Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Coonhound Paralysis? But She's a Retriever!

We live in the suburbs of Sacramento. It's not Daniel Boone country, but we do have our fair share of critters. Our dog has got into it with squirrels, rats, possums, skunks, raccoons and an unfortunate rooster, or was it a chicken? It was hard to tell which when we found it floating in the pool. Molly feels all living things except human beings do not deserve to be on the Planet Earth, and she is good at ridding our globe of breathing things. So far no cats. Thankfully they can outrun her.

She's a sweet dog, she really is. She is great with kids and babies, even the quick moving ones that probably at times sound to her like wild animals. She has not so much as nibbled on any kid toes, even when they steal from her beloved stuffed animal collection. She just walks over to the little thief, gently reaches in ever so gently and takes back what is hers. Not so much as a ruffled feather on her part.

That's why it seemed a bit odd that a few weeks ago she was so subdued at our friend Elliot's Super Hero Party. Molly came as Aqua Dog, with a pack full of water themed toys for the children at that party. Sure she slyly walked over and stole Squirrel Girl's fluffy tail when she wasn't looking, but for Molly, her demeanor at the party was calm. A bit too calm. She didn't jump up or out of the car that night, Ernst had to lift her into the back of my vehicle. She didn't steal any hot dogs or hamburgers, mostly she just sat and had a great time watching all the kids, drinking in the complete canine joy of being the only dog at the party. She got a bit annoyed when the neighbor dog barked, and answered back with a few barks of her own. Deep barks. Serious barks.

We got home that night and she flopped down hard on the wood floors. The next morning we noticed her limping a bit on her left hind leg. It was a super busy day, and a slightly limping dog was not high on our worry list. That night it was worse, and even worst the next morning, so we made an appointment at the vet.

The diagnosis was a relief, a pulled ACL. A relief that is until I started Googling ACL issues in dogs, they can be hard to heal, especially in a nine-year old dog like Molly. But better than something worse, so we knuckled down into making sure she didn't overextend herself and set up her new pain medication schedule.

Wow those pain meds did a number on her. She was weak and loopy and having trouble walking. We backed off the dose. No change, only worse. Googled some more and learned they caused muscle weakness and loopiness. Emailed the vet, and he agreed, stop the Gabapentin. But she just got worse. Her front legs were buckling under her, and her left foot started flapping in a weird and scary way. Back to the vet she went. Xrays to rule out bone cancer had us freaking out a bit. But they came back fine. The vet was perplexed, and began to prepare us for the possibility this was much more than a muscular problem, it was beginning to look neurological. The vet suggested a wait and see approach.

Wait and see became wait and wail, because our dog was becoming incapacitated before our very eyes. She couldn't stand up or walk without falling right back down, the foot flapping was getting worse and we were complete wrecks. The worst of it had me out on the back porch, down on the blanket with Molly, texting my family through big drippy tears falling from my eyes, while sharing a few drops of my Pomegranate Cosmopolitan with Molly. Hey, she seemed to be days away from having to be put down, what harm could a little booze be at that point?

We set up the back room for her comfort, moved the chairs out, moved in a cot for Ernst to sleep on and put up an ottoman blockade so she couldn't climb the stairs and hurt herself even more. We didn't sleep much that night. The next morning had a new symptom. She was barking like a seal. Actually more like a coonhound. Her pathetic deep bark was the symptom that broke our hearts even more, this was sounding more and more like a neurological problem by the hour. Now it was my husband's turn to cry. That bark sounded awful and it was not in our imaginations, our dog couldn't walk and she sounded like she belonged in a remake of Where the Red Fern Grows.

It was time to hit Google with a vengeance. I typed in "NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS IN DOGS THAT CAUSE STUMBLING AND THE BARK TO TURN INTO A COON HOUND OR PERHAPS A SEAL ON A WHARF." You know, just one of those typical Google searches.

I found a website that suggested various ailments, one of which was Coonhound Paralysis. I scrolled on down, because we don't have a coonhound, we have a Golden Retriever with a touch of Australian Shepherd. Ernst Googled his own search, probably much more scientific sounding than mine. That's when it hit us, Coonhound Paralyses isn't just for hounds who hunt 'coons, any dog can get it. They can get it from raccoon saliva. It starts with a weakness in their back leg, moves towards the front legs, the dog can barely walk and it starts sounding like a....coonhound or a seal.

Bingo! By this time we were a bit miffed that the vet missed this diagnosis, so we called a mobile vet to come out to our house. Granted, Molly's regular vet didn't have the opportunity to hear her newest symptom of the bizarre bark, but still, we figured it out from Google, or were pretty sure we had. The vet on wheels observed Molly's walk, or lack of walk, and I played the video of her barking. He had taught at a vet school in Oklahoma and had seen a lot of this unusual disease, and was confident we were correct in our Google diagnosis - Coonhound Paralysis, or polyradiculoneuritis.

The prognosis? Good, she should make a steady recovery in the next few months. She is already walking so much better, her little sick room has been taken down and our house is pretty much back to normal. The mobile vet said we had been doing everything right, letting her rest and just get better, with some swim therapy to keep her strong.

As for how she got it? Either from fighting with a raccoon in the yard, or possibly from eating plums on the ground that raccoons had half eaten. There is some evidence that this awful immune system response, which is similar to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in humans, can also come from possum saliva, and we have plenty of those in our neck of the woods too. The good news is she will get better, and she already is so much better. No more tears, no more Pomegranate Cosmos shared with the pooch. Now if we could just do something about all these critters in our yard. Know anyone with a coonhound?

Not quite herself at Elliot's party.

Aqua Dog!

Molly being mopey isn't her usual MO.

Diagnosed with just an ACL pull.
What a relief!

Still happy. Still goofy.

But getting worse by the hour.

And Pomegranate Cosmopolitans.

Thought the cot was pretty cool.

Couldn't walk, but she was still smiling.

Swim therapy! Almost sinking.

She was not happy about swim therapy, but our instincts were right to keep her limber.


Needed a harness and sling to go out.

More visitors!

Playing possum for the mobile vet.

"Draw me like one of your French girls."

Wearing Doctor Busby's Toe Grips.
So fashionable.

Monday, June 18, 2018

While I've Been Healing

Tomorrow will be two weeks since my Baha Attract implantation surgery. They put a screw and a magnet in my head. I sort of thought I'd feel way better at this point. The dissolvable sutures have dissolved in some places, and in others have decided to stick around and torment me. How can little tiny bits of string against my head be so incredibly painful? I don't know, but they are. But nothing called dissolvable can last forever, so I'm being hopeful.

During my recovery I planned on doing so many things. Productive things. Concrete things. Things that would have lasting value to my life. Like finally tackling our "Photo Situation" that I really should have gotten to by now.

But alas, head pain makes for anything involving productivity go flying out the window. I sat around a lot. I watched a lot of aimless stuff on YouTube. I started a YouTube channel? (It's called All Squared Up and it's pretty dorky at this point.) I picked up the dog toys. I managed to clean the house enough to have some guests from Romania. I ate way too much vegan junk food that my friends brought me, and really must get back on the raw food wagon. Mostly I just got thru it, slowly increasing my activity until last night when it all came crashing down and I came home from a party and got in bed and whimpered. My husband got out his magnifying glass and bravely removed a few of my more irritating dissolvable sutures, and I think I can go on with my life now.

I did attempt to eat healthy through this.
Until the vegan treats arrived.

We started a really hard Wentworth puzzle.

I asked my husband to take pictures of my head.
It's really weird having a wound you can't see.

I did some gardening. 

Our street got repaved!
Beep, Beep Beep.
All. Day. Long.
But it looks so nice.

Our congregation put on a big luncheon in Yuba City.
I helped, as in organizing one giant rice cooking palooza.

This was the menu.
Orez is the Romanian word for rice.

We had a terrible cucumber beetle infestation.
I just walked away.

We found out my head really has a magnet in it!

Gazpacho was made!

Cute boys were babysat!

An amazing movie was attended!

Hair was assessed.
Amazing how that bald spot is covered by my long layers.

Super Hero party? Sure, I'll go as a mermaid in jeans.
Along with Aqua Dog, and a lobster in my hair.

One more luncheon to prep for, and we can put these last two weeks in the history books.
Onward to my Baha Attract activation in a few more weeks!

Friday, June 8, 2018

My Baha 5 Surgery, So Attractive!

More information to come, but my Baha 5 Attract surgery was a success. The entire process at the Kaiser Surgery Center was a breeze, no worries and no pain. My surgeon and anesthesiologist were just great, I was completely at ease.

For some reason I didn’t expect blood, so the soaked bandage thing I came home with was a bit of a surprise. I also didn’t expect the turban-like wrap, so of course I had to have some fun with that.

The full extent of what I’ve had done, that there is a screw in my skull and a magnet under my skin is starting to sink in. I’m ever so gently pressing around the area, trying to feel the edges of the magnet. Gulp!

This summer will be interesting hairstyle-wise. I expected about a half dollar size section of hair shaved off. It’s baseball sized. The incision? I expected something the size of a quarter. My husband says it’s more like a racquetball shaped incision. Funny how when it comes to scars and wound sizes, we immediately go to money and sport balls for comparisons.

Another update in a few days, right now my baseball is itching and my racketball needs some ice.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Read My Lips, No New Chapsticks!

What is the absolute best thing to happen to a house? The prospect of some guests who will stay a while. Dinner guests coming? I get some of the house clean. Over nighters require another layer of preparation. But friends who will stay a week? Hoo boy, run and hide you dust bunnies, run and hide!

A couple from Cleveland were to visit our congregation for a week, and I had plenty of time to get ready. I knew my frantic cleaning of the winter ick would be in the few days before they came, so I decided to attack some of the other areas of the house in the weeks leading up to their arrival. You know, those places that a guest would never ever look in but you fling open to show them because after all, you went to all that trouble. "If you were to need some calming anti-itch cream with no chemicals, just a soothing balm to relieve the ill effects of a sunburn, well we have a bottle right here in this incredibly organized bin of skin potions." You know, occasions like that. Hey, it could happen.

We have a small bathroom, with just enough room to do your business without too much turning around. So we keep the majority of bathroom, hair, skin and other unmentionables in the little closet in the hallway. It's not a disgusting mess or anything, but it needed some attention. So I pulled everything out of it, and screamed. It was a disgusting mess. I sat down in the living room and made piles of categories. Skin stuff. Hair stuff. Cleaning stuff. Medications. What is this and why did we ever buy it and should we keep it because as soon as we throw it away that forgotten condition will rear its ugly head kind of stuff. The piles grew and grew. Then I tossed and tossed and the piles became manageable.

It all looked much better when I found more logical ways to put it all back. And since we let our guests have our room and we slept out in the trailer, it made the transition to tiny house living much easier. I just grabbed my newly organized caddies of makeup and skin care and hair products out to our temporary living space, with the knowledge that all the weird unmentionables in the hall closet were organized within an inch of their existence.

Towards the end of their stay, our friend began to suffer the consequences of a sunburn he got before he arrived to California. His wife asked if we had anything for itchy skin. "You mean some calming anti-itch cream with no chemicals, just a soothing balm to relieve the ill effects of a sunburn? Well we have a bottle right here in this incredibly organized bin of skin potions!" Oh the joys of skin potion bins.

The dog kept me honest.

Four more hotel hairsprays than I need.

Freebie lip balm is the new freebie water bottle.

Love those IKEA catch-alls.
They catch all.

The anti-itch cream is just itching to help a guest.

I rewarded myself with a pile of 79 cent IKEA dish towels.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Oh Baby, a Hat Fit for an Infant!

Although it's definitely not hat season around here, it's always baby gift season. A friend asked if I still made baby hats, and the answer was "Of course!" And of course I forgot how much these little hats take out of me, I overthink them way too much. 

The main pattern from Repeat Crafter Me is pretty straightforward, and I've made enough of them now that I can whip out the hat part pretty quickly. The issue in the past has been that they turn out too big. Way. Too. Big. For this one, to get a hat fit for a baby/toddler, I made the 0-3 months one, and that seemed to work well. 

After the basic hat is done, the heart wrenching work begins. The nose, the eyes, the ears and - just stick a crochet hook through my heart - the mouth! How I agonize over these little hats, worrying if they look cute enough, happy enough, not funky around the eyes, and of course they must have the sweetest little mouth ever. Perky, but not defiant, happy but not smirky. Well, maybe just a bit smirky. 

This part of the hat crocheting process makes me earn the wage of a sweatshop worker in a developing country, the kind that Bill and Melinda Gates help through their philanthropic kindness. I need to give Mr. Gates a jingle and see if he can be my crocheting patron. You know, for the good of the arts. 

So here was the process for the puppy hat, which took me not long to make, but oh so long to finish. 

I made the hat part pretty quickly.
Then for the nose, the slightly crooked nose.
And the mouth. Is it cute enough? Not snarky?
But just a little smirky?

Oh how I agonized over this little guy's eye patch.
And his eyes,
Then I attached his ears.
The left ear wants to stick up. Way up.
Proving that an ear can smirk.

Then, how long to make the ear flap cords?
I mean, I don't want to choke the poor baby.
But too short looks stupid and not nearly cute enough.
These decisions keep me up at night.

There. A puppy hat, slightly spunky but not too smirky, and fit for a baby.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Our Three Year Konmari-versary 

Just about three years ago now I casually mentioned to a friend that I was going through one of our bookshelves and purging some books. JoLee mentioned the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I hadn't heard of it. Apparently I was in the middle of the wave of people who were using this method to clear the clutter, dismiss the debris and manhandle the messes in our lives.

I've read so much since about people either loving it or hating it. I mean really loving it, or really hating it. I'm in the camp of really loving it.

I tackled my clothes first, then moved on to general household stuff. That was so refreshing and successful, I went on to find what sparks joy in the kitchen. By then, I had convinced my husband that we would live through the process of tidying up his clothes. Wow, was that ever a game changer! Then it was time to subdue the garage. By then it was the middle of summer and it was hot and it was awful and we had guests and it was awful and can you tell I'm still a bit traumatized by the garage purge? But I will swear on a stack of wrenches and needle-nosed pliers that this method works and that the benefits last.

So where are we now, almost three years after the initial start? Pretty good I would say, but there are areas that still need help. Since I started a bit out of order, we never really gathered all our books in one place and went through them. The floorboards under that pile may need some reinforcing. I never did do anything amazing with all our photos, or really do a good job just keeping the best ones. But at least I got all the really dumb ones pulled out of albums and now I have a lovely spot in my closet for all my shoes that made the cut.

And try as we might, we just can't seem to get our paperwork under control. We have attempted various systems for dealing with incoming mail, something besides dumping it on the kitchen table, or the back of the car, or in some random place that makes no sense. We've tried different folders to keep track of what's paid on line, what is a physical bill, junk mail, really junky mail and mail that doesn't even deserve to be touched once. Every now and then I pile it all up on the floor and try to devise yet one more system that works for us. Paperwork is our nemesis.

But as for the rest of the house, it is joy all around. If I need something, even an ever so unusual screwdriver with the funkiest head ever, I just prance out to the screwdriver drawer (yes, I prance) and find it. Then I go out there when I'm done (no prancing, but still smiling) and put it away in its home. Our garage has gotten a wee bit more cluttered on the edges with random things, but nothing a good spring sweeping out day can't deal with. It worked. It really worked!

Three years later
We didn't clutter it up too much. 

The scene of the Great and Gruesome Garage Purge of 2015.
You would never know from looking.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

That Friday Between the Twelfth and the Fourteenth

Nothing bad happened last Friday, I'll start with that. It's all good. Great. Terrific.


Several weeks ago, our friends learned the date of their baby's heart procedure. It was set for Friday, April 13th. They asked us if their older son could sleep over the night before, and then we would take him to school the next day, because baby heart surgeries start early. We happily agreed, and I was thinking up some fun stuff we could do.

Then I remembered - that would be the morning I was to proctor the engineering exam at Cal Expo, and engineering proctoring jobs start early. Our friends found out and made other plans, because we all needed a good night's sleep. 

The day of the exam had my mind split between the duties of a proctor and the worries of a friend. As we processed the test takers and got the exam under way, my mind was at that hospital, hoping everything went well. During the four hour morning exam, I found myself taking a lot of "bathroom breaks" to go check my phone for baby updates. A hilarious video of the cutie pie on happy juice before the surgery had me laughing in the break room, all looked good so far.

A few more "bathroom breaks" brought no news. Then my phone rang, it was our friend Jason. Had I heard from Ernst? No, I hadn't, but the concern in his voice had me immediately worried. He calmly broke the news that my husband had passed out in the salon chair while getting his hair cut (Jason's mom Lynn cuts Ernst's hair.) At this point all I heard were the words 911, regained consciousnesses, ambulance, EMTs, hospital, and that Jason was headed down from Yuba City. They didn't know which hospital, but I was 99% sure it was Kaiser Morse, the one that's right by our house.

In swift, highly efficient, yet hand-shaking, voice-trembling actions, I told the director of the exam the situation, went back to the proctoring room to tell my supervisor, grabbed my purse and coffee mug and sweater and water bottle and ice chest and all the other things one brings to a 12-hour job and walked out to my car. One of the proctor directors kindly walked me to my vehicle, offering to drive me to the hospital. No, I would be fine, I wanted to be alone.

I was incredibly worried, and had a sinking feeling this was really bad. Really. Bad. All the other hospital visits and emergencies had been bad, but he had never passed out during them. I felt like Jason might be holding back information that only could be found out at the hospital, that this was more life-changing than all the other times.

I drove quickly, efficiently, mostly legally and only yelled at a few drivers, who admittedly cannot know that their choice to go the speed limit was compromising my last bit of sanity. Pretty much the whole way, which was maybe just 10-12 minutes, I chanted Please No, Please No, Please No. Halfway there, I was resigned to face whatever I had to face. I was fairly calm, and except for those annoying law-abiding drivers I was stuck behind, I arrived in pretty good shape.

Things changed when I got to the parking lot. No parking. I had just been there the day before for a hearing test, and walked over because the parking is so bad. I looked near the ER, nothing. I went a little further, nothing. So I went to the farthest lot from the ER and took a tight spot I would normally pass up. I walked as fast as I could in my proctoring shoes, which are made for walking not running, and tried to stay positive.

Then I saw it. A young man with his pants magically hovering below his derriere, with only a thin layer of cotton/poly underwear between him and the outside world. Normally this form of attire just puzzles me greatly, and makes me wonder about the future hip problems this fashion statement is creating, as these men/boys walk with their legs splayed out to keep their pants just at the perfect level right below their rearend cheeks. But something happens when my husband is having a health crisis, and although outwardly I may appear calm to the hospital staff, inwardly I am ready to bite the head off of anyone I see smoking or chowing down a bag of Cheese Doodles with Mountain Dew. Because I know how hard we try to be healthy, and sometimes it just doesn't seem fair at all. 

Anyway, Mr. Droopy Drawers got my blood boiling. What I wanted to do was go behind him, grab his belt loops, yank his pants up where they belong and say "That's how REAL men wear pants." But besides the fact that civilized people don't go around rearranging the clothing on strangers, he most likely had his own sad story to tell of who he was going to visit. He didn't need the fashion police making a citizen's arrest. 

Then I had to pass through the Kaiser Friday Morning Farmers Market. the one I never go to because the parking situation is so bad. Table after table of organic and healthy produce, normally something I would be salivating over. But instead of showing the kale some love, I was still in a sad/scared/shocked/slightly numb state of mind, and I wanted to scream "Fat lot of good all these vegetables did us, my husband just collapsed!" Just as I didn't pull up the pants of Mr. DD, I didn't yell at the fruit vendors. I guess I did have a shred of self-control left in me; I'm thanking the green smoothie I had that morning.

Finally I ran/walked my way to the ER and got the room number and name sticker, which I slapped on over my proctoring name sticker. Bed #13, how appropriate. I made my way through the sadness and sickness that is a busy emergency room, and reached the large area where Ernst was. He was sitting up in the bed, looking good, looking healthy, smiling when he saw me, saying "They weren't supposed to tell you." He was fine, a bit dehydrated, with very low blood pressure, but completely fine. I mentally apologized to the slow drivers, the man with his underwear showing and the good people at the farmers market.

It turns out he passed out, badly, in the salon chair for an unknown reason, and his blood pressure dropped a lot. In the ambulance when he was already feeling better it measured 78/60, which for him is incredibly low. His EKG was great, no stroke symptoms, everything checked out fine. It could have been a medication issue, that he was slightly dehydrated, and his sodium was on the low side. He will see his cardiologist for a follow up visit, but they said just go home and take it easy and all is good.

We got some encouraging visits from a few friends in the ER, which always warms the heart. And the news on the baby front? It was all good — our friends' little guy came through his heart surgery like a champ. It was a lovely day, Ernst got released from the ER and now what? Finish the day, that's what. He went back to get the rest of his hair cut, and I drove back to the engineering exam, following all traffic laws, smiling and waving to all the rule-abiding drivers. Not our typical Friday, but it all turned out and we'll take it. 

Jason! Bed #13!

Real men, wearing pants. 

911 Caller.

My 12 hour work day, with just a slight interruption.