Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Not a lot of words Wednesday

Anyone who follows Bella's page on Facebook knows I shared this picture there already. Sorry but it's so cute, I couldn't resist posting it here as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday's Tails: Let's find Chipper a home of his own!

A very dear friend of mine reached out to me recently about a sweet little pup named Chipper. Chipper has some special needs but what he really needs is a special home of his very own. Please read his story below and, if you are so moved, help us share his story to find that very special family that certainly must be looking for such a cute little boy like him.

Chipper is a 4 year old male Japanese Chin mix. He had a herniated disc surgically treated a few months ago, and at present has minimal use of his hind legs and poor bladder control.

He needs someone who can lift and carry him at times (all 18 lbs of him). He has wheels to go for walks although he really prefers to cuddle. He's as soft as a bunny, a real sweetheart and loves everyone!

Chipper is currently living in a foster home in Franklin, MA. Transport is available. His contact is

The Tuesday’s Tails blog hop is hosted by Dogs N Pawz and Talking Dogs. This is the blog hop that features shelter pets. Find a pet at your local animal shelter or rescue and join us!

Monday, June 9, 2014

A thank you post to Petplan USA

When you're making a life or death decision about a beloved pet, how much it costs shouldn't be the deciding factor.

I learned the hard way about the value of pet insurance with my old boy, Beau. I know some folks have a different opinion about whether to pay an insurance company premiums or just save your own money to cover costs you may, or may not, encounter down the road but let me disclose some of my own financial experience for anyone considering it at this time in their life.

In Beau's 14 years, he had two surgeries for torn ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments), survived cancer, lived with epilepsy, went deaf, had laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia and who even remembers what else. In the last year of his life alone Beau had one life-saving surgery and hospital stay that cost us over $8,000 when all was said and done. And that last bill is the one that forever changed my mind about the benefits of pet insurance.

Me and my shadow, Beau.
When Beau was fighting for his life due to a critical bout with laryngeal paralysis we didn't know he had, we begged the vets to do whatever they had to do to save his life. The hospital estimated the cost at $4,000. Not having anticipated he also had pneumonia at the time, their estimate came in decidedly low.

Had I understood the physical toll spending two weeks in the hospital would have on his muscle mass and mobility, I may have made a different decision. But it didn't seem right that my boy, so happy and healthy the day before, should succumb to a simple flap of flesh that refused to open and close correctly.

Luckily we were in a position to handle the cost but when they presented us with a more than $8,000 bill after basing our decision on a $4,000 estimate, I had to wonder, would I have made the same decision had the estimate been more accurate?

Bella started out much healthier but we got insurance for her anyway before she was a year old. I did my research and chose Petplan USA based on online reviews, customer surveys and yes, cost. Below is a list of some such resources.

Seriously people, I am so over this crate rest thing.
Because Bella is a mixed breed, our rates were probably lower than some purebred dogs' would be. Our initial premiums were going at about $200/year. (A year!) As insurance premiums are wont to do, her's have gone up over time and ours are now up to ~$350+/year.

Petplan USA offers a few different plans - almost all are "illness/injury" based and the one we chose does not cover wellness or routine visits. However, per the plan we selected, Petplan USA reimbursed 80% of all of our expenses last year for Bella's left shoulder injury. That amounted to almost $2,000 for 2013.

At the time, we had paid in about $900 in premiums.

(We could have been reimbursed further had I realized at the time that Petplan USA even reimburses for prescriptions and physical therapy.)

This year we have already racked up (oh dog, I don't even want to think about it) $3,800 for Bella's right front lameness. ($4,800 if you count the holistic vet we tried to take her to who wouldn't touch her so we can't tie the visits to her injury but that's a whole other story...)

That means before we even got an official diagnosis, Petplan had reimbursed us almost $3,000 in 2014 (and the year ain't over yet!)

In total, over the six years we have had her, we have paid a little over $1,500 in premiums covering Bella. (Jan says they'll never sell us insurance again if we get another dog and maybe he's right. We shall see.) We have certainly received benefit from our investment in pet insurance.

Of course, the premise behind all insurance - be it pet or human, health or home - is that everyone pay a little so those who have unexpected expenses don't suffer hardship. I will get pet insurance for my next dog and may at that time pay in to a system I do not use.

But let's face it, dogs are dogs and they're going to have accidents, illnesses and injuries. Whether it's cancer or a bee sting, we will all incur an expense or two during the life of our furry loved ones.

On a final note, I want to take just a moment to say that I can't speak highly enough about Petplan's customer service - they're not just polite and professional, they're kind. When I called to ask if an MRI would be covered when Bella was in the ER, the customer service rep was very reassuring, not just giving me facts about our plan but offering her encouragement and support. Every dealing I've had with the company has been positive.

So if you're considering pet insurance, allow me to recommend Petplan USA. They have taken very good care of us allowing us to take very good care of Bella.

NOTE: This is an unsolicited post about a company that has treated us, as customers, very well. It is not sponsored by nor am I affiliated with Petplan USA except as a paying customer. The stories and opinions expressed throughout are entirely my own.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hello Again

Back at the beginning of May er, end of April, when I told you all I was going to go play with my dog, I didn't really mean for a whole month. (Insert sheepish grin here.)

Tiptoeing through the tulips.
But I did need to take a break from all things digitized and spent much of the last month doing the job thing while also playing with my dog, digging in the garden, reconnecting with my husband and just generally enjoying life away from the computer.

My friend Kelly, of the former Roo's Doins (whom I have sadly let down and lost touch with) used to take a blogging vacation every year. I understand now why she did and how healthy it is to put down the keyboard and step away from the computer every once and awhile. (Well, at least as much a computer programmer can put down a keyboard and step away from the computer...)

In the middle of taking a blogging vacation, I actually got a real honest-to-goodness vocation vacation for the first time since September 2012. THAT was much needed and long overdue.

But I have missed you all and am happy to be back behind the keyboard. There is much to tell. So let me start with a summary and over the next few weeks, we'll expound on the details.

Bella's meds:
I mentioned some time back that we have Bella on a new cocktail of drugs for her fear and anxiety and her penchant for reacting aggressively towards me and Jan when life gets to be too much for her. She remains on the Soloxine (for hypothyroidism) and Fluoxetine (for aggression) and in January we added Gabapentin (for nerve pain and possible seizures.) This has proven to be absolutely life-changing for her and for us. And I will definitely share stories soon about that.
She is also on a drug called Amantidine which was prescribed for an injury she suffered in January to her foot but may also be contributing to her improved behavior. It is used for what is called "ramp-up pain" - the kind of pain where it's tolerable in the morning but by the afternoon and evening is just unbearable.

The goal is to be able to wean her off the Fluoxetine in time (she is already at a lower-than-usually-prescribed dose) and probably ease her off the Amantidine in the next few weeks.
Bella's leg/foot injury:
The left-front shoulder issue and the acute right front lameness that occurred in January have been largely resolved. Bella has been seeing an integrative vet for a couple of months now and we couldn't be more pleased with the whole practice and especially the results.

Bella sees a doctor who specializes in chiropractic treatment but has also been having weekly low-level laser treatments. A little over a week ago, Jan and I both remarked that we hadn't seen Bella limp from standing at all over the weekend. She still has the occasional skip in her step when she's been lying on the cold ground or has overdone it a bit but she is otherwise limp-free.

Bella has shown signs of a limp be it mild or severe since 2012 - it feels weird to see her not limp now.

We are stunned and grateful.
Bella's diet:
Back in 2012, Bella injured her left front shoulder. While we saw many different doctors trying to diagnosis and correct it, we were left with medication to help her manage the pain. Unfortunately, that medication was hard on her tummy and she was diagnosed with Colitis. A prescription diet was recommended but we continued to toggle between treating her limp and treating her tummy.

The last straw was when we called the vet who prescribed the medication and asked if we could try her on something else that was easier on her insides and he recommended another drug to help fight the problems she was facing due to the first. Enough was enough and we called in a holistic vet. We wanted to treat her injury once and for all and in a way that didn't create other issues.

Things didn't quite work out with that vet (too far away when Bella came up acutely lame in January) but she did put us on the path to home-cooking for Bella. We started cooking for her meals in January and, aside from what we now refer to as the "baby bird incident" (more on that in future installments), she has had a nearly perfect constitution ever since.
Geez, mom, is nothing private?
We have been easing her back into exercise after her extended crate-rest and she's been on a diet so now she's looking as good as she feels. And we don't even have to fight with her any more to get her to eat!
Bella's behavior:
The most significant change has been in Bella's behavior. Sometimes we wonder what happened to our scared-y dog? Last Tuesday Bella slept through a (distant) thunderstorm. Her happy ear is up more often than ever and her eyes and face are soft and relaxed. She just looks so much more comfortable in her own skin.

It's hard to even describe how the changes in her feel. She is calm but not sedated, she seeks out play as well as (occasional) cuddles and she is just generally more relaxed about life all around.

We still have work to do - Bella hasn't been around other dogs since we have had to retire her from her agility for reactive dogs class. But we're feeling much more confident that we can teach her better options for her reaction to other dogs now that she has finally found some peace.
And that's all the news that's fit to print today.

As I mentioned, I'll try to fill in some of the details about all this change over the next few weeks - from the spreadsheet I use to calculate Bella's calories and protein intake to my queasy reaction to watching Bella get "adjusted" by the chiropractor and all sorts of good things in between.

Thanks for not forgetting us. We've missed you and your pups and will be making the rounds as soon as possible to check on how you all are doing.


Post title shamelessly stolen from the amazing Mr. Neil Diamond. "Hello Again"