Twelve Years Old

Dear Sam:

It’s so hard to believe that you’ve gotten here, baby. Part of me keeps thinking I’m going to wake up and you won’t be here. You’ve defied the odds and proven more than one vet an idiot. For that I am grateful.

You are stubborn, challenging, willful, difficult, and one of the main lights of my life. You’ve taught me so much about handling difficult situations with grace. When to back down from a challenge and when to stand up (though, I still don’t think I can bite someone). You are the quintessentially difficult dog, but I love you all the more for your quirks and your bad habits.

Without those quirks, I would not have been ready to handle some of Ben’s. I would not have known that responding to aggression with aggression is the wrong thing to do. I have scars from the lessons you taught me about that, and while I don’t always love them, I will always wear them as a badge of honor because I learned how to work through with you in a way that I would not have otherwise learned.

You’ve had a hard life. Some would argue that it would have been kinder to you to put you down years ago. I know that you’ve suffered and that you will suffer unspeakable pain. I’m sorry that I’m so selfish as to keep you here and feed you drugs to keep the pain at bay. I’ve promised you (and myself) that the day the medicine no longer works, I will make the call and get you permanent relief.

We have a deal, you and I, you give me the sign and I will make that call. It’s the last loving act I can do for you (well, before you go, I promise you’ll get the cheeseburger, the chocolate, and the tortilla chips that you love, but that don’t love you, and I’ll play “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Wrapped Up in You” on repeat all the way to the vet’s office).

But on the balance, you’ve had a really good year. You’ve been healthy. You have passed all your health screens with flying colors. You’ve played with your ball with Ben (and I have video to prove it). You have watched over Katie as she’s learned to crawl. You’ve defended your children against Peyton (and other hostile invaders).

You have a wonderful heart, Sam. We love you so much. We wish you a wonderful day and will have cheeseburgers tonight. I hope you really, really enjoy it.

Love, Mama (yes, I”m my dog’s mama, want to make something of it? I didn’t think so)

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Waiting

Waiting sucks.

We are waiting, patiently, for the doctors to coordinate and let us know when they plan to operate on Katie. We have a tentative date and I’ve used that tentative date to book kennel space for the dogs, but we can’t make arrangements for Ben until we have an actual date. We can’t inform all of the parties who want to know what’s going on because we don’t know ourselves.

I only received the tentative date because I begged for it. I had to explain that Sam (the older dog) has serious medical issues, which she does. Serious enough that she cannot be kenneled by any reputable kennel in this area. There are too many pills and too many issues that have to be dealt with for her to be comfortable and safe in a normal environment. She has, in the past, gone to stay with my parents, but at this juncture, her needs are a little too complex for them to handle and their environment (having to be walked where other dogs are walked) is not ideal for her. Fortunately, her vet is willing to board her and, from what we’ve been told, goes to some rather serious extremes to protect her when she’s with them. They’ve agreed to take her partner in crime as well, even though that takes away one emergency space should they need it. I am so grateful the girls can stay together. Sam will be calmer and less likely to stop eating if Peyton is with her. Since Peyton won’t stop eating for anything, it’s very likely that Sam will eat, too. Plus, I know that if anything starts to go wrong, Sam is in the best place for her, so I don’t have to worry about her while we’re handling Katie’s situation.

Katie continues to grow and, to me at least, it’s becoming more obvious that her forehead isn’t keeping up with the rest of her. She’s adorable, but her face does look out of proportion and that makes me sad. I know that P has continued to believe this is all wrong and she’s suddenly going to surprise everyone and just be fine, but I think even he is letting go of that dream now. Even he can see that something just isn’t quite right with our adorable little girl.

And she is adorable. While she’s waiting for this big event, which still seems so unreal to me, she is getting teeth (top front right came in on Monday), learning to stand, crawling, and starting on puffy snacks. She’s doing this all with amazing grace and speed.

We’re living our whole lives in a before the surgery vs. after the surgery mode. It’s draining and emotionally battering. We can’t seem to plan past September. I’m afraid to go beyond that because I don’t know what the future is going to hold. I want to believe that she’s going to be okay. I want to believe that this is going to go fine and she’s going to come out the other side with no lasting issues.

And then I remember she’s my daughter and I remember her birth, and I remember that just because these are done all the time and these are things that have so few people experience complications, that doesn’t mean that she won’t experience them. I’m thinking positively. I’m praying. I’m keeping the faith, but I’m here to tell you that it gets harder every day and will continue to get harder until we get that date so at least we know when our lives are going to be put on hold.

I hope it’s soon.

Stress and Challenges

I find myself in a weird situation where there are things going on in our family that I would very much like to talk about, but I also feel like talking about them amounts to a “poor me” situation, which is not the experience that I look for here. I tend toward being something of a reticent/shy person (for all my willingness to talk endlessly about my dogs and my kids, there are things I don’t talk about and don’t share, though I likely will as time goes on.)

I’m very conscious of the fact that people abuse this medium and I don’t want to be mistaken for one of them. I feel so badly for the people who need and crave that level of attention, but, by the exact same token I know that people who need support, whose very existence depends on that support, can and do get it through the internet. It’s a double-edged sword, the internet. Really, it is.

So, here we’re undergoing a great deal of stress and it is showing in the parenting that we’re doing, the dog stewardship that we’re doing, and in the lack of some things that we’re doing.

On Twitter (I’m adjunctmom, if you’re looking), I made a comment about the new plagues being surgery on small child, ants, canine ear issues, and mouthy, stubborn 3 yo. So, to take those in my own sort of order:

Mouthy, stubborn 3 yo: this is not surprising. He’s my son. He’s P’s son. If he were neither mouthy nor stubborn, I would demand a DNA test. Seriously. He’s reacting to the stress around him and he’s doing things that he has never done before in an attempt to gain some of the attention that’s going in other directions at the moment. It’s true for both dogs and children, negative attention is better than no attention at all. We made a concerted effort this weekend and today to draw attention to the great things he’s doing and give him lots of support and praise. I think it’s working; we’ll see.

Canine ear issues: Peyt went to the vet on Friday. The good news is that her ears look 80% better than they did three weeks ago. The bad news is there’s 20% more still to go. Approximately three more weeks of ear meds twice a day and then a week off and THEN another trip to the vet to see if the ears have improved. Added to the ear issues, I had a quiet word with the vet explaining that when we bring Sam in (for her semi-annual exam) we need to make sure to discuss, IN FRONT OF BEN, that there are things that Dr. Chip just can’t fix. Fortunately, we have a great vet who both has kids and loves kids, so he knows what I’m getting at. He asked how she’s doing and if she’s slowing down. I confessed that she hasn’t slept on the bed in almost a month. Sam has slept on my bed every night since she was three years old. I was horrified to discover that her choosing not to sleep on the bed may indicate that she’s in pain. So, during Peyt’s week off, we’re doing a medication trial for Sam to see if twice a day pain meds would improve her situation or if it has little to no effect. She’s been up on the bed once in the last month and it was a struggle for her to get up. It worries me.

Ants: Wednesday of last week, P went into the closet to get a shirt for work. He started to put it on and realized that it was full of ants. Not fire ants, but not little sugar ants either. Those in-between ants that are both annoying and unpleasant. The contents of our closet are now spread across our bedroom, the living room, and the office. I can no longer see my desk. The closet has now been ant free for five days. This is promising. His plan, assuming things stay ant free today, is to move the stuff in the living room and office back into the closet, but not to completely refill it because we have plans for that closet that he would like to enact.

small child having surgery: when Katie had her four month well baby check, her pediatrician commented that her forehead seemed a little narrow to him, but he wasn’t concerned. When she went in for her six month well baby check not too long ago, her forehead had not changed it’s shape at all, as in it was still as narrow as it was before, there were obvious indentations that look like those grab thingies on large plastic containers (the spots cut into the plastic for you to pick up the awkward jug with) where her temples should be, and her eyes seem to be a little too close together. At this point, he was concerned. Concerned enough that he wanted us to make an appointment with a specialist for these issues.

We made the appointment, but were called shortly thereafter to move the appointment from the main office to the clinic where more of the team would be present. We were hoping that this would be a rule out appointment, but that was not to be. On Monday we found out that Katie has trigonocephaly. This is not life threatening and aside from causing lots of stress, is a relatively benign condition, though they’re concerned that she may have vision problems if we don’t take care of it. So, we’re going to deal with it. It feels too much like a gamble to wait and see when it’s much harder to correct when she’s older. I would rather gamble with surgery now than gamble with her development later. So, the last week has been a flurry of phone calls trying to set up appointments and organize things. We’re looking at surgery in the middle of September as they’d like to wait until she gains a bit more weight and, right now, there doesn’t seem to be any significant risk to her.

So we’re under stress. P and I deal with stress in different ways. He gets angry. I tend to eat, read, and play video games. I’m something of a Sims addict and now? They have Sims for the iPhone. I love it. Probably too much, but right now, I’m not going to worry about it. The thing is, we both need healthier methods of dealing with stress so that our son can learn better methods than the ones that we have. We’re working on it.

So, this blog may be hijacked for the next little while with discussions of doctor’s appointments, coping strategies, and general stressiness. To me, this is part of parenting in the 21st century.

Finally, I want to say that we’re so grateful to our pediatrician who caught this, to our friends who have immediately offered all kinds of support (from the shoulder to cry on [virtual and local] to offers to take Ben, the girls, or both), to our medical professional friends who have helped us better understand what we’re dealing with, to both of our places of work whose immediate responses were how can we help and what do you need rather than how will this affect us, and, finally, for the faith that will sustain us in the days to come. If we can remember to turn to rather than away, we’ll be okay.

Peyton

I admit that I have slacked off in the last week with the blogging. My younger dog, Peyton, has been having issues with her ears and it takes up time to deal with those problems. Miss Peyton is a 3 1/2 year old black lab out of CH Snowden Hill Mango Crazy, JH. P fell in love with Mango when she was eight weeks old and we waited the two plus years until she had a litter. Peyton is one of nine siblings and is an absolute darling of a dog.

Her nickname at the vet’s office is “Crazy Peyton.” At home, though, she’s usually found sleeping somewhere or playing with Ben. Right now, she’s sleeping in the green chair that she’s claimed as hers.

Those of you who can do math might realize that Miss P and Ben are approximately the same age. He’s actually about two months older than she is, but yes, I was precisely that crazy. She’s been the best thing we could have done for our household. She has jobs that she takes very, very seriously. She is the chief monster hunter. She checks Ben’s room most nights for monsters and makes sure that no grumpy wizards (or lizards, I’m not sure) get through to his room during the evening hours. She is alternately Sam’s biggest antagonist and her biggest protector. I have watched Peyton shove her way in when Sam is getting attention (not good), but also watched her shove her way in between Sam and something we could all tell Sam doesn’t like (excellent). She has a command “go get Sam” and she knows what it means. If Sam seems lost or confused in the yard, Peyton will go out, get behind Sam, and basically herd her to the door. Given that Sam is going blind, this will be a more important skill in the coming years.

Peyton is supposed to be P’s dog, but she is utterly attached to me and to Ben. She follows me everywhere and sits outside the bathroom door waiting for me. I am rarely allowed to work by myself. Right now, she is asleep in the green chair that she has claimed as hers. Most every night, I’ll find her asleep there. We were planning to get rid of the chair, but now we’ve decided that we can’t do it because it belongs to her the way the dog bed Sam is sleeping on belongs to her.

Peyton’s motto in life is Go big, or go home. To demonstrate this, Miss P nearly died a year ago (February 2008). She started throwing up coffee grounds. Dog people know that this means that she’s got partially digested blood in her stomach and that is usually a bad sign. She spent the night at our vet’s office. The next day he called and we had to take her to an emergency vet clinic because they also have a critical care facility which is what he felt she needed. I took her there, and she started bleeding from her IV port, so the back of my truck and my clothes were covered in blood. But she was bouncing, happy-go-lucky when she went into the clinic and they could not believe this was the dog they were expecting, given that she was, supposedly, at death’s door. She spent a night there and they released her. We’ve never quite figured out what happened to her and she’s never had another recurrence.

Last summer, Peyton suddenly developed an incredibly nasty ear infection that I couldn’t get to clear. I have been treating my dogs ears myself, initially, for about seven years. Sam used to have seriously problematic ears, and we got in the habit of having me try to treat first. Since our current vet is a bit farther away than one might normally go for a vet, he has continued the pattern of letting me attempt treatment on my own first.

At any rate, she got a nasty infection that took me four months to clear. She finally got the all clear 20 days before Katie was born — good for her because she would have been living with her vet at that point.

Now, she has it again. Sigh. We’re in week 2 of treatment. We’re looking at a minimum of six weeks of treatment. She is so patient about treatment. I have to say that I appreciate that. Heck, I treated her tonight while she was asleep.

Peyton is more of a clown than Sam and she’s much calmer at the same time. She’s stubborn, pushy, and sweet. When you think typical lab? Peyton is what you’re thinking of.

Oh, for those who are wondering . . . her AKC registered name is Grampian Believe in Blue. This is the motto for the Indianapolis Colts . . . I’ll leave it to you to figure out who she’s named for ;).