalk.

She didn't this time, either, but she was very slow, took a couple steps off the end, stopped completely, and stood there silently with her head down as I moved quickly in.

She took a step and staggered. I grabbed her. Head still down. I gently tried to turn her around to leave the course, and she stumbled against me. I held her still for a moment, scared down to the pit of my soul. She took another step, stumbled, then another step, and another, and her head came up, and her ears came up, and she trotted off the field like nothing had happened.

I checked her gums, and they were white.

White gums was how I always knew that Remington's tumor was bleeding internally, so I know about white gums. And, because of Remington, I have checked Tika's gums occasionally since she started the coughing, and they've never been white.

Much quick consulting with the many season vet techs who are also agility addicts around here. Tika still acting like a completely normal Tika, ready to go, eager to eat, bright-eyed. Got info about the 24/7 emergency clinic and headed off with both dogs.


By the time we got there, Tika's gums had a little pink to them. They did a triage check and said, nope, her gums are fine, and so we went on the end of the queue of not-in-immediate-danger pets spending their Saturday at the emergency clinic.

Eventually, we met with the vet. By that time, Tika's gums were the usual bright pink. And aside from occasional coughing, looked and acted completely normal, including being quite stressed about being at the vet's.

They did a blood test at my request, and her blood cells were normal, no sign of anemia. The vet also kept listening to her chest over and over, and we finally decided to do chest x-rays (w/out sedation--Tika was very good!). Now, I've known for a couple of years that Tika had a heart murmur, and that it had gotten slightly worse by this summer;  at our most recent visit, our vet discussed a little bit about how Tika was likely headed down the road sometime to congestive heart failure. He said to let him know if she started coughing. She had been for several months at that point, but he seemed to think that what I was reporting wasn't significant. But it did prepare me for this diagnosis confirmed by Saturday's x-rays: Congestive heart failure.

Her heart is enlarged, and her chest had accrued extra fluid, all putting pressure on her blood vessels and bronchial tubes, which is what causes the coughing (same in people as in dogs). Most likely what happened on the field was that she simply was not getting enough oxygen to her brain.

Why she was fine during frisbee that morning and during her pairs relay run, but then started coughing during Standard, dunno.

But obviously in those preceding 48 hours, her body had crossed some kind of threshold that had made everything suddenly quite worse.

Do you know how strange it is to think, "Oh, thank Dog, she only has congestive heart failure!" ??!

Got some diuretics for her to reduce the fluid in her chest (standard treatment for humans, too). And returned to the trial, 4 hours after we'd left.


Scratched Tika from the rest of the weekend.

When we got back, Steeplechase Round 1 was in progress, so we had completely missed Gamblers and Snooker, dagnabbit. Everyone was very nice and let me get a quick walk-through at a jump-height change so that I could still run Boost in the Steeplechase.

I still felt fast and fit, but Boost ran past two jumps, wasting too much time when I had to take her back to fix them, so no Q. But parts of the run felt brilliant.

We also were able to run Jumpers. It was a gnarly course (in the negative sense) and the Q rate was low: Only 6 of the 28 dogs in Boost's height Qualified... including Boost! That's Jumpers Qs two trials in a row! Holy mackerel! AND a fourth-place ribbon! (It wasn't a pretty run, way too many turns in the wrong direction, but she kept all her bars up and didn't run past anything.)

So three Qs and three placement ribbons out of four runs! That has never happened before!

Took Tika out of her crate about every half hour and she peed a lot each time, so the diuretic was doing its job, I hoped. Dreaded the night, though--

I was in bed and asleep by 8:30, SO tired from 2 nights of interrupted sleep and the stress of the day. Had to set the alarm for 10:30 p.m. to give Tika her next pill, took her out then for one last pee--

--and then we all slept straight through until the alarm went off at 7. Blissful sleep! And no coughing from Tika! Yay!

On Sunday, Tika and I: 
  • Spent time together with her just out of the crate, visiting people, getting treats and affection.
  • Wandered around the grounds looking for molecules of goodies in the grass.
  • Worked at the score table together--well, I worked the score sheets and she worked the food.
  • Played tug-of-war. Vet said no running for a week, keep her fairly quiet. Tug probably isn't quiet, but she was SO happy to get some playing in! And I stopped at the first sign of a cough each time.
Everyone at agility is SO nice; I can't tell you how many people helped me after Tika's meltdown in the ring, even offering to go with me to the emergency room (I declined), or came by later that day or today to ask how she was, share their knowledge or their lessons from their own similar experiences, and to wish us well. I hope I said thank you often enough--you all out there were wonderful, and I'm grateful beyond words.

On Sunday, Boost and I:
  • Had a not-quite perfect jumpers run--she knocked the 2nd bar, I got in a late front cross for an off course after #4, and then--were brilliant! Oh, what a fun dog to run when everything is clicking!
  • Had a PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT Standard run with the 2nd fastest time of all 30 dogs in her class--oh, except for that one little bit where she ran past the first jump instead of taking it. I didn't go back and fix it, no point to that. So we E'ed but I was SO happy with that run!
  • Had a SUPER Grand Prix run; 7th fastest out of 29 dogs but 4 of the others had faults and we didn't, so she Qed AND placed 3rd!  In Grand Prix! OMG all over again! The highest she had ever placed before was 5th, and that only twice ever!
  • Had...well...a not-so perfect Snooker run. OK, she kept all her bars up! But we had to have discussions about 2 different jumps that she didn't go over, so we ran out of time partway through the #7 in the closing, but the bits between that were SO much fun! Turns out that even if we'd made it, we'd have been 1 point shy of a Super-Q, but still, at least it was a regular Q.
And my knee continued to feel great... oh, except now it's popping every time I take a step. Doesn't hurt (much), though, and it hasn't felt this good in a very long time as it has these last couple of months.  And I've felt like I've really been hauling my own butt around the course, which maybe is why she's doing better. It's inexplicable.

So, for Boost's weekend: Qed 5 out of 8--62%! She has NEVER Qed more than 35% in a USDAA weekend, EVER! *AND* four of them placing in the top 4 out of a large class, when she'd only ever had 2 placements in a weekend before.

Don't tell me that Boost and I are figuring out how to do agility as she's approaching her 8th birthday and Tika is unexpectedly retiring?! That's just ridiculous!

So, is Tika retired from agility? Most likely, yes. Did I really believe that this weekend would be her last weekend of agility, ever? Not really. I expected to have some time to think about it, for her to gradually still get older and slower and more frail, and that I would then make a decision and have a nice retirement agility trial with her, but hopefully not until we'd gotten those last 20 Qs for her Platinum Lifetime.

But today she felt fine all day; annoyed that i wouldn't let her play frisbee; almost no coughing. Tomorrow, we'll meet with our regular vet and talk about the future.

The future-- yes, sometimes, nothing goes the way you expect it to.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Agility in the Autumn

SUMMARY: Off to Turlock for USDAA

Well well well, here we are, our last planned agility event until February. Three months! Can I stand it? Especially since Tika should (if all goes well) be well under 20 Qs away from her platinum lifetime after this weekend. And who knows what condition she'll be in 3 months from now.

But--I think it's for the best that I take a longer break, even though there are trials we could attend.

Tika has been having this weird sort of cough/gag thing for months, and recently it seems to be more frequent. Yesterday she was doing it a lot, and then--OMG, off and on all night. I hardly slept. I've never noticed her doing it at night before. Allergies? My renter suggests--acid reflux? Something worse? Something boring? Something contagious? I doubt contagious since it's been going on for so long.  Vet's office said bring her in Monday, so I need to get through 3 more nights and a weekend of agility.

Ack, there she goes again right now.  I shot a little video of her on my little camera, but the sound doesn't come through very well. At least I have something to show the vet.

She's still not completely deaf, but oh, it sometimes breaks my heart how much she misses, or ALMOST hears. The other day, I arrived home, came in through the garage. She was standing at the front door, staring at it, head a-tilt. I walked up the stairs six feet behind her, said her name a couple of times. A couple more head tilts towards the door. I had to walk over to her before she turned her head and realized that I was already in the house. Much happiness.

If I'm going somewhere where the dogs usually like to go (out in the yard, up to the bedroom), now I have to go to wherever she is and let her know that I'm moving, because otherwise she misses that fact and sometimes I hear her trotting around looking for me.


This week, haven't practiced much agility. Also, class was called on account of rain. Back yard is a bit muddy and goopy, not making me want to run around in it.

I did work with both of them on a few tricks last night, which I haven't done in a while. Started shaping a "wave" from the handshake that they both already know. Made a lot of progress actually. It's really pretty quick to teach. I'll bet I could have the whole thing in another one or two 10-minute sessions. Just need to do it.

Forecast is for overnight lows around 34 F (1.1 C) with a chance of showers on Saturday. I decided to splurge again and stay in a hotel Saturday night instead of trying to sleep in MUTT MVR. Nothing fancy, just something pretty close to the trial site. And I dug out the long underwear for the first time this year.

Funny story--When I got up this morning, I heard a weird sound in the upstairs hallway, like some kind of machine running and sucking or blowing air. It seemed to be coming from the renter's rooms and I couldn't figure out what the heck he was doing, as it's way too cold for A/C. Arriving downstairs, I realized--the furnace had just kicked on for the first time in months and was heating my house. 

So I guess winter is finally here, after setting record-high temperatures for the dates just last week.

Guess I'd better go try to get some sleep so I'm ready when the alarm goes off at--sigh--4:00ish.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Flashback: Random People at California Adventure in September

SUMMARY: Wordless Wednesday.

(I don't know any of these people--they just caught my eye--and only 8 of the 17 show park employees.)

>>  Visit the Wordless Wednesday site; lots of blogs. << 


Focused on the Magic

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Good Night At Class

SUMMARY: Boost and Human Mom do well; Tika--well--

It's been two weeks since our last class; the Power Paws instructors were all off at Power Paws camp last week. We didn't do camp this year, so we were on our own for practicing.

We haven't done much in the last couple of weeks. I did set up a straight tunnel in the middle of the yard (usually they're in U shapes around the sides of the yard to give the dogs somewhere to run and keep running back into the yard). This is because, at our last trial, Boost (a) didn't seem to understand about sending to the far end of a tunnel where the opening wasn't facing her, and (b) tends to come out of tunnels and chutes and then turn back to me instead of taking the following jump.

So I set up jumps past either end of the tunnel and practiced a little bit of both of those scenarios.

Did just some random jumps and things with Tika to try to be sure that she stays in shape.

Practiced a few dogwalks and teeters. A few table downs.

Wednesday night and yesterday morning it rained a bit around here. Not a huge amount, but enough to get the ground and the grass wet, and enough so that, when class time rolled around in the evening, when the temperature hit the dew point, everything turned wet wet wet--jump bars, grass, dogs, everything.

Typically in class I alternate runs between Tika and Boost, so they're both getting half a class worth of runs. Two weeks ago, Tika ran well in her first two chances, and then on the third one, she seemed slow and uninterested, so I put her away and ran Boost instead for the rest of the evening.

Last night, Tika ran beautifully in her first run, although it seemed to me that her rear end slewed out from beneath her on many turns. Still, she was bright-eyed, happy, and eager. A break for her while I ran Boost once, then the next time I got Tika out, all she wanted to do was sniff the ground around the start line. I tried to jolly her into paying attention and running, tried restarting her, clapping hands, offering treats. Sniff sniff sniff.

Well, sniffing can be a huge displacement behavior--"I'm stressed and don't want to do this." With Tika, it's sometimes hard to know, as she is SUCH a food hound, and a damp ground probably has even more interesting smells. But when I finally grabbed her collar and almost pushed her over the first jump, she ran with me, but not particularly fast or drivingly. Not droopy or sore looking, just--not all there. So she was done for the night.

She certainly had no issues like that at our last trial. Maybe class isn't exciting enough for her, or the runs are too close together, or,  I think, maybe all that slewing around in the first run made her uncomfortable or nervous, or I dunno--just another sign that she's not going to be doing agility forever.

Boost, meanwhile, ran great! She had two bars down for the evening, and for once I was alert enough to catch her each time before she got to the next obstacle to give her a time out. Everything else was wonderful. Even better, *I* felt great last night--knee didn't bother me at all, I felt like I was hauling butt around the field, getting in what felt like aggressive crosses and such. This doesn't always happen, so it felt good all around. A couple of classmates even commented on it.

If only that all holds up for another week--our last USDAA, and last trial period, for the year next weekend.

THIS weekend, I'm off to a two-day seminar featuring THE Bob Bailey and Dr. Sophia Yin, who is another expert on dog behavior. A sampling of topics:
  • "Dog training: Craft or Technology--is there a diffence?"
  • "The difference measurement makes: Lessons from the treat and train project"
  •  "Your mind's saying one thing, but your body's saying another: The subtle differences in technique that make one handler exceptional and another so-so"
Looking forward to it, even if it is two days of lecture!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Holiday Calendar

SUMMARY: Hummingbird photo.

Back last spring, I posted about a hummingbird nest on my deck and showed some photos illustrating the difficulty of shooting the mom and the chicks.

I kept working at getting photos of the two chicks as they grew, and finally got one that I liked fairly well-- and it's a good thing, because they flew off the next day, never to be seen again.

Of course, it had all kinds of problems anyway--because of the difficulty of squeezing the camera up next to the roof and high enough to see the chicks, and because they're so tiny (the nest is only about 2 inches across), it wasn't even close to straight. Not as sharp as I'd have liked. A little dark. Etc.

Every year, my small company has a contest for employees and their families to pick the art that we'll include on the little fold-out calendars that we send to our clients before the holidays. Each employee can submit up to 3 images, photos or photos of their own art. We usually get 25-30 entries. Everyone votes for their first and second favorites, then votes again in a run-off if necessary. Then our super in-house artist graphics person incorporates it into a nice fold-out calendar.

Our 2010 calendar used my photo of a Monterey morning (actually Carmel, but close enough).

After your art/photo is used, you can't enter the following year, so I didn't for the 2011 calendar, then for 2012 none of mine were selected.

This year I again submitted three photos, including the hummingbird one. But I spent a ton of time on it first--straightened it a bit, cropped in closer to the birds, sharpened it a bit, adjusted the exposure, added some vignetting (darkened the bright corners to keep the attention on the subject), and spent some artful time artfully cloning out the hummingbird poo.

And, yes, hummingbird fledglings got the vote. Woohoo! Coming soon to a 2013 calendar near you--if you're one of our clients.

Happy 2013, a little early! Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Now--notice anything odd about the scene?