Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Art

Artist Simon Beck must really love the cold weather! Along the frozen lakes of Savoie, France, he spends days plodding through the snow in raquettes (snowshoes), creating these sensational patterns of snow art. Working for 5-9 hours a day, each final piece is typically the size of three soccer fields! The geometric forms range in mathematical patterns and shapes that create stunning, sometimes 3D, designs when viewed from higher levels.
How long these magnificent geometric forms survive is completely dependent on the weather. Beck designs and redesigns the patterns as new snow falls, sometimes unable to finish a piece due to significant overnight accumulations. Interestingly enough, he said, 'The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise. Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera.” Spectacular art for the sake of exercise!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sophie > Diary of a Southern Belle 5

Adventures & Training

I am making every effort to expose Sophie to all kinds of stimuli so we visit various places, practice our training under the different circumstances. Example, lie down on the sidewalk while we sit at an outdoor table & I have a cup of coffee while people, skaters & cars go by.

One thing for sure: she likes to lead o the lead. She's like a scout. However, on our property, she heels like an angel w/o a leash but off property she seems extremely guarded, watchful. But she is not confident enough about all the 'stuff' going around her to heel well.....yet. She remains too distracted.

On a walk down main street she is still preoccupied by the activity around her; she changes positions,i.e. left to right or behind purposefully. Is she trying to protect me from somebody walking by on the right or behind me? (She is also now lying in doorways in the house.)

For pure exercise we walk along forest paths in the town  parks. There I let her drag a 10' lead behind her. When she gets too far ahead, she turns to see where I am. On her own, she will stop until I catch up. She also 'waits' on command. If there is a fork in the trail, she looks to me for direction and I point & she goes in that direction.  Sometimes we play hide & seek as I duck behind a tree or start walking in the opposite direction. This way she has learned to keep an eye on me.

There is a also good mile plus walk around our town recreation center. There we walk through high grasses on either side of the path, past several ponds, over a little bridge. There are picnic tables & benches along the way & I have her jump onto to those objects to give her more confidence & her back legs extra exercise. When she jumps it looks effortless  but we know she lacks muscle tone in her rear legs. On this trail, she did fine, again a little cautious if someone approaches. But at the end of these walks she is definitely tired so I think her endurance has to be built up. Soon Carol will start running with her.

When she was first rescued, she weighed about 125#, terribly overweight, because she was free fed and had zero exercise. I'm happy to report that with the regimen that her foster mom put her on and that I've continued, she is down to a measly 106# as of today 02/24/12. And a good thing, too, because her groomer had to pick her up to get into the tub. She did fine with him, the fussing, the hair dryer and all. But she was definitely glad to see me return. 

Now that Sophie has learned how to open doors, I'm trying to teach her how to close them.  This is one smart girl & I'm doing  my best to keep her busy. When you point at something, I've found some Bouvs look at the finger, others look at where it is pointed. Sophie does the latter. She is very sensitive to all things including subtle body movements so a point to lie down in your bed works for her.

She sits for her dinner & waits for permission to eat. She waits to go thru the door after me. She asks permission to come up on the sofa. She naturally moves over to give me room on the sofa or gets off the sofa automatically if carol is already there & there is no more room.  

She understands the words “no more” as in treats, scratching, etc. She has learned she is going to stay behind with “bye-bye” & makes no effort to get out the door as we leave. She has learned to move with “excuse me”.  She knows “sit”, “down”.  She will “talk” to me when I talk directly to her. She goes into attention mode on “watch”. “Do you want to go for a ride?”, “go to the office”, “want to go out”, “want a biscuit” gets enthusiastic responses. She aims for the “office” door if I use that word & aims for the house if I say “home”. If she's out & I'm inside she barks to be let in or pushes the door open. What will she learn in the months ahead? I can hardly wait.

Personality & Protection

On her first trip to the dog park for “socialization” Sophie was patient w some of the other dogs until they got a little rambunctious, at which point she would warn them. She didn't wander far from me but I saw her prey drive kick in once as she went chasing with some other dogs, but then realizing  she wasn't sure was ok with me, looked back for permission to continue. She went back to chasing and as a test, after a bit, I called her back to see what would happen & she immediately returned to my side.

Sophie's new attention word is "watch" and she does just that. We played at 'watch' today when the oil delivery arrived. She did pretty well.  On another occasion a friend arrived at the gate while we we were wandering around. She saw that & immediately went towards the gate barking. I praised her, then opened the gate & introduced her to person who I invited onto the property. She was fine. 

Then, the other day, while sleeping on her pad in the office, Carol sort of barged in unannounced. Sophie jumped to feet, immediately went into protection barking, started for the door until she noticed it was Carol, then became a little shameful. We both praised her effort. 

And finally, the other day a friend came over & knocked on the office door. Sophie immediately went to the door and quietly waited for me. I opened it  to a male friend who stuck his hand hand out for a  Sophie wifff. I told her it was ok & he entered. He petted her, then said 'hi' to Stella, & back to Sophie who seemed fine with him. But  for some reason as she was smelling him some more, he looked straight into her eyes which elicited a very low, mean growl, nothing unusual for a Bouv but he was properly startled & I explained 'staring' was a challenging 'no-no'. So there's something in there, unlike Stella, who is basically a shell of a Bouvier (but whom I love dearly).

On President's Day I again took her to the dog park (not my favorite place for more canine socialization). On lead, everyone took a smell & though she was apprehensive she put up with it & returned the same interest. I let her off lead. There was a lab chasing a ball but she showed no interest, walking along side me. I walked to an area where other dogs were playing. She observed but did not partake. I tried to interest her in the ball. She perked up sightly (a “1” on the 0-10 scale) but wouldn't chase. 

There was a bench in the sun so I decided to sit down to see what she would do. She lay down at my feet. A few curious dogs  came by  & I heard a growl. Two of the three decided it was probably better to move on but one stayed on to investigate further from the back of the bench. Sophie stood, stuck her head under the bench to watch & must have been putting out some signal because the other dog decided to move around to the front of the bench where I was sitting. BIG MISTAKE. Sophie went after him, chasing it away @ full speed. I called out to her; she stopped in her tracks & immediately returned to me. Clearly she was guarding 'our' space & had no interest in socializing so we left. Will try again in a few days.
Life With Stella Bella 

As reticent as Stella is, Sophie is exuberant.  Sophie explodes into action, Stella trundles along but Sophie watches Stella, stays away from her food & treats. But there are times Sophie's mischievous side emerges and she charges Stella who steps aside and does a mini charge back at which point Sophie goes into play stance, bowed front end, forelegs outstretched. It's very funny to watch but reminds me of every young Bouv trying to get its elder to “dance”.  

Meanwhile Sophie has invaded Stella's space w/o incident. Remember: the sofa, fireplace, 2 chairs forming a rectangular space is what Stella  considers her “crate”. Well, over the weeks, Sophie started to encroach on that space slooowly but surely. First step: Sophie's head & fore paws intruded while the rest of her body was outside the space. Then half a body. Now Sophie sleeps inside the space but NEVER on the sofa. She seems perfectly comfortable on the floor or on the hearth, at a lower spot than Stella. The sofa remains Stella's un-challenged, private domain as it should be. 

Stella's favorite treat is a mini carrot and Sophie has now learned to appreciate them which wasn't true at the beginning. When Stella hears carrots being cut she waddles into kitchen for treat. Sophie not wanting to lose out on a treat of any kind, is right behind her. 

Medical Report

Sophie no longer limps. Instead, she runs & jumps even though I try to limit it. She doesn't seem preoccupied with her other limbs. She is peeing less and we believe this is part of the bacterial issue which is being tended to. Her attention to her urinary area (licking) has lessened probably along with the lower bacterial numbers.

At 8:35pm A few days ago, Dr. Judith Feldstein (surgeon) called to say Sophie's urine culture came back negative so we are DEFINITELY gaining on infection. Also allowed the Soph off Tramadol & leash as long as she doesn't go crazy. We have follow up appointment on the 24th . I'm going to try to convince this vet to be Sophie's primary care vet as I REALLY LIKE HER A LOT. Carol & I agree that the extra expense of going to this place is worth it to us. Fingers crossed.

I don't like imagining things but Sophie yawns a lot or opens her mouth a lot & sneezes a lot. She also has a few reverse sneezing fits. It's odd behavior to me. But it can be explained by the bacterial invasion & possibly the time of year, i.e. allergy. I always watch behaviors & the Soph is eating, drinking & eliminating properly. Her spirits are good, her eyes -- a bit odd -- look clear but I will take her to eye specialist for a check up in a few weeks. Her personality is winsome & wonderful. We play & talk to each other. She seems to love it. And she wanders the property at will with Stella several times daily.

We had a follow up appointment today 02/24/12 & everything was fine; a good report. The current plan calls for finishing the antibiotics (another 7-8 days). Then another 7-10 days past   the last pill, we  return for another urine culture to make sure Sophie is clear of all bacteria. I have to keep special watch over her, paying particular attention between days 5-7 in case there is a relapse. Believe me, I'm on top of it.

Six Degrees of Separation

I think we've all been very lucky. Sophie's infection seems to have been caught in the nick of time. It must have been building up for a while considering the extremely high  levels. But we're over the hump. She had excellent and expensive care with the specialists at the Bedford-Katonah Medical Center. Fortunately surgery was not necessary but it was a close call. 

I have kept in close touch with Sophie's savior & foster mom (Deborah) through the entire process. The ABRL stepped up to the plate to help defray some of the thousands of dollars this cost.  I am immensely grateful to Deborah & Bob Dickerson for entrusting me with Sophie and to Marcia Proud for helping when it was really needed.

It's funny how the world works. A little over 13 years ago, I delivered a rescue, named 'Rheba' to Deborah & Bob as they contemplated their retirement to  their farm in North Carolina. 'Rheba' was a piece of work, a delightfully energetic girl whom Deb & Bob took under their wing & as company for a terribly abused rescue they already had named “Moxie” who came from an abusive breeder / groomer whom I knew here in CT.  'Rheba' lived a wonderful long life in the country with the Dickersons who have since resuced 85 other Bouvs. 'Rheba' died at age 16 1/2 and here we have the full circle whereby Deborah and Bob have given Sophie to us thirteen and a half years later. That's what it's all about.

I don't know when the next diary entry will be made. I will continue to take Sophie & Stella on walks through our various parks; maybe even to Compo Beach which is open to dogs in the winter. In the early spring I will have to teach Sophie about the flower beds &  in  early summer, Sophie, Stella & I will travel  to Sharon Springs, NY for the annual Bouvstock celebration. It'll be lots of fun. After that we'll get into swimming, hiking and other activities. I hope the girls are happy here with us.

If you get nothing else from this diary, please understand the importance & reward for rescuing a Bouvier in need. Please get involved. Do it. 

Sophie (and Stella).

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Sophie > Reverse Sneezing written by Mo van den Tillaart

Reverse sneezing (Pharyngeal Gag Reflex) is a sudden, rapid and extreme forceful inhalation of air through the nose causing the dog to make repeated snorting noises, which may sound like he is choking. 

It sounds like the dog is trying to inhale a sneeze, and it is therefore known as reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing is often caused by irritation of the the palate/laryngeal area. 

It causes a spasm in the muscles of the pharynx. Reverse sneezing is characterized by honking, hacking or snorting sounds (gasping inwards). 

It primarily occurs when the dog is excited, but it can also happen after drinking, eating, running, or pulling on the leash. A typical episode lasts only a few seconds, but some dogs may experience this for a few minutes and usually several times a day. 

Most of the time you can stop the spasm by gently massaging the throat of your dog, or briefly closing it's nostrils until the dog swallows. 

In some cases reverse sneezing is caused by foreign bodies in the nasal passage (grass blades), irritation from allergies or irritants (pollens, smoke, perfumes), or even tooth root infections. 

In those cases you should always consult a vet. If the dog is having repeated attacks of reverse sneezing, your vet may prescribe antihistamines to see if that helps stop the sneezing. 

When reverse sneezing occurs right after the nose-inoculation against kennel-cough, it would be advisable to give the dog some antibiotics. 

Most dogs that have infrequent episodes of reverse sneezing, can lead a perfectly normal life, cause reverse sneezing is a harmless condition and medical treatment is not necessary. Although it is important not to confuse reverse sneezing with a collapsing trachea or a heart problem. 

In case of doubt, it is important to have the dog examined by your veterinarian.Click here for a 'reverse sneezing' YouTube video. This is just one of the many examples on YouTube, so I advise you to browse YouTube for more. 

Be sure to seek the advice of your veterinarian about any question you may have regarding your pet's health and behavior. No diagnosis can be done without a veterinarian actually seeing and examining the patient.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sophie > Medical Update

To remain on leashed exercise even though, we think we're around the bend on elbow BUT discovered very high bacteria levels in urine culture which may have induced sepsis which traveled to elbow.
To make sure it's no where else, the Soph will be on antibiotics for another 4-6 weeks. Will do another urine culture 10 days after last antibiotic dose to confirm bacterial eradication. 
All joints currently OK, no temperature. Antibiotics seem to be efficacious. Hips OK, back legs lack muscle tone but that's from former life of zero exercise. We'll work on that as soon as this is over.
Walking w/o limp. Appetite, attitude, water intake, output all OK, fingers crossed.
Another follow up with surgeon in ten days. Dr. Feldstein turns out to be an Aussie and absolutely terrific! Wish I could clone her. Extremely confident having Sophie in her care.
Thanks everyone for your concern, notes, caring. Truly a happy valentines day for us. xoxo to you all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Diary of a Soutern Belle - Weeks 4 & 5

It was Thursday night. The Soph & I were cuddling on the sofa & we both fell asleep. About 1:00am Sophie's panting (not heavy) as she began to re-arrange her large frame, awakened me. She had decided to get off the sofa & I watched her step off, uncertainly pausing on her front legs while her rear was still on the cushions (not a pretty sight I might add).

After a few seconds in this position, she hopped off, walked unsteadily for a few feet & unceremoniously dropped to the floor. She moved onto her side. Frightened by this unusual behavior, I got down on the floor with her, stroked & talked to her while checking for bloat (sometimes successful but not always) & otherwise felt around what I could get to. She wasn't moving b7t she wasn't panting hard either.

I called for Carol and we determined that something was definitely wrong. What it was we couldn’t tell. I considered some kind of convulsion or stroke or heart/blood problem. She was quiet, calm, motionless for the longest time and then, as it turned out, gathered her strength, overcame or emerged from her problem to get to her feet. But couldn't.

That's when we made emergency calls. Sophie weighing 120# or so is not easy to move around as you can imagine. Carol searched for a veterinary ambulance to no avail, then contacted the emergency hospital we use to ask some quick questions of the vet on duty & to alert them that we were coming. Carol went off to move the car to the front of the house (shortest distance).

Sliding a large towel under Sophie was a chore but we managed; she whimpered a little. Then all three of us tried to get her up at which point she let out a scream & standing I could see she was holding her left paw aloft, refusing to put any weight on it.

I searched for a broken bone, something in the pad, all for naught but when I got up under her arm/leg pit, she let out another yelp so I moved the towel back & we started to move her to the car. It was a struggle. Sophie helped as much as possible but her rear was working too well either so it was like carrying dead (gulp) weight. I started to consider some kind of spine injury as we moved her closer & closer to the door, resting at 3 or 4 stages. At the car, don't ask me how but I was able to lift her into the rear of the station wagon & I got in with her.

Sophie is not yet confident enough to lie down while traveling by car so she sat, keeping weight off that one leg, leaning her body against my arm which was squashed between her & the side of the car. But I knew by then her spine, spinal column was ok which was some solace. In that condition we made the 20 minute trip to the emergency hospital.

There two/three emergency vet techs met us with a gurney which we transferred Sophie onto without much of a struggle (I think she knew we were trying to help) and the techs wheeled her into the emergency room where we could not follow. Two went with Sophie. One remained with us, to gather some history.

Eventually the vet, Michele Roch, came out to confer with us. Her cursory analysis was a leg problem in the elbow area. It was hot, swollen & produced an immediate reaction from the Soph when extended but she didn't know the cause. We authorized x-rays, blood tests, and whatever else was necessary to deduce what was going on & we waited, dozing off in the waiting room.

Nose was cold, wet -- not always a good barometer. Infection? A high white cell count might point that way but the result was a low white blood count. Conveniently, this could mean body was fighting infection & running low on ammunition.

Medication to relax Sophie enough for the x-ray didn't kick in so we agreed to anesthesia and signed a form authorizing CPR in an emergency. About an hour later we all looked at the digital x-rays together. Joints were good, sockets & seatings looked clean, no fractures, no bone spurs, chips & the like were in evidence. So Ms. Roche reasoned the damage was in the tissue surrounding the joint.

And what could that mean? Anything from an infection discharge to soft tissue cancer.

Sophie was resting comfortably, a surgeon was coming in & would examine her later in the morning so about 5:30am we decided there was nothing more we could do until the surgical consult & we went home, had an early breakfast & waited.... and waited.... and waited. Carol couldn't go to work.

About 10:00am Fri surgeon Judith Feldstein (a Brit) called to discuss Sophie's case. We reviewed what we had observed from 1:00 AM, what we knew of her background, what experiences we had had with her in the three weeks she had been with us: an active, playful, limber, wiggly, romping, chow hound who ate everything in sight, licked all bowls clean, drank water like a Bouvier, was smart as hell, had a winsome personality and perfect bathroom habits, resulting in good deposits left in various spots on the front lawn.

Ms.Feldstein decided to withdraw some liquid, put it under a microscope & send it out for a culture. Same with the blood work. Her concern was that infectious materials left to fester too long could lead to damaged tissues or even the joint, itself. To prevent that she would have to cut the knee open & flush it out thoroughly. However, as a first step, she wanted to put Sophie under again, drain what she could by needle, put her on massive dosages of intravenous antibiotics & wait one day (Sat) to see if there was marked improvement. I asked for her criteria for marked improvement. "If she puts weight on the leg". Sounded reasonable & made sense to us.

I had elected not to visit Sophie out of fear of making her even more anxious with my coming and going but I conferred with the emergency techs taking care of her 2-3x daily. Sophie was NEVER left alone. I was comforted by that and felt I was doing the right thing.

Since Sophie met the criteria, Ms. Feldstein decided to continue intravenous antibiotics rather than cut her open. Sunday, her day off, she came in to check on her & was pleased with Sophie's progress. However, Sophie was not eating despite the fact that we had dropped off her favorite foods.

Sunday night's conference with the emergency vet resulted in the idea of picking Sophie up on Monday, subject to the surgeon's ok, to get her to eat at home, and to follow up with oral antibiotics, a return visit with the surgeon within a week, and only walking on lead to take care of business and then home again to rest up.

But you can't keep a good girl down.

Sophie wanted to run, jump, wriggle & bump -- all bad things. And I had to stop her which made me feel guilty as hell since one goal in her adoption was to give her total freedom to wander & play, something she lacked in her prior life. 


At home, we were to keep her off the furniture, medicated: 6 pills in the AM + 7 pills in the PM. We were to put hot compresses on her elbow 3-4x daily. Smart girl that she is, she wouldn't take her pills stuffed in a hot dog, in a pill pocket, mixed in with her dinner (she wouldn't eat), in cream cheese or wrapped in baloney. For one session, peanut butter did the trick. Then she saw it coming. You can put a pill into this girl's mouth wrapped in anything and she can shake her head until the pill falls out of one her jowls but the rest stays in. So we watched her shake her head violently with each attempt and stared helplessly as a little white pill dropped to the floor. I finally took to shoving them down her throat (last resort). A bit of treat, a pill, a bit of treat, a pill, a bit of treat, a pill....

Upchuck once, feeling punky each time but eventually good appetite, lots & lots of water and frequent trips to pee. Stella who is also a chow hound, walks out of the kitchen during the pill routine, wanting no part of it. I know how she thinks: "I don't want to be next. Out of sight, out of mind."

Tuesday we go for a checkup with the surgeon. Sophie is now licking her back left thigh. I don't know what that means. I hope nothing. She looks like an oddly shaved poodle, done by a groomer on hallucinogenics (Remember those days, Timothy Leary?). But she's still Sophie.

The saga continues.