Friday, May 29, 2015

The Pope, Pets and People

Pope Francis' recent statements about pets have caused some people to ask do we care too much for our pets?  "Care for pets is like programmed love, " he said.  "I can program the loving response of a dog or a cat, and I don't need the experience of a human reciprocal love."  At the risk of taking Pope Francis out of context, which pretty much all the media does, I'll give my opinion on this.  I think Pope Francis probably didn't grow up with pets, or growing up in his impoverished country, he saw a lot of cases of people treating pets better than their fellow people.  I can kind of understand where that perspective comes from...

As a veterinarian though, I certainly see things a lot of people don't see.  While I was visiting with a friend who is a social worker, I realize there are some definite similarities in our jobs.  Mine is nowhere as hard and emotionally tolling as hers.  I do on occasion get to see puppies and kittens, although far less frequently than I think the average population thinks... Maybe once a week?  Mostly I see geriatric, sick animals, animals with skin disease and a small amount with "wellness" exams.  But unfortunately, even on wellness exams, I often have to break it to people their pet is not 100% well.  I sometimes even have to break it to them that their pet has cancer when they only came in to get a vaccine so the dog could get groomed...  I digress.

What  a lot of people don't realize is we see a lot of things in veterinary offices that people don't even share with their only doctor.  I've had people lower their pants, raise their shirts and talk about all sorts of things that are X rated.  I've learned names for human body parts in veterinary medicine that quite frankly, I never needed to know.  People are willing to share a lot of information with their vet and sometimes I find myself telling them we need to focus on your pet and you should talk to YOUR doctor about that.  I think this is the flipside to the fact that most of the public sees us as a caring empathetic profession, which I hope we will continue to be.

We also see a lot of family situations/complications and mental health situations.  These do come up in the veterinary appointments.  I actually had someone several years ago who had left the mental hospital to come home and find her sick cat.  She was a very fragile person and I had to work with her the best I could and try to get someone to assist her- to find out there was no one willing to.  Often people who struggle with mental illness or behavioral problems find that their pet is their only friend that sticks with them.  Yes, as the Pope said, they can't give human reciprocal love, but as anyone who has loved a pet knows- they give unconditional love.  Often that is all people need to get through dark times.  It does put pressure on us though.  We have had people tell us that if our patient doesn't have a positive outcome, the family members are worried the owner won't be able to make it.  No pressure.  I once had a lady offer in front of her first born child to give up her first born child for the pet to get better.  No joke!  Feel bad for that family.  I obviously value medical care and good care for my pets.  We are stewards for them.  I am not a theologist, so I won't step into the whole do pets go to heaven debate.  I have an obvious opinion on that one.  I do find that the end of life issues between pets and people are different though...

I have kind of an interesting viewpoint on this one as I have worked in human hospice on and off over the past 10-15 years.  I also obviously work in "animal hospice" daily and did a very concentrated time in oncology work.  I do believe in euthanasia in pets and I have had to convince people before that this may be the right decision for their suffering pet.  It is always awkward in exam rooms when we are in the midst of a euthanasia and someone makes the comment about euthanasia in people.  This is not an appropriate time for me to launch into a religious or political debate, so I have found myself remaining silent, but not nodding my head or giving any indication that I condone the comment.  It is a fragile time and just not appropriate to launch into this topic.  But I would like to offer these views in this forum as it is not discussing specific situations.

People and pet end of life issues in my belief/experience are fundamentally different.  People, as St. John Paul II did, can have redemptive suffering.  It's not something I would wish on anyone, it is not an easy road or something most people can embrace, but it's something I have witnessed.  I have witnessed families coming back together after YEARS of being apart because of the redemptive suffering of the ill person.  Families need time to work out their issues.  Pets don't.  Families need time for forgiveness and apology.  Pets don't.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

I would really like to say thank you, to veterans past and present who have served and are continuing to serve our country, so we can all be free.

I used to be a news junkie, but between having a child and everything that's in the news today, it can be quite anxiety-provoking.  Between violent extremism and what can seem like an all around erosion of moral values, listening to the news can be disheartening, sometimes hiding your head in the sand seems like the best way to go.

I am in the process of reading 1776 by David McCullough and my family took a recent trip to the Gettysburg site.  Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, one can be amazed how our great country survived such great turmoil.  I am sure there are plenty of people back then that lived in even more anxiety than we do today and who felt every bit like the world was turned upside down.

I also look back at my great-grandfather, who though he was at the tail-end of World War I, I think may have had PTSD.  He was a medic, and it's hard to pin down exactly where he worked, but one can imagine in the first war that chemical weapons were used, there was plenty of reason for PTSD.  He went on to even get electroshock therapy.  Our veterans continue to suffer the invisible wounds of war, but how awful, that back then, there wasn't a name or acknowledgement of it.

Than there's my grandfather.  He fought in the Battle of The Bulge and more in Europe.  Only in his later years did he start telling us more about his service, and there was plenty more he didn't explain.  I remember how excited he was to read one of my college books, about a French-Jewish refugee and how he could relate to just how wonderful a tomato sandwich on French Bread was.  I imagine that was a wonderful memory not only because Meals-Ready-To- Eat were probably pretty horrible back then, but also because it was probably one of few pleasant experiences he had.

Then there are those veterans today.  Some are cousins, some are friends.  I thank them all for their service.  When I think about these wonderful people who have given up their homes, friends and even families temporarily or for the ultimate sacrifice, I cry.  I also am less anxious.  May God Bless this Country, because as long as we have these people who sacrifice so much, there is Hope for us all.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to save money on your veterinary bill and petcare... from a vet's perspective

As a veterinarian, probably my least favorite part of the job is talking about money.  I really wish I didn't have to, but let's face it, most of us don't have an unlimited supply.  In veterinary medicine we can do pretty much anything that can be done in human medicine; organ transplants, brain surgery, hip replacements, chemotherapy, cataract surgery, the list goes on and on.  But let's face it, most of us don't have thousands of extra dollars for pet expenses.  The following is a list of some things to think about prior to getting a pet.  The average cost of owning a dog for the first year can range from $700-$2,000 and more if grooming and advanced training are factored in.

Now I'm going to share with you some tips of how to keep your budget and pet healthy.

1) Avoid costly mistakes.  This is a big one that we see and it drives me nuts.

a. Giving a human medication or following advice on "Dr. Google" without talking to your vet

Please call your veterinarian if you are considering giving human over the counter medication or following advice online.  I had one patient several years ago who their owners got advice from a neighbor, a "human medical professional" for treatment for their dog who had burns on it's feet from hot asphalt.  The "medical professional" told them to bleach the dog's feet and give an Ibuprofen.  This added to the dog's initial problems chemical burns and kidney failure.  The initial problem was nothing compared to what the owner had done to the dog in an effort to help.  While it is illegal for us to give medical advice on the phone or over the internet to advise on patients we've never seen, if you have a good working relationship with your veterinarian (a once a year annual exam, which is just a good idea anyways to look for any looming problems), then we are happy to get on the phone.  While we may need to see your pet to give you specific instructions on care, we are VERY willing to steer you away from things that may hurt your dog.  If I have a good relationship and know a patient well, I may even recommend over the phone medications the patient can have that the owner already has.  My goal is not to see as many appointments as I can, it is to keep everyone healthy and pain free.  If you can avoid an exam visit and save up that money to do something I recommended such as a dental procedure, I see that as a win-win.  Avoiding unnecessary cost helps both of us.

b. Another costly mistake- waiting until your dog/cat gets REALLY sick.
I totally understand monitoring your dog/cat and waiting to see if it is just a bug and will get better.  As a matter of fact, I often recommend to clients that they monitor a problem and if it's not getting better, then we do bloodwork and advanced diagnostics.  There are a LOT of problems though that are just going to get worse. . . a lot worse.  If we intervene earlier, it will cost less and cause your pet less suffering.  A fishing line hanging out of your cat's rear end. . . .  Yes, please don't wait 5 days until it's a holiday weekend and your regular vet is not open and you have to go to the MUCH more expensive Emergency room.  A dog that's vomiting more than 4 x a day.  That needs to be seen now.  There are things we can do on our physical exam which can indicate to us whether your pet is stable enough to just withhold food and monitor, or whether your pet is on the verge of rupturing its intestine.  I have had far too many more patients than I care to remember who I have had to euthanize for what could have been a treatable disease if the owner had just come in sooner.   Just a simple physical exam can help us guide you to make an appropriate decision.

2) Preventative Care


Yes, there is a reason we recommend this.  Just like in human medicine, people aren't familiar with what the diseases we vaccinate for look like, because fortunately we don't see them a whole lot because our patient population has historically been vaccinated.  Unfortunately, as people are taking vaccines for granted, and more animals and people are traveling all over the world, these diseases are out there and becoming more common.

The only cases of canine rabies I have seen have been in India and Mexico.  However, I had exposure to a rabid, indoor-only cat here in the US.  The cat caught a bat inside the house and 6 months later was a comatose cat and everyone in the household and everyone in the clinic had to get rabies prophylaxis.  It's about $500 a shot, and you have to wait in the ER.  Not a fun experience.  Besides the whole fear factor of getting a disease that has historically been close to 100% fatal.

Canine Distemper and Parvovirus

I have seen many puppies die of these diseases.  Do I really need to say more?

Heart worm and Intestinal Parasite  and Flea and Tick Prevention

Heart worm disease is a very nasty disease.  It is transmitted by mosquitoes and takes up to 6 months to develop to clinical disease.  It can destroy the lungs and do permanent damage to the lungs and heart.  Treatment is costly and includes keeping your dog confined for up to 3 months.  Look at the following website for more information.  In cats, there is no treatment for the disease.

Flea and Tick prevention

Fleas, besides being disgusting, can also cause anemia and infectious diseases.  They can also transmit diseases to people and other pets, such as tapeworm and bartonella, an infectious disease that we are just learning more about.  There are some thoughts it can even be linked to schizophrenia in people.  Please provide adequate flea protection for your pet.  I have seen infestations even when there is snow outside...

Ticks- these can spread lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and so many more.  While these diseases are not directly transmitted to people from their pets, the ticks can crawl/jump off of the pet and on to you or your child.  They can also cause your pet to get life-threatening, expensive, and sometimes incurable illnesses.

Keeping your pet an appropriate weight

Not only do you save money on food because you are feeding a dog that needs less (more fat = more food to feed the fat), you are saving because of all the disease conditions you are avoiding that are linked to obesity.  Arthritis, diabetes, even cancer have been shown to occur at increased rates in overweight pets.  Keeping your pet a healthy weight can even add on up to 2 years to their life.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

3) Food

There are lots of different kinds of food out there, and frankly, picking your pet's food can be a deeply personal decision.  There are only a couple of foods that I really don't recommend people giving their pets.  There are several expensive foods that I think are no better and sometimes worse than the grocery store foods because of marketing.  I will put it this way- I don't recommend any food that is "colored" artificial coloring- if it's not good for our kids, why would it be good for our pets?  Raw food- the risk of E.Coli and Salmonella and other infections, also fractured teeth- too high for what I would recommend.  When people tell me they think raw is a good idea because that's what dogs/cats eat in the wild, I respond with, "well, I hope you want your pet to live longer than dogs and cats in the wild do."

Most of the mid-grade to expensive food, you need to feed a lot less than you would the major brand name food.  I see a lot of dogs and cats who are obese on these calorie-rich foods.  Often the amount on the bag that they recommend that you feed is MUCH higher than what you should.  The food companies would rather you feed a fat pet- they sell more food.  So when it comes to recommendations of how much to eat- talk to your veterinarian.  Some pets are athletes and working dogs- they do need more calories- but that's not your typical vet.

I feed what I consider to be a mid-grade food- it works for our budget, is limited ingredient and has been what my dog has done well on.  My cat gets a prescription food, because for her health that is what she does best on.

Don't feel that the most expensive food is the best.  Sometimes it's much better for your pet's health to get a mid-grade food and save some of that money to put towards preventative care or save for future issues.

4) Insurance or Savings Account or payment plans

I wouldn't really recommend "regular insurance" because insurance companies are in business to make money and the regular, low deductible plans don't really seem to pay off for most people.  I have a high deductible insurance policy for my dog, that frankly, I've never had to make a claim on.  But I do know when he gets a disease that is costly, or has an emergency, or needs to see a specialist, my family won't have to make the tough decision of whether or not we can afford to do what is recommended and that peace of mind is worth it to me.  It may make more sense for you to just start a savings account for your pet so that you are prepared for emergencies.  There is also something called "Care Credit" that most clinics will accept.  This is a zero-interest for 6-12 months line of credit.  It works in an emergency and helps some pets get necessary care/procedures, but it is like getting a credit card and could mean serious debt if not paid off in the future.

5) Talk to your vet

When your pet has a disease, have a conversation with your vet regarding money issues.  We don't know what your wallet looks like, and we can't make judgements.  There have been some people who I thought would not have the money to do things for their pets and they do, they come up with it somewhere.  I know I had one client who put off getting her prescription medication in order to take care of her dog.  We worked with her and did everything we could to limit her bill.  Unfortunately, due to living in an era of malpractice lawsuits, we have to make recommendations keeping in mind that we could be sued in the future.  This makes us likely to recommend very thorough testing.  Not everyone can do this.  I have to document that I recommended everything that my professors taught me when I was in school.  However, after being a vet for 8 years, I can pretty much tell you things that are more or less probable.  Most cases I can get a "gut" feeling even without doing diagnostics.  I've worked in third world countries, places like India, Mongolia, Mexico and even rural Ireland, where the idea of doing advanced diagnostics is sometimes not even possible.  I can work with less.  It's just not "great" medicine.  But I can do "good" medicine with limited resources.  As long as I talk with clients about having accurate expectations of what minimal diagnostics and treatment can accomplish, I can still do something to try to help the patient.  Trust me, vets want to help.  We don't go to veterinary school to earn money (despite what some popular press articles might want to say).  We genuinely want to help our patients and we often do not get paid very much when you consider our school debt and how many hours we work (it is typical to work 11 hour days, lots of holidays and lots of weekend days).  We do this because we love it and we want to help, but we do need to get a paycheck and we understand when people are having a hard time making ends meet.  Talk to us, let us know what we can do to our best for your pet, while understanding pocketbooks have limitations.

6) Get Creative!

Clinical Studies

Clinical studies are sometimes happening at universities and specialty centers that offer low-cost or no cost treatment options.  Talk to your veterinarian, research online.  These are particularly available in the areas of cancer research, diabetes and kidney disease, but many other studies are occurring all the time.


Crowdfunding- I have seen a couple people use this to fund surgeries and get medical devices.  Post a picture, write a story, this seems to work especially well for rescue dogs/cats.

Rescue groups

Rescue groups typically don't have a lot of extra money, but they may be able to direct you to resources that can help, it's worth it to contact them and see if they have suggestions, especially breed-specific groups.

Not for profit clinics

In my area, we have a not for profit clinic that is located about 3 hours away.  It is a long drive, but for people who can't afford surgery otherwise, I do sometimes send people there.  Some low-cost clinics, you have to ask, "you get what you pay for" and I've seen the downside of these, but not for profits typically look at peoples ability to pay and work within those means.  It may be a drive, but if it's a difference between being able to do a life-saving procedure or not, it can make a difference.

I hope the above, though lengthy, gives some ideas of how to keep your pet healthy and try to minimize the impact on your wallet.  Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Additions

Whenever I get the privilege to see a new puppy or kitten, there's a small part of me that thinks, "wouldn't it be great to have a puppy or kitten?".  Then I think about all the hard work, cleaning and training and the desire passes.  At some point, I'm sure we will add another four-legged member to our family, but not any time soon.  The ones we have right now take up enough work.

When I first brought my cat Duchess home to meet with my family dog Hayley, it was love at first sight.  That was one of the reasons I was actually able to keep her in my family's house despite them originally not being cat lovers.

A couple years later, when I was ready to get a dog.  I carefully tried to prepare my cat.  I placed a feline pheromone called Feliway diffuser (kind of like a plug in diffuser).  I was initially skeptical and thought maybe it was just expensive water, but as soon as I plugged it in Duchess started rubbing up on it and purring.  She could obviously smell something I couldn't.  The 30 pound rottie/shepherd/lab (we don't know for sure, but that's my best bet) puppy was still a little much for her.  Let's just say he's always kind of been like a bull in a china shop.  I think that he's the biggest reason my son has really good balancing skills.  When you've grown up with a 60 pound dog who's tail is a force of nature, you learn how to keep your balance.

I always provided a safe area for Duchess to escape to (my bedroom) and when I wasn't around to supervise, I kept Dewey (the dog) in the kennel.  I did this for awhile, and tried to prohibit the dog from chasing the cat.  Until, one night I noticed the cat sticking her paw and probing the dog with it,  taunting him.  From then on, whenever Dewey chased her, I knew it was probably because she deserved it.  She still rules the roost and kicks the 60 pound dog off of his spatial bed so she can have it to herself.  Every 6 months or so Dewey and Duchess' relationship became stronger.  So strong, at this point, I'm worried what will happen if we lose Dewey first, because Duchess can't tolerate being separated from him.

Originally, my husband wasn't a huge cat fan, but I really recommend others do what we did when introducing cats to significant others.  My husband moved into our house and I didn't join until a couple months later, once we were married.  About a month or two before we got married, I moved my cat in with my soon to be husband.  I was hoping this would help with the transition and also minimize her anxiety of having her whole apartment packed up in boxes and worry about that as she is a very sensitive, anxious cat.  It ended up working out well, because my cat bonded with my husband.  He was the first face she saw and the last face she saw every morning and he fed her, gave her treats and let her sit on his warm lap when he read the paper.  They bonded.  Almost to the point where I'm jealous.  If I had moved in at the same time as my cat, I suspect she wouldn't have bonded, or not nearly as well, because she would have had her favorite human and in a feline world, they like to have "preferred associates" and don't need to be social butterflies.

We knew we were hoping to have children so the room we were intending on having as a nursery we kept both the dog and cat out of, so that way, once we had a small one, they wouldn't think that they were getting kicked out by our newest addition.  We also tried to acclimate them to the sounds of a baby, by having friends bring a baby over and playing the noises on TV, so a baby's cry wouldn't be a completely new event.  We also had my parents bring home a receiving blanket from the hospital with our son's scent and put it in the middle of the family room.  Both the dog and cat got familiar with the scent on their own terms.  When we brought the baby home, we had a grandparent stay in the car with him while I went inside and spent a little bit of time with both the dog and the cat.  This way, they got to greet me from my "trip" and didn't associate this new little baby with not getting attention or to be able to greet me.  The first week or so, both the dog and the cat would get up anytime we did a late night walk to the nursery.  After that time, the dog thought the crying was no longer interesting.  The cat continued to be protective of our son and continues to today.  She does not like to hear him in distress or crying and will let us know...

Whether you are adding a dog, cat or kid to your family, the website below has great information about making the transition as smooth as possible.

As discussed in a previous post
always be alert of everyone's safety and signs of stress while bringing your family together.  I still tell my clients and abide by it myself, no matter how wonderful your pet is, don't leave your pet and child alone in the same room.  Too many things can happen.  Once your child is of the age where he/she is responsible and can defend (or run away) you may be able to consider this, I wouldn't consider leaving my son alone with my pets under 7 years of age though.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Toddler Bootcamp and Veterinary Weightlifting

So earlier in the month I was at a great mommy and me event at our Town Center.  At the event they had a booth with some people who were doing "mommy stroller exercises" to help mom's get in shape without having to find childcare.  I thought that it sounded like a great idea, but kind of pricey.  I shelved that idea.  A couple days later at work, I saw a couple of 30 and 40 pound bags of dog food and decided to help the staff put it away, all while telling myself I was burning calories and going to get some biceps.  A little later that day, I got some serious biceps action on restraining a cat that wanted to kill multiple people and later on holding up a 100 pound lab that wanted to melt into the floor.  Maybe fancy exercise classes aren't needed.  Maybe I just need to eat a few less cookies during the day...

Well, the cookies during the day occur because that is all I have the time for when I'm on the go with a little guy who won't wait for my hypoglycemia to resolve with a whole grain bagel, or even give me the time to eat a whole grain bagel.

I found myself one day towing my son in a bike trailer (so his roughly 30 # body, but probably closer to 50 # when you include all of his accoutrements).  I rode about 2 miles with him, then we got to a park and he insisted on going up and down the play structure's steep steps at least 4 times and then toddler curls (this is where I haul him away from a dangerous or unsafe area and he wiggles so much I can't hold him upright, I hold him under his abdomen and carry him away like he is a 4-legged creature).  Then there's the wrestling match of trying to get him to wear his bike helmet.  Then we go for another ride, because this park didn't have a basketball hoop, which is what he really wanted.  At this point I got lost and ended up having to go up a steep hill twice.  I almost admitted defeat and just walked the bike up the hill to the park where I was hoping to get some repose.  A vision of sitting on the steps and watching my son play some basketball while I sipped some lukewarm water sounded great.  Oh, say it isn't so.  What did my son really want to do at the basketball court?  He wanted to watch his mommy make hoops.  Needless to say I haven't played basketball since Clinton was in the White House.  Gradually my skills improved, but my legs were weak and wobbly.  The toddler?  He saved up enough energy to try to run into the forest and push the ball under the fence.  Then mommy had to haul everyone back home and play toddler mind games to try to get him to take a nap.  As my legs were about ready to fall off, I thought, "I should really market a day with my toddler as one of those extreme workouts, like extreme warrior competitions or mud dashes.  People pay money to run under barbed wire fence?  Why not just try to keep up with a toddler?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

So a small taste of life around here...

I make my own homemade bread to save money (and because hot, crusty bread is just delicious).  I also heard it's a good way to keep a husband happy.  Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies seem to accomplish that objective in this house...

Two recipes I use over and over and share with everyone are the following:

No Knead Dutch Oven Crusty Bread recipe on is a must try recipe

Also, sadly, my bread maker is not often used to create bread.  What I use it for is the moneysaving mom cinnamon roll recipe at

If you have not tried the above recipes, I strongly recommend you do.  If I can make them with a two-year old running about, it means they are easy enough for most people...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sibling Conflict

So just as I was telling my husband that my son really needs a sibling.  (He gets quite demanding with, "mommy carry" and how he wants things particularly done and I'm sure every toddler mom has had to struggle against being a "short-order" cook).  The dog stepped in.  The toddler was finally eating bread after demanding that he wanted mommy's pancake (which wasn't made with a treenut free mix, but with a healthier, whole-grain mix).  He simply could not have it and I'm not sure how he could tell the difference.  I even resorted to trying to switch plates but he was not easily fooled.  We finally got him to eat some bread.  In a temporary meltdown, his heel of bread (the last of the bread) fell on the floor and the lab/rottie/shepherd mix was ready to accept his "manna from heaven".  Dewey ran off with the bread to the living room (which is where he takes every treat he ever gets, don't ask me why.)  The toddler was a little slow on the uptake and then figured out what happened.  He then ran off to Dewey and it was so precious, he stood in front of him, wagging his finger at him.  He learned this from the MANY times we have read the book "Caps for Sale".  Wagging his finger and saying "bread".  "My bread" or something like that.  It was very cute and made me think, while the dog is not a replacement for a real sibling for our son, he will at least help train him to not take for granted his food, he may teach him how to share and this isn't such a bad thing.  Of course I stood right there and dissuaded the toddler from reaching into the dogs mouth (which I'm pretty sure he would have tried) and tried to keep everyone safe.

 No matter how sweet and wonderful the dog, a toddlers hands, with food and a dogs mouth can be a very bad combination.  I've actually found a great website recently that speaks about this, as well as dog communication and children safety.  Please check it out, for the good of any of the children and canines in your life:

This website is very informative, but be prepared to have some Kleenex.  It's a sad story, but hopefully some good can come from it and further dog bites can be prevented.  I don't know how many times I have heard stories in exam rooms where parents are blaming dogs for their behavior when they are letting their children do risky behavior that could lead to the dog having no other option.  (Examples include children who hit, kick or step on an animal and then the owner disciplines the animal for growling).  Dogs should not be disciplined for growling.  Growling is a better defensive behavior than going to bite without a warning growl.  Checkout the and learn more about canine communication and stress and kid safety.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Food Allergies

So it's kind of interesting.  My husband has been convinced that my cat has been in cahoots with our son since I was pregnant.  He claims the evidence of this is an ultrasound picture we have where our soon looks like he is doing "the Mr Burns excellent sign from the Simpsons".  The cat and our son have always had a peculiar relationship.  Partially because of the cat, Duchess, my emergency C-section occurred a little earlier, I told the doctor that my cat was behaving strangely, and being extra protective from the dog.  It is possible that by preventing me from going into labor prior to the C-section that she could have saved both of our lives... But I digress..

You may not be aware, but food allergies are present in animals, just like people.  Duchess, our 15 year old Tortie developed food allergies about 7 years ago.  In cats and dogs, food allergies thankfully don't lead to anaphylaxis.  It can cause some pretty serious skin problems and stomach issues though. Duchess is allergic to chicken and beef (but especially chicken).  If she gets a small piece, she starts losing her hair and scratch
ing obsessively.  Many treats that say "salmon or venison" or other proteins, on the label you will find in small letters later on in the label.  I guess she has sort of trained me to be vigilant.

Unfortunately, Duchess shares this health condition now with our two year old.  He happens to be allergic to peas.  Yes, peas.  Interestingly, peas are a legume (related to peanuts) and are becoming more of a common allergen.  Our pediatrician actually didn't believe us that he was allergic to peas.  After a trip to the emergency room, we found out he his highly allergic to cashews as well (he actually had difficulty breathing after eating a small "cashew cluster".  So thus we have embarked on being food allergy parents.  I'm kind of new to this world (if anyone has tips, please feel free to share), except for the label reading.  Thanks to Duchess, we are prepared for that...

I would like to say Trader Joe's is very helpful, according to the company any products that are produced by Trader Joe's is required to state whether it is made on shared equipment with treenuts (this is not legally required).  Unfortunately, peas are not listed as an allergen, but thankfully, peas aren't dusty and not that common...  And as someone recently pointed out to me... At least I will never have to ask him to stop sticking his peas up his nose : )

Friday, May 1, 2015

Horse prepares me for motherhood nap time battles...

I'm sure every toddler has a temper and tries to exert their independence.  One day I was reminded of another one of God's creatures who was akin to my two year old...

Each day of my horse rotation started around 5 am.  I would get up, possibly get some coffee and try to get out of the house in 15 minutes.  I would stroll my way into the large animal clinic (maybe stroll is not the correct word, dragging my butt in with a gimpy walk and hunched over back was probably more realistic).  I would park my coffee and any clothes I might want to keep clean on the table and begin to check on the gang.  I had about 3-4 cases to be responsible for each day (the typical was 1 or 2).  I had one "lifer", what we would call patients who were destined to be in the clinic longer than you are.  He was a pretty sweet horse, but he would try to get the better of you.  Most days were a mental battle.  100 pound girl vs 1100 or more pound horse.  Who do you think would win if the battle was about being physical?

Holding the horse by his harness, I looked into his eyes with an unspoken communication, "I'm not going to take any of your garbage, I'm trying to help you, I don't care if you can kick my butt, I'm too tired to care, I'm sore and every bit as grouchy as you are, you are going to take your medicine if I tell you to.  No, you will not rear up and kick me, just try, I'm Polish, Irish and a little bit of Scottish and German, I can guarantee you I'm more stubborn than you are."

The horse lifted me up in the air (by the simple act of knocking his head back, I was holding on to the halter and was airborne.  While I've always dreamed of flying, this was not the flight pattern I had in mind).

The horse initially fought, I said "No" in as manly a voice as I could handle, shoved the medication down the back of his throat and then rub his head and say, "Good Boy, now I will get you some grain."

Back to the toddler.  He is a sweet and wonderful boy.  That being said... Within the first two days of his life, the maternity nurse (you know the nurses that all they see are new moms and new babies), commented on how "passionate" he is.  Well, that has proven to be true.  I feel assured that later in life his passion and persistence will serve the world well, but that doesn't change the difficulty of harnessing a toddler...

One day recently, he decided that even though he was very tired, he just wanted to play or read a book.  The look in his eyes almost looked like a curious scientist performing an experiment, I'm not sure if it was his thought, but I would believe it if he decided, "today I'm going to see if I can get mommy to let me not take a nap, can I get my way?"  I told him, "no you can't read or play, you can have mommy rock you or sleep in the crib."  For an hour and a half, I carried him back and forth between the crib and the rocking chair.  He said in a confused toddler voice, "no play? no book?"  "Sleep," I responded to him.

The battle of wills went on and as we both got crankier, to re-enforce my resolve (because I don't really think it did anything for him as I am convinced toddlers are not logical), I stated, "I guarantee you I am more stubborn than you, I've had over 34 years of experience and I will not back down.  You will take a nap."  That was when I remembered when I had said something along those lines before.  I had never thought that my equine rotation would prepare me for motherhood....

I did end up winning the nap time battle, but I must confess I had to take a 20 minute nap myself to recover.  He blissfully slept for over two hours, a rarity for him.  Alleluia.