Category Archives: Medical

Dear 2018

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As 2018 draws to an end I find myself reminiscing the happenings of the year.  Holy moly, it was a MAJOR year for our family.  Not only did we have some huge changes, but we also had a multitude of tiny life events that added to the excitement (and stress) of 2018.

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About a week ago I saw this meme on Facebook and immediately the word that popped into my mind to describe 2018 was “CHANGE”.    We have had so much change.

2018 was our first full year without Leo.  We are still humbled on a regular occasion when strangers contact us thanking us for sharing Leo’s story.  We love knowing that Leo is still touching lives during their time of need, even in his afterlife.  Leo was truly the BEST BOY.  We were blessed to have him in our lives on a daily basis for over 14+ years, from bottle feeding him as a puppy, to having my hand on his chest as he took his final breath on 8/21/2017.  We wholeheartedly thank Leo for every moment we had with him and the lifetime of memories he provided us.

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The beginning of February saw Kuki having oral surgery that removed 8.5 teeth (yes, I do have them saved in a small baggie…they were only the tiny front teeth), and Doc having a double surgery at once.  Doc had his stenotic nares fixed (had no idea they would take so long to heal, but now he is able to breath like a champ), and a large lump between his shoulder blades removed.  I laugh because the vet did internal sutures with Doc’s lump surgery, which left two tiny lumps at the end of his scar line.  Kuki’s surgery went smooth, but her healing was a challenge as she developed a heck of a cough, that took a couple different medications to get under control (of course this crazy mama bear went into panic mode fearing we would lose our girl).

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We opened our hearts and home again, just a few days after Doc and Kuki’s surgeries.  When Leo passed I adamantly said “I can’t do this again” even though I knew that we would have to in the future with Doc and Kuki.  In February of 2018 I was contacted by a client, letting me know about a senior disabled Pug that needed a forever home and that she believed we would be the best home for the Pug.  On February 8th we did our meet and greet, driving hours over an Oregon mountain pass (thankfully snow free), and immediately feel in love.  Her name was Lulu.  This name didn’t stick with her long as we quickly realized that it was her “abuse” name and we wanted her to feel happy and safe.  After a few months the name Wu-Puggy stuck with her.  Wu-Puggy has Pug Myelopathy, causing her to have limited control over her hind legs, bladder, and bowel.  Wu is also prone to UTI’s because of her condition.  During the first couple weeks after adopting  her from the Willamette Humane Society, I honestly questioned if we were the best choice of family for her as she was so much work and her adjustment had been a challenge.  I now regret having those second thoughts as we couldn’t imagine our lives without our loving, curious, spunky little Wu-Puggy.  We did learn that having a senior disabled Pug can be quite expensive.  We did also learn how to express her bladder so that she is finally able to eliminate all of her urine and hopefully in the long-run lessen her amount of UTI’s.  Since learning to express Wu-Puggy she has no longer needs to wear her doggy diapers, which makes her a happy girl.  This also makes us happy as there are no urinary accidents any more, eliminating quite a bit of stress and manual labor (aka LAUNDRY and dog baths).  As of right now we are helping keep Wu-Puggy as healthy and happy as possible with a vast supply of supplements, doggy stretches, and all the love we can give.  To end this Wu-Puggy section we say “ADOPT DON’T SHOP” when it comes to adding a new family member.  Don’t forget the senior dogs.  Don’t overlook the disabled dogs.  They are so full of love and all they want is a family to live out the rest of their days with.

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2018 also brought a long-distance move for our family.  A move back home.  After spending 5.5 wonderful years in beautiful central Oregon we made the decision to move back home to Minnesota.  As you know, moving is stressful!  Now, make that move long-distance, with three dogs (two of which are senior disabled), on a limited budget, a husband that has an amazing amount of stuff,  and without the 100% security that the home we would be moving into would be available by the time we arrived…holy moly stressful.  When all was said and done, we arrived safe and sound.  The move all together from out west to getting stuff out of a storage unit here in Minnesota took just under four months, three separate moving trucks (one giant one for the main move, two for getting stuff from the storage unit), four dump trips, two tow trailers, fifteen different helpers (people helping load, unload, haul, professionally clean, carpet clean, etc.), and well over $4,000…ouch.

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Adjusting to the changes from the move has been a challenge.  Personally, I have never done well with change, the older I get the harder it seems to be to adjust.  New state (well, not a new one as the majority of my life has been in Minnesota), new house, new neighbors, new noises (we hear sirens every day now),  new taxes (yes, MN has more and higher taxes than OR), new utilities, new vet, new job for the hubby, rebuilding my business client base…just a ton of new that was overall good, but extremely challenging at the same time.  My husband got his dream job which is fabulous, but the first four months we were here he had a total of one day off…yes, ONE DAY in four months.  I think that made settling in a little more challenging as I was busy working on rebuilding my pet sitting business, and doing household projects while he was busting his butt at work, meaning the tiny bit of awake time we spent together was essentially just a quick cup of coffee in the mornings and the “how was your day” conversations in the evenings before drifting away to sleep.  Thankfully, with the change in seasons, he does now get some time off and is working to make sure that he will have one day off per week once the busy season starts at his work.  Even though it has taken quite a bit of time, we are both settling in well to our new location.

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This year also brought family, reconnections and new connections.  Moving back to Minnesota helped reunite family.  My husband got to spend his birthday with his son for the first time in many years.  The cool thing about this was his son came down (lives just a couple hour drive away), treated him to lunch, and spent the day at his work with him as he didn’t have the day off…this made my husband’s day.   I hadn’t seen my two sisters or brother in 20-22 years…yes, a lifetime.  Have gotten to spend some time with each of these siblings and their spouses doing a variety of activities from a zoo activity to concerts.  Needless to say, after so many years of not seeing each other or being in contact much, there is a ton of getting to know each other still to do, but now living back in Minnesota and being near family will make this easier.  One of my sisters thought it would be fun for us all to do 23 and Me genetic testing so see what percentage of DNA we shared (as they are full siblings and I am just a half, sharing the same mother).  Much to my surprise the day that 23 and Me contacted with my results I also found out that I have a half-brother from my dad’s side.  It was interesting getting to know him through messages and we look forward to meeting him sometime in 2019.

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This year brought more than reconnecting my husband with his son (they have always been in contact, but getting to live close and see each other has been a plus for both of them).  It brought more than reconnecting me with my two sisters and two brothers (it is interesting saying two there as for 38 years of my life it had only been one).  It brought a connection to quite a few members of my dad’s side of the family.  I was honored to be able to connect with and help a cousin of mine as she went through radiation and chemotherapy in her fight against a brain tumor…she is an amazing person who is showing that tumor who the boss lady is and I think we became part of each others lives at the perfect time.  One of the things I am loving about living back in Minnesota is that we are now close (distance wise) to family again, making it easier to visit, catch-up, etc.  During the summer I also got to meet my Aunt Kathy from my mom’s side of the family that came out from California.  Was also spoiled by a visit from my cousin Dani and her wife Vanessa.

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Lessons I’ve Learned and Knowledge Gained from 2018

  • Change can be scary.  Change can be challenging.  Change can be amazing.  Change can be an excellent learning opportunity.
  • Goodbyes are hard, as are Hellos sometimes.
  • My anxiety sometimes makes me seem like an a$$hole, especially to those people who don’t know me well.
  • I struggle to bond, connect with, and trust others.  When thinking about this in depth I realize that there are few people who actually know me.  Yes, a lot of people know of me, or some things about me, or some things they’ve heard about me from someone else, but not many actually know me.  I am painfully guarded.
  • I am stronger than I believed.
  • I am an over-thinker (even though this isn’t new information).  Sometimes it takes me longer to process things than it does most people.
  • No matter what you do in life you will always be the bad guy in someone’s story.
  • No matter what you do in life you will always be the light in someone’s story.
  • You can’t control what people say about you behind your back, but you can control your reaction (or lack there of).
  • Speaking your truth will be/is one of the hardest things you will ever do in life.  The best you can hope for is understanding, compassion, and that the person/people who you confided in believe and support you.
  • Best friends are just that…the BEST.
  • Family is not only genetics, but the people we chose to have and keep close in our lives.
  • I love my privacy.
  • Some people in our lives will love and support us for exactly who we are.  Of course, on the other hand, there will always be other people in our lives that try to change us and make us not feel like who we are is enough…don’t let those people get to you.
  • Words are powerful.  Words can lift you up.  Words can crush you.  Someone can walk up and slap you in the face, you will immediately be shocked, angry, and in pain, but all of those will go away with virtually no lasting result.  Words on the other hand end up etching deep in your memory and can still cause pain years later.  Learning to not let those words have power over you is a challenge…something I am still working on.
  • Learning new skills is wonderful.
  • When you do something or complete something you are proud of, don’t be ashamed of being proud of it!  Own it!  Seriously, I built gates, stairs, etc. this year and was (am) extremely proud of how good of a job I did and how each of the little projects add up to make a nicer place.  I often struggle with finding good in myself or being proud of myself for anything, so being proud of the projects I completed over the year is a huge step.
  • Dogs are the best therapy.  I love being a professional pet sitter, even if other people don’t consider it a real job.  I get to provide care for, teach, play with, snuggle with, and love so many amazing animals, and for that I am honored.
  • Always take the time to look at a situation from not only your view point, but the other parties point of view.  Kind of like a walk a mile in their shoes.  Take your time to understand them and hope that they reciprocate.
  • I have gained new insight this year into things that trigger my anxiety.  This is priceless.  Every little bit of extra knowledge helps.
  • I realized that I have never felt like I belong.  I wasn’t raised around family.  Heck, didn’t meet the majority of family members from my dad’s side until I was 12 years old.  Unfortunately, this left me feeling like an outsider.  I’ve always felt like an outsider or a flattened tire with my siblings too, like I am just there clinging on, unwanted.
  • There are so many more things I learned, but my brain is now mush at this point and I am just ready for 2018 to be over.  2018 was a great and exhausting year.

 

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Image Credits Creator:wujekjery Credit:Getty Images Copyright:This content is subject to copyright.

Knowing the word that best described 2018 was CHANGE, I found myself thinking about the word I would like to describe 2019.  I would like that word to be STABILITY.  This last year had so many changes that I would like this upcoming year (and hopefully the years following) to offer some stability.  Stability in our home/living situation.  Stability in our dogs’ health.  Stability in our finances.  Stability in our family.  Stability in our relationships…friendships, family bonds, etc.  I have had a lifetime of instability, so having just turned 39 years old I would love to put down the permanent roots and have the security and stability of knowing I belong.  Belong in a place, belong in a family.  Stability, yes, that is a good word for 2019.

 

 

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Toby the SCOBY

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One of our favorite things in the world is Kombucha.  We love it because not only is it tasty, but also has a lot of wonderful health benefits.  Kombucha has probiotics, is an immune builder, aids in digestion, improves brain function, detoxifies, helps remove heavy metals from our systems, balances internal pH, promotes healthy joints and has theanine which helps ease stress by increasing seratonin levels…just to name a few of Kombucha’s benefits.

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Recently we have been researching how to make out own Kombucha.  One of our favorite Kombucha suppliers is Kombucha Mama out of Bend, Oregon.  Kombucha Mama has a great website with a ton of information (if you are ever in the Bend area you can also stop in and their staff is very knowledgeable and helpful—I give them 5 stars).  The following is a link to Kombucha Mama’s How to Make Kombucha page:  http://www.kombuchamama.com/brew-class .  From all of the different websites we research, we found this one the most user friendly, especially for first-timers.

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Yesterday we went and adopted an wonderfully healthy SCOBY that we lovingly have named Toby.  Today we prepped our tea and let Toby join his new living habitat (for the next 8-15 days).  So far Toby looks very happy and healthy and is relaxing in a quiet, dust free cupboard.  We will be keeping a close eye on in and posting updates.  Here’s hoping that our first adventure in homemade Kombucha turns out to be a tasty one…we will find out on Christmas as that is when our whole Kombucha making process should be complete.

Leo 6 Months Post Enucleation Surgery

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Amazing how quickly 6 months has passed and how well Leo has adjusted to being a handsome one-eyed old man.  Leo is doing fantastic and overall has adjusted to only having one eye very well.  Leo still has all of the energy he has ever had…gives his much younger brother a run for his money every day.

Leo still occasionally has depth perception issues and sometimes will accidentally bump one of our fingers with a tooth when he is reaching for a treat.  Leo has allergies that cause extra tears at times, we have noticed that with just having one eye Leo does seem to tear more from that eye…which causes some stains if not gently cleaned daily.  Leo will also sometimes “lose” a toy on his right side, at which point we have to have him turn to see it.  Leo is a very fast boy and is a toy addict, my husband and I both sit and wonder how in the world we ever got a toy away from him when he had two eyes…Leo only having one eye at least gives us a little bit of a chance 🙂

 

DSC06518  Leo is still very handsome and photogenic…he loves spending time outside and posing for the occasional picture.

 

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DSC05683This summer Leo & his siblings went to the ocean for the first time.  Leo LOVED it.

 

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Leo-5 Weeks Post Surgery

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Wow, time does fly…it has been 5 full weeks since Leo’s surgery and he is doing fantastic.  We, as his humans, are not as paranoid as we had been about letting him play and Leo is very thankful for that.  Leo is also in the summer spirit, enjoying a lot of time outside and some wonderful summer snacks (Leo is a watermelon junky).DSC05293 DSC05327 DSC05329 DSC05331 DSC05336

Leo-4 Weeks Post Surgery

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Today is the 4 week anniversary since Leo’s eye enucleation surgery…wow, 4 weeks already.  Leo is doing wonderful.  He seems to have almost completely adjusted to only having one eye as he is very rarely bumping into things on his right side anymore.  Leo is still full of his energy and spunk giving his other furry family members a good run for their money.  Oh, and 98% of his fur has grown back in.

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Leo-3 Weeks After Enucleation Surgery

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As of today it has been 3 weeks since Leo's surgery and he is doing very well.

As of today it has been 3 weeks since Leo’s surgery and he is doing very well.

You can see that his fur is mostly grown back in...there are a couple of little short spots still, but barely noticeable.

You can see that his fur is mostly grown back in…there are a couple of little short spots still, but barely noticeable.

Leo is full of energy and playing like crazy.  We are still being careful with him and not letting him play as rough-and-tumble as he is used to.

Leo is full of energy and playing like crazy. We are still being careful with him and not letting him play as rough-and-tumble as he is used to.

Leo is adjusting very well to only having one eye...he is learning that one eye is an advantage when it comes to begging :)

Leo is adjusting very well to only having one eye…he is learning that one eye is an advantage when it comes to begging 🙂

Leo does not seem to have any pain in the area as we can gently pet it and he seems to enjoy it.  Leo also itches his face in the blankets and hasn't shown any discomfort.  On that note there has been a couple of times where he bumps into something or gets bumped into and will do a  very tiny yelp...we think it is just the little discomfort or startle from getting bumped that makes him do a tiny yelp (barely audible).

Leo does not seem to have any pain in the area as we can gently pet it and he seems to enjoy it. Leo also itches his face in the blankets and hasn’t shown any discomfort. On that note there has been a couple of times where he bumps into something or gets bumped into and will do a very tiny yelp…we think it is just the little discomfort or startle from getting bumped that makes him do a tiny yelp (barely audible).

As you can see Leo is very alert.

As you can see Leo is very alert.

Play, play, play!  Leo is thinking "Gosh mom, enough with the pictures.  Throw the ball already!"

Play, play, play! Leo is thinking “Gosh mom, enough with the pictures. Throw the ball already!”

Leo’s Enucleation Surgery from the Day Before to 2 Weeks Out

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Seeing a family member in pain is heartbreaking, doesn’t matter if it is a human or animal family member.  Having to go through surgery can and is very stressful…having a child/fur baby go through surgery can be even worse.   What is something happens?  What if something goes wrong?  What should I expect after the surgery?  What will the healing process be like?  Will my loved one be in pain?  These were just a few of the questions I asked myself, my husband and our vet prior to Leo’s enucleation surgery.  I spent weeks researching online and found a lot of technical information, but didn’t find very many personal experiences, so we decided it would be best to share Leo’s story and daily progress, in hopes that it would help some other families going through the same situation.

Leo’s Story:

Leo is a very happy, healthy and active 10 year old Boston Terrier.  Leo has never had any medical issues, well, an ear infection now and then, but nothing major.  Leo had only ever had one surgery in his life and that was when he got fixed.  On April 2nd I arrived home from work to find that Leo had something very wrong with his right eye.  Upon an emergency visit to the vet we learned that Leo had what was called an anterior luxation (to learn more I found this site very helpful:  http://www.eyevet.ca/luxlens.html).  This anterior luxation caused an acute onset of glaucoma because it blocked the flow of Leo’s eye fluids and was causing pressure.  We treated Leo’s eye with 2 different kinds of eye drops (Pred Acetate 1%  drops & Dorzolamide 2%…the first was a steroid to help with pain and the second is a glaucoma medication to help with the eye pressure).  Our vet explained that the drops would help for a while, but were not a long-term fix, she also explained that they could work for a few months or weeks and that eventually they would not help as his condition progressed.   We did a fundraiser to help with Leo’s surgery costs and as soon as we reached out goal Leo’s surgery was scheduled.  Leo was diagnosed on April 2nd and had his surgery on May 3rd.  During the month between diagnosis and surgery Leo’s eye was stable at first, but then did get much worse.  Leo’s right eye was clearly larger than his left, he struggled to keep it open, it was very bloodshot, it was pressure/touch sensitive, he was tearing excessively, and Leo could not see out of the eye at all.  Leo loves the sunshine and was not allowed to lay or play in it as it made his eye much worse.  Leo wanted to play, but if he got bumped he would yelp and run to mom for comfort.  We were very blessed to have such wonderful people help donate to Leo’s surgery so that he could get in to the vet and get the surgery done before being in more pain.

 

What to expect & risks of surgery:

One very important thing to remember is that every dog is different and heals differently.  If you have a dog that is healthy, the healing process with probably be easier, quicker and will more than likely have less complications…BUT as with humans, every surgery and patient is different.  Enucleation surgery is a MAJOR surgery.  Our vet did Leo’s surgery in the early afternoon and actually kept him overnight to monitor him, they also kept him on an iv with pain medication and antibiotics, which we think was very helpful (stressed me out and made me worry when they said they were keeping him overnight, but it was for the best).

Due to Leo being a Boston Terrier we chose to have the prosthetic eye placed in the socket so that he would not have a large caved in area.  Prosthetic eyes can cause more complications, such as infection.  Dogs who do not have such large predominate eyes like those of  Boston Terriers, will do very well without the prosthetic…it is all your choice.  The great thing with Leo getting the prosthetic is that he does not have a caved in area and literally just looks like he is winking, which is a little easier on the humans in his life.

One of the big risks that comes with any surgery is infection, that is why your vet will prescribe you a course of antibiotics for your dog (Leo loved them because every morning and evening he got a “special” treat and he thought that he was getting spoiled).   When you go to get your loved one after surgery there WILL be a lot of swelling, this is normal, but is very hard to see (as soon as Leo came into the room I was in tears, not only because I missed him so much and was so worried about him, but the shock of seeing his surgery area and the swelling).  Our vet explained that there may be some bloody discharge or seepage from the surgery area and that is normal, but if it becomes an excessive amount to contact them immediately…we were very lucky as Leo experienced no discharge at all.  Your loved one will have an Elizabethan collar on (much better than a regular cone of shame) which is nice and soft.  This will help protect their eye area from being bumped  and from them scratching at it.

If you have other pets at home you may want to keep you loved one that just had surgery away from them in a nice safe area.  Leo got to spend a lot of time in our guest bedroom during the first few days after his surgery.  Other pets do not understand that your loved one just went through a major surgery and you do not want them bumping them, running into them or anything else along those lines…those first few days after surgery are very important in the healing process and keeping the pet safe from further injury is very important.  Leo’s first night home we had him sleep with his Elizabethan collar, he wasn’t completely comfortable, but we felt good knowing his eye was protected.

You may experience some swelling in the check area after surgery, Leo had swelling in his check the day after he got home, but by the next day it was gone.

There WILL be bruising.  Hey, it is a major surgery and bruising is to be expected.  Being that your loved ones eye area will have been shaved the bruising will be very visible, but thankfully will only last for a few days.

Leo only wore his Elizabethan collar for a couple of nights, and then we had him wear it during the day if we weren’t right there to monitor him, but he did very well with it off.  Make sure to keep a close eye on your dog to make sure they are not rubbing or scratching at the area, if they are you will want to make sure they continue to wear the Elizabethan collar.  Thankfully, Leo did not rub or scratch at the area at all, so that really helped his healing process.

Typically, if all goes well, the sutures will be removed 11-14 days after surgery.  Leo had two sutures that came untied, we just left them alone and we were reassured by the vet that as long as the eyelids were not pulling apart in the areas that came untied Leo would be fine.  Remember that your furry loved one also has internal sutures to help.

One of the things that we did not think about ahead of time was eyelid and brow movements.  When some dogs get cancer or have to have more of the eye area removed the vet will have to take out many of the muscles so there will not be facial expressions of the eye area on that side.  Leo, thankfully did not have cancer, so they only needed to remove his eye, which means that his eyelid and eyebrow both still work.  Leo’s right eye area still does the blinking motion at the same time his left eye does and his little eyebrows still move and are very expressive, which is wonderful, but just not one of those things that we had thought about ahead of time.  We love that he still is so expressive.

It will take time for  your dog to adjust to only having one eye.  Their depth perception will be off, it will take them a while to notice things on the side of their surgery.  Leo loves to beg for treats and we experienced him grabbing a treat and dropping it, but he could not see it because it landed on the right side so we had to guide him to it.  As with any major physical change it will just take some time to adjust.  Your loved one may also be a little jumpy and easily startled if they are approached from the side that no longer has an eye.  It will also take them a while to do the visual adjustment with the other eye so that they don’t get to close to or run into things on their surgery side.  Leo has come very close to running into a couple of corners.

Your loved one will want to be playing and back to their usual selves within a few days of surgery, but you as their human have to be the big meany that does not let them play as rough as they are used to…you are their protector.  Leo is highly active and plays very rough, so limiting his play was very hard.  Typically within about a month of surgery they area will be completely healed and your loved one can play at their normal rate.  We are choosing to keep a very close eye on Leo (no pun intended) and not let him play as rough as he is used to because now he only has one eye and we need to keep that protected.

Remember that your furry loved one will need extra love, tummy rubs and nom noms 🙂

Photos from the day before surgery through 2 weeks after surgery:

A few days ago I went back and was showing a co-worker Leo’s surgery photos and I was amazed at seeing how he healed…how you could see the healing from day to day.  I’ve taken a few pictures from each day of his healing process and put them all together in this one blog so you can see how much of a change there is…amazing!

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