The Change, Part 1

This post is a follow-up to my teaser post from just before Thanksgiving, which you can find here.

Just a quick note about the reason for the change. After four months of continual disappointment in the quality of the food I’ve been giving the girls for nearly four years – a lot of “fours/fors” in there; hmmm – I decided I had to change. Not just for the dogs’ sakes, but for my own sake as well. I was finding myself dreading the process of preparing their meals on a daily basis. Plus, I was getting more BS every time I contacted the manufacturer to ask what they were doing to improve the quality.

So, what food have I chosen for my dogs? Well, after great reviews from my friends Jan – the Momz of the Wag-n-Woof Pets crew – and Maggie Marton – the author and owner of the Oh My Dog! Blog – I decided to give The Farmer’s Dog a try. I also asked our vet to check out the website and give me his opinion. When he gave his approval, I placed our trial order through the link in Jan’s review post.

The dogs are now on Day 7 of the transition. They both seem to be handling the transition quite well.

Ducky has been on a half new/half old mix since Saturday. I’ve seen some birdseed in her stools from the start; but that’s normal for her. The crazy little stinker likes birdseed, especially when it smells like squirrel breath. 🙃

Shadow started her half-n-half mix this morning. She’s only had one soft stool since before starting the transition; and that soft one was from the stress of hubby having a temper tantrum on Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, her “output” has been steadily improving.

Barring any unexpected backslides, I’m hoping to have both Ducky and Shadow fully transitioned to The Farmer’s Dog (turkey recipe) on Wednesday of next week. Then I can call Chewy and get a refund on the unused cans and kibble of the “old” food. Honestly? I wish I could make that call this week; but on the vet’s recommendation, I’ll play it safe.

Grateful for Good News

Last weekend I was watching all of us here. I was watching Shadow for signs of a returning UTI. I was watching Ducky for signs of snarkiness toward Shadow. I was watching hubby for signs of dementia-induced temper tantrums. And I was watching myself for signs of stress overload.

Well, so far it’s been a good week. No snarkiness from Ducky, no temper tantrums, and no stress overload on me.

But the best news? I got good news from the vet yesterday afternoon: Shadow’s UTI is cleared up. She’s not just looking and acting like she feels better; she actually IS better. Her white blood cell count is back to normal.

So, this last week will be added to the list of good weeks to be grateful for. And here are two lovelies for whom I’m eternally grateful…

A Peaceful Week

Thankfully it has been a fairly peaceful week around here. My gratitude goes out to my caregiver coach and the nurse practitioner who’s been seeing hubby at the aging center. They have been wonderful! And of course to family members.

After those two weeks of pure hell – the week I wrote about here and the one immediately after it – I couldn’t stand another minute of the stress on any of us. So, I used a little “trick” the NP told me about and it worked. I spent a few days praying it wouldn’t come back to bite me in the butt, but I’ve let go of that fear.

Shadow’s white blood cell count shot up as a result of her stress, causing a UTI. Thankfully I caught it early. I got a urine sample to the vet the morning it first presented symptoms; and by that afternoon, I was able to give Shadow her first antibiotic. Within 24 hours, it was already starting to clear up.

Poor Ducky started reacting again to every noise, every movement that hubby makes. Thankfully, I had half a bottle of her doggy Xanax left from last year. She is still a bit anxious/reactive now, but seems to be settling down a bit faster. That reminds me – I need to get a refill next week.

And, I have finally been able to get some better sleep. Ducky’s barking still drives me nuts at times, but at least I can #getoverit faster. And I’m better able to let go of hubby’s dementia-induced moments.

As much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t been working with Ducky much since I got home from Florida at the end of May. When she needed a break from the insanity, I took the easy way out and let her spend time at daycare. Well, that’s changing. She will still spend at least one day a week at daycare, but in between we will get back to “work” on her anxieties and reactivity. I’ll write more about that at a later date.

So, as we enter a second (hopefully) peaceful week, I wish all of you peace and love as well. ☮️❤️

Living in the Moment

If you are one of our “regular” readers, you know that my hubby is a dementia patient (in the early-middle stages). If not, you can read about it here, if you want to.

The past week (since a week-ago yesterday) has literally been hell on earth here at our house – and in the truck or car. For the last eight days, I’ve felt like I’m walking on egg shells. And the poor dogs have been stressed-out way more than I can deal with emotionally. Yesterday, I asked our vet – via text – if Xanax was safe enough for Shadow. That’s how bad it was on Friday night. He responded affirmatively and with the suggested dosage. Bless that man!!!

So far – since late yesterday afternoon – things have been fairly calm and peaceful. I’m praying they stay that way. And I’m trying hard to live in the moment. Last night – just before bedtime – I gave both girls a dose of the Xanax in case things went downhill again. They slept through the night. And, so did I once I turned the tv off.

Living with a dementia patient is NOT for wimps, I can tell you for sure! Especially if you also live with animals who are as sensitive and tuned into your own moods as mine are. And they react to it in different ways. (Shadow runs away to hide; Ducky barks almost incessantly.)

The dogs and I are in the back yard, getting away from the tv news and getting some fresh air. I’m praying that when we go back inside, peace and calm will still prevail. And I will try to keep living in the moment.

Have a great week! And please send us energy and light for a peaceful week; or say a prayer, light a candle, whatever. Thank you for being there for us as we travel this road. Peace and Love!! 💓

So Thankful

It’s hard to believe it’s been three months since Shadow’s stem cell infusion. How fitting that this “anniversary” falls on a Thankful Thursday!

Shadow has her “off” days. Like when she struggles a little to stand up on the kitchen floor. But most days she has no problem. And then there are the days when she triumphs over hurdles like sandbags.

I’m so thankful to our vets for making the stem cell therapy available to Shadow. I’m thankful we were able to give her this gift. And I’m thankful, too, for all the ways the therapy has given Shadow a new lease on life.

We are joining Brian’s Home Blog in the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

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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.

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!!! 🎉🐶🐶💗

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. ❤️🎄❄️☃️

Time Flies…

…when you’re having fun!

Friday is the last day of my externship for my Veterinary Assistant course. And I’m torn between remaining as a volunteer and getting back to my former life as a retired person. 

I have truly enjoyed the hands-on experience I’ve had throughout my time behind the scenes at our vet’s hospital. I know there are many things I need more practice with to become an even better vet assistant. But I also know it takes time to hone one’s skills. All the “girls” and both Dr. Steve and Dr. Simpson have been super-patient with my more-than-occasional lapses in concentration. And I appreciate it more than they could possibly know.  

From the start, my heart has cried for the pet parents whose furry “kids” have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses or been aided in their journeys to the Rainbow Bridge. And rejoiced with the pet parents who received good news.

Something I was afraid would “turn my stomach” – watching surgery on an animal – actually ended up fascinating me. I wouldn’t want to HAVE TO be the vet/surgeon performing the surgery. And I don’t know that I could handle watching surgery on my own dogs; but the surgery itself and the vet’s skill and devotion to his patients just blew me away.  So did the skill of the techs assisting with the surgeries. These gals are fantastic! 

While I am definitely looking forward to getting my former life back – to some degree at least – my life has been irrevocably changed by this experience. 

I am truly grateful to Dr. Steve for having agreed to let me do my externship under his tutelage. And I am grateful to Dr. Steve, Dr. Simpson, and the entire staff at Sunrise Animal Hospital for their mentoring, assistance, guidance, and unending patience as I watched, participated, fumbled, and learned my way through my externship.