Friday, May 26, 2017

Do Your Vet A Favor...

There are a couple of issues that have come up recently that I would like to share to help others not make the same mistakes...

1)  Keep your pet up to date on Rabies vaccine.  This may seem like a simple request, but you'd be amazed how many people don't do this.  Either because of money, or concerns about vaccine reactions (cats and dogs don't get autism and there's no evidence to say humans get it from vaccines, but this train of thought is definitely out there).  Whether your pet goes outside and you have a neighborhood raccoon or not- you should vaccinate your pet.  It's a human health issue.  Indoor-only cats can catch bats inside the house or your nice sweet dog can get in altercation with a raccoon or fox.  When an animal bites a veterinarian or technician that is trying to help them, not only do we have to worry about the pain and discomfort of the bite, but we are legally required to report the bite and may potentially have to get painful and expensive and time-consuming rabies vaccines.  (Did you know that we have to go the human emergency room in order to get rabies vaccines in response to bites?  I have spent over 12 hours of my life waiting in an emergency room just to get a vaccine that makes me feel like I have the flu).  Please, for your sake, your pet's sake and our sake; vaccinate your pet unless it is medically contra-indicated.

2) Realize we don't have a crystal ball...  I actually had a client want me to give a guarantee that treatment would work on her cat when she didn't even allow me to do diagnostic tests to try to find an answer for what was wrong with her pet.  I stood there, trying to understand what she was asking me- "Um, Ma'am- you're telling me your cat is "off".  You aren't giving me specific symptoms and your cat looks ok- I don't know what your cat has- I don't know what treatment to give your cat because I don't know exactly what's wrong."  If I had a crystal ball that told me what a pet has, and how it was going to respond to treatment, I'd have a lot more success than I currently do (and I could have saved a lot of money on veterinary school).  Any medical professional who is going to give you a guarantee of anything should be greeted skeptically.  One of my favorite lines is, "I know enough about medicine to know I don't know anything."  We can give statistics, probabilities, and impressions, this I feel comfortable with- "No, your dog shouldn't die from this", or "most cases I see like this don't go well, but I've seen a couple recover ok."  Guarantees?  No- there are no guarantees in life and there won't be a guarantee in the vet's office except for the one I had to explain to a little old lady one day, "Yes, yes, at some point your dog will die- but it is unlikely it is today."  She asked, "You mean some day she's going to die sometime?"  I looked at the little old lady and didn't really want to get into the fact that some day we all die and just excused myself.

3) If your dog gets into something, see that it doesn't get into it again...  It amazes me that dogs that get into things often get into them again and again.  I knew one labrador who had 7 surgeries to remove socks from his stomach.  7 surgeries!  His owners spent a lot of money and he lost a lot of his intestines in order to remove the socks.  Somehow even with padlocked drawers a determined pet can find what they crave.  Recently, I had a patient that went into the ER to get 5 items removed.  Within hours of it returning home, it got into that same item again!  Please, if your dog likes socks, underwear, or some other object, please once you find out that they will eat it, double lock those doors or get rid of those objects!

4) I had a nice client recently, who first asked if I had time for a story and then went on to tell me a story of a veterinarian's diagnostics skills saving a human life- he used this story to say how much our skills are appreciated and how hard our job must be when our patients don't talk and their owners are sometimes clueless.  His small act of appreciation helped make the day better.  As with any person you work with- you never know how much a small act of appreciation can make up for a hard day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Becoming a Lay Dominican

About 7 years ago, through a Dominican Spiritual Director I met when I was in Arizona (in a land far, far away from the east coast here).  I was introduced to the concept of being a Lay Dominican.  To a woman who was literally days away from joining a convent, the week before I was supposed to start veterinary school, this seemed like a more prudent way to accomplish my goal.  This goal was to grow closer to Jesus and to try to help others on a path to Holiness too.  Turns out I didn't need to dramatically say "No" to family and being a veterinarian, I could choose a path that allowed me to do both.

So 7 years ago, when I began looking at becoming a Lay Dominican, I began going to a group that... hmm... shall we say... didn't exactly follow the magisterium of the Church?  Let's just say the Dominican call to "study" was definitely being followed in trying to study what was right and what was not so much in line with who we are called to be as Catholics.  I'm not one to judge, and I don't know a whole lot, but the Church Fathers, the Catechism and St. John Paul II are good sources of catholocism to follow.

I moved out here to the East Coast.  I hadn't been totally sold on being a Lay Dominican by the last group.  My former spiritual director in Arizona, a priest in the Dominican Order was a good example, let's just say, knowing his virtues and his intellect did not make me paint all the Dominicans with the same brush.  I wasn't exactly completely sold on the idea of becoming a Lay Dominican, but I knew I wanted a Dominican spiritual director.  When I say spiritual director, I simply mean a priest you can go to for regular confession, talk through problems and concerns and get guidance.  It's kind of like having a running partner.  If you know someone else is going to meet you at 5:30 in the morning to go running, you're a lot more likely to get yourself out of bed than if no one holds you accountable.  If you go to the same confessor month after month and your committing the same sins with the same frequency... well, you get the idea...

I found the Dominican House in my area and I contacted a prior about obtaining a spiritual director.  He simply told me to show up at the next Lay Dominican meeting and then he would see about getting me one.  Well, I went to the meeting and after approximately one meeting a month, plus hours of reading and additional times in small groups for instruction and discussion, along with charitable works and other activities, it comes time for me to take my final vows.  As a Lay Dominican (and with most religious orders too) you take a 1 year vow, then a 3 year vow then a final vow.  Well, with my stint in Arizona and some other things I'll get into at another time, here I am, 7 years later, vowing to be a Dominican.  The old joke I've told a couple of people
is, "Live like a Jesuit and die as a Dominican."  Dominicans and Jesuits kind of have a rivalry thing going on.  Jesuits and Dominicans typically both like wine and philosophy, but let's just say the Dominicans perceive the Jesuits to be taking it easy with some disciplines.  Now you want to die as a Dominican, especially if you need a lot of prayers said for you, because the Dominicans are really good as saying prayers for their deceased brethren.

It actually came down to a point where I was talking to a fellow Dominican and wanted to make sure my vows were all in order.  They said, "what does it mater?  We all know you are a Dominican and living as a Dominican."  I said, "if I get in an auto accident or something happens to me, I don't care if you think I'm a Dominican.  I want to BE a Dominican!  They understood and no more questions were asked.

To make a long story short (well, not short, but at least not as long), I was kind of procrastinating on becoming a Dominican.  I was talking to a friend about my hesitation to make promises as I wanted to become "better" first.  In a way only a true friend can- she told me, "you're not going to ever be perfect, so don't use that as your excuse."  She also went on to say, "perhaps you should have the faith that when you make your full profession,  God will give you the graces you need to be more disciplined."  The vows we say as we become Lay Dominicans do include, "with God's help."  So I pray that God will give me the graces to rise in Holiness as a Dominican and I know that with Him lifting me up I will get far closer to Him then I would on my own.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Florence Nightingale and Dogs

I don't remember where I first heard about Florence Nightingale and dogs.  The subject is a little random.

What did Florence Nightingale have to do with dogs?  Many people are aware of Florence Nightingale's role in the creation of the nursing profession, and the wonderful work she did in the Crimean War.  Do most people know that if it hadn't been for a dog she never would have embarked on this mission?

The randomness of this topic is maybe not so random.  Dogs play an ever growing role in healthcare and assistance to and compassionate care of disabled people.  While I can't remember where I heard about Florence Nightingale and her canine connection, I did enjoy reading more about it at : Psychology Today Article.  Basically it was in nursing a sweet, injured sheepdog who was an important companion to a shepherd, that she realized that she was called to help heal others.  When I was young we used to love listening to "The Rest of the Story" with Paul Harvey.  Hopefully your interest will be piqued and you will look into the rest of this story.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Mommy, you should call 911!"

"Mommy, you should call 911!"  That's a phrase no one ever wants to hear.  I didn't even know my son was aware of 911.  As far as teaching him safety, we have taught him his full name, his address and the name of his neighborhood.  We have also taught him if he ever gets separated from his parents or family members, to look for a police officer.  If he can't find a police officer, look for a mommy with kids to ask for help (because most of the time mommy's with kids are fairly responsible and not crazy people).  Also, most moms with kids are unlikely to want to pick up another random kid to add to their brood.


Well, apparently fire safety week at his childcare left a lasting impression on him.  He was calling out, "Mommy call 911!" because he saw a fire/flames in our oven.  That's not a good thing, but in this circumstance, it was because the oven was in cleaning mode and was burning off the grease and pizza dough and who knows what else that was on the bottom of the oven.  Normally I'm a pretty good cook and baker.  I make homemade bread and cinnamon rolls that people ask for the recipes for (see previous posts).  I'm working on pizza dough.  The day in question I somehow got distracted with birthday preparations and didn't realize I let the pizza dough overcook.  I then went on to make his birthday cupcakes and some of the drippings fell down.  My husband smelled the smoke and burning when he got home and I told him, "don't worry, it's a cold, rainy day, it will feel good to have the oven self-clean this evening."  I don't know that I've ever really stood in front of the oven as it self-cleans.  I normally try to do it when I'm in another room so I don't get overheated.  My son did see some pretty large flames and I did immediately locate the fire extinguisher... just in case.

I tried to explain to my son that the oven door was locked and that was so we couldn't "feed" the fire with oxygen.  I told him if we were somehow able to open the door, it would be bad and the fire would spread, but that's why oven doors lock while you have it in self cleaning.  My son was fascinated.  He was possibly more fascinated by watching the oven and the flames than he would be watching a video on TV.  He had a visual and he liked to go up and feel the heat of the oven, I discouraged him from that.  I had checked to make sure the lock was firm on the oven, but didn't want to take any chances.

He danced around the house talking about 911 and fire and how if mommy opened the oven the firetrucks were going to come.  It was amusing and yet a little scary at the same time.  I'm not sure about his full level of understanding of fire safety, but at least I know he knows what numbers to dial.  I think I was thinking about how now when he grows up, he's not going to share with others what a great baker his mommy is, but about that time when he almost needed to call 911...
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

A long week...

I started the weekend sick, not being able to get to my garden or pick up the house for my son's impending birthday party with a small group of his friends.  I thought I had food poisoning and that my family was safe...

Then, my husband got sick.  Then just as he was starting to feel better, my son got sick.  Yep- not food poisoning but a virus...  Thank God for a working laundry machine.  During the chaos, the first time my son vomited, he didn't want to change his baseball player "jersey" (he calls it a jersey when it has a player's name and number on the back).  He also requests that we don't call him by his baptismal game, but by whatever name of the player who he is wearing or feels like today.  I have had to call my three year old Manny Machado and Michael Brantley.  I have a hard enough time not calling him my dog's name or cat's name, especially when they are all getting into trouble together it's even harder to come up with the player of the hour's name.  So as I'm convincing him to get out of the jersey that clearly has vomit on it, he protests, "No, it's clean".  I tell him his other one is in the wash.  I run downstairs and bring it up and it is still wet.  I tell him it needs to go back in the dryer.  Instead, he tears it out of my hands, crumples it up in a little ball and proceeds to take a paper towel and tries to "dry" his scrunched up shirt.  I give him an A+ for creativity.  He then decided he wanted to wear a wet shirt- I decided that's better than a shirt with vomit- so sure, if he has to wear a jersey that badly, he can wear it wet.

The other day I heard a parent say, "The nights are long, but the years are short."  That's so true.  When you are in the difficult, sleep deprived moments of parenting, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  You look forward to the moments when you can go to the bathroom by yourself, or as I told a coworker the other day, "Sometimes I don't mind sitting in an hour and a half of traffic.  It's rough, but I look at it as my own selfish tranquility when I can listen to any music I want, belt out any tune I want and not have to make references to Paw Patrol or sports or help with a potty break for a small piece of my life."  I will miss those moments surely.  Just as I will miss the moment last night where the three of us sickies were all laying in bed and my son said, "I love you Mommy" all on his own as he nuzzled my nose.  I responded, "I love you too!".  He then said, "But I love you three!"  I said what about Daddy, "I love him four!"  We did the love you's up to thirty-one, the number on the back of his "jersey".  It was priceless and worth every long night I ever spend covered in bodily fluids....

While the nights are long and the years are short, my husband and I found ourselves at my son's preschool orientation and can't believe he's going to preschool!  I had a weird Deja Vu moment like I was back on my first day of high school (I moved to a new area for high school and was the new kid in a small school with lots of cliques).  I started to panic about "falling into the wrong crowd" and making friends with the "right parents" and saying the right things.  My husband who had a wonderful high school experience and is a typical guy- couldn't fathom my social anxiety.  I don't know how it's all going to work out, but I did think, "well, most people grow up from that phase- and really- if they haven't grown up from the high school phase- would I want to be friends with them?"  I have to admit the health issues in my family this week didn't give me too much time to focus on anxiety and makes me realize that most of us parents are just trying to make it through the week- and the nights and don't have time to worry about the small stuff...

Monday, May 8, 2017

Forget the Healthcare Debate- a bipartisan way to save money on healthcare

I try to stay away from politics on this website and so I will not even touch what is going on with the current debate.  I just pray that everyone will have affordable healthcare and be taken care of.  I do want to talk about something that I believe would be considered bipartisan;

I still remember the ad back in November and maybe we need to re-watch it in an ever so divisive environment today: A vote for good.  If you don't remember it, or didn't get to see it before, take the time to watch it.  I can try to understand, empathize and reach a common ground with many people.  I'm forced to do it on a daily basis and often, for some reason, people make assumptions that I share their same political and religious or "areligious" views when I take care of their dogs.  Don't ask me how these topics that are not supposed to be discussed in polite society end up being thrust into the vet exam room.  The one thing I do get from these awkward experiences is how people who I share maybe nothing in common with, I do share something basic in common with- the love of the dog.  I can understand people of many different backgrounds and try to reach a common ground- it is those who don't respect and love dogs that I just can't fathom.

Back to some common ground:  A George Mason University Study found that dog ownership saves an estimated $11.7 billion a year in healthcare costs.   There have been many studies that have shown how the human- animal bond can help reduce blood pressure, help with weight loss and many individual variables, but this is the first study that has shown the impact on the US healthcare system. It is thought that the impact of the healthcare benefits of dog ownership is probably much greater than this study was even able to elucidate.  The next step is not mandatory dog ownership, or as much as us veterinarians would like- tax deductible pet expenses (they are considering this in California).  The next step is to share with people that your healthcare may start in your household, before you go to the doctors office (pet owners visit a doctor 0.6 times less than non-pet owners).  Maybe the key to partisan divisiveness is if both sides start walking dogs together.  Naive- yes, but sometimes it's the simple things that can heal the individual and the system.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cats and Public Health

The other day I was at a center for hospice care with my son, bringing cookies to the residents.  This is a place I have volunteered at from time to time, but we haven't visited very often lately due to a hectic schedule (I always feel like my son and I get so much from the visit, though we give so little and we both leave the place with a smile on our face).  They used to have a pet bird, but I didn't always understand that, from the veterinarian's perspective, birds can transmit zoonosis (meaning diseases that can go from animals to people) especially in immunocompromised people.  I don't know the whole story, but the bird was short lived (being a previous bird-owner, it may have been because of the mess they make).

I found out they recently got a cat.  I was excited!  That is a great pet for the residents to interact with and though some people might think they transfer disease, if they are well-cared for, they can actually prevent it.

The Egyptians even recognized this fact thousands of years ago.  They knew then that rats were dirty animals, and I think they knew there was some correlation with rats and disease.  If they had a few more cats during the Black Plague, maybe it wouldn't have spread as much (especially if the cats back then had good flea control like we do today).  I digress.  Cats are good at keeping rodents away.  Not all cats are equally good at this (my parents' cat doesn't have the attention span to chase a mouse, I don't think, but she makes a wonderful cuddle companion).  My cat actually used to catch mice at my parents' house and would put them in a waste basket.  She learned if she caught them alive, she would put them in the basket and then notify us- then she would get her favorite treat.  It was a great exchange and I liked that she left them alive and then I would just take the basket and let the mouse free outside.  I'm pretty sure those mice would never come back again.

Regarding parasites; flea control is a good idea.  Fleas are disgusting and spread disease.  Cats are better equipped than dogs at removing fleas on their own (a healthy cat is a meticulous groomer, so a lot of the time people will never even notice fleas on their cat- but they will on their dog).  They are also good at removing ticks for the same reason.  It only takes one flea or tick to transmit disease or drop off your pet and attach to you, so proper parasite control is strongly recommended.  A product such as selamectin also kills parasites that your cat can ingest if it does decide to eat a rodent (Eww!). I joke with my husband that my cat is cleaner than some people and in some ways this statement could be true.  She's indoor only and to my knowledge has not been catching things around our house... She's on medication to prevent her from getting parasites, eats a cooked food (raw food can transmit food borne disease) and bathes herself multiple times a day.  As long as humans are careful around fecal matter (who wouldn't be?) there is very little chance of disease transmission.

A little obscure fact- do you know that cats almost never get stung by scorpions?  Well, that's true- people and humans definitely get stung by them, but cats are able to hypnotize them and even kill them.  I didn't truly appreciate this fact until I found a scorpion that my cat had killed in my apartment.  I hadn't even known I had a scorpion in my apartment.  Thanks Duchess!  Because of that, she's paid her rent for life.