Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 91 - Snowflake

We're still in recovery mode here at Casa de Bella so here's a picture of a pretty cat.

Bella is doing fine. Thanks to all for the support and encouragement - you got me through a "ruff" day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It has been a "ruff" day

I had a great post planned about my BlogPaws experience but today has really been one of those "Awful, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day(s)".

First things first: Bella is okay.

But let me start by bringing you up-to-date about Bella's health. On April 16th, Bella had a second steroid injection for her shoulder injury which lasted exactly 24 days. Resigned to pain management and medication, we started her on Metacam on May 13th.

The improvement was immediate and remarkable.

Bella seemed to realize she was no longer in pain and was initiating play with me and showing more eagerness to run now that she knew it would not leave her limping for days afterwards. We have still been taking it easy and slow at agility - no jumps or A-frame in her future, sadly.

But she's been doing really well and we were relieved to finally be able to provide a reprieve from her pain.

And then there was today.

I can't imagine what you're talking about.
I am NOT high maintenance.
Bella woke me early today insistent that I take her out. As I staggered through the house to find something to put on my feet, I noticed two small spots where she had vomited.

Bella has, in the past, vomited bile in the morning due to her nervous, empty stomach. So I thought little of it and headed outside with her intending to holler at Jan that Bella left him a present in the master bedroom.

(Oh yes, it may be helpful regarding my state of mind to know that last week, Jan and I moved into the spare bedroom because, for whatever reason, Bella now refuses to sleep in the master bedroom. More on that someday in the future.)

Moving right along...

While we were out, I could immediately tell Bella didn't feel well as she chowed down on grass. I could see that kind of creepy, little smile she gives right before she hurls and encouraged her to "Get it out, honey. We've all been there."

All well and good until I came back in and started to clean up the mess she left in the bedroom. (Yes, I am awesome, I know. Thank you.)

As I cleaned up her puke, though, I noticed there were red bits of spew in it. I thought for sure it couldn't possibly be blood, right? I ran outside to poke through the puke she has deposited out there (oh the things we pet parents do) and found the same red splotches.

It scared the crap out of me.

Of course, this only begins to describe the start of my "awful, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day" because after all of this, I went to work. Whereupon it became immediately obvious that the sole victim of the currently raging political firestorm was going to be: me. I can't carry on too much about that except to say the first thing I ate today was a Twix bar at 2:37 in the afternoon. That was also when I had my first cup of coffee. (Food I can live without. No coffee puts those around me at risk.)

Next up, there was a bit of a mishap with a volunteer project on which I'm assisting. And finally Jan, as a friend of mine noted, should have had just a little more "situational awareness" not to press me about which shower handle I preferred before he placed the order with the glass company. (Sorry, sweetie. Dan was the first person to get a smile out of me all day. Sorry it was at your expense.)

In the midst of all that, frantic phone calls to vets were made: Bella had recently had a series of vaccines at our primary vet - what were they? Is there any chance they caused this? Our Neuroligist had prescribed the Metacam for her shoulder. Could this be the cause? Dr. Sisson, please advice? Or could it be the behavioral medications prescribed by Dr. Dodman? In combination with the Metacam? Calling Tufts Behavioral Clinic, stat.

My primary vet wanted to see her in the office today but I wanted to wait to hear back from the specialists before setting up that appointment. Dr. Sisson from Angell Animal Medical Center responded immediately chastising us that we hadn't notified him earlier. We were to stop giving Bella the Metacam and cut off all food for 24 hours.

"So it goes..."

Which brings me to this moment where my dog is sitting behind me mumbling and muttering at the back of my head because "It is time for her after-dinner chicken!", don't ya know. Not that she had dinner but we had to get her behavioral meds in her somehow.

So that folks, is lame excuse #497 why I did not write the blog post I intended to tonight.

Bella, of course, seems fine, if a little disgruntled that she didn't get her dinner. I took her outside to run and play in an effort to distract her and she was totally game. She even, gasp!, played fetch for a few tennis ball tosses.

I'm sure she is going to be fine. I also know that folks out there have had their dogs on Metacam before. I was so concerned about Rimadyl but my Lab was on Rimadyl for 5 years and he never threw up blood. Were my concerns misplaced?

Dr. Sisson says once she has not thrown up for three days, we can restart the Metacam but I'm not sure I want to. Have you ever had a dog that threw up blood and successfully went back on Metacam?

PS - To add final insult to this "awful, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day" while I was writing this post, my blog host decided to log me out. Luckily, I was able to salvage it and not have to re-write the entire thing.

I think I'm just going to go to bed and cuddle with my doggie now before anything else blows up on me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Black & White Sunday: No more excitement, please

Bella has had enough excitement for a while, thank you very much.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thank you Thursday - This one's for mom

I know, I know, it's supposed to be "Thankful Thursday." But while I am thankful, I also really have to say thank you. I have to say thank you to my mom for taking care of Bella while we were away at BlogPaws. When I say I don't know what we'd do without her, I'm not exaggerating.

My mom really is our only option for taking care of Bella when we are away. She's the only one who can reliably touch Bella (mostly) and, better yet, she doesn't even have to. Since Mom has a fenced-in-yard, she really only has to tolerate playing Bella's doorman, not actually get a leash on her and take her for a walk.

But Bella comes with a rather substantial list of notes, a bagful of trinkets, treats and toys and an instructional video on "The Care and Feeding of Bella". (Okay, I made that last part up. But just barely.)

To fully appreciate what I put my mom through, I thought I'd share with you what I packed for a 3-night stay and the list of instructions sent along with the crazy dog. Not everyone would be as accommodating and patient with us.

Packing list
  • Martingale collar, head halter, body harness, two leashes plus regular collar with tags
  • 2 beds
  • Bella's mat (a towel)
  • Raised feeding/water station and bowls
  • Muzzle
  • 3 stuffed Kongs
  • Bully bones
  • Canned food and cover
  • Dry kibble (Hills Prescription Diet w/d)
  • Pills - Clonidine, Fluoxetine, Soloxine
  • Drops - Metacam
  • Tummy 'treats' (Cloud Star Dynamo dog treats)
  • Chicken treats (home-made)
  • Chicken jerky bits (Blue Buffalo)
  • Pill pockets
  • Storm defender cape
  • Important paperwork (health certificates, Rx list and dosages, etc)
  • Instructions

Care and Feeding Instructions

Bella gets a little less than half a cup of dry kibble and a tablespoon or two of canned mixed with a little water 2x/day.
The pills in the pill box go in her meals. The box is marked for AM and PM. She should just eat them up but check her bowl after she has finished to make sure she did. (She knows "Finish your breakfast/dinner" if she didn't.)

The Clonidine in the pill bottle (marked with a “C”) can be given in the event of a thunderstorm or at night before bed if she seems anxious and won't settle down. Wrap it in a ‘Pill Pocket’ to get her to eat it.
The ‘liquid’ medicine is only given in the morning. Fill it to the 55 pound mark and just add it to her breakfast.

Note: This stuff is apparently very tasty to dogs (and can be lethal if they get too much of it). Please keep it somewhere out of her reach.
Chicken (home-made): Bella will expect a couple/few pieces of chicken jerky after meals. She will not let you forget to give them to her. These can be used for “Trade” if necessary. They should be kept in the fridge.

There is also a small bag of tiny pieces of chicken jerky as well. She doesn’t get these as a rule – just during training – but they are highly prized and can also be used for “Trade” if necessary.

“Tummy” treats: Bella can have one to two pieces after dinner. (1 will probably be sufficient but you can give her two if she starts having ‘bathroom issues’.)

Bully bones and frozen stuffed Kongs: She can have one of either of these at night to entertain her. The Kongs will last her longer.
Thunder cape:
We have packed Bella’s Storm Defender cape. It will help calm her down in the event of a storm but should be used with the Clonidine mentioned above. It’s best to get her in her cape and medicated a half hour before the storm if possible but that hardly ever happens. If this doesn't work, try the basement. Otherwise, pray for sun. :|

Added by Jan: Never let Bella outside during a thunderstorm even though that's what it will look like she needs. She doesn't. She's trying to escape.
Contact info:
We are staying at .... You can reach me at ... I will get an email if I miss your call and call you back as soon as I can. Jan will have the cell phone and that number is ... Bella's primary vet is ...

So, thanks Mom. We really couldn't do this without you and your patience with me and our crazy dog is appreciated in ways you can't even imagine.

PS - I had an interesting breakfast conversation with Debbie Jacobs from while at BlogPaws about why my mom may be the only one Bella will let touch her. We have an idea and just need the PhD student willing to investigate. Know any? Put us in touch.

In the meantime, if you don't have your very own Camp Nana's, Debbie's recent post on what to look for when considering boarding options for your dog is definitely worth the read.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just got back from BlogPaws and boy, are my arms tired...

No, wait, that's not right...

Jan and I got back from BlogPaws around 9 o'clock Sunday night. We left Virginia at 10 a.m. but oh the traffic was tragic from NJ through CT.

I have a bunch of stories I want to share and thoughts to pass along but I'm still exhausted and recuperating and taking the easy way out tonight with a video of our welcome home greeting from Bella. Vacations are fun but I think everyone in Casa de Bella thinks coming home is better.

I do want to congratulate all the nominees and the winners of the Nose-to-Nose awards especially our special friends Mrs. Taleteller from Tails and Tales on their win for Best Photo and Jodi from Kol's Notes for Best Bark Blog. You ladies rocked the house and we are so proud of you!

So for now, allow me to leave you with a little video of my pretty pup who was, apparently happy to see us even though she had a grand time at Camp Nana's. (Watch the tail.)

(PS - THANK YOU, Nana, for taking care of our little girl! I don't know what we would do without you.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 90 - We're going to BlogPaws!

One stop in RI to drop Bella off at Camp Nana's and then we're BlogPaws bound! Looking forward to meeting everyone there. If you'll be there too, be sure to drop a note in the comments so we'll know to look for you.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bella Goes to Rehab

One of the challenges of having a scared-y dog is maneuvering things like vet visits, medical procedures, and well, pretty much anything that involves the laying on of hands by humans not her own.

Another challenge is putting a high-energy dog who needs exercise and mental stimulation to manage her anxiety on restricted activity while dealing with the injury that requires all those vet visits and medical procedures.

Bella is one lucky puppy in that we have a slew of well-connected friends who graciously offered support and advice throughout this winter of Bella's discontent. One such suggestion was to work with a veterinary rehabilitator at Paws in Motion in Natick, MA.

Suzy Starr came with glowing recommendations, not only for the work she does in rehabilitating dogs after injury/surgery but also for her slow and compassionate approach to fearful dogs.

When we first brought Bella in for a consultation, our hope was that we could alleviate her pain by working the muscle and joint slowly loosening any stiffness and reducing inflammation. But we'd have been happy with a way to channel her energy while getting a little physical fitness. If we could, at the same time, strengthen the rest of her muscles in an effort to reduce the strain on her shoulder, so much the better.

The approach the rehabilitator wanted to use was hydrotherapy - essentially an underwater treadmill. The idea is that the water provides buoyancy and takes some of the weight off the injured limb while the dog gets some exercise.

Sounds reasonable.

Reasonable? Have you MET me?

But knowing our Bella, we thought "Yeah, sure, no problem, I'm certain Little Miss Scaredy-Pants is gonna be just fine with getting into a big, noisy tank that fills up with water and then starts moving under her feet."


And then we found out that we wouldn't be allowed in the tank with her - that only the staff can be in the tank with her.

Uh huh.

Well, we knew before we tried to get Bella into the big scary tank, we would have to start with something a little more basic like, oh I don't know, getting someone other than us to actually be able to touch her.


We were happy to discover that Suzy Starr, the veterinarian and owner of Paws in Motion, knows a little something about scared-y dogs. Our first visit/consultation lasted over an hour and most of that time was spent letting Bella get used to Suzy. We taught Suzy some of Bella's no-fail commands - things like 'touch' and 'down' and 'foot' - and in only about 40 minutes, Suzy was actually able to pet our dog.

We were pretty stunned to tell the truth.

We used that success to get Bella into the tank with Suzy, letting her go in and out for a while until she would stay in the tank comfortably. And then we betrayed all the trust we had built up by locking the door and filling the tank with water.

Bella was not amused.

Bella, not amused.

In fact, Bella was traumatized.

The look on her face made it abundantly clear that she didn't understand why we would be torturing her like this. It was terrible. I felt like the most horrible person in the world. But Bella did eventually calm down and walk.

Bella spent 8 minutes on the treadmill that first day. And did zoomies like nobody's business in the tiny drying room when she came out. We were, once again, her heroes as we rescued her from the trauma of the tank. (Seems her memory of us being the ones who put her in there in the first place was short.)

And we scheduled her for another appointment the next week.

Yeah, she loves us.

The next week she knew what was going to happen and was a little less trusting about getting in the tank. (And by "a little" I mean, Jan had to pick her up and deposit her in the tank then try to scramble out while I locked the door behind him.)

Each week one of the staff stayed in the tank with Bella getting their own upper-body workout as they tried to keep her in it. Apparently Bella is much stronger than she looks. (Dear Paws in Motion staff: You're welcome. Consider that our contribution to your gym membership.)

We did about 6 or 8 visits in total. Mostly going for the mental stimulation and physical exercise.

We had to stop the visits during the steroidal injection procedures she had recently at Angell Memorial but I'm planning to start them up again. I want to get Bella back in shape gradually rather than just letting her go hog wild out in the backyard or agility ring.

But I also want to slow our approach to the tank again.

The video below shows her progression in the tank over a series of weeks and as you'll see, it actually got worse as we went along. I think we need to back up and slow down. If she only spends 5 or 10 minutes in the tank, so be it. I'd rather she have a positive experience than to become more and more frightened of it.

On the bright side, since getting to know Suzy and her staff, Bella has become more willing to meet people - a huge step forward in her development.

And so, once again as it always is with Bella, we take two steps forward, one step back but at least we're making progress.

Also, once again, we find ourselves working with some of the best and brightest in the world of animals as Suzy and her team are the folks working to rehabilitate Lilly the Hero Pit Bull. Lilly made national news as the Pit Bull who rescued her hu-mom who had fallen unconscious on train tracks in Shirley, Massachusetts.

For an update on that story, and a glimpse behind the scenes of Paws in Motion, check out this link from New England Cable News: Rehab for a Hero Dog.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Black & White Sunday: She's such a goof.

Bella wants to wish all the mothers out there, both 2-footed and 4,
a very Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bella blowing bubbles (video)

One of the approaches we tried to work out Bella's injured shoulder was rehabilitation therapy. Specifically, an underwater treadmill. Bella, the scared-y dog was, obviously, thrilled. (No, not really.)

However, the vet, being a pretty smart cookie herself, started playing this little game with Bella to help her get over her fear of the water. She would throw small treats into a water bowl to entice Bella to interact with the water. The results were hilarious.

This was a first for me. Have you ever seen a dog blow bubbles before? Does YOUR dog blow bubbles? Will they dunk for treats or are they more likely to pussy-foot around? Happy Monday, everyone!