Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Slow season?

They say this is the lowest production work week of the year. I believe it, because my commute to work is zoom-zoom. I love it: leave late and arrive early. But the schedule at my work is anything but slow. We are full with routine appointments (everyone likes to come in when they're off with the kids for annual vaccinations) and then we have to fit in a higher than usual number of sick patients. At least I don't have to field calls for travel sedatives anymore!

I have to stifle a cruel laugh when people innocently ask, "Is there any way you can do my dog's dental this afternoon?" First of all, we don't do elective surgeries in the afternoon, because we want to allow our patients plenty of time to recover. Second of all, I don't know where to fit in the urgent surgeries!

It's good for business but makes us all tired. I really do love being at my job, but I also wish I could be at home this week, like Anthony is with the kids. They're out of school, and it's hard for him to schedule much work this week anyway. Everyone else is off; no one wants the boiler inspector to come on a slow work week when they are playing hookey.

It's not slow in the yard. I love the new patio! We all took turns jumping off of it. Anthony has been clearing more of the grass, with "assistance" from Colin. Next up is building the shed. Pictures soon, I hope!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Its been a FULL visit here to Dallas, full of cookies and chocolate, visits from friends and family, and full of presents. Everytime our adult attitudes would lag, Anna would festively shout, "I'm full of the holiday spirit!" and get us back on track. Rest assured, the Highlander will be as full on the journey home as it was coming up here!

This holiday we've also run into people who have tried long and hard to have children and still have no babies in their arms; the holidays seem very quiet and a little sad for them. That is juxtaposed by others who have children and don't really seem to want them, people who are happy to let others raise their offspring. That is so strange and foreign to me, and makes me hug my own babies tightly and kiss them for their oblivious happiness. It also makes me grateful for my husband, who is patient and engaged with our kids, and does odd jobs and the dishes for his mother. Today he loaded 3 wee bikes onto our car, loaded up 3 small children, and pushed them around the park for their maiden voyage, which only lasted about 2 minutes. Then he uncomplainingly loaded us all up again to go home. 12 people can generate a lot of dishes, but Anthony got them all cleaned up.

Tuesday we go home, and I can't wait to walk on my new patio! It was poured just before we left, and I haven't stepped foot on it yet!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Some Success

I can finally say potty training is going well. For long time blog readers, you know this is a big deal! We moved the diaper changing table out of the house just before Thanksgiving. Colin's had a few accidents since then. Anna's been solid since school started. Should I start ducking the lightning bolts now?

Colin still needs some reminding, and we often say, "Listen to your body..." That can be hard when you're in the middle of playing something really fun.

The other day, though, Colin jumped up and said, "Oh, I have to tinkle!" Then, "I can hear my bum!"

When nature calls, you gotta listen...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That's Amore

Vino the hamster, being a wee creature, needs little, but he does benefit from our healthy eating habits. Every night as I make dinner, I put aside little tidbits for him. The leafy end of a piece of lettuce or spinach is a huge dinner salad for him. He loves the end bits of cucumber or zucchini, leaving behind a thin green skin. He perches on our pepper tops and eats all the seeds and the tiny bit of remaining flesh. The occasional bean, edamame, or rice grain gets sucked down whole into his cheek pouch for later.

So, as I'm chopping tonight's meal, leaving a little Vino pile on the side of my cutting board (the rest goes into the compost), I suddenly realize I've never given him garlic. Hmm... its full of antioxidants, and I definitely want him to live as long as hamsterly possible. I set aside the tiny woody piece at the end of the clove for him, and chop the rest for our meal.

I put the garlic, lettuce, squash, and pepper in his cage. He comes out, scampering around, sniffing everything, then drags the tiny piece of garlic halfway to his hidey hole, and devours most of it, before eating anything else.

With a name like Vino, he's got to be Italian!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weekend update

So, I am gone from the internet for two whole days, and return to find almost no one has updated. Oh, NaBloPoMo, where did you go? Seems everyone is too busy to tend their blogs.

We had some of our favorite people - David and Deedra - over this weekend, perhaps you remember them? As soon as they got married, Anna said, "Now, will they have a baby?" Luckily for her, they are, this spring! So we had lots to catch up on, then spent a wonderful adults-only dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

I woke up at 3 am with a killer headache - one so bad it made me throw up, twice. I finally fell back asleep but when I got up in the morning, it returned with a vengeance. I retreated under the covers and an eye mask. Our lovely friends offered to watch the kiddoes while Anthony took me to the urgent care center. "We're leaving," Anthony told Colin as we headed out the door. "They staying?" Colin asked, referring to David and Deedra. Yes, Anthony told him. "Good, I WUVE them! Bye!!"

I thought for sure I was suffering from a migraine, but the dr. thought it was just a sinus headache. Well, I have had a sore throat and post nasal drip off and on for over a month. Hmm, I guess so. Migraine wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility, but fortunately a subarachnoid hemorrhage seemed unlikely. Phew! So now I'm on a Z-pack and I took some vicodin. Today I'm feeling much better, haven't needed any pain meds and even went to the gym.

This morning the concrete guys came to start our patio. We are starting a huge new landscaping project, and our tiny patio is turning into a large, curvy, usable space. Francesca was very bothered by all the changes in her territory and watched closely out the back door all day.

Anna asked me why all the workers were boys. Good question. She said maybe it was because boys are stronger than girls. I said that was true in general, but the work these guys were doing a girl could do. She said she understood, that she had seen female policemen before. Still, she went out and played in the backyard, but Colin was the one who watched them closely, then filled up his little red wheelbarrow with sand and relocated it, just like they were doing.

We also made 2 more batches of Christmas cookies today. Because the ones at work are just sweet; these are good!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dear Santa, Please Don't let me gain 10 lbs this season...

There is so much food at my work. We are so blessed to have clients that think so well of us, that they bring us goodies to say thank-you for caring for their pets. We also get gifts from specialists and labs that we work with. There were at least 4 different kinds of chocolate chip cookies in the break room today, as well as popcorn, chocolate covered pretzels, Hershey's kisses, brownies, chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips, frosted sugar cookies...

I'm not even hungry, but at 11 am, they're calling my name. I eat half a cookie and instantly regret it - my mouth is full of that too sweet after taste, and now I'll be extra hungry in an hour. A coworker complains about a work situation that doesn't even involve me, and I'm eating chocolate again in a vicarious stress response. I try to just stay out of there! Kareen, how do you even work in there? (her desk is in the break room)

There is one gift, though, that we get every year from a special client. Its Route 11 Potato Chips. I look forward to these chips all year! They are cooked in peanut oil in small batches with just the right amount of salt. We get treated to a huge tin every year. It looks like a popcorn tin, but it is a brazillion times better. If you're gonna eat something fried, it might as well be fried in good oil! These chips are simple and perfect - they fill you up and don't give you a sugar headache.

Sadly, I ate the last of the potato chip crumbs today. Now its back to avoiding the cookies...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Funny Penis Stories

We all know that penises are funny body parts, right? Preschoolers especially understand that! Here are 3 short stories regarding penises and children I know. One of the stories comes from my son, but I'll leave them all anonymous to protect the innocent.

1. Son: Mommy, you have a circle penis.
Mommy: OK... what kind of penis do you have?
Son: I have a rectangle penis.

2. Daughter, curling up to her dad in bed: Daddy, where is your penis?
Daddy: Uh, in my shorts. Why?
Daughter: You don't take it off at night?

3. Son: Mommy, there is a hole in your Pee-Pee.
Mommy: Yes, you have a hole, too. See?
Son: Yeah, Mommy, but your hole is bigger.

Make sure you read the comments to this post to read another hilarious story...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Someone's getting in the spirit

Anna saw her brother in the tub yesterday and wanted to help wash him. "I will be like his mommy!" she said, soaping her hands up and rubbing his back and belly.

When she was done she said, "Oh, Mommy, he looks so cute and precious, you should have named him Baby Jesus!"

Hmm, maybe if we spoke Spanish...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Losing Tiny Lives

Today at our staff meeting we had a grief counselor who specializes in pet loss talk with us. She gave us insight on some of the things we can do so that we don't inadvertently make the process more difficult for clients. She reminded us how we can get "compassion fatigue," dealing with so much death at times. We also can become rather callous, since this is our daily job - since we see these situations so many times, and we often have to go see another patient moments after helping another to die. In the end, the counselor wisely allowed her visit to become a bit of a group counseling session, with many staff members sharing stories of pet loss.

My last appointment of the evening was a rat. She was losing weight and had stopped eating - a very poor prognostic sign of advanced disease in a rat. As prey creatures, these little guys do everything they can to appear normal, even expiring in their food bowls.

This little patient was a hairless rat. She was so ugly - worse than that hairless cat on Austin Powers - but she did have a certain charm, as well as curly whiskers. Her hairlessness accentuated her rapid sudden weight loss, and her owners could even see the bulge of a tumor on her abdomen.

"I read that sometimes rats can have benign mammary tumors," he said hopefully. Yes, but this tumor was ENORMOUS, stretching across inside her cranial abdomen. It felt attatched to the intestines, and was lumpy-bumpy - all really bad signs. "This isn't a mammary tumor; its in her abdomen," I said. "It has a much poorer prognosis. I could do surgery and open her up, but if I can't remove it we'd have to euthanize her on the table. Even if I could remove it, most likely it would come back. I wouldn't do the surgery if it was my own rat."

Enricka, rat lover extraordinaire, came in at this point to meet the patient. As I gave the owners a scary estimate for surgery, she agreed that for this problem she wouldn't put one of her rats through the stress of surgery. She told them that I have operated on some of her rodents with cutaneous tumors, but she would euthanize in a case like this.

Eventually they did give consent for euthanasia. They were grief stricken for this tiny, hairless creature, who seemed healthy less than a week ago. The suddenness of the loss made it worse. Even though she weighed less than 300 grams, they loved her and felt her loss deeply.

I gassed her down into unconsciousness then gave the injection to stop her heart. Afterwards, I opened her up to peek in her abdomen. A huge, gnarly, lobulated mass completely blocked her stomach, shutting it off from the intestines. It was attatched to the liver and the dorsal body wall. Totally inoperable. They had made the correct, though excruciating, decision.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A guest post by Anna (with editorial flourishes by mom)

I was invited to a fancy ladies' Christmas Tea in Houston. It was a lot of fun, but I still don't know why my brother couldn't come. Here's my day:

First, ladies have to spend a lot of time getting ready. I got my hair done by Auntie Stephanie, and some make-up by Auntie Emily.

After I was ready, there was still a lot of primping going on. I was bored! I wanted to go to the tea party. Beverly kept me entertained until my limo came.

I couldn't wait to go on my first limo ride!

Finally, all my posse was ready to go! We drove to downtown Houston. The tea was in a fancy room with no windows and pictures of horses. There was a man playing piano and a lady singing arias. Then they started bringing food. I liked trying all the little finger foods, but I didn't like some of the cheeses. I nearly coughed the smoked salmon up all over my beautiful dress, but I held it back until my mom could get a napkin to spit it into.

I did drink some tea but I really liked this fancy drink:

Especially the cherry on top! Then they brought out a lot of desserts! Yum!

I especially liked the chocolate covered strawberries. I showed Aunt Cinda how to eat them. I had seven of them!

It was a lot of fun, but I thought there would be dancing. Instead, we went home and I had a soak in the tub with my cousins, then enjoyed Beverly reading The Polar Express. It was a great day.

Cousinly love.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's beginning to look....

Anthony and I have a rule about Christmas decorations - they don't go up before December 1st and they don't come down until after January 1st. I know this doesn't jive with most Americans, who decorate the long weekend after Thanksgiving and take it down December 26th. We are happily in agreement on this one.

We also agree on the artificial tree thing. It helps that we both grew up with artificial trees. I know you "real tree" purists get all high and mighty about it, that it doesn't smell as good (buy a scented candle) or seem as traditional (its a fire hazard), but again, we are contented in our joint decision on this one. The first year we were married, we tried a live tree, which of course was really dead anyway, being severed from its root system (and also because it was already dry) and it was such a mess! Sap all over the car bringing it home! Needles all over every day! Ornaments slipping off its drying limbs! Puppy Montana chewing ornaments! (OK, that was not the live tree's fault, but it did happen, and reminds me that she was not always a perfect angel dog.)

The live tree is not for us. I feel guilty about killing a tree anyway (the same way I feel vaguely guilty about eating meat, although I do that anyway). So we got a really awesome artificial tree. I loved it, but it took me hours to string the lights on it, and my arms were covered afterwards with little red prickles.

I started to covet a prelit tree. Two years ago, Anthony surprised me with one. Not only did he purchase it for me, he set it all up for me and presented it with much fanfare. It is beautiful, chock full-o-lights, plenty realistic, and much easier to set up (though much heavier!).

On Friday, Anna asked me if I was working this Saturday, and I said no. "Can we set up the Christmas tree then?" Yes, I told her. Early Saturday morning, she was nudging me, asking about the tree. I let Colin and Anna help me put many of the ornaments on, so we have a bunch of them at 3 feet up all in the front. We also put the many beautiful Lenox ornaments (my mom buys them each one every year) at a safer, higher altitude. "Ooh, is that one mine?" they asked as I pulled each one out.

At the top of the tree, we have an angel - a dog angel I made that first Christmas we were married. I was so inspired by the beauty of my new Golden Retriever puppy that I made it to look like her. Now we especially appreciate having our angel Montana watching over our tree.

I did the rest of the house decorations while the kids were at school today. Colin came home and looked at the fireplace with amazement. "What are all those.... Santa socks for?" he asked.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

December musings

Did you miss me yesterday? I took a day off of blogging! Whew! NaBloPoMo was good but tough. I thought it might help my writing skills, but without criticism from a professional editor or writing professor, I don't think I improved much (please do not read this as a request for unsolicited criticism, but thanks anyway!). I did help get the writing juices flowing more quickly, which I guess was the point ("...the hope is that the act of putting something of yourself out for the world to see every single day will make writing become a more fluid, natural, and integral part of your day." per M. Kennedy). I would stare at the screen, thinking I had nothing to say, then once I started on a subject the words started flowing out of me, and pretty soon I had many paragraphs. I guess I lean more towards Dickens than Hemingway. Often I went back to delete some such silliness as "I don't have much to say tonight..." in the first paragraph. Anyway, I guess Mission Accomplished.

We are enjoying the sudden blast of cold weather here in Central Texas. The week after Thanksgiving temps were in the muggy 80s. Then we got this nice cold snap that makes getting in the Christmas spirit so much easier. The basil is definitely dead (RIP).

I went jogging with the dog today, and actually wore long pants and a long sleeved T-shirt! Francesca needs the exercise. Being a herding dog, she is full of energy, and ever watchful to changes in the environment. As we jogged by a large plastic Nativity scene in one yard, she was definitely wary. Seems Francesca is afraid of Baby Jesus!

Friday, December 01, 2006

I don't have to post, but I will anyway!

The electrocuted puppy came back from the emergency clinic this morning, looking much better. We slowly weaned him off of oxygen, and then I sent him home. His sweet owners brought me a card and chocolates for everyone, but mostly I was glad to see the happy looks on their faces when I sent him home.

Little Mack, feeling much better!


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Just Breathe

I have some retired clients who really love their yorkies. As their old dog was winding down, they got a new puppy. "We forgot how much energy puppies have! He's too much! But we already love him."

When they finally lost their geriatric dog, I know the new puppy was a great comfort to them. He came in last week for booster shots, wriggling with zest for life.

Today they called and said he chewed through a Christmas light cord and was shocked. They rushed him in and did "mouth-to-mouth" in the car. He presented limp, cold, pale, and shocky. I was relieve that he did not have an electrical burn in his mouth. Xrays showed that he did have significant damage to his lungs - the shock causes fluid to fill the alveoli.

The little pup lay on a circulating warm water blanket all day, breathing in O2. All his energies were focused on breathing and healing. We treated him with diuretics and bronchodilators, but mostly he needs time to get better. He has to get better - I don't think these people could take another loss.

When you get the Christmas lights out this season, please watch your small creatures, and be aware of the dangers of electricity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Notes from Colin's teacher today

Note #1

Dear Mr and Mrs Vetmommy,

Colin pulled his pants down in front of his friends and peed on our big tree in the playscape. Could you please talk to him about it.


Colin's teacher

Note #2

Dear Mr and Mrs Vetmommy,

Colin was chewing on the turkey baster and continued to put it in his mouth after I talked to him about it. The tip is all chewed up, and I told him he was responsible for bringing the class a new one.

--Colin's teacher

Two notes in one day - ay yai yai! "How come I never got any notes when I went there?" Anna asked, all jealous. Believe me, Anna, you don't want to get notes like this! Neither do I!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Less than Perfect

When I was in vet school, someone gave us a lecture that was supposed to be humorous at a student convention. He was an older vet who was a little jaded by general practice. He told us that he alerted his staff to pain-in-the-butt clients by putting an "A" with a circle around it on the front of their files. He thought it was brilliant, because if the owner saw it, they would think they were A+ clients, but everyone who worked there would know that they were a-holes from his crude symbol. Like I said, he was supposed to be funny, but he really just made us more wary of practice, and unapologetically showed us how mediocre he was.

He also said, "I guarantee every one of you will try to spay a tom cat and put an IM pin into your palm when trying to fix a femur." He knew that in a busy practice how easy it was to check an animal in for a spay, have your technicians prep it for surgery, and not realize until you were digging around in there for way too long for a non-existent uterus since the cat was actually a "HE." Damn, and you could've been at lunch already, since cat neuters only take about 5 minutes. Fortunately, I have never made this particular mistake, but I can see how it could happen. As kittens, the female and male genitalia look almost the same (especially on orange cats), so the owners may at the beginning think their cats is the opposite sex (and name it accordingly). Four months later before the big surgery, you should examine the animal, listen to its heart, but you might not actually inspect the privates. 60 minutes later, you are scrubbed in and presented with a cat, shaved and scrubbed for ovariohysterectomy, so that's what you try to do...

The old guy's prophecy has not come true for me (yet). So I would not think too poorly of a vet that accidentally tried to spay your male cat - if that was what was asked for, and as long as he only charged for the neuter, not the spay. Also, no vet should ever try to spay a male dog, since there is a big prepuce in the middle of their abdomen.

The other half of the prophecy hasn't come true either - although I can see how whilst trying to force a steel pin into a femur you could ram it right through the other side and into your palm. I don't do much orthopedic surgery, thanks to much more skilled surgeons being close by.

I have, however, made my share of mistakes, and I hope you'll forgive me for not exploring them further. Each one is too painful to recount, especially recent ones -- nothing fatal, thank god. This is the difficult part of the job for me, not dealing with death, which is usually a mercy, but when my lack of intellect or lack of attention causes an animal and its owner suffering. That's when I wish I had an easier job, not when it gets busy or when staff drama gets out of hand. Making a medical mistake makes me question everything.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Choose your words

Colin and I went grocery shopping today after I picked him up from school.

At dinner tonight, he said, "Mommy, can I have dessert?"

Anthony said, "We don't have any dessert."

Colin said, "I want ice cream."

Anthony and Anna both said, "We don't have any ice cream!"

I was so proud of my little boy, who although he is just 3 1/2, and not as articulate as his sister, clearly communicated to everyone. "Yes we do!" Colin said. "Mommy picked one out at the store!"

I rewarded the little tattle tail with an ice cream cone.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Its not TV. Its "Sex and the HBO."

Its been a great long holiday weekend. I'm ready to get on the couch and veg with some DVDs. This NaBloPoMo is wearing a little thin... thank goodness there's only 4 more days to go.

Anthony and I rented all the "Sex and the City," DVDs when they came out. We were too cheap to sign up for HBO, so we anxiously awaited the release of each one. I don't know how HBO subscribers could be satisfied after watching a single 30 minute episode. We always loved watching several, back to back.

When "Sex and the City" was over we were sad, and moved on to "Six Feet Under." Oh my God! what an incredible series. The characters were so rich, the story lines so fascinating and arching. The writers were true through the many years, and never forgot where their characters had been or what they really wanted out of life. Soon we were anticipating these DVDs in the mail as ardently as we had "Sex and the City."

So we called it "Sex and the Dirt."

Then "Sex and the Dirt" ended - and what a magnificent finale! I was sobbing at the end of the montage that shows you the ends of all the characters lives. How brilliant to show what happens to all these people we knew and loved, and especially to show their deaths since that was the other focus of the show. The next day I watched it again and again.

It was so great to enjoy and agree with the ending of a beloved series (both "Sex and the City" and "Sex and the Dirt") after being acutely disappointed with the endings of so many other network shows that I loved (Northern Exposure, Mad About You, Seinfeld, and Friends). Did they hire a completely different team of authors to write those other finales? Maybe the regular writers quit or moved on, so they just hired anyone off the street.

So now, we are hooked on "Deadwood," set in the 1800s gold rush town of the same name, written and directed by David Milch. He also did NYPD Blue, another favorite of mine. The style - jangling story lines and complex circuitous dialogue - is the same in both series, despite very different settings.

So we call it, "NYPD Sex in the West."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another birth story

Back in my first year of practice, when I had to take emergency call and carry the dreaded beeper, I did several c-sections. Whenever a patient would try to have its litter but stall out, I'd give oxytocin injections to try to jump start that uterus but it never worked. By the time I saw them, surgery was inevitable, with one exception.

Once I saw a little white rat terrier, bloated with pregnancy. She'd been trying to push out the first puppy for several hours, but he was stuck. I gave her oxytocin, lubed her up, and helped pull the big puppy out. It was too late; he was already dead.

I chatted with the owners while we waited to see how her labor might progress. She was a young dog, and her owners were very sad about the dead puppy. I could feel that she had one large puppy still inside her. Nothing seemed to be happening, even after a second oxytocin shot. I feared her uterus was spent and that we'd have to do a c-section to get the last pup out. I decided to examine her one more time.

This time I could just feel the puppy's head. Female dogs have a contraction reflex: if you stroke the dorsal vaginal wall in an outwards direction with a crooked finger, they will have a contraction. It is appropriately called "beckoning." The young mother responded - she still had a little bit of push left in her! So, using more lubrication, I coaxed more contractions out of her and moved the puppy into the birth canal. The owners became very excited. Soon we could see the head in the sac starting to emerge. Using one hand to pull the puppy's head and the other hand's finger to beckon more contractions, she slowly made more and more progress until - BAM! - the puppy slid out. I pulled open the sac and rubbed her down. Mom got interested and began licking the puppy.

The dog owners were overjoyed to have a healthy, alive puppy without surgery. "We'll name her after you!" they said.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Caesarian fun!

Today at work I had a scheduled C-section. This doesn't happen often in our world, but when it does, its usually a bulldog (as was the case today). Bulldogs have been selected by their breeders to have large blocky heads that get stuck on the way out. Most puppies are like little fusiform sausages and are easily pushed out. Bulldogs are more like humans with big noggins that are likely to get stuck. All the c-sections I've done in my career were either bulldogs or little tiny dogs like chihuahuas or yorkies, who don't have the energy to push their puppies out. They usually need emergency c-sections due to uterine inertia.

I had not previously met the owners of today's patient, but apparently they have bred Cairn terriers before and had been to many whelpings. They were very reluctant to turn their dog over to me for the c-section; they wanted to watch. However we are not at all set up for an audience in our little surgery room. Besides, I knew there were 5 puppies, which meant at least 5 nurses in there reviving them. While I am pretty open about doing procedures in front of clients, the last thing I needed was these 3 people in the room, questioning everything ("Is that good or bad? Are you supposed to do that?"). Its not like a human delivery room where the dad (or which ever SINGLE support person) is standing by the mom's head - this would be lots of people who view this dog as their child, and I could tell already they would be touching my sterile field.

I assured them I would keep them as involved as possible and that I would take good care of their baby.

The poor mother-to-be was quite uncomfortable and already in the early stages of labor - pacing, nesting, gagging, grunting. Soon we got her under anesthesia and rolled her on her back to prep her huge protruding belly, the many nipples huge and prominent standing up on the surface.

I had an audience anyway. All the staff stopped by to see the enormous gravid uterus once I pulled it out of the abdomen. Humans have a T-shaped uterus, with one baby (occasionally more) in the main part. Dogs and cats have a Y-shaped uterus with fetuses packed in a row along the "horns." This girl's uterus was about 3 feet long end-to-end, full of pups. I made an incision in the middle and milked the puppies out, one by one, dropping them into the arms of a technician, who revived them.

In short order, all the "quintuplets" were out, squirming and breathing and mewling. Now I was all alone, sewing up her already shrinking uterus and closing the long line on her deflated belly.

Momma woke up after snoozing for about 45 minutes after surgery. She was sitting up looking at me, more relaxed than before the surgery. "Look what I have," I told her, as I brought one of her pups out of the heated padded box they were incubating in. As the pup was aloft in the air it squeeked out. As soon as she heard her baby's cry, that momma stretched out on her side, exposing all her big teats. Soon all 5 pups were attatched and nursing, and momma closed her eyes contentedly. Three boys and two girls.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

In Summary...

The menu:

Smoked Greenburg Turkey

Cabernet Sauce

Mushroom and Herb Dressing

Roasted fall vegetables (including a butternut squash we grew!)

Autumn Succotash (with edamame instead of yucky lima beans)

Wild Rice Pilaf

Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Pielettes

French wine

4 generations around one long table in my dining room!

I'm too tired to write anything else....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Eve Photos

We've been getting everything ready for the big feast, happening at our house this year. Today Grandad arrived, and our cousins Paige and Graham, Auntie Steph and Uncle Al soon after for a little extended family celebration. The cousins have all been anticipating this get-together, and it didn't take long to get them warmed up.

Artists, hard at work

My new helper, Paige, helping me make the arugula insalata.


Cousins in the tub! Won't be able to do this much longer...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Anna Conda

Sunday was so beautiful, I took the kids to the park for a picnic lunch. Afterwards they played a long time on the playscape. There were 2 other children there with their dad, close to my kids' ages. I said hello to their dad from a distance, then called my parents on my cell phone to finalize Turkey Day plans.

After I'd been chatting for 30 minutes, I saw the other dad hollering at his daughter, then haul her away by the arm. He was shouting to me, "Your daughter is in it, too!"

I told my parents I'd call them back, and said, "What?"

He said, "They found a condom. You may want to wash her hands."

Eeew, yuck. That is totally gross, but now this formerly friendly dad was dragging his kids to the water fountain to rinse their hands then to the truck. His daughter was crying that she didn't want to go home.

Anna came up to me, quietly weeping. She said she wanted to go home. She was crushed that this other dad had yelled at her. My heart instantly went out to her. It seems like this happened to me a lot as a kid - some other dad yelled at me, and I felt ashamed and terrified. I mean, it was scary enough when my dad yelled at me, but I usually knew what he was so mad about. When somebody else's dad yells at you, you feel terror and want to just die.

"Oh honey, you didn't do anything wrong," I told her. "Its just those things are really gross and he didn't want you guys touching it. You didn't know; its not your fault."

Anna said, "I thought it was just a dirty white balloon. What was it, Mommy?"

I said, "It was a condom, and they're pretty gross, so that's why he yelled, so you wouldn't touch it."

Anna said, "What's a Conda?"

Now, we're getting into touchy territory. I want to be honest without giving her more scary information than she needs. She already suspects its something shameful from the other dad's reaction. I need her to know the shameful part has nothing to do with her.

I said, "Its something that grown men put on their penis, and its pretty gross. It should not be left at a park where kids play. Its not your fault that it was there."

Anna asked, "Do men like Colin put it on their penis?"

I said, "No, only grown men."

Thank goodness she did not ask about men like her daddy. I held her hand all the way home, and then you can be sure we both washed up thoroughly!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Instant Gratification

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving feast at both of the kids' schools. Colin was supposed to help make the mashed potatoes for his school. Anna had this task last year, and we peeled, boiled, and mashed the potatoes. She wasn't very enthusiastic, since she doesn't even like mashed potatoes.

I tried to get Colin interested before we left the house, but he was too busy playing trains. Then we stayed out way to late, shopping and eating. Now there wasn't even time for a bedtime story - just brush the teeth and get into bed.

So after he was asleep, I made instant mashed potatoes.

I feel pretty guilty about this. He didn't participate in the process, and they just don't seem authentic. But, I mixed in real milk, sweet cream butter, kosher salt, and it says its made with real Idaho potatoes.

That's what they call "phoning it in," Antonia!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Daddy's little helpers

We are starting a large new landscaping project. There are fancy plans drawn by a landscape architect and everything. No one is more excited than Anthony, who even went out last night to dig a hole in the dark. We have this great new oak tree that's dying to get in the ground.

It doesn't look like much with all the leaves gone, but its a Bur Oak, with huge leaves and gargantuan acorns - my favorite oak tree. Anna hugged the tree repeatedly and said it talks to her, telling her how much it likes her.

The kiddos enthusiastically helped their dad digging the last bit of the hole (this was the ruckus going on when you called, Emily). They were even better at filling it in once the tree was installed, taking turns using their little shovels to fill their wee wheelbarrow, and gleefully dumping the dirt in.

I guess there's no way to get them that enthusiastic about picking up their toys...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Very very extraordinary

As we were driving to the Farmer's Market today in our Prius (how virtuous!), Colin was spotting other Priuses (Prii?) driving along with us. He's very good at this, but when an Aztec pulled in front of us in his favorite color (yellow), he said, "There's a Prius!"

Definitely not, but it does have a very similar divided rear window. "No, Colin," I said, "The Prius is a very small vehicle and that one is very large."

It must be hard to be 3 and be corrected all the time. To save face Colin said, "No, Mommy, that one is very medium."

Friday, November 17, 2006

A day without Sunshine

That's what yesterday was. Our clinic is in a strip center. It is amazingly large and well designed, but has no windows. If I don't get out for lunch, I feel completely out of touch with the climate. No idea what the weather is like. Yesterday an emergency cat-trying-to-die-from-heart-failure filled my lunch. I got food at 2pm but no fresh air or UV. This time of year, its dark by the time I stumble out the back door to my car.

We've been very busy with an unseasonal increase in sick patients. Also, we have one doctor out on maternity leave. Then my boss's mom was hospitalized; she sadly passed away yesterday. We normally have 3 doctors a day but have been operating lately on 2.

And surgeries! In October there was plenty of room to schedule stuff, and we had tons of cancellations. The past few weeks the surgery schedule has been all booked up with no room at the inn. So when I see a dog with a painful, broken tooth, it can't wait 2 weeks for an appointment. Ditto the dog with metastatic cancer in a lymph node - wait 2 weeks and it may spread further. So we are shoving them in, anywhere we can.

Today I actually got to leave the premises for a 45 minute lunch! And the cat is no longer in failure, sent home on oral meds. Here's the best part: tomorrow is the first Saturday I won't be working in 6 weeks! Yippee!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Deal with Celery

I love fruits and vegetables, and will happily eat ANY of them, with one glaring exception.

I HATE celery.

I really really loathe it. Its presence can ruin a meal for me. For example: the night before Anna was born, I ate salmon at a restaurant. The last bite that I put in my mouth was flavored with celery seed. You know, those little things full of concentrated celery flavor? It filled my mouth and sinuses with their icky presence. And it was the last bite, so I didn't have anything else to follow it with. And, I thought about how that celery laden bite was the last thing I got to eat when I was pushing her out (since wisely they won't let you eat until you're done with labor).

I HATE celery.

Its not the crunchiness.

Its not the long, fibrous strings.

Its that awful, overpowering flavor!

OK, here's another birth+hate of celery story: I went into labor with Colin while waiting to eat at a beautiful buffet line at a friend's wedding. I was so sad not to get to eat that food! Many hours later, the nurse scrounges something for me to eat. All she can find is a sad, old tuna fish sandwich. Well, I like tuna, and I'm starved, so I eat it.

Guess what? Full of celery. That's my reward for pushing out this 8+ lb boy in less than 3 hours from leaving the reception: celery. Grrr...

(BTW, awful day at work today. No way I would have posted if it weren't for NaBloPoMo.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

In Europe they call it Eee-Kay-Ah, not Eye-Key-Ah

After starting the long overdue laundry, then filling out the forms they sent home for Anna to be tested for gifted and talented (this was really hard! Does she have a large vocabulary? Yes! Give examples. Umm, er, ah, she uses big words all the time, can't think of any at the moment... Does she figure out the why of things? Give examples. Oh, geez, yes, but I can't think of anything specific to write down...) anyway, after a couple of hours of that, Anthony and I succumbed to our temptations and went to the IKEA grand opening today.

We weren't going to go the first day because we knew it would be crowded. People had been camping out since Monday in order to be some of the first ones in the store! But the lure of everything stylish, cheap, and Swedish overtook us and we headed north.

We had to go through the showrooms hastily, because we knew we had to pick up Colin from preschool by 2:30. We marveled at the sofas, kitchen sets, storage, pottery, wine glasses. Before I fainted from hunger, I steered Anthony to the cafe. "We could've eaten at home before we left..." he groused, until he sank his choppers into an amazing ciabbata sandwich with mozzarella and roasted red peppers. I had to get the classic SWEDISH meatballs, which were a little mass produced but delicious nonetheless. We split a slice of apple pie, so cinnamon-y, and drizzled with custard (not limp and wilted whipped cream). Then we rushed out of there, not buying anything this time, and totally skipping large sections of the store.

I told Anthony it was just an appetizer portion of the store we got today. Although some of the items make me think Ikea is stuck in a 70s European time warp, we loved the efficiency, the eye to form and function, the trash cans divided for recycling. Why can't Target and even WalMart be more like that?

I think we will have to go back this weekend. The cafe opens for breakfast before the store opens....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


At my first vet job, I had to take emergency call, wearing that annoying little pager all weekend long. We could get called in any hour of the day or night, if the owner was willing to pay the emergency fee.

One Sunday afternoon my pager went off. The people on the other end had a dog that was violently sneezing. They were extremely worried. It came on their little dog suddenly and harshly. I had only been out of school one year, and really had no idea what I would do for the dog. They insisted she needed relief, so I agreed to see her.

I was greeted by a little Maltese who truly was sneezing a lot. I did my full exam, but didn't find anything. I decided to look up her nose as much as I could with the otoscope. I looked up the left nostril and saw nothing before she jerked away. Then I looked up the right nostril, and got a got a glimpse of a green blade of grass before she pulled back.

"I know why she's sneezing!" I told the owners. But I knew I couldn't get it out with her awake, and general anesthesia would take a long time. I decided to try to give her a sedative for which I had a reversal, a technique I had not tried before.

It worked like a charm. Once the pup was limp, I extracted the long blade of grass with some hemostats. It had gone up over her soft palate - no wonder she was so irritated! I gave the reversal, and moments later she was walking out the door with her owners.

I felt such relief that I'd found the problem and come up with a good solution. So many times the first year I was a veterinarian I felt like every patient was as bad as a stressful final exam, but this was one day when I started to feel competent and confident.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sweet Potatoes (for Auntie Norma)

My MIL told me growing up in Germany they would never eat Sweet Potatoes. They disdainfully considered them animal feed, and only ate white potatoes. But now she loves them as much as me.

They are far more nutritious than white potatoes, with beta carotene and fiber. Anna ate so many of them, pureed, as a baby, that she developed a beautiful golden glow. "Is that baby jaundiced?" an ER pediatrician asked us. When we told her why she was so orangey, she said, "You need to stop feeding her so many sweet potatoes!" Why? To make it easier for you to tell if she's jaundiced or not? Forgettaboutit.

Sweet Potato Fries

Cut sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch thick spears. It is not necessary to peel them, but you may want to cut the skinny edges off. Coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a pan and bake at 450 degrees F. Turn after 10 minutes, and bake 10-15 minutes more until done. Sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt mix. They will be a little soggy, but you can still dip them in ketchup!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Dice potatoes, toss in olive oil and chopped rosemary, roast in oven stirring occasionally until done. Season with salt and pepper. Sometimes I mix in white potatoes, pearl onions, and/or whole garlic cloves.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Fire up the barby! Slice sweet potatoes on the bias into 1/3 inch thick circles. Coat w/ olive oil, S & P. Grill on high, turning after about 5 minutes, when nice grill marks appear. When done will be soft to the touch.

Auntie Norma, you can also roast them then mash them, mix in a touch of nutmeg and the slightest bit of maple syrup or honey, or grate them with white potatoes to make nice potato pancakes.

Just don't make that horrible American creation, Sweet Potato Casserole, with gooey sickly sweet marshmallows on top!



Sunday, November 12, 2006

Party pooped

I'm pretty tired tonight because we had a nice little "Sip and See" party for a coworker who had a baby. We couldn't have a shower before he was born because she was on bedrest. This way was nicer anyway, because we all got to meet the new little guy.

Anna really liked him!

And to all of you blog readers who were invited but didn't come? The food was delicious and the mimosas were divine...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Close Call with the Chicken Angel of Death

When Anthony came home from picking up Colin from school on Friday, this is what he saw:

A huge red-tailed hawk sitting on our back fence. Looking at our chickens, with visions of KFC in his head.

To give you some idea how big he was, the boards on the compost bins in front of him are 6 inches across. He was at least 14 inches likely 16 inches tall.

Anthony took these pictures and a short video of him flying away, then checked on our little flock.

We have 5 hens. He saw 2 huddled against the fence. The other 3 seemed gone. Anthony looked around awhile, then finally found 2 huddled inside their nesting box.

Still one hen missing, the "blonde" one.

Under our bamboo bush, Anthony spied a lot of feathers. Then he saw the bird, huddled, still, under the bush. Like Lazarus she got up when he went towards her, and hurried home. In the chicken yard with her mates, she ate and made contented chicken noises. Anthony checked her out, and saw that one of her wings was hurt, but she seemed more stressed being handled than anything, so he left her alone. We figure the hawk must have tried to fly off with her, but she was a little too big and too fiesty, and she slipped his talon grasp.

By the time I got home, it was dark. The chickens go to bed as soon as the sun sets. They act comatose at night, just like in that movie "Chicken Run." So I let her sleep and didn't check her until this morning. She was active and eating, and her lacerations practically unnoticable. I gave her a shot of antibiotics into her breast (biggest muscle mass on a bird, like our gluteus maximus) and told her, "Have a nice day! Watch out for raptors!"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Freaky Friday

Its Friday, and that means I worked all day and it was crazy. I don't know why, but Fridays at my work are always madness. Today it was because one of our doctors was out with a family emergency, the elderly-parent-in-the-hospital variety. The other doctor's grandparent died, and will be leaving for a funeral ASAP tomorrow. The other two doctors in our employ were out of town on vacation and on maternity leave. Nose to the grindstone time.

I saw so many patients with such a dizzying array of problems today, as I sit down to dutifully blog my mind is still processing them. First was the poor little dog hit by a car last night, with such bad ocular trauma she'll probably lose her right eye. Her left eye will likely survive but was full of blood, so right now she's blind. Looks like she was struck on the right side of the face, then landed on the left, breaking several teeth. She had so much pluck, despite the visual loss and pain! Speaking of blindness, I saw a cat with hypertension-induced blindness. Also, a cat juandiced with hepatitis. A dog with Addison's disease (nonfunctional adrenal glands, which regulate your immune response and electrolyte balance). She was doing well, in for a check-up, owned by a wonderful deaf man. He brought along his (hearing) toddler son, and it was amazing to see them communicate in sign.

Otitis externa.


Flea allergy dermatitis.

Luxating patella.

Periodontal disease.

Lymphocytic Plasmocytic Stomatitis.



Upper respiratory infection.

Then the last: a sweet cat that I've only known a short time but really liked. His owners had moved from Florida after the hurricanes to New Orleans, and were greeted by Katrina. They landed here in Austin, seeking help for their diabetic, hyperthyroid, obese cat. He'd needed a dental cleaning for a long time, but it was put off several times with all the moving. By the time we got him stable and scheduled, I needed to pull 4 teeth.

Today he came in unable to walk. He'd developed cardiomyopathy, and that created a blood clot, which broke loose and was lodge in his distal aorta. It cut off the blood supply to one of his hind legs, causing paralysis and pain. Sometimes we can dissolve these clots, but the long term prognosis is poor. Most throw another fatal clot in less than 1 year.

They wisely elected to euthanize, and we all said a very sad goodbye. But then there were patients to discharge and ready for transfer to the overnight hospital.

Thanks to the help of my excellent support staff, despite the heavy schedule I got a lunch break and left only 30 minutes after close. I'll finish those last few records tomorrow...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pet Meds

Hey, I really appreciate all the blog subject suggestions. Thanks to Chicken Flicken, I don't have to buy that book. I'll start with medications that animals take that humans also take. We are all mammals, with nearly all the same organ systems, just a few species idiosyncrasies, really.

Dogs and cats that get diabetes take insulin. Infections are treated with amoxicillin, cephalexin, clindamycin, etc - the antibiotics are all fair game. Heart medications are identical - vasotec, digoxin, lasix, etc. When your pet goes under anesthesia, the same cocktail you had may be used on your pet, and the same fluids drip in the arm. Even the same cancer drugs are used, expensively.

Its easier to talk about what animals can't take. Tylenol will kill your cat. Almost all of the human Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) cause toxicity in dogs and cats. Fortunately, we have veterinary specific ones that safely work well. NEVER give your dog or cat Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc) or Naproxin Sodium (Aleve).

Safe over the counter medications include benedryl (but the dose might be higher than you think!), chlorpheniramine, topical cortisone creams, neosporin, and saline eye drops. Aspirin can be given, but evidence shows that even in small doses, it can cause stomach ulceration.

Here's a real life story: I had a client with a cocker spaniel suffering from arthritis. I put the dog on one of my favorite NSAIDs for dogs: Rimadyl. This is a wonderful pain reliever, and can actually slow the progression of the arthritis if given regularly. I gave it to my own dog, Terlingua, for 5+ years. I give it post-operatively to nearly all my surgical patients. It is a safe, effective drug.

All drugs can have some side effects, and Rimadyl can cause a liver problem in a minute population of dogs. If this happens, the dog is very sick with vomiting and complete lack of appetite, so you wouldn't miss it. It is reversible (unless you ignore it too long and keep giving the drug). However, some people have gone CRAZY on the internet and written all kinds of bad stuff about rimadyl, with no scientific evidence, of course. One of these websites has a name like "Rimadyl Death" and has stories like, "My vet gave my dog rimadyl and he limped less, but I didn't like the way he looked on it, so I stopped it. He suddenly died 6 months later! I know it was that evil drug pushing vet and the rimadyl!" I'm not exaggerating.

So, my client returns 2 weeks later and says he's really upset about being given rimadyl. His dog was better, but seemed worse when he was "not under the influence of the drug." He could no longer go up and down the stairs. His wife read about how horrible this drug was on the internet, so he stopped giving it to the dog. However, he had been so painful he had to do something, so he'd given his dog a ibuprofen every morning the last 3 days.

I had been very calm, listening to his unfounded complaints, but when he told me about the ibuprofen I lost it a little, and blurted out, "Oh no! You didn't!" Then I told him we needed to check his dog's kidney enzymes and start all kinds of medications to protect his kidney and stomach! After I left the exam room, I literally beat my head with my clipboard. How could he stop a safe medication that had been working, and give something DEFINITELY TOXIC to dogs? If they had googled ibuprofen and dogs, they would have also known the real dangers of that drug. If only he had called me with his concerns, I would have been happy to address them. You can be sure I sent him home with lots of literature (which I probably should have done the first day). Luckily, his dog is fine, and is on a different pain reliever, since the guy is still skeptical of Rimadyl.

The moral of the story is, PLEASE call your vet before giving anything, even herbal supplements, to your pet. Most medications work, but the dose may be different. We'd much rather get a call BEFORE than AFTER an accidental poisoning.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Under the Wire

Whew! I thought I might not be able to post today. Blogger was down the first 12 times I tried to log on.

Not that I have a lot to say, but I feel the pressure of NaBloPoMo. I've never been one to just speak to fill the air with my own words. I usually prefer to be quiet until I have something thoughtful to say. Some might mistake me for snobby, but I'm just introverted. I prefer to say nothing rather than open my mouth and prove my stupidity.

Having to post all the time, I feel like I am at a cocktail party. Not one with all my favorite friends, but one where I hardly know anyone, and I have to chat them all up to impress them.

I am trolling my brain all day everyday for blog ideas, and discarding most of them. Anyone have any subjects they'd like me to expound on?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

PG-13 stories

Thanks, all ye commenters, for your encouragement during NaBloPoMo! 1 week down, 3.25 to go!

Today I have some funny work stories for you. At my clinic, the foul language has gotten quite out of hand. We have a few employees that are quite colorful and creative with their profanity, and pretty soon it gets a little too contagious.

SO! At our last staff meeting, the hospital manager admonished us to clean up those potty mouths.

"Yes," said my boss in all seriousness. "Swearing just isn't professional. Oh Sh!t, I'm bleeding!"

Moving along, two of my adult coworkers were telling me today they went together to go see "Flicka." They were there with all the little girls watching the movie because they, too, love horses. Only one of them kept cursing during the "intense" parts of the movie, and was surprised when her companion kept shushing her, or that the mom in front of them turned around to give her the evil eye. (I told you that cursing was catching!)

At the end of the movie, they both started tearing up (because these movies are always emotionally manipulative and really drag out the sappy parts. That said, Anna and I were dry-eyed). Then my friends looked at each other, crying at this silly preteen movie, and started laughing at themselves.

Only now, they were laughing and crying, and it sounded like they were sobbing, SOBBING because HER DAD DIDN'T SHOOT FLICKA AFTERALL!

Hope I didn't spoil it for you.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Girls' Day Out

Anna's school was closed today, a kind of combined Veteran's Day/Teacher In-service thing. Colin's school was open, so we sent him off and spent the day together.

We went on a bike ride for exercise. Anna did really well. She still has a little bike with training wheels - a quadricycle - but has only recently gotten the knack of it. Today she gained confidence and longevity. We went about 1.5 miles! Afterwards she was tired, and happy to get into the bike trailer behind me, so that I could get a little more exercise than I did just coasting behind her.

Then we went to an early bird showing of Flicka, a pre-teen chick flick about horses. We snuck in our own popcorn. She sat in my lap most of the movie. It was cheesy and cliche, but we both enjoyed it, since we're both girls who love horses.


I really jinxed myself with yesterday's post... I was awake, staring at the ceiling, 3-5 am. Grrr...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

To sleep, perchance

Anna's been a little under the weather lately, and at night she's been getting up a lot more. I'm not sure if its the virus or the low dose of pseudoephedrine, but she has disturbed us multiple times the past few nights.

Well, disturbed us, but Anthony is the one who gets up and tends to her needs. He is more alert than me in the middle of a REM cycle, and he can also quickly resume sleeping (or snoring, as the case may be). If I am sufficiently roused in the middle of the night, it may be an hour or two before I fall back asleep. I'm tired, but not sleeping.

The multiple interruptions to our prescribed 8 hours really has an affect. I try to let Anth sleep in to compensate, but both of us are sluggish the next day. (I know it doesn't compare to caring for a newborn though, eh Joey?)

Dogs do not seem to be affected at all in this way. They can sleep at will, apparently. If I get up in the middle of the night, one of my canine companions has often padded out to accompany me. Sure, they don't have jobs to go to the next day, but they are just as happy as not to get up in the middle of the night and to get up early the next morning. Maybe they figure they'll catch a nap later, no worries mate. But, you can wake them from that catch-up nap, too, and they're again happy to go along with you. No post-nap grogginess or grouchiness.

The hormones of motherhood changed my sleep forever. I used to be a deep sleeper, now sleep has a much more fragile hold on me. The flick of lights across my retinas is enough to banish sleep. I can feel it drain out of me, like water from a tub, and I just want to stand over it calling, "Nooooooooo!"

I wish I could sleep like a dog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday sadness

This Saturday at work soon turned CRAZY as I did a work-in splenectomy on top of the usual busy schedule. OK, you guys know I get a real adrenaline rush with these surgeries. It was a huge 100 lb dog with a burst bleeding tumor in his spleen. We suctioned of 5.5 liters of bloody fluid from his abdomen before we could get to work. That's more than a gallon, folks! The surgery went as well as it could, and we transfered him to the emergency clinic just 1 hour after closing time. Unfortunately, it's most likely a hemangiosarcoma, a very aggressive tumor that will come back after just 2-3 months. Its the same tumor that took our sweet Terlingua. Her emergency splenectomy was on a busy Saturday, too.

Last Saturday I had an urgent case, too, that turned tragic. A little old lady brought in her dog for coughing and lethargy. A heart murmur was detected in August, but she didn't have money to work it up. When he started coughing, she gave him benedryl, hoping it was just allergies. I knew immediately it wasn't. Xrays confirmed his heart was huge and his lungs were full of fluid. Congestive heart failure.

I gave him a massive dose of lasix and put him on oxygen. I told the little old lady the goal was to get him out of this crisis so we could send him home on oral medications, but he might have to be transfered to the Emergency Clinic for more treatment before he became stable.

The little old lady's adult son had driven her there, and he told me that she had just lost her husband, his father, to congestive heart failure just 2 years ago. Watching this big, strong man who had loomed so large in their lives decline to nothing over a short time was extremely difficult for all of them. They weren't sure their mom could watch her dog go through the same fate.

I did improve the poor dog's condition, but he still wasn't stable enough to go home. In the end, they decided to euthanize him. I was a little disappointed, medically, but I knew it was the right decision for this family. Her two adult sons came to be with the dog when I euthanized him; the dog was obviously happy to see them, and they were obviously sad to say goodbye to him. His death was swift, peaceful, merciful.

It was sad but I understood. The dog had a terrible long term prognosis; I could maybe eek a few more months out of him. Seeing him suffer and saying such a long goodbye would be too painful for his elderly owner, would bring up too many painful memories.

I saw her again at the clinic this week. As I held her hand, she thanked me for helping her sweet dog. She told me how much she missed him, how "fast" he'd gone downhill, but it was obvious she was already healing. I embraced her and told her she'd made the right decision, letting her dog go last week. And, I really meant it.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I was standing in line to vote early today. The woman in front of me saw her husband approach, and called out to him as he walked toward her, "Honey, I know we're going camping, but you don't even match!"

He was wearing: a black rugby shirt with a dark blue stripe, dark green pants, and black shoes.

He didn't match, but at least all the colors were in the same family.

She was wearing: a red ribbed sweater, navy knit pants - high waters, to show her fuschia socks, and black shoes.

Maybe they don't have a full length mirror at home.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

'Shrooms, man...

I treated a cute little puppy today who was quite sick. She went out into the yard and ate all the mushrooms she could find. Then she came in and vomited her cute little guts out (vomited 8 times in less than an hour). Her owners adopted her just 2 weeks ago but already are totally in love with her, and they were very concerned.

They brought me vomited up previously chewed mushrooms in a ziploc bag. "I can't really identify these; I'm not a mycologist," I said. The owner said, "Its obviously some sort of puff-form fungus, with internal gills." I said, "You sound like you know more about it than me!" and she blushed and told me she was a biologist.

I knew we had to treat the puppy immediately for the nausea, and put her on fluids to flush any toxins out. We gave her a large dose of charcoal to absorb anything that remained. The owner sent me a digital image of some more mushrooms she found in her yard. They were a relatively nontoxic type, and should not cause any liver or neurological problems. To be safe, I sent her home with a liver protectant.

The puppy was beginning to return to her bright, perky self at the end of the day. She started out looking bleary-eyed, nauseated, and lethargic. Didn't seem like a very pleasant trip to me...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hey, big spender

The tooth fairy got caught up in Anna's excitement at losing a tooth and left a Sacagawea Dollar. For my English readers, we Americans don't have any coins in regular circulation over 25 cents. A few years ago a beautiful golden coin was released with a portrait of the Native American woman who help Lewis and Clark explore the west. But people complained that it was too similar to the quarter in size, and too hard to carry around, and there was not room designated for it in cashier drawers or vending machines. However, they are not at all heavy compared with carrying a few pound coins in your pocketbook! So now, you hardly ever see Sacagawea dollars, and they tend to be hoarded and not spent.

Apparently, the tooth fairy overpaid. This morning Anna told me she was expecting maybe a dime and a nickel.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Pixar Halloween!

Colin finally consented to wear his Buzz Lightyear costume. Handsome devil!

Here's Anna, aka Lightning McQueen!

Look at that beaming smile! Notice anything missing?

The tooth is gone. It literally FELL out of her mouth tonight at dinner, plinking onto the floor. She was so pleased with herself, and wiggling with anticipation of the tooth fairy's visit.

Here they are, ready to go out and get some candy! Poor Anthony missed it all; he's away at a rare business meeting.

Sorting the loot afterwards.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Yes, Auntie Norma, the dog ate 1.25 lbs of wild salmon!

But here's what we ate tonight:

"Boo Burgers" and sweet potato fries with a salad. The kids are so excited about trick or treating tomorrow!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fresh Fish

Today at Central Market, the kids chose Coho Salmon for dinner. While they were outside, enjoying the glorious sunny cool weather, I prepared the fish for our "Welcome Home Daddy" meal (he was in Dallas with his mom post-back-surgery). I skinned it, made cutlets, seasoned and breaded them, and prepared the sides.

Mis-en-place, I bathed the kids before dinner...

...and Francesca decided to have sushi.

Much consternation ensued. Wine helps.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Engage tummy muscles!

At dinner tonight, Anna serenaded us with a new song from school (sung to the tune of "Farmer and the Dell"):

Stop, drop, and roll,

Stop, drop, and roll,

If your clothes catch on fire,

Stop, drop, and roll!

Quite a handy little tune to sing to yourself in case of emergency, don't you think?

Not to be outdone, Colin came up with his own version:

If you go in the street,

If you go in the street,

If you go in the street,

You'll get dead!

Again, such handy advice!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Proud parents

Today Anna read a book all by herself to the principal. Her teacher has been sending home extra books for her to read, in addition to the simple kindergarden homework (mostly pages practicing writing one letter over and over... which she finishes in about 30 seconds). She did really well with a Clifford the Big Dog book - it was pretty long, and too complex just to be memorized. So her teacher sent her to the principal's office - to show off her reading skills.

We are so proud of her! I think watching her learn to read is more exciting than watching her learn to walk. This weekend as we were making breakfast, she shouted, "Mommy! I just read this!!"

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Is your neighborhood littered with little air gun pellets the way mine is? All the little preteen urchins on my street have these fake firearms that shoot tiny pastel colored spheres, which accumulate in the cracks in the sidewalk. Sure, its all fun and games until someone shoots an eye out...

My children call these things "balls." As in, "Wait, Mommy, a ball! I have to stop and pick up this ball!"

Colin found 2 more "balls" at the park this morning. I had an all-afternoon planning session for work, so lucky Anthony got the kids all afternoon. They set up an elaborate track with their wood blocks and were racing their balls across it, until Colin started crying, "I can't get my ball!"

Great, thought Anthony, "Where is it, buddy?"

Colin wailed, "In my nose!"

Yes, Colin stuffed the little sphere, just slightly larger than his own nostril, up into his sinus. Anthony told me, when I finally called him back on a break, that he'd even used my little "pliers thingy" (aka hemostat) but it was too far up there to get out, so they were headed to the emergency room.

The waiting room was as expected, packed with sick children. Anthony sat with two bright, healthy children and waited. Fortunately, he rechecked Colin as they waited, and noticed the ball had descended. By pushing Colin's cheek out, mashing on his nostril and digging it out with his pen, Macgyver-style, Anthony actually extracted it himself.

A nurse saw him and said, "Way to go, Dad!" I second that! Way to handle the kids on your own and save us $150 in ER fees!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Some people should not be allowed the privelege of having a dog

On the internet you can say anything, including dispensing medical advice. Most people know that you should actually consult with a doctor before following through on such advice.

There were some people who purchased a Chinese Crested. This is a freaky looking dog with no hair on its body, but an exuberant little poof on its head, feet, and tail. They are unusual and expensive. This new owner read on the internet that if your Chinese Crested's ears didn't fold over the way you wanted them to, you could tape them down to get the desired result. She taped them down over a hard piece of plastic, cutting off the blood supply. The tips of the ears died.

My colleague surgically debrided the dead tissue, leaving the pup with one decent, half notched ear, and one ear basically gone. And still no hair. He's so ugly he's cute, and he's got a great personality.

Now, apparently, the dog has gotten "too big." I think confined to one small room of the house and "ran a lot" when let out. How big is too big? About 18 lbs.

One of our large hearted staff members agreed to foster him, but I am sure it won't be long before this dog with no hair and 1/2 an ear finds a home that will love him to death.

Meanwhile, we think of names for him:

Vincent Van Gogh
Beautiful Joe (sisters, I actually found someone else today who also read this book!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sundry things

Cool shot of the mist rising up on our back fence as it comes rolling across the field (photo by Anthony).

Anna says, "BOO!" in her nifty Halloween dress. Thanks, Auntie Steph!

It was my wonderful mother's birthday yesterday. My sisters said such kind and eloquent things about her, I was in awe and had nothing more to add. But, I do hope I always look as great as she, at 40, at 50, and now unbelievably vibrant at 60!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Yes, we live in Texas

I am fortunate that my kids love to play together so much. Today, Anna was orchestrating a game of pretend store. "Let's go shopping. Colin, you be the pear," she said.

Her dad: "Colin has to be the pear?"
Anna: "No, he's the pear."
Her dad: "Pear, like the fruit?"
Anna: "No, pair."
Her dad: "Pair, like a pair of socks?"
Anna, more frustrated: "No, pair. Listen to my words. Pai-RR. PaiRR!"
Her dad, finally: "Oh, payer!"


And now for something completely different-

I am thinking about doing this:

National Blog Post Month

As recommended by Fussy, committing to making a post every day in the month of November. Of course it feels like I do this, since I am often writing blog posts in my head. I actually post about 3 times a week. Do you think it would get tedious, mundane? I can certainly think of blogs I wish would post daily...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mercy killing

This afternoon a receptionist approached me and said, "Can you work in a euthanasia?"

Grr... it was late, already 4:30 pm, we were booked. I asked who it was and she said, "The owner said her cat was diagnosed with cancer." I looked at the record - we hadn't seen the cat in over a year, and the last few phone calls the owners declined the recommended diagnostics. "Do you want me to fit it in tomorrow?" the receptionist asked me, and that got me back into the realm of common sense. "No, if they are ready, have them come in now." I didn't know this cat or these clients, but at least euthanasias don't take long.

Of course, I was running late with my last few appointments. I could tell by my nurse's face this cat's condition was poor. "Is it as bad as we feared?" I asked her, because usually when cases like this finally come in, they've lost half their body weight and probably should have been put down long ago. "Its the worst ever," she said, pulling back the poor creature's blanket.

I saw an emaciated cat, not just so skinny you could see all of its bones, but so skinny you wondered what was holding those bones together under that skin. Because the skin was thin, hairless on the last half of the body, covered in sores, and smelled really bad. "HOW could they let this cat get like this?" my nurse asked indignantly. "HOW COULD THEY! You can't let an animal get this bad and not bring it in."

It was alarming, but I focused on the task at hand. I pulled up the euthanasia solution, took a deep breath and walked into the room.

The woman there was quietly sobbing. I introduced myself and said, "He looks pretty bad..." That's when the story of this cat came out, with her tears. "He's been gone for weeks," she said. "Despite the cancer, he's been a really good eater. Then he disappeared, and I figured he went off to die. But I kept looking for him, you know? And then today, he came back. I don't know how he did it, but he dragged himself back into my yard. I was going to let him have a natural death, but this is too much..."

Immediately, we had nothing but sympathy for this woman and her poor cat's ordeal. The cat obviously was not ambulatory, so I don't know how he got back to her either. He was half-rotten, and literally looked like death warmed over, yet she said he ate for her once he got home.

I told her she was absolutely making the right decision, helping him with a peaceful painless death to end his suffering, and that there was nothing I could do to help him, except to help him die. I also told her that clearly this cat's will and spirit exceeded the limitations of his body.

As she held him in her arms, I gave the injection that slowed his breathing and stopped his heart. She cried and kissed him good-bye, then thanked me for "still being open." All I could think was, what kind of monster would I be if I had not stayed and helped them this night?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Froggy weather

It rained all day today, leaving a warm still evening at the end of a dark day. As I took Francesca on her evening walk, we saw at least 20 toads. They are easy to spot in the distance, little triangular sentinels at the edge of the sidewalk. If they are smart, they jump into the tall grass before Francesca approaches - she likes to give chase.

Many of them are large full-grown adults. I'm impressed when I look at them, and think, "You really are survival of the fittest!" Thinking back on the thousands of tadpoles in ponds and creeks over the summer, these big guys are the top 1%. Some of them are tiny half-grown things, perched on delicate little forelegs, all eyes and mouth.

It has been so long since we've had much rain, surely these guys have been in arrested development since high summer, revived from their hibernation hidey-holes by today's long steady soak. Wonder if any of them are ones we raised?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

All together now

We really had a great family day today. After working 6 days in a row (covering for someone on vacation plus my regular schedule), I was ready to see all of them.

Our hens have finally started really producing again, so I celebrated with scrambled eggs this morning. After a lazy morning at home, we all went to the Austin Symphony's Halloween concert.

The kids were so primed for this after watching many episodes of "Little Einsteins." The show is barely passable in my book - my biggest complaint is the contrived nonsensical plots - but they do teach a lot about orchestral instruments. My kids know the difference between woodwines and strings, and sometimes when listening to the car radio they'll shout out, "I hear brass!" They also have learned what accelerando and staccato mean.

The Halloween Concert was great - it was in a small venue and obviously geared toward kids. We of course encouraged them to sit still and be quiet, but it wasn't a huge deal if they didn't. Its a smaller version of the full orchestra, but all of them obviously care about teaching the next generation about this type of music.

The kids could wear their costumes (we just wore Tshirts since Anna's is not ready and Colin refused to wear his) and so did some of the orchestra members. During the first piece, a Berlioz march, both of my kids were enraptured and dancing in their seats. They loved the very low-tech special effects - spiders and skeletons dangling dancing from the ceiling, and later a spotlight broom dancing on the ceiling.

The music was great - lots of movie themes. We decided the best was "Superman;" it really is exciting. Colin had a hard time sitting still, until I told him it was the last song. "Then we can go?" he said. After the last note faded, Anna said, "No! Its too short!" and actually started to tear up. We pacified her by going to the stage to get a closer look at some of the instruments. Her favorite is the French horn. This girl might be ready for a longer adult concert.

After the concert we walked up 2 blocks to the Texas State Capitol and ate a late picnic lunch on the beautiful grounds, under huge stately trees. The kids recognize the dome from the highway but had never been inside. We walked in the beautiful pink granite building, and the kids climbed many steps up to the top of the dome with youthful exuberance. Afterwards we found the afternoon pleasant and the kids were in such a good mood, we were inclined to linger on our outing. We went to a Starbuck's in South Austin Anthony had wanted to show me. It has a green roof, solar panels, and rain collecting barrels. We enjoyed our beverages and the kids ran around, playing hide and go seek.

We picked up some groceries on the way home, and then enjoyed our third meal all together. No major melt downs, no big problems all day. Bravo!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Photo update

Colin got a haircut this weekend. Anthony did, too. I'm their barber, which is great because it saves money and I get to be creative. But sometimes, its a chore. Man, I look so serious, and wrinkly!

I bought Colin's Halloween costume today - Buzz Lightyear. He tried it on for a nanosecond, then wanted Anna to try it on. She really hammed it up, and he loved looking at her in it.

Here Anna demonstrates her loose tooth. Anna wants to be Lightning McQueen for Halloween, but wants to make her costume, not buy it. "Mommy, I'll just get a box and color it with my red marker!" I think it will be a little more laborious project than that, but we are going to give it a whirl.

Tonight at bedtime, Anna tripped and knocked her head on the end of the bed. She cried a lot, then said, "It hurts like all the teeth in your mouth were loose, it hurts!!!"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wiggle room

On Monday Anna started whining after she bit down on her Kashi waffle. "Something hard in there hurt my tooth!" she wailed. I thought maybe some pebble or hard blueberry accidentally got in there. I couldn't find any problem with the rest of her waffle, so I blew it off. But off and on she kept complaining about her gum hurting. Once I even spied her flossing her teeth.

Today she tried to eat a hard pear and started crying about her tooth again. "My whole mouth hurts when I bite down!" she said. "You have to check it!" Colin was having a tantrum at the same time, so the wailing fit right in. I brought Anna into the light and examined her, then felt her teeth.

One of her lower incisors wiggled.

"Anna! You have a loose tooth! You're going to lose a tooth soon!" I told her.

Anna personified the phrase turn that frown upside-down. She went from utter pathos to complete joy. "Really?" she giggled. "The tooth fairy is going to come? When? What day will I lose my tooth?"

I looked at her pretty smile, and thought of how excited we were when she was a baby and celebrated the arrival of each of those little teeth. She'll probably look a little gawky in the next few years, with a gap-toothed grin then big adult teeth, and I'm sure braces are to come...

This is all going way too fast.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

No News Update

I really thought I would be posting more about our wonderful getaway, about all the delicious food and wine, but I have been working a lot and I'm pretty damned depressed about my missing cat. Everyone at work was so sympathetic, but it was so sad, too, because Kareen's cat Al, who had been missing for a month was found but with severe head trauma and died within 24 hours, and Shawn's cat was found dead, hit by a car, all while I was gone.

Add in a couple of euthanasias on my schedule (nothing out of the ordinary, but still adds to the sadness), plus lots of reminders of Montana, and you get the picture of the sorry state of my mind.

Thank you all for your positive and empathetic thoughts. Unfortunately, I don't think Claudio insolently wandered off. I know there are coyotes in the greenbelt and I think that they got him. No calls yet. After talking to lots of neighbors, two of them saw him the night he was let out between our house and next door, and nothing since then. Yesterday another neighbor found his collar between our house and the trees.

Just don't ask me about him in person unless you're ready for the waterworks.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Sorry folks, there was no internet access in the lovely Willamette Valley, just lots of small agriculture, one big plane, and delicious pinot noir. Worked today, then searched for Claudio, the best cat in the world, and tried to keep my heart from breaking. I'll post more later, but for now these photos will have to suffice.

Mt Hood

Cherries, vinyard, hills

Wanted Poster, now at all local vet offices and in a wide radius in my neighborhood.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Paranoid New World

Hello, faithful readers, I am posting from Portland, Oregon from the Veterinary Dental Conference. Anthony and I flew out on Thursday, reluctantly checking our luggage due to the new no-liquids on board rules (normally we pride ourselves on traveling light with carry-ons only).

As I walked through security at 8 am, the affable guard muttered under his breath, "I need a drink..." then asked me, "Do you have any alcohol?" I shook my head sadly and said, "Nope, no liquids." He laughed and said that's what he liked, a good traveler.

On the first plane any time someone grumbled about the rules (like no PDAs on such a small plane, or put your seat backs up now) even though the passengers were complying, the flight attendants barked back, "You can read about it on page so-and-so in the magazine! Its not our rules, its our government's!" Sheesh!Overall, though, our travel was pretty smooth, including the nice light rail ride into downtown Portland.

Don't you love traveling west? Stay up "late" and still go to bed at a decent hour, then feel like you've had a great long rest when you get up early the next morning.

Most people who know me personally know how much I love veterinary dentistry. This weekend I'm with the Big Wigs of vet dentistry, the people who did it before it was cool. I've done 3 root canals so far, but I'm a bit of a dabbler, being a general practictioner with a strong interest. These people are board certified, and they do vet dentistry ALL DAY, every day, and research it, and publish papers. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

Anthony is accompanying me, and he loves the cool weather here - 40-60 degrees every day, while its in the 90s at home - and of course, he loves the plethora of excellent coffee bars.

I'll foist more travel writing on you as time allows.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The eggs of September

After all those scary hidden pictures I had to post something else, and I was inspired by the eggs I was cooking up tonight.

It may be "cooling off" here in Central Texas, but my hens haven't completely recovered from the stress of the heat, and we're lucky if we get one a day. Quite a contrast to spring, when we are giving them away. These eggs are precious, and the yolks are dark orange from all the yummy scraps we give them.

Yes, another picture of food (eh, Steph?)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Please, only click on these links if you are not bothered by gory graphic images! You are forewarned!

I heard all the clamoring for the gross pictures from all my recent exciting cases, but I was afraid to post them due to the delicate nature of some of my readers. Fortunately, Dooce posted some hidden pictures, so with Anthony's help I could figure out how to do it, too.

This first one is a doozy - its the poor schnauzer who had such terrible injuries to her leg through the fence she required amputation. Who could forget that story, right? Click if you really want to see the damage:

Horrible injury picture - degloved foreleg.

Right on the heels of that surgery, I did another amputation, this time on a rear leg on a ghinea pig. This poor g-pig broke her leg getting stuck in her cage at least 1 week prior to coming to see me (brought in not by her owner, but by a concerned extended family member). She had a horrible compound fracture of her tibia (shin bone) -- the bone was sticking out and the distal foot was rotting away. Of course, the owners had no money to take care of her. They "donated" her to us, and I did the surgery, and Enricka did the aftercare. Its a good thing the smell doesn't come up when you click...

Really gross compound fracture of leg with necrotic foot

More gross foot

The ghinea pig immediately post op (not so gross).

Here is Anna with the ghinea pig, just about to hand it over to her new owners (Regina and co.), about 2 weeks post-op, after receiving convalescent care from the saintly Enricka. Hey, no need to hide this photo!

OK, this last set is pretty humorous. Most likely, you haven't heard of neuticles. It is a prosthetic implant for male dogs after castration surgery. Normally I'm not into cosmetic surgery for dogs, since they can't decide if the pain of surgery is worth the superficial outcome. However, if it helps macho men decide to neuter their dogs, I'm all for it. What really cracks me up is how the neuticle marketing says it helps dogs "feel whole" after their surgery, that they won't miss their missing body part. Talk about projection and anthropomorphism! Sadly, this is the third time I have implanted neuticles.

Scrotum preoperative appearance

Intra op picture, sewing the prosthetic in place

Post op appearance, prosthetic testicle in its new home.

When you order the neuticles, you can pick the size from X-small (chihuahua) to X-large (big dog balls). You also have your choice of natural feeling silicone or hard plastic. The silicone is considerably more expensive, so all the ones I've put in were hard plastic. Good to know that the silicone is available though, in case squeezing your dog's testicles is an important part of your relationship with your pet.