a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: August 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Goodbye

SUMMARY: A very personal goodbye, indeed.

I've had the illness commonly known as depression about four times in my life. After my divorce in 2000 (and a whole slew of other things at the same time), I was lucky to find a woman in independent practice who walked me gently through my grief and pain.

But when I switched to Kaiser, I no longer had access to her.

Two and a half years ago, when I realized again that the darkness and immobility had crept in, I asked for an appointment with a counselor and they assigned me to Dan Tindle.

He worked with me for over two years, both individually and in a close-knit weekly group. Gradually, with me resisting and even kicking and screaming (mostly metaphorically) a good portion of the way, he educated, prodded, joked, listened, prodded more, asked hard questions, provided deeper insight into my approach to life, and supported me in so many ways. By May of this year, I realized one day that I just felt--happy and contented. And again the next day. And again later that week--happy and confident. I came to realize that, wow, I had completely exited the house of depression and moved into a healthy mental and emotional state. 

I retired from the group and our regular sessions at that time because I had found my firm footing and was ready to go it alone.

I went back to talk to him once in May when the young woman I knew in agility dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack and I was struggling with the grief of that and of the sudden loss of a friend's small dog. He helped me through that in a single visit; helped me to find a path for my sorrow and pain.  
I most recently made an appointment to see him on August 5th because of the sudden and rather stunning developments with my spine. We talked and I brought him up to date on my back issues and how I'm doing, which, in fact, was very well. I'm functional and calm and, for the most part, avoiding the spinning-out-of-control "Why me" and "Life will be horrible" sorts of typhoons, which I doubt that I could have done a year ago, or even 5 or 6 years ago. 

Three days after that, he died of a heart attack. Very sudden. He's about 10 years younger than I am, a big health food guy, a runner. 

I feel lost. Grief stricken. Stunned.  And I feel for his other patients as well who are still in process. Shocked. 

I think the world of him. He shared of himself and his own journey to emotional well-being as well as bringing out our deepest fears and needs and angers and pains, and helping us to find a way through them. He was funny, smart, clever, intense, honest, direct, perceptive, determined, deeply caring, opinionated, oh so much fun to talk to (well, except when he was working hard at getting me to drag out the things that I didn't want to drag out, and even so, I found it fascinating at every step, how he just knew where to dig and what to say and when--to me and to others).

I -- am stuck at where to go from here. I had been comforted by the fact that he'd be there if I ever needed his skills again. I'm angry at the universe for taking such an amazing man who had so very much to contribute to the world.  I believe that he and others in the department gave me the skills to work through this. But--


Goodbye, Dan. You were wonderful. I'll miss you. And thank you with all my heart for helping me to find my life again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Must Be In A Singin' Kinda Mood

SUMMARY: More edited lyrics

Thanks, Andy Williams.  

Blue merle, lighter than a tri
Your eyes are like the sky, today
You toy chaser, you fast racer
However you're playing, I'm playing your way.

OK, that's it, you'll have to fill in the rest, I've got physical therapy things to do.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Smart Border Collie--Oh, Never Mind

SUMMARY: Where's your dish?

Boost is really a very smart dog, but some things don't prove it.

If I tell her to "Bring me your dish," or "Find your dish!" she will bring me her dish if it's within easy view, but if it's not, she kind of turns her head left and right and then just shrugs and looks at me.

I've been trying to train her to do better at the search by putting her into a down, clearly picking up her dish, walking into another room, setting it down, coming back, and telling her to find her dish. 90% of the time, she races into the other room and dashes around until she finds it (this is after a few weeks of practice). The other 10%, she looks around the room in which I put her in a down and then looks at me as if, "Well, I have no idea!" Really, she doesn't remember seeing me pick it up 30 seconds ago, carry it into the other room, and come back without it? Sigh.

This evening she showed a particularly dense portion of her brain. She finished eating dinner in the kitchenette. I walked around the counter into the kitchen (all one room really), told her to bring me her dish, which she did, and I put food into it, which she ate. Then I walked back around the counter into the kitchenette and she followed me. I told her to bring me her dish. She went frantic all around me, picking up everything she saw and dumping it at my feet and then searching frantically some more--but never once taking 4 steps to go back around the counter to where she had taken her dish half a minute ago.

My mind boggles.

Anyone else have those odd blind spots in their dog's brain?

I love my border collie. It's probably too much to expect her to be brilliant all the time, but these don't even make any sense. Ah, well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chip the Almost Trick Dog

SUMMARY: Seminar.

Before my back went south, I signed up for a tricks-for-agility seminar with Chip. I've been considering my pain levels ever since, trying to decide whether to cancel and try to find a replacement for my spot.

But I've had several goodish days lately, so we went. A friend drove and picked up me and Chip after noon and helped carry stuff. That was lovely, about the only way that we'd have made it.

Chip lasted about 2 hours into the 4-hour session before he more or less shut down.That's actually good for him--when I first got him, learning new stuff was very stressful for him and he might last 2 or 3 minutes before stress signs started appearing and he'd quickly shut down.

Today that became obvious when he stopped accepting treats for anything except a couple of very familiar behaviors (nose touch to my hand, "shake" which is almost ready for primetime finally).  Also didn't want to try anything or do anything.

And my back had had enough at about the same time despite me trying to manage everything to avoid aggravating the nerves.  I spent several sessions, while others were practicing, lying on the lawn with Chip and stroking or massaging him. Lots of people thought it was cute and took photos (hope I get some). They didn't necessarily all know that we were both pretty much done for the day!  

Still, a couple of behaviors that were not too different from his normal life he was eventually willing to try, and he had some fun playing with very simple behaviors with a friend who kept providing different kinds of treats after my kinds fell from favor. So he did end up relaxing and enjoying himself again.

But the seminar was fun and I got a few new tips and it was excellent experience for him.  Maybe tomorrow I'll list the things that we worked on.

Tonight--pretty sore among my various aggravated nerves, and very tired.  Off to bed with me.

About My Back

SUMMARY: Bringing my blog up to date on this topic.

I had not expected my body and life to take a turn in this direction, but they have, so here we go.

I've mentioned my recent back pain over the last year a few times.

I have a bit of history of back issues related to spine problems--bad one back in 2000/2001, when I was on disability and couldn't do much of anything, then using a lot of caution since then or risk sciatic pain creeping quickly in, then the current bout that started early last year, got a bit worse, got a bit better so that I could start doing longer walks again, but up until 3 or 4 months ago it did not interfere with actually doing agility. Got slowly worse again to where I couldn't actually do agility, more than maybe one run a day.

Then abruptly one morning I couldn't stand up, I was in so much pain.

The short story is that my lumbar (lower) spine is suffering the effects from degenerative disk disease and arthritis and probably bad luck and is now so contorted that nerve pain is constant. I have discovered gradually that hobbling downstairs and using the exercycle for 5-10 minutes followed by basic core exercises and stretching allows me to operate in an upright position per my design specs, but the individual parts are wearing out and I can't get replacements. Icing helps temporarily. Heating helps temporarily. Stretching helps temporarily, but only to ease the pain, not make it go away.

I'm out on short-term disability again while investigating whether very serious surgery is my only solution and meanwhile trying to ease the pain a bit. Just being out from work I think helps a bit--not so stressful, no requirement to be on the computer any longer than I feel comfortable doing, and so on. However, I was enjoying my current long-term assignment and it was sad to clear out my cubicle and leave it behind for now. Hoping that's not long term, but still TBD.

There's no way I can do agility at this time. Any kind of training at all is hard when trying to avoid any kind of bending, and sitting hurts, and standing up hurts. Bah, I say.

I'm not trapped at home: Driving is comfortable. Places where I can sit immobile for a while (e.g., movie theaters with good seats) are OK, as are places where I can lean forward onto a table to take the weight off my spine/backside are OK. Hard to work under such restraints.

Also on assorted meds trying to ease the pain, so I spend a lot of time just sleeping.

But I've been in a good state emotionally all spring and into summer, and despite the challenges, I'm still there, just occasionally whining to myself and having a brief self-pity party. Then I'm off and running (figuratively) again, setting up appointments, doing research, gathering data, and so on.

People have been very helpful and understanding. It's amazing how many of my friends have had some kind of back surgery or have avoided it but still have problems.

I might need that deeply involved and complex surgery. We'll see--but if I do, it'll probably be sooner rather than later. Oh, boy, something to look forward to: Being out on disability and in a lot of pain for up to a year. But if it fixes the problem...


Hope all of your backs are doing well.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Rumors abound--is the song about Tika? Or Boost or--?

SUMMARY: It's altered lyrics day!

Oh we started several years ago when I was still quite naive.
You said that you'd do anything for toys and that you would never eat.
But you've turned into a big food hog and now you want all my treats.
I had some treats, they were Zukes in my pocket, Zukes in my pocket and--

You're so trained, you prob'ly think you've earned all those treats
You're so trained, I bet you think you've earned all those treats, don't you, don't you?

(For reference: Original music, ref. verse 2 (at 1:10))