Saturday, May 30, 2009

Swim Team!

Colin gets ready for his heat.

Anna takes the plunge!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Entering the School Zone

We had to get up extra early today, because when I work and Anthony's out of town, the kids ride the bus to school. It comes by at 7am!

I usually braid Anna's hair the night before and prepack their lunches. They drowsily eat their breakfast, then we all trudge up our street to the bus stop.

I have my tea in one hand and Colin's paw in the other. We talk about the expectations of the day while we wait. However, as soon as the yellow bus is in sight, they are all business. Like robots, they disengage from me and line up with their compadres, and file into the bus.

I start heading back down the street. Its funny, but as the bus hauls off my precious cargo, they remember me. There is no better sight than their two faces pressed in the same window, vigorously waving at me as the bus thunders by. Colin even blows kisses!

This Saturday we will be getting up EVEN EARLIER, going to their first swim meet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May is almost over...

Yikes, a week between posting, again. This month kicks my butt. We had a great but super-full Memorial Day weekend. Anna's ballet performance was the focus. It was great - she really loves to perform and shines on stage. The costumes were beautiful, and they hired a professional male ballet dancer who was terrific. The show was long, though, and I hoped the male dancer would at least capture Colin's attention.

"Did you like the boy dancer, Colin? Did you see how high he could jump?" I asked him.

"No, it was boring! I only liked the cookies," (at intermission) he told me. But! when he came out, Colin had whispered to his dad, "I see his big, fat penis!" and then, when he turned around, "Now I see his butt!"

If Colin was bored, my Grandmother was enthralled. She loved the classical ballet and the technique of the dancers. She didn't appreciate some of the modern jazz, but its not my cup of tea, either. I was glad my mom could bring her, and my aunt Cinda came, too. That must be where Anna inherited her ballet gene.

After another rain out for the open water swim practice (getting ready for the triathlon), we were finally successful on Monday. We went out to Lake Pflugerville, swam across it and back, then let the kids cavort in the water, too. It was warm but not too hot - a lovely way to spend Memorial Day.

Colin lost his first tooth today. It is really gone, swallowed up unnoticed in a bite of pear. It always makes me sad to say goodbye to these little teeth, but since the permanent tooth had come in behind a few days ago, it was time for this one to go. Anna assured him the tooth fairy would still come.

What's up next? Piano recital, end of school, triathlon June 7th. Also, all 3 of our babysitters are leaving the first 2 weeks of June, leaving us high and dry. Not sure what's going to happen, but its sure to be an adventure...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Take a Bow

So last week my day started with a real gem of a client, a young woman who has changed her name so that it is the same as an aging pop superstar; we'll call her Material Girl, or M, for short. And she has named her Yorkie puppy after a designer, we'll call him Prada.

I go in the room and M. is on the phone, wearing her ghetto shades. She looked like this:

That's not really her, of course, or Prada, but it is a dead on dramatic reenactment by one of our receptionists. (Love you, Sandra!!)

M. is clearly much more important than us, since she cannot make eye or ear contact with us during the exam. So, I pick up her little dog and start to examine it. He's only 5 months old, but he also thinks he is more important than me and tries to bite me during the entire exam. They are both total divas.

During the exam and vaccinations, M. continues her crucial phone conversation, which goes like this, "Yeah, I took the day off..... Are you going to that wedding?... Me, too... Did you see her outfit?... I thought it was so cute!.... Yeah, Prada is being really bad at the vet's... Uh huh, can you hear him?... Anyway, about yesterday..."

Finally, I've finished with the dog, so I lean over and say, "I need to talk to you now." M. gets off the phone and glares at me through her shades. "Your dog has 5 baby teeth that haven't fallen out. Its actually a common yorkie problem. They need to come out because the teeth get crowded, causing periodontal pockets and dental disease. But don't worry; we can take them out when we neuter him."

"Oh, I'm not going to do that," she huffed.

"Really?" I said, "That's too bad, because he has some pretty bad behavior issues today, and it would be a lot easier if he were neutered."

"He's not like that at home. He's only like that here. I'm going to take him to a Dog Obedience class."

"Well," I said, "He still is going to have to come here for veterinary care. Do you think you could come by with him once a week--"

"I'm not going to do that. I'm taking him to dog obedience."

"No, I mean just come by here once a week for free, stop in, let the receptionists pet him and give him a cookie. It really helps to--"

"I told you I'm NOT going to do that! He's going to dog obedience!"

Now I was steamed. "OK, I can see you don't want my help. I was trying to do something for you for free, but I'll just make you a new estimate for pulling the baby teeth."

I left the room, then returned with an estimate for extractions and a handout about why the teeth needed pulling. M. was already back on the phone. I showed her the estimate, and she tossed it on the table saying, "Yeah, that's never going to happen!" Was she talking to me, or her friend on the phone? I don't know, but I left as soon as possible, and the door may have slammed on my way out.

She stayed on her phone in the reception area, saying, "That f'ing bitch said my dog had a behavior problem. I should have slapped that ho!" M. told the receptionist that I didn't even give the vaccines, and the poor girl came back wide eyed to ask me what happened. I said, "Tell her she didn't see me give the shots because she was on the phone the entire time. If she's not happy, she can have a copy of her records and go elsewhere."

She took her records, and declared she was never coming back. Don't worry, M., we already marked your record as "Persona Non Grata." And your little dog, too!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Survived the Great Birthday Weekend of 2009

Where's my Tshirt? This weekend featured:

1. My birthday
2. My dad's birthday
3. Colin's birthday
4. Early celebration for my sister Emily's birthday
5. Ballet rehearsal
6. Colin's party
7. 5K Pfun run
8. Lots of restaurant meals (yea!) and lots of fun. Full, exhausting fun. I didn't even get on the computer for 3 days. I'm here tonight, but after today's bike ride and four loads of laundry and house cleaning and ballet and swim practice... I'm ready for some mindless TV.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

End of Life Care

Today I euthanized a favorite patient. "P" was a little Schipperke who I've been treating for years with lymphosarcoma. Lymphosarcoma is one of the tumors in dogs that responds very well to chemotherapy. The chemo is not too harsh (no vomiting, and no baldness), and usually we can get an additional year of life out of them.

These owners had a dog who'd previously died from chemotherapy, so they were referred to a veterinary oncologist. However, they did NOT get along with the oncologist and decided to continue the therapy at our clinic, and that's how I inherited them.

I got along very well with these owners, and grew to know them intimately from caring for their dog every few weeks for three and a half years. "P" was famous at our clinic for how long he survived after diagnosis. He came out of remission a few times, but we always managed to pull him back. He was amazing and an inspiration to us all.

Chemotherapy is not cheap. Fortunately these owners had the financial means to thoroughly work up and treat every problem. I even cleaned his teeth twice in between treatments. And although no treatment or test was too costly, his owners always made it clear to me that they did not want him to suffer. They did not want to extend his life artificially just for their own sake. In this regard, we saw eye-to-eye.

Lately, "P" had not been quite as vigorous at his rechecks, although he still chased the tennis ball every night and was eating well. Today, they told me he had suddenly gone downhill: no eating or ball playing for 2 days. Physically, he looked pale and quiet, but his lymph nodes had not gotten larger. I ran some labwork. His kidneys, always before compromised but stable, had dramatically failed.

I talked to my clients about their options. We could hospitalize, put him on fluids and try to get him out of this crisis, but I wasn't sure if he would be better in 2 days or if he'd be the same as today. And I didn't know how long he had anyway with the cancer.

The owners were a wreck. Although they'd prepared for this day for over 3 years, it hit them hard. "We can't do that to him," they decided. "It's time to let him go." I placed an IV catheter and sent them home. A few hours later, on their beautiful back porch, I injected the pentothal into the catheter, and he literally passed away peacefully in their arms.

It was so sad to say goodbye to "P," but it was the right thing to do for him. It made me so glad for my profession. I'd had a conversation with my Uncle Tom recently (he's an ICU nurse) and he said, "You vets are much more compassionate to your patients at the end of their lives than we are." He described how many invasive, extensive, and costly procedures are done in the last few days of their lives, even when they are moribund. Shortly after that discussion, I heard Robert Martensen on Fresh Air. He talked about the same issue, and how he handled it with his elderly mother. He talked about how physicians will ask family members to decide whether to continue "life support," (how they describe pacemakers and heart valve replacements) and how these people, with have no medical training, feel pressured to continue. Both Tom and Dr Martensen mentioned how the cost of these procedures on patients with multiple health issues and limited life spans is draining the whole system.

If "P" had gone to a human hospital, he would have been admitted for days, put on dialysis, had ultrasounds and cultures. Eventually he would have died in a hospital bed, perhaps with his family, perhaps not.

Of course we can't decide to euthanize people, for multiple ethical reasons. And, I am so glad when pet owners decide to authorize expensive, heroic treatments for the animal companions that share their lives and their homes. But I am equally glad when they recognize it is time to stop fighting death, and to welcome it for its ending of suffering. As much as it was a privilege to care for "P" during his life, and help him fight cancer, it was an honor to be with him and his family at his death.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I was awakened this morning by two cherubs, carrying a sloshing bowl very full of cereal and milk.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!" they cried. "We brought you breakfast in bed!"

It was the best bowl of cereal I've ever eaten. Hope your day was equally joyful.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Flu Hysteria

Although there has only been 1 confirmed case in Austin of La Influenza de Porcina (swine flu), our elementary school has been on HIGH ALERT! First, they canceled last Friday's Nature Walk for Anna's class. This makes no sense, since it is OUTSIDE and doesn't involve confined spaces mixing lots of children. They postponed Field Day, the Book Fair, and the 2nd grade music program (I was a little sad about this, but with so many tone-deaf kids, Anthony was not). They cancelled the 2nd grade trip to see the movie "The Earth" -- this one I could sort of get behind, although our family is not curtailing similar outings ourselves.

Then, in today's backpacks was a notice that a student came down with influenza. It hasn't been confirmed to be Swine Flu, but as a precaution they are closing the school for TWO WHOLE DAYS to minimize contagion and clean the campus.

I think they are totally over-reacting. Fortunately, Anthony's inspection for tomorrow got postponed, and I am off on Wednesday, so we have child care covered. I am sure there are many working parents in a bind tonight.

I will comfort myself with these:

Although much of the Texas Peach crop was destroyed by hail, these rosy beauties from San Marcos escaped that sad fate. They are a little tart but they are most welcome. Plus, I cannot resist getting a large basket of seconds - fruit that is so ripe it bruises on the way to market, or has been blemished in infancy by wasp stings. These tarnished gems seem so much more precious to me! And this is half of my Saturday haul (we ate the rest). Time for a cobbler or crisp...