Owen’s Bucket List: Play in the Snow

Full disclosure, Owen hates snow.

I think this one was inspired by my childhood, and the memories I have of snow days outside with the dogs.  Sadly, no more snow days, although Owen is actually okay with that.

This is what happened when I tried to make Owen play in the snow.

This is the face of a dog who does not like snow.

Lady, why do you hate me?

Are we done yet?

 

I’m leaving.

He quickly retreated into the house to glare.

So we modified this one just a bit.  Instead of playing in the snow, it is hiking in the snow, and instead of snow, it is a frozen lake.  Owen, the boyfriend and I went hiking on Lake Ozonia in February, and it was simply beautiful.  No words needed.

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Owen’s Bucket List: Play with Kids

I will admit this is a loose interpretation of play with kids.  When I selected this one for the list I forgot a key point.  You see, Owen does not play.

But he does enjoy children, which is kind of surprising because he typically avoids things that are loud and move unpredictably.  At the birthday party of a friend’s son this summer he surprised me by not being miserable.  In fact, he seemed to enjoy himself.  Maybe it was the pirate theme.  Pirates are jolly.  Owen likes pirates.

Owen particularly enjoyed the little one above, he was covered in frosting.  Although he did try to take the leash and walk Owen.

It is not every day you meet a dog taller then you little guy.

Owen’s Bucket List – Steak

Owen is a lucky dog, and not jut because he lives with me.

He also lives with the boyfriend, and the boyfriend, unlike me, eats meat.  Owen loves the boyfriend.  He especially loves the boyfriend when the boyfriend finds an old T-Bones in the freezer and decides they are too old for him to eat, but still okay for the dog.

Owen was moving so fast he was a blur on camera.

So I took video.

One item more item off the bucket list!

Gabapentin, because sometimes opiods are just not enough.

Sigh.

So, Owen has hip dysplasia.  Owen also has arthritis.  Both common in German Shepherds, and typically enough for one dog to handle.  Well, Owen also has a narrowing of his spinal cord.  Now, I cannot really lie, I try to forget that part of his diagnosis.  Why?  Because that is the part that says that Owen not only has two orthopedic conditions that cause pain and will eventually make him unable to walk, he also probably has neural degeneration.  This is a condition common in German Shepherds, but since Owen is not a purebred you would think he could avoid it?  Nope, double whammy.  Triple whammy?  Either way Owen loses, but do not tell him, he likes to stay positive.

Owen added meloxicam to his regime, and he improved, but his back leg continued to shake.  Could it be the Cushing’s?  Possibly.  Could it be arthritis?  Possibly.  Could it be neurological pain or general unstableness?  Possibly.  Enter Gabapentin.

When the vet mentioned gabapentin I flinched.  I knew of it for two reasons, seizures, and a pain killer for dogs dealing with cancer.  Pretty heavy stuff, and I was wondering why, with all Owen is on, did we need something that strong.

It turns out that the meloxicam deals with inflammation, the tramadol deals with pain, but the gabapentin deals with neurological pain, a different type from arthritis.  The type that comes with neurological degeneration, although it helps with the other type of pain too.  Basically it blocks the neurons from perceiving pain.  I immediately had a vision of Owen on House as a patient who cannot feel pain and burns themselves in the shower.

As a medication that can be used to treat seizures gabapentin is something to take seriously.  If Owen ever wandered more then 20 feet from me I would make a medical tag for him alerting people that he was on it.  It is something you cannot stop suddenly and I am, as always careful to keep to the medication schedule.  It can make you drowsy, or dizzy, or trigger seizures or upset the stomach.  Owen also cannot drive while on gabapentin, this has put a real cramp in his social life since he hates taking the bus.

I was warned it can be quite pricey, $60 a month for a dog Owen’s size (around 65 pounds).  I thought hard before adding it to the mix but the vet said he really thought it would help, so, credit card in hand I headed to the Target pharmacy.  I have to say I love the staff their, they gave me the discount they typically give to the uninsured and I was able to get it for $12 a month – score!

So far, so good.  Thankfully Owen did not show any symptoms, and took it right in stride, as long as I stick it in liverwurst.  I am incredibly grateful that it does not need to be given with food so I can give it first thing in the morning, with all the supplements, whether or not he eats breakfast.  It allows me to push the tramadol later into the morning so I can stagger the pain killers, making sure they are not all wearing off at the same time.  Gabapentin certainly seems to help, and I am glad to have it in the mix.

Meloxicam, aka Metacam I can afford!

So, remember when I said I could not afford Metacam to try it?  Well, turns out I can afford meloxicam, aka generic Metacam.

I discovered the existence of meloxicam when bringing Owen into the vet for his increased water intake.  I saw a new vet and she mentioned (thanks to an increase in Owen’s weight) he was almost big enough to take the human version of Metacam, meloxicam.  Say what?  There is a human version?

Turns out that in dogs 75 pounds they can take meloxicam, Owen had just hit 69 pounds (and is now 71!).  The vet said it could be a bit inexact but very affordable,  I was game.

Since Owen had such a strong reaction to Rimadyl we started slow, with Metacam, and weaned him on.  I was increasing the dose every four days and he was doing really well on it.  So we tried meloxicam, 1/2 of a 7.5 mg pill a day.

Did I mention it is only $4 a month?  Yup, $4.  Heck, I could lose half the pill trying to cut it into the right size and I don’t think I would mind.  Comparing it to the price of Metacam made me really hate the drug industry, but, moving on.

It is very, very small, and Owen takes half.  I was a little intimidated in trying to break it but the pill splitter works like a charm and it is easy to sneak in with the rest of the supplements.  Best of all I have not seen any adverse side effects, but I did see results.

Owen immediately seemed a bit less stiff, and more eager for walks.  I do nick a bit of the tip off since he is not quite 75 pounds, but with his recent weight gain (even though I’m trying to take the weight off him for the sake of his old bones!) I probably should not be bothering.

The side effects of meloxicam are the same of any NSAID, but it is typically the easiest on the liver and the best accepted.  Owen is a picky eater so I do have to make sure he has eaten his breakfast before I give it to him since it should be taken on a full stomach, but, if he does not eat, I just do not give it.  Thankfully his appetite has been good and I have not had to worry much.  I would highly recommend it, and wish Metacam were more affordable because it clearly works.

Cushings, and why I am letting it be.

At the end of the summer Owen was drinking a lot of water.  I let it go for a month, thinking it was hot out and he may just be thirsty, but I watched, and I worried.

I knew he was old, he has always been old.  I knew increased water intake could be many things, and none of them were good.  But I waited, hoping it would pass.  It did not pass, and he soon started peeing large amounts, large dilute amounts.  And he needed to pee more frequently.   Then I started to find “leaks.”  Little wet spots when he got up from his bed, or off the couch.  I knew we needed to see the vet and planned to call, but was better about getting him out before bed and first thing in the morning, put some waterproof pads under his bed, and the leaks stopped.  Then I came home one day and discovered his bed soaked through, and a very anxious Owen.  My boy had wet the bed.  I was worried, not because he had an accident, but because he had an accident while sleeping.  We went in to see the vet with urine sample in hand.

The urine sample came back inconclusive, it was too dilute to get any information.  So we did blood work, and waited, and then we had to go in for a follow-up appointment.  That is when I got news I did not want to hear.

Owen had increased liver levels, and increased cholesterol – two indicators of Cushings.  Now, I can pretend Owen had not been developing a pot belly, and I can pretend that his hair had not gotten a bit thinner, but, I cannot pretend the blood work was wrong.  I will admit I panicked, I knew the medications for Cushings were expensive, and had many side-effects.  And I knew the testing to confirm Cushings was not cheap.  And I knew Owen could only handle so many conditions before I had to accept it was time to let go.  I cried in the vet’s office, it was not the first time and it will not be the last.

I did not see my regular vet for this visit, he was out of town and a young, eager, and talented vet who I have a lot of respect for took care of me and Owen.  She listed all the tests, and the possible treatments, and sent me home.  She wanted to take it head on and was full of ideas.  I was overwhelmed, and not sure what to do.  In a move that never helps when one is overwhelmed, I went online and did a lot of research.  I looked into dog walkers, and supplements.  I checked my credit card balances and bank balances and tried to set limits on how much I could pursue.  And I waited for the call from Owen’s vet.

I have only known my vet for two years, but he knows me, he knows me well.  He knows I need answers, and I will do what needs to be done for my pets.  He asked me what I was thinking and I said I was worried about the side-effects of the medications.  And he told me he was to, and that he often left senior dogs untreated for Cushings.  I then asked about testing, and he told me he was not going to let me do it.  He did not think pursuing treatment for Owen was worthwhile, and that if we tested to confirm Cushings, it would not change our course of action.  We would still continue working on pain management and supportive care for Owen.  He knew it was not what I wanted to hear, I wanted to know the problem and fix it, but he also knew it was right for my dog.

So that is where we are.  I put Owen on a food with a lower amount of protein (Nutrisource Large Breed Grain Free Lamb), I am giving him Milk Thistle for his liver, and I am giving him a lot of love, because, I have to accept that our time together is limited.  His liver is still enlarged, but he is not peeing as much, or drinking as much water, so I will be grateful for small victories.  I could put him on a low-protein food designed for liver health, but if he does not like it, what is the point?  My vet told me that it would add a few days to our life together, and he would rather see Owen enjoy his meals.  I love my vet, I love Owen.

I do not love watching my dog grow old, but I do love trying to make each day count.

 

Seventeen years of love . . .

Blazer

Almost seventeen years ago I picked out a puppy.  He had the sweetest eyes, the softest ears, and he followed me around like a shadow.  I was fourteen and he was my first puppy, not my first dog, but my first puppy, my first fresh start, and I loved him.  His name was Blazer.

Blazer with Cousin Al on the car ride home.

Blazer was far from the perfect dog.  He had anxiety issues and in his youth destroyed a wall, a door, and ate a ladder.  Thankfully we found a way to make him feel safe, and the destruction stopped, although the fear of thunderstorms would always remain.  Our poor boy would pace, and pant, and herd us all into the same room whenever a storm came.  But we loved him and did what we needed to do to keep him safe, even if it meant someone sleeping in the living room now and then.

Blazer never went hiking, he never came when called, he never went to a dog park and he never went to obedience class.  He was grumpy with other dogs, hated the vet’s office, and was stubborn, so stubborn.

Blazer was not a star pupil.  He learned sit, down, jump, bark and catch – and he would do them in that order, only that order, one after another.  Showing him a yogurt drop would start the cycle, and if you were not quick enough with tossing the treat at the end, he would start again until you got with the program.

Blazer loved people, and some people he loved more then others.  He had special friends who he would be delighted to see, and he was patient with children, and cats.  Well, he was scared of cats, but, he was tolerant of kittens.  They were not always tolerant of him, but he tried to take care of them as best he could, and would always share his bed.

For seventeen years Blazer greeted me at the door when I came home, through high school, through college, through moving out, moving back home, and moving out again – he was always at the door with a wagging tail.  Until now.

Saying good-bye to my dog was bittersweet.  He was sick and suffering and letting him go was right for him.  But not seeing him at the door is hard.  He has been in my life longer then he has been out of it, and he will be missed.