The Case Of The Decapitated Valentines Teddy

On Tuesday, February 19th, 2012, at approximately 10:30am, a 64 year old man came upon a decapitated pink teddy bear.

When asked to describe the scene, he said: “I came out of my bedroom and as I went to walk through the living room, I saw the headless body of a plush, pink teddy bear lying in front of the television stand. nearby, I saw white fluff, but did not notice the head of the Valentines teddy”.

When asked if there were any witnesses to his discovery, he said: “I saw a young woman sitting on the couch surrounded by her four guilty looking retrievers.”

When questioned, the woman declined to point any fingers.

When the other four witnesses were asked what they had seen, each of the retrievers looked at the calico cat sitting on the television stand.

Conclusion:
A pink Valentines teddy bear was found decapitated and gutted in front of the television stand, and according to the retrievers…the cat did it.

Anybody Going To Open This Thing For Me?

Aspen looking through a wooden railing. Aspen is standing on the landing in front of the side door to the house. We are playing with the dogs (not seen by the camera) and she's looking in our direction, hoping to telepathically tell us she wants someone to come open the door for her.

Aspen Update

It’s now been about a month and a half since Aspen’s surgery, and two months since we first noticed the large, firm lump that ended up being an inflamed lymph node.

It has taken a while, but the lymph nodes are pretty close to normal feeling now. This is a relief, because Dr B was getting a little worried about the inflammation being a sign of something much worse than just an infected, broken canine tooth.

Aspen also started a glandular made by Standard Process for her Hypothyroidism about a month and a half ago, and it seems to be doing something. Aspen has always been an anxious dog, but over the past few weeks we’ve noticed a more relaxed girl. She didn’t really show any of the classic signs of Hypothyroidism, but we’ve also noticed her gastrointestinal issues have decreased. In a couple of weeks, we will be going on another road trip, so we’ll have a really good idea from that, regarding whether or not Aspen has become less anxious.

about four or five years ago, Aspen began developing a whitish spot on her left eye. Over the years, the spot has grown, but Dr B hasn’t been able to figure out what it could be other than a scar. At Aspen’s spring visit, Dr B again commented on the spot, which is now like a white crescent shape, and suggested we get in contact with a doggie opthomologist. We haven’t had a chance or the money to do so, but had planned to take her in the new year.

Thursday night Huib was bored at work, so decided to try researching Aspen’s eye problem. After a bit of Googling different combinations of search terms, he had found the answer to the mystery.

Aspen has Lipid Keratopathy, or fats in the eye that appear as a white crescent shape. The condition is common in dogs with Hypothyroidism and is a sign that there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream. there is no pain associated with the condition, and we aren’t sure if it is reversible, but it is recommended that dogs with the condition are put on a low fat diet with Omega 3 fatty acids (or fish oil) and extra fibre.

We had begun to notice Aspen’s right eye getting a similar look back in the spring, but it has since cleared up, so we’re wondering if the raw diet, which for Aspen consists of a lot of fish because of her gastrointestinal issues and requires an Omega 3 supplement, was part of the solution.

Huib has printed off the 2010 article he found in a veterinary journal for Dr B to see, and we are going to make sure Aspen no longer gets meats with skin and when possible a little more fish and daily fibre.

It’s been a good week for good news on Aspen. It’s scary to know that she has been dealing with the Hypothyroidism and Lipid Keratopathy for close to five years, but now that we are aware and know of how to improve things, I hope we’ll be able to spend many more years with our golden girl.

Aspen’s Recovery Update

Aspen lying on the floor and looking over her shoulder at the camera with a pouty look on her face.

As you can see, Aspen wasn’t a very happy camper after her surgery.

it has now been six days since her canine extraction and she is recovering well. She eats soft foods each meal to prevent any irritation of the surgery site and gets Medicam each morning to help with pain. In addition, she is taking Clindamycin and Arnica for the infection.

Her lymph node is about half the size it was when Dr B saw it last week, so we think the antibiotics are working and that it should be back to its normal size soon. Knowing that the lymph node continues to shrink makes us quite happy because Dr B was beginning to worry that it might be signally something much more serious.

I will continue to give everyone updates on Aspen.

Three Days In Guelph

Now that we are back home I thought I’d do a longer entry about what we did on our three days in Guelph.

As I mentioned in the Halloween post, Aspen had her surgery to remove her broken canine tooth on Wednesday morning. Since Huib worked a twelve hour day shift on Tuesday, we had to wake up at midnight and leave the house by 1:30am in order to get Aspen to the vet clinic for 9:00am. The dogs thought we had lost our marbles when we woke them up a few hours after going to sleep, but they were good sports and slept the entire drive. When we arrived at the clinic, I had a bit of a discussion with a rude receptionist about not leaving Aspen until they were ready for her – she seemed to believe that because it was “their routine” and because “no other owners seemed to have an issue with it” that I was going to just hand Aspen’s leash over and let them put her into a kennel until they got around to her surgery – but I told her that it wasn’t going to happen. We waited with our golden girl in the waiting room until the vet came out to talk to us, and a nicer woman came and took Aspen back for sedation. The vet explained what would happen before, during and after the surgery and said that it would probably take longer than most tooth extractions because the canine tooth is one of the more difficult to remove. I found this link that gives a pretty good explanation of what the vet had told us.

after leaving the clinic, we met up with our friend, Kelly, to go to Pet Smart and do some training with her four and a half month old Australian Shepherd, Piper, and to let Cessna pick out a birthday present. Kelly also has our friend, Ace, but he stayed home so that Kelly could focus on exposing Piper to new things. At Pet Smart, we walked through the different aisles looking for the perfect Cessna toy. On the way, we picked up Canyon’s wolf hat, Rogue’s lion costume, a Halloween stuffy ball that squeaks, a plush purple monkey that holds a small sized water bottle, a cute tiger stuffy that squeaks for Aspen and then finally, found a toy for Cessna’s birthday – a plush dog with thick legs that hold long rubber squeakers. After paying for our items, we headed back to Kelly’s house and let the dogs play with one another before heading to a Chinese food buffet for lunch with Kelly and the labs.

Lunch was awesome. We had several items from the buffet itself, and then ordered a few plates with various pieces of sushi. The labs were quite well-behaved, quietly sleeping under the table while we ate. After lunch, I called Dr B’s office to see if she had received any updates on Aspen, and was told that she was out of surgery and slowly waking up. I was also told that they would be sending someone to pick her up and that we could come to Dr B’s office in a couple of hours. Kelly needed to get something replaced on her vehicle in the afternoon, so we put our gang back into the Orlando and drove over to the mall to do a bit of guide training with Rogue. Cessna stayed in the vehicle with Canyon, and we took Rogue into the mall. We practiced finding doors, turning left and right, staying on my left side and not curving in front of my feet, and then finding/stopping at curbs. Rogue is starting to find doors really well and her curb work is coming along, but she is still struggling with directions and needs more work on keeping her nose to herself.

Around four o’clock, I called Dr B’s office and was told that Aspen had still not arrived at the clinic, but the woman who had gone to pick her up had also not yet returned. I was a little annoyed with the lack of organization, but was reassured by the receptionist that Aspen had indeed been picked up and was doing well and that they should be back at the clinic within minutes. I asked when we could come pick up our golden girl, and was told to come at 5:45pm. It was a long wait, but we arrived at Dr B’s clinic right at 5:45pm and talked to Dr B about the surgery, about her concerns regarding the size of Aspen’s lymph node and then about what we would be doing about her Hypothyroidism. For the post surgery care, we were given Arnica and told to give her some Medicam (an anti-inflammatory) and to only feed her soft food for the next couple of weeks. As for her lymph node, we reassured Dr B that it is shrinking and she gave us another 10 days of antibiotics (a different one this time) and asked to keep her informed on its progress. For Aspen’s Hypothyroidism, we decided to go with a glandular made by a company called Standard Process (the same company that made Phoenix’s herbal anti-inflammatory). We will get her thyroid values reassessed in 4-6 months, but since she really isn’t symptomatic, we decided to go with the glandular over the medication. When Dr B brought Aspen out of the back area, she was very excited to see us and ready to go home. For the first 24 hours she was a bit growly with the other dogs, but sucky with us, so we knew she’d be okay.

On Thursday, I had an appointment with my family doctor to discuss how my migraine medications are working. We went over which of the medications she prescribed had worked, which worked a bit, which ones didn’t work at all, and then what dose of each I was taking. Dr Thomas was happy to hear that the current medications I am taking, Gabapentin and Candesartan, were working. She then told me about a new study she’d read about and suggested I start taking 150mg of Coenzyme Q10 and then try to decrease the amount of Candesartan to see if I need it. Coenzyme Q10 is a supplement like B12, so if I could eliminate Candesartan from my migraine regiment and only take Gabapentin on a daily basis, then I’d be really happy. My step dad is a bit of a pill popper, so I have this constant worry about taking too many medications and not really needing them. Dr Thomas increased my dose of Gabapentin from 300mg three times a day, to 400mg and said to continue taking Zomig or Codeine and Toradol when needed. I really don’t like the number of medications I am having to be prescribed for my migraines, but I am hoping that once we figure out what will work as a daily preventative, then we will be able to eliminate the “when needed” ones. While at the appointment, both Cessna and Rogue laid quietly under our chairs, and Dr Thomas was impressed by their calmness. I didn’t realize, but Dr Thomas is nervous of dogs, and has just given her children and husband the go-ahead to purchase a dog – they are picking up a golden retriever puppy in a week or so 🙂

After the appointment, we went to Quiznos for lunch and then took the labs to Second Cup to use the internet. Rogue has a tough time just sitting around in public places, so this will be one area of training where we’ll be focusing. Kelly met up with us at Second Cup after her class finished and we got some pictures of Rogue and Cessna on the University of Guelph campus.

In the evening, we met up with our friend, Karen, and had some more sushi. Kelly had to take Piper to a class at 8:30pm, so Huib, Karen and I took Rogue to Home Depot and Walmart for some curb and distraction training. I asked Karen to pretend she was a random customer and stop at different shelves in different positions so I could practice having Rogue pass by without sniffing. It always took Rogue a couple of passes before she’d keep her nose to herself, but I think with time, she’ll get the idea. At Walmart we practiced more “leave its” with Karen holding kibble at different levels while I walked past and told Rogue to “leave it”. She did well when the kibble was held six inches above her head, but had more trouble as it got closer to her level. We also practiced “leave it” by having Karen put kibble at different points along an aisle on the floor. We found that Rogue failed this test miserably if we started walking and the kibble was too close to our end of the aisle, but that if we had the kibble closer to the other end of the aisle, then she seemed to find it easier to control her nose. As we walked back to the vehicles, we had an opportunity to do tons of “find the curb” work. As Rogue became accustomed to when the click and treat would appear, she started to anticipate the reward and would turn her head towards us within a couple feet of the curb. I think that this reaction is a good sign of her brain making the right connections.

On Friday it was time to go home. We packed the Orlando and began our long drive north. On the way, we stopped to get some chicken hearts for Laya, my maine coon cross, and then at Costco to get supplements for the dogs and to do some more public exposure work with Rogue. When I don’t have Cessna with me, Rogue wears her maroon Active Dogs vest that says “Service Dog” on her back and has a black guide harness attached. Rogue is learning to accept the movement and feel of the guide handle, but she is not yet ready for me to pick it up. Nevertheless, at Costco, people continually commented on how eel-behaved my guide dog was and at how attentive she seemed to be.

I really think my little Hurricane is growing up!!

Overall, I think our trip to Guelph was a great experience for everyone. Aspen had her tooth removed and is on her way to a full recovery. I had some medication changes, but am on my way to being a little more migraine free. And, Rogue got a chance to meet an Australian Shepherd and to work on her guide skills. The only thing that has concerned me with my little caramel girl, is that if her collar is grabbed or she puts any pressure on her throat, she begins gagging and coughing. I have thought it before, but I think I am now convinced, that Rogue might have a soft trachea. I have a couple of friends whose dogs have similar issues, but if anyone has suggestions on how to deal with this issue, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I’ve decided to change her collar from a regular flat to a soft martingale one, since there will be times when someone will need to grab her collar and I am hoping that the martingale will help spread out the pressure instead of it being only focused on her throat area. For walks, she already wears the Premier Easy Walk Harness, so she’ll continue to wear that until I can get her walking with a perfectly loose leash.

***For those who are interested, Cessna’s birthday dog with the squeaker legs lost his head within minutes of being given to her. Rogue and Cessna had decided that tug was a good game to play with him lol! And, the purple monkey bottle toy lost his face, but Huib (the plastic surgeon for toys) has reassured me that he is fixable.***

Halloween 2012

Since we had to bring Aspen down to guelph for her tooth extraction, we decided to spend some time with friends.

With it being Halloween, we dressed everyone up and walked around the neighbourhood so the dogs could experience the interesting sights and sounds of the night.

Cessna was a monarch butterfly

Cessna lies in front of a black leather couch wearing orange, white and black butterfly wings.

Rogue was a lion

Rogue wears a mostly tan coloured costume.  it covers her torso.  It has a tail that hangs down by hers and a hood-like thing that goes on her head with ears and a mane.  She's standing and looking towards the camera with her mouth open and tongue sticking out.

Canyon was a wolf

Canyon stands looking towards the camera wearing a brown hat that has pointed ears.

Piper was a ballerina

Piper, a 4.5 month old Australian Shepherd wears an orange, green, black and purple tutu.  She's standing, but not really looking at the camera.

Sadly Aspen wasn’t able to join us on our walk because of the surgery, but I’m happy to report that she’s recuperating well and should be back to herself in a a week or so. Dr B gave her some new antibiotics to take because she didn’t feel the lymph node had decreased in size enough, but we told her it was half the size, so hopefully these new antibiotics will finish off the fight against whatever infection caused the inflammation. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Fall In Muskoka

Canyon sits in an over-sized Muskoka chair.  He's looking over to his left.

Cessna sits in the grass with leaves.  You can see the slightly moss covered bedrock rise up behind her.

Rogue stands in a very large Muskoka chair.  The chair is painted white.  She's looking towards the camera and licking her nose.

Aspen stands on a lawn covered in leaves.  You can see a forest in the background.  The trees have mostly yellow and red leaves on them.

It Could’ve Been Worse

The past couple of days have been a bit of a blur.

On Tuesday evening while combing out the tangles from Aspen’s fur, I found a firm lump under her chin to the left of her trachea. I immediately called Huib over and showed him what I’d found. We were extremely worried about our golden girl, but the vet office had already closed, so we decided to call first thing Wednesday morning.

We were in luck. Dr B had an appointment time available for Thursday at 2:30pm.

Thursday morning at 6am, we piled the dogs and our stuff into the car and headed south. We arrived in guelph about half an hour before we were due to be at Dr B’s office, so we stopped at Tim Hortons for some coffee and so I could check my online discussion forum.

At 2:30pm we walked into Dr B’s office with Aspen, expecting the worst.

But, she immediately calmed our fears. It turns out Aspen had broken her upper left canine tooth and it had become infected. The lump we felt was her lymph node inflamed. Dr B said the tooth looked to be freshly broken, so was impressed at how quickly we had reacted.

To be sure of the diagnosis, and to make sure there were no more issues with Aspen, Dr B took samples of the fluid/tissue from the swollen lymph node and some blood for the lab. She also sent us home with two weeks worth of antibiotics and an appointment for Aspen to get her canine removed on Halloween.

Aspen started her antibiotics last night and has been eating oatmeal and soft fish, so that she doesn’t injure her tooth further and so that her belly isn’t bothered by the antibiotics.

Dr B called us this evening with the lab results. The inflamed lymph node is indeed a result of the infected tooth. She also received the blood results and the only issue she found was with Aspen’s thyroid levels. She told me that Aspen’s thyroid levels are so low, that they don’t even register on the tests they run. We will be discussing thyroid medications in two weeks.

I know it sucks that Aspen has an infected tooth and that she needs to have it removed. and I know it sucks that Aspen needs thyroid medication, but it could’ve been much, much worse.

Our Oakville Trip

As I’m sure everyone has figured out from my earlier posts, we went away for a few days with the dogs.

Our first stop was in Etobicoke to visit with Phoenix’s foster family. Alice and Ray are in their mid-late eighties, so we really try to see them every trip we make south. This visit was quite good. Alice seems to be getting a bit of memory loss, but overall her health is good and Ray seems to also be well.

We had originally planned to stay in guelph with our friends Kelly and Ace, but recently they had a new addition join their family, so we ended up staying with friends in Oakville.

Della and Kelsey live with two female black labs, Hasia and Betty, and three black cats, Tess, Steel and BK. Hasia is a former breeding dog for The Lions Foundation of Canada dog Guides, and Betty was fully trained and just days from being placed with a blind person, when she decided she’d had enough and wanted to go home.

It was a lot of fun to stay with them. Our dogs got along fabulously with one another, and Hasia made herself comfortable with Huib and I at nighttime. Thankfully Della has a queen sized bed because otherwise it would have been almost impossible to sleep with Hasia, Rogue and Cessna insisting on snuggling for the night.

We didn’t really do much on Saturday and sunday after the shows, but Monday we took the labs to Hamilton to get some new McMaster University gear – a black hooded sweatshirt for me, and a black baseball cap and navy blue and grey rugby shirt for Huib. I was hoping to find some dog related gear, but it looks like this year they didn’t make any. After picking out our new clothing, we walked over to Williams Coffee Pub and I got a vanilla bean latte, while Huib got his signature black coffee.

while walking around the university campus and sitting at Williams, I really started thinking about how amazing Rogue is doing and that I had better get moving on her training, because she is definitely ready to go.

Monday evening we headed into Guelph to run a few errands, and then took Aspen for her second Chiropractic adjustment. Dr Leslie was quite impressed with how well Aspen’s first adjustment had held, and said that she only found a couple new areas and did a bit of maintenance work.

Tuesday morning we packed our bags and loaded everyone back into the Orlando. We stopped in Mississauga to grab a couple cases of chicken backs from the Maple Lodge Farms Factory, and then stopped in Barrie to get supplements and stuff at Costco.

Since it was a beautiful day, and because we had no reason to rush home, we stopped at Arrowhead Provincial Park so the dogs could swim. The dogs had a blast. Canyon, Cessna and Aspen swam for over an hour, fetching their new bright blue Jolly ball, and green neoprene turtle. Rogue wore her red life jacket and swam a bit, but mostly bounced around the shoreline, greeting everyone and their dogs that came to the water’s edge. Her favourite, by far, was a male German short Haired Pointer. they played together so well, but the owners weren’t interested in just staying by the water, they had their dogs follow them along the shoreline while Rogue watched. then When her friend returned, she was ecstatic, but it was short lived, because the owners climbed back onto their bikes and headed back to their camp site – poor Roagie!

The rest of our drive home was quiet and uneventful. The dogs were thoroughly exhausted and, I think, really happy to finally see their beds and toys.

General News

Again, sorry for the lack of blogging everyone. Hopefully this phase will pass soon.

Tomorrow, I will be starting another online course through the University of Guelph.

This will be the third course I have taken with them since moving to Northeastern Ontario.

This semester I have chosen to take Economics of Food Usage, through the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

I’ve never taken a course through this department, but from the course description and list of assignments, I think it should be a good one.

Next…

In just over a week, Rogue will be 17 months old.

Over the past couple of months, we have been trying to proof Rogue’s obedience outside the house, but have run into some difficulties. After some discussion, we’ve decided to try working on basic obedience in the house wearing a leash and her vest. We are beginning to wonder if maybe Rogue is having trouble associating the various obedience commands she knows so well at home with also being able to be done while wearing a leash and her vest. It sounds silly, but from what I’ve learned, dogs are really horrible at generalizing.

Another area which we have been having some troubles, is with Rogue putting on her collar, Easy Walk Harness and vest. Rogue seems to have a big issue with things going over her head, so we have decided to start making everyone wear their collars all the time. I used to have collars on my dogs at all times, but started leaving them off when Canyon was little and would use the collars to drag the other dogs around the house. Then, Rogue almost snapped her neck from falling off the bed when she was around six months of age. It didn’t happen, obviously, but if Huib had not been there when her collar looped itself around our bed post and she lost her balance, I really don’t know what would have become of our little Hurricane.

Now that she is older, and to try and combat the problems with having things go over her head, we have started leaving the collars on everyone. It has been about a month now, and I think it may be helping, but we’ll wait a bit longer to see if she’s really gotten over the problem.

Lately, we have been noticing our little Hurricane maturing. People are starting to see her less as a cute little puppy, and more as a service dog who should not be bothered. We are still encouraging people to approach her and pet, but we have also started truly teaching rogue to stop and wait at curbs, steps and any other sort of surface change I may need to be warned of. Huib and I seem to be on different pages with consistency in this portion of her training, but I am hoping that maybe I can start taking a little more of a role in her public access training – which will in turn, increase consistency.

In addition to learning to stop at surface changes, Rogue is starting to hear some of the directional commands she will need to know for guiding and in time, I hope to start teaching her their meanings in harness.

It’s honestly hard to believe that Cessna was almost fully trained at this age, and would begin working with me in just a month’s time.

I hope to sit down, and start really putting together a solid training plan for Rogue, so that Cessna can retire from service in the spring/summer. I’m just so nervous and worried about doing things wrong, that I guess I’ve really delayed things I probably didn’t have to.

Hmmm, what else have we been up to…

Just over six weeks ago, we went down to Guelph for a few days and took Aspen to see a doggie chiropractor. I honestly never thought I’d ever be taking my dog to a chiropractor, but after seeing how much of a difference the adjustments have made for Aspen, I am definitely a fan.

On Monday, Aspen will go for another treatment and we’ll get to see if the adjustments are sticking long-term or if we will need to continue going on a semi-regular basis (which, if they are helping, then I will do for her lifetime if needed).

I think I’ll stop here, but please come back tomorrow for some Canyon news 🙂