Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Montana's Brain

I got a disk with Montana's CT scan images today. Here is a really cool picture of her head from the side. They took this at the beginning of the scan so they could set the coordinates for the machine to take slice-like images of her brain. You can see her teeth, and her sinuses at the top of her head, and lots of other cool stuff:

This next image is not so cool. This is a slice of Montana's head, behind her eyes. The two big black round things at the top are her sinuses. There is a little bit of her forebrain in the middle below them. Bone shows up white and tissue is shades of gray.

As you can see, most of a dog's head is muscle, not brains. Looking in that grey circle in the middle of the image, can you see a black irregular blob in the top left-hand corner? Also, see how the whitish midline is displaced to the right? That's the tumor. Please let me know if you can't see what I'm talking about.

Montana is still happy, oblivious to the neoplasm in her cranium, and seizure free. She sure loves going to work with me everyday.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Vino makes hasty recovery

If you haven't read yesterday's post "Hamster Mishap," please read it below before you read this one.

Enricka sent me some pictures of the rodent poster boy for seatbelt use. Here he is on the "second floor" of his cage. He looks good, although his hair is a little greasy from the eye lube we put on his corneas when he was under anesthesia.

He lost his right arm, so he looks almost normal in this view. She said it was hard to take many good pictures because he was moving around his cage so fast! Witness Vino going "downstairs":

To answer Julie's question: When I got home on Saturday, Anna said immediately, "How's Vino?" although Anthony had not told her about the ordeal. I squatted down to her eye level and said, "I have to tell you about Vino. He had an accident." Her eyes got huge and she grimaced her mouth and she asked me, "Is he OK?" "Yes, he's OK; what happened was..." but as I told her the gory details she tuned out, since she already knew he was alright. Then she said, "Its OK, Mommy, I will teach him to walk like this!" She plopped down on all fours and put her right arm behind her back and started crawling around the kitchen, just like the little tripod her hamster has become! Priceless.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hamster Mishap

We all love Vino, Anna's new hamster. He was her reward for completing a sticker chart for days with no potty accidents. About a week after we brought him home, Anna cheekily told her dad, "I can have lots of accidents now because I already have the hamster." Grrrr...

When the accidents continued, multiple times per day, we threatened to take away the hamster, then decided we'd better follow through. Today I took him to work with me to stay a while with Enricka, the rodent-lover who generously gave us Vino's great cage.

When I got to work Vino was hiding, but I figured he was traumatized from the drive in. Later, on a break between appointments, I called him, trying to get him to come out for a treat. At home, if he just hears our voices, he instantly comes out, stretching and yawning, looking for attention and a treat. I sat there, holding a cheerio, talking to him without response, when I noticed a large amount of blood in one spot on the bottom of the cage.

I quickly opened his cage and lifted up his little hidey-hole. He rose up from his bedding, with blood splotches on his chest, and I could not see his right arm! I screamed for Enricka, who helped me get him out. We gassed him down, and found that his entire right arm was avulsed, completely gone, even the scapula (shoulder blade). There was a tiny circular hole in the skin where it had gone. I flushed it and sutured it; we gave him pain meds and antibiotics.

It seems in some freak accident, Vino was up on his "3rd floor" and must've gotten his little leg caught in his exercise wheel when I turned or braked quickly, and lost his leg. I feel so bad for the little guy, for having such a painful accident and for losing his leg forever. (We have not found the missing appendage, but Enricka says he may have eaten it to hide the evidence, being a prey animal).

He is staying at Enricka's, since she can take better care of him than me, and he won't have screaming children and curious cats investigating him. She called me tonight with an update: she gave him pedialyte, his antibiotics, peas and corn, and is mixing up her special rodent recovery diet, which includes egg yolk and yogurt. She called me back to tell me he was already gimping around his cage, was able to bunny hop upstairs, and EVEN WENT ON HIS WHEEL a little bit. That little 25 gram guy is a survivor.

Its amazing how much life such a small creature can contain. And how attatched I've gotten to him in just 1 month.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Wow, everyone, thanks for your kind words of support for Montana-Banana. We are all adjusting to the diagnosis and her really bad haircut from the spinal tap. Think of a furry, four legged, blonde monk. Good news is no seizures in the week since I started phenobarb.

It means so much to hear people touched by our sweet dog, from all over Texas, the US, and even my extended family in England.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Unfortunately, Montana does indeed have a brain tumor. It is probably a meningioma, based on its appearance and location. They are benign (unlikely to spread) but physiologically malignant since they grow in a contained space and push out healthy tissue.

The good news is that so far Montana does not have any other symptoms other than the seizures, and I can control that (for now) with the phenobarb. I guess she could have headaches but I can't tell.

This tumor is in a location that makes surgery a possibility, however, it really doesn't significantly lengthen her long term life expectancy, is extremely risky, and incredibly expensive (like cash out your money market or take out a home equity loan). Besides, Anthony and I are in agreement that we do now want to put her through that. Above all, I don't want to change her sweet personality, and I'm afraid someone opening up her skull and cutting things out of her frontal lobe would do that. Not worth it for maybe 6 more months, with a real, palpable risk she could die on the table.

I don't want to lose Montana because she is so sweet, because I wanted her for so long, but also because she is so good. She is patient and tolerant with the kids, with all children. She is very well mannered. When I bring her to work, everyone loves her, and she stays in the office with the door open, and is a good work guest.

Plus, she is a beautiful dog, with "Breck" hair! It just falls in place, and - truly - repels mud and dirt!

We hope to get 6-12 more months with her. Meanwhile, she is sleeping a lot and shuffling her feet around the house (from the phenobarb).

I have held it together until today. Even though I instinctively knew it was a tumor when Jessica called me during Montana's first seizure, I haven't cried until today, faced with the confirmation of our dreadful suspicion and discussing the crappy options.

And, she's only 10, and we just lost Terlingua 1 year ago.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Medical Appointments

Yesterday was so busy. After I dropped Anna off at school, I took Colin to the park, then took Montana to her appointment, down in South Austin. The CT scan and CSF tap went very well. There is some sort of lesion in her brain but we are waiting for the analysis of everything to determine if it is a tumor or stroke-type lesion. I don't want to talk too much about it until the results are all in; I'll let you know when its back.

I left Montana at the clinic to recover from the general anesthesia, then picked Anna up at school. She had said earlier she wanted to go with me for my dental cleaning, so we went together. Anna's pediatrician said its time for her first dental visit, so the last time I went I brought her (on their recommendation) to show her how things went. The sour puss of a hygeinist I always get scheduled with looked annoyed and said, "Oh, hi," when I introduced Anna, then took my Xrays and cleaned my teeth without ever acknowledging her presence in the corner of the room. And Anna was SOO good that visit, sitting in her chair coloring quietly, just like I'd told her to. I thought, I took her out of school for this? (This is the same hygeinist who could not have acted more uninterested when I brought her a couple of unusual animal dental Xrays. I stupidly thought she'd like to look at them since she had pictures of her dog and cat on display.)

Well, yesterday I got a nice new hygeinist, Amanda. She and her assistant made such a fuss over Anna, who said, "Yes, please," and, "Thank you," to every question asked her. We talked about how Anna needed a first visit and what that involved. "If they're not ready, I don't even put a metal instrument in their mouths. If they'll let me, we take 2 Xrays, and basically just chart and polish their teeth," she said. Then, without prompting, Amanda said to Anna, "If there's time at the end, would you like to sit on your Mommy's lap and let me look at your teeth?" Anna's eyes grew wide and she said quickly, "No, thank you. My teeth are fine today. (pause) Maybe tomorrow." This cracked them up. But after they told Anna she could pick out a fancy pencil if she complied, and after watching me get my teeth polished, she agreed.

Anna showed off her teeth and her bite and picked out a Ladybug pencil. We have an appointment for Amanda to clean her teeth in 2 months. And, it'll cost half of what the pediatric dentist charges!

Friday, August 19, 2005


Thanks for all your nice comments regarding Montana-Banana. She is doing great on Phenobarbital, not nearly as drunk as I would have expected. And, no more seizures today.

Work today ended not with a bang, but a whimper. I'd been tending all day to a 16 yr old Bichon who had pancreatitis so bad it was causing him liver failure. He also had a seizure today. My staff came and got me out of an appt, and I quickly administered the valium into his IV. One of the nurses was training a new staff member, and he told her, "This will stop the seizure in a few moments." I had to flush the line before the convulsions stopped and the patient looked at me, dazed. "See? It worked," the nurse told the newbie, but he sounded more relieved than anything. The patient didn't have more seizures, but I couldn't control his pain even with Morphine (plus, he was on dextrose, reglan, ampicillin, enroflaxacin). His owners made the tough decision to euthanize. "Will the staff hate us?" they asked. They had helped us find a home for another Bichon brought in for convenience euthanasia that I refused to perform. "Oh, no," I assured them. It is totally different when we see an animal suffering and know their prognosis is grave. In actuality, the staff had been asking me all day what was going to happen to him, and when they heard the final decision, nodded gravely and looked a little relieved.

Its impossible to rush these kinds of decisions and goodbyes, so I was a little late coming home. Anthony had Anna and Colin, freshly bathed and in their pyjamas, waiting outside for me. They were jumping up and down when I pulled into the driveway. "Why were you late?" Anna asked me later. I told her a patient I worked on all day was really sick, despite all the medicine I gave him, and his owners came to say goodbye. "Remember when we had to say goodbye to Terlingua?" I asked her. "Did the dog die?" she asked. "Yes," I told her, and she took this with some acceptance, and then showed me all the 'work' she'd brought home from school - drawings of swans and frogs and puppies.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Incoherent ramblings

Not much to say today; I have been writing interview questions for those who responded to my meme (see comments below). Its hard to come up with 5 original questions for each person! So far, only blood relatives want interviews.

Its bloody hot in Texas and most of the pools are closing because school has started. Whatever - it'll still be hot until the end of September. Then it'll dip down in the lower 90s.

I've been taking Montana to work with me since she started having seizures. Just in case, so if she had one while we were at work I could give her something. Wasn't quite prepared for her to have a seizure while I was driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic down Mopac. Fortunately it was a short one. I started her on some anti-seizure medication today, and she has an appointment for a CT scan and CSF tap on Monday with a local vet internist.

That paragraph is full of incomplete sentences. I guess I've had a hard time concentrating today. Plus, now my car faintly smells of dog pee.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

My first meme!

A meme is: "A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." In the blogger world, a meme is like a theme passed from blog to blog. In this one, I am being interviewed by the Library Lady.

1)Most Jennifers seem to know lots of OTHER Jennifers. Were you the only Jennifer in your classes at school?

Ha! Every class I can remember had other Jennifers in it. More than one teacher wanted to call one of us "Jenny," and another "Jennifer," but fortunately my parents had impressed upon me that my name was JENNIFER, not Jenny, so it was probably the only time in my elementary life I didn't cave to authority. Most teachers called me "Jennifer D." to differentiate me from all the other Jennifers.

Interestingly, there were no other girls called Jennifer in my vet school class. One girl named Jennifer went by her middle name Jill, and the other was called Jenny. So, I was the only one (hurrah!). There were 3 girls named REGINA in my class, and they all went by REGINA (quite unusual, eh?), and no one ever thought to try to shorten or change their names.

2)You mention moving around a lot. Where besides Texas have you lived?

I was actually born in Queens, New York, then we lived in Dallas, then Cincinnati, OH, then St Louis, MO, then Coppell, TX. My high school years were spent in Midland, Texas, and I was actually there at the same time as W. when he was failing in the awl bidness (oil). Then I spent 7 years in College Station, TX getting my degree. That was actually the longest stretch I lived anywhere until now. After graduation and the wedding, we lived in Copperas Cove, TX for 3 very long years, until we finally broke away and moved to Austin. People in other Texan urban areas are annoyed that Austinites are so proud of our fair city, but it really is the only civilized place to live in, in the state of Texas!

I also spent a month every summer during high school in England. I spent 6 weeks there "seeing practice" as a senior veterinary student. Its enough to keep me from donating blood (due to the Mad Cow scare). There is a part of me that will always be English. Hail Brittania!

3)Do you think sons or daughters are easier to deal with?

It depends...I think when you are talking about small children behaving in public situations, the girls have it down. Little boys love to run and jump and be loud! But, I think as we approach the teenage years, the complicated emotions of girls will prove to be quite difficult. Ask me again in 10 years!

Coming from a family of 3 girls, I was thrilled when my first baby was a girl. My son has totally surprised me -- I didn't know you could love a little boy so much. I could stare at both of them for hours, amazed and analyzing them.

4)What is your favorite thing to cook?

Italian food, without a doubt. I was so nervous the first time I had my Italian friend, Romina, over for a meal, and she asked me to make risotto. Apparently, I did alright. She since has taught me a lot about Italian cooking - use good, fresh ingredients, keep it simple, with a balance of good flavor. I wish she hadn't moved back to Milan so we could still cook together.

I also love to cook on the grill, because of the easy clean up! Also, that smoky flavor can't be beat.

5)Have you ever read a book to one of your kids and then regretted it because they want it read over. And over and over....?

Oh my goodness, yes. Can you say, "Pat the Bunny?" You know its bad when they accidentally turn extra pages unknowingly and you don't care! There was also the "Gnome" book - my sisters and I had it growing up. Its actually a charming little Dutch "textbook" about gnomes, as if they were really living under the tree outside your window and your just too unobservant (or stupid) to notice them. I had to read it to Anna every night last winter. Well, at least my abbreviated version, which included a synopsis of every cute watercolor picture but did not include the scary stories about naughty trolls holding gnome's bottoms to grinding sharpening stones at the end.

Right now I'm reading a chapter of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to Anna every night, partly inspired by the Library Lady and partly by Catherine Newman. I am absolutely loving this: I remember just enough to love all the characters like I grew up next to them, but I don't remember all the specific details. So almost every night, I'm just like Anna -- I can't wait to read the next chapter the next night. Now, as a parent, I am totally terrified by the constant danger of pioneer life. And, as a 21st century parent, I can only imagine the drudgery and solitude that Caroline must've faced. And, I wonder, did Laura really remember all her childhood in such detail because she wasn't corrupted by television and constant mass marketing? Or did she make a good deal of the details up?

Like this meme? Want an interview of your own? Instructions:

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying “Interview me.” You must leave your blog address so I can think of good questions for you! Caveat: Offer is limited to the first 5 responders with a blog.

2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person’s will be different. I’ll post the questions in the comments section of this post.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Anna said, "Vino is falling in love with me!"

I said, "What does that mean, falling in love?"

Anna said, "When you dance, and dance, and dance.... (pause) And have a baby."


Anna stuck out her hand, and said, "Nice to meet you."

I decided to practice conversation, like she might have with a new adult. So I asked, and she answered, "Where do you live? Where do you go to school? What grade are you in? How old are you?"

Then I asked, "When is your birthday?" and she said, with 12 year old attitude, "Uh, could we not do this anymore? You are my parent; you know all this."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Water on the Brain

You know you spend to much time trying to get the little people in your life to use the toilet when you ask the GROWN WOMAN you're working with, "Did you tinkle yet?"

(She had told me she needed to use the bathroom before we saw the next patient)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

You're the Next Contestant

Did you know that The Price Is Right is still on TV? It was on today while I was at the gym. I remember watching it when I was home sick from school as a kid. I haven't watched it in over 20 years, and it hasn't changed. Except now Bob Barker isn't grey, he's colorless.

When it starts, those stage lights are still glowing around the TV screen. The set hasn't been updated since the seventies - those dorky curlicues are still everywhere. The Price Is Right girls still look like gesturing Barbie dolls. They have big Barbie hair and huge Barbie smiles. In one scene, they demo'd a sailboat, in nerdy polkadotted ONE PIECE bathing suits with low rise legs.

However, these size 0 girls in their fancy clothes and high heels next to Bob in his Armani suit make the audience look like they're from another planet. All the contestants wore huge Tshirts and baggy pants. I could forgive the college guy who wore his UCLA shirt, but everyone else wore the cheapest, most casual clothes you could imagine - baggy cargo pants and badly distressed jeans. And, they all were all - uniformly - at least 30 lbs overweight.

People, if you go to the Price is Right and your name is called, you're going to be on TV! You don't have to dress in formal wear, but at least wear something put together! That way, when you're staring out into the audience, hoping someone out there knows whether the 3rd number in the price of a car is HIGHER or LOWER than 5, you'll look like you at least knew how to dress yourself before you got under those bright lights and forgot how to think. And then when you hug Bob Barker and jump up and down, he won't look like he was wishing it was time to remind everyone to spay and neuter their pets.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Lots of Photos from Sunday

We started out the day eating beautiful pastries Anthony had made the night before. Anna says, "Oma, when can we eat these Fruit Torts?"

Later that afternoon, we went to Ashlynn Bohmfalk's third birthday party. There were lots of Bohmfalk cousins to play with (such nice people!) and there was the SUPERSLIDE to play on.

Colin spent most of the party engaged in his favorite activity, "Bahbegoll."

Mommy and Colin go down the superslide! (one of just 3 times)

Anna goes down the superslide (one of a 1000 times).

Aunt Regina goes down the superslide (one of more times than I want to count!)

Anna chows down on a hotdog, and Colin eats a bag of Cheetos. Funny, he'd never eaten them before, but he sure knew what they were called and how to recognize a bag fast! Cheetos and birthday cake were his dinner that night - serious nutrition!

The birthday girl, Ashlynn, with her favorite babysitter, Paige.

What party is complete without showing your Coppertone butt-crack and mosquito bitten cheek?

Ashlynn blows out the candles, with additional Anna, Ian, and Daniel spit blown on the cake. It was decorated by her big brother, Patrick, aged 8.

Back to School

Today was Anna's first day back to preschool. She was so excited, she could hardly eat her breakfast! Here she poses on the way out the door with her new ladybug lunchbox.

At school, Anna was welcomed by the teachers, and lots of little girls came up and said, "Hi, Anna!" and gave her awkward little hugs. Then she gave me a hug and kiss, and ran off to play. Very different than 2 years ago, when I dropped her off, and she suddenly had the horrible realization that I was not staying for school with her. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she said in this tiny, sad voice that crushed my heart, "Want to play on the slide with me, Mommy?"

I much prefer today's version: "Bye, Mommy! See you later!"

Saturday, August 06, 2005

An Assortment of Images

Last night Colin woke up at 11:30, crying inconsolably. At midnight, we figured out why when he vomited all over the place. Then he nodded off on my lap, and was so adorable Anthony had to take a picture, despite being covered with vomit himself -- he did most of the unglamorous parenting that night, and I just got to hold the sleeping babe while he cleaned up.

Fortunately he was back to normal this morning, and no one else has gotten ill.

Since my in-laws are visiting this weekend, and that's a good thing because I really like them, I made them a grilled dinner including mostly veggies from our garden:

Anna had to throw herself on the floor and wail in protest when she found out we weren't going "out to eat." Then later, she couldn't keep her cotton pickers off the platter of grilled veggies and pork tenderloin while I tried to take a beautiful food shot:

Also, a Montana update: Montana had a grand mal seizure on Friday at home, while both Jessica and Anthony were here. I was at work. The seizure lasted less than 5 minutes, and by the time she got to my work, she was completely normal. I ran some labwork, which was basically normal. She hasn't skipped a beat since then, and has had no more seizures. We are hoping this was just a freak, isolated incident, that won't be repeated. We have some Diazepam on hand here, just in case.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Last Day of Summer

As I lay in bed waking up this morning, I realized it was my last official day of summer with Anna, as her preschool starts next Monday. Sure, I'll still have weekend days with her, and it'll still feel like summer here in Central Texas until October, but the laziness of summer will be gone. So I sleepily made big plans.

After breakfast, we went to the Rec Center, so Anna could see Ms Anja, one of her favorite people, and so Mommy could get a work-out. Afterwards, we played basketball in the gym and Anna ran around the track. I asked Anna where she wanted to eat lunch, and she said, "I know... CHUY'S!" I really didn't have a sit-down restaurant in mind, but she said it with such awe and passion, I couldn't talk myself out of it.

Taking 2 small children to a real restaurant by yourself can be like asking for a big serving of indigestion and public distain. However, I had a good feeling about these two little people, and they came through for me. It helps that Chuy's is loud and irreverent, and that the kids LOVE the food, and that they serve chips immediately. Anna said please and thank you to the server, and Colin stayed strapped in his high chair. He asked for seconds on "guacamole - with chips"!

After we stuffed ourselves, we went swimming at a natural swimming pool in Austin, Deep Eddy. It is spring fed, so no chlorine and it was COLD (though not as cold as Barton Springs) - perfect on this hot August day. The water was so refreshing and didn't reek or dry you out like the chlorinated kind - it reminded me of a lake and I wanted to pee in it (but I refrained). After the second adult swim was called, I told Anna it was time to go. She threw a little bit of a fit, but I told her I had one more surprise for our fun-filled day. "What is it, Mommy? I can't hear you...what? Did you say gelato?" That was sufficient motivation to get her moving.

When we got to the gelateria, I opened the van to find Colin nodding off. He's still in between needing and not needing an afternoon nap. "Come on, Colin," Anna said, shaking his arm, "Its time for ice cream." He opened his bleary eyes, looking like he wanted to return to REM, but murmuring, "Ice Cream...."

The intense, cold dessert was the perfect end to our farewell to summer day. You can bet that Daddio was jealous...


Claudio killed a cockroach in the kitchen last night, even though I declawed him.

I love that cat!

Monday, August 01, 2005

I am not Tyrone

Anna has quite an imagination. Lately, she insists we role play stories that are important to her. At first, since we are reading the Little House on the Prairie books, a chapter per night, she pretended she was Laura. I had to be Pa and shoot a deer and hang it in a tree so the wolves wouldn't get it, and play my fiddle so she could sleep at night. Sometimes I was Ma or Mary, but poor Colin always had to be Baby Carrie.

That lasted about 3 days. Then we launched into imaginary land in Anna's favorite TV show, the Backyardigans. This cute show on Nickelodeon has 6 characters that have pretend imaginary adventures in their backyard. Its format is like a musical, and the characters dance and sing about being pirates, or cowboys, or Yetis, etc.

Despite the fact that there are 2 female characters, Anna decided I would be Tyrone (a moose) and she would be Pablo (a penguin). Colin was Baby Austin and Anthony was Daddy Austin. If I called her Anna, she would correct me and say, "You mean 'Pablo.' Say 'Pablo,' Tyrone." All day long, I had to call her Pablo. And there was no more Mommy, just Tyrone. Even in the lullaby I sing her at betime, I had to sing her name as Pablo.

For 3 weeks.

At the end of the 3 weeks, she saw a new Backyardigans episode (The Tower of Power), in which Pablo and Tyrone are Supervillans, Yucky Man and Dr Shrinky. So now I'd say, "Time to brush your teeth, Anna - I mean Pablo." And she'd say, "You mean Yucky Man, Dr Shrinky." She was correcting me all the time, because I was forever forgetting who it was I was talking to. "OK, Dr Shrinky," I'd say, and she'd yell, "No, that's YOU! I'm Yucky Man!" Then she'd do her Supervillan laugh, "Mwaa-hahahahaha!"

Colin, incidentally, was Captain Hammer. He'd wake up all sweet and sleepy from his crib, and say sweetly, "Hi, Anna!" And she'd say, "No! I'm Yucky Man!"

Last night, we read a nature magazine about Seal Pups in the arctic (the cute white kind that get themselves clubbed for fur coats - but it didn't mention that). Now, I have been miraculously transformed into Seal Mommy, and I have to call her Seal Pup. There's lots of Barking and Fish Eating going on.

I am so happy to be called Mommy again, even if its preceded by seal.