Meeka, Degenerative Myelopathy and More Mysterious Symptoms

My big girl is still not in good shape. She looks old. I don’t know how she could age so in just a week but she has.

I think it is in how she is carrying herself and the weight she has lost. My emotional brain is even convinced she has grown more gray in the last days. Or maybe thats me who has grown more gray from worrying about her.

There have been several 4legged friends we know who have gone suddenly over the last while, and each time it is like a kick in the gut. So shocking. And I think what could be worse? But now I wonder if watching her waste away is what is worse. Of course either is tragic and unfair and the cause of much grief.

Yesterday was vet day. We saw the other vet at out clinic. He is, as our regular vet is, very experienced and very thorough. He did a solid ortho exam and found. . . not much. She did react to the flexing of her hip, but it was extreme and he felt it was less out of pain and more just, “HEY! What the heck are you doing to my hip?” I too read it that way.

All the symptoms he did see he felt were more from a neurological problem. Most likely Degenerative Myelopathy. One test that indicates D.M. is to turn the back foot over so the dog is bearing weight on the tops of its toes. As you can imagine a healthy dog would quickly right this uncomfortable situation. Not Meeka. It’s as if the messages aren’t getting through to the brain which is exactly what happens with D.M.

An autoimmune disease, D.M. causes the body to attack the myelin, the sheath that insulates the spinal chord. As the myelin degenerates the brain can not send or receive messages from the lower limbs. Weakness ensues, and eventually total paralysis. There is little to no treatment.

Here’s the catch, D.M is not painful and normally an animal will continue to live out their life with little personality changes, although with their back end continuing to worsen, not Meeka. She is obviously in pain, extremely lethargic, reluctant to eat and go outside to do her business, and appears generally miserable.

All indicating a complication beyond the D.M. A complete senior blood panel was taken yesterday. All normal. One liver enzyme was slightly elevated. Not enough to indicate anything other than her seniorness.

Which puts us back to cancer. Bleh. A slight chance of osteosarcoma, so very common in Rotties, but more likely a tumor in her abdomen somewhere. Most bone cancers by the time they are detectable in x-ray have already spread to lungs and other organs. The Melanoma she had last year makes a tumor even more likely, although in dogs they are a tumor that is less likely to metastasize. Ultra sound would be the next option to find a tumor. Also x-rays for arthritis and lung tumors.

Can you see the dollar signs spinning in my cartoon eyeballs?

I hate that money comes into this, but I have to live in the real world and we are talking a major chunk of change just for diagnosis of what may not be treatable for her. And then things get really complicated.

For D.M. which there is no test for but symptomatically she has, one of the main things to slow the progression is to limit stress. Makes sense from the autoimmune disease standpoint. If your body is attacking you the last thing you need is exterior stressors. All I can think of with diagnosing these other complications is how stressful they would be. So with the likely hood of cancer and her age is it fair to put her through that when she may have only a matter of months left from the standpoint of D.M.?

When she faced the Melanoma we frankly examined what would be fair as far as cancer treatment and we feel that although there has been much progress in the world of canine cancer treatments it still is not fair to an elderly dog to put them through that.

Meeka lives in the now. She already cannot understand what is happening to her. She already seems confused and depressed that her body does not work right. Today she tried to play with Maizey and I and when she couldn’t she just collapsed where she was and refused to try to move again.

I can’t explain to her the treatment that will make her feel worse will hopefully eventually make her better. Dogs don’t live on hope as humans do. Dogs don’t understand the why’s, just the realities of what is now. Perhaps a superior way of being sometimes? But not in the issue of why she is laid out from chemo or radiation.

So I am stuck in the what to do’s. I like to know why’s and I hate uncertainty. Without the D.M. I almost surely would proceed with diagnosing the other symptoms, what ever the financial cost. But what about the costs of further stressing her and aggravating the D.M.? Is it worth it when it is most likely something we won’t treat anyways? I don’t know.

Is there a point when you just love them and make their lives peaceful and as comfortable as possible and work on letting them go? How do you know how much to fight for them if fighting for them could make them suffer more? I don’t know.

All I do know is she is still my awesome big girl and is loyally trying to comfort us as we struggle to figure out what she needs. The best 4legged lesson of all? Sometimes the why’s don’t matter as much as loving each other through the realities of what is.

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what is the best chewy?

Anyone who has 4legged friends knows how much time is spent finding good chewables.

There are various criteria ranging from will the dog eat it to how fast will she eat it. I mean if it’s not more appetizing than the kitchen table then it’s not much good.
Our first dog trainer introduced us to the Nylabone when we brought home our big boy, Summit. After we told her how the first night home he decided the arm of the dining room chair was the best chew toy available to him she said get him a Nylabone. We did and he loved it. We still have that old bone around here somewhere.

Since then Nylabone has come out with other chewable chewies. One of the new ones is Nyalbone Nubz, an edible dental chew. 

Another thing anyone with 4legged friends knows is that dental work is expensive and preventative care is the best way to go. Since not all pups love getting their teeth brushed but they do all love chewing, a dental chew can be a helpful thing for cleaner teeth and fresher breath.

Another cool thing about the Nylabone Nubz is being able to break the 18 larger sized bones into smaller treat sizes.

So I guess the next time I hit Costco I’ll be checking out the $3.50 coupon to see if these new Nylabone treats will be one of the best chewies for my girls!

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Traveling With Friends

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Hampton Hotels. All opinions are 100% mine.

Traveling really got me thinking of the pro’s and con’s of where to stay. We were camping on the way to South Dakota and back which had us driving through Wyoming and obviously there wasn’t a hotel in sight.

Maybe I should have entered the Hampton Chain of Friends Sweepstakes. With a grand prize of having the entire hotel for a weekend even my whole family of 17 could have stayed there with us. Of course first prize of a weekend stay for us and three friends would have saved us setting up camp in the rain on the way home!

Of course there are always pro’s to staying in a hotel. A private bathroom, instead of the common area shower stalls we had at the campground not being the least of it! I’m thinking wifi would rank way up there for me too.

Although I’m not sure how Hampton Inn would feel when mehusbandy set up his smoker and made us fall off the bone baby back Click Hereribs for dinner one night. And while I should be too mature to love toasting a marshmallow over the camp fire I admittedly am not!

Still by the time we got home having had a few more of the comforts of home I could have had at Hampton was looking mighty nice! So maybe I’ll be checking out this contest for my next family trip and maybe you should too!

Hampton_logoVisit my sponsor: Win a free Weekend Stay

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Training Challenge Week 4: CGC Prep: 2legged Greetings

As stated in the last challenge we posted for there were two areas of CGC prep that will be challenging for Maizey: Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger and Test 10: Supervised separation.

On our trip there was plenty of chances to work on both but for this weeks training challenge I thought I could show you some of the progress made in Accepting a friendly stranger.

Ahhh. . . this greeting a friendly stranger thing is nice!"

Technically for the CGC Maizey will need to sit and ignore a stranger that is friendly to me. I felt this was going to be too big of a lump for her to train all at once so we started with helping her develop more manners and self control when people greeted her.

I felt this especially important for in our real world interactions people generally bypass me and head straight to her, making it important she knows how to respond appropriately. I can’t say I really blame them, I mean who am I compared to her glory?

It was suggested that since she has such a good leave it that I apply that to help her not greet people that may not want greeted. (A totally foreign idea to my little social butterfly!) I started this when it would be easiest to help her succeed, while we were walking past people. It worked well, as I could keep her moving and use natural rewards of a destination along with treat rewards.

I also worked hard to be assertive in talking to people that wanted to greet her. Maybe I am so used to people crossing the street to avoid greeting my Meeka that the liberty people take to greet Maizey never ceases to amaze me. I mean I can understand people wanting to greet her pretty princess face, but the way people swoop in over her with their high squeaky voices to grab her long ears makes me want to jump on them!

So before we left I scripted some brief sentences I could use to direct the 2legged members of the meetings in more appropriate behavior. I tried to use language that helped them feel like they would be doing her a favor and not me, since it is her they love so much.

“Ooohh your dog is so cute!!”

To which I respond with a simple, “Thank you, she really likes to be petted under her chin.”

But the most successful was a simple, “Thanks! She is practicing for a test to help her be a good girl so could you please pet her only when she is sitting?”

Obviously we all know 4legged members of our environment often prove themselves easier to train then the 2legged ones so this wasn’t always successful, but it was good practice for me and I think my assertiveness helped Maizey feel more confident that I had things handled.

You can tell in the pictures she is not always sitting, but she is learning self control. I also tried to adjust the the criteria to the circumstances so if it was a high distraction situation I lowered the criteria from sitting to just keeping all four feet on the ground.

While still need to practice in a formal CGC Test type setting I am happy with the lessons we bothed learned and confident we will be able to practice enough to pass that area of her CGC, eventually.

"Sitting isn't as much fun as smothering you, but thanks for petting me anyways!"

TRAINING CHALLENGE WEEK 3,4
DATE and TIME: August
LOCATION: South Dakota
SKILLS TRAINED: Sit for greetings from 2legged friends and strangers, sweet solitude
SUMMARY: While still need to test in a formal CGC Test #1 setting, using a “leave it” to prevent greetings altogether and assertive direction on how to greet her to the people involved we saw good improvement. Her supervised separation may prove more challenging. Left her with mom several times, will bark if she can see me. Left her in trailer, and on long line all supervised by family. Does settle eventually. Big test was day took mehusbandy and meeka to city to go home, was gone from 8:00am-3:00pm. She did good. Went on walk, had two reactive episodes, but was calm on my return, not stressed and happy to see me.

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A Relaxation Update

Where to start? And we aren’t even finished yet!

Today we said goodbye to mehusbandy and Meeka. They had to go home early to be responsible. So on the road they go for a looong drive home just the two of them.

"I'm goin' HOME!"

That leaves me with the family and the princess of the shrill bark. I think that must be the theme of this trip so far: barking.

Reactive barking, plain old, “There’s a person! HEY! There’s another person and way down there is another person!”  Barking for the sake of baring.

Ah, but I could go on for days just with that.

Meeka is heavy in my thoughts today. I knew this would be a hard trip for her but I had no idea how hard. But the second day of driving she had to be helped into the truck. She is in so much pain. I called our friend the vet doubled her Tramodol dose. It seemed to ease her pain a bit.

"Do I look drugged to you?"

The hardest thing is knowing how she would like to be running around these beautiful mountains and instead seeing her sleepy from the medicine and unwilling to move much at all. A visit to the vet is in order as soon as I get home to her.

Traveling here was certainly an adventure. Meeka, Maizey and I had close quarters. But if there is a 4legged lesson in that that it’s that dogs manage to get as comfortable as they can no matter where they are. Meeka seemed to think the most comfy spot was to suspend her head on the front seat with her tail end on my lap and her front feet swinging free.

"This sure is a long drive crazydadman."

They were troopers, not complaining at all. But after about an hour of driving on day two Maizey summed it up well for the three of us.

"This wackadoo idea MUST have been my crazymomladys'!"

Then later in the day Meeka and I started with the “Are we there yet’s?”

As I have always been answered by my crazymomlady, “What did the monkey say when it’s tail got cut off by the lawn mower?”

“It won’t be long now!” (I know enter groans and eye’s rolling here, but it’s a family tradition and always does make us laugh.) Although Meeka did not like that joke too much, as her nubbin’ has never been long.

We followed two days of driving with a lot of fun packed sitting, eating yummy gourmet meals, some more sitting and relaxing, some more eating and some more sitting. Summed up well here:

"Huh? Why would you want me to move?"

So now I head back down the road with good company, though short 4legs and a mehusbandy to finish my hard work of sitting and keeping up with the turbo-maizey.

Coming soon will be a post of actual training and an update on Ricky’s challenge. But it will have to wait until I get home and we finish this hard work of relaxing!

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Atravelin’ We Will Go

It is the wee morning hours, where dark is darkest before dawn.

Why am I awake at this hour? Worry. I am not the best traveler and the “what ifs” weigh on my mind today.

What if Meeka is not okay? She has been crying in her sleep a bit lately. She takes a lot of care and I know she hurts a lot. What if this trip is too much for her? What if I shouldn’t have waited to do x-rays? What if it’s almost time for the biggest what if any can face with their 4 legged friend. . .?

And then there are the ridiculous what ifs that my brain dreams up: what if we get attacked by a bear? What if a giant owl swoops out of the sky and snatches my Maizey? Ridiculous I know, but this owl thing really did happen to a fellow Cavalier owner in Australia recently. Still I would say it exists in the realm of unlikely to getting struck by a meteor.

And then there are the the good things that don’t require what if-ing. The getting to spend 10 days with my little brother whom I never see enough of. Getting to swim with my sister in law. Seeing the rest of my family that live so far away. Spending seven days out of the hot, busy, crowded city. My mom’s breakfast! Mmm mmm good!

And the training opportunities abound galore. Meet and greets of the 2legged variety will be everywhere. I am declaring a new kind of zen: grandma zen. I’m not sure why but Maizey seems to think that she has a special mission to teach my grandma that Maizey hugs and kisses are essential to life. My Grandma does not share this view. Thus, Grandma Zen. LLW, car manners, swimming, stays, park it’s, truly the list goes on and on.

And so I leave on this note, there may be many what ifs to traveling and lots of work, but in the end the opportunities for 4legged lessons our weigh the need to stay in my homebody comfort zone.

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4Legged Food and 4Legged Travel

A post of miscellany.

Miscellaneous item 1: Dog food I could really do a series on our dog food adventures, but this bit will have to do for now. Due to a very long story involving Meeka developing a miserable skin allergy that took us a year and half plus to get soothed down, I am quite paranoid and cautious when it comes to dog food.

I supplement kibble with things they need at the time, but the base is California Natural Herring and Sweet Potato. Meeka can have NO turkey, lamb, or chicken.

California Natural is a Natura product. However, recently Natura sold out (wether literally or not remains to be seen) to Proctor and Gamble. Personally I am not thrilled with this. Having already experienced one disaster due to dog food company changes thinking of my food going “corporate”, so to speak, doesn’t thrill me.

So when I picked up dog food yesterday I asked what they knew about quality, plant, source product and other changes that may have happened. I was happy to hear that as far as the retailer knows Natura’s contracts for all source products and their plant is still under contract until the end of the year. So for now things should be staying stable. As for later that will have to wait and see.

Miscellaneous item 2: Traveling I had all these good intentions to leave posts ready to publish while we are gone these next 10 days or so, but that just doesn’t seem to be happening. Man, traveling is a lot of work!

So I may be able to check in once while we are gone, but overall I guess I will be on a blogging hiatus. But certainly not a training hiatus. There should be plenty to work on with many, many challenges for Ricky’s challenge.

"Were ready! Lets go get dirty!"

And lots of play and fun. One thing I am sure Maizey is looking forward to? Swimming and swimming, oh ya and rolling in the dirt to get dry. (sighs and eye rolling from the crazymomlady, it’s my bed the dirty little mutt has to sleep in!)

Things Meeka is looking forward to? Lots of time with the crazymomlady and crazydadman.

Things I am looking forward to? Coming home! (Yeah I know I haven’t even left yet, but thats just the way I am!)

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