Life with Shadow & Ducky

I haven’t put up a blog post in a couple of weeks; and the ones I’ve put up lately have been mostly about either one or the other of my dogs.

So I thought I’d serve up a helping of both my dogs.

They get along pretty well these days. Some days they mostly ignore each other, and some days they look for squirrels together. *BUT* they get along.

Since her stem cell infusion nearly two months ago, Shadow has been rejuvenated. She has a new lease on life. That sparkle is back in her eyes. And her beautiful, floofy tail is more often than not in line with her backbone and wagging, or at least swishing back and forth.

And Ducky? Oh, this little one is quite the character. Just watching her stalk and chase the squirrels is entertainment without equal! She would literally spend the entire day in the back yard if one of us were out here with her.

And nothing makes my heart happier than seeing these two choose to share a tender moment, like this…

Have a tail-wagging weekend everyone!!

Shadow’s Exciting News, Part 2

Well, here we are five days into Week 3 of Shadow’s stem cell infusion; and the results are, well let’s just say A – mazing.  (I just wish I had before and after videos.)

If you missed the first post, you can read it here.

As you know, hubby and I – and the vet – went into this with cautious optimism and excitement over the possibilities for both Shadow and future pets. After all, this therapy IS still in the clinical trials stage.

I am beyond happy about, beyond excited about, and extremely grateful for the results we have been seeing already….

Shadow’s mobility has already improved about tenfold. After her little tumble in the backyard – about a week before the infusion – I figured the early signs we were seeing were simply the healing effects of the Gabapentin, CBD oil gel caps, and Tylenol 3 I’d been giving her. However, I had stopped the Tylenol 3 completely over that weekend prior to the infusion. And, due to my supplier’s lack of response to phone calls about the latest shipment, I also had to halve the dosage of the CBD oil gel caps. Yet, four days after the infusion hubby and I noticed that Shadow was indeed walking better and getting up and down the three steps better than before. And she continues to improve. Also, she isn’t struggling as much to get her back end up off the carpeted floors. In fact, she barely struggled at all this morning. And getting up off the linoleum floors is getting easier for her as well.

Shadow’s confidence in her own physical abilities is growing in subtle amounts…

She’s not “tiptoeing” across the kitchen floor – to keep her balance on the slippery surface – as much. In fact, this morning I noticed she walked normally from one side of the floor to the other with her head held high! And she didn’t have her slipper socks on, either!

Sometimes, in the morning mostly, Shadow will not eat her breakfast out of the bowl if I put it in the stand. The noise the bowls make when they move around seem to make her wary. (Yet it doesn’t seem to bother her at dinner time.) This morning, though, she stood at the bowl stand waiting for me to put her bowl in it and then ate all but four or five bites of it standing at the bowl. For now, I’ll attribute that bit of courage to the fact that she was hungry after yesterday’s reduced appetite status.

Shadow had been having normal poops as well; but between the stress of having been at the vet on Thursday morning, and then Ducky’s jealous streak on Friday night, they went back to being “yucky” again and still are today. I need to talk to the vet about that tomorrow. I have an idea of what’s causing it today, but I’ll keep it to myself for now. Hopefully it will go back to normal in a day or so.

Shadow’s Exciting News

Shadow is participating in a clinical trial!

Let me begin by telling you that back in May – while I was still at my brother’s home – one of our two vets at Sunrise Animal Hospital called to talk to me about an exciting new treatment for canine joint disease that is still in the clinical testing phase.

Dr. Simpson told me that this new therapy (HUC-DT) uses the stem cells from human umbilical cords; and that he felt Shadow would be a good candidate for the treatment. A quick note here for those of you who, like me, have heard of stem cell therapy but aren’t familiar with how it works: stem cells are the cells present in all our bodies that are there to help heal and rebuild tissues. As we age, we have fewer stem cells but their healing and regenerative effect remains intact if needed.*

When we give a pet human stem cells, the stem cells migrate to the areas of pain and inflammation by following the body’s natural cues, and anchor themselves within the tissues, and begin stimulating the dog’s natural stem cell population to fight inflammation and rebuild tissues.”

The old method of using stem cell therapies in pets was mostly limited to what is known as mesenchymal stem cell transplants (MST). This method required not one surgery, but two surgeries. The first surgery involved anesthetizing the pet and harvesting a large amount of fat cells. Those cells were then sent to a lab where the stem cells were extracted, given various chemical treatments to “boost their vitality”, and shipped back to the veterinarian. Then the pet had to undergo anesthesia a second time to have the treated stem cells implanted. Such a process is not only costly and time-consuming, but also puts the pet at risk of potential dangerous anesthesia side effects twice. Not really a viable option for the older pet.*

The process Dr. Simpson used for Shadow (and other patients, including his own dog) does not involve anesthesia, or any chemicals to boost the stem cells’ viability. Dr. Simpson explains the whole procedure in the video clip below. (We had a slight technical issue at the very beginning which cut off some of Dr. Simpson’s introduction, but that’s okay. You can still get the idea.)

We also took videos of Shadow walking, and then jogging, down the long hallway outside the treatment area so we can document the results of the therapy. And we took some other photos as well.

Hubby and I are both cautiously optimistic about the eventual positive effects on Shadow’s overall quality of life; and excited by the all-natural and safety aspects of the treatment.

On average, results can be expected between four and six weeks following the treatment; but many of Dr. Simpson’s other patients started presenting subtle changes in behavior within two weeks that indicated the treatment was already helping them. I will follow up with more blog posts about how the treatment works for Shadow.

Lastly, I want to give credit where it’s due: All of the “technical” wording that’s either followed by an asterisk (*) or set within quotation marks is either paraphrased or directly quoted from Dr. Simpson’s white paper that he wrote about the HUC-DT treatment. He provided me with a copy for information purposes, and so I could write this post. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments. If I don’t know the answers, I’ll ask Dr. Simpson.

Oh, The Things I’ve Missed!

The things I missed while I was away from home are too numerous to count.

Events like the birth of our fourth grandchild, who also happens to be our first granddaughter. (But I have photos!)

Dates like Ducky’s sixth birthday; like Valentine’s Day. And dates like Shadow’s half birthday on what has always been Callie’s full birthday.

And big things like watching Shadow go down (and back up) the steps to the office/laundry room (and back door) unassisted.

And little things like watching Ducky stalk the squirrels, run the fence lines with the neighbors’ dogs, and chase the birds off the fence posts.

And replenishing things like Hubby’s hugs and good night kisses, Ducky’s puppy kisses, and Shadow’s “hugs” against my thighs.

In between re-organizing things the way I want them, cleaning up a mess created by inclement weather, and getting back into somewhat of a routine, I’m trying to spend less time on my devices and more time with my family. So forgive me for being so behind in reading your blog posts.

While I Was Gone…

Have you been wondering where we’ve been the last few months? Well, I promise we hadn’t forgotten about you all. It’s just that our living arrangements were a bit skewed.

I spent the last few months helping my brother take care of some household work that’s more easily handled by two (or more) persons. And making sure his dog, Boozy, got the love and attention he deserves throughout. And look at this face. Isn’t he precious?!

I admit that although I was happy to be able to help my brother, I left home with some anxiety about leaving Shadow and Ducky alone with their dog-daddy. Thankfully, Angel Callie, God, and the universe were watching over them all and things were pretty peaceful.

Some of the good news is that Ducky was – in hubby’s words – “really, really good” and got along fine with Shadow.

While I was gone, hubby decided to allow Ducky the freedom to roam the house with Shadow whenever he had to go out somewhere. I wasn’t very happy about it at first. I know how snarky Ducky can be toward Shadow at times. But there was never any sign of even the slightest “argument” between them, so I relaxed. Angel Callie was watching over her sisters for me.

Then there’s Ducky’s rather vociferous way of saying “I have to go out.” I was a bit concerned that the ever-impatient dog-daddy would make her forever afraid of him with his grumpy responses. Thankfully, hubby kept his cool more often than not.

Long-time readers of our blog know that Shadow has caused me some rather stressful hours, days, and even weeks with her eating habits over the last few years.

In February – before I left to go to my brother’s home – I was still splitting her breakfast into two meals. And getting stressed when she wouldn’t eat. And hubby continued the “schedule” for the first two weeks. And he started getting stressed-out about her not eating. And he’d call me and get me stressed-out.

Then I “decided” our stress was getting to Shadow and making it worse for her. So, I instructed him to just pick up and cover her bowl when she wouldn’t eat and stick it in the fridge. “Just give it to her for dinner.” Some mornings she ate all her food, some mornings only some of it, and some mornings she wouldn’t touch it. But by dinner time she was hungry enough to eat a full meal.

I came home for a week while my brother’s best buddy visited with him. Shadow’s follow-up blood work and abdominal ultrasound came due that week. More good news: her liver enzyme levels were back to normal and the nodule on her spleen was still unchanged (after a year’s time). The vet said to keep her on the Denamarin long-term “and keep up the good work” with her exercise.

So, while she still refuses to eat some mornings, my girl is doing really well for her age. And I no longer worry if she doesn’t eat breakfast, as long as she eats dinner and otherwise acts “normal” during the day.

As the weeks stretched into months, I grew more and more concerned about hubby’s stress levels. He’s not meant to be a “bachelor”. It was past time to come home. I’ve been here a week now. I miss my brother and Boozy – and they miss me – but I’m back where I belong. And it feels good.

Finding Solutions

You might remember from my last post, “New Year, New Hopes“, that I’ve been trying (for a long time) to figure out why Shadow was being so “difficult” at meal times.

There were so many possible reasons for it that it made my head spin. And, it hurt my heart not being able to find a long-term solution.

Maybe, just maybe, the elevated bowl(s) will be that solution. Or at least one in a combination of solutions used together.

The probiotics are helping with the IBS issues; but that’s only a part of it.

It’s going to take time for her to get used to the new bowl setup.

I already had to change the height of the stand. And, I might need to change it again depending on if/how much Shadow’s neck muscles tense up on her again.

And, I had to move the food from the new bowl to her old one, wash the new one and set the old one inside of it.

And a few times I had to spoon feed the poor girl yesterday and this morning. BUT she ate her whole meal at one meal time! I can’t remember the last time that happened!

I also have a new floor mat for under the stand (the one in the photo). I’m not sure Shadow quite trusts it yet to stay put. But with the stand holding it in place, maybe she’ll trust it sooner.

Perhaps she needs to wear her slipper socks in the house. Perhaps just on her back paws. I know they help her walk better on the treadmill. She hadn’t seemed to need them this past week or two; but yesterday morning she seemed a teensy bit unsteady in the kitchen again.

With the changes I had to make for Shadow yesterday morning came the “revelation” that they won’t work for Ducky. A few minor, easy changes at and after meal times will take care of that. Like this one…The old placemat and water bowl on top of the new floor mat. And when it’s Ducky’s turn to eat, I’ll just move the stand to the other side of the dishwasher.

New Year, New Hopes

Happy New Year, Friends! I know, I’m two weeks late. That’s because our celebration got put on hold on New Year’s night.

Ducky has been on leash restriction in the back yard since January 2nd. She hurt herself during a zoomies attack on New Year’s Day.

Okay, so for the hopes…..

Ducky has been really, really “good” these past two weeks. She has had her moments; but generally speaking, she has dealt with the physical inactivity quite well. (Thanks to nose work games, some limited slow walks on the treadmill, and twice-daily pain meds.) It makes me hopeful that helping her to calm down – or stay calm – will continue to get easier. Today is her first day of freedom; and after 20 minutes of fun in the yard and another 10 here in the house, this is the result….Heehee.

Then there’s Shadow. I’m still having to spoon-feed her at times in order to get her to eat. And so many questions in my head. Up until the middle of last week, her knee was still bothering her. She had a hard time standing in the kitchen or bathroom. She didn’t trust the throw rugs to not skid underneath her.

Now the knee is healed, she’s enjoying her time outside, and she’s even inviting Ducky to play. Last week the vet watched a short video I made of Shadow attempting to eat her meals. I asked him if maybe her depth perception issues might be causing her “pecking” motions at her plate/bowl.

After watching the video, he felt around her neck and shoulders and said that her muscles were somewhat tense. That discomfort was more likely the cause. And, it made the proverbial lightbulb turn on over my head. That discomfort in her neck – especially – and shoulders was probably why she had been walking away from her bowl but gladly eating off the spoon that I was holding up to her normal chin level. It wasn’t that she was playing me for the special attention. It was that it hurt too much to lower her head close enough to her bowl long enough to eat.

The arctic air wave of the week plus around the holidays just made it tougher on all of us – my and hubby’s joints were bothering us more than normal too – but the last few days of sunshine and slightly warmer temps gave us all some relief.

This morning Shadow went right to the plate of food and ate it without pause. Well, she did pause when I turned it around for her but only for a moment.

My hopes for Shadow? No more pulled CCL’s; no more severe arctic air waves to worsen her joint and muscle aches; and, fewer age-related health issues. And many more happy, playful days here with us.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 🎉🐶🐶💗

Callie’s Here

Have you seen the movie, “A Dog’s Purpose”? Just in case you haven’t, I won’t tell you how it ends. I can tell you I used a bunch of tissues. 😢

And I will tell you that at the end of the movie, when the dog starts barking at his owner, Shadow went from laying on her side to sitting up and watching intently. 🐶

When Callie and Shadow were youngsters, Callie would always sit in front of the TV – watching intently – if there were dogs or other animals on any program we were watching. And sometimes if the dogs on the TV were acting out, Callie would bark at them as if she were trying to tell them to relax. Meanwhile, Shadow would just chill out, wondering what all the fuss was about. As I went to pick up the phone to take a picture, Shadow turned away from the TV. Just as she always did when she was young. For a minute or two it had been as though Callie was sitting there. Hubby and I looked at each other and then at Shadow. She had the same “What?!” look on her face. But I still feel Callie’s presence in the house.

My (Crazy) Golden Life

We’re still here. A little tattered after a busy summer and fall, but here.

Ducky is still her crazy, sometimes hyper, drama-queen, lovable self. Trying to work with her in between hubby’s various doctor appointments and my own school work wore. me. out. I’m not as young as I used to be. 🙄

Then, there’s poor Shadow. Oh, don’t worry…she’s still healthy and happy.

But her digestive issues have been concerning me the last several weeks. To start with, the company that makes her food went to an “improved formula”. (Improved my butt!) And that so-called improved formula has been giving her some “silent-but-deadly” gas, especially at night. So she was refusing to eat her full meals. Add to that her refusal to stand on floor mats while she eats, despite her arthritis, and the Denamarin for her liver function. And her depth-perception vision issues. I discussed all this with our vet on Tuesday morning while we were there for an unrelated matter. He suggested waiting until after she eats breakfast to give her the Denamarin. It works best on an empty stomach, but still works on a somewhat full one as well.

So, I tried waiting and it made no difference. And I tried using a different food bowl. And I tried spoon-feeding her. Nothing made any difference.

Until yesterday. I was feeling totally at a loss, totally frustrated. Shadow’s IBS makes it inadvisable to change her food, even gradually, so that’s out. I ordered some probiotic chews. Hopefully they will help with the flatulence.

Meanwhile, I was on FB Messenger with my friend, Jan. You know her as “the Momz” over on Wag-n-Woof Pets. I needed a different perspective on my problem. Jan mentioned that she uses a plate, rather than a bowl, for beagle Cricket’s food. It was close to time for Shadow’s lunch, so I pulled one of our dinner plates out of the cabinet and used it instead of her bowl to feed her.

Voilá! One problem seemingly fixed. Now to dismiss the notion that she should only eat twice (or thrice) a day. So, since I’d already split her breakfast into two meals, why not her dinner as well? No noticeable flatulence last night. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

That’s what my life has been like these last few months. Crazy, sometimes exhausting, puzzling, but much better and preferable than the alternative. The girls, the hubby, and I will get through it.

Happy Howlidays to ALL our friends and family. ❤️🎄❄️☃️

I Love Our Vet!

Yes, I know I’ve said before that I love our vet, but I’m saying it again. I Love Our Vet! 

Not just because he has always taken good care of our pets; but also because he has always been honest and forthright on all fronts.

Not just because he let me do my externship (for my vet assistant course) at his hospital; but also because he has always been there for us (just a call or text away) from the time Ducky started presenting IBD symptoms, throughout Callie’s lymphoma journey, and every day since.

You might recall in my last post, Happy 13th Birthday, Shadow, I mentioned that thanks to her little sister Shadow had taken a tumble a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to the hemp oil gel caps and elixir drops and daily walks on the treadmill, the tumble didn’t seem to bother her then.

Still, over the last 10 days, she seemed to be struggling more to stand up and stay up. And she hasn’t been eating as well or as much, plus her reflux seems to bother her more often again. So, I brought Shadow back to Dr. Steve for his professional opinion on Tuesday morning. I mentioned that with her increased struggling of late I was worried that maybe she was in more pain than she let on. He put my mind at ease. “No injury. Just her arthritis flaring a little.”

I sent Doc a video of Shadow walking on the treadmill yesterday morning; and when he called in the afternoon with the lab results he commented on the video. “She looks great. She walks like an older dog with some arthritis. Her range of motion isn’t what it used to be, but it’s pretty good for an old lady.” As for the blood work and urinalysis, everything is close to or at normal levels, which means the Denamarin is working. We talked about some other minor concerns; but all’s well. The Gabapentin, hemp oil, and treadmill – and outdoor playtime – is keeping her arthritis manageable. So, we’re sticking with what works.

Now it’s time to get back to working on my final exam. It’s due back to my program manager on the 30th, so I probably won’t publish another post before Halloween.

Happy Thankful Thursday!!!