Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Do You Know When to Say When?

Today was a better day. Maggie slept soundly until 5 when she needed to go out. After several times in and out she settled down until Isabelle got up. The rest of the day was fairly quiet – she slept either in or out (I had to mow) most of the day. When Isabelle had swimming I had a girl from the neighbourhood stay with Maggie until Paul got home. Her appetite is better although she is not drinking a lot of water. A world of difference from Sunday.

But now we have an eleven year old dog (plus or minus since we don’t know for certain how old she is) with bad knees and hips, possibly with Cushings Disease and an unexplained GI bleed. And then there is her nose which cracks and gets infected every summer. She also finds the heat uncomfortable and has separation anxiety which seems to be increasing with age. How do we measure quality of life for one who cannot speak words?

Cushings Disease is treatable which can improve the quality of life but that may not be the best choice if the knees and hips are too bad. It is also pretty expensive to diagnose and treat.

For the last three days the answer, though difficult, has leaned towards saying when. There were times when I thought we might not even need to make the decision.

Today I know I must reevaluate but what do I consider? When am I being selfish? When am I being selfish for Isabelle?

Now that most days are in the high 70s and 80s (high 20s and 30s) I can’t leave Maggie in the car at all so that means no errands or activities during the day. She has learned how to break out of her crate and is usually distressed when we leave her at home. Tonight Isabelle asked to go swimming tomorrow – I had to say no because I can’t leave Maggie home alone and I can’t take her with us.

At the beginning of June, Maggie is booked into a kennel while we go away for a few nights – she has been there for a day before but not overnight – how will she fare when we are away and what toll will it take on her health? What about the drive home and back this summer? Is it fair to drag her all that way?

Yesterday, while Maggie was at the vet, I did errands – got the oil changed, took Isabelle out for lunch, bought a new bathing suit, got a present for a birthday party for Isabelle, had my hair cut and shopped for a swim cover-up for Isabelle (why are they all white???). Not once did I have to hurry Isabelle up because Maggie was waiting for us either in the car or at home. I didn’t have to check for messes in the house (there haven’t been any but I always worry). I knew Maggie was safe and well cared for where she was and it took the pressure off. It was a great afternoon – the trip to Columbia was good too, Maggie was at a kennel for the day.

Saying this makes me feel very selfish after all we chose to get a dog knowing this day would come. Despite all her peculiarities, Maggie has been the most wonderful dog – especially with Isabelle. For now we will take things day by day assessing her pain and quality of life as well as working toward having her stay home alone for a couple hours at a time without me having to worry too much about her safety this will enable me to get Isabelle to gymnastics, swim practice or just run to the grocery store.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Maggie – Part II

It has been a rough week here – last Thursday when I got Maggie out of the car she couldn’t put any weight on her back right leg – the same one she had surgery on a few years ago. It was very sudden – I couldn’t think of what might have caused it. We hadn’t had any big walks, she hadn’t fallen, she hadn’t even gone off to the field next door recently.

When we went to the vet, she found Maggie’s hips and knees were both painful but didn’t think she had blown the knee again. She prescribed an anti-inflammatory and a pain killer and since said she would recheck in a week. She suggested limiting stairs and avoiding areas where Maggie might slip – i.e. hardwood floors.

Friday and Saturday Maggie seemed more comfortable, although a little perturbed by being carried up and down stairs. By Saturday night things started to go downhill, she was up several times in the night (thank you Paul) and by Sunday morning she had diarrhea. She spent most of Sunday in the backyard.

Since Paul has a busy week this week we decided that I would sleep downstairs with Maggie. She was in and out all night and otherwise restless and uncomfortable. She hadn’t eaten and wasn’t drinking much water. I know by midnight the diarrhea was bloody and may have been before that and it worsened the rest of the night.

Monday morning I took Maggie to the vet who was expecting me. I asked to them to weigh her – she had lost 4 pounds since Thursday. Within a half hour the vet called to give me a run down on her plan of action, besides putting Maggie on an IV with meds to address the pain and GI issues, she wanted to run the usual blood work and if this showed nothing she would do an x-ray of her belly. She also wanted to see a significant drop in her heart rate which was 160. Those of you who have pets should now see several dollar signs!

The blood work showed nothing too unusual except for one elevated liver enzyme. The x-ray showed that her liver is enlarged. The vet thinks these two abnormalities may be symptoms of Cushings Disease; however, that does not account for the GI bleed nor could the vet pinpoint what caused it except that it could have been a reaction to one of the new meds.

Our vet does not keep animals overnight – so if Maggie was too sick to come home, we would have to take her to the Animal Emergency Clinic for the night and return her to our vet in the morning. Luckily, our vet felt with her heart rate down to 120, she was OK to go home.

So we took her home, well doped up, with few instruction except to keep her quiet and watch for any vomiting or panting. When I brought her in the house, she walked the twenty feet from the front door to the great room, collapsed and fell asleep. When Paul and Isabelle came in the door ten minutes later she raised her head for a moment and then went back to sleep.

That was pretty much the story of the night – she didn’t eat, she didn’t drink, she didn’t want to go out, she didn't move until Paul carried her upstairs at 10. At 3 Paul woke me to tell me she had turned over – she slept through until almost 8 when I carried her downstairs. She still had no interest in food although she a had little PB. After taking Isabelle to school, I took Maggie back to the vet for a day of observation.

Today, the vet wanted to see if Maggie would eat and drink enough to take out the IV catheter and also see if there were still GI issues. Maggie had a little canned food and water and was generally more alert than yesterday (not necessarily saying a lot there) and was sent home this afternoon with another appointment on Monday.

Although more alert than yesterday, Maggie has slept most of the evening. She ate a little dinner with gusto (canned food) but the water intake is not great.

We will see what tonight and tomorrow bring…

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Water Levels

There is a severe drought here in the Upstate which has been alleviated a bit the month with some steady rain. Last summer some lakes in the area were almost 20 feet below normal but now they are 7 or 8 feet low.

The other week we went to Paris Mountain State Park so Paul could try some kayaks and we did the walk around the lake. It was interesting to see the difference from when Isabelle and I were there in the fall.

October 2008PA051045
April 2009P4051881

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Break Part IV

While I wasn’t thrilled with Gatlinburg, the park itself was beautiful. The first day we didn't see very much because of the thick fog but we made a stop at a working mill (see Paul’s blog) and saw some elk. In 2001 and 2002, about 50 elk were reintroduced to the park so I was surprised to see them.P4111953 On the way back on Sunday, the weather was perfect – very clear and not too cool. It the park literature there is a lot of information about air pollution and how it has affected the views in the park but on our trip there was very little evidence of that.

One thing that was recommended as a must see was the Roaring Fork Nature Trail. While it is only 5 miles long with frequent stops and a narrow, slow road it takes about a hour to go around. There is a guidebook which explains the different areas through which the trail passes. Part of the trail is an old cart path which connected the community of Roaring Fork to Gatlinburg and some of the homes and outbuildings have been preserved.

P4121982P4121983P4122005The woods were filled with trilliums and deer but no bears despite all of the warnings. P4121993P4121999P4122006P4122007The rest of the drive was all about big views – there are lots of trails throughout the park but for the most part we just aren’t there yet and sometimes even the shortest walk can take a lot of convincing so we figured we would just go for the big one – Clingmans Dome.
P4122029 P4122031Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and there is a 1/2 mile trail uphill to an observation tower. Did I mention uphill? Well, it is a 300 foot climb and it is crowded. There are lots of benches on the way up and, luckily, we have a 4 year old who is going through a shy spell. When she thought she was too tired we said she could rest at the next bench – inevitably the next bench was taken and she wasn’t about to share so we said to walk to the next one – this got us up the hill!
P4122053P4122045 Near the top, the trail to the tower joins the Appalachian Trail, so now we can say we have hiked a little bit of the AT – who knows, maybe it will lead to more. These hikers were resting below the observation tower – drying out socks, attending to blisters etc. I heard them say they had been on the trail about 3 weeks heading north.P4122046The walk down was much easier and Isabelle practically ran down – chasing our shadows most of the way. She even decided she was having fun.P4122060

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Break Part III

So that we could say we had been somewhere for spring break, I suggested that we drive to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is just far enough away to make it an overnight trip so we packed a bag, picnic lunch, some travel info and headed for the mountains.

As usual, the drive took longer than we expected since we stopped at REI and Diamond Brand Outdoors near Asheville. We had planned to have lunch somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway which we did but not a far along as we had hoped. In the end it didn’t really matter. The weather wasn’t great – lots of fog, drizzle and cool weather. Definitely not picnic weather.

One unfortunate thing about the park is that only two trails are dog-friendly – one at each main entrance. So we stopped at the southern entrance to give Maggie a walk and stretch our legs. There is a small reconstructed farm near the visitor centre – it made Ross Farm look palatial. A park ranger gave us some travel advice – things not to miss and we were on our way.

Since the mountains were foggy and it was getting late in the day we decided to drive straight across with almost no stops and find somewhere to stay for the night.

And that is how we found ourselves staying in Gatlinburg, TN. Some people compare it to Myrtle Beach, SC or Branson, MO but since we haven’t been to either we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

Well, imagine driving along the Cabot Trail and down into Cheticamp but instead of working wharves, houses and small local restaurants, shops and museums there are (inter)national chain restaurants, Guinness World Record, Ripley’s and wax museums, arcades, mini-golf and more “get your picture taken period costume” studios than you have ever seen packed onto one street so tightly that a fire in 1992 cleared a full block. One area is built to resemble an English village with tiny shops around a central courtyard

It was fairly busy on the holiday weekend but I kept thinking – it must be awful in July and August with the heat and crowds – the Smokies are the most visited national park in the US with over 9 million visitors a year.

These pictures don’t do it justice and as touristy as it is – you just have to see it to believe it. The next morning we drove on to Pigeon Forge – home of Dollywood – just to see it. It is much the same except instead of a narrow street it is a six lane highway and there are a lot of go-cart tracks.

Then we headed home, back through the mountains.

P4122022Looking toward the park along the main street of Gatlinburg.

Lots of seating areas for the shoppers.

Restaurant where we had dinner.
Isabelle in the “English Village”
The Village
Amusements in Pigeon Forge
Go-Cart track in Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge – main drag looking towards the Smokies. In the summer and for fall colours the traffic is bumper to bumper.
Driving back into Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge – all the street lights are numbered – makes it easy to give directions.
More Gatlinburg – including the Hard Rock Cafe P4122015
Aquarium in Gatlinburg – we didn’t go. P4122017
Lots of little pedestrian pathways to more stores and restaurants. It was very walkable.
One of the Ripleys and the bottom of the Space Needle.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Break Part II

I have been looking forward to visiting Columbia again since I heard that there was to be a visiting exhibition of Impressionist Art – From Turner to Cezanne. Greenville has a wonderful art gallery with a big collection of Andrew Wyeth. Isabelle has enjoyed a few visits there so I thought she might also enjoy the Impressionists.

She wasn’t really keen on going to the exhibit but with the promise of lunch out and a trip to the zoo to see the baby giraffe she, reluctantly, agreed to the trip.

Finding the gallery and, more importantly, a parking spot was easy and by 11am we were entering the gallery. The paintings on display are part of the collection of Gwendoline and Margaret Davies which is in the National Museum Wales. With 53 paintings, the exhibit was small enough to hold Isabelle’s attention. She was enthralled with the “lady in the blue dress”. There were also a few paintings of Venice and we talked about the canals and gondolas which I think was interesting for her.

After about an hour and a half at the gallery (there was a reading area about halfway through including some children’s books), we were off to find lunch. Isabelle’s choice was Roly Poly, she heard someone talking about it. She wasn’t thrilled with her grilled cheese but would have demolished my Chicken CordonBleu (Sliced Chicken Breast, Baked Ham, Melted Swiss, Mushrooms, Tomato, Fresh Basil Mayo) if I had given her the chance. Yet, another place where her taste is beyond the basic kid’s menu!

Next, it was off to the zoo. We read about a baby giraffe a few weeks ago and Isabelle has been asking to go ever since. It was a beautiful day and we weren’t alone at the zoo. There were long lines for pony and train rides and the giraffe feeding was long over but we could see the gorillas better and the lions were awake, just barely.

And we saw the giraffe! Mission accomplished. A quick ride on the merry-go-round and home to Greenville in time for dinner.





Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Break Part I

Last week was spring break for Isabelle. The start of the week was quiet and the weather cool. Paul was off Monday, we had play dates on Tuesday and Wednesday and mostly stayed close to home.

I wanted to go to Columbia one day (see Part II) which was dictated by the availability of doggie daycare so that was set for Friday. Thursday morning we headed to the dog park to give Maggie a good run so we could leave her home in the afternoon while we went for haircuts. Unfortunately our usual place was booked (I hadn’t counted on all the people getting their hair cut before Easter weekend), so we headed down Woodruff Road. Now, let me assure you that there are no shortage of hair salons here – for men, for women, the spa style salons and the quick, no-appointment needed places. For some reason I decided to take Isabelle to a kid’s place, the first one we came to was Snip Its.

Well, Isabelle must have thought she’d died and gone to heaven. It was bright and cheerful with books and crayons and a movie playing in the waiting area. I wondered if it was all gimmick but was thrilled to see that Isabelle’s stylist had very curly hair,if nothing else, she would know how to deal with Isabelle’s curly locks.

Isabelle played a computer game while she had her hair cut and was rewarded with a prize when the cut was finished.

As you can see below, it was a successful haircut. Isabelle had her hair washed, cut and styled, complete with a new clip. The stylist could tell Isabelle's hair was very dry - partly since she spends a lot of time in the pool and made some shampoo and conditioner recommendations (bye-bye, Johnson's no-more-tears). All in all, it was definitely the best cut she has had in SC and maybe even the best ever.