Monday, February 6, 2017

Epic Snow

This weekend we got dumped on. The official weekend snow total for Libby this was 32". Being at the base of the Cabinet Mtns I got a little more than that...somewhere between 36-40" in just 2 days. It took me around 16hrs over 3 days to get all the snow moved that needed moving...all by hand. Ouch.

My fenced in back yard. Can you see my 4-foot high fenceline? Yeah, neither can I

A peek at the deep snow on my neighbors garage roof.

I got lucky. My 10-yr old snow shovel didn't break until the very end of today. I was also lucky that I bought the very last 2 shovels that our little town store had.

The snow is so deep that in un-shoveled or un-plowed areas it's belly button deep. I'll be working hard this week to walk down my snowshoe paths so the dogs can get around somewhere besides the driveways and roads. It's been decades since this area has had so much snow delivered all at once.





My shoulders are exhausted from so much shoveling over the last 3 days. I admit it was lovely to shovel in the bright beautiful sunshine today. But of course, now that I'm snuggled in for the night with a cup of hot tea, it just started snowing again.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter in Montana...

...means snow. And LOTS of it!

Winter started early last year and has kept right on trucking with cold and snow. I love it! I really hate when we get constant freeze-thaw events that melts our snow and creates a ton of ice. I love to snowshoe and Holly loves the cold weather...



Poor Danee just wants to pack her bags and head south for winter. She hasn't found anything fun about being outside while the temperatures have refused to budge above 10 degrees for the last month...or having to actually go outside to pee when it's -15 degrees.

I'm gonna just stay right here the rest of the winter.

I've tried everything to keep her as warm as possible this winter, including buying her an awesome snowsuit from Hurtta. She wears it, but she hates it because it means it's cold...and she's outside ;)



My sister and her 2 dogs came up to celebrate the Winter Solstice and Christmas Holiday. All the pups enjoyed ripping open paper Christmas morning...as always, the paper was far more fun for them than the gifts inside ;)

Waiting to for the paper ripping to begin

Inspecting the loot

Inca destroying the wrapping paper

And even though we limited gifts to no more than 2 per dog, the wrapping paper carnage and toy pile was impressive.



I didn't get to check out a new Fire Tower on the Kootenai National Forest rental system, so instead I rented a former FS Ranger Station cabin in the community of Yaak, Montana. We had it for 3 days, it was super cold and snowed about 1.5 feet, in addition to the snow that was already there. The cabin has no electric or running water, but it has a propane fireplace, wall lanterns, fridge and stove, so it was plenty comfy and warm.






My sister bought a sled for her nearly 16-yr old 3-legged dog Inca, so that she could join in on all walks and hikes this winter. I dare say she loved it :) How cute is she!






2016 was good to us, and despite Holly's bum knee, she's enjoying life and winter with gusto. What more could I ask for? I hope 2017 is just as kind.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Canine Fitness Workshop

Catching up a bit...

In early November, my vet clinic, Calm Animal Care, brought Jennifer Hill, a certified canine physical therapist (and also Holly's personal PT), to Kila, Montana to give us a 2-day workshop on Canine Core Conditioning. She also recently became a Fit Paws master trainer and brought some cool equipment and awesome instruction on conditioning our 4-legged athletes. 


Even though I have done a lot with Jen in the past with Holly (rehabbing her after each of her injuries), I learned quite a bit at the workshop...particularly how I allow Danee to "cheat" at certain things and be sloppy, which isn't helpful in actually conditioning her.



I got a lot of ideas on what to work on at home that's beneficial to core conditioning and how to modify certain exercises with things we already have a home to make the fun things we do with our dogs easier on them...such as paddleboarding...



While I don't own those blue donuts, I do have other things I can place a car-ramp on, or a step bench, to work on paddleboarding exercises over the winter.

Danee and I had fun...she really loves doing these kinds of things and is always excited to see the balance equipment come out :)



Holly came too and was able to do a few things while Danee rested between exercises. Jen was able to give me some modified exercises with Holly to avoid stressing her bad knees. She particularly loved the stretching and massage session we did...



We have a lot we can play with inside when winters sub-zero temperatures and deep snow keep us from playing and exercising outside for very long.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful and grateful for ever so many things...but most especially for these two goofballs. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happy 11th Birthday Holly!

You've gone through a lot in the last 2 years Holly...there were times I didn't think you'd make it to 10, much less 11 years old. And not only are you still here...you are thriving <3 Happy 11th Birthday Girlie!



Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Skunked!

I never made it in to work the other day. Work was quiet that morning, so I made a quick decision to take a short morning hike with the dogs and be in to work by 10am. Uh...the dogs had other plans.

On our way up one of our favorite trails, the dogs bolted to go check out their favorite woodrat nest...or so I thought. After not hearing their bells jingling for about 30 seconds I called them back. Nothing. I wasn't worried...that wood rat nest is a hard thing to pull them off of. So I kept walking and suddenly I hear Holly bark. Shit! Holly only barks at wildlife she's trying to catch...and catch it she did.
 
I gave Danee her emergency recall and out she bolted from the woods COVERED in yellow skunk oil...seriously, her whole face was yellow! I quickly leashed her up while doing this interesting little dance to keep her from rubbing her face on my pants.

Then called Holly...who's the harder one to call off wildlife...but out of the woods pops the skunk, right in front of me. It takes a few hopping steps towards me that said "You want a piece of this too?!". No, I DID NOT and I ran up trail away from it. I see Holly behind the skunk, and being the obsessively idiot dog I know her to be, stays on the skunk. She was COVERED in skunk spray...seriously, almost dripping! The poor skunk, having used up all it's emergency maneuvers, it was now out of spray. But Holly wasn't going to be detered like any NORMAL dog...oh no...she was pissed and was going to kill that skunk for daring to spray her like that.

After barking in it's face for the thousandth time, the skunk made a move to run and Holly went in for the grab. But the skunk grabbed too...Holly now has it by the side of the neck, and the skunk has her by the face! I dragged poor Danee into the woods with me...all the while she's trying to stay back and get the hell away from that skunk. The 4 of us danced around the woods for what seemed like minutes until I was finally able to grab Holly by her harness. I wasn't reaching in there to get bitten too, so I had to give her a kick in the head to get her to drop the skunk.

Fortunately for the skunk, I don't think Holly had a good hold as it ran off pretty quickly. I hope it survived okay.

If we were closer to home I would have made the dogs walk home. But alas, we were not, so I had to load up 2 nasty dogs into my poor car. An hour later, after doing a quick cleaning of their faces and checking on Holly's wounds, we were off to the vet for a rabies booster, antibiotics and some eye goo for Danee. I don't think I need to tell you that the vet didn't actually let us into the building...we smelled really bad.

Holly's wounds weren't too bad, just a bite on her muzzle and some scratches under both eyes. She's lucky the poor skunk didn't scratch her eyes up. I wasn't sure if Danee had any contact with the skunk, but we found some recent scratches under her chin so she got treated the same as Holly; both received a rabies booster and antibiotics. Holly's face was pretty swollen, complete with roman nose and fat lips. That was 3 days ago and she's already looking much much better.

Three days and 3 bathes later, and we're not smelling much better...neither is my car.



Danee learned a valuable lesson...don't follow Holly, and stay away from those skunks. I'd like to say that Holly learned something valuable too...but I'm guessing the only thing Holly learned was that if she's gonna get the chance to kill the skunk for daring to spray her, she'll just need to be faster. Sigh.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Summer 2016


It's been a GREAT summer! Holly wore her stifle brace religiously for nearly 3 months and it helped her knee heal more than I could have hoped for. Of course, it was sooooo boring looking being solid black, so I had to give it some "bling".

Bling!
























Holly turned a corner with her knee sometime in July. About then is when the stifle brace became more of a hindrance than a help...she started to refuse the bend the knee and was moving in it oddly. So she went brace-free. At that point the knee was stable, but the leg was still very weak. It's taken several months of building muscle, but she's back running like the wild dingo she wants to be. She can hike almost 4 miles on not-to-difficult terrain, as long as she spends most of that time on leash to help her stay at an even pace. Off leash she can run through the woods for about 45 minutes without getting sore. As anticipated, she has developed arthritis and we know the meniscus is damaged, but she doesn't let that bother her...her evening drug regime seems to keep the worst of the discomfort at bay. As each day passes, she is less and less sore and stiff in the evenings, so hopefully that will continue for the rest of the year.

I'm thrilled that the stifle brace helped as well as it did. I would have had the knee surgically repaired if that had been an option for her (she has thrombocytopenia and cannot have surgery), but this really was the next best option. She's now sound, pretty strong and comfortable...it's allowed us to insert a lot of fun into our summer.

Next month Holly will turn 11...ELEVEN! Every day is an absolute gift with this girl.

Huckleberry Eatin'
 



 



Sunday, May 1, 2016

OrthoPets Stifle Brace and the Side Effects of Chemo

This knee brace has been worth it's weight in gold...which is good, because it cost nearly as much. In mid March I took Holly to an orthopedic veterinarian to be measured, casted and ultimately fitted for an OrthoPets stifle brace. The process was interesting...we had to cast her leg in a weight bearing position and take all kinds of measurements so that OrthoPets could create a custom fitting brace for her knee.









Meanwhile...since January, we've been monitoring her blood values every 2-4 weeks because the metronomic chemotherapy drug was causing low WBC counts and pretty much stopped platelet production. Prior to that, from July - December, we were only monitoring every 2 months...but her lowered WBC prompted us to monitor things more closely to prevent harmful side effects of the drug.



When she toasted her knee, she went on rest to allow the knee to heal while we waited for the brace to arrive. With the advent of the brace, she became more active, but I noticed that as I increased her exercise each week, she was becoming tireder easier, a lot more than what she should be for just simply being out of shape. She's at the vet every 2 weeks and is quite possibly one of the most closely monitored dogs my vet has ever known. The tiredness could be a result of chronically low WBC combined with being out of shape and the sudden onset of summer-like heat we were experiencing. So we let it go for a bit and let her dictate her activity. But as she got fitter and the weather got cooler, her tiredness wasn't any better. Last week we decided to check her lungs to be sure that the cancer hadn't snuck past the chemotherapy and invaded her lungs...thankfully it hadn't, her lungs are still clear, but her symptoms fit lung cancer so she really had me worried for awhile.

So why the increased tiredness? We checked her urine and there is a small possibility she is fighting a UTI or bladder infection, but with her low WBC, fighting it is costing her a huge amount of energy. We started her on a broad spectrum antibiotic and made the decision to stop giving her the chemotherapy at the same time. She's been on the chemo for 10 months and it has successfully suppressed the cancer...which the chemo drug wasn't designed to do. Her immune system has taken a hit though and she isn't enjoying life right now, so we're pulling back and keeping our fingers crossed that the cancer won't return quickly.

All this time, we've been doing extra, non-traditional medicine to help support Holly's general health and her immune system...raw foods, bone marrow broth, mushrooms, joint support, anti-inflammatories, acupuncture, chiropractic work on her back, etc.. One thing I very much dislike is all the unsolicited "advice" I get from every random person out there on how to "cure" Holly's cancer with the latest and greatest homeopathic or holistic tincture, herb or oil. Holly already has a team of very well educated people...oncology, traditional, non-traditional, physical therapy and orthopedic, but thank you.

Adding the brace really helped her confidently begin to use her leg again. We were working on PT exercises and she's gained a lot of muscle back and was striding out evenly and pretty comfortably til about 10 days ago. She began to really drag the right rear foot (the good hind leg) and she very quickly wore down her toenails to nubs. My vet and I haven't figured out why, but it appears her iliospoas muscles hurt and she's compensating, causing her right leg to be sore along with her left. I would take her to the PT to have her help us figure it out, but honestly, I'm broke. All of her increased medical expenses in the last 4 months, as well as some of my own, has me with nothing to spare right now. I HATE that money is an obstacle, but I have spent gobs and gobs and gobs of money on her health the last 16 months and it's taken a toll on my bank account. I'll have to muddle through this part via emails, videos and phone calls with the PT instead.

Despite all the above, we have had some fun the last 2 months...Holly learned a new game she can play in the yard...searching for treat filled plastic Easter Eggs hidden in the yard. She loves it.

video

I allow her to be off leash on our short forest hikes, so she can be the independent dog she truly is. Knees and iliospoas be dammed...her mental health is just as important as her physical health, and being perpetually leashed is a drain on her soul.
Digging for the elusive ground squirrel



























Saturday, March 5, 2016

What is this thing called "fun" that you speak of?

Yeah, I know. I haven't been posting...again. That's because I have very few fun Holly things to post about. I'm awfully tired of posting nothing but bad news about Holly. But, alas, that seems to be all that there is to say. Can you tell we're feeling very "glass half empty"?



In early January Holly injured her left knee more significantly...another tear and this time it wasn't healing. In early February, she finally tore it completely. She is now totally 3-legged and the leg is very unstable she's unwilling to bear much weight on it at all.



Because of her cancer and immune status, surgery to stabilize the knee is out of the question. I visited with her main vet, an orthopedic surgeons and our wonderful canine physical therapist...we all agreed that surgery for the knee is not in Holly's best interest. Fortunately, the right knee was repaired and stabilized with TTA surgery 3 years ago, so at least she "has a leg to stand on".

Unfortunately, the front leg that had the cancer has some problems and over-using the leg, like she's doing now, is causing painful muscle spasms. It's really hard to limp on a front leg and a back leg at the same time.



I can honestly say that none of us believed that Holly was going to live this long. She has officially passed the 1 year mark since she was diagnosed with myxosarcoma, which is about all the time she was anticipated to have according the oncology vets at WSU. Awesome, right?!

So what to do about that damn knee. I won't go into the details, but believe me that surgery is not an option. That leaves "do nothing" or get her an external brace. I have a very, very, very hard time with the "do nothing" approach...not that any one would blame me for taking that route given all that she's been through in the last 6 years and the gobs and gobs and gobs of money I've spent on it all.

Since I can't "do nothing", last week we measured and casted her leg to get a custom stifle brace through OrthoPets. It may not help her much, or at all, but I'm going to give it a shot and cross my fingers. They are quite expensive, but it's only money, right? (chuckle)

Meanwhile, her life is pretty boring. Short leash walks to encourage her to use the bum leg is about all the exercise she can handle. I am allowing her to be free in the yard as long as there is no running around like a complete idiot (her favorite past time). Holly very much likes to have an audience so as long as she's not trying to show off for me, she does stay pretty chill just hanging out in the yard.

Danee and I are still trying to have fun without Holly. We are shockingly snow free...spring is VERY early here...so out went some of the agility equipment and Danee is learning how to weave and drive forward to obstacles.




I am also fixing up my dog walk...it is currently in a thousand pieces between my front porch and basement. All the hardware was getting rusty so every nut and bolt is getting replaced and every inch of rust is getting sanded and painted. Hopefully I will have it all back together again by next weekend.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fun Times in 2015. No really, there were some!

While sometimes it feels like it, especially when paying her continuous vet bills, 2015 wasn't always about Holly's cancer. Tonight I took a look back at all the photos of us enjoying life, and it looks like we had some really fun times. Sure, sure...much of the early part of the year was surgery, recovery from surgery, radiation treatment, and then recovery from radiation. And I took a ride on many many emotional roller coasters. But throughout I also met some pretty wonderful people. I met Mary and her horse while Holly and I were living dual lives at WSU. I met Lara who's lovely dog Rudy ended up with the same cancer as Holly. I met Joyce who was looking for help in navigating the WSU waters after her own dogs cancer diagnosis. I met Kari who runs a foundation that raises money for canine cancer research.

And in between, we hiked, we rambled through the woods, I worked, my family visited, work kicked my butt, I went on 2 vacations...and now that we are at the end of 2015, I'm realizing that this year wasn't that bad of a year after all. I decided to pick just one photo from each month that represented the fun we had this year. Here's hoping 2016 will be even better.

JANUARY
We love snow!






















FEBRUARY
Holly and I spent A LOT of time driving this month



















MARCH
Life pretty much revolved around Holly in March



















APRIL
"Snacking" on something gross on a hike
























MAY
We spent tons of time running around the woods this spring



















JUNE
Pinkie and The Brain about to get into trouble on a hike
























JULY
Trip to the Beartooth Mountains
























AUGUST
Such a wonderful pair of hiking buddies
























SEPTEMBER
Autumn was busy, smokey and hot...but still oh so beautiful



















OCTOBER
Our other hiking buddies...Jubilee and Raj


















NOVEMBER
Back to hiking in the fabulous snow



















DECEMBER
At home...see, we aren't always out hiking ;)