Another Lesson in Priorities

After quite a bit of deliberation and discussion, we decided it was time to buy a blanket for couch sitting. All we’ve had to this point is a very light 6 foot stadium blanket.  The Horde finished eating the last real one we had I think it was 2 years ago.

An evening out was designated for the purposes of procuring a brandy new snugly people couch blanket.  We returned home with a full sized, plush, promise of warmth.

The blanket was left on the couch as we made our sitting preparations.  Unfortunately we put it in a bad place.

DSC_5801

After much argument and offers of bribes back and forth, we determined neither of us had the heart to take the blanket away from sweet, wobbly, gimpy Sarah.

If it had been any of the others, we would have had no issue – but Sarah – that’s a different story.

So, until Sarah moved her person to another location, and because I lost the coin toss…

DSC_5805

When did we got from being the Masters to being the servants????

Sarah’s Got Mail!

Sarah received her first piece of mail…

Sare Bear was so excited to get mail of her own!
Sare Bear was so excited to get mail of her own!

Hearing the sad tale of poor Sarah being forced to wear padded sports bras, Run A Muck Ranch fan Yanina of Texas came to her aid, sending Sare Bear not 1 but 2 UNpadded XXL sports bras!

The grey formal bra.
The grey formal bra.
The blue firty bra.  Marcy wants one!
The blue firty bra. Marcy wants one!

Thank you Yanina from Sarah and Run A Muck Ranch!  Sarah can step out with pride now!

Seriously?

As you know, Sarah is gimpy.  We’ve never gotten a true cause for her wobble.  We just work around it.

Sarah's handicap is directly responsible for her downright adorable manner of running.
Sarah’s handicap is directly responsible for her downright adorable manner of running.

Over the last several months, Sare Bear’s clumsiness has increased, partly due to Hairy Paw (someone remind me to update you on that!), partly due to the probable degeneration of her condition over all.  Stepping up or down without assistance often results in face plants and it doesn’t take much of a bump anymore to turn an upright Sarah into a Sarah version of a plastic Breyer horse laying on its side.

Try as we might, we aren’t always able to catch her as she falls and when we do it usually results in a pulled something or a flare up of an already sore body part on either Crabby or me.

Additionally, for reasons we can’t understand, Gertie has decided she absolutely MUST lay right outside the back door.  While the other kids have just gotten into the habit of jumping over her when they need to pass, Sarah is stuck, and so are we:

Do we shoo away the uber elderly arthritic dog to make it easier for the younger, gimpy dog to pass?

Pa-lease!  This is Run A Muck Ranch, where there are 2 humans serving 14 furry overlords!  Rather than disturb Gertie, we assist Sarah in an out the door in such a manner as to be gentle on Sarah while not disturbing Gertie.

In doing so, however, I am oft spending the night sleeping flat on my back on Sarah’s couch mounting platform with my feet on the couch as it is the only way I can get relief from my own pain.  Do you realize just how hard and physically straining it is to move a 78 pound Sarah past a 90 pound immovable Gertie?

My back, shoulder and wrists finally gave out.  Remember back when Sarah hurt her leg and we had to support her front end for her?

A simple sports bra made supporting Sarah in her time of need so much easier on all of us!
A simple sports bra made supporting Sarah in her time of need so much easier on all of us!

The sports bra worked so well back then, it seems only logical that we make it a permanent fixture.  It would be so much easier, and less painful on all of us if we had an easier way to assist Sarah.

I already share outer wear with Crabby.  How pathetic would it be if I could honestly say I share underwear with my dog?

Today, you guessed it, I went bra shopping for Sarah. Truth be told, and I don’t know how to take this, but Sarah really needs a larger size than me…

I haven’t shopped for a bra in years.  Yup, pretty pathetic.  Apparently it’s been too long because in the near or distant past, the purpose of a sports bra went from simply holding the girls firmly in place to holding them firmly in place while simultaneously making them look bigger.  Yes sports fans, it is impossible to find an un-padded sports bra.  I checked several places and got the same answer.   The fact that sports bras now ‘enhance’ breast size for women who, by definition of the purpose of the bra itself, will be sweating profusely is very logical.  According to the sales ladies, that I was shopping for a bra for my dog was downright strange. But my back couldn’t take it any more.  I had no choice but to buy Sara a padded sports bra.

Now we have a dilemma.

How exactly do we explain this when we take Sarah out in public???

Yes, Sarah has a woman's rack on her back.
Yes, Sarah has a woman’s rack on her back.
What would you think if you saw this coming at you?
What would you think if you saw this coming at you?
We're hoping the padding eventually 'deflates'.
We’re hoping the padding eventually ‘deflates’.

No Respect

You’ve all seen the pics of poor, gimpy Sare Bear being used as a mattress for Emmi, Hector, Franky and DASH!.

Let’s add one more to the list.

Slugger the Flatulent has now decided Sarah makes a great pillow.
Slugger the Flatulent has now decided Sarah makes a great pillow.

You can tell from the look on Sarah’s face she’s just THRILLED with the situation.

Poor Sare Bear can’t get any respect.

There’s Always Something New at Run A Muck Ranch

Edit:  I posted this less than 12 hours ago and I already have 6 e-mails with photos in my inbox, mostly of the paws of senior dogs.  Apparently Hairy Paw isn’t as rare as implied by the vet, but none of us are recognizing it as a cause for lameness in older or lame (for other reasons) dogs.  Check your dog’s feet now and see if he or she could be hurting!  If you find any new information on this subject, please share!

______________________________________________________________________________________

From the people who brought you Fart Walks, intended to force DASH!  to flatulate

I fear my own farts.
I fear my farts, therefore I don’t fart!

and Sunday Evening Butt Shaves to keep Gertie’s nether regions aired out

Gertie has skin issues in her nether regions which requires permanent shaving to keep the area aired out.
It ain’t pretty but it does the job.

come Pawdicures!

Something about Sarah overheating in 1/2 hour in less than 80 degrees last weekend kept niggling at the back of my mind, so, you guessed it, to the vet we went.

Turns out, Sarah has Hairy Paws, formally known as Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis.  With this condition, the cells on (in Sarah’s case) the paw pads overgrow, causing the appearance of hair growing on the pads.

Photo of Hairy Paw pilfered from the web.
Photo of Hairy Paw pilfered from Pet Help Forum.

Imagine walking barefoot on upright needles.  That is the effect of Hairy Paw on the sufferer.

Sarah’s evening walks with Gertie are maybe 15 minutes at most and we don’t move very fast.  Sunday’s walk was faster and more importantly out on the desert for the first time in months so Sarah, like the others, hit the ground running.  It wasn’t that Sarah overheated due to the temperatures, it was because her feet hurt and the stress caused her to overheat.  When all 4 feet hurt, it’s hard to limp and when you don’t want to be left behind, you walk despite the pain.

The vet said he had only seen about 4 cases of Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis in his 20 years of practice, so rare he said it was, he couldn’t even remember the name of the condition.  He said all we could to was cut the effected parts off the pads with scissors and that it would be necessary for the rest of her life, Hairy Paw being incurable.

I guess the condition has to be rare because Sarah was at a different vet in July because her wobblyness and pain appeared to be increasing.  Her feet never came up as a cause and instead we left with a script for Adaquan.

As I always do when I leave a vet with a new diagnosis, I immediately called my hero and guru, Nora, to get her input.  If there is a disease, condition or disability out there, Nora has deliberately adopted a dog because of it.  As expected, she knew the medical term and was able to give me a brief primer on the subject.

I then got home and got on the Net looking for more information.  After I sifted out the snake oils and other scary treatments, and using prior knowledge about certain unrelated biochemistry subjects and personal experiences, and from testing methods on myself, I came up with this Phase 1 Trial of an at home Hairy Paw treatment/maintenance pawdicure:

Note:  I had already gotten about as much tissue off with scissors as I could possibly get over 2 prior sessions.  Sarah’s feet were washed with a solution of Apple Cider Vinegar and water before cutting the tissue.  This makes it SO much easier!  What I’m doing now is “maintenance”.

Step 1:   Remove a few layers of excess tissue with a Ped Egg ($14 from Bed, Bath & Beyond).

While her feet still look bad, they are scores better than they were when we started a couple days ago.
While her feet still look bad, they are scores better than they were when we started a couple days ago and Sarah’s wobble has decreased and traction has increased significantly.  She’s still our gimpy girl, but improved.  

A few people blogged or reported that a dremel works well for this. I tested the dremel on my rough heels and can honestly say NEVER USE A DREMEL ON YOUR DOG’S PADS!  It hurts!  (Which  is probably why the same people reported they needed someone to help hold the dog still.)  I took a chance with the Peg Egg and got lucky that it actually worked.  Note the buffed margin along Sarah’s heel (photo above).  Sarah never flinched.

The stress you see in Sarah's eyes is not due to having her feet worked on. Though we provided her with a comfy memory foam mat to lay on, we didn't think to give her a pillow at this point.
The stress you see in Sarah’s eyes is not due to having her feet worked on. Though we provided her with a comfy memory foam mat to lay on, we didn’t think to give her a pillow at this point.

The instructions that came with the Ped Egg and the reviews I found on the Internet say never use it on wet skin. Heed the warning!  I tried using it on a towel dried arm and it burned.  Absolutely, completely dry paws only!

Step 2: Foot soaked and cleaned with diluted Apple Cider Vinegar

DSC_7590

Rather than make Sarah stand in the tub or a bucket, I made a 50/50 solution of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and water, heated it, then used it as a compress.  Other people say they soak, standing, in a diluted solution of Propylene Glycol.  More about Propylene Glycol later.

The reason I chose ACV is that it removes oily build up from the skin without altering the pH or drying it out.  You don’t realize just how gritty and oily a dog’s paw is until you try to scissor cut it!  I tried ACV on a hunch and just got lucky it worked.

After holding the warm compress on the foot for a few minutes, I washed the whole pad with the same solution, dipping the cloth several times.  All the left over skin scrapings from the Ped Egg came off very easily.

Compare to the first pic when I was using the Peg Egg on the same foot. MUCH smoother, don't you think?
Compare to the first pic when I was using the Peg Egg on the same foot. MUCH smoother, don’t you think?

Step 3:  After drying the foot, massage vegetable glycerin in and around the pad.

Everyone loves a good foot massage!
Everyone loves a good foot massage!

I mentioned Propylene Glycol earlier.  This chemical is used as a humuctant, meaning it attracts moisture.  Other people swear by soaking in it.  This is why I disagree with using it:

Propylene Glycol is a petroleum product, a manufactured chemical.  Vegetable glycerin, also a humuctant, is the end product of distilling vegetable oils.  Both are used interchangeably.  Need I say more?  Propylene Glycol is cheaper than vegetable glyerin, probably why it’s more popular.

As far as soaking in a humuctant, a little something I learned from working with horses with bad feet:  You can’t get any ‘moister’ than pure water.  Using a humuctant while soaking or hosing a horse’s feet is pointless.  It gets used after.  Using that same the logic, I apply the humuctant to Sarah’s feet last. A bonus with vegetable glycerin is that it is absorbed quickly and there is no slippery residue that would make walking on laminate floors difficult.

The one problem I may encounter is our climate.  In extremely how humidities, there is little moisture to absorb from the atmosphere, so the vegetable glycerin may not work as well here as in a more temperate clime.  I may have to switch to an oil but I’ll have to experiment to find one that absorbs fast so Sare Bear isn’t left sliding on the floors.

1 foot done, 3 more to go!  How’re you doing Sarah?

Soo much better since I got me a pillow!
Soo much better since I got me a pillow!

The whole process took about 1/2 hour.

I’m going to do this every week, or until I’m down to 100% unadulterated pad,  and then watch the paws to see how often it needs to be done.

I’m also going to try papaya “masks” to see if it helps.  Fun Fact:  The excess tissue is Keratin, which is a protein.  The predominant amino acid in Keratin is Cysteine.  The protein digesting enzyme in Papaya, Papain, specifically digests Cysteine.  Theoretically, the use of papaya as a preemptive strike should break down the excess Keratin before it becomes a problem.  I’ll let you know if the theory holds true. I’ve used papaya myself many times over the years without discomfort so I feel safe using it on Sarah.

This is all still new to me and, therefore subject to change without notice if I learn something new or something I’m already doing proves not to work.  So far at least, all systems appear to be Go.

And with that, I leave you with a photo of Sarah, long after her Pawdicure was finished, just to show you the trauma she suffered.

Far too relaxed to get up any time soon.
Far too relaxed to get up any time soon.

Poor Sarah

I attempted a short outing for Sarah and some of her siblings early this morning before the heat came on.

By the time we got home, Sarah was nearly in tremors, panting profusely.

I wiped her down with a wet towel, positioned her in front of a fan and spoon fed her small portions of refrigerated food to help cool her down.

Later, we moved her to the couch, with a cold pack beneath the couch cover, a wet towel on her head, and a fan blowing on her.

She survived.

It was 79 degrees out when I checked the temperature, after we got home.  We walked, at most, 3/4 of a mile in 30 minutes.

It seems we are getting closer to Sarah’s dream of having a urinary catheter and a colostomy bag installed so she never has to leave the couch!

It was almost 83 degrees outside Ma!  You could have killed me!  (Wet cloth on her head, fan in front of her to help her cool down.)
It was almost 83 degrees outside Ma! You could have killed me! 

Laying Down New Couch Laws

Hence, heretofore, forthwith:

No more than 2 (two) creatures of the species

Canis familiaris, aka “dog”

shall be allowed on the couches at any time.  

It is written and therefore it shall be LAW.

????????????????????????????????????

I guess the language of the Law should have included a provision that the 2 dogs on the couch had to leave room for at least 1 human.

Foiled again!

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!

Happy Belated You’re Still Alive Day, Sarah!

In January, 2012, after a lengthy, year-long diagnostic process which started almost immediately after I scooped her up from the Westgate Mall parking lot and brought her home, Sarah was declared a hospice dog.

Sweet Sarah.
Sweet Sare Bear doesn’t deserve the problems she has.

At that vet visit, we discussed a treatment plan to keep Sarah as comfortable as possible for as long as we could.  The medications prescribed had multiple side effects.  If Sarah’s condition didn’t take her from us, those side effects would.

In that treatment plan discussion, the point of when to say when was brought up.  In order to keep her comfortable, the dosages of her medications would have to be incrementally increased from their already high starting point. Once we passed a certain dosage threshold, it would be time to say good-bye.  By that time, Sarah would be suffering from multiple health problems, none curable.  In January 2012, the vet said it would be 2 years or less.

Too much to live for!
Sare Bear has too much to live for!

It is now February 2015.  1 year past Sarah’s life expectancy, and she’s better than she ever was! Sarah has been off all of her meds since January 2014.  I can remember only 2 times in the last year when she’s needed Tramadol.  She still has her gimp, but she is able to walk longer, and over rougher terrain without pain, though we still stick to mainly level, non-rocky surfaces. In the last 6 or so months, she has even taken to playing with Slugger.

Butt scratches in Heaven couldn't possibly be as good as the ones Sarah gets from her Dad.  One more reason to stick around.
Butt scratches in Heaven couldn’t possibly be as good as the ones Sarah gets from her Dad. One more reason to stick around.

Getting Sarah off processed food, and designing her diet to her specific nutritional needs has been the key to making her new and improved, but it hasn’t cured her.  It’s only bought us more time by making Sarah healthier and better able to combat her physiological problems without pharmacological assistance.  There will come a day when Sarah will have to go back on her meds – of that there is no doubt – and the thresholds discussed 3 years ago will apply, but that’s a long way off now. That she is currently off of, and her system is healing, or has healed from the side effects of the drugs, says that we have reset the clock in a big way.

Sarah, January 2, 2015, 1 year past her life expectancy.  I LOVE this picture!
Sarah, January 2, 2015, 1 year past her life expectancy. I LOVE this picture!

Every day with Sarah is a treasure and we are the luckiest people in the world to call her family.

I sincerely feel bad for all of you who will never get to meet her in person. Just know, though she has never met you, she loves you!  She’s that kind of girl.

Heaven will just have to wait.  We need Sare Bear more.
Heaven will just have to wait. We need Sare Bear more.

.