Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A tribute to Mulder

Waldo continues at an even level.  After his vet visit in early May, once he started his new medications, he began eating again and regained much of his joie de vivre.  At first, not knowing what he would feel like eating, I would serve him the appetizer plate at mealtimes:  a little canned dog food, a little protein, some vegetables, and a spoonful or two of some kind of starch.  He was too weak to stand by his bowl and eat, so I would put everything on a sandwich plate and hold the plate for him so he could eat sitting or lying down.  After a few days, he graduated to eating from his bowl if I held it, and then a few days later, to eating on his own from the bowl at his raised feeder.  He is still very thin, which is part of his kidney disease, and it's more difficult than it used to be for him to stand up by himself, especially since he likes to nap on the cool tile floor.  He has a special "I've fallen and I can't get up!" bark when he wants me to come and help him up.  But he is living a happy life and enjoys being spoiled.

Today, instead continuing the stories of my foster dogs, I want to pay tribute to my friend Pat's greyhound Mulder, who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on Sunday, May 27, 2012.  Mulder was a lovely male brindle greyhound, just one week short of turning 12 years old - his birthday is June 3.  He was a fine figure of a greyhound, tall and shapely, with a tail that hurt like a whip when he wagged it and smacked you across the legs.

Mulder began his life as a racing greyhound, as almost all greyhounds did at that time.  Although he ran 30 races, he was a little too high-strung to be a successful racer and his owners decided to retire him from racing and allowed Greyhounds Only to find him a home where he could live out his life in comfort.  Pat adopted Mulder from GO when he was two years old.  I don't know what made her decide to adopt a greyhound, since she had owned little dogs and cats before Mulder.  I think originally Pat was planning to adopt a Scully as a partner to Mulder.

Most people have a perception that greyhounds are high energy and need a lot of exercise, but shortly after adopting Muldie, Pat learned the truth of the slogan "adopt a greyhound, lose your couch" when Mulder claimed the living room sofa as his own special place.  The worst days of the month for Mulder were the two days after he had his flea and tick treatment in the summer.  The treatment solution is oily, and greyhounds have very little hair, so for the first couple of days after his treatment, Mulder wasn't allowed up on the couch, until Pat wiped off the remaining liquid and Mulder's life returned to normal.  Until then, it was pure torture to be separated from his beloved couch.

In truth, Muldie WAS sort of high-strung:  riding in the car made him nervous, new people and new experiences made him nervous, even the kitchen floor made him nervous.  After Mulder had lived with her for a couple of years, Pat decided to try adopting another rescue greyhound as company for him, thinking it would help Mulder settle down.  Along came Cleo, a beautiful black female greyhound, a few years older than Mulder.  Cleo was more easy-going than Mulder, but she had her quirks too, most notably the ability to stamp her feet when she wanted something.  Not long after Cleo joined the family, Pat learned about another female greyhound named Candy, about the same age as Cleo, that had been returned to Greyhounds Only.  In addition to a bent nose and stomach issues that required her to have a special diet, Candy also had an attitude problem that made her a difficult placement.  But Pat was willing to take on Candy and her special needs, so Candy came to live with them as well, and the pack was complete.  In the racing category, Candy was the pack champion, with over 120 races under her belt, er, collar.

Cleo & Mulder
By this time, Mulder was often referred to as The Baby Boy.  We teased Pat that Mulder was a surrogate for her married son Larry, who lives a few hours south.  It was evident that Muldie had chosen the exact right home for himself, with an easy-going mom who was happy to cater to his every wish as well as the whims of his adoptive sisters.  Pat maintains that Mulder wasn't spoiled, merely indulged.  Her house had become known as the Lazy Grey Ranch, and her large living room looked like a doggie flophouse, with multiple dog beds of various shapes and sizes spread across the floor.

For several years, Mulder lived a calm happy life, especially after Pat retired from teaching and could spend more time at home with him and the girls.  When Pat would go upstairs to sew, or down to the basement to work on her stained glass, the three greyhounds would stand by the stairs and howl in chorus, wanting her to come and be with them (Candy was always the instigator).

When he was around seven or eight years old, Pat noticed a crusty dry patch on Muldie's nose.  On their next vet visit, she pointed out the spot to the vet, who thought they'd better check it out.  The diagnosis came back as lupus, a serious autoimmune disease.  The good news was that Muldie had the type that responded well to steroids to help suppress the immune system response.

The two grey girls had their health problems during these years as well.  Cleo suffered first a stroke, and then a slipped disk in her neck that required emergency surgery.  Thanks to a wonderful veterinary surgeon, Cleo not only walked again but lived several more years.  A short time later, Candy began to limp and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer common in greyhounds, and underwent amputation of the affected leg.  When the cancer recurred, Pat had to let her go to the Rainbow Bridge.  Shortly after losing Candy, Cleo was also diagnosed with osteosarcoma, but because of the stroke and her previous spinal surgery, amputation was not an option for her, and Pat lost Cleo in 2010.

After living with two sick dogs for a couple of years and then losing both canine companions, Mulder became depressed, so Pat once again checked in with Greyhounds Only to see about a possible friend for him.  A black female greyhound name Sydney had recently been returned to them after committing cat-icide.  Although her former adoptive family loved her, it was impossible to keep her separated from their cats.  Syd was shy and skittish and needed a quiet home and a patient human to help her overcome her anxieties.  The Lazy Grey Ranch was just the ticket.  Syd has blossomed under Pat's loving care.

Around the same time, Pat learned that Mulder was in the early stages of liver failure.  Liver disease is another auto-immune disease, so it may have been related to his lupus.

During his last few months, Muldie grew very thin.  Like Waldo's kidney failure, liver failure in dogs is a wasting disease, and Mulder exhibited many of the same symptoms regarding loss of appetite, weight loss, and increased weakness.  As Mulder's illness progressed, he became very fussy about his food.  Pat never knew what he would feel like eating, so she too began to serve him the appetizer plate (which is known as the dim sum plate at the Lazy Grey Ranch).

After their last vet visit, Pat knew that Mulder was in the end stages of liver failure and wouldn't be with her much longer.  This past Sunday morning, she called to say that Muldie hadn't eaten in over 24 hours and was too weak to stand, and that today was the day.  Gail, Andie and I spent the morning with Pat and the greys, and then helped her get Mulder to the emergency veterinary clinic, where she stayed with him until he was safely on his way to the Bridge.

So that is the life story of our dear friend Mulder.  Pat and Syd are adjusting to life with a Mulder-shaped hole in it.  On Memorial Day, Sydney came to visit for the first time with her mom and did very well with Luke and Waldo; she may grow to like this only-dog thing.  For now.  Until another greyhound needs the two of them, either as foster or forever family.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is that a seal in my yard?

Waldo has been feeling perky for the last few days, eating well and enjoying himself.  He has resumed barking at me when he wants to go outside, come in from the yard, needs help getting up, or just wants me to come into whatever room he is in.  His bark sounds a lot like a seal (hence the name of this post).  Right now, he is willing to eat some of the canned kidney food if I mix it with some regular canned food.  He is also off rice but will eat pasta, so I have been cooking some pasta for him every few days and including about half a cup with his meals along with a little protein to help everything go down.  It's been about three weeks since his last vet visit and he's doing okay, so I'm okay, too.

Back to Waldo's vet appointment:

On May 4, Waldo and I went to the vet for a wellness check.  As Good as Gold's adoption coordinator Barb met us there, since she wanted to see how Waldo was doing.  She had visited him at the clinic when he first came into the rescue program and has a soft spot for him.  Compared to how he had looked back in February and March, Barb thought Waldo was looking really good.  She had one of Waldo's favorite treats in her pocket (organic dried chicken), so she was his new best friend.

When we got inside the clinic, there were three techs plus the two receptionists in the lobby area.  They were all happy to see Waldo but I am sure they were concerned to see how dejected he was looking.  They took Waldo in the back to weigh him, and Barb and I were assigned to an examination room.  Dr. Lewin and one of the techs came in almost immediately with Waldo and did a very gentle exam.  We went over Waldo's symptoms and behaviors over the last few days.  The vet explained that kidney failure is a wasting disease which is why Waldo is experiencing overall weakness, and that the uric acid build up causes ulcers to form in the stomach and the mouth which is probably why Waldo didn't want to eat.  He prescribed an anti-depressant that had the major side effect of increasing appetite, as well as an acid reducer for Waldo's stomach.  He also suggested feeding Waldo baby food, whatever kind he would eat.  He emphasized that we were doing all that could be done for Waldo, and praised the rescue group to the skies that we would take in not only an old dog but a seriously sick dog, and give him such a good quality of life for whatever time he has left.  It was all I could do not to cry in the vet's office.

I took Waldo home, then went out to get his prescription filled and buy some baby food for him.  I got several kinds of baby food since the vet said to feed him whatever kind he would eat.  Although he ate a little baby food that evening, Waldo vomited everything up, including the treat that Barb had given him.  I was really worried about the boy.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Waldo's meet & greet

After his initial adjustment to living with us, Waldo fell into a happy regular lifestyle:  eating well, going for a walk every afternoon with the dog walkers Patty and Jeremy from The Dog Walkers Inc., settling in with me for his nightly subq fluids, barking at me like a seal when he wants my attenion, and co-existing with Luke.  It's not that he and Luke don't get along, he just pretty much ignores Luke - in Waldo's eyes, I am sure that Luke is a young whippersnapper of 7 who has way too much energy and curiosity.

Luke relaxes with a favorite bone

Waldo was even feeling well enough to go to a meet & greet at the local Pet Supplies Plus store in Morton Grove.  Here he is with his friends Miriam and Jerry, two of As Good as Gold's regular meet & greet volunteers.  Miriam was one of the beautiful ladies who stopped by regularly to visit with Waldo when he was staying at Glencoe Animal Hospital back in February and March.

Waldo gets some love from Miriam                         Jerry introduces Waldo to another Golden

More about meet & greets:  a "meet & greet" usually takes place at a local pet supply store or other venue or event, and is an opportunity for the rescue group to distribute information to the community about the group and educational topics such as the importance of spaying or neutering your pets, vaccinations, heartworm protection, and microchipping.  We publicize the events on our website and the sponsoring store or event usually does as well, and we try to get our foster families to bring their foster dogs out to give them some exposure.  People often stop by the location just because they hear that AGaG will be there; our volunteers talk to people who are interested in adopting, thinking about relinquishing their dog, and often to people who have just lost a beloved Golden and need to talk to someone who will understand how they feel.

When Waldo had been living with us for almost two months, he suddenly wasn't as interested in eating as he had been.  He ate his breakfast on Tuesday morning but didn't want any dinner.  On Wednesday morning, he once again ate all his breakfast, so I figured that he had been feeling a little off the day before.  But Wednesday evening, Waldo once again did not want to eat.  I started to wonder if a pattern was developing here.  My friend Pat has a senior greyhound (Mulder) that does not like to eat in the morning, but enjoys his meals in the afternoon and evening.

But on Thursday morning, Waldo did not want to eat anything.  I tried canned dog food, kibble softened in chicken broth, cooked ground beef, chicken - all of which he had happily gobbled up in the past.  But nothing appealed to him.  I thought maybe his mouth was sore again, like it was when he first came to As Good as Gold, so I cooked him some scrambled eggs, always a crowd pleaser in the past.  Nope - not what he was in the mood for.  I was concerned enough to call Glencoe AH.  Waldo's vet was also concerned and scheduled a wellness check for the next day.

Thursdays are my late night to work - the main library is open until 9 p.m. four nights of the week, and everyone has to work a late night.  Right now I'm working Thursday evenings, but it changes every few months.  When Waldo refused even his favorite treats, Beggin Strips (the treats that look like strips of bacon, not the healthiest treat but the dogs love them), I decided it was time to haul out the big guns:  I went to McDonald's and got him a cheeseburger and fries (yes, I know it's not good for dogs, but Waldo is 12 years old with a terminal illness - exactly how long do we think he's going to live?).  But he turned his nose up at everything.

Now I was really worried.

Next:  Waldo's vet appointment

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Waldo is holding steady

Foster guy Waldo is holding steady - still eating well, getting around okay, and still barking at me when he needs help getting up.  He is feeling pretty perky since he is taking the mirtazapine, so perky that I am thinking of sampling one of his pills.   ;-)   He has been waking me up usually twice during the night to go outside.  Due to his weak kidneys, five hours seems to be the longest he can wait to go out to the yard.

He wee'd on one of the runners again yesterday during the afternoon, so that one went in the wash when I came home from work.  It always seems to be the one in the TV room, so I have been shifting them around so that it's not always the same rug that catches it.

More of Waldo's story:

Waldo was still pretty weak when Gail and I took him home after our lesson in giving fluids.  He had to be helped into the car and then helped out at home.  He appeared quite taken aback at first at the size of the yard (not that it's a huge yard or anything).  Although Waldo had several walks during the day while he was at the veterinary clinic, he was mostly inside, so being out in the yard without a leash AND without the hateful cone must have been quite a change for him.

I went in the house to get the camera, and of course Luke wanted to come back outside and meet Waldo.  Now, recently I had gone to a foster seminar, and one of the things that was stressed was that you should NEVER EVER let your own dog meet the foster dog until the foster dog has been in the foster home at least a week.  So when Luke squeezed out the door behind me and ran over to Waldo to make a joyful play bow, I realized once again that I'm a crappy foster home.  (More on that topic in future posts.)

It took Waldo a few days to settle in to living with us.  At first he didn't want to eat the prescription kidney diet food that had been sent home with him, not the dry or the canned.  Luke on the other hand thought the canned K/D was delightful.  After a day of picking at his food, I called Glencoe Animal Hospital to talk to the vet, and was basically told to feed Waldo whatever he would eat.  So I did some research online and developed a "diet" for him of kibble mixed with white rice, cooked vegetables, and one of the protein choices that is easier for dogs with kidney issues to digest.

Waldo also had to adjust to my schedule.  I work full time as a librarian including weekends and evenings.  I was scheduled to work the day after Waldo came home, a Sunday when the dog walker doesn't come to take the boys out.  I confined Waldo (and his cone) to the TV room and when I came home, Waldo had pretty much flooded the room.  Fortunately that is the only time that has happened in the two months that he has been living with us.

Stay tuned for more about Waldo - maybe some more pictures, too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The care and feeding of a Waldo

Waldo had a good appetite this morning - I made him up a plate of Evanger Whole Chicken Thighs, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul canned food, and chicken noodle baby food.  He ate all except the last bite or two - Luke was happy to take care of those for him.

When I came home from work yesterday, Waldo had peed on one of the new runners, so it went in the washer, then over the shower bar to dry overnight.  He is quite happy these days (it must be the anti-depressant that he is taking for his appetite), although he does seem to have increased difficulty standing up at times.  Sometimes he gets up all by himself, other times he will lie there and bark for me to come and stand him up.

Waldo's story continues:

Waldo came home wearing one of those e-collars, also known as "the cone of shame" since the movie "Up" came out in 2009.  He was neutered just a few days before he came home, so he needed to wear the cone for about a week so that he wouldn't pick at his stitches.  His mouth had been in terrible shape and the vet had to extract five teeth, so the cone also kept him from scratching at his mouth.  But he is such a good boy that he left his stitches alone most of the time, and he only wore the cone when no one was home and at night.  When I picked Waldo up to come home, there was a Yorkie in the waiting room that was also wearing an e-collar, except that his e-collar was about the size of a Dixie cup!

Once he was settled in at home, Waldo's biggest issue was eating.  Kidney disease in dogs is managed through diet and additional fluids, and Waldo came home with a partial bag of K/D dry food and several cans of K/D canned food.  He turned up his cute little nose at both foods.  Even if it was mixed with other food such as chicken or rice and broth, he wouldn't touch it.  Waldo was and is very thin (kidney failure is a wasting disease, and the entire body deteriorates), so he needed to eat!  So I did some research on the internet and came up with a diet of regular kibble (I use Nature's Select) mixed with rice, cooked vegetables, and a little protein.  In Waldo's case, fatty proteins such as dark meat poultry and beef were better than light meat poultry, and white rice was better than brown rice.  It seems counter-intuitive, but apparently these foods produce less waste for the kidneys to manage. 

Waldo was very happy with the change in diet.  At first when his mouth was still sore from the extractions, I soaked the kibble in broth until it was soft enough for him to eat, but later, he seemed to enjoy the texture of the dry kibble with the softer vegetables and protein.  The sore spots on his back healed and the fur began to grow back.  He loves treats of all kinds.  His favorite treats are some crunchy organic chicken treats from his friend Barb, one of the wonderful women who had stopped in frequently to visit with him at Glencoe AH.  He would beg for one of the chicken treats even when his mouth was still sore from the extractions and I would break one up for him.  He would suck on it until it was soft enough for him to chew.

More about Waldo adjusting to a new life tomorrow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Waldo's first days in rescue

Waldo has had several good days in a row and is back to his normal self, at least for a while.  He has been eating well and barking when he wants my attention.  Since his digestive system is in bad shape, he frequently has diarrhea, so yesterday we did some puppy hygiene.  I cleaned up his butt area and trimmed some of the hair where the messier bits get stuck.  Now when he comes in from the yard, I give him a quick clean-up with a baby wipe, just in case there is any residue.

A recent photo of Waldo out in the yard - isn't he just the cutest??

I have bare floors throughout the house, and with the increased weakness particularly in his back legs, Waldo has become fearful of falling or having his legs slide out from under him.  Yesterday when I was out doing errands, I stopped at Walmart and picked up four inexpensive hallway runners.  The rugs have rubber backing so they stay in place.  I placed the runners so that Waldo could move throughout the house from the back door all the way through to the kitchen with only a few steps on the hardwood floors between rugs and dog beds.  At first, Waldo looked at the rugs sort of warily.  Then he went over and peed a little on one of them, as if to show it who was boss.  Now he is moving quite happily through the house without the fear of falling and is even able to come and sleep in the bedroom again.

A little more of Waldo's story:  Waldo was in poor shape when he got to Glencoe Animal Hospital.  The Lyme disease had made a mess of his kidneys and he had some red skin ulcers on his back and head.  He had no identification and no microchip, so he was treated to a battery of tests and brought up to date on his vaccinations, micro-chipped, and neutered.  He spent about three weeks at Glencoe AH where the veterinary staff took wonderful care of him. Waldo was originally supposed to go to a foster home near Bloomington/Normal, but after his kidney failure was diagnosed, it was decided to find him a foster home closer to Glencoe, so that he wouldn't have to start over with another vet.  I had offered to foster him when he first came to As Good as Gold, and Kris the foster coordinator asked if I would still be willing to take him.  Of course I said yes!

While Waldo was staying at the veterinary clinic, Barb and Miriam who are two of As Good as Gold's members stopped in every few days to visit with Waldo and take him out for a walk.  Barb is also our adoption coordinator.  They are great examples of the wonderful members that we have and how much they care about the dogs.

The big day arrived when we could finally spring Waldo from the clinic!  Because Waldo needs to have subcutaneous fluids (aka subq fluids) every day, I had to have a lesson in how to administer the fluids before he could come home.  You hook up a bag of solution called Ringer's lactate solution to an IV line and needle, and then insert the needle under the dog's skin.  My good friend Gail who trained as a vet tech offered to come with me and have a refresher lesson, in case I was ever unable to do Waldo's fluids. 

It's scary at first, because you think you're hurting the dog.  For the first few days, my friends Gail or Pat came by to help with the treatments.  We had a couple of episodes where Waldo shook himself after I had inserted the needle, and the needle flew out and spewed fluids everywhere, or when I had to take the needle out and reinsert it because the fluids just wouldn't run.  But a day came at the end of the week when I had to do the fluids by myself because of my work schedule, so I quickly learned to do Waldo's fluids by myself.  It takes about 10 minutes and he doesn't seem to mind it at all, since I sit on the dog bed with him and he gets treats.

More about Waldo tomorrow.  Here is a picture of him when he first came home - that's Luke's tail off to the right:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Waldo, foster dog #23

As the header to the blog says, I am a foster home for Golden Retriever rescue.  I foster dogs with medical needs - I have had foster dogs recovering from knee or hip surgery, Lyme disease, heartworm infestation, neurological issues, and kidney disease, plus three dogs that were hit by cars.  In between, I've had a few dogs with behavior issues, but since I am a lousy trainer, I prefer to take dogs that need medical care.  I have no medical training - professionally, I am a librarian with the Chicago Public Library at the main library in downtown Chicago.  It's all been on-the-job training as a foster home over the past nine years.  As Good as Gold's website is http://www.asgoodasgold.org/ if you are interested in finding out more about the organization.

Many people ask about my foster dogs and it can be hard to get back to everyone in a timely manner.  I thought I would try writing a blog about the dogs, so that people could stop by and read about them when it is convenient for them.  I am starting with my current foster dog but will write about fostering and my previous foster dogs in future posts.

My current foster dog is Waldo, and he is my 23rd foster dog.  Waldo was found as a stray in Northbrook, IL, and a lovely police officer named Gina picked him up, contacted As Good as Gold, and brought him to one of the veterinary clinics that we use.  She even bought special food for him!  Waldo is a small Golden male, only about 50 lbs., and is around 12 years old.  He has the cutest white face (some people call this a sugar face or sugar-faced Golden) and it is slightly crooked, so that he always looks like he is smiling at you.  I took one look at his darling face and knew I wanted to foster him!  His face reminds me of a teddy bear, so at home with family and friends, he is known as Teddy.

In addition to general weakness related to his age, Waldo was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection cause by a tick bite.  A month-long course of antibiotics knocked out the Lyme disease, but unfortunately he had it long enough for the bacteria to severely damage his kidneys.  There is no cure for kidney disease in dogs.  The disease is managed through diet and subcutaneous fluids to help flush out the toxins (uric acid) in his bloodstream.  Every day, I insert a needle under Waldo's skin and give him 500 ml. of fluid.  It takes about ten minutes, and the fluids gradually exit his body in 6 to 8 hours.

With his kidney failure in the advanced stage, Waldo has good days and bad days.  The vet says that if he was human, he would be having dialysis every day and be waiting for a kidney transplant.  Today is a good day:  Waldo ate breakfast and kept it down, he barked at me from the living room (he needed help getting up) and the patio (he wanted to come in), and he enjoyed some treats.  Also, I didn't have to wash any dog beds this morning.

Enough for today.  I will upload some pictures of Waldo with tomorrow's post so you can see just how cute he is.