Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jake's Collar

I did a behavioural euthanasia of an otherwise young, healthy dog for a friend. She bravely held him in her arms as he passed, protecting him until the very end. When it was over, she removed his collar and handed it to me. Thinking she just needed me to hold it, I gathered up his leash, and tried to hand them both back to her. She pressed the collar into my hands and said, “No, I want you to have this.”

It was a beautiful, hand-carved leather Dia De Los Muertos limited edition Paco collar, that I’d admired from the moment she got it. Fittingly, Eric, Jake and I brought it with us on our Halloween-cation that fall, which included a Dia De Los Muertos celebration in San Diego. One of our last stops was Paco Collars in Berkeley. We brought Jake into the shop, where I told the girls the story and they fashioned the collar into a martingale that fit Jake perfectly. What better way to honor a dog than to celebrate his life every time I slip his collar onto my own dog.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Round Two: Jake's battle with a mast cell tumor

Jake, my 8 year old Pit Bull/Mastiff cross developed a small, squishy lump on his right hind leg, that swelled up and became quite noticeable when we took him camping. When we got home, I took him to the clinic and went through the same fine needle aspirate procedure as I had with Granger back in March. I submitted the slide to the lab for analysis, and waited for the results.

Two days later, I sat with my morning coffee, checking emails, including a cheery one from my boss, about an upcoming conference I'm attending...with a note at the end asking if I wanted her to take Jake's lump off.

My mind buzzed as I opened up Idexx VetConnect to view the lab results and I could barely focus on the words mast cell tumor before I burst into tears, which quickly led to muffled sobbing (Eric was still asleep after working late). I was a bit surprised by my reaction. Plenty of dogs have mast cell tumors removed, and go on to lead normal, healthy lives. Why did this hurt so badly?

It wasn't just that Jake was my own dog, my Tigey-Tige, my running buddy, the dog who helped me "start over" when my life got turned upside down. That alone was like a punch in the gut, but normally doctor mode takes over and I just focus on fixing the problem. I thought about it, and realized I took it personally, both as Jake's mummy and as Jake's doctor. Unlike my "own" two dogs, Jake was owned by Eric first. I never make medical decisions for Jake without informing Eric first, treating him like a client who ultimately gets to decide how to treat "his" dog. So I was feeling the double whammy of "failing" Jake, personally and professionally. Of course, I didn't fail him at all. There wasn't anything I did, or didn't do, to cause this. The reason I found the mass, and found one in Granger less than six months ago, is that I don't ignore the little things. I didn't brush off his mass as "nothing"; instead, I took the right steps in diagnostics and treatment to give Jake the best chance at a cure.

Jake is lucky to have me for his mummy AND his vet.

Jake's tumor was completely excised, and classified as a low grade two. His bloodwork was perfect, and he is booked for an ultrasound as an added precaution.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Daisy's First Vet Visit

Recently, my sister brought her Bullmastiff puppy, Daisy, in for an exam and vaccines. Daisy already knows me from training sessions, so she was very happy to see me and show off her latest clicker-training knowledge. Most puppies need to come to the vet every 4 weeks or so, for routine check-ups, vaccines, and deworming. Here, Daisy demonstrates a typical puppy visit.

Having your mouth opened is a funny sensation, but I need to check Daisy's teeth and get her used to having her mouth examined. She gets a treat for being so good. This will make it easier to do when she grows up to be 100 pounds!
I listen to Daisy's heart and lungs and check her pulses at the same time. When she is full grown, I will probably examine her on the floor, but for now, she is practising staying still on the slippery exam table.

Daisy gets treats throughout her exam, especially when I am doing something new to her. Going to the vet should be as fun as possible, especially during puppy check-ups. That way, Daisy will trust me and let me help her if she is sick or injured.

Daisy was happy to jump on the scale for another weight check at the end of her visit, since she knew she would get another *click* and treat. I usually use string cheese, which is a big hit with most puppies. The next time I saw Daisy, she was thrilled to see me, so I know her visit was a success!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Off Leash

So relating to my post on nature deficit disorder, I’ve decided to elaborate on how I find places for my dogs to cut loose, particularly when I have three highly prey driven dogs, one of whom is dog aggressive. Most are a short drive away of my Maillardville home, although some places mentioned are from dog-friendly road trips. Descriptions are intentionally vague, as these are secret spots, some are frequented by other people with not-so-friendly dogs, and in most cases, off leash is breaking the rules. The goal is to give the dogs a bit of freedom to make their own decisions, while getting hard physical exercise, for both mental and physical health benefits. Just don't bother anyone and pick up after your dog.

Hydro property

BC Hydro allows multi-use trails on some of its property. I worry a bit about all my exposure to high voltage power lines, but it’s worth it for the isolation so close to the city. Here, Shorty, owned by Sarah of Bad Dogs Gone Good, enjoys a bit of freedom.

Former Mental Institution

Locals will recognize this place. Great during the week, especially if there are no films crews, although there’s usually enough space to avoid them.  Granger likes a bit of Chuck-it among the trees of the beautiful grounds. Walks should be on leash, as there is still road traffic and patients/workers here, and I have seen dog training classes taking place. Be sure to give the security guards a friendly wave when they drive by. Can you spot Fletcher's Where's Waldo imitation in this photo?

City Industrial Land

Along the lines of Hydro property, most industrial areas, including access roads, are quiet on the weekend and early weekday mornings (i.e. outside of union working hours). As always, don't disturb anyone and pick up after your dogs. There is one around the corner from my house, and I've met some other dog people who utilize the spot for fetch or an off leash romp.

Crown Land

I like to think of it as exercising the dogs in the Queen’s backyard. Don’t disturb the wildlife or the range cattle. Here, Lila and Tiki enjoy rolling in cow pies outside of 100 Mile House, BC.

Empty Beaches

The Oregon coast is my favourite place to look for deserted beaches (especially in winter), but I’ve also had great success along the Pacific Ocean side of the Olympic Penninsula in Washington. This is Eric and the boy dogs just south of Forks, WA.

Start off slow, know your dog's limits, and follow the general guidelines of not disturbing anyone and respecting the environment. It can take years to be able to do this type of activity safely, but the rewards are worth it.