And we walked in fields of gold…

We re-visited our secret park  today for possibly the last time. As I looked over the stretches of gently rolling grass dappled with patches of shade and sunshine, I felt as if I was travelling through time.

I saw P doing his bunny hop romp as his tail spiraled in a crazy circle of happiness. I saw P and me sitting under a shady tree eating apple snacks. I saw myself smiling into his bright eyes as I stroked his soft fur.

Fast forward in time, and I saw the same lovely scene, but with Heidi, Ickey, and Michelle romping ahead of me, and Bruce walking beside me. How Ickey and Michelle loved chasing balls, and how fast they were. Ickey ran like a horse, and Michelle like a mountain lion. I saw Heidi rolling happily on the grass and leisurely trotting after a ball if it wasn’t thrown too far for her arthritic little legs. I saw Bruce happy to be part of our family.

Today, Ickey ran ahead as Michelle trotted more slowly behind. Our old girl walks with a pronounced limp nowadays, but still enjoys our family walks together, just at a slower pace. As I like to say, we only walk as fast as our slowest family member so no one gets left behind.

There was some sadness intertwined with the happiness. For M&M however, all they felt was sunshine and joy as we walked in fields of gold…

M&M revisit our secret park
M&M revisit our secret park
Ickey: "I like this place a lot Michelle."
Ickey: “I like this place a lot Michelle.”
Michelle: "Take it all in fat boy. =)"
Michelle: “Take it all in fat boy. =) Since we may not be back, I better pee all over the place so people will remember us – the MM&H gang!”

A Golden Moment in Time

Anyone who’s loved and lost a dog knows that our time with them is always much too short. It seems as if we only have them for a “Golden Moment in Time” – a time when they are young and healthy; a time when there is only happiness and sunshine.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have two such golden moments in my life. The first was with P, who gave us eight wonderful years together before he passed away from cancer.

The second golden moment was with P’s family, who grew ever larger and included the sunshine boys Joy & Sunny, and the three musketeers (Ickey, Michelle, and Heidi). These five dogs formed an unlikely family that forever connected their hearts to P, and to each other.

This winter, our sweet Heidi girl and our sunshine boy Joy both passed away.

The heartache has at times been overwhelming.

Yet through the sea of grief and pain, I am also reminded of how lucky I’ve been to have known and loved two beautiful souls, and how lucky I am STILL to have Sunny, Ickey, and Michelle.

As I write this, I realize that there have not been just two golden moments in time. Rather, that each moment in life is a golden moment if only I’d see the present for what it is: a gift, which is all the more precious because it is so fleeting.

Take the time to appreciate your own golden moments, and never forget that each day is it’s own golden moment in time.

Romping Around In The Secret Park
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BONZAI!!!!
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A sea of goldens
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Heidi: Lifeguard on deck
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DOUBLE BONZAII!!!!

A Work of Art

My uber talented, and exceptionally kind childhood friend drew this lovely picture of P. It is one of my favorite photos of our baby boy, as he looks so spiffy in his blue whale bowtie (his daddy has the matching blue whale necktie).

P in his blue bowtie
P in his blue bowtie
Look at me! I'm a work of art!
Look at me! I’m a work of art!

 

Bruce Meets Santa

My husband, our young son, and I had the great pleasure of visiting our previous foster Bruce last weekend with his wonderful new family. He was part of our family for over a year while he patiently waited for his forever family to come along, so he has a very dear place in our hearts.

His dad reports that Bruce is still up to his usual antics and “He seems the same happy, playful, always watchful dog that just wants to be with his people, go on walks (short ones) and protect people from delivery trucks (and other dogs).”

He still “talks” and loves playing with his cherished tomato toy (although he’s on his fifth tomato replacement…but shhhh… don’t let him know that).

Brucie with his beloved tomato
Brucie with his beloved tomato

Brucie’s forever family includes two children, who adore him. The daughter is a budding young artist and created this masterpiece titled “Bruce Meets Santa”.

What do you think is in Bruce’s stocking this year? More tomatoes, of course!

Bruce Meets Santa
Bruce Meets Santa
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More tomatoes if you please…

Bloat. If you have a dog, please read this. It may save their life.

On November 14, 2014, our sweet Heidi passed away from bloat. My husband and I knew of bloat, but did not know exactly what the symptoms were, and never ever expected that it would happen to any of our dogs.

I wanted to share our experience to spread awareness, in hopes that it may save another dog’s life. If you have a dog, please take the time to read this. Bloat is very little understand and seldom talked about. Yet it is probably one of the the deadliest and most painful conditions a dog can experience. It is also reported to be the 2nd biggest killer in dogs (behind cancer).

Heidi was on prednisone to help control her allergies. Though it did provide her relief from extreme itchiness, it left her feeling excessively hungry and thirsty. She’d gobble up her food, and drink bowl after bowl of water. Every so often, we’d find her gnawing on something inappropriate – usually paper or empty wrappers. She even gorged on half a bag of dog food once, literally eating away until she could no longer eat. The next day she had explosive vomiting, yet was okay afterwards. Over time, we’ve had our fair share of spit ups, throw ups, and diarrhea, and Heidi was never the worse for wear afterwards.

On the night of November 13, what began as a seemingly common case of upset stomach ended in tragedy. Heidi was acting very agitated after dinner, pacing around and trying to vomit, but unable to bring anything up. I thought she’d gotten into something and simply needed to throw it up. During the course of the night, Heidi was acting more agitated than I’d ever recall seeing her, and doing things she’d never done before, like jumping on the couch and knocking over the baby gates. She even cried out at one point, and my husband and I debated whether to take her to the emergency hospital. We decided to wait until early morning and take her into our normal vet right when they opened instead. This way, they could run more comprehensive tests to find out what was wrong. While we knew something was obviously wrong, we did not know enough  to realize that we were dealing with a medical emergency.

During the night, Heidi threw up mucousy water three times. I thought this was a good sign; that she was finally able to throw up what was upsetting her stomach; that she’d be okay now. After the last vomit, Heidi laid down and looked like she would finally be able to get comfortable and rest. What I didn’t realize is that Heidi was actually dying before my eyes; that what I interpret as her resting was actually her body going into shock.

In the early morning when my husband and I check on her, we find that our sweet girl passed away during the night.  Her stomach became humongous, and the vet confirmed that Heidi died from bloat; that she suffered and was in pain, and that had we rushed her to the emergency hospital within the first moments of suspecting something was wrong, we may have been able to save her life.

It kills me knowing that she was in excruciating pain and dying before my eyes, and I did not realize how severe and urgent the situation was. I horribly misread so many of Heidi’s cues. Heidi trusted me to keep her safe, and I failed her. A part of me died with our sweet girl.

I write this in the hopes that every dog owner is better aware of bloat, and the signs to look for that may save your dog’s life.

First, what is bloat? 

Bloat, as it is commonly called, is a condition technically known as gastric dilation/volvolus, or GDV. The term refers to a gas-filled stomach (bloat) that then twists upon itself. It is The Mother of All Emergencies because it is so drastic and happens so quickly. I feel the condition should not be termed bloat since we’ve all experienced harmless bloat (gas) at some point in our lives. While bloat may seem similar to stomach gas and may go away, if it doesn’t and gets worse, it becomes a medical emergency. If the abdomen continues to swell, the pressure on the organs, especially the heart and lungs, can reduce the blood flow to the heart and spleen, damaging both organs and leading to cardiac arrest. In some cases the stomach can burst and twist, leading to a heart attack and causing the dog to go into shock and ultimately die.

What are the signs of bloat? Please know that the signs can be so subtle that they can be easily overlooked or misread. Typical symptoms often include some (but not necessarily all) of the following. Unfortunately, from the onset of the first symptoms you have very little time (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours) to get immediate medical attention for your dog so awareness is your best defense.

  • Dry heaving. The biggest clue is the vomiting: the pet appears highly nauseated and is retching but little is coming up. If you see this, rush your dog to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY.
  • Doesn’t act like usual self. Perhaps the earliest warning sign & may be the only sign that almost always occurs.
  • Abdomen becomes enlarged and distended (not always evident depending on the dog’s body configuration.
  • Significant anxiety, restlessness, and other signs of discomfort – pacing, salivating, whining, crying out
  • Pale or off-color gums. Indicates that blood is not circulating  properly.
  • ” Hunched up” or “roached up” appearance.
  • Foamy mucous around the lips, or vomiting foamy mucous
  • Coughing
  • Unproductive attempts to defecate
  • May attempt to eat small stones and twigs
  • Drinking excessively
  • Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance. Especially in advanced stage.
  • Accelerated heartbeat. Heart rate increases as bloating progresses.

What are the risk factors if bloat?

Generally, bloat occurs more often in large, deep chested breeds including Great Danes, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, etc. However, it happens in smaller breeds too including Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Yorkies, etc. Please take note that even if your dog does not appear to be in the at risk group, bloat can affect ANY dog, at ANYTIME.

“We don’t know exactly why GDV happens,” says Alicia Faggella DVM, DACVECC, a board-certified specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care. Some people do all of the “wrong” things, and their dogs don’t experience it, she says, while some do all of what we think are the “right” things, and their dogs do. Because no one understands the cause of bloat, there is no real way to prevent it. However, there are indications that following a few simple measures may help.

  • Limit exercise before and after meals (remember the 1-2 hour rule: Don’t exercise your dog heavily 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating.
  • Avoid single large meals. Instead, feed 2-3 small meals a day.
  • Don’t let your dog drink large quantities of water at one time.

If ever in doubt, at the very least call your vet or an emergency clinic to discuss the symptoms. In this situation,  it is better to overreact than under react.

For more information, visit these articles:

http://www.critterchatter.com/health/142-bloat.html

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/8_1/features/15682-1.html

http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=672

While there is an abundance of information on how to prevent and treat bloat, much of it is conflicting as it is still not well understood. The best we can do is foster awareness: know the symptoms of bloat and act quickly.

Be at peace now Heidi, and remember that you will always be loved.

This post was written for the love of Heidi. Know only health, love, and joy now sweet girl. I will always love you.