August 17, 2007

The screams at night

Nicolas does not like bed time. He screams. A lot. I decided to capture a few seconds of this. This is only a minute of his screaming. It goes on for half an hour or more sometimes.

We know he is not happy. We know that he wants something from us. We just don't know what that something is.

July 22, 2007

In celebration of his life

Angus became a part of our family in March of 2001. Angus at Marymoor Because of his unstable past, the people from whom we adopted Angus had named him Drifter. Prior to that, we believe his name was Copper. His living with us started as a trial period because we did not know how he would react to being around cats. Since we had three cats at the time, it was pretty important that he got along with them well. It turned out that he was fine. He was more taken aback by their attention to him. Our one cat, Lionel, immediately adored Angus. This did not sit particularly well with Angus, but he was willing tolerate it. For some reason, Angus and Gilda, one of our other cats, developed an odd bond after she came to live with us. They would sniff noses and Angus would always wag his tail in response. Angus officially became a part of our family on April 20, 2001, when we signed the adoption papers with Bruce and Jennifer Carter.

Angus was a perfect dog from the start. He never chewed on anything inappropriate. He never raided the cat boxes. Initially we even had to coax him to get on the couch with us. He was quiet and mild mannered. He was dignified. Lionel rubbing up against Angus He didn't even take treats unless they were primarily meat-based. Dehydrated liver was his favorite. The worst thing he ever did in the beginning was try to pee on a bag of dog food at Petco.

In the beginning, we started taking Angus to Golden Gardens off-leash park since it was fenced and we did not know if he considered us to be "home base" yet. It turned out to be a smart thing to do as Angus would go running around the park with other dogs and then come trotting back towards us, look past us, and keep on trotting. It's as if he were saying, "I don't know you guys. I'm going to go hang out with these other people." On a couple of occasions he actually got away from us off-leash and he would play this game of running away. But we learned that if we stopped and went the other direction, he would follow us as if he were saying, "Aren't you going to chase me? That's the way this game works."

Once we were comfortable that he accepted us as family and would come back to us, we began taking him to Westcrest dog park because it was so much closer to where we lived. We could go up there in the evenings after I got home from work and let him run around for about an hour before it got dark. On weekends, for a real treat, we would take him to Marymoor's off-leash dog area. He absolutely loved going here. He would run with the other dogs, chase me through the grass that would grow four feet high in the summer, run through the woods, and have a great time in general.

All of that changed one day when he saw a Shar Pei. He started trying to dominate it, and then tried attacking it. Angus and Gilda on couch After that, when we went to the park, we were always on the look-out for Shar Peis. Then he started going after Chow-Chows. These dogs did not have to do anything and Angus would go ballistic, darting across an entire field to get to them. We stopped letting him off leash until we were certain that there were no "offending" dogs at the park. One day, we took him to Genesse Park and he took off after a Rottweiler. I chased him across the park and had to make a flying tackle (Okay, so I tripped and decided that if I'm going to fall, it's going to be on top of Angus...) to get him off that Rotti. That was the last time we let Angus off leash outside of our yard.

While we lived in the apartment, I would take Angus on at least three walks a day: once in the morning, once when I got home from work, and once before bed. Angus running at Marymoor Our morning walks were usually rather short since I had to get him walked and myself ready for work before either catching a bus or catching a carpool. The evening walks were generally a little longer and would wander through the neighborhood up behind the apartment. These were still not too long as we both had thoughts of dinner on our minds. The night time walks were usually much longer and would wind us through various routes. I always hated taking the same route twice and I'm sure Angus enjoyed getting new smells on every walk. Weekends, however, were the best. On the weekend, I could take him for walks that lasted for hours. We lived near Lincoln Park and Fauntleroy Park so I could take him meandering through single-track trails through the woods so that the sounds of civilization almost melted away.

Angus had a couple of best dog friends, Spike and Lassie, the dogs of our friends, Michael and Mary. We would take Angus over to their house or meet up at the park before Angus' dog-eating days. Angus and Spike would wrestle and rough-house all over the place. Angus loved to body block and Spike was all about going for the collar hold. Lassie was always "referee". She would usually get an ankle hold on Spike and that would interrupt the games. We would often have to hold her back so Angus and Spike could play.

When we moved in to our house in 2002, Angus loved to sit on the deck and just "look out over the prairie," as we would say. He would sun himself in the summer until his belly turned black. He would alternate baking in the sun and relaxing in the shade. We think he hated that it rains so much here, because that meant he was not able sit in the sun as much.

In 2003, we got Romulus because we thought Angus would enjoy having another dog in the house, rather than just a couple of cats. Angus on the prairie So we took Angus to PAWS and Lisa and I chose a couple of dogs to introduce to Angus. Ultimately, he chose a black lab / greyhound mix that we named Romulus. The two of them got along great and played constantly. The two of them would play tug-of-war with a rope toy, each one dragging the other around the yard until one would lose the rope. Then the other would take off with the rope. If Romulus won, he'd take of running with it playing keep-away while poor Angus tried disparately to keep up. However, Romulus being part greyhound could cover the entire width of our yard in about three strides, turn and be back across the yard before Angus could get half-way across the yard once. If Angus won the rope, he'd come dancing up onto the deck waving the rope in his mouth and flipping it up in the air. This is when Romulus would try to steal it back and the game would resume. Angus and Lionel caught snuggling

Unfortunately for us, Romulus also brought some new tricks with him and Angus quickly learned that he could get away with so much more. Suddenly, the cat boxes held untold treasures. The couch was a dog bed first, and a human seat second. Then came the "prison breaks". One summer night, we had the bedroom door to the deck open so we could get some cooler air and so the dogs could go outside. When decided it was time to bring them in, they were not in our yard. We found them in the neighboring yard. They had pushed the fence boards apart and slipped through. Fortunately, the neighbors kept their gate closed and the dogs just ran around their yard. After that Angus became an escape artist. Every time I would plug up a hole, he would create a new one. He broke through the fence in multiple places; slipped under the fence more than once; and even broke through a garden / atrium area. Usually, he had Romulus in tow. When they got out, they would wander the neighborhood. Fortunately, this only happened twice, but they gave us quite the scare both times. Once, they were found in a yard near military road. A second time they were out longer and found wandering the neighborhood near the airport. After this, we seriously contemplated getting radio telemetry collars for these guys so we could track them in the event that they got loose again. Angus and Romulus playing

Angus had an incredible fear of fireworks. New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July were terrible times for him the first couple of years in the house. When we lived in the apartment, the neighborhood did not do a lot of fireworks, so Angus never experienced them.In the house, it seemed like the whole neighborhood got in to the fireworks show. Our next door neighbors would light up our bedroom with their mortars going off. A neighbor up the street actually blocked off the street because they had so many fireworks going off. The entire time, Angus would tremble uncontrollably. For days after, he refused to go outside because whenever he did, an explosion would go off and he would run to the door. We had to go so far as to load him into the car and take him down to the field by my office to get him to go potty one year. Angus wants to eat the toy We worked diligently to create an environment in our house where he felt safe. After we got air conditioning and could keep the windows closed, fireworks were not so bad for him. This year, he even went out in the yard after a distant explosion happened while he was standing on the deck.

Angus loved to throw himself at the ground and rub his face in the grass and roll on to his back wiggling back and forth an groaning the entire time. We called this maneuver the "silly dog". He would even do this in the house on his dog bed. When he was through, he'd flip over on to his belly look around. Because our yard turned to a dry dust bowl in the summer, he would usually come up covered in dirt and grass.

We had many names for Angus. Before we moved in to our house, we had fewer animals and they all had middle names. Angus was Angus Birch. We called him Angaboo, Angaboo Biddley, Boo Biddley, Boo-Boo, and Boo-Boo Biddley, or just plain Boo. Michael and Mary would call him Angalus or Angali. Our African Grey, Gracie, picked up on "Angaboo" and began calling out with this. She still says this on occasion and we hope she always will.

As Angus got older, his games with Romulus became fewer, limited mainly to trying to join in games of tug-of-war between Romulus and me with me letting the two of them take the rope and fight amongst themselves. The silly dog asleep on the couch This usually resulted in Romulus dragging Angus around the yard a bit until Angus tired and Romulus won the rope.

Angus also developed a new appreciation for food as he got older, mainly in that food was good and he wanted it all. After he developed diabetes and he had his surgery, we had a hard time getting weight on him. (See The Saga Continues for more about Angus' health ordeals.) He ate just about anything that resembled food. Bird cages were an ever-changing salad bar. All treats, any treats, were readily taken. His eyes would bug out of his head as he stared at our dinner plates. He would eat apples, carrots, cucumbers, even broccoli just as long as he thought it was edible.

In his final days, he stopped eating his regular food. Angus on the deck We tried his raw food, dry food, canned food, baby food, dried chicken strips, boiled chicken and rice, dehydrated liver treats, and sausage treats. Each day, we would find something that he would eat a bit of around mid-afternoon, but he wouldn't eat it again. Each day we tried to find something new to try. Each day we had fewer options to try until we could not think of anything else to try. He grew weaker and less steady each day. His "old man" cough grew worse to the point of being a wheezing, gagging cough. Early on Friday morning, he began retching and throwing up bile. He had not eaten a normal meal since Tuesday. We knew that this was going to be his last day. When he went out that morning, he pooped and then collapsed into it. Angus on blanket He lacked the strength to carry himself up from the bottom of the yard. He just stood panting until he finally lay down under the spruce tree.

We called Dr. Obando's office as soon as they were open to let them know that we would be coming in. We spent about an hour with him before taking him for his final car ride. Even though he was physically too weak to carry himself, he was excited about getting to go in the car. His eyes lit up and he was wagging his tail. We helped him in to the car and Lisa rode in the back of the car with him to Dr. Obando's office where he wanted to say hello to the others in the waiting room. She reassured us that we were making the right decision. We spent a few last minutes with Angus in the exam room before Dr. Obando administered the euthanasia solution. Angus died around 11:30am.

Angus' collarAngus' tags

July 20, 2007

Thus ends his ordeal

After about a week of steady decline, we finally had to euthanize Angus today. His body could no longer fight the cancer. His will was there. He wanted to keep living, but his body just was not there for him. His passing will leave a great hole in our daily routines.

Update: I forgot to mention this. We happen to show up at our vet just as "Alexandra Day" was leaving. Dr. Obando told her about Angus and she gave us a signed copy of her book Not Forgotten. It was rather touching for us to receive this beautiful gesture in our moment of crisis.



July 19, 2007

One shed and a course of anitbiotics

After we took in this five-foot long boa, we took it in to get an annual. We found out definitively that it is a "he". We spent some time coming up with a name. Greek and Roman mythology turned up nothing useful. Several words or names that didn't exactly roll off the tongue. We finally came up with two candidates: Nigel or Serpico. We liked Serpico because it was a bit like Serpent. Nigel was good because it fits with several of the other British names we have such as Daphne, Basil, and Arthur. We finally went with Nigel because it was far easier to actually say than Serpico.

Nigels annual also turned up a bacterial infection, so we did a course of antibiotics. During that time, he shed. It was not a good shed. He basically shed the skin off his belly and still had skin intact down his back, so we had to pretty much remove that for him. Unfortunately, two scales also came with the skin down near the tip of his tail. That looks like it is healing up fine at this point.

She was a He

When our Rosie Coastal Boa, Violet, had not eaten a meal in over a month, we decided to take he in to the vet to have her checked out. She was healthy and fine. Turns out, though, that "she" is actually a "he". We think we're going to stay with the name "Violet" though. We just have to get used to calling him "him".

July 2, 2007

They find us

Animals find us. I swear, we don't go looking for them. They find us. Thursday, I picked Lisa up at work. She tells me she's volunteered us for taxi service for a found snake. Someone called in to the clinic to say they found what they thought was a Burmese Python that was about about 6 - 7 feet long and weight about 15 pounds. We were to pick the snake up and take it to a reptile center that would take it.

Well, we get there and it turned out to be a Red-tailed Boa and about 4 - 5 feet long. It's still quite a bit larger than any of the snakes that we already have and could easily kill the majority of the other animals in the house. At this point, Lisa says that there's no need to take it to the reptile center since it's not a Burmese python. "We'll take it."

June 7, 2007

The Saga Continues

Angus has had quite the story over the past two years. Around November of 2005, he was diagnosed with diabetes. He had been vomiting yellow bile and become PU/PD. Blood work showed a blood glucose well over 500. Our vet suggested that dogs don't just get diabetes; there must be some other underlying condition that brought on the diabetes.

We did some tests and eventually an ultrasound showed a mass somewhere around his liver and pancreas area; it wasn't quite clear. This must be the "underlying cause". We kept an eye on the mass, doing ultrasounds every couple of weeks as we were trying to get the diabetes under control and determine the nature of the mass. When Angus continued to have episodes of not eating and vomiting, we opted to have surgery to find out what the nature of this mass was. The doctors were concerned that it was pancreatic cancer.

The doctors at Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle/ spent several hours removing the mass; a fist-sized tumor on the duodenum that partially involved the pancreas and blocked the bile duct. In the process of removing this, they had to remove part of Angus' pancreas, by-pass the bile duct, and re-route the small intestine, removing the duodenum.

Angus recovered well from his surgery, but he didn't put on weight. Worse, he started to pass a foul oil that oozed out of his anus and got on everything. It smelled of putrid death. This, we found out, is called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, or EPI, and is common when you remove part of the pancreas. In short, the pancreatic enzymes that help to break down fats in the small intestine don't do their job. Fats pass right through the system. It's quite unpleasant. And since we had a dog that was on an meat-based diet, he had a lot of oil passing through. We learned about an enzyme replacement that would help Angus digest the fats in his diet. The stuff isn't cheap: $130 / 12oz bottle. But, it works.

Angus started to put on a little weight, but then he sort of stopped. We began to assume that he'd always be underweight as a result of his diabetes and EPI. However, we did not expect him to "suddenly" go blind. This is what happened about six months or so after his surgery. It turns out that we were not managing his diabetes as well as we thought we were. We didn't really know what we were doing and had not gotten a lot of direction or help from our original vet. Evidently cataracts are common in diabetics as the high blood sugar causes proteins in the lens of the eye to bind together and become opaque. So now Angus had to have cataract surgery to restore his sight. Plus, we needed to get his blood glucose under control. Angus came out of surgery happy and able to see.

We got a glucometer and adjusted Angus' insulin to stabilize his blood sugar. But, we evidently still didn't have it down right. What would seem like a good dose for one week would eventually end up being too little; Angus would stop eating, vomit, and spike a fever. We would see his blood glucose was high and we'd up his insulin dosage until his blood glucose stabilized. After several cycles of this, we finally decided to switch from Vetsulin to Humilin. That has made a big difference. Finally, Angus put on weight and we eventually had to cut his food from 3x to just 2x.

Now the latest (finally). On Friday, May 25, I notice his lymph nodes under his jaw were swollen. Of course, by the time I got a chance to tell Lisa about this, I had forgotten. Then Saturday morning, we let him out and he came in with hives all over his head. We called our vet and as we watched, the hives multiplied and spread all over his face, down his shoulders and legs, and all over his hind quarters. Our vet was getting ready to close since it was Saturday and directed us to the emergency vet. That was a very disappointing experience, but the end result was a dose of Benadryl and dex and a histological report that said his lymph system was inflamed.

A week later, he was still getting hives daily and his lymph glands were still hugely swollen. We took him to our regular vet to get blood work and new needle aspirates of his lymph glands. This time, the histological report was much less pleasant: lymphoma. This, in short, is not good. He's still got hives on a daily basis, if not constantly. We aren't quite sure what our treatment plan is going to be; we talk to the vet again on Friday to discuss this. Lisa is in a bit of shock about the whole thing.

At this point, we're just hoping for the best and plan on making things as good as we can for Angus (and everyone else) while he's still here. And we're hoping that he'll be here for a while more.

May 20, 2007

Old Man Cough

Since about the time of Angus' surgery (Jan 2006), he has been doing what we call "the old man cough." It's a dry hack sort of cough. In the past three months, it has change to be much more intense to include a loud vocalization. It's like "he's trying to throw up a human being."

We took him to get checked out and were given Lycopodium. We don't remember the strength. We gave that to him yesterday. So far, no changes.

Ruptured Anal Gland

Every so often, Romulus gets a clogged anal gland which ruptures. Wednesday was the latest. We cleaned him up, gave him a 30C Hepar sulpher and thought we'd keep an eye on it.

Thursday comes and as Lisa is heading out the door to school, Romulus throws up his entire breakfast. Now it's time for a vet trip.

Dr. Marta Nobrega at Mercy Vet got to clean out Rom's anal glands; a thick muddy paste rather came out. We're supposed to get him re-checked on Monday to make sure things are healing well. In the future, we get to regularly irrigate and clean his anal glands to prevent this from reoccuring.

Accute Cystitis

Gilda was very low-key yesterday. She did not eat much. She slept a lot. She seemed to have a bit of a fever. This morning, she was running around and eager to eat; however, she made several trips to the litter box. A few minutes later, we saw her trying to urinate on a towel. So it seems that she is having another bought of cystitis. We gave her a 30C Nux vomica remedy.

As we were cleaning things up, we found a post-it with notes from her last bought of cystitis. We gave a 200C Sulfur as prescribed by Dr. Lisa Brienen at Mercy Vet.

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