Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is Animal Cruelty...

Brace yourselves, I'm about to launch a colossal rant.

Anyone who's on Facebook knows how easy it is to miss a post by any friend or liked page, particularly with Facebook's "we know better than you" attitude that leads them to show us the posts they think are most important without any real say-so from us. I was constantly switching to the "Most Recent" feed until I was fortunate enough to find a script that allows me to tweak several of the settings on Facebook, including forcing them to stay on Most Recent instead of Top Stories. Anyway, I'm mentioning this because of all the posts made by the Switzerland County Animal Shelter since I "liked" their page, the first and only one I've actually seen was one that was made last Tuesday, February 5. It was post of very cute Golden Retriever puppy who was one of the dogs currently available for adoption. I clicked on the image, which took me to the SCAS page where I caught sight of another image of another dog. This is that image:
Here are the words that accompanied it: This is Marilyn. She is an English bulldog approximately 4-5 years old. Marilyn was found curled up freezing and starving in the North Dr area.
This blog is named Winsomebulldog. My header is a picture of my two Bulldogs, Katie and Briscoe. Katie was my husband's dog, a dream come true for him. A friend's family had one that he spent time with as a young man, and from then on, he always dreamed of owning one. Clearly, we are Bulldog fans.

First off, let me just confess that both Katie and Briscoe came from pet stores. We weren't as aware then as we are now of the horrors of puppy mills. For us, the consequences of purchasing our two darling Bullies at a pet store instead of from a reputable breeder were a significant array of various health issues that could undoubtedly have been avoided if their breeders had been more interested in producing healthy puppies than in the obscene amount of money they could make while forcing dogs to produce litter after litter after litter of unhealthy puppies. Having said all that, I wouldn't trade either of my precious babies for any amount of money. Losing Katie was and still is one of the most painful things I have endured.

So, what does any of this have to do with Marilyn? Well, Marilyn was almost certainly used in a puppy mill. Let me tell you why I believe that.

She is skin and bones. She has a list of health issues that is almost impossible to believe. One of those issues is swollen, raw feet with pads that have spit open. This happens when a dog is forced to stand in their own urine and feces. You can't see it clearly in the above picture, but instead of being white, as she should be, she's more a dingy yellowish brown. She smells terrible. Just so you get a full picture of her condition, let me show you a few more images.


Have you thrown up, yet? I've come close a few times since I first saw her.

The obvious issues:
  • She's been starved. 
  • Her nails hadn't been trimmed in, well, probably ever.
  • There are mammary tumors all along her stomach because she was never spayed.
  • Her eyes are milky and constantly gooey because of entropion. (Entropion is a situation where the eyelids basically roll inward, causing the lashes to constantly rub the surface of the eye. Very uncomfortable.)
  • Due to the untreated entropion, both eyes are severely scarred, making her almost blind. The damage from the constant irritation was so bad that her left eye developed an ulcer that eventually ruptured. Translation, she has a hole in her eye.
  • Her feet are raw.

Now for the not so obvious, but not unexpected, issues:
  • She is heartworm positive. 
  • All her rear teeth are so decayed that they're essentially mush and will have to be removed before they cause her jawbones to rot as well. 

More possible issues that haven't been confirmed, yet, but that I wouldn't be surprised by:
  • Heavy internal parasites.
  • Hip and/or knee damage from being caged constantly.
She can barely walk. This could be due to her painful feet, arthritis, or the fact that she's barely more than skin and bones. Probably a combination of all of them.

When she was found, she was curled up on the cold ground beneath a rabbit hutch, waiting to die. The lady who picked her up said she just looked like she'd given up. She was so cold that she spent the rest of that day shivering, just trying to get warm.

When I saw that picture of her, taken as soon as she was brought into the shelter, I knew I had to do something. I sent the shelter several messages, asking for more information. As soon as my husband got home, I showed him the picture. He was as horrified as I was.

The next morning, I began communicating with the shelter about her. They'd guessed her age to be 4-5 years. By the end of that day, I was positive that I wanted to bring her home with me.

The next day, Feb. 7, she was due to see a vet. I had errands to run in the morning, but went over to the shelter as soon as I got home to meet her. I'd seen the picture, so I knew she was terribly skinny. The shelter had informed me that the picture didn't show how truly bad it was. What really got me when I first saw her, though, was the way she was curled up in a tiny ball on her blanket. She was in the isolation room along with several other smaller dogs. As dogs do, they all began barking like mad as soon as the door was opened. Marilyn's head lifted, then dropped once more in dejection. She began to tremble. All I could think was how much I wanted to take her to a quiet place, wrap her in warm blankets, and cradle her in my lap.

She had her vet appointment later in the afternoon and the shelter assured me that they would call once they knew something. I got that phone call at 5. That's when they told me about the heartworms, her eyes, the mammary tumors, her teeth, and that she was closer to 8 years old. The vet suggested putting her down, but they didn't because I'd already told them that we would still take her if she turned out to be heartworm positive. I'd prepared for that. I hadn't braced myself for all the rest of it.

When I got off the phone with the shelter, I sent my hubby a text message explaining all the additional issues she was facing. Her teeth will have to be removed. This is surgery. The entropion can be fixed through another surgery. The mammary glands can be removed when she is spayed. ANOTHER surgery. And don't forget those heartworms. Want to know how they kill those suckers? Arsenic. That's right. They poison the nasty little things. Follow that up with having countless dead worms flushed through damaged arteries and you're talking about a huge physical impact on the body. Look at those pictures again. Think she can survive that? The vet had concerns that she'd be able to survive any of the treatments she needs.

I hung up the phone and started crying. I just couldn't help it. I kept seeing her curled up on that blanket. I kept thinking about the hell she's been forced to endure. It is obvious that she's been bred repeatedly. Whatever bastards - yes, I know it's an ugly word - had her, used her, abused her, and then threw her away when she got too sick to be of further use. This is what I kept thinking about. Would it be kinder to just put her down? Would it be cruel to try to "fix" all her problems?

Needless to say, I didn't sleep that night. But when I got up Friday morning I'd made a decision. I had to give her a chance. She's known nothing but misery. She deserves so much more. I eventually came to the decision that even if she doesn't survive one of the cures for her many ailments, I could at least give her the best life possible for however long she lives. I can keep her full and warm and give her all the love she has never known but so obviously needs. And she just might survive it all. Katie was 11 before the cancer took her from us. This precious little girl could have several more years of life left to live. Happy, healthy years. I simply could not deny her that chance.

So, I went to the shelter and picked her up. I brought her home and gave her a chance to sniff a bit in the yard and potty. Then I brought her in the house and put her down on the large orthopedic dog bed that we keep in our living room for Malcolm to lay on. The boys gave her a few cursory sniffs. She wasn't sure what to think of them, but I laid down beside her and gently stroked her head and ears until she started dozing off. I tucked her blanket in around her so she could nap.

Since then, she's had some food and water, and been outside several times. She got a little bit sick, probably from drinking too much. She was a thirsty girl. She's napping on Malcolm's bed, occasionally waking up to look around, as if she's making sure she's still in a warm, safe place.

She has a very long road ahead of her. She needs a bath terribly, but I don't want to put her through the stress. I want to give her a few days to settle in, to feel at home and completely safe before I start doing things that I know will make her uneasy.

I have no idea what her personality is truly like. She's so weak that she doesn't do much more than eat, drink, and sleep. She is just so painfully thin. Watching her try to walk is agonizing. I want to do something, to make her better, to make her happy. Every time I look at her, I am sickened again by how much she has suffered.

Somewhere out there is a person or persons who used a beautiful, gentle, sweet, loving dog to make money with absolutely no regard for her welfare. They could make money off her because people buy dogs off the Internet and out of classified ads in the newspaper, sight unseen. They don't visit the breeder or insist upon meeting the parents of the puppy they're buying.

There is very serious problem in this country. We continue to view dogs, cats, horses, livestock, any domestic animals, as property, no different than a car or a sofa. We blame dogs for being dogs, condemning entire breeds or even breed types for the actions of a few while simultaneously deifying those who contribute to the problem. Michael Vick not only participated in dog fighting, he tortured his dogs to death, yet he didn't actually go to jail for that. He was allowed to plea to "Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture." Racketeering. In the state of Virginia, he submitted a guilty plea to a single Virginia felony charge for dog fighting, receiving a 3 year prison sentence suspended on condition of good behavior, and a $2,500 fine. He spent less than 2 years in prison, got out and picked his NFL career right back up where he left off. He was named the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl.

This from a man who admitted to providing most of the financing for the operation and to participating directly in several dog fights in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. He admitted to sharing in the proceeds from these dog fights. He further admitted that he knew his colleagues killed several dogs who did not perform well. He admitted to being involved in the destruction of 6–8 dogs, by hanging or drowning.

How many thousands of people have cheered for Michael Vick during his "comeback?" How many people out there look at him and think he served his time and should be granted a fresh start despite the fact that he was never convicted of animal cruelty? He never spent one day in jail for it. Even if he had been convicted of animal abuse, he would have gotten little to no jail time for it and a monetary fine of a few thousand dollars.

Abusing an animal is a misdemeanor. No matter how terrible the abuse, how horrific the suffering of an animal, current criminal laws make it nearly impossible to convict anyone of animal cruelty short of having film of them committing it, and convictions carry penalties that tend to amount to a slap on the wrist.

Marilyn is not an inanimate object. She is a living, breathing, feeling creature. She has emotions. She feels pain and fear, suffers grief and loneliness. She has her own personality. She's an individual just like I am or you are. She is beautiful and sweet, wholly undeserving of the hell she's been put through.

So I'm left to ask, how many of you out there have a dog tied up out in your yard? How many have a wire kennel that you visit once a day just to drop off some food and water while the dog you've caged inside spends every single moment all alone? How many of you don't bother to get your pet spayed or neutered, or give the heartworm and flea prevention? They're just dogs, right? All dogs have fleas. So what?

Just because I can't bear to end this on a completely depressing note, I'm going to add one final picture.
Marilyn and her blankets, curled up on her comfy bed. No more shivering. No more fear. Whatever the future holds for her, at least she finally won't have to face it all alone.

I've used the name given to her by the shelter workers during this post, but that isn't the name we're going to call her by. I wanted something less formal sounding, so we've called her Maggie. Maggie May. Of course she doesn't recognize her name, yet. But she's already beginning to respond to the sound of my voice. Perhaps more telling, there have been at least two times that I've seen her wake up and turn her head toward me, her scarred eyes struggling to focus. I speak a few words to her, telling her what a good, sweet girl she is, and she lowers her head back down and returns to her sleep. Don't anyone dare try to tell me that dogs don't crave the companionship of their people.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Loss

Katie's gone...

A glimpse of how she got her name, Katie-Bar-the-Door.
This is the expression I loved most on her face. Joy.

The image that inspired the winsomebulldog name. 

 And finally...
Yesterday, at the emergency clinic.
If you know me, then you know that our girl, Katie, has been sick for a while. Yesterday, she was so weak that she could barely stand. I took her to the ER and they ran some tests, but couldn't find anything wrong. (It should be noted that we all thought her problems were connected to either her chemo or the heart issues that were brought on by the chemo.) So, I brought her back home yesterday evening but she got worse during the night. I took her back up to the clinic this morning and they took some x-rays and spotted what they thought was pneumonia in her lungs. So they kept her to give her fluids and antibiotics.

I got a call this afternoon a little before 5 letting me know that she had stopped breathing. They did their best, but as I was on my up there a little while later, they called to let me know she had died. I'll spare you the gory details and just say that additional blood work revealed that her kidneys were failing badly. It is likely that the cancer spread despite the chemo and caused significant damage, bringing on the kidney failure and other symptoms that were mistakenly attributed to her heart. No one is at fault. She was just a sick baby.

Right now, I'm fairly numb. I cried all the way up there. Spent almost an hour with her and cried some more. Then cried a good portion of the way home. So now I'm just in a holding pattern until the next wave of grief hits.

Losing her sucks, plain and simple. But it's made worse in so many ways because Mark is not home. He has made what should be his final trip to retrieve machinery from New Jersey and is due home this evening. His plane should already be in the air. So he had to deal with all this while being unable to be here for either me or her. Please pray for him, as Katie was particularly special to him for a variety of reasons.

I'll say without shame that we both loved Katie as though she were our child. I know some people take offense at that, but I'm sorry. Katie was a part of our lives every single day for eleven years. She will forever hold a home in both our hearts and nothing and no one will ever replace her in any way.

I wish I could somehow convey how incredible she was. So much unconditional love packed into one short, pudgy dog doesn't seem possible. And there's simply no way for me to express how much pure joy she brought to my life. I still can't quite make myself imagine living without her.

I needed to get this out there, to share it for her, to honor her. I'm so tired and I have one of those "after crying" headaches. I'm thinking that I might need to lay down for a little while. Maybe, in a few more days, I'll be able to be more philosophical about it all. Right now, I just want my baby girl back.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Golden Honey Pan Rolls - Lazy Version


After yesterday's Buttered Rosemary Rolls, I decided to try the shortcut version of the Golden Honey Pan Rolls that I already know are fantastic. The link will take you to the full recipe that has instructions on how to make them from scratch, using a bread machine. I'm going with the short version here, using store-bought dough, which means the rolls themselves won't have any honey in them. I'll just use the glaze from the original recipe and see how they turn out. I'm fairly certain that they'll be very nearly as good as the from scratch version.

Here's the recipe for the glaze:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg white 
This is the recipe for a full 13" X 9" pan of rolls, but I'm not going to bother trying to halve it. Half an egg white? I don't think so. And just in case you've never, ever done anything like this before, I'll include a few pictures of the process. Brace yourself.

Step 1: Go to the store and pick up a bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls.  Bring them home and toss them in the freezer. When you're ready to fix your rolls, take the bag out of the freezer and cut it open.

NOTE: You'll notice in the upper right-hand corner of the bag that it has an arrow with the words "EASY OPEN Tear Here." This is a blatant lie. I tugged and pulled and twisted and not only was it not easy to open, it in fact did not open at all. No tearing, though the plastic did stretch quite well. I  eventually had to resort to using a pair of scissors. (This may well be the hardest part of this recipe.)
Step 2: Pick a pan. Any pan, assuming it's not so large that 36 rolls couldn't hope to fill it up when fully risen. Unless you're cooking for an army or possibly a potluck dinner, an 8" or 9" cake pan should be plenty big enough. If you want to get really rustic, break out a cast iron skillet. I'll admit the skillet makes a lovely presentation, but since I'm more interested in eating them than looking at them, and since I have not yet crossed into the world of professional food blogger, I just grab whatever is handy. For this post, I went all out and broke out a "fancy" piece of Corning Ware, so the pictures would look pretty. Yep, I'm trying that hard to impress you guys. 

Spray the pan with cooking spray and place the rolls inside.
(See - pretty pan.) You have a couple of options at this point. One, you can lay a kitchen towel over the pan or you can spray a sheet of plastic wrap with more oil and lay it over the pan. (Do I need to point out that the towel should be clean?) Pick whichever way suits you, then just set the pan aside and WALK AWAY.

That's right. You are DONE for literally HOURS! Just go do something else. 
This shot was taken after 6 hours. (My kitchen was fairly cool, especially in the morning when I started. Your rolls may thaw and rise faster or slower, depending on ambient temperature, altitude, humidity, etc. Basically, just leave them alone until they're big enough that you're happy with them.) Mine in the above pic are risen enough to be baked, though I'm letting them go longer just because I'm hoping to wait long enough for my hubby to come home so that he can have them fresh out of the oven. They will keep getting bigger. The bigger they get, the more careful you'll have to be when brushing on the glaze because they'll be so fluffy that too much pressure will make them collapse. (If that happens, they won't look very pretty, but they will still taste just fine.)


Step 3: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix up your glaze.
It will be slimy and VERY thick. But once baked, it is oh, so good. Brush, or if your pan is big enough and your rolls haven't risen to the point of billowing over the sides, drizzle this concoction over the rolls.
By this point (after about 9 hours) mine had risen so much that I couldn't get as much of the glaze on them as I would have liked. My rolls completely filled up the pan, so none of the glaze could ooze down to the bottom, which meant that most of the sweet goodness was confined to just the top of the rolls. If I'd glazed them when they were smaller (say, in that earlier picture after about 6 hours of rising) the glaze would have more fully permeated the bread and they'd have been sweeter than they turned out to be. Still good, mind you. Hubby polished them off with no hesitation, and like I said yesterday, he's not really a bread eater.


Step 4: As soon as the oven is ready, place the pan into it and bake for 15-20 minutes or until they're golden.  Mine were ready after just 15. If you know your oven cooks really fast, you might want to back the temperature down to 325 degrees, just to make sure you don't over-brown them.
Take 'em out and let 'em cool just long enough so that you can handle them without needing a trip to the emergency room. Begin scarfing them down.

This is insanely easy. And the sweetness, especially when done like this, isn't so overwhelming that it gives you a toothache. In the original recipe, the dough itself is sweetened with honey, so it's by default sweeter even without the glaze. Still, this is a really nice way to get almost the exact same flavor without all the extra work. And it's really especially nice since rising bread isn't something that requires constant attention, freeing you up to do whatever else you need or want to do. Hope everyone enjoys them!


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Buttered Rosemary Rolls

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/10/buttered-rosemary-rolls/
The Pioneer Woman's Buttered Rosemary Rolls
Okay, made these yesterday. Didn't use the iron skillet because... well because I just didn't want to dig it out and I already had a square cake pan handy. The pan held nine comfortably and I just let them rise pretty much all day, which kinda became an issue eventually because they got so huge and fluffy that a couple of them finally collapsed. That was when I decided to go ahead and bake those puppies. (I'd been waiting for Mark to get home, but wouldn't you know, it was one of those 15 hour days, so I finally had to give in and get them into the oven.) Anyway, been wanting to make them since I first saw the recipe and finally picked up some rosemary. Let me just say that they are absolutely AWESOME! And by awesome, I mean irresistible and so blasted good that you'll be tempted to forgo whatever you actually intended to eat as a main course. Mark ate four of them, and he is NOT a big bread guy. He kept telling me last night that it was all really good. He's not stingy with compliments in general, but by the time he'd said it three or four times, I figured he liked his supper. Just FYI, I made a big pot of beef stew that I've been wanting but that I have no recipe for. I just started tossing stuff into the pot and added whatever struck my fancy at the moment. Then let it simmer all day long and it turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. Anyway, I scarfed down 2 of the rolls right after they came out of the oven, then ate 3 more with supper. Or maybe Mark wound up eating five and I ate 2 more. I don't really know. All I know for sure is that the pan was empty before we went to bed, half the beef stew was gone, and I was feeling a bit like a balloon that was ready to pop. I was a bit leery of using too much rosemary because it's one of those spices that has a fine line between just right and overwhelming. But I think the next time I make them, I'll ad a bit more than I did this time. I didn't have the fancy sea salt that the recipe calls for, but did have some regular old sea salt and that's what I used. Seriously, they were just insanely delicious. I'm making another pan of rolls today, though I'm going with an old favorite - Honey Pan Rolls, with the shortcut of using the frozen dough. I'm going to take some pictures of these, and maybe post them assuming they all turn out okay.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sometimes Reality Bites...

There's been a lot of talk lately about how I'm coming to the end of my journey with cancer. (Assuming it never returns, and I'm going to make that assumption for my own peace of mind.) Everyone seems to bring it up. My doctors, my therapist, even Mark and myself. A very tangible evidence of the end will arrive at the end of this week when I go in to have my port removed. It's not any kind of major surgery. They won't even put me under full sedation. My surgeon says it'll be over in a blink and the last remaining "cancer" tie will be gone from my body. Not counting the scars.

I told my therapist a few weeks back when she asked me how I was feeling about it coming to an end that when I look back on it, it almost feels like it wasn't real. It all came and went so very fast. It feels like some strange interlude outside of time, as if everything came to a halt while I dealt with this thing that had grown inside me. And now it's gone and in a couple of days, the contraption they stuck inside me to help them fight it will be gone, too. Which is why I suppose I have found the past ten days to be so blasted frustrating.

It's no secret that we have dogs. It's also no secret that our dogs are very much a part of our family. They are, for all intents and purposes, our children. And if you have a problem with people who love their pets like kids and generally treat them as such, you might as well stop reading right now.

Katie is our baby girl. That's her on the left in both pics at the top of my blog. Mark spotted her in a mall pet store a few months after we came home from a trip to England in the spring of 2001. Mark had been wanting a Bulldog his entire life. And Katie pretty much wrapped him around her paw the first moment he saw her. She stepped on her food bowl and flipped it up and over onto her head, then proceeded to wear it like some kind of hat. That was that. He was in love. He didn't bring her home that day, but over the next day or so talked himself into it by saying that he'd stop by after work and if she was still there, then he'd bring her home. She was still there, so he snatched her up. I can still picture her running around out in the yard when he got home. We had three other dogs at the time, Malcolm, Beulah, and Wiggles. Katie went after all of them with brazen bravado. Poor Beulah was just too shocked to know how to react. Anyway, it took us a couple of days to settle on a name for her, but we eventually chose Katie-Bar-the-Door, because she was like a little ball of wild energy and true to her breed name, pretty much bulled her way into and through everything.

It didn't take us long to learn that Katie was flat out the smartest dog either Mark or I had ever known. And he owned a Border Collie when he was a kid. Katie picked up on words we spoke and learned them without us actually trying to teach them to her. I have joked for years that if Katie had opposable thumbs, she's be ruling the world by now. Anyway, despite the fact that Briscoe is four years younger than she is, Katie still somehow manages to be the baby.

Katie used to worry us because she grazed grass like a cow. I mean she'll go outside and literally graze from one patch to another, eating all the way. We'd always heard that dogs ate grass when they were sick, so we worried until I finally bought a book or looked it up on the internet or something and found that some dogs are just that way. It's the ones who don't regularly eat grass and then suddenly start doing it that you have to worry about. Which brings up Briscoe. Katie is something of an atypical Bulldog. We read books about them when she was a baby, that warned of issues with drool and flatulence and snoring and breathing issues, so we kept waiting for all that to develop, but it never did. So we decided to get her a little brother and along came Briscoe. He, unlike Katie, is the quintessential Bulldog. He drools consistently. And he snores loud enough to wake the dead, sometimes. And the gas! Oh, Lord, the gas can be bad enough to bring tears to your eyes! Plus, he has other issues that are typical of Bullies, including some trouble with breathing and eating due to the cramped nature of his snout and throat. He has this lovely thing he does where he goes and drinks half a gallon of water, then walks into the living room and regurgitates it all right back up. He does it with food, too. (The things we'll put up with for the sake of love.) He's done it most of his life, which is why it doesn't freak us out any longer. It's just part of who he is. Katie, on the other hand, never gets sick.

This is why Mark and I got very worried about her on Sunday night, Jan. 8th. She started vomiting and kept on vomiting until there just wasn't anything left to come up. Eventually, we decided to take her to the same ER Vet who'd saved her life a few years back when she developed Pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus requiring immediate surgery. So we rushed her all the way up to Wilder, KY. Keep in mind that Mark was due to fly out to New Jersey first thing Monday morning. It was about 12:30AM when we decided to take her. We got her there and they took a look at her and confirmed that something was definitely up. We were afraid that she might have swallowed a piece of a toy. Katie is a serious power chewer. She absolutely must kill anything that squeaks. Which is why we buy her the hardest, toughest squeaky things we can find. No fluffy little fake rabbits for her. She'd have them gutted and de-stuffed within a matter of seconds. She got a new toy for Christmas that we hoped might last more than a couple of days. She killed it faster than we expected, though, and sat about ripping it to pieces out of spite because it had dared to SQUEAK at her!

Katie has never, ever been one to actually eat her toys. Or shoes or wires or any of the other things puppies often find so appealing. Briscoe, however, did take the opportunity to use the gear shift in my car as a chew toy when he was still a little thing. It still has the teeth marks. Anyway, despite the fact that Katie has never made it a habit to actually eat the things she chews on, we started worrying that she might have swallowed a piece of this toy. That's what we told the vet on duty that night and pretty much what she expected had happened. She took Katie off to take an x-ray, then came back a few minutes later and I knew from the look on her face that it was something bad.

The good news was that Katie had not eaten any pieces of her toy. The bad news was she had some kind of enormous mass in her abdomen that was so large it was shoving all her organs out of place. The vet that night wasn't sure if it was one of her kidneys or something else. It was just too big to be sure. So we left Katie there and got home just in time to take a short 45 minute nap before we had to be back up and on the way to the airport. Later that morning I got a call from the day vet saying that they wanted to do surgery. We'd already figured that was going to have to happen. The surgeon called a little while later and said he'd go in and try to get all of whatever it was out. He did the surgery that afternoon.

Bulldogs are always risky to operate on. Their short noses make breathing normally a bit of an issue. Add in sedation and it can become a dangerous situation very quickly. But there was no choice. So I waited on pins and needles all afternoon until they finally called and said the surgery was over and she was fine.

I won't go into all the gory details about what he found when he opened her up. Suffice it to say that this thing was nearly the size of a soccer ball. It was full of fluid and pretty much deflated when he cut into it. He took what he could out, but there was a lot he could not remove because it was very extensive. He sent biopsies off to be tested and I went and picked her up on Tuesday afternoon.

She was very sore and any movement at all was hard for her. Plus, we found out pretty quick that she had some trouble keeping food and even water down. (It was a bit like having two Briscoe's in the house.) Mark came home on Thursday afternoon and had a meeting he had to go to. It wound up being after seven by the time we got home. There was a message from the vet waiting saying he had the biopsy results. I didn't call him back that night. Mark had another meeting on Friday and had to go before I even had the chance to call the vet. When I did, he told me that it was cancer.

What's the likelihood? I get done with cancer and now my dog has it? So, I wound up taking her back up there Friday afternoon so the surgeon could check her over and he started telling me about what she had and how they'd treat it. Chemo, of course. What else do you do for cancer? He mentions the names of a couple of the chemos they use and low and behold, one of them is Adriamycin. I had to stop him there. I explained that I'd just finished cancer treatment and one of the chemo's I received was Adriamycin. I was plenty familiar with it.

We came back home with Katie. Just like me, her surgical wound had to heal before they could start the chemo. But the problems holding down food never did quite go away. Then, this afternoon she suddenly stopped being able to hold down anything at all, again. It was like deja vu from the night we took her up to the ER. I called the vet and he said to bring her in. They took her away from me again, to give her fluids and medicine to try to stop the vomiting and nausea. It looks like she might get her first chemo tomorrow. It will depend on how she does tonight.

The surgeon believes that the cancer in her abdomen is so extensive that it is essentially causing a blockage, which is why she keeps having problems keeping down food. His hope is that the chemo will shrink the size of all those tissues, thereby making it easier for her to eat comfortably. I called to check on her earlier this evening and at that time she still hadn't eaten anything, but then they'd just put food in her pen right before I called. All her vitals were fine, which at least means she isn't getting markedly worse. I'll call in the morning to check on her and to see if they're going to go ahead with the chemo.

So, here I am, trying not to worry about her and praying that she'll improve and not take a turn for the worse. I cannot tell you how much I love that dog. She is so very sweet and gave me more comfort and laughter during my own cancer journey than I could ever express. I am trying very hard not to worry about what I cannot change. It isn't easy, though. I miss my baby girl and I am very afraid that this may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to missing her. Because if she doesn't respond the meds, then there's only going to be one other option. The very thought of it makes me nauseous.

I've been fighting tears all afternoon. I don't want to lose my baby girl. Not now. Not yet. Please, Lord, let her hang on. Let the medicine work. Give me strength, Lord, to face whatever is coming.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Squeaker...

[This post will have to wait a few days to be published, because we have a rule about making it public (as in broadcasting it to the world on the web) when Mark is out of town. This week he's in Costa Rica for business. The events described took place on the night of December 7th and the following day, Thursday, December 8th.]

I am SUCH a sap. 

We have mice. Now, I am not the kind of woman who sees a mouse and runs screaming for help. (I reserve that for spiders, as they are clearly the deadliest creatures on earth and perfectly capable of ripping my arm off and beating me to death with it.) I do not fear or even hate mice, per se, but neither do I appreciate them chewing on and/or pooping all over my stuff. We have made several attempts to deal with them. Poison seems to have no effect. (Judging by the fact that I put it out, they scarf it down, and yet still keep right on living.) We tried one of those live "catch and release" traps but our mice are apparently too smart to fall for it. Neither Mark nor I could quite bring ourselves to set out the old-fashioned snap traps. 1) I don't want to have to empty them; 2) we have cats who would undoubtedly get their noses or feet snapped off while trying to steal the mouse bait. Which brings up the whole thing with the cats.

We have 3 cats. Generally speaking, they are fairly sucky at mouse catching. That, or they are just too lazy to bother. (Mark's theory.) At least one of them is capable of catching mice. There have been a few times the we got up in the morning to find a partially eaten and/or mutilated mouse corpse waiting for us on the kitchen floor. (Gross, I know, but at least she doesn't feel the need to bring her "present" into the bedroom and leave it on the bed for us.) There has been much debate about which cat is the capable, if lazy, mouser. Of the 3, there are 2 candidates: Lily and Marble.
Lily
Marble

























The 3rd cat is not an option. Phoebe is too old to care about chasing much of anything. She spends most of her time sleeping. Plus, she has this frustrating little problem with being unable to retract her claws. We call her the Velcro kitty because she tends to stick to things. Just walking across the carpet can be funny to watch. If she took a swipe at a mouse, the thing would still be stuck her foot hours later. So, either Marble or Lily is our off/on mouser. 

Mark is not a big fan of cats. He prefers dogs. You wouldn't know he has a preference, though, considering how willing he is to buy them toys. Lily generally deems herself above playing with "fake" mice and plastic balls with bells in them. Marble, on the other hand, goes bonkers for all of them. She will carry the fake mice around the house in her mouth, sometimes meowing at them. She chases the jingle balls until she loses them beneath furniture. Watching her play is not only cute, but entertaining as well. Which might explain why, when we were browsing the pet aisle at our local Wal-Mart a few weeks back, Mark took me seriously when I picked up a specific cat toy and joked that we ought to buy it.

Normally, when I get toys for the cats, I stick to the cheapest stuff I can find. I get the multi-packs of ridiculously colored fake mice or plastic jingle balls. This toy was different, though. It was a good-sized fake, stuffed mouse. What makes this mouse so special, besides its cute little ears, is that it makes a realistic squeaking noise. Every time the mouse moves, even just a tiny bit, it squeaks. I joked about how much the cats would love it and Mark was like, "Get it." So we did.
video
We brought it home and tossed it in the floor and Marble went nuts for it. Lily even plays with it sometimes. The cats find and lose and find and lose it over and over again. We'll see them batting it all over the place and laugh about someone finding "The Squeaker." Then it will disappear for a couple of days. The squeaking is fairly loud, so we can hear it whenever they have it, even if the TV is on. Mark says he's been woken up a few times during the night by the non-stop squeaking while Marble swatted it around. I've never heard it then, but I'm good at tuning those kinds of things out.

So I tell you all this so that I can tell you THIS. I was sitting here last night messing with my computer. Not sure what I was actually doing. Reading or something. Anyway, the TV was on but I wasn't really watching it. Then I heard the squeaker start up and I thought, "Oh, they've found it." I haven't seen or heard it in a few days. There's no telling where it was. I heard the squeak, then the sound of cat feet running around in the kitchen, then more squeaking. This went on for a few minutes before I sat aside the computer and glanced over into the kitchen. That's when I realized that the "squeaker" Lily and Marble were playing with was NOT the one we'd bought in the store.

There, in the middle of the floor, was a little mouse. A live one. Lily was doing that thing cats do where they let it go and wait for it to try to run before they smack it again. Now, as I have said, I do not appreciate the mice making themselves at home in my cabinets. I am always proud of my cats when I find that they've rid the house of one more of the little pests. However, I am way too much of a sap to actually sit and watch them kill one. So, idiot that I am, I got up and grabbed a cup and a paper plate and joined Lily and Marble in chasing the thing around the kitchen. It was pretty much worn out after what it had already been through. Plus, Lily and Marble actually helped herd it. I put the cup on the floor and used the paper plate to prod the mouse into the cup, then stood there trying to figure out what to do next.

If it were summer, I would have just put it outside. No doubt the mouse would have just found its way back into the house, but my primary goal was to not have to watch it die. But it was freezing cold out and since the thing is used to living in the house, I was standing there thinking that tossing it outside would be no better than letting the cats kill it. So I parked myself on the couch with my cup o'mouse beside me and sent Mark an email.

This is the actual email exchange between us.

Me: I heard squeaking & figured the cats were playing with the mouse.

I was right. It just wasn't the one I thought.

I couldn't stand to watch (or listen to) them kill it, so now I have it in a cup & have no idea what to do with it. I'm such a sap!

Mark: Unfortunately if they broke the skin it is dead already. I can get a habitrail for Christmas if otherwise

Me: I think it's actually all right, unless there's some kind of internal damage. It was clearly terrified, but running all over the place trying to escape Lily and Marble. I'm not actually going to try to handle it, of course, but from what I can see, it looks fine physically. It was panting like mad, but has settled down now that it's not getting cat paws to the head. It'd toss it outside, but I figure it'll just freeze to death.

Mark: Keep it. There is a small aquarium in the barn you can get tomorrow rip up the old clothes for bedding water cheese what more does a mouse need until we buy some bedding chips and a habitrail . I not sure what to put it  in until tomorrow. Probably needs water and warm dark place.

Me: Great. A pet mouse. What the heck are we going to call him? Her? God in heaven, I'm screwed up!
Love and miss you. Guess I'll go hunt up something to keep the little twerp in.
Mark: Twerp is a unisex name.
Me: I have to be in Madison tomorrow so assuming the mouse survives the night, I'll stop in at China-mart (our nickname lately for Wal-Mart) and see if they have a small habitrail. At the very least, I'll pick him up some hamster food, as apparently cheese is not actually what they should be fed. Seems that they are lactose intolerant. Who knew? I gave him some dog and cat food, plus some sunflower seeds. Water too, of course. We'll see how it goes.

My appt. tomorrow isn't until 9:45, so you should have no trouble getting hold of me in the morning.

I love you. Twerp loves you, too, since you didn't suggest I let the cats eat him/her. :) happy

And so, Twerp got moved into a fairly large plastic tub that once held kitty litter. This seemed somehow appropriate to me. I stuck him/her in the hall bathroom, so that I could shut the door and prevent the cats from finishing what they'd started. This morning I got up to check on Twerp and sure enough, he/she was fine. (I'm leaning toward she, because as I told Mark earlier, with my luck she's already pregnant and will soon give birth to a dozen more little Twerps.)
The big white thing in front is a toilet paper tube that I put in there thinking Twerp would like the idea of hiding in it. When I first checked on her this morning, she was inside it. I could just see her little butt sticking out. When I went back to check on her right before I left, she'd come out and was just sitting there.

So I went to my doctor's appointment, then went by Wal-Mart and picked up some stuff, including a little cage, complete with wheel, house, and water bottle. I got a couple of different kinds of feed, one for rats and mice that looks like little cardboard bricks and a hamster/gerbil mix that has seeds and stuff in it. Plus Twerp has a little salt wheel to lick and some apple sticks to chew on. Mice are like rabbits that way. They need to chew. Anyway, I got home and put the cage together, then added some bedding/litter made from ground up corn cobs. (I figure Twerp will like to eat that, too.) And finally I was ready to add Twerp. This was a bit more complicated than I expected, mostly because the door on the cage isn't all that large. Plus, Twerp proved to be completely uninterested in getting back into another cup. Eventually, I did convince her to go into her little toilet paper tube and so I picked it up and carefully put her into her new home. She does not like it.


She spent a couple of minutes running around, trying to figure out how to escape through the bars. Then she just parked herself in a corner and glared at me.
Of course, she has no idea that I not only saved her life last night, but am bending over backwards to keep her alive. See, when I got home from the store this morning. I found a gruesome little present waiting for me in the kitchen floor. This mouse - possibly Twerp's sister or brother or even a parent - was not as fortunate as Twerp. I was not here to rescue it. And so all that was left was a head and a bloody smear on the linoleum. (Double gross!)


Apparently, Lily did not appreciate me taking her super realistic "squeaker" away from her last night, so she went and caught herself another one. I do feel kinda sorry for it, but honestly, I'm just glad that she waited until I was gone to do it so that I wouldn't wind up with a pair of mice instead of just the one!


Ah, well, such is life. I don't know what's worse, me for being too much of a sissy to condemn the thing to death (either by cat or by freezing) or Mark for immediately suggesting we keep it like a pet. I have told him many times that when I was a kid I always wanted a hamster or gerbil. I had friends who had one and I thought it was just so cute. Mamma wasn't going for it, though. Dogs and cats were as far into the pet pool as we were going. Well, there were some chickens and a horse. And a duck named Seymour who was actually a female. But no rodents of any kind. Mark had a hamster when he was a kid and it escaped. His mom never quite forgave him for that.


Anyway, we now have a pet mouse. More accurately, we have a captive mouse, since Twerp does not actually seem interested in being a pet. I guess she'll live out her live in comfort and luxury though.


Anybody know how long mice live?


UPDATE: Well, I got up this morning (Friday, Dec. 9) and went to check on Twerp. Apparently, I did not secure the door properly and there was no Twerp in the cage. I looked all over the place, just to make sure, but she/he was gone. I was both saddened and relieved by this.

Then, tonight, right about the time I was due to start getting ready to go pick Mark up at the airport, I heard something fall over on the counter. A second later I heard a cat hit the floor. Sure enough, here came Lily trotting around the bar with a mouse in her mouth. I sighed, then got up and grabbed a cup. By the time I'd done that, Lily had dropped the mouse and it was making a run for it. She and Marble gave chase with me right behind them. This went on for a few minutes, Lily or Marble grabbing the mouse or swatting the mouse, me trying to keep them from killing it, it running behind anything and everything trying to get away from all of us. Eventually, the mouse faked the cats out and ran behind a box. I moved the box and it shot across the kitchen and behind the door that leads to the laundry room. The cats went after it and I followed. None of us was sure if it was still behind the door or if it had gone around the corner into the half bath. I was going in there to check when it took off back toward the kitchen then hung a right and darted across the living room floor. Lily caught sight of it and gave chase all the way to the end table. I sank onto the floor to look under the end table to see if Lily had caught it or if it was hiding somewhere. Right about that time, Katie (the dog) decided that she needed to join the fun. She came over to investigate all the action going on around the end table. The mouse picked that moment to dart out from behind the curtain where it had hidden. It spotted Lily and veered off, disappearing under the couch. Lily came out from under the end table, trying to follow the mouse. Katie took that opportunity to give Lily some of what she'd been dishing out to the mouse. She smacked Lily with her foot and tried to hold her down. Lily was too slick for her, though, and slid out between her back legs.

So, the mouse was safe beneath the couch. I have no idea if it was Twerp or not. If it was, then she clearly didn't learn her lesson about tangling with the cats. Mark came in and took a look at the cage and all the stuff in it and was like, "What mouse would leave this?" I must say I agree. It's a pretty snazzy setup. We're now thinking about getting a gerbil for it.


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