Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"But it's Dozer we're talking about."

Dozer's allergies had been under control for the last several months. A little staph lesion here and there, but nothing major. High fives all around.

A few weeks ago, the itching started. The staph multiplied a bit. We went to the dermatology vet and got some cephalexin (antibiotic) to treat the staph.

The itching got worse. Dozer licked and scratched at hot spots. The derm vet prescribed prednisone and suggested increasing to three baths per week. Over the long Memorial Day weekend we dutifully administered his meds and bathed him twice. He developed a red "pinprick" rash across his stomach and chest.

And this morning, despite everything, he exploded in hives.

Covered head to toe in dark red wheals. Feet and legs puffy like marshmallows. So itchy he couldn't hold still for more than a minute at a time. He ran around the house with ants in his pants all morning.

We went to the regular vet. The thing about these hives is that they grow quickly and merge together into one massive uber-hive, so when you glance at Dozer, you don't really notice anything at first. It's only after you look at his purple-red stomach and run your hands over his puffy, lumpy sides that you realize it's not a layer of fat: he's actually covered in enormous wheals.

So the office staff, the vet techs, and even the vet didn't really understand why I was there. "You want a cortisone shot for him?" Look of confusion. "He has a little rash or something?"

And then I do the big reveal, pulling his rear leg back for a clear shot of his angry red stomach. The vet's jaw drops and he comes a little closer to get a better look, which is the only way to really see the extent of the problem.

As of today, three vets have now seen him in the midst of a hive attack, and all of them have had the same reaction: "Gosh... These are... so inflamed... Wow... Wow..." Leaves them speechless.

Today I asked if it could possibly be a reaction to medication he's taking, like the cephalexin—since these hives, which started as the rash, seemed to crop up soon after D started cephalexin.

The vet rubbed his chin. "That type of allergy is pretty unusual. But then again, it's Dozer we're talking about."

A shot of cortisone and a Benadryl injection, plus the stress of the vet visit, have knocked Big D out for the afternoon. Should offer some temporary relief while we try to figure out what caused this. What a setback!

Star's weekend adventure included a trip to the newly built garage.

Step 1. Walk up to the garage door and peek in.

Step 2. Walk inside and look. Stay close to doorway for fast exit.

Step 3. Scary as hell! Run back to back door and look pitiful until someone lets you in the house.
She's getting a little bit better—as long as the nail guns aren't popping. When the garage becomes the new destination for car rides and hanging out with Daddy, I think she'll come around.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Building a garage

Over the last two weeks, we have drawn up plans, obtained a permit, bought and received a semi truck's worth of building materials, and hired roofers.

Last Friday, our garage looked like this:

Over the last weekend, a crew of family and friends helped with our "barn raising." Today the garage looks like this:

You can see in the before/after photo that our photinia got pared down considerably. It is the big tree/bush on the left side of the garage. It was so large that it was in the way of the garage roof. We would have cut it down completely, but there were several birds' nests in it. After some inspection of the nests, we determined that only one was in use, and it was fortunately toward the front of the photinia--so we spared the front part with the nest. The birds are doves.

After the birds move out, we will remove the photinia and replace it with something a bit more appropriate for the space.

Star, as it turns out, is terrified of all the construction. The circular saw, the nail guns, and the air compressor do make a lot of noise, as do the guys when they shout back and forth. To her, I'm sure it seems like a war zone. The few times I lured her outside, she would only sit with her chest pressed against the back door like a weird little gargoyle, practically falling into the house when the door opened.

"Lady, I'm counting on you to defend our home. I will inspect the carpet. With my eyes closed."
We'll have to work on desensitizing her.

Dozer, who grew up around chaotic construction, isn't concerned about the noise. But he was extremely annoyed that no one bothered to throw his frisbee or his tennis ball all weekend.

"How can they reach my toy if I am on the wrong side of the fence??"
For the first time ever, I bathed Dozer on the back porch with the garden hose last weekend. I found it preferable to bathing him in the shower, actually. The sun was hot, the water was cold and refreshing, and I could lather him up and let the soap sit on him while he ambled around in the yard. Dozer's special soap is an antiseptic that sits on him for a minimum of five minutes. Trapped in the shower, Dozer quickly gets anxious and I get bored, so I usually rinse him off after two or three minutes. Doing this on the back porch, I could put the soap on him and let him run around while I did other things. I just had to keep on eye on him to make sure he didn't lick his soapy self. Dozer seemed much happier about the whole process, so I'll probably administer his weekly baths outside during the summer.

Next weekend will be more of the same. Our construction schedule is helped by the terrible drought that Central Texas is currently experiencing. Every day is hot and parched. We had our first real "rain" in months just last night, and the downpour only lasted about 15 minutes. Other nearby areas have seen a bit more rain, but our house seems to be under a dry bubble. The dramatic weather--flooding and tornadoes--across the country has been quite astonishing to see on the news. I hope you are all safe and well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When a possum and a Star collide

Star recently started "ghost hunting" in the middle of the night. The last time she hunted ghosts, our house had been invaded by a Texas mouse, and Star was reacting to the tiny mouse noises as it scurried around in places unseen. Now she was back at it: staring into the dark rooms of our back addition, frozen in place, eyes as big and round as dinner plates.

The "ghost" may have returned, but I didn't see any signs of a mouse or other critter inside the house, so we weren't sure what to make of Star's behavior. She was hearing something--but what, and from where?

Do you hear that?? Shh!!

Star literally tripped over the answer last night when I let the dogs out to do their bedtime business. The young possum was in the wrong place at the wrong time--drinking out of the dogs' water bowl on the back porch--when the back door opened and two huge dogs came barreling out.

Star basically ran over the poor thing, but she didn't really notice it until it squealed. When it did, it became "Awesome New Squeaky Toy (TM)," and Star scooped it up into her mouth. In the next instant, it dawned on everyone (myself included) that this was NOT a toy. Poor Star... Her whole face wrinkled up as if she was about to vomit, her jaws went totally limp, her tongue rolled out, and she dropped the furry little ball onto the ground. Then she looked up at me with the same outraged look she gives when she uncovers a pill hidden inside a ball of peanut butter: "How DARE you! This thing isn't fun--it's DISGUSTING. Good DAY, madam, GOOD DAY!" For emphasis, she ran off into the yard to make an undignified wretching sound in Dozer's face.

Thus was I left alone on the porch with what appeared at first glance to be a large dead rat. But it was not a rat; it was a rat-sized possum, playing dead with all its might. After the dogs went back inside, I sat and waited for it to come back to life.

Young possums, by the way, are cute as hell.

Though quite drooled upon, this young possum didn't seem the worse for its time spent in a dog's jaws. Unfortunately, when it started to walk around, it was dragging its back foot. There weren't any significant puncture wounds from teeth, so I think the foot probably got broken when the possum was run over by an oblivious 60 lb dog. (That would also explain why it squealed as it was trampled--it should have quietly rolled up.)

I don't know a lot about possums, but I do know that their tail and back legs are very important for mobility. This possum's leg needed medical attention, so in the morning, I took the poor little guy down to Wildlife Rescue. These guys do a great job with local injured wildlife. I donate to them every time I bring them an animal.

But here is what I ascertained after watching the possum hobble around on our porch: The young critter had found a small hole under the back addition and was apparently living under the house. This evening, I'll check under the house to make sure there aren't any other possums, and then I'll close up the hole.

In theory, this will put a stop to Star's ghost-hunting, too.

I hear something!