Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for May, 2013

Me and My Dogs

Monday, May 20th, 2013

 

Roo & me May 2013 1 Roo & me May 2013 2

 

An acquaintance, not a friend, because I don’t know this person except via others and from a dachshund forum which I haunt (don’t judge me, I love dachshunds, this is my ‘fix’) recently lost her little girl dachshund, at only five months.  This little girl had some pretty daunting problems from birth and her ‘mum’ kept her because she loved her so, and also she felt that she, more than anyone, would probably be able to cope – more than cope in fact – she’d be able to give the little pup a good chance of a good life.  And she really did do that.  But sadly, the puppy’s health was poor and last week, she died.

All this made me think about Rupert.  This woman didn’t ‘write off’ the little poorly puppy, she poured love and effort into her short life.  I have been much more lucky with Rupert but even he has been close to ‘written off’ more than once.  Of course we went on to find vets whose judgment we trusted and if you follow my blog, you will know he’s had a lot of surgery in his (almost) nine years.  Once, after his second spinal operation, a ‘friend’ – who had no pets and never had – said (exact quote):  Oh Ali, if he was mine, I’d get rid of him! Have him put down.

We are – um – not so close nowadays, she and I, by the way.

When I got Rupert, as a puppy, I had fostered a dachshund for a long time on and off, so I knew what I was doing.  I’d never had one of my own though.  I saw Rupert (there were three male pups to choose from at the breeder’s house) and he was the one I fell in love with.  Actually, I fell for them all, but HE picked me.  He scampered over and climbed onto my legs as I knelt down and fussed mum and all the pups – there were four, three boys, one bitch.  He shoved in front, and licked, and forced his little wriggly puppy body into my hands.  Pushy.  I should have known!

On the way home, after tears from me, tears from the breeder – and I felt so bad, taking him away, but there you are, that’s how it works – he settled into my shoulder.  He still does this, every time I pick him up.  Arthur doesn’t do it.  But Rupert just drapes himself over a shoulder, snuggles down and nods off.  Then, that first time, he fitted into a hand.  Now I need two hands and a braced arm.  He’s a big mini.

I think, looking back, that Rupert was always going to have ‘issues’ with his well-being and health.  Now I know for example, that his ears are oddly short.  We didn’t know this, really until we got Arthur, four years later and were horrified that his ears were weirdly long.  We thought we’d got a little Dumbo-Dachshund with Arthur.  They’re not long.  Arthur’s ears are normal. It’s Roo.

Rupert has a ‘corrugated’ nap to his allegedly smooth coat, like a man with very crinkly hair whose smoothed it down with Brylcreem (remember that?), and there is a wiry coarseness to his back fur.  Arthur is perfectly smooth.  I think there is more than a touch of wire in Roo.

By eighteen months, he got a bad hernia, which was treated with surgery; only for it to ‘go’ again.  More nights sleeping on the floor with Rupert, mattress dragged from spare bed…

At four years, with no warning and despite careful step/jumping down/climbing management because I know that dachshunds can get back problems, his back ‘went’ and he was off his legs.  Just like that, one Sunday afternoon.  Dragging his back end round because his legs didn’t work.  This led to the first and probably the worst of his three spinal surgeries.  The last was over two years ago now and it was the most radical but it’s the one that he recovered from best and also the one that – so far – has given him over two years of surgery-free, happy (if carefully managed) extra life.

More than once, vets and surgeons at Bristol have given us what I now think of as the ‘get out clause’.  At first I don’t think I recognised it as such, because the best vets are really good at this.  They don’t say:  do you really think you are able to cope with this?  Or:  it’s just not worth the operation.  As the owner though, you do have to be very careful not to be having things done just because you cannot bear to lose your dog.  It really does have to be about the dog.  A really good vet – the majority – will NOT be only bothered about the insurance as I have so often heard said;  this is not my experience.  But I have been gently asked:  this will be hard to manage, are you OK with that?  Or:  I have to say most owners might well have drawn the line here.  Now, if they mean:  this is cruel, don’t do it, I need them to say that direct.  So I always ask, if I think a ‘get out clause’ convo is kicking off:  what would you do, if he was yours?  And then:  will he be in pain?  So far (touch wood, send prayers to the Great Dachie In The Sky) the answers have always been more along the lines of:  no, but this will consume most of the next few weeks and even then, it’s constant management.  The  bottom line so far from our vets and surgeons has always been:  if I could devote the time to managing this, I’d have the surgery done; and no, with meds and careful treatment and management for ever, he need not have pain.

The management of his condition has never, ever been an issue for me.  For us.  We all take part and so do his little extended pack of carers.  One of my friends sewed him a walking sling for his hind-end when he was still off his legs after the first surgery.  He came home still not able to walk or even weight bear on his back legs, so he had to be ‘walked’ about for a few minutes every three to four hours day and night, to try and get him to wee etc, and to gently let his back legs start to ‘feel’ what they needed to do.  This went on for about three weeks from the day his legs ‘went’, and very gradually, he stood, with a little less help from the sling each day.  Then he stood alone.  And one lovely, amazing cold day, he walked a few staggering steps.

In between all this, he cage rested or more often than not, he lap-rested.  Life got put on hold.  I only had one bad reaction from anyone and they were just not nice folks on any level, let alone the humane/caring levels, these emotions being sited on the higher planes of evolution, which they had not reached.  I doubt if they’ve scaled the foot hills of decent humanity even now.

Two surgeries later, including a 90% ‘fenestration’ of his spine, he is amazing.  He’s had lots of therapy, even accupuncture and he does need a 50% dose of an antin-inflam/painkiller every day, but he’s good.  He’s not existing, he’s living a good, full, happy life.

He has two ‘furrows’ down his spine where the surgery was.  His tail has never really recovered from the first paralysis – it’s got a ‘hump’ near his bottom and it doesn’t ‘wag’ properly, it sort of rotates.  He often skids off his back legs when he tries a fast cornering manoever such as Medlar-pursuit games.  He wobbles when he’s tired or if he’s having a bad day – and there are a few other syptoms that, should I see them, mean I just up his meds for a few days and pop him in the crate for a bit more rest daily.

He’s had so many ops now that if he gets a soft scrambled egg (the post-op recovery food we were first advised to give him) I think he just assumes he’s been in hospital but it’s all good now.  That said, he’s a bit tetchy.  OK, he’s proper grumpy at times.  I don’t really blame him.  I think this is partly a memory of pain.

In Rupert’s case he had (has) an hereditary degenerative spinal problem, despite coming to us from a good, responsible and reputable breeder who did all the things right in terms of breed.  Arthur – who arrived about three months before Rupert first became unwell, is, we think, free of it and they are half-brothers.

Just luck.  I think of it as good luck, because I love him so much, and we were lucky to get him, and he was lucky to come to us. We considered it an honour to look after him – we still do.

So this week, I have thought about all this and about the little girl puppy who died.  Can you weep for a little dog you never even met?  Yep!  She was never written off by her loving, caring ‘mum’.  We dachshund owners may be daft about our dogs – and I think all dog lovers are the same, really – but we are sane.  If she hadn’t thought that her little girl deserved and had a fighting chance, I am sure she would have said so.  But she did have a chance – and that’s what her mum gave her.

Here we all are, happily at work this week.  I’m in the middle, Roo on my lap, Arthur acting as bum-scarf (a phrase I heard this week and basically, it’s Arthur’s job description).

Report-writing time

Report-writing time

 

 

Please say that wasn’t summer…

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

…that lovely few days we had before, over and just after the May Bank Holiday?  The same time I was away, working in London…?

Because it’s now mid-May and it’s actually quite cold again.

Before the usual summer service was resumed, I look some pictures in the garden.

I have a love/hate thing going on with the weather now, because I hate that it’s (mainly) been very cold this spring, with the season about 4 – 6 weeks behind where it should be.  For example, now, 11 May, it feels like mid-late March with the strong westerly winds from the sea and a temperature struggling to get above 12 – 16 (except for a few days last week).

On the other hand, I love that this has retarded the garden somewhat.  Daffodils were late and lasted much longer than last year when March (and March alone) was hot.  The magnolia came into blossom in April and still has some flowers despite the stormy wind.  The tulips – and I planted four new sorts for this season – have lasted really well, with the early and the late varieties coinciding for at least two weeks and still going.  The plum, which is a relative new-comer here, is blossoming very late and with, hopefully, no real threat of frost, which was not the case for the last two years.

So the long cold late winter/spring scenario has been both a trial and a real blessing.  I suspect that our weather has been so topsy-turvey for so long now that this spring is actually more normal than I remember.

Anyway, here is late spring chez nous.

The flowering quince has the best display for years

The flowering quince has the best display for years

Birch catkins

Birch catkins

The hellebores are almost over but I do love the chocolate and mint in this flower

The hellebores are almost over but I do love the chocolate and mint in this flower

Un-planned clashes are very pleasing;  nature is far more daring than I am

Un-planned clashes are very pleasing; nature is far more daring than I am

Cow slips have self-seeded in the lawn so I am mowing around them

Cow slips have self-seeded in the lawn so I am mowing around them

A single, perfect magnolia  flower, one of thousands this year on the mature tree

A single, perfect magnolia flower, one of thousands this year on the mature tree

The magnolia petals have made an almost autumnal display on the gravel paths

The magnolia petals have made an almost autumnal display on the gravel paths

One of the new tulip varieties planted in autumn last year

One of the new tulip varieties planted in autumn last year

Green and cream tulip, new this year

Green and cream tulip, new this year

Pink and white - another new tulip for 2013

Pink and white – another new tulip for 2013

Primroses continue past their usual span this cold spring - a major bonus

Primroses continue past their usual span this cold spring – a major bonus

This winter-flowering cherry bloomed on time in December; then it was so cold in March and April, it did it again.

This winter-flowering cherry bloomed on time in December; then it was so cold in March and April, it did it again.

What a clash, but how up-lifting

What a clash, but how up-lifting

Acid green and common, wild red tulips - both fully naturalised in the garden and needing no intervention, unlike their refined cousins

Acid green and common, wild red tulips – both fully naturalised in the garden and needing no intervention, unlike their refined cousins

Sun Dogs

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Do you know what you haven’t had lately?

Gratuitous dog pictures.

Here are some from this week, when it was hot and sunny.

Arthur gazes lovingly if blankly into the middle distance

Arthur gazes lovingly if blankly into the middle distance

Arthur tip-toes through the tulips
Arthur tip-toes through the tulips

Arthur, disturbed by me taking pictures of him while he was sun-bathing

Arthur, disturbed by me taking pictures of him while he was sun-bathing

Rupert:  the George Clooney of the dachshund world; my handsome old silver fox

Rupert: the George Clooney of the dachshund world; my handsome old silver fox