Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hot Diggity Dog

I will now introduce you to Astrid, the only non-feline four-legged furball in my life. My sister and I are technically the owners of Astrid, but for the record, our dad thinks she’s just about the best thing since sliced bread. And Astrid thinks the same of him. And I’m also pretty sure she thinks the same thing about herself.

Astrid is roughly one and a half years old. She is a mixed breed, consisting of what we guess to be shepherd/lab/you-name-it. My sister and I acquired her as a rescue when she was at around five months of age, after she appeared in our uncle’s yard one day in July 2013 and jumped -- literally jumped -- into his arms. No one ever came forward to claim her, and she had no microchip, nor had she been spayed. So we took her in.

Overall, Astrid came to us relatively healthy, although she was slightly undernourished and had fleas and tapeworm. We also noticed that she walked with a slightly abnormal gait, her right hind leg twisting slightly when she ambulated as well as when she sat down. Immediately after bringing Astrid home we began treating her for fleas, and not long after that she went in for her first vet visit, where she received her first vaccines and was de-wormed. She weighed in at thirty pounds.

A few weeks later Astrid was spayed, and while under anesthesia the veterinarian took the opportunity to x-ray Astrid’s leg. It was revealed that in her right hind leg she is actually missing the femoral head, which is the uppermost portion of the thigh bone, the part that fits into the socket. The femoral head is what is surgically removed to relieve pain in animals with arthritis, so a missing femoral head is a strange thing to see in a puppy, yet it could have been caused by an injury at a very young age. The good news is that her missing femoral head means Astrid will never have arthritis in her right hip! More or less fully grown now, Astrid does still have a slightly altered gait, and the leg still has that abnormal twist when she walks and sits. It does not seem to cause her any pain, though, nor does it hinder her ability to jump really, really high.

Fast forward to now, and one-and-a-half-year-old Astrid is doing great. She now weighs in at almost fifty-five pounds. She is very tall, and we like to tell her that she has stilts for legs.

Astrid is happy and active -- very happy and very active. She likes to run, and she likes to jump, and she likes to put anything and everything in her mouth. On most days she seems to have more energy than the Energizer Bunny. But, for the most part, she is a good girl. Sure, she has her moments of something along the lines of mania. And yes, there are times when I don’t know whether to pull my hair out or go sit in the corner and laugh like a lunatic. But really, though, Astrid is a good girl, and each day that she gets farther away from puppyhood the more her behaviors improve. Also, she is an expert at using her puppy dog eyes to her advantage.

Astrid is a smart girl, if I do say so myself, and she is doing well with her training. She is a quick learner and usually learns tricks in a matter of minutes. I know, I sound like a proud mother, but that’s because I am…usually. Yet there is the matter that, although my sister and I are working on her socialization, Astrid has displayed timidity toward strangers as well as a fear of other dogs ever since the time we acquired her. And when I say a fear of other dogs I mean a fear of other dogs -- as in, when a dog with a mean bark approaches, apparently the only viable option is to run away really, really fast. We don’t know if she had a bad experience with another dog prior to us acquiring her, but, regardless, we are working on this. On another note, although her size and activity level warrant supervision during playtime, Astrid seems to like cats. Which is great, since there are a total of six cats that she frequently interacts with.

So, now you’ve met Astrid. The bottom line is that adorable Astrid is a real hoot, and she is sweet and for the most part she is a good girl. She is a source of great entertainment in my life, and I'm sure I will be sharing many stories starring Astrid on this here blog.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wounded Warrior

In this post I will give you a full introduction to my boy Evan. In my brief first post I indicated to you that Evan's story is a special one, so now you'll find out why.

World, meet Evan.

 Yeah, he's not too keen on photo shoots. Let's try that again.

One more try?

Well, anyway. Evan is a handsome orange tabby, in case you could not tell from those high quality, high class photos. He is almost a year and a half old, and I adopted him about a year ago. Evan is active and playful, just as any cat should be. He is also quite feisty at times, and he requires extra special attention and care. Why? Let me first show you:

Evan does not have the use of his hind legs.

In May of last year, 2013, Evan was dumped at the front door of the veterinary clinic where I worked at the time. There was a note attached to the carrier in which he was found, and what the note divulged was that some Good Samaritans dropped him at the clinic because they were financially constrained yet wanted him to receive some much needed care. Why? Because a coyote had gotten into the barn where his mother and her young litter of kittens lived, and Evan was the sole survivor.

I was the first person to arrive to work that day, and I found the carrier at the front door. At first I thought the carrier was empty. Then I picked it up and felt a slight weight shift inside, and that's when I saw the tiny kitten. He was roughly six weeks old, and he weighed just one pound. Just by my first look into the carrier I could see that he was in rough shape. His hind legs were clearly atrophied and dragging behind him. He had ocular discharge, as well as diarrhea. His history and medical status were not known, and for the safety of the other cats in the hospital he had to be put in isolation until it was certain that he was not a risk.

Soon after Evan arrived at the clinic, x-rays were done. However, at such a young age, a kitten’s bones will not even be fully formed and fused yet, so the x-rays were not able to offer true diagnostics. A physical examination revealed no lacerations or puncture wounds, but there was bruising on Evan’s legs and abdomen.

Evan was started on necessary treatments, including physical rehabilitation. Both for his comfort and due to the fact that he let us know loud and clear that he was not a fan of the exercises, Evan’s rehabilitation sessions were kept short. At times he seemed to display some progress, and he would occasionally stand on his hind legs and even make attempts at walking on them. However, especially as he grew older and larger and had more weight to bear on the legs, the progress in his ambulation halted and ultimately even seemed to decline. He resorted to simply pulling himself by his front legs, letting his back legs drag behind him.

During these weeks of rehabilitation other further diagnostics were done. It was determined that Evan was negative for feline leukemia and FIV. Aside from the disuse of his hind limbs, he seemed otherwise healthy. At that point in time he was deemed healthy enough to meet the clinic's other in-house and adoptable cats, which he absolutely loved. He was also deemed healthy enough for adoption.

With Evan roughly five months of age, I decided to adopt him and take him home with me. He adjusted well to his new home, although he was, understandably, a bit reserved at first. Yet he quickly grew to enjoy the extra attention of me and my family as well as his new home environment. In fact, although he enjoyed visiting with the clinic cats, when he would go back to the clinic for further treatment he would seem eager to leave that old home of his in order to return to his new home.

At almost six months of age, when Evan was under anesthesia for his neuter, recheck x-rays were done. They revealed improper formation of especially his right hip. In addition, as a result of having to pull his weight with his front legs, he had developed scoliosis. All in all, the diagnosis was that he would never be able to ambulate with his hind legs. At that point, though, we all had come to expect that and had already come to terms with it.

Fast forward to now, at a year a half old and eleven pounds, Evan is doing great. Of course, he does require special care. Obviously, Evan cannot jump. If he needs or wants on something up high (such as to sit on the couch with his doting mother) he requires either a makeshift ramp or to be lifted up. That's no biggie, though, and he has no problem alerting me to when he would like my help onto something. Also, despite all attempts and inventions thus far, Evan cannot use a litter box, as he either cannot easily climb into it or he ends up dragging it around with him. Also, ever since kittenhood Evan has seemed to consider litter boxes to be sandboxes for playing in. As a result, he is trained to use a towel as a makeshift litter box, urinating and defecating on the towel. He knows to go to his towel area when he needs to urinate or defecate, and he even buries his mess when he’s done. This does make for a plethora of laundry, but Evan’s certainly worth it.

The primary medical complication he has as a result of his hind limb dysfunction is that, since he does drag himself along the floor, he tends to get sores on his abdomen and hind legs. He prefers to pull himself with his hind legs shifted slightly out to his right, which leaves his left hind leg more exposed to abrasion when he moves about. He does not allow me to bandage or wrap the area in order to keep it from becoming abraded. Believe me, I tried this method of covering the most vulnerable regions of his abdomen and legs. The attempt was an epic fail -- it escalated into the feistiest, angriest Evan I have ever witnessed. Prior to that I had also considered getting him a cart with wheels, but since he displayed a complete lack of tolerance for anything touching let alone constricting his abdomen and legs, that idea was also nixed. It was not worth it to stress him that much. Therefore, I simply address his sores as they arise, doing what I can to keep them clean and medicated as needed.

At this point in time Evan displays no signs of pain or discomfort as a result of his altered mode of ambulation. There is, of course, a chance that in the future he may develop arthritis or other such pain from the extra strain put on his forelimbs. I am aware of this and of course will address the issue should it arise.

Overall, Evan makes do just fine with what he has. He is playful and active, and he can outrun me even with only his front legs. He is still feisty at times, and ever since the day I met him he has had a penchant for occasional outbursts. These usually come on suddenly and without warning, and they typically look something like this:

But, after the trauma of losing his entire feline family as well as the use of his hind legs to a coyote, I think I can allow Evan his occasional moments of feisty frustration. What’s more, he has made vast behavioral progress. He seems to grow increasingly affectionate every day. Honestly, his outbursts are few and far between now. Evan loves to rub against human legs and roll belly-up. He loves to follow his mom, yours truly, around the house and lets her know with a gentle touch when he would like held and cuddled. Now, the rare times When Evan's cuddles do turn into one of his feisty outbursts, it’s never long before sweet Evan returns.

Now I’ll take a brief moment to note that I did not choose the name Evan for him, but I did not change it upon adopting him. It was the veterinarian who owned the clinic where he was dumped that named him Evan. In Celtic the name means “young warrior,” which is perfectly suitable for him. (For what it’s worth, I also call him Evan Fergus, because it seems to fit him, and it has a nice ring to it, especially when you say it in a proper Irish accent. But I digress.)

So, world, meet Evan.

I’m told he’s a momma’s boy, and so be it. I am proud of my special boy and am honored to be his mom.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

All hail the Queen.

It only seems right that the first of my four-legged furballs I introduce here would be Rosie, otherwise known as Queen Rosie.

Queen Rosie
When I refer to Rosie as the Queen what I mean is that, in this furry corner of the world of mine, essentially everyone and everything revolves around Rosie. That's okay, though, because she's put in her time. At the beginning of this month Rosie turned 21 years young. I've had Rosie since I was a very young child. I grew up with her.

Now, in her geriatric years, Rosie is battling renal disease and arthritis, and she even fought off a severe case of pancreatitis and hepatitis two years ago. She also has -- excuse me while I use watered down medical terminology here -- a bad eye. At this point in time the eye is not causing her any problems or symptoms, but in the future it could result in glaucoma, which can be very painful and for which the only true cure is to have the eye removed. Through all of her ailments, though, Rosie has been a real trouper. It seems that nothing can bring her down. In fact, back when she was being treated for pancreatitis and hepatitis, she was deemed “bionic” by the veterinarian caring for her. What’s more, upon meeting Rosie, no one ever seems to believe me when I inform them that she is twenty-one years of age. I can only hope that I’ll age as well as Rosie.

I should give credit where credit is due, though. Helping Rosie fight her ailments is indeed an impressive pharmacy of medications. One of these is RenAvast, a relatively new nutraceutical that promotes healthy renal function. It has not been on the market for very long, but it has worked wonders for Rosie. On RenAvast, Rosie not only acts happier and healthier, but her renal values (BUN, creatinine, etc.) have been not only remaining static but at times even showing improvement. In fact, at her most recent vet visit a few weeks ago, her renal values were at levels lower than when she was first diagnosed with the disease. In addition to RenAvast, Rosie is on potassium supplementation and famotidine (pepcid) to further assist with issues arising from her renal disease, and she receives subcutaneous fluids daily to help flush out the circulating toxins caused by her faulty kidneys. She is also on a low dose of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for her arthritis.

So, as I said, Rosie is certainly on an impressive pharmacy of drugs. But, since with these medications she is thriving in her geriatric years, I won’t complain a bit. After all, just like us, our animals age. And, just like with us, age is not a reason to simply throw in the towel. Quite the opposite, actually. So, if giving Rosie a pharmacy’s worth of medications makes her feel more or less young again, then that’s what she’ll get.

And then there’s the fact that Rosie has taught me that just because an animal is aging does not mean he or she can’t offer us just as much companionship and undeniable entertainment that he or she offered as a youngster. Yes, my once young and playful Rosie has certainly slowed down, but, at the same time, she has become sassier and at times riotously set in her ways. When Rosie wants fed she lets that fact be known loud and clear, and then she gets fed right then and there. Seriously, she gets fed on the couch in the living room, because that’s where she wants to eat.

Rosie invented the "couble" -- a couch and table all rolled into one.
Talk about breakfast -- and lunch, dinner, snack, and everything in between -- in bed. Speaking of which, when Rosie wants help getting onto my bed in the wee hours of the morning, she lets me know with a meow that could wake even the dead from their slumber. And so what do I do? Of course I immediately jump out of bed and lend her a helping hand onto my bed, and then I swiftly contort myself into whatever position she demands of me. And then there’s the fact that when Rosie physically demands the very blanket off my lap, I relinquish it without question. And when Rosie wants the resident dog or five other cats to give her some much needed space, she lets them know with a wail or a hiss or a swift slap in the face, and sometimes all of the above. And then, with a hop, skip, and a jump, I corral the young hooligans out of Rosie’s sight.

As I said, Rosie is the Queen of this furry brood of animals, and she deserves to be. After all, to put it in perspective, she is the equivalent of a human being who has made it to roughly one hundred years of age. We must respect our elders. So, all hail the Queen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Meet the menagerie.

This first post will give you a brief introduction to my family of four-legged furballs. Over the next few posts I will individually introduce you to each one of them, but for now let me give you a quick synopsis of the cuteness to come.

The following four are my furballs:

Rosie is technically my parents' cat, as they adopted her a long, long time ago when I was very young. Having had her since I was a very small child, I spend a lot of time with Rosie and hope to have her by my side for as long as possible.

I technically co-own Astrid with my sister. She is the only dog we have. I guess that's a good thing, as she has proven herself to be terrified of other dogs. She loves cats, though, which, as you'll see, is a good thing.

Evan is my baby boy. His story is a special one, and I will share it with you soon.

Last but certainly not least of my furball children is little girl Thimble. She's one of the cutest things I've ever seen, if I do say so myself.

Now, there are three more furballs I'd like to introduce you to. These three may not be mine in the sense that I am their primary caregiver, but they certainly deserve a place on this blog as well.

Trapper and Talon are my parents' cats, and Toby is my sister's. These three boys are my little Thimble's brothers. You'll know this adorable litter's full story soon enough.

There is much cuteness to come. I promise.