October 5, 2015

White Dog watched me shut the front door after the pups ate dinner. It was only seven o'clock and already it was dark. When we were getting ready for bed I asked Steve to turn off the ceiling fan and to lower the window sash a bit.

"It won't be long now until you put the big fluffy comforter back on the bed, will it, momma?" WD asked. "Those of you who always wear a double fur coat simply do not understand the temperature slide and its affects," I defensively replied. "Ask Puff and Ferguson about the cold dampness and how it makes their bones feel."

We have hit that time of year here in New Mexico where the days are perfect and glorious but nights quickly cool off; by dawn it is downright cold.

"Besides, I did leave the bathroom window open! And we have not yet shutdown the swamp cooler! We still have not had our last burst of Summer's really truly farewell."

"Don't worry, momma," said Benson hopping up on the bed. YoYoMa came over to press against my legs. "We will keep you warm." Sachi and Zsofia both reminded me that I could count on them to keep my feet toasty...Sachi on the bed and Zso when I am sitting in the living room and she lies on them.

I turned to WD. "And you have been my shoulder wrap as long as we have been together. Not only do your soft furs provide comfort but they block the door draft and maintain my chair environment at the perfect temp."

I laugh at myself as I think about the winter and cold we lived with during all those decades in Chicago and consider that this momma has lost that hardy Midwestern resignation to grey and ice and wind chills. Now when friends back East call during the coming half of the year I have to really concentrate to recall the conditions they endure and to not be unkind in sharing our hikable, alfresco dinable days and juniper scented nights as we briskly walk the dogs under the stars bundled up in our heaviest sweaters.


October 4, 2015

White Dog impatiently stood on me. "Get UP! It is time to smell the roses!" I sat up, confused. "Her head is still sleep fuzzy," WD told Steve and the rest of the White Dogs gathered around the bed. "Best bring everything in here."

They all filed out of the bedroom and I started to slide back under the covers. "Oh no, you don't!" said Zsofia as she jumped up to sit next to me.

Steve came in carrying roses and WD plopped a scroll into my hands. "Where did these come from I asked?" It was barely 6:30 and I knew they were not part of our landscape when we had gone to bed last night.

"They are to celebrate your anniversary. A present! Smell them! They are from dad and the scroll is from all of us." The red roses were fragrant and beautiful. I set the vase on the headboard and unlaced the ribbon from the rolled paper.

White Dog jumped back up on the bed and nosed Zso with a growl. Zsofia pulled her head back from the vase, "I was just sniffing them," she complained.

The scroll contained electronic tickets to Aida, my all time favorite opera. It is to be performed by a national company next week at our Hispanic Cultural Center. I coveted those tickets but feared the recent hot water heater replacement and Ferguson's vet bills had made going impossible.

"Surprise! Happy Anniversary!" the White Dog Army howled and Steve kissed me.

WD moved between us. "Tell us the story of the day you and dad got each other," she demanded. WD has heard the story a million times but she is a romantic at heart; the others were fascinated and got comfortable around us.

It was very cold the morning we were wed, I told them. "No, them then it was freezing and the ground was slick with frost and sprinklings of snow," White Dog corrected. Dad and I chose to have our ceremony at a beautiful pine forested Boy Scout camp in Michigan, I continued. It gets very cold there in the winter and often there is snow on the ground before the leaves are done falling.

We invited all of our friends and family to join us in the woods for a celebration in an open air chapel that overlooked the lake. Our artist friends had created lovely banners that fluttered in the trees. Our musician friends had written and chosen special music to play for the ceremony. Several friends had written or picked literature passages to share. It was very magical and amazing as the early morning sun sparkled on the water and filtered through the pine needles.

But it was VERY VERY cold. The flowers were wilting from the shock of being so cold. The musicians kept their hands covered with gloves when they were not playing. The minister performed the ceremony wearing a bright blue parka and fishing waders. Many of the women had chosen beautiful party dresses that provided little warmth so we handed out blankets for huddling together.

Momma was warm because I was shaking in fear wondering if I was sure I was ready for this kind of change to my life. Dad was calm and at peace in his warm woolen tuxedo. He did not know until after the ceremony that I had looked at the distance to the ridge in the woods and calculated whether I could make it up and over before anyone caught me.

"But you did not really want to get away, did you momma?" Benson asked me. "No, sweet boy, but I knew this was a decision I would make only once in this life and I wanted to be sure, surer than sure, that I believed in my soul that I could forever keep the promise I was about to make."

"And you did, right?" Nilla said. "I looked at dad standing just at the edge of the woods with the morning light washing over him; he was so steadfast and ready. He gave me strength and I knew that forever it would be so. At that instant my scaredness was replaced by the joy of knowing what an incredible miracle was about to occur."

"And then we came along." said Sachi. "Well, you all were a bit further along in our journey. Dad and I were married thirty-five years ago." "Wow! that is even older than Puff," said Yo who turned to his sister and said "no offense." "But we certainly started down the road that would wind and twist and lead us to each one of you and to the family we are today."

"I am so glad you and dad got each other," White Dog cheered. "But I think it was no accident. It was meant to be. Happy 35th Anniversary!"

Just then Steve hit the remote and our wedding song began to play over the speakers...

October 3, 2015

White Dog said, "Let's call this Saturday Success! starring Ferguson Amat Vitam (Lover of Life)!"


October 2, 2015

White Dog tilted her head. All of the WDA watched in amazement. Steve brought in Ferguson, who had spent the morning at Dr. Julia's office and placed him in my arms. He let me greet him and then struggled to be set down. And when I did...

Our boy went TROTTING across the room! What a difference just a day makes!

Ferguson seems to finally have turned a corner. He is most certainly on the road to recovery. He WALKED all around the yard. Steve brought him in and settled him in the bedroom. Nope! He walked out to the living room and then checked out the kitchen. Walking mostly, not leaning, and getting up and down with ease.

Wanted his regular dinner, he really did but was not quite ready. We pipetted some slurry before he started biting the tip...he lapped it up from the saucer! Same with water! Not a lot, only a couple of tablespoons but still!

Friday Update: At lunch today, Ferguson ate from his bowl and seemed to truly enjoy the mashed potatoes and cauliflower mixed up with chunks of chicken. Steve sat by his side but did not have to assist our boy in his feeding. And tonight there was a bright smile and joy in Fergus' eyes as he gobbled down salmon. Steve had to stop him from his feasting for fear of his overdoing the gusto. But he is eating and drinking!

Things seem to be returning to normal. We think the nettles have become less and less of an issue with Fergus' GI tract and we are convinced that the detoxing has had a positive affect on the return of his mental sharpness and coordination. There have been no further seizures and his fearful demeanor is melting to reveal the smile I so dearly love.

We are still hunting for a name to what made him lose his ability to get around and that took much of his cognitive abilities, and in that maybe also a guarantee that it will never happen again. But we are ready for the weekend; Dr. Julia sent home an emergency kit just in case. And he is scheduled to see her first thing on Monday just to make sure all continues to be well and is progressing toward complete recovery.

THANK YOU for all shoring us up with your prayers and positive thoughts and belief in the power of love.


October 1, 2015

White Dog suggested we give the White Dog nursing staff some special recognition and a treat in honor of the amazingly compassionate care they have provided for Ferguson. He is beginning to show real improvement, thanks in no small part to the outpouring of love that has surrounded him from so many, especially those at home.

His siblings have encouraged, watched over, fretted about, and constantly attended Ferguson...even when he was too sick to even notice. The White Dogs (especially the youngest, darkest one) have without prompting known to offer support and extra attention as Ferguson worked his way through his complicated medical challenges which still are not over.

In honor of their service Steve and White Dog put together a Autumnal Italian Meal for the Army to enjoy. Since puppy hood, my girl has had a soft spot in her heart for the dinner scene in Lady and the Tramp; that was their inspiration. They made big juicy turkey meatballs for each of the WDA; made a sauce of ricotta cheese, pesto, broccoli and chopped olives and with this they smothered a bed of spinach fettuccine. Ferguson ate a single noodle and then some slurried hi-protein shake. He slept nearby with a smile as the WDA enjoyed their special thank you.

There were almond macaroons with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert.

"You know, momma," YoYoMa told me after he finished, "We love Fergus. We have not taken care of him in hopes of a reward. Not that I am complaining about this great meal." "Sweet Boy, it is precisely because you all do what you do spontaneously and out of concern for one of our own that I am honored to fete your efforts. Thank you all for being there for each other; humans could learn from you."


September 30, 2015

White Dog looked at me in alarm. "Aren't you going to help him?" she asked referring to Ferguson who was struggling to rearrange himself on his sleep mat. "Give him a chance," I told her. "We need to encourage our boy to push himself a bit on this road to recovery. If he tries and truly can't or seems like he is getting frustrated and panicky, I will help, but let's let him use those muscles and his brainpower." I don't think WD was convinced but she hung back and the others followed her lead.

I do not like watching Fergus struggle but Dr. Julia, Steve and I decided that we must not let him fall into the role of invalid. The longer he does not walk, the harder it will be to rehab those muscles and to keep the motor skills sharp enough to be mobile. So letting him flail a bit with his legs or stumble  or lean as he stands, as mean as it seems, is truly in his best interests. We know to lavishly praise even two small steps or swimming on his belly to change sleep directions. And we certainly step n with assistance when it is clear he has tired himself or simply is not able. It is not easy when my momma instincts fill my head with screams to pick him up and save the day.

But the White Dog Army got it. Every time Ferguson made an effort, one or the other was there with a nuzzle or a display of support. Zsofia dropped Dragon, her most prized stuffy, at Fergus' feet as he leaned into Steve's chair. She wooed at him to play and seemed pleased with herself when he dropped to lie on top of her treasure.

And when Steve announced to him that he was going to have to eat some dinner, Puff stood at my side as I held him while we fed our sick boy a slurry of blended dogfood and ensure. He resisted the first few slurps but I massaged his throat and explained how important it was that he begin eating on his own. Puff touched his foot. Then YoYoMa and Benson came to sit in front of him...and by the time Nilla, his special guardian, barked her cheer he was taking the thick liquid willingly. We did not overdo but followed the food with some syringed water as well.

It has become a family endeavor to accompany Steve and Ferguson as they go out into the yard every 90 minutes or so. He is not strong enough to walk but Steve carries him out and down the ramp and holds his special harness (once Quinn's) so Ferguson can stand. it is yet another attempt to get muscles and desire moving again...and hopefully will help him sleep through the night.

We see a little more light in his eyes, even after only a half day of fluids at the vet but the road to recovery still seems long. Tomorrow he returns to Dr. Julia for the day and then we will develop an action plan for the upcoming weekend.

It nearly made me cry when Sachi, usually our goofy self-absorbed boy, walked into the special crate we have set up as a cave for Ferguson and laid against Ferg's side. "Don't worry, brother," he reassured him, "you will get through this. I love you."


September 29, 2015

White Dog and the rest of the Army long ago had reached the point of hiking over to the vet’s office to rescue their brother and bring him home. It HAD been a tortuous all day wait. Steve called after four to ask if we had heard anything and at the “No!” wails of White Dogs announced that he was just going to go over there and bring Ferguson home because he had class in a very short time.

We all hung by the phone, waiting for a teleconference between us, Dr. Julia and Steve but none came. Steve pulled into the drive and brought Fergus inside. He was very out of it but at least seemed much less fearful than he did yesterday. We all welcomed our boy home then turned to Steve expectantly, “Well?’

“There is no well. There was a line out of the door and everything was crazy. They gave Ferg to me and said Dr. Julia would call you probably after office hours to powwow.” Then he dashed into now rush hour traffic to get back to school in time for class.

Ferguson sat in my arms for some time and benignly let his family come up to him. Then he asked to get down. He curled up on the side of my chair and slept. Candace and I speculated and waited until she, too had to leave for work. I prayed we had not been forgotten.

It was nearly seven when Dr. Juia phoned; the WDA arranged themselves around me so all could hear the conversation. We made note that he is still in pretty bad shape, still barely stumble walking and mostly just lying there.  But we finally we are sorting through issues. Our concerns in order of priority are the fact he is not eating or drinking on his own; his personality changes (so fearful yesterday and sometimes snappish); mobility/cognition abilities; and his lungy breathing that seems to produce rock solid pellets of mucus.

Dr. Julia’s further research indicated horse nettles cause huge gatrointestinal problems that take a while to be expelled and the tissue healed. Ingested the nettles that cover the stalks and leaves of the plant dig into the gut lining and cause infections, hundreds of them, that fester from the poison until the body manages to dissolve them. (And Ferguson seems to have been munching on them semi-regularly for awhile before he made himself sick; so imagine the damage.) No wonder Ferguson stopped eating. I fear his lungs are fighting the same battle from snoofling to chose the perfect weed.

There is no antidote for horse nettles except time...and we believe the continual IV flushing of his system is offering some help. He is on both carprofen and tramadol for pain management right now and to help him reestablish sleeping through the night (instead of his constant pacing which we also believe is attributable to pain in conjunction with the epilepsy).

Dr. Julia believes that Ferguson has epilepsy that has been awakened by horse nettle's toxicity. He has probably been an epi-dog for some time and probably had only few seizure episodes. But he is a rescue dog and who really knows his history before his saving and rebirth as a member of the WDA.
We are cautiously watching but right now we agree that putting him on seizure meds will complicate his neuro and gastro systems; we are going to avoid any of the options there unless an emergency need arises.  We want to effect a return to normal mobility and awareness first. So Ferguson will continue going in each day for IV intervention for tomorrow and Thursday and then we will take precautions to be prepared for the weekend.

A start, at last! I feel we at least have a tiny island of solid ground to stand on as we work to bring Ferguson back. At last the WDA feels we have something to hang our hope on and cheer about but as Benson noted, not unkindly,  our boy still looks and acts like there is a long road to recovery.


September 28, 2015

I so want to see this magnetic smile again.
White Dog and the rest of the Army rushed over to where Steve had just placed Ferguson in my arms. He drew back in fright, quivering at the press of them all. The WDA did not understand; they had merely wanted to see for themselves how well their brother's day in the vet hospital had gone. They were crushed.

Over the weekend, Ferguson, who has experienced a roller coaster ride of ups and downs health wise since his seizure mid month and our discovery of his ingestion of horse nettles (a nightshade poisonous weed), stopped eating and yesterday afternoon began refusing water as well. He has over the past four day become a creature that barely slept...pacing ceaselessly until he fell over into a near coma for an hour or so before rising and starting the cycle again.

First thing this morning, we called the vet. Dr. Julia would not be in until Tuesday but we went in thinking to get ahead of the game in terms of ordering blood work and xrays and whatever else her associate thought we might need to review with her tomorrow.

They saw us immediately. As we sat in the exam room waiting on the vet, Fergus went into a seizure...just like the one he had to initiate his whole crisis. He was foaming at the mouth, was disassociated, and rigidly twitched. Everyone rushed in. In less than 30 seconds it was over...except Ferguson could not walk and still seemed disoriented.

We left him at the hospital to have the blood tests done, to flush his system, and to rehydrate him with an all day IV. It was our hope to return at the end of the day to a perky on the road to recovery boy.

Not the case. AND the blood work up offered no clues. His blood values were all better than they had ever been. They indicated a senior dog in extraordinary health...only he isn't.

The plan is to surround him with love and security tonight and tomorrow he will return to the vet for evaluation and a consultation with Dr. Julia, who we pray has some insight that is so desperately needed.

Please send our Lover of Life healing energies. Positive thoughts to guide our ability to see and fix the problem would be dearly appreciated. Power of the Paw is mighty strong medicine which is exactly what we need right now.


September 27, 2015

White Dog watched the clock and started hustling everyone to get ready half an hour before the Supermoon rise and lunar eclipse were scheduled to begin. We were blessed with a clear night sky and muted neighborhood lighting. Everyone went out into the yard with Steve.
"Can we stay out and watch until 11?" Puff asked. "Maybe we will take some more photos during bedtime walks," Steve replied, "but now Sweet Girl, you must go in for your oxygen therapy." Everyone in the WDA knows how important this time is for Puff's health so there was no argument or complaint, but Nilla whispered to her walk partner, Zsofia, "Let's be sure dad has his camera when we go out later."

September 26, 2015

White Dog asked me, "Do you think he will ever get it or is he just going to stubbornly resist forever?" "You are the Queen of Eskies," I respond, "you tell me."

From the bathroom comes the pitiful whimpering and jumping cries for help aimed out of the open window. Sachi is in what is fast becoming his after meal timeout routine.

The White Dog Army are social diners. All know that they have their own bowls and must respect each other's eating speeds and habits. When a White Dog is finished and walks away, THEN the empty bowl is fair game to snoofle for crumbs or lick out imagined tidbits (the bowls are usually left pretty spotless). When these manner rules are forgotten a "Leave IT!" reminder suffices.

Benson is on a different diet than the rest of the WD because of his kidney disease. They all get home cooked food, only his is different. This makes his meal and empty bowl a fascination for several of his siblings. YoYoMa is great about minding the rules of waiting as he sits five feet away like a vulture and stares.

Not so with our Little Man, Sachi. He slinks and presses ever closer looking for an escaped pasta noodle or green bean. "Leave IT!" has become ineffective in this case as he makes a mad dart and nabs a mouthful from under Benson's nose. Benson is so good natured that he does not react or complain...

...but I do. "SACHI"...and he knows. So begins the chase game of Steve attempting to grab him and put him in timeout. For him, timeout happens in the bathtub. He cannot escape our old-fashioned claw foot tub and he can temper mark without causing too much human distress. Sachi is the boy our vet called, "Tubby" and he still is struggling to keep weight under control so his thievery is an issue of more than just bad manners. Steve ALWAYS catches him and Sachi ALWAYS spends "jail time" until the last dog has finished eating and all of the bowls have been picked up.

And he never seems particularly contrite.

"Of course not," WD reminds me, "he IS an Eskie, after all!"