A Triad of Troubles

Back in September of 2017, Logan made the following observation on vet visits for old dogs in his “Ten Steps to Healing” post. My buddy had a rather dark sense of humour at times.

“…when they told me I was going to the vet, it had an ominous ring to it. You humans might not understand what I’m talking about since, with humans, there is no trip to the family doctor you’re not going to return from. In the world of pets, especially when we get old or sick or injured, a trip to the vet can be like a scene from Dead Man Walking.”

I often think of Logan when I’m hanging out in Logieland.

Well, that said, I’m off to the vet today. I don’t think I should be worried, but I have had quite a lot going on lately. I’ve told you about my digestive troubles—my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—but I’ve written little about my other afflictions. Way back in 2018, I had a suspicious lump removed from my right thigh. Then last May, T discovered a lump on the inside of that same hind leg, this time in a place that wasn’t operable because of the muscles and tendons. The diagnosis … a type of tumor that is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, but will continue to grow. Well, grow it has.

My lumpy leg doesn’t really hurt, but because the tumor has wrapped itself around my hock joint, it does make it difficult to bend and straighten my leg completely. So I walk a bit like I’ve got a peg leg. Not a big problem, unless you combine this with the third of my health issues.

The hock joint on that back right leg has a very limited range of motion … but I get where I’m going.

At the same time the vet checked the lumps on my leg last spring, she noticed some abnormalities in my gait and diagnosed it as spondylosis or arthritis in the spine. An x-ray in the fall confirmed arthritis near the base of my tail. The arthritis along the spine impacts the nerves and interferes with communication between the brain and my legs. At first it was just irregularity, but now it’s weakness. I can still walk reasonably well, but climbing stairs is out, and I can’t stand in one place for long without an unplanned sit.

T and Nollind have joked about getting me a kick stand, so that I don’t topple sideways while I’m standing and eating. Not a bad idea really. Or maybe those training wheels kids have on their bicycles? I could get around like crazy with a set of those!

Even better than training wheels!

Anyway, apparently it’s time for a visit to the vet about my triad of troubles. Until recently, diet and CBD oil were keeping things managed, but for the past month my GI tract has been in frequent turmoil and I’m having more and more difficulty getting myself into a standing position from the floor…and then staying there.

Always in my corner.

So, wish me luck. I have at least a few more camping trips in my summer plans and I’d like to enjoy them in good health! (Disclaimer: taking into consideration current age and circumstances.)

Camping is the Cure

You might have noticed I’ve been absent from the blog for over a month. I was hoping Storm would fill in more than just the one week in early May, but he claims he’s been too busy helping Rosa with her weight-loss program, Gidget with her frisky-old-mare program, and Nevada with his food-sharing program. It does sound busy, although I’m not sure what all these programs are. I’ll let him fill you in next time I can get him to write.

I tried Hank too, since he hasn’t written anything since last year, but he claims he’s far too occupied with his new barn-mate, Mariah. I’ve met her. She’s cute. So I can understand him being distracted. Although from what I heard, the distraction wasn’t due to love at first sight. But again, I’ll let him tell that story.

Deep sand is hard going in my condition, so I did the smart thing.

One reader was concerned that something had happened to me. Well, it did. I got old. And, for me, old age isn’t just a slowing down, but a breaking down it seems.

Although coming home wasn’t without some challenges (read The Hazards of Home), I was on a GI-tract positive roll since mid-January which meant I was more energetic, stronger, and had put some weight on after my months of poor digestion. And then T’s attempt at a food addition went awry, which was followed by some poor scavenging decisions on my part, and multiplied by a previous food addition turning on me, which was heaped on by the pet food company changing at least one batch of the duck & potato (D&P) formula I was eating. Come on! Give a guy a break!

Getting a break of a different kind our first night in camp. That tall grass just kept tripping me!

And then I got one … a break, that is. Despite my guts being in frequent turmoil, T and Nollind packed up the remaining cans from of an old flat of D&P food and carted me off to Little Fish Lake Provincial Park for a few days of camping.

We’re on our way! Grocery stop in Strathmore.

Now you might think that taking an ailing dog camping wasn’t a great idea, but consider it from a canine perspective…when camping, my people have nothing to do but hang out with me. Right?! Nobody goes to Calgary to teach sailing lessons, nobody goes outside to hang out with horses, nobody sits staring at their computers for hours on end, and when we’re in the trailer, the peeps are never more than seventeen feet away. It’s all me, all the time. Dog-a-palooza! We go for walks, we hang by the fire, we cuddle on the bed, we have meals together. And this particular camping trip was made even better when G & S joined us on day two, making for even more attention.

A chilly first evening in camp…but together.

The combination of old-batch D&P and trailer time was just what the doctor ordered. I felt great. On our last night, we did a long walk up the hill above the lake and I didn’t even need a rest. I got a tiny glimpse of how I felt back in March and April when I was passing my chariot on the trail.

Evening walk along the hill. That’s camp way in the background.

With my good-old-reliable food now not so reliable, and increasingly hard to find, T is cooking for me. Which is great, except that my system had an initial reaction to the increased fat and protein in the diet. She’s adjusted the quantities of things and we’re hoping for an improvement. I sure love the taste, have been licking my bowl clean enough to put back in the cupboard, so I’m hoping we can land on a recipe that works. Oh, how I miss my iron-stomach days.

We also tracked down eleven cans of a different batch of D&P. It looks the same as the old stuff, so toes crossed.

Can’t wait to get me some more of this camping cure.

I hear we’re headed camping again in just over a week. I am looking forward to that. In the meantime, I’ll just have to share my people with the boats and horses and computers.

The Hazards of Home

As I mentioned in my last post two weeks ago, I was pretty excited to be home on the 2nd of April. The farm! My happy place. But things have changed, as things are inclined to do. Or maybe it’s that I’ve changed?

The back twenty hasn’t changed much. Yay!

The first and most problematic is the flooring. Sid is 300 square feet and almost all carpeted, all but a small patch of vinyl in the entry/kitchen and part of that is covered with a throw rug. The house is 1100 square feet, plus another 1100 in the basement, and all hardwood, vinyl or painted concrete flooring.

Carpeting is an old dog’s best friend. As we age, the pads on our paws just aren’t as grippy, and so our ability to manage walking on a slick surface is diminished. Add to that a spinal affliction that has impacted the strength and stability of my backend, and you have a dog struggling to maintain an upright position, or get up from a lying down position. It sucks.

Safely navigating Sid’s strip of vinyl floor once again.

The solutions are two-fold. The first is rugs. Lots of rugs. There’s always been a rubber-backed doormat by each door and a Guatemalan throw rug in the living room. But now there is a runner from the bedroom doorway to my bed, three mats in the kitchen, carpeting on the stairs to the porch and on the landing, another Guatemalan rug in T’s office, and a series of small rugs taking me from T’s office, through the living room and dining room to the kitchen. It’s like a gypsy tent in our house these days, but it’s helping me get around.

The second solution is socks with grip. I hate socks, even more than I hate boots. At least boots stay in place. Socks like to slide down or spin, making a bad situation even worse. I’ll admit they do provide grip when they’re where they’re supposed to be, but I still hate them. I’d rather slip and slide, thanks.

Can someone please take these off?

There is a third solution to the slippery-paw problem, and it’s something the peeps have been doing for a long time now, keeping the hair in my paws trimmed short so that I’m walking on pads rather than fur. And T sometimes adds a moisturizer, which also helps a little.

Nollind added extra grip, which works until the sock slides down or turns grippy side up.

The second hazard of home, as much as I hate to admit it, is the wide selection of snacks. So many tasty things can be found around the farm, and I just can’t resist. And now that I’ve been diagnosed with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), anything outside my approved menu has the potential to cause digestive chaos.

For example, there are mushrooms that grow wild on the edges of the crop fields, and they are the tastiest things in the spring when they’re all shriveled up. I also think they have medicinal properties, as many mushrooms do, cancer fighting and the like. But now when I eat them, which I did a few days ago on a walk to the west, I’m back in the land of rumbling insides and loss of appetite. Not my happy place.

On the lookout for mushrooms.

The random-food hazard has a big impact on my day-to-day because it means T doesn’t take me along to the barn for horse chores, since I’ll inevitably eat things I shouldn’t. And I used to love going along as her chore dog. I’d like to say I have self-control and can promise not to eat anything, but that’s just not true, and I don’t want to lie to T.

The third hazard, and this one is temporary, is snow and ice. During a spring snowstorm on Tuesday, I went out on the deck, which is typically nice grippy wood, and skated my way to the snow-covered grass. And the day after the storm, I got stuck in snow banks three times between the house and the barn. It happened to Logan in 2018 when we came home from the desert to a bunch of snow, but I never thought it would happen to me.

I did just fine in the shallow stuff.

The final hazard (of those I’ve discovered so far) is stairs. Sid has two stairs into the bedroom and three stairs at the main door (plus a ramp for me). The farm house has three stairs off the upper deck, two stairs from the kitchen into the porch, and a bunch of stairs into the basement. I’m managing the downs better than the ups and I get carried to and from the basement, but there’s now a baby gate at the top to make sure I don’t go down anything without supervision or accidentally. Sigh.

Seriously? A baby gate?

I have to admit, I’m missing life in Sid, the safety and simplicity of it, and where my people were always close. I could lie in my bed (or at the top of the stairs) and neither of my peeps would be more than ten feet away. Here at home, there are multiple rooms and they are often in different ones, leaving me to move between the two, or choose some midway point. Again…sigh.

Chilling … Sid style.

But, there have been off-leash prairie walks, a couple of turns around the Kinsmen Lake in Strathmore, and today we’re off on a little road trip to explore a provincial park and collect another companion for our barn cat Hank. He’ll probably tell you all about that in the coming weeks. And Storm is champing at the bit to tell you what’s happening in his world so you’ll likely hear from him soon as well.

So, until next time, this is Chico, slip sliding away.