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Archive for November, 2013

One aspect of growing old, for animals and us humans, is that joints wear out. Osteoarthritis is characterized by loss and/or degeneration of the cartilage in joints. The process is accompanied by osteophytes new bone growth where it is not wanted or needed, the body’s unfortunately ineffective effort to immobilize the joint and stop continued wear and tear. This is a problem I am quite familiar with having treated many old dogs, cats and horses trying to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.

For several years I suffered from severe osteoarthritis in my left ankle necessitating the use of a cane and even with that I was unable to walk Charlize for more than a few blocks without considerable discomfort.  Two columns ago I wrote about the surgery I underwent in an effort to do something about the problem. The aftercare for the procedure involves ten to twelve weeks, or more, of no weight bearing on the operated leg.  The surgery was done on Oct. 9, the initial cast was removed on Oct. 22 and I was fitted with a plastic boot. I get around on crutches and something called a “knee scooter” that is kind of fun to scoot around on. However it is a bit of a hassle to get up and down stairs with the knee scooter, as in impossible. It is also difficult to get the scooter in my vehicle and take out again while managing crutches. I do have a problem with allowing people to help me, something my sons are constantly giving me grief about. Can’t help it, it’s the way I am.

One of the smarter things I did was to hire a very nice young lady to just be around if I need her. She helps out during the day, walks Charlize, does some chores and errands and keep me company. My regular cleaning lady also stepped up to help the old man manage. An added benefit is the sixteen-month old daughter of my helper. I was, somehow, smart enough to insist that she shouldn’t pay a babysitter, just bring the baby with her. I relate well to animals, young and old and to small children and the little girl is a happy, no joyous, child who speaks a language that not even her mother understands. She loves Charlize and Charlize reciprocates. She keeps me smiling whenever she is here with her mother almost every day.

The first couple of weeks post-op were not fun, post-op pain masked by the mind-numbing effects of the painkillers prescribed along with the side effects of those opioids. I was able to stop taking them in just a few days but the toughest part was sleeping on my back with the leg elevated for the first two or three weeks. Got past that and am now able to sleep on my side again, what a relief!

The next obstacle was getting out then back into the house negotiating the two steps down into the garage. After the weeks of not being able to get out of the house I was suffering significant cabin fever. Perseverance and practice with the crutches finally paid dividends when I realized I had to trust the crutches to hold me up, balance by holding the bad leg forward and swinging down or up instead of trying to hop. Once out of the house and into the vehicle driving is not a problem since it is my left leg and the vehicle has an automatic transmission. Maneuvering on crutches to be able to get into the vehicle also took practice but I am free again! Able to get to the Corner Coffee Café for my regular fix, take myself on errands, including grocery shopping, a chore I found to be very difficult to assign to others since my habit is to go to the store with a list of things I’m out of but to shop for inspiration of what to prepare.

Throughout this experience Charlize has been good. She loves going for her twice a day walks with my helper and I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I will be able to reclaim that time with her. When we are alone in the mornings and evenings she is very attentive and obviously concerned about me. I’ve been having long conversations with her about the resumption of our travels. I think she misses the open road as much as I do. We still have another four to six weeks of no weight bearing to get through and I’m hopeful we will be back to some semblance of normality afterwards.

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Lately I am beginning to think that Charlize is upset with me. I think she’s worried that something I wrote, information I believed would be helpful, is being used for nefarious purposes.  Because the reach of the Internet is global the potential harm is spreading, and she’s worried about dogs and cats everywhere.

Antifreeze poisoning is a significant problem in dogs and cats, one of if not the most common cause of animal poisoning. Back in January 31, 2012 I posted an article on this blog that was also published in MyEdmondsNews. The article was entitled: “Why do dogs and cats drink antifreeze and how does it kill them?” My intent was to educate about the lethality of antifreeze, how to keep from exposing your pet, the signs and symptoms of poisoning, what to do if you suspect your pet has been exposed and the treatment that can only be provided by your veterinarian.

Since that article was published this website has hosted almost twenty-three thousand visits. A small percentage of those visits were from folks who follow my writings but the vast majority of the visitors reach the site via search engines. I don’t know the exact numbers but a disturbing percentage of those visitors used, and continue to use, search terms such as; how to kill a dog or cat with antifreeze, how much antifreeze to kill a dog or a cat, the best way to kill a dog or cat with antifreeze.

The website provides daily statistics about the articles that were accessed. It is a rare day when the antifreeze article is not the most visited, apparently by folks trying to find out how to rid their neighborhood of a pesky dog or cat. Many of the inquiries come from countries with stray or feral dog and cat problems but it is still disturbing that people are going to the Internet to find out how to poison animals.

So, what to do? I would like to believe that this article has saved some animals from a horrible death. Antifreeze kills by forming crystals in the kidneys that destroys kidney function, not a pleasant death. Quick response and appropriate treatment by a veterinarian is the only way to save an animal thus exposed. However, if the information is perverted, used to poison animals should I leave it on the site? Mine is not the only site that provides information about antifreeze poisoning.

OK, too heavy? The argument is that free access to information is not and cannot be bad, only the use of that information in a bad way.  Of course, Charlize is not really upset with me, especially not with something I wrote. She has yet to read any of my essays, although sometimes I read portions of them to her.  When I do so she provides unequivocal support rather than critique, constructive or otherwise. It would be wonderful if she would provide me with advice about what to do about this.

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Four weeks ago Charlize and I embarked on a new, a different kind of trip. This trip requires new and different skills. Both of us need to learn to be patient and to find ways to control the way we handle day-to-day emotions and frustrations.

Over three years ago the arthritis in my left ankle started to limit my physical activity and ability to get around pain free. Rosalie and I investigated what could be done. The options, after consulting experts, were to either replace the ankle joint with a prosthetic or fuse the joint. The advice from the surgeon was to continue to use the ankle brace I had been using for over a year at that point and a cane. We were told that when the pain became unbearable I would know it was time to do something.

About a year later, we started thinking surgery was a reasonable option. Then Rosalie was diagnosed with stage four-lung cancer and everything else was put on hold. After she passed, exactly to the day, one year after the diagnosis, I was incapable of making almost any kind of decision regarding my own health.

Six months or so later l I was no longer able to walk Charlize for more than four or five blocks without intense pain. After our morning walk I had to ice the ankle and rest it for more than an hour to be able to take her for another walk. She was good about it though, somehow sensing about how long I could manage, turning back toward home after a couple of blocks. She even took care of her business early in the process so as not to prolong my discomfort.

So back to the surgeon and re-evaluation of the ankle.  New radiographs and a CT scan showed significant progression with loss of almost all cartilage and bone loss of the distal end of the tibia, the long bone of the leg that forms the first portion of the ankle joint. After more research and discussion with the surgeon we decided the best option was to fuse the joint and not rely on a mechanical device that doesn’t have the same level of success, as do the artificial knee and hip joints.

Four weeks ago almost three hours of surgery was completed to the satisfaction of the surgeon. After two nights in the hospital I was home with a cast and facing twelve weeks of recovery with no weight bearing on my left leg. So this is the new journey Charlize and I share. We are coping and I will share with you the new challenges, the new friends, new helpers and new strengths we discover on this continuing journey through life. 

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