bookmark_borderLife Goes On After Lessons Learned

Sometimes, life bites us in the arse and we turn around, surprised and, perhaps, more than just a little knocked off our not-so-proverbial feet.

I prepared. I tried to do everything right. And yet, so many things went wrong.

While driving up Nawth to attend my nephew’s high school graduation, I had an accident. Traffic was heavy but going at a fast speed. There had been the usual “Why are we suddenly going 50mph??” places so, like a good driver, I kept distance between me and the car in front of me. Near Woodstock, VA at mile marker 285.5 on I-81 at about 6pm, the car in front of me slammed on their brakes. I knew they did because the back of their car was hopping and fish-tailing. I put on my brakes and went to the right, into the right hand lane, so that if I didn’t stop in time, I would go beyond them. I didn’t want to go to the left, into the median, because of gravel and grass not helping me to stop. But my rear-wheel drive truck went into a slide. The back of the truck, an ’03 Chevy S10 Crew cab, slid to the left into the grassy median. When it did, I could not correct the slide. I knew, in that brief moment, that I was going to crash. I knew.

According to witnesses, the truck slid a few feet on the two driver’s side wheels, lay on that side, continued to skid, then rolled onto its top. I do not know if it rolled again or just landed on its top. I hit no one else. No debris hit anyone else.

During the slide, my left elbow hit the highway and I felt it get road rash. Then the next thing I know, the visor is in my face. It takes a few seconds for me to gather my thoughts. I didn’t realize I was upside down until they (the bystanders who stopped) reached in to unbuckle my seat belt.

Before I would let them do that, though, I was saying over and over, “Where’s Quinn? Where’s my dog?” Someone removed Quinn (who never made a sound) and then someone unbuckled me. I assumed my left arm was hamburger or at least broken so I tucked it under me and rolled out of what was left of my truck. Someone comes back and says they need the leash. I say backseat. They reach in and I see someone take the Flexi leash. Someone else is saying don’t move her further (meaning me). My neck is resting on some guy’s foot. He is shaking. Just as the paramedics get there, someone comes up and says “Don’t panic, but your puppy ran off”. Yeah, don’t panic. I try to get up but so many hands held me down. And, really, I don’t think I could have gotten up. I am told later that only my shoulders and head were out of the truck and I was twisted because of the way I rolled out of it.

The paramedics had to get creative. They needed to brace my neck and back yet because of my position, they couldn’t get a collar on me. So, bless their hearts, they used towels. And, really, I couldn’t move once it was all on. Once they got that on, they then concentrated on getting me on a back board and getting me out of the truck. (meanwhile, one of the tires was leaking and screaming that high pitched sound) All the time they are doing this, I am saying “I can’t go, I need to get my dog.” The paramedics assured me that I couldn’t do anything, that the trooper would look, that others were already looking. Against my wishes (but for my own good), I was extracted and taken to the hospital.

My time at the hospital is kind of blurry and not very pleasant. But what I remember is this: my painstakingly accurate spreadsheet of my medications on my phone was worthless. They needed something fast. And trying to resize the spreadsheet constantly wasn’t working. They wanted me to tell them my allergies. I couldn’t remember them all. A print out in my wallet case (which the trooper brought later) did not include my allergies.

I had the ICE app on my phone that listed medications and allergies. Did I think of it? No. Did they ask if I had one? No. I have a MedicAlert bracelet (several actually) and a necklace. Where were they? In my bag. By the time I thought of it, they no longer thought it necessary to know all of my history.

My arm is not broken and was barely bleeding. I was offered no ice pack. At one point, I was on the back board still, waiting for results of something, and I am bawling. My phone is across the room. I have no button to call a nurse. I called out about 4 times before someone heard me. It was not a busy night. She gave me my phone and left. I feel so fucking alone. My Quinn is missing. Lorna is 6 hrs away. Kevin (my brother) and his wife are still several hours away. I punish myself by refusing all medications but ibuprofen. So they don’t take me seriously, thinking I am not in that much pain. I am discharged at midnight with a prescription of ibuprofen. No diagnosis, not warnings or things to look out for. One of the papers talks about nightmares. Another talks about how to care for a bone contusion. At least I knew then was was up with my arm.

Meanwhile, Lorna had figured out Facebook and had posted about what had happened and that Quinn was missing. And Quinn pert near went viral by morning. I started getting calls from people asking where should they start looking. And I’m like, “Mile marker 285.5 but who are you?” Two women met us at one of the “cross overs” (those roads that connect the two sides of the highway) and we discussed options. We gave them Quinn’s blanket, food bowl, and some food. They would set up a place for her to return to. The DOT Driver Assist guy stopped at one point to ask what we were looking for. He took notes. The county Animal Control guy met with us and sent us to a road under the highway that had a creek running nearby, thinking she wanted to get out of the heat and went to water. The Shenandoah County dispatch person was patient through all of my calls to her. My GP Nicole Ogg was friends with a GP in Woodstock. That friend happened to have another friend and patient who was the head of the County Shelter. People who knew people who knew other people.

We all kept looking but Kevin (my brother) and his wife Colleen had to get home. And I was really messed up. My arm was huge, my back was screaming, my head was pounding, so many parts of me hurt. We made the decision to head to NJ (it was only 4hrs away). We stopped at the accident site and called for Quinn over and over, just like we had been all morning. All of us frustrated we had to leave. It started pouring rain. Absolutely pouring. We saw the two ladies setting up the tarp over Quinn’s blanket and food at 285.4. We saw a DOT truck stopped just up the road but they were doing shoulder work and we thought nothing of it.

Just up the highway from Woodstock is Winchester. As we neared the exit, Kevin was trying to figure out how we could stay longer and keep looking yet still get Colleen and him their medications (they left home with nothing). Just as we passed it, my phone rang. It was the DOT Driver Assist guy. He had Quinn. He was at mile marker 285.8. He had seen us across the road but lost us in the heavy rain. He didn’t want to leave to go get us, afraid we’d lose her again. He thought she was a bear cub until he got closer.

We turned around and raced back but the heavy rain kept us from driving too crazy. I got another call. The State Trooper was there and they were trying to at least keep her in place until I got there. She was scared and fear biting. I got another call. She was in the Trooper’s car. I cannot tell you how I felt. I just can’t. I mean, I didn’t think we would find her that day. No one did. She was a puppy. Frightened, lost on a four lane highway when she had grown up on a one-lane road. She was lost in the median but at some point that morning, had crossed to the northbound side. We stopped to get her blanket, hoping it would calm her. It was soaked. Kevin wrung it out, grabbed her bowl, and we hurried.

And there she was. On a leash held by the state trooper. My girl. She was soaking wet, covered in green balls and other seed heads. I pulled off five ticks on our way to NJ. Kevin thanked both men many times since all I was seeing was my girl.

So what could I have done differently?

The wreck itself. Rear-wheel drive trucks are stupid. All that power on an empty box when it should be up front. Once the rear wheels hit the grass median, it was over. So not much I could have done there. I had too many loose things in the truck. My laptop bag was open. The case of water bottles was on the front seat, open. Quinn’s toys. Her bag. All of that loose in a sliding, rolling vehicle equals a mess. Where was my wallet? The one with the information they needed? Not in my pocket. Not in my bag. But in the toss bin thing in the console of the truck. Next time I travel, more things will be tied down and better contained.

Losing Quinn. I had them take her out first. She had on a collar and a harness and was attached to a tether hooking her to the seat belt. She slammed into the back of my seat, I do remember that. The harness is not for seat belt use, but more for walking and anti-driver distraction. Meaning keeping the dog out of the driver’s way. Quinn was kept within the vehicle. All she had (besides ticks) was an eye injury that our vet believes happened during the accident and not later. A seat belt harness would have kept her from hitting my seat and perhaps kept her from injuring her eye. Although there were a lot of things being tossed around and any of them could have hit her. As for her getting lost, that was beyond my control. We thought she was dragging the flexi leash but we found it in the truck later. When she was found, she was not wearing her harness but my guess is she chewed it off. I don’t hold any grudge toward the person who had hold of her. She’s stronger than she looks.

My medical information. Oy, I cannot believe all my planning and it doesn’t work. For now I will be wearing the MedicAlert necklace or bracelet at all times. And I will ensure their information is up-to-date. And I will remember I have the ICE app. Duh.

Lessons learned. Life goes on. Bumps and bruises heal. The truck can be replaced. Quinn and I cannot. Life goes on.

bookmark_borderSouthern Service Dawgs

Because I haven’t enough to do, I started up an older project a few months ago.

A long time ago, back when I first started training Joella, I got involved in a Yahoo group for folks who were training their own Service Dogs. It was an interesting group of folks that’s for sure! Anyway, we realized there were a bunch of us who lived kinda sorta close together and we decided to have a gathering. I can’t remember the date but Jo was young so it was probably ’01 or ’02. We had a get together at Elena’s house in Charlotte. It was rather fun! I guess there were about seven dogs of various sizes (Akita, Keeshound, Aussie, Rottweiler, Beagle, several Mutts) but you know, not much barking at all! And they had a blast. We let them off leash in Elena’s fenced-in yard once we figured they were getting along and off they went.

And it was good for us humans to get together, too, to meet in person and get to discuss our dogs in person. I’m visual to a fault so getting to see what people meant when they were discussing something really helped me. I am still really good friends with Elena and am online friends with at least one other person from that gathering.

My project that I restarted is the Southern Service Dog website, It’s been in existence since shortly after that gathering. I tried to keep up with all the SD laws in the Southern states but states change their websites a lot (which breaks links). But now there are two organizations that are doing a good job of keeping track of the laws and keeping it all organized. I also had several listings of commands several of our dogs had, what we were working on, photos of the dogs at work and play, etc. I really wanted to emphasize that Service Dogs were DOGS, not robots. They had down time and yet all of them would “work” with the cape off. The cape was just for the public’s benefit, really. Anyway, since I am getting back into the Service Dog thang again and doing more research, I dusted off the website and revamped it. It’s still got a long way to go, however.

It used to be based purely on html code. Oh, that was fun to do. Then I did it with CSS which was slightly better. But now I have it on WordPress which will really keep it organized and easier to update. I am basically starting over since so much of the information from the old site no longer applies. Which brings me to the point of this missive. If anyone lives in the South and has a Service Dog, or would like a Service Dog, or trains dogs, or breeds dogs that would make good Service Dogs or has anything to do with dogs and Service Dogs, I invite you to join me on this endeavor. I would like to have regular blog posts by individuals (other than me!) on topics related to Service Dogs in some way.

Interested? Comment below or on my Facebook page!

bookmark_borderFenced In

We need to rebuild the dog lot fence. It won’t be in the same area but on the other side of the house, going down into the garden (or what once was the garden). That means the pear tree has to go. We’ll start measuring soon, deciding the size. Then calling around for estimates. The original dog lot was HUGE. The dogs miss it muchly.

The old fence was put in, wow, how many years ago? Long time ago, that’s for sure. Fifteen maybe? The part that attaches to the back porch was done later. And the Dog Deck was done back in ’09. Yeah, time flies when you’re pouring money into an old house. Which happens a lot here.

We have decided to hire a company to put it in versus us doing it ourselves. We could have a fence party, which is how the first one went in. It was a blast! But now all our friends are as old as we are. Instead, we’ll have a fence opening party and folks can bring their dogs to pee on every post. Having someone else put one in will cost more but hopefully will last longer. Before the limbs fell, most of the posts were being held up by sheer determination and honeysuckle vines.

Anyway, this is a Google maps pic of the house. The red line is where the fence used to be. Well, technically it is still there but parts of it were smashed. The yellow is all they have left and includes the Dog Deck. The pink line is about where we’d like to put it.

Another reason we need a dog fence? We have three big dogs. Mike is the smallest at 60lbs, Whisper is around 75lbs, and Sam at 85lbs. And sometime in the spring, we’ll be getting a puppy. They’ll all need space to stretch out and run.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll be getting a puppy. We’ve talked about it for a while. It’s still not written in stone final (I owe Elena an essay) but we’re getting things done that need to be done, even if the puppy doesn’t happen. Dog fence tops the list. Next is lift for truck. If I am to get a puppy to train as a Service Dog, then I need to go places more. That’s the whole point, to get me out of the house. And I can’t do that because I can’t load the chair by myself. After that is more general house arrangement stuff. You know how it goes. One thing leads to another. You can’t get one thing done until you get this other thing but you can’t get that one done until that one over there is done and….yeah, old houses. Gotta love ’em.

bookmark_borderThe Pig Didn’t Fly Because….

I finally found something I was looking for! An article from the perspective of the woman with the pig on the plane. If she were legitimate, one would exist. On my one hand, perhaps she is. Perhaps she does have issues and truly desired to have this animal with her on her trip. And that is her right according to the Air Carriers Access Act (links at the bottom) which covers planes which the ADA does not.

She (I’ll call her RB) is upset from it, of course. RB has had to take her Facebook page down. Photos of RB’s face were posted on a news site and people who were in photos with RB on her Facebook page prior to the incident were not happy to be identified with her. Go friends and co-workers! Love to you, too!

I tried to read the article in a way that I would understand her side. RB must be miserable and even more mentally pushed back. And I did try. I always do. Because I always hold out the hope that there was a mistake somewhere, you know? That surely to shit someone really did not take a pig on a plane, faking it as an emotional support animal!

But there are a few things that stuck out. And this was someone who was not with her but speaking from elsewhere but it does make me wonder even further. Anyway, Victor Kinoian, the owner of My Pet Piggy LLC where the woman bought her pig, says she (the passenger) worked with the airlines to ensure the airlines was aware she was arriving with her pig. Then he says:

“American Airlines knew they needed to accommodate my customer, so after calling & triple checking for approval to make sure a pig as an ESA (emotional support animal) was allowed to fly, she received no help from them that day or placed in an appropriate seat to ensure safe travels & proper accommodation for her ESA.”

Red flag. For one, it is not the airlines that determines the seating. The passenger does. Why did SHE pick a seat in the middle of the plane? Why not the bulkhead? As a person who has flown with a Rottweiler, I didn’t expect the airline to appropriately seat me when I got there. I expected me to pick out the best seat ahead of time. I’m not a child. And she’s not mentally ill, she’s not mentally challenged, she has a need for emotional support. That means she has the mental capacity to determine this for herself. Ahead of time. This wasn’t Southwest she was flying.

And she didn’t need help from them. She could walk to her seat by herself. She could put her bag away by herself. Her special needs were for emotional support. If she needed special accommodation to assist with that (seated early to help with crowds, for example), then she would have gotten it.

“After passengers became very standoffish towards Hobey, he had an accident, & as we all know, accidents do happen.”

Um, not by Service Dogs. I would be devastated if my SD pooped on a plane. If this guy who is selling pigs to be emotional support animals thinks “accidents happen”, then he’s an idiot. I know that pigs not eating “slop” must have better smelling poop than pigs that do, but we’re talking about a very crammed airplane. I don’t care who poops, it’s gonna stink for several rows.

And if Joella, my Rottweiler Service Dog, if she had gotten upset every time someone was “standoffish” toward her? She’d have crapped a lot. Thank gawd she just gave them her softest look instead and said “Why don’t you like me?” and moved on.

“What is expected of an ESA? Are they not allowed to have accidents? If my 90 yr old grandma has an accident mid flight, is she to be removed?! It’s not to be funny, but if there wasn’t so much grey area for situations like this to occur, this would have never happen. My customer was setup for failure by the airport and deserves an apology and an apology to all the passengers on the plane for having poor regulation and lack of common sense.”

What is expected? They are held to high standards, sir. They are representing not only all the other ESAs that come after them, but all the Service Dogs, too. And you, sir, are setting a poor standard. I expect my Service Dog to act in such a way no one knows she is there. I expect my SD to respond appropriately to stress (hide behind me, right Joella?) and not poop on the floor.

There is no grey area. It is written as a law called the Air Carriers Access Act. Read it. Perhaps your “customer” should, too. I take that back. There are grey areas. They are there on purpose. It is there because no passenger, no ESA, no SD, no situation is identical to the next. You cannot rubber stamp this and expect us all to fit.

RB could be legitimate. If she is, she needs to tell the guy she bought the pig from to shut the F up ’cause he’s an idiot and is not helping her or anyone else one dang bit. He’s enjoying his few minutes in the limelight while she is at home, probably with the curtains closed. Does she deserve the heckling? Did she really get herself a seat not in the bulkhead? I’ve seen photos of the pig in the airport. It’s not *that* big but it would not have been happy in that little space at her feet from Rhode Island to South Carolina. Did she really expect the airlines to take care of her that much? If she did, then she is…well, she needs to plan a little bit better the next time.

Correction: I originally called the law the Air Carriers Act but it is the Air Carriers Access Act. I have corrected all of the references. I should have known it was too easy and too few letters! Elena is much more smarter than me and caught it. – PaulaO

Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) – web version | pdf version
Air Carriers Access Act FAQ (pdf)
ACAA Summary from Disability Travel
Air Consumer Rules – scroll down to “Part 382”
Another article about RB (basically says the same thing but has more photos of the pig)

bookmark_borderHe Was So Sassy

Sassafras came to us like so many others. He just chose us and arrived. We at first thought he belonged to someone else but then we saw his long fur was looking matted, a sign he was a stray. Great. He wouldn’t let us near him. Ran if we got too close. Spent all day hanging out at our place. He loved laying in the sun up on some wood we had but he’d take off if a human dared to get within ten feet.

When he started looking thin, we decided it was time to do something. We put some dry food in a metal bowl and took it to the end of the ramp where the cement pad is. We rattled the bowl, a universal sound for cats. He was out there and had ran to hide under one of the cars. We went to sit on the steps, partly just to get him used to us being outside, but mostly because we were talking about something another we wanted to do outside. We heard him eating so figured in a few weeks, maybe we’d catch him.

He finished eating, sauntered down the ramp toward us, and threw himself into Lorna’s lap. Just like that, he was home. This cat we could not get close to had decided we were all right after all.

That was way back in, we think, 2003. He was, we think, about 5 or so years old. So he was about 13-16yrs old. So he wasn’t a spring chicken! He was on medication for hypertension and a special diet for kidney failure. His kidney values weren’t too bad, but were on their way and the theory was the sooner we started the diet, the slower the failure would happen. Two months ago, his kidney value was still just within the realm of “iffy” but not “ohmygod” bad.

Today, April 29, 2014, we let him go. He wouldn’t eat for Lorna Friday morning but when I gave him food a few hours later, he ate a little. Some other stuff happened and we got him a “work in” appointment Friday afternoon and he stayed there Friday night.

Basically, Sass was dehydrated and constipated. His kidneys was putting out the fluid so fast, his body wasn’t able to use any of it. When I picked him up on Saturday, I was told he should have a BM sometime over the weekend, if not, to call them Monday. He didn’t. Monday we got an appt. with our usual vet, Dr. Knepshield, who gave him a thorough exam.

The plan of action for Monday night was to do fluids again and do an ultrasound in the morning. We left him there again and went out to eat before going home. When we got home, Dr. K had left a message to say that when she got him to the back where the lighting was better, they noticed that one side of his nose seemed swollen. They were going to start him on an antibiotic into his I.V. but did we still want to do the ultrasound? An infection (tooth, sinus, etc) could be causing most of the other issues. We said sure, do it.

Dr. K called me this morning and I knew from her voice that it wasn’t good. Sass had a mass on his liver (cancer), his somethinganother duct from his kidneys was something (she was using big words), and his blood work came back not good at all. In other words, Sass had a lot of problems and being constipated was just the most outward symptom and the final symptom. There was nothing we could do. We were not even talking about months, we were talking about less than a week.

We had the option to learn how to give him the fluids and bring him home for a day or two and we did seriously consider that. Lorna’s given a cat fluids before (they get it subcutaneously vs in a vein). But Sass hated, absolutely hated getting into the crate and going to the vet. Every time he had to go in for something, he had to be bathed because he would either poop or pee (or both) all over the crate and himself. It just was not worth it. We’re talking about quality of life at that point and that experience far outweighed everything else.

So we let him go.

We’ll miss you, big man. Say hi to everyone for us.

bookmark_borderCritter Care and Lovin’

What we are thankful for: there’s so many things, you know? But this Thanksgiving we are especially thankful for the wonderful veterinarians we have. Charlotte Street Animal Hospital is a great group of folk.

We took Annie Oakley (cat) in to the vets Monday night. She’s always been a finicky eater and her missing a meal here and there is nothing unusual. But it had been several days and she’d not eaten much at all. Saturday she took herself outside for a bit, Sunday we think she went outside to do her business but that was it. But Monday during the day, she just stayed in a lump and didn’t move.

We took her in and nothing really seemed obvious except she had a high fever (104F, normal is 101F), very very low blood pressure, and inconclusive blood work. They gave her dose of fluids (cats get it under the skin vs in a vein) and we were all surprised at how quickly her body absorbed it. She didn’t seem dehydrated by boy she sure was!

We decided to leave her there overnight so they could give her an I.V. of fluid and medication. That’s always tough to do, you know?

The next day, Dr. Knepshied (our usual vet) and the one from that night (Dr. Amber) tried to figure out what was up with Annie. It could be this, it could be that, it could be something else. Her fever was still up but the blood pressure was getting better. She had started eating but only a little. We got three phone calls during the day, updating us on her condition and what they were doing. She hadn’t seemed painful that night but after the fluids and getting the fever down a little, she was reacting to pain in her abdomen and lower spine. They did x-rays which were normal. No foreign object, no bad disk, no obvious anything. Silly, weird Annie. We went to check on her that late afternoon and to talk to the vet (Dr. Peters), trying to figure out what the hell was up with her. She had eaten some more (they had actual cooked, shredded chicken for her) but as soon as she saw us, she dove head first into the dry food they’d left out and was eating like she was starving. This is not unusual for cats. We took off the soft ‘cone of shame’ they use for cats so she could reach the food easier. She ate a lot and the techs and vet were happy. We were too! We left her there a second night, hoping the continued fluids would help with her fever and blood pressure.

Wednesday morning, the vet called (Dr. Amber) and they discovered that she was reacting more to the abdominal pain than spine. As she was getting better, she was reacting more so they could tell where she hurt and all that. We agreed to an ultrasound. A few hours later, bingo. We had our diagnosis. Pancreatitis. It was a diagnosis that was one we were looking at but had ruled out because the blood work didn’t reflect that. Nope, the little shit tricked us. The gall bladder was normal but the pancreas was enlarged and dark (infection). But the ducts from the gall bladder to the pancreas was huge. Dr. Knepshield had done the ultrasound and said it was the largest she’d ever seen.

The good news is the treatment we’d been doing (antibiotics, I.V. fluids, pain medication) was the typical treatment for what she had so it worked out. Because of the holiday, we brought her home last night. She is acting MUCH much better. Kinda slow still but she’s eating. She’s skittish which is to be expected. Damn it’s good to have everyone home!

Now, to back track a little. We saw Dr. Amber Monday night. They’re open until 9 every weeknight. She called us at 10pm that night to tell us how she was doing. Then, she called us at 8am and 9am to give updates. She’d come in on her day off to help with Annie and a dog that had also come in that night. Dr. Knepshield does surgeries on Tuesdays but she checked on Annie between each one. Then when she had an emergency surgery that afternoon, Dr. Peters stepped in. All of this for one little cat. Then the cooked chicken, then the multiple techs and front desk people that went back to pet and talk to her in efforts to get her to eat. Then Dr. Knepshield doing the ultrasound in between all of her other duties. And then and then and then….This is why we love our vets!

Granted, we sure paid for it! Holy cow, we’ve never had to pay out that much money before. Let’s just say we are on a payment plan. Not as bad as we thought but higher than we’d hoped. Worth every penny. Because there’s no cost you can put onto the obvious care and concern and extra mile these vets went to.

bookmark_borderWeird Nocturnal Sound

We live out in a rural area. Open fields and small groups of trees, no real ‘forest’ any more. Where our house is, we’re in this dip, in a bowl like space, and sound echos. We hear our neighbors as if they were standing in our yard. Across the road (which is about level to the roof of our house), they have a pipe that drips water into an old bathtub. This is for the handful of cattle they have. Sometimes, we hear that water as if I am standing on the from porch, pouring it.

We’ve heard owls before here, mostly screech owls (which sound very creepy). But lately, this makes the third night, we hear this extremely weird call. The first night, we think someone is screaming, or calling out. Then we thought it was a weird house alarm or some dying dog. Whatever it was, it sounded as it if was in the front yard which means it could be anywhere within a square mile. It is really weird. Second night, about a week later, it only called out a few times. And tonight it did it again. I happened to be up (yes, at 4am; not been to bed yet) so I grabbed my iPod Touch and went out to the front porch.

The first time we heard it, it stopped when it heard me shut the front door. Which makes me think it was really close. This time, it was more distant and it didn’t stop. I recorded a few seconds out front then went to the back porch and recorded some more. Armed with that, I went online (Google is our friend) and I *think* it is a Great Horned Owl. Which would be way cool.

Here’s the sound from the front porch (it is raining and the calls have a dog down in the ‘trailer estates’ barking)

Here’s from the back porch (every time I thought it had stopped, I turned the iPod so I could turn it off but then it would start again. hence the scratching noises near the end).

Now, compare to this: (source – The Owl Pages)
Owlet calling for food
male squawk

What do y’all think?

bookmark_borderDog Ramp Revisited

We did some work on the dog ramp again. Nothing major, just added a railing. But the railing is about shin high to us so it is odd.

Joella does this thing we call “the bunny hop”. She barks and raises up so her front feet leave the ground. It’s just an inch or two. The more excited she is, the higher she goes. It’s funny to watch. Anyway, I was out back, on the side of the house with the dog ramp, and she was up there watching me. I can’t remember what I was doing. Anyway, she starts doing the bunny hop thing. She stumbles and her front foot slips off the top of the deck and she almost falls off.

We recently got a new riding mower (insert Tim Taylor ‘more power’ grunt) and I’ve been parking it in the back of the house. Joella loves to chase the lawnmowers and, not surprisingly, so does Mike. So I was using the new mower in the back near the dog ramp and saw Jo jumping and barking at me. Then she stumbled and almost fell off the edge again.

Then, a few days later, she is trying to come into the house but the boys are playing and they hit her. She falls down and nearly goes over the edge again.

We took the hint. We got some decking to make a nice wide railing and we put it up today. We wanted it high enough she could not fall but low enough they could see over it. We may later add a higher railing for human use but it’s not anything we are rushing to do.

This is Lorna standing on the ground as we put in the last piece. You can see how high the deck is on that side. It is even further down on the other side, where they do their looking and barking.

This is Lorna, Sam (the big guy), and Mike. Sam will no longer be able to jump from the ground up onto the deck (yes, he can do that with ease) but I think he’ll get over it. The railing is about chest high to him so it will be good. For some reason, Jo just would NOT come over to it. She didn’t want to so by george she wasn’t going to.

Finally, using her favorite treats, we get Jo to stand at the railing to make sure we got it good for her. We had to resort to measuring her and hoping we got it right because she just would not get near it when we were starting. Yes, she is a Princess. It turned out to be a little higher than we wanted but it will be fine.

We left an opening at one end because there just was no way to put in the railing without some redneck engineering. But when they do their barking and stuff, they are further down. We’re going to be watching to see if they move to that section just because there’s nothing there. (oh, and that’s my new lawn mower. A Cub Cadet.)

And here’s the finished thing. (click for larger version) And no, that railing at the end is not crooked. It is level. We think it is because the post on the left is higher than the post on the right so it looks tilted.

To refresh your memory (or to see what you missed)
Starting the ramp (12/7/09 – wow. has it been that long??)
Learning about the concept of “square”
And angles
Putting the boards down
Finished at last! (12/17/09)
Photos of it done (it snowed on 12/18 and covered it for over a week)


We lost PopCorn today. She’s been off her feed for quite some time and we’ve spent a small fortune trying to figure out what it is and get her to eat. We decided to have her teeth cleaned and perhaps one pulled to eliminate them as a cause. But her blood work was still way off and another xray shows the odd place in her abdomen has grown.

The first xrays a while back showed maybe something there, probably not. She was horribly infested with some sort of parasite so we treated her for that and, for a while, she got kinda better. Then she regressed. We treated with a more aggressive de-wormer since she was still testing positive. We used an ulcer medication, some antibiotics, and something else.

Then we tried an ultrasound and the area still showed something, although nothing definite. Her liver blood work was fine as was her kidneys. We changed to a stronger (and hellaciously expensive) antibiotic and yet more dewormer (she was still freakin’ positive!).

PopCorn did well for a few days then again, stopped eating. That sound so mundane doesn’t it? Stopped eating. Lorna, bless her heart, has been quite creative in trying to get Pop to eat. Baby food, boiled chicken, broth soaked dog food, expensive purposely bland canned dog food, hell, we even tried cat food!

So we decided to get her teeth checked. We knew several of them were bad but we put off treating it due to the risk of anesthesia. We dropped her off last night to let her settle (she gets car sick). They did blood work again to check the anemia and white blood cell counts. The anemia was very bad. 25 if that means anything. The white blood cell count was lower, but still kinda high. Dr. Knepshield did an abdominal xray again and saw that the suspicious place had grown. The stomach was now pushed out of place and the liver seemed to be as well. We were given the option of doing exploratory surgery but we all knew the cancer had returned. We were expecting it and was surprised it had been nearly a year and a half since it had first appeared. Oddly, her liver results were still normal.

After discussing it, Lorna and I decide it just wasn’t fair to Pop. If she was eating, then yeah, we would have waited longer. But she wasn’t. She was also getting quite grumpy and we’ve gone through the biting dog scenario before.

So we went in, spent some time with her, discussed it some more. PopCorn wasn’t helping at all. She was actually bouncy! We looked at the xrays, discussed it some more, then decided it wasn’t fair at all to Pop and we let her go.

Dr. Knepshield did an autopsy for her own education and called me with the results. Yes, it was cancer. It had abscessed and was spilling into her abdomen. It was attached to her liver. If we had chosen to do the exploratory surgery, they would have removed the mass and that lobe of her liver but…the rest of the liver wasn’t very healthy at all. We may have given Pop another week, probably less. It feels good, in an odd twisted sort of way, to know we did the right thing.

And so PopCorn has gone on. She went to chase butterflies on the hill. She never knew Zeus so we sent her to Maggie and Sparky instead.


My desk sits in front of a window. I can see the birds at the feeder and up in the trees. We have two regular bird feeders, a thistle sock, and 2 suet baskets. During the day, I can see a wide variety of birds and they keep me entertained. I keep a foldout pamphlet thingy around for NC backyard birds but I keep losing it. For example, I can’t find it now to tell you the name so you can get one for your area, too. (I sooo need to clean off my desk) It has drawings of the birds so you can identify them. I got an app for my iPod Touch called iBird South. It’s supposed to just have the Southern birds in it but it really has all of them. Glad I didn’t spend the money for the US one, eh?

Anyway, about 2 months ago I am sitting here, writing of course, and a flash of color catches my eye. I look out and see this odd bird. It’s brightly colored like a finch. I switch glasses and realize it’s not a goldfinch. It’s a parakeet. We actually managed to catch him the next day but the S.O.B. escaped when we opened the carrier to give him some food. Every day I sat here and watched him. He was an assertive snot and liked to chase the other birds off the feeders whenever he was eating. I named him Floyd.

Last week, after much planning and rigging, we hung a hamster cage from one of the hooks, took down the two regular feeders, and put food inside the cage. The idea was for him to get used to going in there to eat. He finally did and, after watching him for two days, Lorna managed to catch him.

A friend of ours took him in and we were pleased Floyd was now safe. He wasn’t afraid of Annie, our young cat and twice she’d come very close to catching him. We knew he would be okay this summer but come winter, would he know to migrate? We debated a long time about whether we should catch him or not.

Sadly, Floyd died the next day. Patti did some research and found that sunflower seeds cause parakeets to accumulate fatty deposits around their hearts. Combined with the other much-lacking nutritional needs, Floyd was a dead bird anyway. The cool weather had probably helped him since it kept his heart rate down. Floyd’s other problem was he was banded and, based on the color of the band, he was born somewhere in the 90s. So for a parakeet, he was an old man.

We buried Floyd out near Lorna’s mediation spot.

I miss him. I look out and see birds all day but there was no determining which one was which. But Floyd was different. I knew it was him. I knew how many times he was at that feeder or this one. I knew which song was his. No, I don’t want a parakeet now. I think it is sad he had to be re-caged, even just for a night. I wish I could have taken him back to where he was supposed to be. It was good he got to experience freedom and I’m glad he chose our place to live.