Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Star Wars Questions

Anna wants to know why Jabba the Hut made Leia wear that skimpy metal bra thing and why he put a chain around her neck.

Colin wants to know where they poop on Star Wars. "Maybe in the galaxy?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


We recently decided to let our kids watch the original Star Wars Trilogy. It all started when Anthony convinced me to get Lego Star Wars for the Wii. "Its not violent!" he said. "When you hit a Lego character it just falls apart..."

Although it is more aggressive than I thought, it is a clever game, with bits of all 6 movies told silently with animated lego figures. I do not regret it, since it is the supreme motivator for Colin. "You want to play Star Wars? First, you have to do your homework, practice piano, and pick up ALL YOUR TOYS." I've never seen him do all these tasks so quickly, and without a single complaint.

Still, the wordless re-enactment is not the same. (The soundtrack on the game, however, blessedly is. Such heroic background music!) We had to show them the movies. I was 7 when I saw the first one, same as Anna. The great epic story lines loomed large over our childhoods. Of course, we decided to start with the 1977 original, A New Hope, aka Episode 4.

Which only led to more questions:

How did Darth Vader choke that man with the force?
Why did Darth Vader kill Obi Wan Kenobe?
How could Luke still hear Ben Kenobe's voice after he died?
Why did the Death Star blow up that planet?
Why did Darth Vader escape?
When can we watch the next one?

At first I told them they'd have to wait three years for the next chapter, like we did. But really, we watched The Empire Strikes Back the following weekend. More questions:

Where did they get the TomToms?
How did the snow monster freeze Luke's feet to the ceiling of his cave?
Why did they fly the Millenium Falcon into the monster on the asteroid?
Why Darth Vader cut off Luke's hand?
Why did Anakin Skywalker turn to the Dark Side?

My dears, be glad you don't have to wait 15 years for that answer...

This totally made me laugh:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beware Toxic Gum

"I have a client on the phone whose dogs just ate some gum with Xylitol," my tech told me at 5 p.m. "Is that a problem?"

Boy howdy, yes. "Tell them to come in immediately," I told him.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener often found in gums like Trident and Extra. Perfectly safe for humans, the dog's pancreas thinks it is glucose and starts pumping out tons of insulin. Dogs can die of hypoglycemia; the worst period is the first 24 hours. Later it can also cause liver damage.

Two sticks of gum is toxic for a 20 lb dog. These two chihuahuas ate a pack between the two of them -- not good. Once they arrived, we placed an IV catheter and started a dextrose drip. Baseline glucose and liver values were fine. I gave them a drug to induce vomiting.

Both of them brought up large amounts of green gum. I had been thinking only one of them would be the culprit and we'd be treating them both just to be on the safe side. Clearly they had each ingested enough to be lethal. I have to say, it was some of the nicest, minty-fresh vomit I'd ever smelled.

Soon we were closing, so they were off to the emergency clinic for overnight monitoring of their blood sugar and to continue their dextrose drip. Fortunately the vomiting seemed to have preempted anything worse - they were discharged to their happy, exhausted owners 24 hours later.

Unfortunately, this experience will not put them off the gum - I'm sure given the chance they would gladly eat it again. The owner said he's never bringing the gum in the house again. A few months ago, though, we had a client bring in her dog for a repeat Xylitol toxicosis - her visiting friend left a pack of gum on the sofa, and the dog took care of it.

Dog owners: read your packages of gum and sugar-free candy carefully! If it has Xylitol, don't bring it in the house. Or better yet, don't buy it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recipe for a Last-Minute, Girls' Night, Going Away Party

3 bottles red wine
1 bottle prosecco
3 wedges gourmet cheese
1 package edamame
2 bars Cadbury Milk Chocolate

Lots of Erasure
Total Eclipse of the Heart (turn around, bright eyes)
Don't Stop Believin'
Please Don't Go (KC style)

Sprinkling of Tears
Ciao, Fran!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mini Yang

Last week I brought home a big surgery textbook to study. I had a complicated procedure the next day, something I had only assisted on previously. This time I was going to be the primary surgeon, and I wanted to be prepared.

Anna came out from her bed to ask for more water or something, and saw me with the big tome balanced on my knees. "Mommy, what are you reading?" she asked.

"It's a surgery book. I'm reading up on a surgery for tomorrow."

"What is it called?" she asked, almost breathlessly.

"A perineal urethrostomy."

"What do you do?" she asked.

I explained it was a surgery to open up a male cat's urethra - which is naturally long and narrow. If the patient is prone to bladder irritation or infections, the resulting sludge of white blood cells, mucus, and sometimes crystals cannot pass. If catheterization doesn't permanently solve the problem, a surgery to make a shorter, wider urethra is indicated. Because females have a shorter, wider urethra, and because the distal penis is removed, some people refer to it as the "sex change operation." We just call it a "P.U."

Anna pored over the illustrations. "That looks like a really good surgery!" she said.

A few nights later, she came out while I was watching a recorded episode of Grey's Anatomy. "Mommy, what are you watching?" she asked.

"Uh, it's a show about a hospital," I said.

"Oh, I love hospitals!" she said, ready to park it next to me on the couch.

"No!" I said, "It's an adult show! You need to go to bed!" Thank goodness I did not tell her it's a show about SURGEONS. Never mind inappropriate sex at the work place!

(Fortunately the PU surgery went well. My boss came in to look over my shoulder and was perfectly supportive and helpful. The patient was continent immediately after the surgery, and was peeing freely on his recheck. He looks comfortable and relieved!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Final Comfort

I helped an ailing cat die peacefully a few weeks ago. She had kidney failure. I didn't know her very well, but it was obvious that her time had come.

The owner chose to hold her in her arms while I gave the injection through the catheter in her back leg. The kitty was very relaxed and was purring until she exhaled her last breath.

The owner cried a little, and told me she was the last survivor of her litter. "She was my mother's favorite. Always sitting on her lap. My mother passed away 7 years ago."

She put the cat down and kissed her. "When my mother was dying, she went into hospice care. The staff let me bring this cat on her last day. She sat on my mother's chest and purred while she passed away. I know she was a comfort to my mother."

What an amazing story! How wonderful of the hospice staff to recognize the bond between the older woman and her cat, and to bend the rules so they could share the last moments. I know one of my greatest pleasures in life is to have a warm, furry, purring feline on my lap. I felt honored to have been present at the passing of this beloved creature.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Afterschool conversation

Colin: "Mommy, did you know that sometimes rocks make fossils?"

Me: "Yes..."

Colin: "And all fossils are dinosaurs."

Me: "Well, not just dinosaurs. You know, some fossils are-"

Colin: "Jesus, and stuff?"

Me: "Uh, no, I was going to say plants and mammals..."

I guess 2000 years ago and 200 million years ago are all about the same when you are only 5 years ago.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Do it right the first time.

My last appointment of the day was with a new client with a sick cat. She told me she'd had the cat spayed last year, but ever since then she acted like she was going into heat every few months. She thought that the vet did a bad job, so she consulted another vet who told her that cats with a bladder infection act like they are in heat. He diagnosed a bladder infection and put her on antibiotics. She got a little better, but now was much worse - hiding and not eating.

I frowned. "Bladder infections don't make cats act like they are in heat, but they can make them urinate outside the litter box." She'd been doing that, too, but now she had vaginal discharge. I explained to the owner that remaining ovarian tissue is what causes "in heat" behavior. Prolonged exposure to estrogen from the ovaries can hypertrophy the uterine remnant left behind after a spay, which then can become infected.

This girl was sick - dehydrated, listless, and weak. I took her back for an ultrasound. I could see two black fluid filled shapes: one was the bladder, and another mass was behind it. I tapped the bladder with my needle and got urine. I tapped the second one and got pure pus. My suspicion was correct - uterine stump pyometra.

I explained to the owner her sick kitty needed surgery immediately to remove the infection that was killing her. "You do this surgery?" she asked. I assured her I could do it; I would call home and say I was staying late to do it - she needed it now. "Don't worry," her nice sister, who brought her to our clinic said, "You are at a REAL animal hospital now."

I was hoping I would be able to find the offending ovarian tissue. Sometimes if the patient is not at the height of estrus, the tissue is small and quiet and easy to miss when its no longer attached to the uterus. Or sometimes some small cells can drop from the ovary into the abdominal fat and set up shop - that too can be hard to find. Fortunately for me, this was not the case. My patient had at least half an ovary ON BOTH SIDES, covered with follicles, right where they should be.

The previous vet had also left quite a uterine remnant, which was now swollen with pus. It was at least 15 times normal size. After aspirating the infection out, I cut it short and closed it with an inverting suture pattern so the infection would not leak into the abdomen.

We took lots of pictures and saved the tissue to prove the problem. The owner said she would go back to the first vet and at least get the cost of the original spay back. She told me which clinic it was, and unfortunately this is not their first mess that I have had to clean up. As tactfully as possible, I let her know that she absolutely should go back to them and ask for payment. I saw the patient the next day and she looked perky and hydrated. Finally.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Regarding my profile photo

12:25 am

"Subject: hope your okay

when i think back, you always had a drink in your hand. I think someone should say something to you about your problem and I hope our friendship isnt hurt by this. I just want the best for you and want you to know that this is being said out of love--I think you need an intervention ;) If you really do have a drinking problem please disregard this note

This was in my inbox to greet me this morning, thanks to my new pal Facebook. It was sent to me by one of my vet school classmates. This is a person who has not friended me on FB. We were not really even friends in vet school, just friendly acquaintances. When I think back, the only time I ever saw him outside of school, we both had a beer in our hands.

Apparently he saw my profile pic on a mutual friend's site and felt motivated to send me this note, complete with terrible grammar, punctuation, and a ;) And I believe he meant for the last sentence to read "if you don't have a drinking problem disregard..."

Someone who doesn't know me now, didn't really know me 13 years ago, and hasn't talked to me since feels I need this message? Consider yourself disregarded.

New profile pic, showing my addiction to hot chocolate.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Someday I'll write text again, promise. For now, here's a coupla thousand words worth of holiday pictures

Christmas Eve finery
I feel like a spent a large portion of the holidays here, in this corner, happily fixing feasts.Bratwurst on Christmas Eve!
und gut wein.
Opening Santa presents
A huge car track
Cozy quilt
That boy is always hungry
Happy Christmas!
Sweating in anticipation
Waiting for their Christmas dinner
Love this shot
Which one should he choose?
From left, lemon curd shortbread tarts, cream cheese icing melts, real English Christmas cake, and fudge.
Happy New Year! Fran and Anna boxing in the Wii.
Cheers, Susan and William
Happy 2009!