Was he part German shepherd, as most people guessed? Maybe some mastiff, or Great Dane, to account for his size? Some thought they detected retriever, or ridgeback, Catahoula or coonhound. It was a true whodunit – who exactly got together to produce such a beast? What made him so big? Where’d that curly tail come from?
It was an enjoyable mystery, unlike the kind of guessing game that becomes more common as a dog ages.
Then it becomes not what he’s got in him, but what he’s got. (I know that’s bad grammar, but I like it better, and I’m in control, at least of the words on this page.)
It’s amazing, and depressing, all the things that can go wrong with dogs, not to mention us. And the path to figuring out which one has – even when you do have medical insurance — can be torturous.
Breed determination tests require just a simple swabbing of the inside of the cheek (or a blood test), but determining what’s wrong with your dog will likely take numerous even more expensive ones that may or may not yield an answer, or even a general category into which his ailment falls.
Is it orthopedic, neurologic, digestive, cognitive? Or could it be, instead of a purebred disease or disorder, some sort of mix?
But first things first, or at least now. Ace seems back to normal. Unlike the previous two days, when he was a mix of clingy and anxious and, while he would sit, refused to lay down – an American Clinganxious Setter, maybe? – he’s himself again, and seems to have no complaints.
He’s back on the futon as I write this — one of the areas he has avoided for the past two days – back in the role of muse, as opposed to object of my fretting. He’s laying — or is it lying — down at will. He’s eating, drinking, pooping, peeing, playing and breathing normally.
A visit to the vet — and yes, I still want to marry a veterinarian — brought no definite answers. A battery of blood tests showed that liver, kidneys and pancreas were all clear, and that he had an only slightly elevated white blood cell count.
He was dispensed some anti-inflammatory pills, which may or may not account for his improvement. Still, upon the vet’s recommendation, I will engage in the also-not-fun, though highly challenging, game of catching one’s dog’s pee in a cup, and will tote a urine sample to their office this week.
Then, depending on what the pee reveals, and depending on whether he shows any more symptoms or strangeness, more tests are a possibility — X-rays of his stomach to ensure no parasites or other foreign objects are lurking there, neurological tests because of his earlier problems, and a day-long test for Cushing’s Disease, which the vet mentioned was also a possibility.
Or, given what appears at least today as an apparent recovery, was it nothing at all? For all I know it could have been the full moon, a ghost, a sound he was hearing that I wasn’t, or an extended blonde moment, even though he’s more auburn.
Adding to the uncertainty, when your dog appears to be ailing, there’s always the question you ask of yourself, or at least I ask of myself: Am I under-reacting, or over-reacting? The answer of course is that, in circumstances like these, over-reacting is preferable, if not good for the bank account.
For you newcomers who haven’t memorized Ace’s breeds, I won’t repeat them here. You’ll have to look it up, just in case I ever move to one of those backward towns that enforces or is instituting breed bans — though I probably wouldn’t — but in the event of which Ace is a collie.
Let’s just say, of those breeds that showed up in the three DNA tests he has had in the past two years, one is Japanese, one is Chinese, one is German (but not a shepherd) and one is an overused and misunderstood catch-all that’s not really a breed at all.
As for all those friends and readers who have offered their opinions, I do appreciate the input, the sharing of your own experiences, and the support.
As for Ace, once he wakes up, I think he’s due for a not-too-strenuous hike.
It’s always good to work a little sunshine into the mix.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ailment, animals, behavior, breed, cushings disease, diagnosis, disease, disorders, dna, dogs, guess, guessing, health, identification, medicine, mix, mutt, mystery, pets, strange, tests, travels with ace, uncertainty, veterinarian, veterinary, won't lay down
Better yet, I’ll spell it out: Single White Male in search of Single Female Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and by LTR I mean not just long term relationship, but marriage.
I might be willing to give the institution another try, but only with a veterinarian.
This decision is based not only on certain financial realities with which I am confronted, not solely on being a journalist without a real job, but on my belief that anyone who has devoted her life to dogs — as long as they are not all self-righteous about it, or hoarding them — is going to be a good person.
So, yes, I plan to marry, and live happily ever after with, a yet-to-be-chosen veterinarian.
(The unidentified one in the photo above, which I found by Googling, would be fine, but I’m not sure if she’s a veterinarian or a model, or, since her left hand is hidden behind the dog’s ear, whether she’s spoken for.)
In the interest of being totally frank, even though my name is John — nice to meet you, do you come here often? – I will reiterate that at least part of this life choice is based on practical, in addition to any romantic, interests.
Ace is nearly 7, beginning to get up there for a big dog. I am 58 (though, by making it a point to take poor care of myself, I can manage to still pass for 60). I’m feeling quite fine today, but Ace is showing signs of another ailment.
He has taken to acting like a cow, but only at night.
While seeming otherwise fine, he has been exhibiting two unusual behaviors. The first is standing like a cow, declining both offers and orders to lay down. When he does finally consent to joining me on the couch, or bed, he insists on putting the front third of his body on top of me.
None of his appendages seem to be bothering him, and I’ve manipulated them all to no end. No other spot I press on seems to cause him any pain. His symptoms are not like those back-related ones he was experiencing a few months ago. He acts mostly normal during the day, but once night falls, he becomes a cow.
He’s eating regularly, his bowel movements are on schedule and his stool seems fine. (Mine, too, in case any potential suitors are wondering.)
I have Googled myself silly trying to figure it out. At one point, I was convinced it was carbon monoxide poisoning, because he was standing by the door a lot, as if to say we must leave the premises at once. When he went out, though, he did nothing, except stand like a cow some more. I went out and bought a carbon monoxide detector. It hasn’t gone off.
Last night, I began suspecting bloat, even though what’s going in, food-wise, seems to be coming out, and he doesn’t seem inflated.
I’ve even asked myself if his ailment might be something other than physical — a cognitive disorder, though it seems to early, stemming from his advancing years. But then I forget that I’ve asked myself that.
Each day he seems fine, recovered, running, playing and happy, and I cancel my plan to take him to the veterinarian. Then at night he becomes an unmoving cow again, but, unlike a cow, seems anxious about something.
So he’s going back to his vet, who’s not an option when it comes to my plan to return to wedlock with a DVM, as he is a he and he is married.
But how wonderful would it be, now and moreso in the future, to have someone right in the same house who could observe Ace’s behavior and — contrary to my uneducated guesswork — come up with an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan?
To spare me from the anguish — and, despite any jest herein, it is anguish — that comes with knowing something is bothering your dog and not being able to figure it out?
And perhaps, even though her background is in dog health, to detect any excessive panting, or drooling, or other warning signs, that I might be exhibiting myself?
Til death do us part.
What I haven’t mentioned yet — because it’s a small thing, which has only a slight bearing on my love for veterinarians — is neither Ace nor I have health insurance, and we’re both getting to an age where that might be handy.
If I married a kindly, female, financially secure, unattached veterinarian, I can only assume Ace would get free medical care — given that Ace would become her dog, unless we parted ways, in which case, as spelled out in a pre-nuptial agreement, full custody of Ace would revert to me.
And if, in addition to making a good living from being a veterinarian, one of those rare careers that actually has a future, she had her own human medical insurance — the kind that covered spouses — that would be some highly appreciated icing on the cake. That would just make our bond even stronger.
I think we would be very happy together.
Yes, I kind of like time and space to myself. Yes, I probably work too much, definitely too much for a person who’s unemployed. True, I can’t shower you with luxurious or expensive things, but I do occasionally shower. I’m probably not “a catch.” As I’ve already stated, I will be 60 in a couple of years.
Nevertheless – and I”m going down on one knee now — I ask you, female veterinarian, will you marry me?
And, whatever your answer, can you help me back up?
(Photo: From Topcollegesonline)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ailment, ailments, animals, behavior, bloat, cow, diagnosis, dog, dogs, dvm, female, finances, health, health insurance, insurance, ltr, marriage, marry me, medicine, pets, proposal, sick, standing, symptoms, travels with ace, veterinarian, veterinary, wedlock
Yesterday, in updating you on Ace’s miracle recovery, we acknowledged in a backhanded kind of way all the prayers and well wishes you sent his way.
Allow us to do it in a forehanded way, too: Thank you.
Ace remains, from all appearances, over whatever it was that seemed to make him lose control of half of his 130-pound body on Monday.
He’s raring to go, darting all over the place when I take him outside, grabbing my hand in his mouth to pull me along for what he’d like to be a long walk. He seems to have totally forgotten the condition he was in two days ago. I, on the other hand, have not, and so, like an over-protective parent, offer up the kind of buzzkill only humans can provide.
“Let’s wait one more day. Slow down. Be careful. Stop frolicking, dammit.”
It’s the main difference between dogs and people. He being a dog, doesn’t let his past, even recent-as-yesterday past, bring him down. He doesn’t let fears of the future dictate his behavior, or maybe he knows better than me that the possibility of being hobbled tomorrow is all the more reason to run your ass off today.
I don’t know if your responses made Ace better, but they absolutely served that purpose for me. (I have more friends than I thought — or at least he does — and lots of them are strangers.)
Through comments left on ohmidog! and Travels with Ace, through personal emails and phone calls, we heard from several dozen people, including a few of those we encountered during the past year as we criss-crossed America.
Our intent in Travels with Ace was not to bog you down with reports of our physical ailments, not to bemoan the obstacles we were confronted with, not to get all cantankerous about the small stuff life throws our way.
Just as we didn’t ignore the country’s warts, we shared our personal bad moments, too – not to evoke sympathy, not to tug at heartstrings, but to reflect reality. The same holds true of our financial condition. Being unemployed was one of things that sparked the trip; and traveling, with the dog, on a shoestring, was an exercise in frugality mandated by the times and my own personal economic situation.
I, like a lot of Americans, and like America, am having trouble paying my bills.
Embarassing as that may be, I’ve admitted it — far more often than my mother would like me to — and I acknowledged again during Ace’s trauma that, short of draining what little remains in the old 401 K and pulling off a heist of some sort, I’m likely not in a position to scrounge up what any surgery he needed would probably cost.
One of the people we heard from yesterday was a woman who offered to pay for any veterinary care Ace needed. We declined her kind offer, given Ace’s recovery. I wrote her back, thanking her, telling her Ace seemed to be doing fine now, and, for some reason, baring my soul. (Apparently, much like a stripper, I will bare my soul for tips, or even the offer of them.) I explained to her how, in selfish pursuit of doing what I want to do, I’ve decided to scrape by without a job, and in the process have become an insufficient provider.
Putting personal dreams above salary and health insurance may be noble, or it may just be stupid. In any event it’s a choice that, for me, leads to some feelings of guilt during times like this week — times that seem to say, “Get a job, doofus.”
I did suggest she buy my book, which would add several cents to my portfolio.
She wrote back: “That’s wonderful news about Ace, John! I bought your book long ago, it’s how I discovered your blog and “met” Ace. It’s a fascinating book, btw, you’re a compelling writer. I understand your reservations about the money – been there, done that, so to speak. Ace is your family though, and by virtue of your blog, he’s my friend, so I hope it will never be necessary but if it should become necessary, I hope you would let his friends help. And pursuing your dreams is a great way to spend a life. Give Ace a good belly rub for me!”
The belly rub has been given, her compliments have been read and re-read (they serve as a belly rub to me), and her email address has been put in a file marked guardian angels, in the second drawer of the file cabinet on the right. (I write that here in case I forget, should I ever need to find it.)
Wrote another total stranger, upon reading of Ace’s improvement, “ …Amen And Pass The Kibble that Ace is doing well this morning. Having read ohmidog! for the past few years, you and Ace are a couple o’ ramblers that I’ve come to care about in that funny internet way. You just about killed me when you described losing your composure when he leaned on you. I know, I know! I was with you, in that moment. I was with you yesterday in the midst of your nerve-wracking vet visit with an IV bag tied to your roof rack. That would be why you’re an award-winning journalist. Big hugs to both of you, and if you’re ever in the upstate NY area, give a holler on-blog beforehand. We would love to meet “our” sweet Ace. Oh, and you, too, of course. You know how it is.”
More belly rubs for me, but, more than that, it was another note that reinforced what we learned during our travels: However down America might be right now, its people, and its dogs, are a resilient bunch; and people still care about people, especially dog people.
Having invited any theories readers might have, I also heard from several people offering guesses on what it might have been that knocked Ace’s legs out from under him
“My vote still goes with ‘ate something that disagreed with him.’ I woke up absolutely dreading this day for a number of reasons. I checked here before I even looked at the news. Now I’m smiling. You guys stay cool, and we’ll keep rolling out those prayers and good thoughts.”
That one was from Anne, one of several from my friend, technical consultant on internetty issues and web space provider in Baltimore, who, though she lost her husband at the end of last month, though both she and her beagle are still working through the grieving process, took the time to pass on her best wishes.
Some thought it might be heat related, and another reader suspected tick paralysis.
“I’m so glad ACE seems to have had a spontaneous recovery! We had a situation eerily similar to what you described with a newfie mix of ours several years ago. Our vet diagnosed tick paralysis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick_paralysis), which he had seen kill several dogs over the years. I had never heard of it, despite living in a state where Lyme and such are common. I thought I’d mention it since our vet said there are a lot of vets who aren’t familiar with it due to its rarity. Warm hugs to Ace!”
And, after our initial report on Ace’s affliction, there were many like this — both from people I know and people I’ve never met:
“I’m crying, and my own dogs are wondering why. Much love and all of our support to both Ace and you. Nothing scarier, for me at least, than a sick pup. Please keep us updated. You two are FAMILY.”
The pesky part of me wanted to write back and ask if my room is ready and what we were having for dinner tonight. Here’s the thing — some of my friends, possibly even some of those stranger friends I’ve never even met, would say come on over. However cash poor America is, it’s rich that way.
We send thanks, too, to Dr. Raymond Morrison, Ace’s vet at Ard-Vista Animal Hospital, here in Winston-Salem, who went beyond the call of duty — and didn’t charge for it — when I ran back into his office after our visit to inform him Ace was copiously vomiting in the back of my car. He strung an IV bag to my roof rack and had a technician adminster about 20 minutes worth of a subcutaneous drip that seemed to immediately improve both Ace’s panting and his legs.
Once he was back home and out of the car, the ailment seemed to disappear as quickly, and mysteriously, as it had arrived.
That we’re living a somewhat insulated life here — partly by choice, in pursuit of another dream, which is to turn our travels into a book — made all the comments and notes, from old friends and new ones alike, worth even more.
What restored Ace’s legs back to full power may be a mystery, but it’s no mystery what reconfirmed my faith in humanity.
It was you.
(Graphic: Pawprint thank you card available at Etsy.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ailment, america, americans, animals, belly rubs, control, dogs, dreams, economy, faith, finances, friends, heat, humanity, legs, letters, mystery, notes, ohmidog!, pets, recovery, resilience, road trip, strangers, support, thank you, thanks, tick paralysis, travels with ace, veterinarian, veterinary