Catching Up At Run A Muck Ranch: Gracie

With all the trials and tribulations with Vito, work, trying to get the new business going and life in general, I’ve let many a tale, status and update of the goings on here at The Ranch fall to the wayside.

One of the significant occurrences I never reported is that Gracie has gone blind.

Gracie is the product of a pairing between a dog and a goat, with a resulting offspring hooking up with a muppet.
Gracie is the product of a pairing between a dog and a goat, with one of the resulting offspring hooking up with a muppet.

We really weren’t surprised to hear the news.  Gracie never did have the greatest vision to begin with.  What did bother us quite a bit was that we didn’t even notice she lost what she had.  Gracie was getting her shots when the vet, who didn’t know her, asked if she had been blind her whole life.  She was completely and totally unresponsive visually during the exam and when he specifically looked at her eyes, he still couldn’t get a response.

Gracie is still Gracie whether she can see or not.
Gracie is still Gracie whether she can see or not.

Gracie has always had cataracts, but it wasn’t so bad that she couldn’t get around.  Sometimes they advance to a point and stop. Sometimes they blind.  Rather than doing surgery early on, we decided to take the wait and see approach.

Before you judge, consider this:  The consultation with the eye specialist is $125.  At that visit you are told to return for testing, which can run between $850 and $950.  From that testing it is then determined whether or not the $5500 cataract surgery is even a possibility.

When we were first told of Gracie’s cataracts years ago and we did that initial consultation with the specialist, I asked point-blank: Would waiting have any effect on the up or down vote that would result from the testing.  The answer was no.  If waiting would have no bearing on whether Gracie was a surgical candidate down the road, and since we didn’t happen to  have nearly $7000 at our disposal at the time, we opted against surgery and hoped for the best.

Blind dogs can still rock!!
Blind dogs can still rock!!

As luck would have it, we still don’t have nearly $7000 in the piggy bank for the surgery so there’s really nothing we can do.  That said, she WILL require additional vet visits during the year in addition to her annual checkups to make sure she doesn’t progress to glaucoma, an apparent possibility. If it gets to that point, we will take all necessary measures, even if it means I have to sell Crabby on street corners to get the money to treat the glaucoma.  There is no pain with cataracts, there is with glaucoma.

All that doom and gloom aside, there is a little snippet I wrote earlier that I’m not sure you paid attention to.  I said that we didn’t even notice Gracie had gone completely blind.  We’re not sure Gracie even noticed!  Other than minor bumps or stumbles, she hasn’t missed a beat:  Squeak a toy – she’s on it.  Take her for a walk – her nose is to the ground looking for hoo doos  and, assuming the pull of the smells aren’t too strong, she comes right to us when she’s called.    She has no problems finding Crabby or me around The Ranch, or finding Hector when she needs her face washed.  Her dinner dances remain at their historic levels and Lord knows she has no problems finding her dinner room or her bowl (or anyone else’s bowl for that matter)!

The way we see it, if Gracie doesn’t know she’s blind, we’re certainly not going to tell her!

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It’s the nose and not the eyes that make finds like this possible.

We will have to make certain changes when Sunday Family Desert Walk season starts again. Gracie, like the rest of the Nimwits, loves these outings and to deny her her most favorite of activities would be cruel.   So that she is not left out, she is either the only dog walking with either Crabby or me solo or if she goes with a group, Crabby and I both have to be present.  Morning or evening walks, regardless of number of people or dogs, are out of the question due to coyote threats. And of course, when the rains give us smelly water holes to swim in, we will keep a closer eye on her lest she get disoriented and swim too far out to the center.  Separate from that, I am looking into GPS locator collars, just in case.

Other than changes to her desert walks, Gracie’s life is no different now from the way it was before.  Well, that’s a fib.  Since hearing the news, she doesn’t have to wait for the full rotation before getting her couch or people bed time – she gets extras.   Even if we aren’t treating her differently doesn’t mean I can’t treat her differently!  (Moms understand)

So, bummer about Gracie’s eyes, but no worries about Gracie.   She has many, many more adventures to experience and share with you before she’s done.  She just won’t be able to describe them in living color.

Gracie was, is and will always remain - Perfect.
Gracie was, is and will always remain – Perfect.

More Troubles In Willy World

I’ve gotten way behind on my house chores.  An unexpected early work day gives me the opportunity to catch up.

Among the plethora of chores I’m behind on is laundry.  Dog laundry to be more specific.  Every week I wash all dog beds, blankets and even their toys.

I just started the 3rd load, and noticed the living room had no more toys strewn about.  I could have sworn there were more.

Then I found this:

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Don’t worry Toys, I’ll make sure you get to stay smelly!

Apparently Willy is as displeased over the prospect of laundering the toys today as he was over my timing of washing the couch cover yesterday.

He’s going to be quite peeved in about 30 minutes when the current wash load is finished and the bed he’s sleeping on will be disassembled for the next one.

Power Struggles at Run A Muck Ranch

Sundays are couch cover laundry days, which means I have to remove them.

Today, Willy took issue with my timing.

Which part of DO NOT DISTURB do you not understand?!?!?!
Which part of “DO NOT DISTURB” do you not understand?!?!?!

You can tell from the look in his eye and the digging in of his body that he was NOT going to yield.

Eventually, Willy moved on, but not before he hung the “Maid Service Requested” sign.

Good to know who’s in charge!

Curing New Couch Woes

Anyone who’s had the honor of sharing their lives with a member of the pit bull tribe will agree; you can take away a pitty’s eyes, ears, legs, relatively non-essential organs and/or any other body part, and the dog can still live a  happy life.  But take away the couch and a pit bull has no reason to live.

Our Sarah is no different.  Long are the hours she spends snuggled up to the north arm of her Beloved.

Run A Muck Ranch recently euthanized it’s ancient couch and replaced it with a new one.   Sarah didn’t spend long grieving the loss of her old Love, and seemed quite excited to bond with a newer version.  But there was a problem:  The new couch had all its stuffing, making it higher than the old one.  Sarah couldn’t get on it by herself.

With her new Beloved so near and yet so far, all Sarah could do was stand there, staring at it, crying until Crabby or I picked her up and put her on her preferred north arm.  The knowledge that once she got off, she could not get back on unless assistance was close at hand made Sarah reluctant to part with her Beloved under any circumstances.  It didn’t help that those extra few inches in height were enough that Sarah lost control on the dismount and went crashing to the floor.

We considered dog stairs, but determined they would not be strong enough to handle Sarah’s weight and instability.  I looked at horse mounting blocks, but thought they were too  narrow and too easy for Sarah to fall off of.  We considered building a ramp but in the end decided it would have all the negatives of both dog stairs and mounting blocks, so that idea was discarded as well.

Crabby put on his thinking cap, and came up with this:

Low enough Sarah can't fall off of, high enough to give Sarah the boost she needs to get on and off the couch herself. Reinforced cross beams add strength and an attached carpet runner adds traction.
Long, low and wide enough Sarah can’t fall off of, high enough to give Sarah the boost she needs to get on and off the couch herself. Reinforced cross beams add strength and an attached carpet runner adds traction.

Crabby showed Sarah how to use it once and she became an immediate expert.

Excuse the pitiful expression. Sarah had just returned from her evening walk in temperatures exceeding 83 degrees. Oh, the horror!
Excuse the pitiful expression. Sarah had just returned from her evening walk in temperatures exceeding 83 degrees. Oh, the horror!
Actually, the carpet runner on the block appears to give Sarah better back end traction than the runners we put on the floor for her!
Actually, the carpet runner on the block appears to give Sarah better back-end traction than the runners we put on the floor for her!
One giant step for pitbull kind!
One giant step for pit bull kind!
Because of her physical issues, Sarah can't make a hard left turn. Instead, she straightens up going to the right....
Because of her physical issues, Sarah can’t make a hard left turn. Instead, she straightens up going to the right….
Then turns back south.
Then turns back north.
Ahh! Sweet Relief!
Ahh! Sweet Relief!
Nothing can ever come betwen Sarah and her Beloved ever again!
Nothing can ever come between Sarah and her Beloved ever again!

Extreme kudos goes out to Crabby for building not just ‘a’ Sarah Booster, but the PERFECT Sarah Booster!

6:30, 2:30, 10:30; Life With Keppra Vito

Right now, subject to change without notice, it appears Keppra is key in managing Vito’s seizures.  It’s been hypothesized that the stress caused by the side effects of the KBr counteracted the Keppra that time he had seizures while on both drugs.  We don’t have the side effects, other than the constant hunger, on NaBr.  2 attempts to remove Vito from the Keppra after therapeutic blood levels of Br were reached resulted in seizures in 22 hours or less.  Thus, Keppra is a permanent fixture barring any unforseen complication or a better treatment comes out.

How can such a wee little, rodent like dog control us?
How can such a wee little, rodent-like dog have such power over us?

Here’s the rub with Keppra:  It has a half-life of 4 hours, meaning at the end of 8 hours, it is gone, finished, no longer detectable, leaving the patient open to the possibility of a seizure. Even worse, a missed dose may actually cause a seizure.  It must be given every 8 hours to ensure maximum effectiveness. Not 3 times a day at the most convenient hours, shifting depending on outside activities, but every 8 hours.  This little factoid is why Keppra is rarely the drug of choice for dogs.  Compliance is nearly impossible except for stay at home pet parents.

Vito is a great laundry helper!
Vito is a great laundry helper!

Think about it:  the average day job is at least 8 hours.  Factor in commuting and you’ve already blown the timing of one dose.  Add 8 hours to the already late dose, and you’re looking at the next one occurring in the middle of the night, long after bedtime.  In order to get to work, the morning dose would have to be given hours early.  See the problem?

How does a mere mortal stick with a Keppra dosing schedule?  With great planning and forethought.

I leave for work so early, it’s practically the previous day.  Crabby gets up at 5:30.  He has a 6:30 alarm for Vito’s morning dose.  No chance of forgetting if his pre-work chores get out of hand, the alarm will remind him.

I have a regular alarm set for 2pm.  If I’m working, and the alarm goes off, I drop what I’m doing and go home for Vito’s 2:30pm dose (yup, I have a 2:30pm alarm too).  If my work was not finished before the 2pm alarm goes off, after Vito gets his Keppra, I go back and finish.

After a post-seizure bath.
After a post-seizure bath.

Both Crabby and I have alarms set for 10:30pm.  That’s way past my bedtime, and though Crabby usually stays up at least until 10:30, he has been known to fall asleep on the couch.  The dual alarms insures one or both of us is up to give the 10:30 dose.

In the event one of us can not make our appointed dose, the other gets a call.  Whoever can break away from work the easiest goes home for Vito.

If Crabby or I were to get hit by a truck or  contract some fatal disease, the availability of the other to go to the hospital to visit or claim the body is contingent on how close we are to one of Vito’s dosage times.  For example; if I were hit by a truck at 12:30pm, and Crabby were to receive notification of my impending demise, he is to immediately go home, wait for the 2:30pm dose, and then go to the hospital.  He will time the commute, schedule his miscellaneous emotions and other pertinent tasks and then set an alarm on his phone signaling when he has to leave the hospital to make it home in time for Vito’s 10:30 dose.

A couple weekends ago, Crabby and I painted the town one evening.  But not before I calculated the mileage to our destination, factored in weekend traffic, then gave a 15 minute buffer just in case, and set an alarm telling us when we had to head for home.

To make sure Vito’s schedule is strictly adhered to, we have a white board listing day and dosage time.  After each dose, a check mark goes in the appropriate place.  This keeps Crabby and I from ever having to wonder if the other goofed. Additionally, the snack reminder for Vito’s 2:30 and 10:30 doses are duly noted (Vito insisted on that).

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Photo taken the first time we tried to stop the Keppra.  Vito had a seizure 22 hours later.

Because no medication stops all seizures, and because Crabby has a tendency to freak just as much now as he did when Vito had his first seizure, to the right of the seizure board from a kitchen cabinet hangs the Vito Emergency Bag (VEB, since everything has an acronym now).  In it are a syringe pre-filled with a loading dose of Keppra, 2 syringes of rectal diazepam and Vito’s “chewing” toothbrush (hey, it soothes him to chew it, so who are we to deny him?).  At first twitch, my job is to go to Vito.  Crabby’s job is to bring me the VEB.  Vito gets both the Keppra and 1 syringe of diazepam at the end of the seizure.  He then gets his toothbrush to gnaw on until he’s fully back with us.

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To help us feel this is all worth it, all seizures past April (some occurring between January and April are missing) are noted on the Horde Board in the hallway by the back door.   That way every time we come home, we can count another day off the ticker from the last seizure.   As of right now, Vito hasn’t had a seizure since June 8, the longest he’s gone since we started medicating.

The plan had been, if we ever reached a significant gap between seizures again, to try to wean Vito off his NaBr.  We’ve decided not to go there.  Something is working and we just want it to keep working.  If we do a Br check and find it has dropped below therapeutic levels, we will know the seizures are being controlled by the Keppra alone. Until then, we change nothing.

And so is our lives until the day we die (the dogs are expected to outlive us after all).  There are those, even in the dog ‘community’ who don’t understand the short leash we have to home right now.  I’ve stopped trying to explain.

The only thing I can say is this:  Vito is not a sacrifice.  He was, is and always will be, a gift.  In other words, he’s worth it.

It's not fair that Vito has to go through so much.
It’s not fair that Vito has to go through so much.

The Once And Former

Remember when Morty moved in?  He just showed up in the driveway one day, smelling wild, and refused to leave.

Morty, the day he showed up, Memorial Day weekend, 2012.
Morty, the day he showed up, Memorial Day weekend, 2012.

No one claimed him.

Turns out, Morty and Crabby had a similar interest:  the love of nature and getting away from it all.  And so it came to pass that Morty became Crabby’s Main Mutt.

The Noble Beast in his element.
The Noble Beast in his element. (2012)

Morty had no fear.

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The ground was his bed and the sky was his blanket. If he got tired, he just lay down where ever he was and took a snooze.   He needed no comforts of home, the Wild was his home.

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So rugged was Morty, he could even carry his own pack and it never slowed him down.

2013
2013

But then things started to change.

2014
2014

And then they changed some more.

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And here we are today:

I present to you, The Once and Former Noble Beast, now known as Princess Morty.

Princess Morty, 7/4/15
Princess Morty, 7/4/15

Vito: The Cliff Notes

What a long strange trip it’s been!  At first I was going to do this as a newsletter, then as a novel.  Stack on top of that all sorts of events, tid bits and adventures I haven’t kept you up to date with, and, well, I give up.  You get the short version so I can try to play catch up on all the other events.

It's not fair that Vito has to go through so much.
It’s not fair that Vito has to go through so much.

While Vito’s seizures were disturbing, his post ictal states were even scarier.  Where the seizures maintained at less than a minute, 4 times within 24 hours, then they went away, the post ictals got progressively worse.  Vito would be so agitated he was practically scaling the walls.  He could never get enough to eat, often times being caught trying to munch on electrical chords, dog beds, sticks, stones, and the list goes on.  His constant crying was the worst.  Until he collapsed from exhaustion, some time after the 4th seizure, he was non-stop.  But we were told we were over reacting.  The seizure, and not the post ictal, was the more serious condition.  Just confine Vito to a crate if he won’t calm down.  None of the experts were there to see what Vito was like in these episodes. Be rest assured if it were their dog going through the torture Vito did, they would DO something.  But we were given no options other than to lock Vito up – not going to happen.

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In January, I gathered up the Vito Book containing all narratives and lab reports, the ultrasounds, his diet, etc. etc. and sought the opinion from a second internal specialist.  The only way to stop the post ictals was to stop the seizures, and to do that, we had to medicate.  I caved.

Because of Vito’s idiopathic elevated bile acids, phenobarbitol was not an option, so we were started on KBr.   The KBr side effects were identical to Vito in a post ictal state – highly agitated, voraciously hungry, constantly vocal, and his eyes looked worse than they did in a seizure episode, probably because his stomach was always upset.  He felt crappy.  We felt helpless.

We were told to stay the course, that the side effects would dissipate.  For weeks Vito couldn’t sleep through the night, and neither could I.  Most disturbing, the seizures, previously no closer than 30 days apart, got closer.  Even more disturbing, his between seizures, usually normal liver profile values were starting to skew.

Eventually, we just took Vito off the drug.  Our bad, we didn’t wean him, we just stopped it.  Within a week Vito was Vito again, and within another week, he had another seizure episode, and shortly after, yet another one.

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A new vet, yadda yadda, and we were told the problem with the KBr is that it was 4 times the dosage Vito should have been getting.  With great reluctance on our part, KBr was re-started, but at 1/3 the dose, to be given until the Br reached therapeutic levels in his blood, then we would reduce it.  The side effects returned, though not as severe as before, serious enough to mean we only woke up once or twice a night rather than many times, and Vito still felt crappy.  The seizures continued – by now, Vito having had more in a few months than he had in the previous year – and eventually Keppra was added as a back up until the Br reached therapeutic levels.

2 days after blood was drawn to confirm the sought after therapeutic Br level was reached, and while Vito was simultaneously taking Keppra, he had his first ever longer than a minute seizures, and first ever more than 4 in a 24 hour period.  When we got 2 weeks away from this episode, a liver panel was run and every parameter was seriously elevated.

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Now, let me take you back to pre-medicated Vito:  Seizures never reached a minute, there were never more than 4 in a 24 hour period, and they were never, with the exception of 1 event in 2014, less than 30 days apart, more often than not, longer – we made it 108 days once.  Immediately after a seizure episode, his liver values were elevated, but within a week, they would return to normal.

Medicated Vito has only gone 30 days between seizures once since being medicated, he was in a permanent post ictal state, and his liver was taking a hit.

I did some research on my own and found that an alternative to KBr for dogs who experience side effects is NaBr.  The vet had never heard of it.  With more than a little begging, Vito was converted to NaBr.  Within 2 weeks, the side effects, except for the hunger issues, went away.  Which brings us to April.

Remember that few months when I fell off the map?  Now you know why.  It was all about Vito.

Right now, Vito still takes both NaBr and Keppra.  No medication prevents all seizures, and the intention all along was to use Keppra to calm at the first seizure when it occurs.  In order for that to happen, he has to be off regular Keppra.  Our instructions were that if we ever reached 30 days without a seizure, to stop giving Keppra and see what happens.  We did, and 22 hours later, the seizure happened.  It was only 1, but still.  Since it was possible Vito was ‘due’ for a seizure, medicated or not, after several days, the Keppra was stopped again.  We made it 18 hours that time.  Again it was just a single seizure.  That was June 8.

So, Keppra is confirmed as controlling(?) Vito’s seizures.

We have no clue whether or not the NaBr is doing anything. If we can go another 30 days, actually 45, we will try weaning (as opposed to rapid stop) of the NaBr.  Keppra is forever no matter what, and if we can maintain him on just that, all the better.

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That, believe it or not, was the short version.  I was going to tell you about life with Keppra Vito, but by now you’re probably tired of reading, so I’ll save it for a future post.

In the end, I wish we never started medicating Vito.  It made his seizures worse and his life between them miserable.  I haven’t run a recent liver profile, but other than those weird bile acids, his liver was fine before.   I wish I could have found a vet who would listen to what I was saying rather than assume I was over reacting.  Sedation during a post ictal could have solved the problem and it would have had less long-term side effects.  But I’m just a crazy dog lady.  What do I know.

If anyone wants to start a GoFundMe for the purposes of paying my tuition at the new vet school that opened in Phoenix, I’d be all over it :)  Just saying…