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Friday, December 30, 2011

Good News!

It took a Federal judge to bring Snickers the service dog back to his owner, James Sak but at least they are together again. It’s only a temporary injunction so the city has the right to appeal. Hopefully they will see the light and drop this ridiculous Breed Specific Legislation.

Read more about it at:

Mewdy Blue

Mewdy Blue

Today Mewdy Blue my 14-year old blue shorthair (Bluebird’s brother) took a trip to the veterinarian. He is so funny when it comes to car rides; he always gets carsick. That’s not what’s funny. Today, he started vomiting as soon as I put his harness on!

We used to go for walks all the time and he just loved it. He’s such a ham he loves the attention he gets and he loves showing off but most of all I think he likes the feeling of being outside. That’s the only way I’ll let him out though. It's been a while since we went for a walk so now he just associates his harness with car rides. No fun.

This time he was visiting Dr. Tammy because he hasn’t been eating well and is a little lethargic. When I say he is sleeping all the time I’m aware that, yes, he’s a cat and that’s what cats do. But that’s not like him. Mewdy Blue is fairly active normally.

He really wasn’t lethargic though when we started trying to draw blood. Even before the needle came out he knew something was up and started wiggling and struggling. Luckily we did manage to get enough blood for the chemistries. The most remarkable finding from the labwork showed that he had some high levels of the liver markers and his cholesterol.

A high cholesterol can indicate many things: hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease and hepatic lipidosis. Well, his glucose and his kidney values were normal so we are leaning toward the hepatic lipidosis right now. After all, he hasn’t been eating normally and his ALT (liver) value was a little high. Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, is seen in cats that don’t eat for several days. The body starts sending fat to the liver to develop fuel but the liver doesn’t process fats very well and the liver cells (hepatocytes) start to store the fat. This then leads to liver failure. Fatty liver disease must be treated as quickly as possible.

Why doesn't the Gentle Doctor have any cats?
So my job now is to get him eating again and give him fluids to help wash out any toxins. I also need to isolate him so I can determine FOR SURE whether he has diarrhea or not. I have seen him having normal feces but that doesn’t mean he always does. Tomorrow he will spend the day in a cage. He will be angry by the time I let him out but at least I’ll know the truth. As for his eating habits, he is normally on canned D/D duck for a food sensitivity. Dr. Tammy, however, suggests that he might be getting tired of the same food all the time so she sent us home with some cans of Royal Canin canned rabbit.

Tonight I was barely able to get the food into his bowl before he was devouring it! So I guess that answers that question. I gave him fluids later and he doesn’t seem upset about that so we’ll be fine tonight. 

When you have a multi-pet household the fun just never ends!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pet Hospice

Bluebird in better days

Though the practice has been around for a long time most people don’t understand what pet hospice is. This is one article about the practice:

However, I don’t want anyone to believe that hospice is only about helping a pet to die but rather it is caring for a pet in the home; focusing on palliative care rather than curative; giving your pet that last little bit of dignity. In essence pet hospice is a way to keep the pet at home, feeling little to no pain and getting all the attention and comfort from family as he fades due to a terminal illness or injury.

I had to face this reality when my cat, Lando Calrissian, became seriously ill with mast cell leukemia. At first he only had the occasional mast cell on his skin that were easily and completely removed. Unfortunately his disease progressed to the visceral form where mast cell tumors formed on his internal organs such as his spleen and liver. This stage of the disease is treatable but in most cases not curable. Lando’s surgeon removed what tumors she could then we started him on chemotherapy. From there on my job was to pay attention to Lando’s demeanor and make sure he wasn’t suffering in any way.
Lando as a youngster

Up to his very last day 19-year old Lando remained the head of my cat household. With only a slight grunt he put all the other cats in their places. But that last day I think we both knew it was over. He did not seem to suffer, he ate and drank normally but he wanted something. I don’t even think he knew what it was he wanted he just kept looking for something; something that was just out of reach. He wandered the house determinedly. I took him outside in the sunshine and he took off toward the west. At one point he finally seemed worn out so I took him back inside and held him for the rest of the evening. Sometime during the night he hid himself away in a closet and passed away quietly.

I happily gave Lando that extra time at home and would do it again. In fact, I have done so several times with other cats. On Bluebird’s last night my veterinarian gave me some pain killers that I was able to administer during the night so that Bluebird could be comfortable until I could face facts. Most of that night she slept peacefully in her bed on my lap. I appreciate that little extra time with my sweet girl.

If at some point you face the dilemma of making major choices about your pet’s life please discuss the possibility of hospice care. It just may be that you can spend a little extra time with your pet at home rather than leave him at the hospital. Even if this is not an option and euthanasia is inevitable ask your veterinarian about home euthanasia. Not all veterinarians perform this service but some do. Perhaps your veterinarian can suggest someone.
Effie in her last days

It is not pleasant to think about the final days of our pets but it is inevitable. Our pets’ lives are shorter than ours so we must face up to the fact and make life as comfortable for our pets as we possibly can for as long as we can.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday mash-up

Here’s another bunch of articles I found around the web. I guess you could call it my Friday mash-up.

When the family dog needed lifesaving heart surgery this family gave it their all. They even shipped in a specialist from Italy! You’ve got to read this story:

This cat chose the wrong place to take a nap. This story should give everyone a reminder at this time of year to be sure you slap the hood of your car before you start it. Otherwise you might end up with a hitchhiker like this man did:

Found by hikers this eagle was saved. He’d been shot and was bleeding to death when they delivered him to a veterinarian and rehabilitators:

A life-threatening situation for a military dog right here in the U.S.

I am embarrassed to show you this last one. Embarrassed because it is happening in my own state. Rest assured, not all Iowans feel this way; not all of us are so insensitive as to deny a man his service dog:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

War Horse

(not a war horse)

****SPOILERS**** (but not for “War Horse”)

I face a new dilemma this week. Should I go see the movie “War Horse” or should I abstain? Why is it that when an animal stars in a movie I spend the entire movie hoping like crazy they don’t kill it? And worse, why do they have to kill animals in movies?

I like movies that end happily. Yes, I know, I’m a writer. I understand that conflict and high emotions are necessary for an interesting story. Yes, no one wants to watch a movie where everyone muddles through their drab, every day just as they did the day before with nothing happening but why kill the animals?

No, I prefer movies like Disney’s “Thomasina” where the cat goes through turmoil and conflict but eventually returns home and lives happily ever after. I get really mad at movies like “Ole Yeller”. I mean, how did they know the dog was rabid? Really. Couldn’t have just gone crazy because they kept him locked in a dark, dank closet of a shed? Again, I know, back then the science wasn’t up to the task of answering that question and they couldn’t take the chance. But I didn’t like that movie ending!

Now, I’m not saying the horse dies in “War Horse” because I don’t know what happens. I haven’t read the book, nor have I seen the play. I’m only guessing after doing some amateur detective work. I figure if the book was a kid’s book it must be something like Black Beauty. The story traces the horse’s life through many changes of owners and many life experiences but eventually returns home where he belongs. From what I’ve read I imagine the horse dies in the play though. It has been called an “adult version” of the book. That means death to me.

By web surfing I’ve found statements from people who’ve seen the pre-release version of the movie that indicate horrific conditions. Of course, it is a war movie so you’d expect that. Supposedly zillions of people and horses die violently, traitors are shot, some are gassed (but they say it isn’t bloody, huh?). I’ve read that even men are crying all through the movie. But the one statement that causes me some problems is when I read that Joey (the horse) goes through a particularly barbaric experience that will jar the viewers. That is a strong statement. But does it mean death? I don’t know.

For more information about the horses in World War I you might visit the following website:

Are you going to see “War Horse?” I still don’t know if I can stomach it but I may go see it anyway. I’ll let you know if I do.

I love hearing from you. Let me know what you think. Have you read this book or seen the play? Are you going to the movie?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sparks, an experience

Sparks with her kittens

Last week I finally caught one of the two feral cats that reside in my house and took her to the veterinarian to update her vaccinations. Sparks became an indoor cat in 2008 when she entered my trap. She was pregnant at the time so I settled her into a large cage with all the accouterments including a well-padded nest and waited for only a couple of days. I named her Sparks because her eyes gave the impression of shooting sparks at me as I intruded on her private world.

I didn’t plan for Sparks to be a permanent resident but I’d spent so much time with her I couldn’t just turn her out again. No, she became a housecat. I’d successfully rehabilitated a couple of adult feral cats before so I thought I could do it again following the same procedure. After the many weeks of her incarceration while she raised her kittens I separated her from them to allow her milk to dry up and then had her spayed. It took a few more weeks to be sure she was free of parasites before I finally let her discover the rest of the house.

It didn’t take long for Sparks to figure out the daily routine. She came down for regular feedings and found her own spot. She never had any accidents either. I am still amazed that she found the litter pans so quickly and knew what they were for. Most of the rest of the time she stayed upstairs. Over time I’ve taken a few chances trying to touch her while she ate but she refuses to give in to any contact like that. Only recently, however, she has taken to sleeping on the bed with me, mostly at the foot of the bed. One night I woke up to turn over to my other side and came face to face with that sparkling face. I think it surprised her as much as it did me.

Then last Thursday I saw her in the bathroom getting drink of water and quietly closed the door. I had an appointment with the veterinarian for one of my other cats the next day so I thought it was a prime time to catch that girl. We struggled with each other for almost an hour before she finally decided that the nicely padded carrier was a good place to escape me.

The next morning Dr. Tammy graciously allowed me to bring her in. We struggled again to get her into the chamber in order to administer the gas anesthesia but finally she was asleep. In short order Sparks received her vaccinations and, thanks to some wonderful Vet Techs, lost all of her horrible mats.

I am amazed at how forgiving Sparks is. That night she was already present for her regular feeding acting as if nothing happened. I’m so happy that she is now up-to-date on her vaccinations and her long calico fur is once again shiny and smooth – and I still have all my fingers.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

9/11 Dogs Receive Special Treatment

I am always touched by the stories of the dogs who worked at the 9/11 sites. Even now, the stories continue. Hoke is one of only a few 9/11 dogs still alive and he is suffering the debilitating effects of arthritis. Here’s the full story:

I am proud of the veterinarian and MediVet for stepping up and helping this dog. I’m also happy that they’ve offered to do the same for all of the remaining 9/11 dogs. Hopefully this experimental treatment will help to alleviate Hoke’s pain and allow him more dignity in his senior years.

A few years back I fostered an elderly Black Lab I called Maya. She had a lot of problems and wasn’t expected to live very long so my job was to give her the best life I could in her last weeks. She had severe arthritis, many different types of tumors, and no voice (we figured someone must have debarked her). I started taking her for short walks, playing catch with her and a tennis ball and treating her with an anti-inflammatory. Quickly Maya became a different dog. She perked up and seemed to be reliving her puppy-hood. If not for her graying muzzle and her stilted gait you might have thought she was a few years younger than she had been those first days.

Well, Maya lived for another 11 months. I hope that I gave her a happy life because she certainly brightened mine. Finally her bad days began to outnumber her good days and we had to decide if she was truly enjoying life anymore. I was with her those last moments and her tail was wagging the entire time. Maya was a happy dog in spite of her infirmities. I’ll never forget her and still visit that part of my heart that she inhabits every now and then.

Even though I only had Maya for 11 months I understand how these wonderful dogs can get under your skin. I’m sure all of the handler/owners of the 9/11 dogs keep their dogs and memories in a special corner of their hearts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dog rescues kittens

I will never understand what brings people to abuse animals in such horrid ways. Here in Iowa we’ve had several incidents this year that were picked up by the media. One was of a litter of kittens dumped in a trash bag and thrown into a trash receptacle. All of the kittens died except one. That one was rescued and eventually adopted. One happened in my own sister’s neighborhood. Several litters of kittens were unceremoniously dumped in a ditch. She saved the ones she could, took some to the shelter and is now trying to find homes for the last two (one of whom is pregnant!).

Now we have an even worse incident involving a litter of kittens. The links at the end of this post will lead you to the full story but basically some horrible person “packaged” a litter of kittens in a cat food bag and threw them out onto the road. At least one car ran over the kittens killing all but two of them but finally a dog found them and dragged them home to his angel of an owner. The kittens were so young that she wasn’t able to care for them and called all the area rescues to find someone who could. Eventually she got ahold of the Raccoon Valley Rescue. They took the kittens in and nursed them back to health. Very soon those two remaining kittens will be looking for homes.

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. What about the hoarders, the puppy mills, and other folks who think that an animal is there for them to beat on? Why do people do these things. Hoarding is caused by a mental disorder that makes the sufferer think they are “helping” the animals they collect. Puppy mills are run by greedy people who have no regard for the welfare of their charges only that they keep on producing. And abusers? I have no idea what their problem is. And unfortunately many animal abusers eventually graduate to abusing people as well.

Original newscast:

Follow-up coverage:

Story as told by the rescue folks:

What do you think? Is there a way to stop this? Have you ever rescued an animal from one of these situations? Have you adopted a pet that was rescued? I’d like to read of your stories.

Monday, December 5, 2011

News from the web

Today’s post is all about news aggregation. Here is a list of many truly interesting articles I thought you’d be interested in.

PTSD in dogs: military dogs are showing signs of PTSD. This talks about treating them and alternatives:

Santa’s reindeer need help too: a lot of great information about the care of Santa’s reindeer including some video:

Toads predict earthquakes: some time ago I wrote an article for Cat Fancy about the possibility that animals can predict earthquakes. Finally this study proves that, yes, some animals definitely can:

Cats protect Rats that detect mines in Colombia: this one doesn’t spend much time talking about the cats but it is an interesting way to use rats. I’d like to know more about how they train the cats not to attack the rats:

Cat or toy: you’ll enjoy this piece about a large group of folks who were surprised by what they found when trying to rescue a cat:

Snowy Owl attacks dog: sad tale about a small dog who fell victim to a bird of prey:

What are microchips: I am a proponent of microchipping our pets. This is a podcast that explains what a chip is:

Hope these are of some use to you even if only for entertainment. Let me know your opinions on any of them.