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Tag: ace

Ace is home, and I’m ready for 62


Call it an early birthday present — Ace is home and doing remarkably well.

After surgery to remove his bladder stones, and an overnight stay at the animal hospital, I picked him up yesterday evening.

I was warned he could be leaky for a few days, and that his pee could contain blood — much like that I’m still scrubbing out of my living room carpet from the morning before surgery — but, sequestered in the kitchen, he made it through the night.

When I let him out this morning (after relieving myself, it should be noted), he walked down the stairs, did his business, and came back to lay down on the front porch, just as he normally does.

All of which leads me to marvel, yet again, about what a stoic and resilient beast he is — far more so than I.

I turn 62 tomorrow and, believe it or not, I am happy to do that. I am happy for my year as a 61-year-old to be over. It included, in this order, quintuple bypass surgery for me, the death of my father, and the death of my mother.

When Ace became completely blocked up this week by what X-rays showed was a horrific number of bladder stones, and the veterinarian recommended, even with some risks, immediate surgery, I balked.

Might it be possible, I asked, to wait until after Sept. 5? My 61st year has been a particularly accursed one, I explained, and I don’t want to give it one last chance to hurt me.

Between saying it out loud, and the look on my vet’s face, I realized I was being ridiculous. Tomorrow is fine, I agreed. That was Tuesday.

stones 001Thursday, Ace was home, having emitted just one tiny whimper on the drive. On my ride home from the hospital, after heart surgery, I emitted a dozen whimpers, six grunts, four goddammits, and more than a few dirty looks at my brother for hitting bumps.

During the night, I heard Ace moan once. I, due to back problems, probably moaned 10 times last night.

I took three months to recover from my surgery; Ace looks like he is going to take about three days.

True, they were different kinds of surgeries. True, Ace is on pain pills, more than I would ever be permitted. Ace was prescribed Tramadol — and is to be given eight 50-milligram pills a day. My doctor, who prescribed the same for my back pain, at the same dosage, says I can only take two.

Still, on the one-to-ten scale of stoicism, Ace rates at least a nine, while I can barely eke out a two.

Ace — in his early 80s, if you compute his age in human years — is handling old-man-hood much better than I am.

He didn’t like being sequestered in the kitchen. He prefers following me from room to room and keeping me in sight. But he put up with it, and with no leakage or accidents the barriers have already been lifted, at least during daytime hours.

He is mostly sleeping, and mostly sleeping with his eyes wide open, which I’ve never been able to figure out how he does.

stones 007In addition to the drugs, and a bill for more than $2,000, the vet gave me what he said was just a small “sampling” of what was taken out of Ace.

There were hundreds of little stones, enough to make a nice bracelet, should there be a jewelry maker out there who is interested in — and not too grossed out by — taking on the job.

I also brought home a dog without the monstrous front claws Ace used to have. I’ve written before about our efforts to control those. Since Ace was going to be under anesthesia anyway, I requested he be given a pedicure. In retrospect, given the vet spent hours meticulously removing all the stones from Ace’s bladder, I feel a little guilty about that.

On the other hand, it symbolizes the fresh start that I hope comes for both of us when I turn 62 tomorrow.

He, with his bladder purged of rocky deposits, and his claws at a reasonable length. Me, with a still-ticking heart, my favorite season virtually upon us and, most importantly, my dog back at my side.

With his bladder getting badder, Ace goes under the knife for removal of stones

????????(Updates can be found at the end of this post)

This is a mostly selfish post — aimed at getting all of Ace’s friends and fans to think positive thoughts today as he goes under surgery for bladder stones.

Yes, they are back.

Never really went away, apparently, since his last X-ray a couple of months ago —  despite the obscenely-priced special dog food I kept him on for a couple of months.

Instead, they’ve only increased — to the point where it now appears a good portion of the real estate in his bladder is occupied by them.

After his catheterization in May, everything  appeared, on the outside, to be fine.  Things were flowing nicely. But over the weekend, his urine stream slowed to a dribble, like a coffee maker, and he was, while otherwise in good spirits, straining to pee.

On Sunday I took him to an emergency vet. They were getting ready to catheterize him, when he peed on his own and passed a stone.

By Tuesday though, his stream had slowed to a drip again, and he was lethargic. I took him to his regular vet, where X-rays showed stones filling his bladder and cluttering his urethra — so many that surgery appeared the only choice.

They catheterized him again and sent him home with me for the night before returning him for surgery this morning.

This morning, Ace, who is 10, woke me up early, with the clicking of his claws on the hardwood floor as he trotted from room to room, as he does when he needs to go out. This time he was dripping blood, or bloody urine, in every room of the house.

He eagerly hopped in the car for the trip to the vet, but balked a little about going inside. Either he knew something was up, or didn’t want to face another catheterization. He balked again when it came time to say goodbye and walk off with the vet tech.

Now I am back home, cleaning up blood and waiting for the phone call. The vet’s biggest concern is the stones that may or may not remain in his urethra after yesterday’s catheterization — the urethra, in boy dogs, being a circuitous tube that is prone to problems. He hopes to be able to flush any of those out without having to slice into that area.

Those are the gory details.

Here’s what you can do. Send some positive vibes our way, as many of you have before when my aging dog or my aging self have faced medical uncertainties. I, in exchange, will keep you posted.

No need to write. No need to call. Just think a good thought. I’m not sure I telepathically receive those, but I’m pretty sure Ace does.

Update 1: Ace is out of surgery, which his vet described as the most difficult such operation he has done in his career, due to the amount of stones, particularly those in Ace’s urethra. He managed to clear them all out. Ace is still under the influence of general anesthesia, and it’s not clear yet whether he will be coming home tonight. We’ll be making that call in a couple of hours. Deepest thanks to Dr. Raymond Morrison at Ard-Vista Animal Hospital, to all those who commented here and on my Facebook page, and everyone else who has kept my big ol’ dog in their thoughts.

Update 2: Ace isn’t getting up and around, so he’ll be staying at the animal hospital tonight. Plans are to pick him up tomorrow.

Update 3: Ace is still at the animal hospital, as of Thursday. Vets say they want to monitor him throughout the day, but that I can pick him up this evening.

What’s the matter with the bladder?


The test results are in: Those stones in Ace’s bladder — the ones that clogged him up and made for a scary weekend — are of the struvite variety.

That’s good news. Struvite stones, unlike calcium oxalate stones, are commonly treated by switching to a prescription diet — rather than surgery.

With a little luck, things will continue to flow through his bladder as freely as Niagara Falls (pictured above), which he visited a few years back.

urinary soFor now, Ace is taking antibiotics and has been switched to a prescription dog food with the unappetizing name of “Urinary SO.”

He seems to like it anyway.

I am to continue monitoring his urine stream (given I have nothing better to do), make sure he drinks plenty of water, and hope that the stones remaining in his bladder decompose and exit his body smoothly and without incident.

Struvite stones are often the result of infections, but most experts say one’s choice of dog food — particularly choosing a dry food that’s high in grain — can also be the culprit.

I don’t want to blame the Beneful he has been eating for the past four years,  even though the Purina product is being blamed for far worse these days — so much so that I was contemplating a switch already.

I’m hoping he doesn’t have to stay on the Urinary SO for too long. The vet’s office recommended four cans a day for a dog of his size. It costs more than $3 per can. That amounts to more than I spend at the grocery to feed my own self.

In a compromise, the vet’s office said I could mix in some Urinary SO dry food, which costs slightly less.

Maybe, in the future — once we’re done with Urinary SO — I’ll return him to a raw diet. The years he was on that seemed to be his healthiest.

Since his Saturday emergency, when a catheter was used to get things flowing again, he has been peeing freely and abundantly. You might see it differently, but to me that, like the falls, is a glorious sight to behold.

You want to put what where?

triaddoggames 093

Seems like Ace and I, as we keep piling on the years, take turns these days experiencing health problems — from the pesky to the potentially fatal.

Saturday was his turn again.

He woke me up about 5:30 a.m. to be let outside, not all that unusual. But then he declined to come back in. He just wandered about the backyard, stopping here and there, straining to pee, but to no avail.

Once he did come back in, he wanted out again two minutes later, where he again attempted, unsuccessfully, to complete the task.

As I do with my own ailments, I got on the Internet to Google the possibilities — urinary tract infection, stones of some sort, or some other kind of obstruction that was blocking him from doing what he needed to do.

Given it was already 10 a.m. when I called his vet, and that they close at noon on Saturday, I wasn’t too surprised when I was told all slots were filled. But I was promised that a vet would call me back.

When he did, about 30 minutes later, I told him Ace was struggling to pee and that, to my knowledge, he hadn’t been able to all morning. Otherwise, he seemed fairly normal, and not in pain, not even when I pushed and prodded around his abdomen.

The vet — not the one I usually see at the practice — told me that, while I might have to wait around for an opening, I could bring Ace in. And he told me I probably should. If I waited until Monday, and Ace went all that time without peeing, he’d likely be dead by then.

After taking some X-rays, the vet showed me what he said were bladder stones — faint little circles, and some not so little, inside his bladder. He said it would take some testing to determine which kind of stones they were (some are more easily treated than others). The first priority though, was to get that obstruction cleared and that bladder drained, so he suggested a catheter.

I winced at the word. It has only been a few months since I was treated to that process while in the hospital for bypass surgery. Of all the highly intrusive things they did to me (okay, for me) the installation of the catheter remains my most traumatic memory. The mere word gives me shivers.

Why, I wondered then, and still do, would they install this device into a person without knocking him out — good and out — first?

I would not wish it on my worst enemy, much less my best friend.

Ace, his tail tucked between his legs rather than in its normal full and upright position, was ushered to a back room, and I stepped outside to pace and worry. I didn’t exactly “feel his pain,” but I did remember mine.

As soon as I stepped back into the office, only about five minutes later, the vet and a technician came into the waiting room with Ace and said things were flowing again. Ace, thanks to the catheter, had peed, and peed some more, and one little stone came out in the process.

The vet tech took Ace outside and he peed some more. His curled-up tail, which had been in the down position all day, was up — generally a sign that all is right with the world, or at least his world.

While the emergency was over, the ailment remains. Tests of his urine this week will determine whether the stones still inside his bladder are of the struvite variety, which can sometimes be treated with a therapeutic diet, or calcium oxalate stones, which require surgical removal to totally get rid of them.

Whatever the case, I’m sure Ace will handle what’s ahead in a far more classy and stoic manner than I would.

These days, we both grunt a bit now when settling down, or getting up. We’re both a little slower. We both have to shift around a bit to get comfortable, then stretch ourselves out when we get back up again.

But somehow he is better at this aging thing than me. It has been almost three years since he, now 10, surpassed me, now 61, according to most formulas for comparing dog years to human years. Now, as a large dog, he’s aging much more quickly than I am — even though you wouldn’t know it to look at us.

This week’s medical agenda includes the testing of his urine, whatever steps are deemed necessary for him after that, an echocardiogram on me to assess how my heart is working after quintuple bypass surgery, and another visit to my physical therapist for a continuing back and shoulder problem, now being treated by something called “dry needling.”

I’ll spare you the details of that. Suffice to say, for me — and even for my dog — getting old is getting old.

(A special thanks to Brian LeFevre at Winston-Salem’s Ard-Vista Animal Hospital for working Ace into his schedule and getting things flowing again.)

Kiss me, you dog (I need the probiotics)

Before you wipe off that next dog kiss — not that too many ohmidog! readers are the sort that do that — you might want to think about this:

Some of those doggy bacteria that dog-disliking alarmists and hand-wringing medical types are always warning us about might actually be good for you.

As with Greek yogurt and kimchee, some of the microbes lurking in a dog’s gut could have a probiotic effect on the owners’ body, aiding in both digestion and overall health.

Researchers at the University of Arizona are now seeking volunteers to take part in a study to prove just that — and here’s the coolest part: Volunteers, if they want, can keep the shelter dog assigned to them when the study is done.

The “Dogs as Probiotics” study will focus specifically on the effect dogs have on the health of older people — in terms of physical well-being, mental well-being and cognitive functioning.

kelly“We already know that dogs make us happier and in some ways healthier. The main point of this study is to try and understand whether or not there is an actual biological component behind this,” Kim Kelly, a UA doctoral student in medical anthropology, and one of the study’s primary investigators,
told the Arizona Daily Star.

“This has the potential to change the field in terms of how we understand, think about and use microbes to improve our health,” she said.

The study team is recruiting adults over the age of 50 and asking them to live with a dog from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona for three months.

Both the human and canine subjects will undergo tests of an non-invasive sort during the study to determine whether or not the positive microbes in the humans increase, and whether it correlates with improved immune measures in older adults.

Probiotics are often referred as “good” or “helpful” bacteria. They can help keep the intestines healthy, assist in digesting food, and are believed to help the immune system.

Kelly, along with researchers at the University of San Diego and the University of Colorado, will explore whether living with a dog encourages the growth of positive micro organisms in the human gut.

“We essentially want to find out, is a dog acting like yogurt in having a probiotic effect,” she said.

In addition, researchers will monitor participants for any changes in the mental health and emotional well-being.

Once the scientists are done, human participants will have the option of keeping the dog they kept in their home during the study.

We’re guessing that — whether their digestion has improved or not — most of them will.

Who wouldn’t want someone who has been kissing them for three months to hang around?

(Video: Attendees at the SPCA of Maryland’s March for the Animals, 2009, receiving some free probiotics from my dog Ace; photo: Kim Kelly and her cocker spaniel Katie, courtesy of Kim Kelly)

Another Ace doppelganger surfaces


From time to time, about once every couple of years, I hear from a reader who thinks their dog looks just like mine.

That’s my dog Ace above — one of a kind, I like to think, but a mix of four breeds according to repeated DNA testing conducted after I adopted him from a Baltimore animal shelter nearly 10 years ago.

And, no, one of them isn’t German shepherd, though that is the most common guess.

The guessing is one of the joys of mutt ownership, along with the fact that — unlike with, say, Golden retrievers — running into an exact replica of your dog is something you tend to get excited about.

bobby1So, naturally, when May Tayar in Florida stumbled across Ace on the Internet, and saw how much he resembled his mystery mutt, he got pretty excited.

Tayar, who lives in Florida, had assumed his dog Bobby (left), adopted from an animal shelter in Miami, was a German shepherd mix. After reading about Ace’s heritage, now he’s not so sure.

“Bobby looks exactly like Ace,” Max wrote me earlier this month in an email, with three Bobby photos attached.

“We always wondered what mix of breeds he is,” Tayar said of Bobby. “He sometimes looks like a German shepherd, but when he’s standing next to a real one he looks nothing like him. Also Bobby’s tail is clipped so we don’t know what his tail would have looked like.”

Whether Bobby’s tail would have curled up into a question mark, like Ace’s does when he’s in a good mood (we thank the Akita for that), will never be known.

While Bobby doesn’t have Ace’s tail, he has something Ace doesn’t have — pointy ears, or at least sometimes pointy ears. Not until I got to the third photo were they shown in the full upright position, suggesting to me that Bobby, unlike Ace, may have some shepherd in him.


After reading about Ace’s origins on ohmidog!, Max is now convinced Bobby, like Ace, is a Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull mix. (Despite the bad reputation those breeds have, I generally share that information with everyone — except maybe landlords and insurers — because he shows how undeserved those reputations are.)

“We’ve been thinking about Ace a lot,” wrote Max, who owns Assara, a laser hair removal business in Manhattan. “… Every time Bobby’s ears go down and he gets a certain look on his face we call him Ace to see if he reacts.”

laikaNo sooner did I write the above then I came across, online, another Ace lookalike — really more of a Bobby lookalike, but with even bigger ears.

I was checking out the blog Puppy Leaks (I think you’d like it) when I saw a photo of Laika. That’s her to the left.

I went to the Puppy Leaks Facebook page, and sent a message to the blog’s author, Jen Gabbard, asking her if she knew what breeds were in Laika, and if it would be OK if I included Laika in this post as well, promising to poke only the gentlest fun at her highly impressive ears.

Laika, according to DNA tests Gabbard had conducted, is a mix of German shepherd, Rottweiler and pit bull.

Of course, what breeds are in a dog doesn’t define a dog — nor does the size of its ears.

It’s all relative. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and maybe even more so in the eye of the owner. Though some have pointed out they think Ace’s floppy ears are disproportionately small for his body, I’ve always seen them as just perfect.

I’m sure Max sees Bobby, and Jen sees Laika, the same way.

And the funny thing is, we’re all right.

(Photos: At top, Ace, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; second and third photos, Bobby, courtesy of Max Tayar; at bottom, Laika, courtesy of Jen Gabbard / Puppy Leaks)

A note to readers of ohmidog!


Some regular readers may have noticed that ohmidog! – after six years of trying to stay on top of what’s transpiring in the world of dogs — has become a little less daily of late.

Expect that trend to continue in the weeks ahead.

I’m scheduled for heart bypass surgery next week, followed by a recovery period that could keep me quiet for a couple of weeks more.

After that I plan to resume barking and blogging about all things dog.

As for my muse and co-dependent, Ace (pictured above), he’ll be staying a while with a cousin who lives nearby.

I’ll be looking forward to his return (not to mention mine), and to getting back to writing some.

Thanks for your thoughts and continued support.

John Woestendiek

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