Thursday, January 27, 2011


Jamie went to the vet this morning for a check-up. It's been 10 days since they did the endoscopy and one week since the diagnosis of IBD. He got a gold star and (even better) I get to reduce his prednisone. Hurray! The poor guy is so jacked up he has not been himself. He pants, paces, can't settle and follows me around the house, staring at me with that "You will open the food canister and pour the entire contents on the floor NOW" look on his face.

But he's not vomiting, has wonderful poop (did I type that out loud?) and eats with enthusiasm. So guess living with a strung-out steroid junkie has been worth it. He'll go from 25 mg of pred twice a day to 25 mg once a day. If things are still good in two weeks, he'll go to 25 mg every other day.

It is possible he might be able to go off the pred entirely but it's equally possible he'll be on it for the rest of his life. I don't care one way or another. I just want him to be comfortable and feel good.

Just as I got to the clinic, it started freezing rain. WTF? THAT wasn't in the forecast. When we left the clinic, my windows were iced over but nothing was falling from the sky. The drive home was uneventful.

Phoenix and I have our first agility trial of the year this weekend, a 3-day in Davenport. I have to pack the van tonight, good thing I've kept a running list of things that need to go. We haven't trialed for about two months and it seems like all of our trial junk has migrated out of the van into the house to be washed or repaired or whatever and never made its way back to the van.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Questions of being "ready" and "perfect"

When a friend asked me recently how to know when she was ready to debut her dog in Novice, half a dozen answers flashed through my mind.

The first one was, “Why in the world are you asking me, the Queen of Disastrous Debuts?” Well, that’s not entirely true but let’s face it, you’re talking to the person who flunked the Heel On Leash her first time in the Novice ring with the dog who went on to get an OTCh. So, really, how important are debuts, anyway!

But she asked in all seriousness and that IS a serious question. No one wants to have their initial foray into obedience be so disappointing they never go back. No matter your goals, you want to look like you’re ready to be in the ring.

Given that you have realistically trained and proofed the exercises and can do successful (would have qualified at a trial) run-throughs in a number of different locations without cookies and toys, you should be ready to show.

Oh, if it were only that simple.

Everyone defines “ready” differently and this is where things start to get sticky. How ready do you need to be? Ready to get a 171? Ready to get a 199?

Be honest with yourself. Do your goals match your available time and resources?

My friend’s next question was, “Does your dog need to be perfect in training before you show?” This depends on your personality and your goals. The answer is going to be different for everyone but generally, no, your don't doesn't have to be perfect in training, or nobody would ever enter obedience trials — 99.9 percent of us enter knowing full well our dogs are not perfect. Yeah, there is that remaining .1 percent whose dogs ARE perfect. But I think they’re space aliens. Just kidding.

If you are an obsessive/compulsive Type A highly competitive perfection freak (and I say that in the kindest way possible) who wants to go High In Trial with a 200 the first time in the ring, yes — your dog had better be perfect in training because you’re not going to feel prepared going into the ring with anything less.

If it is truly your goal in life to have a dog who rarely makes errors in the ring, good luck with that but you’re talking to the wrong person if you want advice ‘cuz I’m totally not into that level of perfection. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just not my style.

But if your goal is to have fun with your dog in the ring and do your best and then go home and work on what needs to be improved and try it again next weekend, then no — no pre-perfection required. That is basically how I’ve finished two OTChs so I know it worked for me.

Perfection itself is a very difficult thing to pin down, regardless of the venue.

In agility, performance is essentially a pass/fail situation. The dog either hits his contacts or he doesn’t. He either makes time or he doesn’t. Sure, there are some judgment calls (Was that a fly-off or not?) but for the most part, judges’ decisions are black and white.

Obedience judging is much more subjective and there’s an entire range of points, from 170 to 200, that are considered qualifying. If three different judges were to observe the same performance, chances are they would come up with three different scores. That’s the nature of the beast. What one judge considers a forged heel position, another might feel is perfectly correct. One might deduct 2 points for a slow response on a retrieve while another might deduct 3.

You can drive yourself crazy in short order by trying to be perfect when the standards of perfection change from judge to judge.

With that in mind, most highly accomplished handlers will tell you there is no such thing as a perfect run in either obedience or agility. No matter how fast, clean and focused or no matter how high the score, most handlers can always find something they think they could have done better.

Thus, there is no perfection in the ring and “perfection” in training is not a requirement for me before I debut my dog at a new level. Not all trainers will agree with me on that, but I tend to view showing as “on the job training.” We go in the ring. We do our thing. We learn from it. We work to get better in training, then we go back in the ring and see if we’ve improved.

I’ve gotten incredible scores for performances I felt were a little lacking and I’ve gotten very disappointing scores for runs I felt were totally awesome. That’s the way the game is played. If I only showed when I could be guaranteed of brilliant, class-winning performances under judges who saw everything the same way I did, I wouldn’t show very much. Okay, I wouldn’t show ever.

Instead of focusing on things that are out of my control, such as how a judge may see our performance or who is going to win the class, I prefer to keep the focus on personal best achievement and steady improvement. It’s the journey that counts.

Remember, beautiful things take time to create.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Odds and ends

Went to the local hospital this morning to have blood drawn for a fasting lipid panel.

Key word: fasting.

My cardiologist said a 8 hour fast would be fine. Then the lab orders he gave me said not to eat anything for 12-14 hours.


I take my food very seriously. I'm not sure I've ever gone 12 hours without eating in my life.

But I did it! Had supper last night at 7 p.m., blood drawn at 7:30 a.m. this morning.

Don't expect that to happen again any time soon.

Jamie is doing great. Thanks to the prednisone, he's hungry enough to eat the table legs. He'd never make it 12 1/2 hours without a meal.

We go back to the vet on Thursday for a progress check and re-evaluation. She should reduce the pred levels then.

Hope so, poor boy is drinking and peeing like a horse. I get up in the night to let him out and the Farmer lets him out several times during the day. Phoenix thinks getting to go out at 2 a.m. with his brother is the most totally awesome thing ever. If it were June, yeah, maybe. January? Not so much.


I'm learning more about inflammatory bowel disease. The biggest thing I've learned so far is that it is different in every dog. There is no such thing as a "standard" case of IBD.

I'm hoping once Jamie gets stabilized and down to very low doses of pred (or possibly even none?), I'll be able to relax his diet restrictions to a certain degree. At the moment, he can't even have his Cosequin DS because it contains "natural beef flavor." Ditto for his HeartGuard heartworm preventive.

The heartworm preventive isn't such a big deal in January. I've dropped him off everything and will do a heartworm test in the spring, then he'll go on Revolution.

I'm looking for a joint support formula that doesn't contain any "flavorings." GlycoFlex III is currently the top contender.

My club's awards banquet was held over the weekend. It was a great time, as usual. Lots of food and drink and fellowship.

Nix got awards for his GO, CDX and MX in 2010. It was a learning year for us and I'm thankful for every minute of it, even though a lot of things didn't go quite as I'd planned.

A friend of mine asked a question that I want to write about in more depth: When do I know if my dog is ready to show (in obedience)?

This kicked off a whole new train of thought about defining "ready" and does "ready" have to equal "perfect"?

Stay tuned. More to come.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's the little things

This is the first morning in almost three weeks that I:

• Haven't been worried because my dog refused food.

• Haven't been worried because my dog was throwing up.

• Haven't been worried because my dog had diarrhea.

• Haven't been worried because my dog curled up on the couch and wouldn't move.

• Haven't called the vet to schedule an appointment.

• Haven't called the vet because my dog was vomiting blood.

• Haven't called the vet to check on prescription refills.

• Haven't called the vet to give her my dog's status report.

• Haven't called the vet to check on test results.

• Haven't called the vet to question prescription dosage.

It's the little things that matter most.

I love my old dog.

I'm glad he gets to be one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ya gonna eat that?

Jamie started on some pretty heavy duty prednisone last night, as well as a limited ingredient food with a single protein and carbohydrate source. Figuring out what food to give him was nearly as complicated as the IBD diagnosis itself.

The vet wanted him to eat a "novel" protein source, one he's never been exposed to before. Definitely easier said than done. At his age, he's been there, ate that.

Commercial dog food manufacturers are including a much wider variety of protein sources in their off-the-shelf formulas these days. Ten or 15 years ago, the shelves were stocked with your basic beef, chicken and lamb formula kibble. The more exotic proteins were reserved for vet-prescribed diets, apparently with good reason. Nowadays, you can find buffalo, rabbit, venison, duck and a variety of fish formulas on the shelves of any big box store or pet supply boutique.

And that was the problem. I have always subscribed to the "rotate your protein source" theory. In other words, don't feed your dog the exact same thing his entire life because that could set him up for developing a food allergy. My vets at our local clinic supported this. (I say "vets" plural because in the 23 years I've gone to our local clinic, there have probably been 5-6 different small animal vets. They come. They go. They've all been great but due to the constant staff turnover, there hasn't been a great deal of continuity in treatment over any of my dogs' lifetimes. Worth a post in itself.)

Back to Jamie's diet - he has enjoyed a variety of "people food" over the years. He ate table scraps along with his regular food. Yes! Horrors! Table scraps! (This is the dog who has never been overweight in his life.) And canned mackerel and salmon. And hard-boiled eggs. And lots of cheese and hot dogs in training. And pretty much anything else he wanted. He was a goat.

Now, after nearly 12 years, Jamie has been exposed to so many different proteins, finding a novel one is nearly impossible. His vet at the emergency clinic was understandably frustrated.

"I wish people would just pick one food and stick with it," she said. "There's absolutely no reason to switch."

Yikes. Well, too late for us.

Jamie is eating potato and venison, even though he's already been exposed to venison. We'll see how it goes. Thanks to the mega dose of pred, he would probably eat the table legs, too, if he had a chance.

Here's a pic of me and Jamie from a long time ago. A very long time ago. (Sorry it's so small, I stole it back from the ABTC Web site.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Biopsy results are back

Jamie's stomach and intestinal biopsy results are back from Iowa State University.

He has moderate inflammatory bowel disease. Apparently, there are three stages: mild, moderate and severe.

No cancer was detected.

I am so relieved to A) have a diagnosis and B) that the diagnosis is not cancer I am practically dysfunctional at this point. I know IBD is neither curable nor pleasant but it is manageable and with care, he should be able to be comfortable and happy.

He will start on prednisone tonight, as well as a food with a single, novel protein source. This may be a little harder than the vets realize since Jamie has eaten darn near EVERYTHING in his life, one of the obvious drawbacks of feeding a variety of foods and not "being married" to any single brand or formula.

It's possible he's had this condition for quite some time but didn't show symptoms until recently. I asked the vet if it was strange that he's nearly 12 years old, has been a complete goat all his life and is just getting this now. She said not necessarily, it can happen to dogs of any age.

Live and learn.

Hug your dogs. Hug your partners. Life changes quickly.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A blast from the '80s

I am very susceptible to suggestion, so when Jennifer commented about Jamie needing leg warmers until his fur grew back . . . well . . . I just couldn't help it.

I don't know what's scarier: that I actually wore these in high school back in the '80s or that I still have them. And knew where to find them!

Cue "Flash Dance" music now.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday musings

If the paparazzi would leave me alone, I could finish killing this ball.

Hey, I never realized my dog had an arrow on his head. See it? It's pointing to, um, I'm not sure what? His teeth?

Jamie update: Apparently Jamie has forgotten he is sick. He is energetic, eating like a horse, not throwing up and having perfect poops. Believe me, I've been following him around the yard with a flashlight when he goes out at night. I'm turning into a poop stalker.

Still waiting to hear from ISU but at the moment, it's like last week never happened. Until I look at my MasterCard statement.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday snapshot

Mr. Sexy Legs

Jamie says if I post any more pictures of his 
unorthodox hair cut on the internet, he will bite me.

I'm pretty sure he wouldn't.

But he might tell Phoenix to do it.

Is that a chance you would take?

Today is a good day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The end of a long week

Jamie got home last night about 7 p.m. He was sleepy from the anesthesia but he was hungry, too, which is good.

He's on several different meds. At this point, we're just treating the symptoms until biopsy results come back (hopefully by middle of next week) and the vet(s) can formulate a plan for treating/managing whatever is going on in his gut. I'm not setting myself up for tragedy but I'm not expecting miracles either. It is what it is.

I finally sat down and made a list of what meds he takes and when he should take them. One of them (to calm the stomach) needs to be given 30 minutes before another one (which coats the stomach, helping it heal but preventing much absorption of any other meds given at the same time), which needs to be given three times a day, one hour before or two hours after eating. Plus two different antibiotics, which thankfully can be given together. It practically required an algebraic equation to get it all calculated and you know how good I am at math. There's a reason I write for a living!

Everyone had a good night's sleep and the Farmer has been pressed into the 2 p.m. medication distribution today, with careful instructions. Jamie could probably tell him which bottle to open and where to get the squishy treats to hide the pill in.

Jamie is now a top contender in the Tervuren With Horrible Haircut contest. He has shaved "anklets" on all four legs from IVs and blood draws, a bare tummy from the ultrasound and I'd whacked off his britches (an excellent idea in spite of the aesthetics and it made life much easier for both of us). He's got more bald spots than a Rogaine convention.

When I picked him up last night, the vet techs had thoughtfully wrapped his tail to keep it clean during the scope and for any post-procedure "leakage." It was bright pink vet wrap. Trust me when I say it's a startling look.

Phoenix has gotten away with some very outrageous behavior this week, mostly because I haven't had the energy or discipline to enforce the usual rules. Malinois are sure rules can change at any moment and should be tested frequently. He has helped me fix every single dog meal with his paws on the counter and at this rate, it's only a matter of time before the whole dog is up there. If you give him an inch he takes a mile.

When Jamie and I got home last night, I noticed there were socks scattered over the entire house. They were dirty socks out of the laundry hamper in the bathroom, which is usually open in spite of the obvious risk. When I asked Jeff about it, he rolled his eyes and said, "Your dog has been hauling socks since you left."

Cute huh? At our house, we talk about hauling cattle, hauling hay, hauling manure and hauling grain. Guess Phoenix was just being a farm dog. I've noticed he does this when he's anxious or bored. He just carries them around from place to place, never chews them, just re-purposes and re-distributes them. When he's getting a lot of attention and regular training and when life is not a stressball, the dirty socks generally stay where they belong.

We are all looking forward to a quiet weekend and THANK YOU EVERYONE for your continued e-mails, comments and phone calls. It means a lot to me and it would to Jamie, too, if he could read. Which I'm not entirely sure he can't.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Answers - sort of

The vet just called. Jamie came through the endoscopy fine and is in recovery.

The lining of his stomach, small intestine and colon are all raw and instead of being a smooth mucosal lining, the vet said they looked like "small rough cobblestones." They bled easily and excessively when the biopsies were taken. She said she saw "nothing that looked normal" in his entire digestive tract.

The biopsies will go to the vet school at Iowa State University but it will probably take about a week to get results back.

The vet was hesitant to commit to a diagnosis at this point but she said inflammatory bowel disease or cancer were two very distinct possibilities. I'm sure she didn't want to say more because it can be really hard to diagnose something by just looking at it and she didn't want to give me either false hopes or super bad news that might end up not being accurate.

Jamie's bloodwork remains totally normal. I meant to ask her if his bloodwork wouldn't show something out of whack if he had cancer but forgot. Will ask when I pick him up later this evening.

Until we get a more specific diagnosis (per the biopsies) he'll go back on megadoses of antibiotic and meds to coat and sooth the stomach.

I am so glad they finally found something. Having so many test results come back normal while my dog gave every indication he was NOT normal did not help any of us.

Waiting for the biopsy results will be hell but at least we have something to pursue now and I can get answers. It doesn't matter whether they will be answers I will like or not. They will be answers that help me make decisions and give Jamie the best care I can.

Upper and lower GI prep

I dropped Jamie off at the clinic in Iowa City this morning and came to work early. He's on the schedule for an endoscopy (upper and lower GI) after a couple of routine spays, so I hope to hear from the clinic by late morning regarding his procedure. I can call any time and ask about his status. They really are great people there.

Giving the prep liquid yesterday did not go well. Jamie hated it, I hated doing it to him and I would seriously question ever doing it to any dog I own in the future. If the tests today find a definitive problem, yes, it will have been worth it but if they are inconclusive, I feel like I spent 5 hours torturing my poor dog.

We started with the first dose at noon yesterday: 500 ml of the same stuff people drink before having a colonoscopy. Obviously, Jamie was not going to drink it voluntarily. Using a big plastic syringe, I squeezed a little bit at a time into his mouth. At first, he swallowed it. It took two hours to get that first 500 ml into him and I'm guessing only about 400 ml actually went down his throat.

Then he got a break until 6 p.m. when we did round two. This went faster - 1 1/4 hours - but was slightly worse than round one. Again, I got through 500 ml but am pretty sure they did not all go into the dog.

Jamie was so patient about it. He pinned his ears back and had this awful "Why are you doing this to me?" look in his eyes but he never fought or tried to run or get away. By the time we finished, he was clenching his teeth and refusing to swallow. A lot of it just ran out of his mouth.

By then I was anticipating him needing to go outside frequently and frantically, because the vet told me the solution would "kick in" after about 4 hours.


I took Jamie out nearly every hour (did I mention it was -2 last night?). Between 5:30 p.m. and 5 a.m., he pooped twice. It was awful diarrhea but I think that was to be expected and besides, that's what he's had for the last week so maybe there wasn't that much stuff inside him to start with, especially since he hadn't eaten much in the last 24 hours.

The final dose came at midnight. I was sleeping on an air mattress on the kitchen floor, which both dogs thought was very fun and exciting. Camping! Yay! Of course, Phoenix was right in the middle of everything because, well, that's Phoenix. He was really very sweet, giving Jamie kisses and wanting to sit next to him when I gave him the medicine.

We got through about 250 ml and Jamie had clearly had enough. He clenched his jaws shut and refused to swallow. He gagged and coughed. The towel he was sitting on was soaked from the stuff running out of his mouth. The final straw was when I reloaded the syringe, took hold of his muzzle and he growled at me.

Sweet, gentle, kind, patient, diplomatic, silly Jamie. Growled at me. For the first time in his entire life.

I put the syringe down. I gave him a hug and said, "Okay buddy, I agree. We're done."

I cleaned up the mess and we all curled up in a pile on the kitchen floor and sort of slept until 5 a.m. when I got up to get ready for work.

Will post more when I know something.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to square one

This morning Jamie was lethargic, refused food and had massive bouts of diarrhea.

We went back to the vet, who was as baffled and frustrated as I am. 

Jamie had an ultrasound, which was NORMAL.

Just like his bloodwork - NORMAL.

And the X-ray series - NORMAL.

And his temperature, heart rate, etc. - NORMAL

But he only eats about half the time. He alternates between vomiting bile and blood. His stools are all over the place. Literally.

He will have an endoscopy on Thursday. This is about the end of the line as far as diagnostics go because the next option is exploratory surgery and for me, that's just not an option on a dog who will soon turn 12. So keep your fingers crossed the biopsies something definitive because at this point, we don't have a freaking clue what's going on.

Tomorrow I get to start giving Jamie the same "prep juice" people take before colonoscopies so his gut is cleaned out. He gets three doses: one at noon, one at 6 p.m. and one at midnight. Guess who'll be sleeping on the kitchen floor tomorrow night so I can let him outside when he needs to go? I drug out my air mattress and sleeping bag already. And you just thought camping season was over.

Since I've spent the last week and a half washing diarrhea out of his butt fur almost daily, I finally wised up and got out the scissors tonight.

If you ever needed proof that I should NOT own a dog whose grooming requires precise scissoring, Jamie's butt should convince you. His britches are gone. So is part of his tail fluff. Poor guy. I'd take a picture but I think he's humiliated enough. Getting through the prep will be bad enough without having to keep washing his butt.

Tammy and Marsha always joked about putting him in a lion clip. Well, I've got it started.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Jamie got to come home this evening! I don't know who's happier: Jamie, me, Phoenix or the Farmer.

Jamie was obviously worried about being "in the hospital." I was worried about Jamie. Phoenix was worried about me and Jamie. The Farmer was worried about all of us - the crazy wife, the crazy wife's old dog, the crazy wife's young dog . . . but of course he never actually said he was worried . . . he would never actually SAY anything . . . because he's the Farmer . . . but I could tell.

As with so many things in life, this has produced more questions than answers. The bottom line, as much as we have one, is that Jamie probably has a bacterial overgrowth. Given that he responded so well to the IV antibiotics, Dr. Berger felt that any further diagnostics were not needed at this point.

Jamie will take 500 mg Metronidazole twice a day for two weeks, along with continuing the Previcid/famotidine, also twice a day. Thankfully, no more carafate to crush and mix. Figures, just as I was getting good at it. His appetite has come raging back . . . remember, he was raised by shelties . . . DO NOT turn your back on your food when he's around.

Since I went into this knowing there was the possibility of stomach cancer, a little extra bacteria almost seems like a picnic. If any of his symptoms return, then we'll do the ultrasound or an endoscopy to take a look at his stomach and possibly biopsy the stomach and small intestine.

Pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease were two other possibilities, although Dr. Berger had his doubts since both conditions usually do not appear for the first time in dogs Jamie's age.

Time will tell and I hesitate to say everything is just fine, but at least for now it's all good.

Phoenix obviously missed Jamie a lot. I could tell he was unsettled and worried last night and this morning because he kept bringing me things: hats, gloves, socks, underwear, shoes, slippers and underwear. He does this when he needs to "keep busy." Saturday night after I left Jamie at the clinic, I came home to find the Farmer asleep and Phoenix keeping vigil at the living room window, surrounded by a collection of, you guess it, hats, gloves, socks, underwear, shoes, slippers and underwear.

So when Jamie came home tonight, he and Phoenix were pretty funny. They were such BOYS.

Nix: Dude.

Jamie: Dude.

Nix: You're home. Cool.

Jamie: Yeah, cool.

Nix: You smell funny.

Jamie: Oh yeah? You LOOK funny.

Nix: Oh yeah? Do my TEETH look funny?

Jamie: Come a little closer, kid, I'll show you funny.

Boys, boys, boys . . .

Still not sure what's going on

Jamie is in intensive care at the Emergency Veterinary Services of Iowa City.

X-rays last night were negative for a foreign body and did not show any visible tumors. They did show a lot of gas distending his stomach and intestines, which indicates a very upset and out of whack digestive system.

He's gone 48 hours now since vomiting blood/having bloody diarrhea. Small victory. Apparently x-rays were a very stressful process, more diarrhea ensued in the clinic. Someone else got to clean it up this time.

Jamie will be on IV fluids and antibiotics for 12-24 hours. Dr. Berger is wondering if a raging bacterial infection might be responsible for everything. He wants to see what heavy duty antibiotic treatment will do
first (will it stop the vomiting/diarrhea?), re-do bloodwork and then we'll decide what to do next.

We did not do the ultrasound as originally planned last night. Dr. Berger did not feel it would give very accurate information, due to the large amount of gas distention in Jamie's gut. He also did not feel it would be helpful for showing an ulcer or indicators of stomach cancer. He thought an endoscopy would be a more accurate approach and one that we may take in the next day or so.

It's been an odd experience, to go to this clinic expecting XYZ to happen, then doing something entirely different. My head is spinning and I'm sure Jamie's is, too. The clinic will call me this morning with an update, then I'll go see him. I have a class with Phoenix in Iowa City this afternoon anyway, so can visit Jamie, go to class, then go back to the clinic to meet with Dr. Berger, since he is the "evening shift" doctor. This clinic is staffed 24/7, which is great. 

Will post again when I know more. Thanks, everyone, for your e-mails and phone calls.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The last 24 hours

Yesterday morning, Jamie was vomiting blood.

Oddly, this wasn't as dramatic as it sounds.

Oh sure, I rushed his furry butt to the vet but our visit there was just another step in what is becoming a very odd journey and I have no idea where we are going.

Flashback to November: Jamie barfing all over the house one morning, including the infamous "behind the entertainment center/down the heat vent" episode. We went to the vet then, because in addition to the barfing, there had been some occasional diarrhea and he would randomly refuse to eat his breakfast.

What worried me most was the refusal to eat. When I got Jamie, I had my shelties, Jess and Connor. I joke that Jamie was raised by shelties - he has incredible food drive. So not eating was kind of a big ol' warning light.

His November visit to the vet was inconclusive. She pronounced him hale and hearty. His bloodwork was within normal ranges and no swelling, hardness or tenderness of the abdomen. No alarm bells. The vet suspected acid reflux or something similar and sent us home with a week of Pepcid.

Barfing stopped. Eating resumed. Diarrhea ended. All was good.

The holidays came and went. Jamie occasionally blew off a meal but since he was bright eyed and energetic, chasing Phoenix around, poking the Farmer in the butt and begging cookies at every turn, I didn't think there was anything wrong.

Last week saw a return to the "I don't want breakfast, let me go barf behind a chair" routine. His overall attitude and energy level were good, however. He didn't ACT sick and I didn't get too excited until Thursday morning's bright pink, blood-flecked vomit episode.

Being the slightly OCD dog owner that I am, I scooped up a sample of the barf and took it to the vet along with a very disgruntled Jamie.

The vet ordered x-rays and an ultrasound. Strangely enough, the local clinic's x-ray machine isn't big enough to accommodate Jamie. (I thought that was odd, he's not THAT big of a dog.) So Saturday we are off to a clinic in Iowa City that can do both the x-rays and ultrasound.

Our vet suspects a bleeding ulcer or stomach cancer. Yeah, I'm little freaked about the latter. Stomach cancer in tervs presents at 8 times the rate it does in the general canine population and it seems to be epidemic in the breed now. It's high in Belgian sheepdogs, too, but practically non-existent in Belgian malinois.

The x-rays will show any mass in the stomach or the possibility of a foreign object. I think the foreign object is unlikely but who knows. The ultrasound will show thickness of the stomach lining, which can be an indicator of stomach cancer. It will also show the general size and placement of other organs.

Then we'll go from there. Endoscopy might be the next diagnostic, pending the outcome of the x-rays and ultrasound. I am really hoping for something conclusive. I hate not knowing.

Ironically, this is the same clinic where I took Connor for his liver cancer diagnosis and surgery 6 years ago. At that time, they were in the process of building a brand-new state of the art veterinary clinic just down the road. I am sure Connor helped fund a good portion of it so I'm looking forward to seeing the new facility and wonder if they possibly named an exam room after him. Or maybe a microscope or even a chair in the waiting room.

When I left our local clinic on Thursday morning, the vet picked up the plastic container with the sample I'd brought in.

"Do you want this back?" she asked.

I considered.

It wouldn't take much hot water and soap to clean it up and it was a handy, dandy little container for taking leftover and snacks to work.

"No," I said, shaking my head. "You keep it. No matter how long and hard I scrub that, it will always be the container that had bloody vomit in it."

She agreed and we had a good laugh.

Jamie is taking Pepcid and carafate to ease his stomach until we figure out what to do next. So far, so good. He ate with enthusiasm both last night and this morning, something that hasn't happened in about a week.

Believe me, there is a learning curve when it comes to crushing a carafate tablet, mixing it with water and giving orally via a syringe. I'm happy to say this morning's dose went much better than last night's. I got more in Jamie and less on me and the kitchen cupboards.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Phoenix's late b-day present

No, it's not a cat or his own personal oppossum.

I bought Phoenix a dog bed.

This is uncharted territory for me. I have never bought a dog bed before. My dogs either had thick sheepskin pads to sleep on or they slept on the bed with us. Jamie didn't want to sleep with us (humans are hot, lumpy, take up too much room and snore.) Jamie didn't particularly want to sleep on his sheepskin pad either. He usually shoved it out of the way or made it into a pillow. He would really like me to tear the carpet out of the bedroom so he could sleep on the nice cool hardwood floor again.

Phoenix, however, is all about sleeping on a bed. Preferably the humans' bed. Whether or not there's room for him. He's very wiggly and squirmy and can always find a spot. Did you know Malinois are boneless? Kinda like an octopus. They just sort of ooze into any unoccupied space and good luck getting them out of it.

We tried letting him sleep on the bed for awhile. It didn't work. Oh, it worked fine from Phoenix's point of view. Not so much for me and the Farmer. It was like sleeping with 53-pound sack of cement. He was an excellent foot warmer until you realized it didn't matter if your feet were warm or not because you didn't have any feeling below your knees.

Anyway, now the rule is, he can stay on the bed while we watch TV or read before going to sleep. When the lights and TV go off, he is supposed to get off the bed. Which he does. With a great deal of grumbling. He curls up on his sheepskin pad by the bed, lets out a very loud "woe is me, I am a small abused dog" groan and goes to sleep.

So I thought maybe if he had his own very soft and squishy bed, getting kicked off of ours wouldn't be so traumatic.

The bed came yesterday in a very big box.

What's this? For me? Cool!

It's not as nice as the humans' bed
but I suppose it will have to do.
Maybe one of THEM would like to sleep on it.

Anything else in here I should know about?
Here, kitty, kitty!

Hmmm . . . no cat . . . maybe it's on back order.

Seriously, Mom, did you just take a picture of my butt?

Anything he can do, I can better,
I can do anything better than him . . .

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Last night I went outside to feed the cats in the machine shed/garage when I got home from work.

Phoenix went with me. If just the gray kitty is there, he can go see her. Why she puts up with him is beyond me. If the yellow cat is there, Phoenix has to stay inside the kennel while I feed the cats. He would probably kill the yellow cat. Actually, I share his dislike of the yellow cat but don't condone random bloodshed.

I am actually impressed at Phoenix's relationship with the gray cat. She purrs and arches and rub and he pokes her and sniffs her butt and tries to squash her with a paw and occasionally nibbles on various parts. This is not affection on his part but a thinly veiled attempt to make her RUN! She refuses to run so she is the perfect cat for Phoenix.

The yellow cat is a total peckerhead.

He is an un-neutered tom cat and he is just plain mean. All attempts at taming him and being friendly have failed. He hates me. He hates the dogs. And he hates the gray cat. He beats on her every chance he gets, usually for no apparent reason. The gray cat is old. She doesn't fight back, just curls up and takes it.

So I always put down two bowls of food to prevent squabbles.

Last night, yellow cat wasn't there. Phoenix was happily molesting the gray cat, who was happily munching her food, purring and being senile. (That's the ONLY reason I can come up with for her tolerance of Phoenix.)

Then Phoenix stopped. He sniffed. He stood up on his hind legs. He got very stiff. He was sniffing the cat box that sits up on a shelf. (There are two winterized cat boxes in the garage with thick old crate pads in the bottoms and heavy blankets draped over them. Believe me, if gray cat and yellow cat can't eat out of the same bowl they aren't about to sleep in the same box.)

I figured yellow cat was hiding in the box. I grabbed Phoenix and shoved him back through the kennel door. He was now pitching a fit.

Then I grabbed the blanket over the box and yanked it back, expecting to find yellow cat.

Instead, I found an opossum (possum? opossum?).

Should have run back in the house for my camera. But I didn't. I just stared.

Opossums are not attractive.

Or cute.

Or anything.

They are pretty damn scary ugly.

And this was one angry opossum.

I squeaked.

It hissed.

Phoenix tried climbing the chain link.

I dropped the blanket, snatched up yellow cat's bowl of food (sorry, you crabby ol' thing, but if you're not here when supper is served I am NOT leaving your food bowl out for opossum chow) and bolted from the garage.

Gray cat was still eating her supper in total bliss, happily free of malinois and tom cats.

The opossum was gone this morning.

Now Phoenix has a new mission in life. FIND THE CRITTER IN THE GARAGE!

I suspect it will be back. The lure of free cat food is pretty strong and it looked pretty darn cozy curled up in the cat box.

At least it probably won't fall out of the rafters and knock the outside mirror off 3PO like the raccoon did.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chip off the old block

This is Phoenix's mom and pop.
From left: Promise, almost 12, and Titus, almost 10
(Photos courtesy of Catherine Shields, Carousel Malinois)

It's easy to see where he gets his good looks.
I can see a little bit of him in both of them.

I wonder how much time they spend
walking around with contraband socks?
Shoving balls under the furniture?
Grabbing bath towels . . . while they're being used?
Pretending to be invisible on the bed?
Putting holes in things that don't need holes put in them?
Stalking cats?
Attacking hair dryers?

Really, if they knew what their kid was like, they'd just shake their heads.

Thanks, Promise and Titus, for creating the Wild litter.
Thanks, Catherine and Holly for arranging the romance.