Monday, January 22, 2018

Bone Cancer...

I had a really sad case today.  A great dog with a great owner with a bad disease.  It seems like this is generally how life happens.  Like pediatric cancer, life is just not fair.

For those of you who aren't aware, a dog that's limping can be something really serious.  The owner and patient I saw today came in as soon as they saw a symptom, which is the best thing to do.  I have seen some dogs, though, that have had a chronic limp, even for months and by the time they were brought in, their disease was so severe and the bone so eaten with cancer that it actually breaks.

In some cases, amputation is curative and the dog can go on to live a happy, three-legged life (they do far better than humans with amputations).  A lot of times their recovery is great.  I would consider amputating my dog's leg even though I live in a townhouse, if he developed bone cancer.  However, I also keep him a great weight and he doesn't have any arthritis.  Sometimes our hands are tied and the treatment of choice is not an option.  Some people will elect radiation therapy, which can help alleviate the pain and even shrink the tumor.  I've had some patients do well with this- but their owner's pocketbooks don't.

Cancer can happen for many reasons, sometimes genetics, sometimes environmental, sometimes we think even secondary to trauma.  As scientists try to discover the underlying cause to try to prevent and help with the cure, it can be frustrating.  There are some articles that "broccoli cures cancer" and some that say, "it can predispose you to cancer."  The truth is somewhere in between and sometimes the more research and information we have, the more frustrating it can be.  I actually found out that I have a toxic level of a heavy metal that is probably secondary to our water filter (now former water filter).  In an effort to be healthy and drink lots of water I instead gave myself heavy metal poisoning. That's not frustrating at all.

I think that was probably the most important part of the conversation I had with the owner today, "No- there's not anything you could have done.  This is NOT your fault."  We can always look for causes and beat ourself over the head of things we could have done, should have done or didn't do as well as we like.  Truth is- there's so many factors, genetic expression, genes and exposure to things we don't have any control of.  I think I read somewhere that they found evidence of pesticides from Mexico near the Canadian border.  So- even putting yourself on an organic desert island is not enough to prevent things.  I think the answer is- you do the best you can, you walk a path of moderation not putting all your eggs in the basket and you pray.  Pray that bad things won't happen and if they do, you have the wisdom and grace to get through it and are grateful for the time you do have.  Not sure if that's the answer we all want to hear.  But that's the only answer I got.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Picture Courtesy of Pixabay
A week or so ago, my son saw a Navy destroyer

We were traveling and we happened upon it at around the same time a bridge was opened.  I’m not sure if it was open for the destroyer or a different boat, but my son looked at in awe.

The last time I think I saw that much awe was when he was little and fascinated with fans and lights.  I almost contemplated taking him to a fan store for his first birthday, but I digress.

With mouth open and fingers pointing, he asked- “What’s that”.  I may have started with, “a big boat” while I thought how I would preserve my son’s innocence from talks of war.

With everything going on with North Korea, Iran and the general fear in the world, I didn’t really want to feed him fear.  Yet, I think my four year old could see visually that that boat wasn’t for joy rides.

I find walking the tight rope between sharing too much and sharing too little as a parent is kind of a tough road.  My husband and I don’t want to shelter our son so much that he can’t identify good from evil or grow up and then be exposed to a world without knowledge and the ability to deal with bad things happening, yet we don’t want him to go through the world fearing everything and having nightmares.

Looking at this dilemma, from a medical viewpoint...  I wouldn’t send my kid out into a world full of exposure to measles and polio and all sorts of bad diseases without a vaccine. So exposing him to the concepts of good and evil and that yes, there is evil in the world is a little bit of a vaccination.  My parents did it with me and apparently as the world changes, so must the vaccine.  Maybe we are having this talk way before my husband and I did when we were little, but the “vaccine” has to get to the patient before the evil does.

So what did I say to my son?   I told him the Destroyer fights evil.  I didn’t get into just vs unjust war or wise decisions or politics.  He has plenty of time for that.  He knows we respect the military and they are heroes who fight for our freedom.   He immediately went into his imagination about how the Destroyer blows things up, etc, etc, fortunately without the knowledge of what that looks like but a four year old's imagination where it’s not real people, just evil getting blown up.

I stopped him there and told him the MOST important thing the Destroyer does is just being present.  As we discussed further, I said the most important role of a weapon of good is not to be used, but to deter evil from happening.  He still wasn’t convinced.  I told him, “if your teacher is around, does it make your classmates behave better than if your teacher isn’t around?”  He understood.

It’s easy to think that being a hero means doing great acts, but sometimes the best way to be a “Destroyer” is just being present with goodness and standing up to evil; no missiles necessary.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Saints For Girls and Boys

Saints.  They are great gifts to us to show us how to grow closer to God.  I love trying to share with my son about the saints and I recently received two books that were helpful.

My son was naturally inclined to read the book for boys first.  The cover art looked like something from the 1950s.  I thought that was sweet, but the actual book was obviously new.  As I opened the book and started reading to my son, I had to do a double-take.  The artwork and the language is from an era gone- by.  My son giggled when I read, "Holy Ghost" instead of Holy Spirit.  The stories were perfect for my four-year old.  They were short and succinct and focused on the saints as children and focused on simple virtues.  My son didn't want to read about just one saint at a time and after two nights, we were through with, "Saints For Boys" and he didn't blink an eye and asked to read, "Saint For Girls".  He also enjoyed reading about those Saints.  I think with the simple cover art and the simple language, he felt like he could relate to these simple stories about saints.  From my adult perspective, how anyone is able to sum up St. Dominic or St. Frances in a couple pages would be a daunting task.  The saints contain such rich material!  The author was able to succinctly cover saints and make the reader want to learn more.

At the end of each book are several prayers, and a background on the prayers.  I actually learned a little in this section, some new classic prayers and a different way to look at familiar prayers.

I think there's a certain attractiveness in separating "Saints For Boys" and "Saints For Girls" not in trying to make our children gender-identify or anything in the political terms today, but for how children look at each other- my son "grouped" his friends into "boys" and "girls" when he was less than 3.  Children notice differences and they identify there are differences.  While these books were originally written a while ago they are still valid today and still have something good to offer.  I would recommend whether your family has boys or girls, getting both books as they both have something to offer little boys and little girls in their journey to learning more about their faith.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.” 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dogs As Members Of The Family

Oftentimes, clients and myself will talk as dogs as members of our family.  While I don't dress up my dog or push him in a stroller, he is every bit considered a member of my family.  As a matter of fact, my husband and I almost broke up over a misunderstanding about my dog being an integral member of my family and what that meant.

My dog, Dewey has probably saved me from more unfortunate encounters than I want to know about.  There have been at least 3 cases where he has saved me from "sketchy" people and one situation where he scared off a break-in when I was home in my bed at midnight (my upstairs neighbors told me the next day that they were going to call 911, but they heard my dog and figured he had the situation under control).  When I was single and lived in Arizona, a state thousands of miles from my family, Dewey went with me everywhere, including work.  I wouldn't go on hikes unless it was in an area where he could come.  He was rattlesnake trained, so I knew he would protect me from rattlesnakes, sketchy people and mountain lions; the advantages of a large dog...  Even now, if my son and I are going on a car trip without my husband, I want Dewey to come.  He's the "man" I have trusted to protect me before my hubby came on the scene and my husband and I still count on him today.

I don't know what we'd do without him.  With my son and I having active imaginations, I'm sure I'd have anxiety if he wasn't with me in the house and even now when he's not with me; either I'm in a location away from him, or he's at boarding because we have to leave early the next day, I feel afraid. Afraid of noises or thumps in the night,  I had a police officer tell me that he's better than a security system and I agree.

I work in different areas as a veterinarian and I've noticed one of the most affluent areas the dogs are not treated that well.  They are more like an "accessory."  Not in all situations, but more often than you would think for people who "have money."  I also work in an area that has crime and gangs and is working class.  I've noticed that as a general rule, these clients (and it may also be because of the quality of the clinic), treat their dogs more as members of the family and follow my recommendations more closely.

The other day I was speaking with a mother and her son and looking at their puppy.  As we were talking, I asked, "so what do you see his role as being?"  It may be a funny question, but it was to help give me an idea of what they were training this puppy to become.  They told me he was to become a member of their family.  I looked at them again- this was a guard dog breed.  "Perhaps you want him to also guard the house a little bit?".  They relaxed and said, "yes, we definitely do".  They disclosed that they lived in a neighborhood with some crime and thought a dog would be better than a security system (and definitely more cuddly and fun).  I agreed with them.  Dogs can be unpredictable, extremely loyal and downright heroic.  I've seen dogs come in who've been shot and still have the drive to protect their owners and masters.  Dogs will take a bullet, and in the case of some military dogs, an IED.  Dogs originally started out as "working dogs" and they would have a role such as herding, guarding or hunting.  Only recently do we have the small lap dogs who's only role is to keep someone warm and cuddled.  Sometimes these dogs are very proficient barkers, but I haven't heard of any Chihuahuas that have scared off a burglar.  I have heard that when burglars who have been imprisoned have answered questions as to what house they wouldn't go to; they would avoid houses with dogs- even more than a well-lit house or a house with a security system.  Dogs are just too unpredictable.

Sometimes society makes fun of people who "anthropomorphize" and give dogs human characteristics or go overboard with making them part of the family.  I get some of that- I mean I've seen the dogs in the carriages wearing baby clothes and I look at the dog and think most of the time they aren't thrilled with being dressed in a tutu.  I look at my dog, who for the price of food, drink and medical expenses has kept me safe in many circumstances and who I have no doubt he would take a bullet for me if he had to.  He's the "enforcer" member of my family.  The quiet "uncle" and security guard who though he's afraid of thunderstorms knows he's a member of the family and to keep everyone safe.  He's not a scary dog, but he has a presence.  As I was pumping gas at a deserted gas station and a strange man came over and got closer to me and started to enter my personal space, Dewey just stuck his head out the window, without a bark and the man left.  Dewey is not a father-figure or highly intelligent, but he's highly intuitive and I'm grateful that he's a member of my family.

So the next time someone talks about their dog as a family member, it's not all about dressing them up and calling them names and having them eat food from the table (which as a veterinarian I clearly can't recommend).  It's about being a member of the family who has your back, who keeps you safe, who gives you peace of mind and takes away anxiety.  Oh, and by the way, when I mentioned to my husband about getting a smaller dog in the future- he reminded me that we'd still need a large dog protective detail.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My hubby's perspective...

For a while I've been telling my husband what a good influence a neighborhood girl is on my son.  She's about a month younger, but very sweet and wise for her age.  She has a smart and sweet mommy who is also my friend and confidante.

The other day the little girl came with us to go caroling at an old person's home.  I'm pretty sure this is the first time she's done this before or been in this setting and she was pretty quiet the whole time but I'm pretty sure the cogs were rolling overtime in her head.  She's one of those kids who's very shy- OR very talkative.  My husband had only seen the very shy side of her and that's what  I saw the other day as I was only with her when we were around a lot of people.

We had split up cars and in my car was tons of stuff to drop off at a homeless shelter for women and their families (which was on the other side of town with the old person's home).  I hadn't really gotten to talk to my husband when we met up at caroling, so when we came back home, I got an earful of what had happened.

I think one of his first statements was "that girl is a really good influence on our son."  I had only been trying to tell him this for over a year.  "She's really polite and positive and always has something   smart to say."  I chided with him, "Kind of like me and how I'm a good influence on you?".  "Yeah, except she's REALLY polite."  I reminded him I was really polite before we got married.  He laughed.  I also told him that she tries to get our son to eat vegetables just like I try to get him to eat veggies.

He then filled me in on his observations.  Generally my husband and son are best buddies and my husband doesn't get to see him interact as much with other kids.  I get to spend more time with my son and I try to stand back and let the interactions go and these two neighbors have some really special and funny conversations sometimes.

My husband informed me that there was a really excitable discussion about, "Which numbers are big or not."  He clarified that the little girl thought being three was big and my son told her that was being little, three year olds aren't big kids.  Both kids are four.  Apparently my son got so argumentative about his point of view that he had to apologize for being rude.

They also somehow got into the discussion about people "passing away."  Not sure where this one came from.  My husband was surprised to hear my son say, "One night I was really sick and I vomited in my mommy's and daddy's bed and I didn't pass away and go with the angels, I stayed here."  Apparently his friend was relieved to hear that.

At one point my son was trying to listen to his favorite podcast, "Wow In The World" and his friend started talking and he said, "can you stop talking so I can listen to my show?"  My husband jumped in and said it was important for his friend to talk and so the conversation went.  My husband definitely got to see a different side to both kids in the car.  I feel sometimes when listening to them I could be listening to my grandparents, it's interesting for my husband to see such "intellectual" and thoughtful conversations.  It reminds me that the best moments in life aren't "scheduled" or have a "curriculum" to go with them.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A unique way of solving a problem.

We like to have "garden flags" outside of our house.  When my son was little, he fell in love with our neighbor's Snoopy flag and it always seems like a good, simple way to decorate for the seasons.

Unfortunately we lost our "Welcome Autumn Flag" because of some wind.  Even though we have a "flag hanger" the flag just worked it's way off and flew away.

My husband and I brainstormed for a solution.  Duct tape is often a good solution, but for something that's decorative, we didn't want it to distract and look junky in our front yard- or worse, get a note from our HOA (Home Owners Association).

In my profession, whether it being working around an animals behavior, or the fact that our patients can vary from 6 inches big to 4 feet high, we have to be adaptive.

The solution I came up with was getting a wine cork (not hard to find in our household) and taking a screw driver and starting an opening through it, and then put that on the end of the flag stand.  As one family member quipped, "wine saves the day- at all hours of the day."

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A New Year

Happy New Year!

I think my “theme” because I don’t really like the term “resolution” for this year is going to be “Let It Go”.  I don’t really like the term “resolution” because that sounds like “resolved” and makes me feel guilty when I stumble.  I like the word “theme” something to focus on and come back to- a journey.

Whenever I get stuck ruminating on a slight or perceived slight from someone, my husband is known to sing the song “Let It Go” from “Frozen”.  When I realize I’m getting into the pattern of dwelling on something- whether it be a crazy or mean client, something that didn’t go right with a case, or the tricky emotions of humanity, I just think of my hubby singing this song.  It always brings a smile to my face and brings me some perspective.

Not only does “Let It Go” apply to my goal of letting go of emotional baggage, I want it to apply to all the clutter and physical “stuff” that I hold onto.  The things that I don’t use, that don’t bring me joy or have worked hard and enjoyed but it is time to give away and “Bless” someone else who needs it more.

Too bad my husband won’t let me post audio of him singing “Let It Go”...  Hope you and your family had a Happy New Year and you’re off to a great start- resolutions or not...