Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The dogs' Christmas gift was cheap this year, but they loved it anyway. :)



Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Super-hive" mystery solved

FINALLY! I know what's causing Dozer's insane hive outbreaks.

Two weeks ago, I took Dozer to the regular vet to treat staph lesions that were popping up here and there. The weekly baths and occasional Zyrtec just weren't cutting it. The vet prescribed a standard round of prednisone (to stop the itch) and cephalexin (to stop the staph).

Today, as soon as I saw the telltale pinpricks of oncoming urticarial vasculitis, ("super hives") I called the dermatology/allergy vet. (Well, first I screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!!!" and then I called the vet.)
What urticarial vasculitis looks like in the first few hours.
After looking back through his files, the derm vet confirmed what we'd already suspected but now seemed pretty conclusive: cephalexin allergy.

Ironically, today, after I reviewed some historical blog posts about Dozer's hives (like this one in 2009, this one in 2010 and this one earlier this year), I saw that he'd been taking cephalexin, an antibiotic, in every case.

Why wasn't the allergy deduced years ago? Because the hives never happened at the beginning of a cephalexin course—only at or near the end. Dozer could go two weeks on cephalexin and completely finish the course without a reaction, only to break out in hives a few days later, while taking no medications at all.

This mystery was also solved today, because the derm vet noted that Dozer usually gets prednisone or a cortisone shot at the same time that he's given the cephalexin. Although the point of the steroid is to cut down the itching from the staph, these steroids stop all allergic reactions. Period. Including the reaction to the cephalexin. After the short steroid course tapers down, there's nothing stopping the hives anymore. Thus the delayed reaction.

Six hours later--not looking too bad this time!
Prednisone and a much larger dose of Zyrtec were the order of the day. I'm loving the Zyrtec (over the Benadryl we used to give) because it knocks Dozer right out. I know the D is loving it, too, because he goes right to sleep. No itching, whining, panting, tummy upset, or any discomfort.

Sleeping soundly... with his face inches from the space heater.
Well, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

First thing tomorrow morning, I'm calling the regular vet to ask them to flag this allergy in his file. No more cephalexin!!

It's Cold!

Well, cold for us, anyway. I reckon you northern folks have something to say about real cold.

But still, it's cold. Star recently learned how to cover herself up with the dog blankets...


And we broke out the space heater, much to Dozer's pleasure.

Star has been somewhat unsure of the space heater (it makes noise, moves, and blows—creepy!) but she's learning to love the free heat that comes from it. As long as she doesn't have to look right at it.

Semester finals are over! I have a short, badly-needed break before next semester.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Photo Shoot

Armed with my trusty tripod and camera, I was determined to get a good family photo for this year's holiday cards.

First was the setup... Getting everyone in place and figuring out where to put the camera.
"Why are we sitting in a corner? Were we bad?"
Looks good. Okay, let's see how it goes...
We appear to be choking the dogs.

Dozer's totally feeling it, but the rest of us...

Oh, man, the dogs were perfect in this picture.

Dozer relocated mid-shot.

"Oops, that wasn't the timer button. Sorry, hang on..."

Aaaand Byrd was officially out of patience!

I did not hear the camera beep.
And then Star couldn't take it anymore:
"I'm..."
"... so ..."
" ... done."
We couldn't get her to stand up again. Dozer totally gets the whole photo shoot thing—he'll look at the camera and smile and everything—but to Star, this was clearly some insane exercise that we had devised to punish her, and she sure as heck wasn't gonna take it anymore.

Nevertheless, with 39 shots to choose from, I managed to find a decent one.


About halfway through the photo shoot, I learned that my camera has a self-timer multi-shot function. Omigosh! It really sped up the whole process. What a life saver!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Birthday and Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is approximately Dozer's birthday. This year, he turns 11.

While I was at the pet store this week buying dog food, I decided to get a few new toys in honor of Dozer's birthday and also to replace the toys I've recently thrown out after they reached the end of their useful life.

Tough dog toys are necessary, but expensive, investments for two large dogs. I really hate plopping down $10 on a toy that claims to be tough but falls apart within the first two minutes of use. If I pay more than that, I expect the toy to last for several months. So I tend to buy dog toys rarely, and carefully.

I was really excited to see a lot of new "tough" dog toys on the shelves these days. One in particular caught my eye: Starmark's new Fun Ball. Starmark is also the maker of Dozer's beloved "Blue Toy." They are both made with the same soft, yet tough, rubber-gel. And you can put food or treats in both. But, whereas the Blue Toy is cylindrical, the Fun Ball is round and definitely more Dozer's style.

"I love it for its ball-like qualities, not for the boring old dog food inside."
"Mooom! Llama Pinata is in my waaaay!"
I also bought two stuffed squeaky toys. One was a Yankers snake. You may or may not remember Dozer's old Yankers alligator toy, which withstood quite a lot of abuse and lasted for almost a year. The other toy is a Tuffy's bone. We have had a variety of Tuffy's toys, such as Ring Toy, Octopus, and Tug Toy—some of them lasting longer than others.

I handed out the new toys to Dozer one at a time. He kept coming back to me empty-handed. Finally I asked him, "Where are the toys?" He led me into the living room, where I suddenly realized poor old Dozer was no longer "top dog" in the house:

"Eh? They're not all for me?"
Even one year ago, Dozer wouldn't have stood for this. The toys in the house have always been his. Period. Star was allowed to borrow them on occasion, but Dozer controlled when and where and how she got to touch them.
"I don't get it. Earlier, there was food coming out when I did this."
Times, they are a-changing. Happy birthday, Dozer!

And Happy Thanksgiving to you all!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blind snake

We had a visitor the other day: a blind snake. He/she was enjoying some spilled water (or dog drool?).


Blind snakes are tiny snakes that look like earthworms. They eat ants and other little insects. We see them outside in our garden mulch most of the time, but once in a while they get in the house. Because they're so tiny, they're really difficult to catch without squishing them. But I got this one outside without incident.

We finally have cold weather, but no real rain to speak of.

Star in coat, under blanket. Space heater not shown.
Dozer's thyroid levels are still low ("for a dog of his size" says the vet), so we are going to raise the dose. But you can see that the thyroid meds have given him a bit of zing back. OMG, he's playing with Star!

video

I've just signed a contract to work for a "Big Four" firm when I graduate. Byrd and I are both pretty excited that I'm finally going to be a financial asset. Sadly, it looks like I'll have to stop fostering and volunteering for a few years, because I'm never home anymore, and it only gets worse at Big Four.

I'm also going to need to find some help for the daily updates and duties over at StopBSL. Giving it up is out of the question. But I've been late to class a few times while slamming out alerts, and I really should be focusing on studying, not worrying about updates. What a dilemma.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hypothyroidism

Guess whose thyroid is broken?
"Let's play with this half-eaten tennis ball!!!"

Routine bloodwork revealed this new ailment, which we can add to Dozer's ever-growing pile of health issues. The symptoms of hypothyroidism aren't particularly obvious: generally acting "under the weather," easily tired, weight gain, hair loss and skin infections. Dozer's old age and allergies produce the same symptoms, so we weren't thinking about the thyroid.

"OMG THROW IT!"
The solution is a simple one—one tiny pill every twelve hours for the rest of D's life—but it's amazing how difficult this seemingly simple task is. Mostly, we've had trouble being home at pill time. Right now we're administering pills at 6 AM and 6 PM, but because I've been at class and job-recruiting events on many days, and Byrd works until late, the 6 PM target isn't always hit.

"I believe I can fly!"
The treatment has made a difference. Dozer seems to have regained some of his goofy spirit, he's more interested in getting attention and pats, and he's even playing a bit with Star. All his joints still creak when he moves around, but he seems less "old."

"Here it comes again!"
Ironically, Dozer isn't the first family member with hypothyroidism. Byrd couldn't help but be a tiny bit pleased that Big D was taking after his daddy. "Now we both have to take pills forever!" he says.

"Ugh, now it has her drool all over it."
Doesn't our backyard look depressing? It's 100% dirt. We were responsible citizens during this severe drought and we didn't water our backyard grass at all... so it died. Nevertheless, we've just heard that our local water plant has broken, so the city has issued a formal emergency: no outdoor watering, period.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Roast Dog Recipe

Ingredients:
2 lazy indoor dogs
1 yard of dirt
1 bowl water
1 sun

Set outdoor temperature to 100+ degrees. Use full sun for even roast.

Steps:
1. Place dogs and water in dirt. Dogs may run at first. Lazier dogs will settle faster.

2. When dogs have settled, set timer for 15 minutes. Check on dogs every 2 minutes, or leave door partly open.

3. Dogs will turn themselves over and will apply water as needed.

4. If dog begins to whine or bark, check for doneness. Older dogs may be done sooner. How to test for doneness. Your roast dog is done if: voluntarily comes to back door; has a sweaty animal odor; is hot to touch; tongue hangs out.

5. Remove roast dog from yard after 15 minutes or when done. DO NOT OVERCOOK.


6. Allow roast dog to rest until cool.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fires in Texas

Tropical Storm Lee, which came around on Labor Day weekend, knocked down our daily highs and lows by ten degrees. We enjoyed several days with highs in the low 90s. (Ahhh! Lovely!!)

Star sunbathes in the most grotesque poses. I'm always a little worried that my neighbors will freak out and call animal control about a mutilated dog corpse they saw in my backyard.

If I see a neighbor come outside, I make a big show of getting Star on her feet. ("Star! Come over here, you happy, healthy, totally alive dog!")
Sunbathing in the shade... in a really weird way.
But the weather was quite enjoyable. And then the wildfires started breaking out.

Mind you, we're no stranger to grass fires and brush fires. I've occasionally joined the community in impromptu fire-stomping on the side of the highway while waiting for fire trucks.

But it's pretty rare for fires to burn out of control in our area. We've had an unlucky combination of high winds (from Lee) and extreme drought.

One of many amazing photos from KXAN
We've been very fortunate that few human lives have been lost to these fires. The situation for many pets and livestock has not been good. Bastrop is a rural area, and folks tend to keep a lot of animals. Not just cats and dogs, but also horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. As they evacuated, people took their pets with them whenever possible, but many animals still didn't make it out.

Some people were not home when the fires started and were left with anguished knowledge that they couldn't go back to their homes for their trapped pets. This event served as a strong reminder for me, that not everyone will be home during an evacuation to save their pets, so it's up to neighbors to help save those pets, if they have the time and ability. It's a good idea to become familiar with neighbors' pets (how many, what kind, and where they're kept) before there's a disaster, in case there's an opportunity to help those pets.

Luckily, the animal community around here is strong, organized, and willing. They've done an amazing job with rescue efforts and communication. Several hundred pets have been rescued, and I hope they will continue to find animal survivors now that residents are being allowed back into these burned areas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Star's Poem

Haiku to My New Pink Best Friend
by Star

My new pink friend plays
chase with me but when I win
he is a bad sport.

The loser, being a bad sport (aka dead)
We've broken some temperature records here in the Austin area this summer (74+ days in triple digits, including a temp of 112 a few days ago, which tied the all-time highest temp ever recorded in our area).

The heat is taking a toll not only on us poor humans but also on the local wildlife. Some of the smaller critters, like the Mediterranean House Gecko (pictured above), have managed to slip inside to cool off. And Star is waiting for them.

Today's flattened gecko corpse is Number 6 in a pretty steady stream of summertime gecko corpses that I have found in the middle of the bedroom floor.

Star has been busy making friends with them.
"Um... My new best friend isn't moving anymore. Can you please fix it?"
Star is friendly to a fault with her gecko friends. She play-bows to the gecko, flops over and wiggles on her side, licks it, and taps it with her paw. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Star is 60 lbs and the gecko is less than an ounce, Star's playful moves make quick work of the gecko.

After a while, the excitement wears off, and Star lies down beside her mangled friend and nudges it mournfully with her nose. Then she walks off to look for a new friend—preferably one that isn't taking a sudden nap.

Number Six is in the minority, however. Most of the geckos make it out of the house alive; I do a "gecko sweep" before bed every night and carry outside any live geckos that I find. Often I will ask Star to observe while I carefully scoop up the live lizard and place it outside in a potted plant. I hope that through our modeling of appropriate behaviors, eventually she will realize that geckos do not want to play with her and need to be set free outdoors.

"Being older and wiser, I already have learned to just say no to geckos."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Food shortage woes

We ran out of Dozer's special rabbit-based, grain-free dog food. So did every single local pet store. So did all the online outlets (except a few who still have the tiny bags for jacked-up prices).

Dozer couldn't be more pleased.

"That rabbit stuff was gross."
The problem is, apparently, a shortage of rabbits.

I know what you're thinking, and I thought it too. "How hard can it be to produce rabbits? They practically produce themselves, don't they?"

We've substituted with another grain-free dog food, but it's not rabbit-based. It only took a few hours for us to regret the substitution.

"Whoo. Who cut the cheese?"
Dozer had an upset stomach all night, leading to 8 full hours of no sleep for anyone. Dozer is very good about expressing his feelings to you, whether you want to hear about it or not.

"Man, I'm beat. Eight hours of nonstop whining and farting really takes it out of a guy."
"Have fun in class. I've gotta catch some zzzs so I can keep you awake tonight too!"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Neglected

So, yeah, I got accepted to the Masters in Professional Accounting program at the University of Texas. One of the top accounting programs in the U.S. I'm pretty much guaranteed a job upon graduation, as long as I keep my GPA above 3.5.

It's a really short master's program—I'll be done in about a year. The brevity translates into a brutal pace. This summer's classes are a mere five weeks, crash courses in tax and financial accounting. The grades will be based solely on three major exams in each class.
Five weeks. Six exams. I'm not very good at math, but these numbers spell disaster.

"Soooooo bored."
Needless to say, I've been cramming all day, every day.
If I survive these next few weeks, there's only one day of break between summer and fall semesters. No joke, my calendar goes: Saturday–final; Sunday–break; Monday–final; Tuesday–fall class. (Yes, I have a final on a Saturday.)

I rather feel as if I've just leapt onto the back of a bucking bronco.

Please forgive me for being rather absent these last few weeks. I'm desperately trying to stay on this horse. I'm neglecting all my friends and family... and even the dogs. It sucks.
"Too busy to cut my nails? How tragic."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Masters of their universe

I'm back in school as of today, going for that accounting master's and CPA.

Summer classes are month-long crash courses on subjects I don't know much about. As you can imagine, when I'm not in class, I'm studying like crazy.

The dogs are doing their level best to help me. Fail, that is.

"Lady! Drop that book and let us out! Posthaste!"
OK, fine, we'll go outside for a little while.

"My piercingly shrill whining will continue until you throw my toy."
Go play by yourself. Please. I have to read two textbook chapters a day.

This is why someday Star will be diagnosed with skin cancer.
Okay, dogs! It's like 100 zillion degrees out here, the textbook pages are damp with sweat, and my notepad has spontaneously burst into flames. Can we please go back inside?

"'Scuse me, I have to smell your ugly shirt... while you're wearing it."
I'm begging you guys, please go play in another room. I need quiet, I have to study.

"HAI! I tore up this toy and now I have to PEE!!
Can we go outside?!? BTW, there's toy all over the carpet."
*sob sob sob*