Tuesday, 13 December 2011

All about Becky

Poor Becky has been through a really rough time over the past ten months or so.  It started with rear leg lameness at the beginning of the year.  We had x-rays done and nothing was conclusive so with the support of our vet we tried to manage the lameness with pain relief, restricted exercise, swimming, massage and physio.  For a time it worked and although the lameness never completely disappeared we felt that Becky was enjoying her walks and life in general.  We were all pretty sure the source of pain was emanating from her knee as it was swollen and she showed stress when it was manipulated.  However to complicate matters she also had two areas of pain in her back and therefore there was a possibility of referred pain.

Then at the end of October the lameness got worse and we awoke one Sunday morning to find that Becky was holding her leg completely off the ground.  Our immediate thoughts were that she had ruptured her cruciate ligament.   We got an appointment with our vet on the Monday morning and by this time she was weighting the leg again but only slightly.   We all agreed it was time that Becky be referred for more extensive tests and we chose North Downs Specialist Referrals not just because they are local to us but because they have so many areas of expertise and at this point we were unsure if the issue was skeletal or soft tissue.  Nico, our vet, especially wanted us to see Terry Emmerson because he is a specialist in both orthopaedics and soft tissue.  Unfortunately he was on holiday so we had to wait for nearly three weeks for an appointment during which time Becky's lameness and pain got progressively worse.  We decided to try her on Rimadyl to see if that would be any better than the Previcox.  I so wish we hadn't asked for that (you will understand why later.)   Nico wanted her off all pain meds prior to her appointment so we made sure to do this but as our appointment got closer we noticed that someone had been peeing overnight. Sometimes it was on the back door mat and other times a bed was completely saturated.  We weren't sure who it was as Niamh was on steroids at this time for a skin problem.  We knew we would have to isolate her and Becky to find out who it was.  

Anyway off to North Downs.    Terry Emmerson is a very nice guy and he gave Becky a thorough, if brutal, examination.  He agreed she has some pain in her back but he was 99% sure that her main source of pain was coming directly from the knee.   Like our own vet he felt it wasn't severe cruciate damage as the joint was pretty stable.  He suggested the best route would be for an MRI scan and at the time they would also do a neurological test to make sure that the pain wasn't coming from the area in her back and also take some fluid from the knee to run some tests.    He suggested that it was unlikely that Becky would have surgery and that more likely we would medically manage whatever was going on.

We had to wait a week or so for the results although Terry rang us on the evening we collected Becky to say that in his opinion there was nothing nasty going on.  He would be back in touch once the scans had been printed and read by their radiologist.  Unfortunately nothing really showed on the scan apart from a thickening in the knee joint which didn't look sinister but wasn't quite right.  He said he was going to get another opinion on this but it was unlikely anything would be conclusive and so we would manage Becky's pain with medication: continue with Rimadyl and add Tramadol.  Not very satisfactory but he had warned us that sometimes things aren't always clear cut.

In the meantime the peeing was getting worse and we identified that it was Becky.  I had an inkling it could be the Rimadyl although this isn't a published side effect of the drug.  So, I stopped it and rang the vet.  Becky then had to have urine and blood tests and these tests showed that her urine was too dilute but that her kidneys were about right for a dog of her age.  After ten days off the Rimadyl she started to return to normal which was a relief but because she was no longer on anti-inflams her pain returned big time.  She would/could no longer put her leg to the ground and was carrying it under her belly most of the time.  She was panting and stressing and we were beside ourselves.  So, we rang Nico and asked him what could we do.   We took her into see him and he was sad to see that her knee had swollen considerably since being off the anti-inflams   He advised it would be wrong to put her back onto anti-inflams as there was a real possibility that we would damage her kidneys but he would understand if we chose to do that as he was sympathetic to our worries about her pain.   He suggested we go away and think about things and we would re-group the following week.   We made the decision to put her back onto Previcox and within a day her pain was better although she still wouldn't put her leg down.

Things seemed a bit better but then the peeing started again and we felt totally between a rock and a hard place.  We called Nico in despair and he started the conversation about removing her leg.  This was last Monday and we spent most of the day either crying or on the phone to either Nico or Terry Emmerson.  Terry was very kind and suggested we have biopsies done but it would be up to three weeks before we got the results.   Terry and Nico spoke and then we talked with Terry again and we told him we had decided to have the leg removed.  Our thinking, along with guidance from Nico, was that whatever results came back from more tests the fact would remain that the leg was causing Becky huge pain and that had to stop.  Against us was the fact that we could no longer administer anti-inflams and so every possibility had to be considered.  Both vets felt that Becky's pain was disproportionate to what was showing on the MRI scan and X-rays.  Nico felt that something was being missed and that the level of Becky's pain was that which he would expect to see in a dog with some kind of tumour and that means a great degree of unmanageable pain.  Terry said it was somewhat unorthodox to remove the leg prior to biopsy but he also said he could understand why we were going down that route.  So, the decision was almost made and we decided that we wanted our own vet to do the operation.  Terry asked us why not North Downs (fair enough) and we said our decision was very easy to make: Becky loves Nico and all his staff and goes into the surgery with her tail wagging looking for the biscuit barrels and importantly we can take her into the surgery about 20 minutes before her op and be with her as she goes to sleep on the table.  Easy decision I think!

Nico invited Andy back to the surgery for one last chat before we finally made up our minds and during that meeting he explained exactly what he would do during the procedure and what we could expect.  Andy said we would go ahead.  Once he had made that final decision then Andy was anxious to get the ball rolling as we were in such a state by now.   Nico took his diary home with him so he could call his other clients and cancel all procedures, bar one, for the following day so that Becky could go straight in.  I am so grateful for this.

So Tuesday dawned and I awoke feeling very down.  It's one thing for this to happen when there is no choice but when you are actually making that choice you question over and over are you doing the right thing.  We got the call to take Becky in around 12.40 pm and had one very last chat with Nico.  He was totally understanding of our dilemma and said he felt pretty much the same himself but like us had concluded that it was the right thing to do.  He felt her leg one last time and she cried , he also reiterated that he had a gut feeling that there was some kind of cancer/tumour for this level of pain.  That was enough for us we would go ahead.    We went through with Becky and she went off to sleep very easily.  We waited whilst he took some precautionary chest x-rays.  He came out to tell us that these were clear and therefore he would go ahead.

He assured us that he would only send her home if he felt her post-op pain was under full control otherwise she would stay in.  He had already explained that she would be pretty spaced as he would be keeping her dosed up with opioid analgesia.  This was his only option due to her anti-inflam intolerance.       He called us once the op was done and said it had gone exactly to plan and that she was sleeping on a heat pad with lots of blankets over her.  He said he would call us again later for an update.

True to his word he called at about 6.30 pm.  He said she was very stoned and quite high maintenance with a drip etc.   However, he had offered her food which she wanted but was too unbalanced to manage herself.  So he sat with her and rolled the food into meat balls and hand fed her.  He felt she would be too much for us to cope with that first night and so he was taking her home with him.  It made us feel very happy that she would be in such good hands.  When we went to collect her the following day he looked wiped out and explained he hadn't got that much sleep as she had needed quite a bit of care and hand feeding.   He also said he had been kept awake worrying that if her pain was really in her back then how could it now manifest itself now that we had taken off her leg.  But then he talked himself back into the space where we had all been the previous day; where we agreed the pain was coming from the knee and that it was the right thing to do.  He was pleased that we had slept better - bless!     We are very lucky to have such a brilliant and compassionate vet.  He and his whole team are simply fantastic.

Becky's first night home was pretty awful.   Andy slept with her and between them I think they had about an hour's decent sleep.  She wouldn't/couldn't lay on the side of the amputation, understandably, and that was adding to her frustrations.  She was very agitated and stressed. She wore a buster collar and Andy had her lead around his wrist so he was aware of her movement.  She needed to go out quite a lot during the night and was leaning and listing.  It was very scary and we felt very emotional and helpless.

The following morning we made her a very special bed of double memory foam, a folded up duvet from one of the spare beds covered in a soft fleece blanket.  This meant she was on a very soft but supportive bed and importantly completely elevated off the floor.  What a difference.  She was much more comfortable and would now lie happily on the side of the amputation.  

The stitches are obviously tweaking as every so often she would try to get at them but one of us is with her all the time so we make sure she can't lick or bite at the incision site.  Some bruising and a bit of a swelling started below the incision but the following day the swelling was all but gone and the flesh is just purple/red.

Leah came to visit Becky on her first proper day at home.  She commented on what a fantastic job our vet had done.  She thought it was one of the neatest amputation sites she had seen.  That was good to hear.

By now, slowly but surely she was starting to improve.  Interestingly, Leah commented on something that I was feeling.  She said although it was obvious Becky was post-op sore, she seemed less unhappy in her general demeanour.  She said her face looks like the usual Becky rather than the one we've all been seeing over the past months and weeks.  

We have bought her a Ruffwear harness for when she can go out on proper walks.  This will be very useful as it has a handle on the back and we will be able to quietly help her with bridges and styles etc without making it stressful for her.  She hates being lifted and man handled.

Her balance and ability to get around  to go out for a pee etc is quite amazing.  The leaning and listing has almost disappeared.  She will lie on her back with her legs (and stump) in the air.  She hasn't done that for many months as she has been protecting that damn leg.    I cried first time I saw her do this.  Her hair is already starting to grow back and her stitches are due to come out this Friday.   This morning she hopped up onto one of the sofas - we are really getting there!

We are gradually introducing her to the other dogs and having them back in the sitting room for the evening.  We are making sure they stay calm and don't go near her (that means Tidal Wave in her soft pod as she doesn't do calm.)  We have to protect her operation site from being bumped or knocked.   We remember Nico's last words to us as he put her into our car: "don't bump the stump!"

Now we have to hope that once the last lot of anti-inflam has finally cleared from her system that the excessive drinking and peeing will stop.  I do believe it is improving so fingers crossed.  Here are some pictures and video of our little Tri-Pawd!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

2011 is slowly on its way out

Well, 2011 is nearing its end and it's a year I shall be glad to say goodbye to for one reason or another. Of course not everything has been bad but it is a year which I wish to move on from.

In September we had to say goodbye to my step-father Eddie.  I think when my mum died back in January he simply lost the will to live without her.  Even though she had been in the nursing home for such a long time she was still here with us.  After the funeral a few of us went for a drink in the Crown which was Eddie's watering hole and we saw him off in a style which he would have liked.  There was only one thing missing and that of course was Eddie.

Eddie was a huge part of my life for thirty years.  He did a lot for me and built the extension on my first cottage out of love.  I will never forget that because at the time I had no money to pay for the labour.  He was a first class brick layer and was respected by many in the trade. He was a very proud man and his work-ethic was second to none.  He adored all my dogs and right to the end could remember the name of every one of them.   I am sure he will be laying bricks wherever he is now with Tina by his side.

Eddie - my step-father. Sleep peacefully, now out of pain.

Seeing him off in style at his favourite haunt, The Crown.   My step sisters Cindy and Angie below with myself and sister Sally and in the middle John Kenward who worked with Eddie.  I hadn't seen John in many years and it was so lovely that he attended the funerals of both my Mum (who he loved and who used to make his sandwiches every day!) and of course Eddie.  Thank you John, it meant a great deal.

Bit weird to post pictures of flowers for a funeral but the picture below shows the flowers from Eddie's brother, Brian and and his wife Barbara.  How lovely that they had the florist make them into a brick and trowel.  Very fitting and a lovely tribute.  Below are my own flowers which I just wanted a photo of as a reminder of the day we said goodbye.

Agility shows have just about finished although we have North Downs indoor show on Saturday. I'm not a great lover of indoor agility shows but this one I do quite like as the venue is very nice and the show is well organised. It's good to catch up with friends in person, for possibly the last time until the new year. It's nice to be able to stay in touch with friends via Facebook but it's still not the same as chatting in person.

Our last few agility shows were fun and Zeki and I got into the champ final of our last championship class of 2011. We ran clear in all three parts and ended up in 3rd place in the final beaten by two great runs, one by Christine and Zev (Zeki's litter brother) getting the reserve CC and the other by Amanda Hampson and Rogue winning the CC. We travelled all the way to Southdowns for one run at the end of September (KC Qualifier for Olympia 2012) but unfortunately picked up 5 faults. It was a nice day out despite the fact that we got caught up in a massive motorcyle protest on the M27 on the way down. It wasn't very nice and at times quite scary as some of the bikers were behaving in a very intimidating fashion. It certainly didn't make me sympathetic to their cause and I speak as someone married to a motorcyle fanatic.

In October Zeki and I travelled to Gloucestershire to try out for the WAO 2012. The day was well organised and the tests were well thought out and extremely challenging. I could only fault one test which was the jumping course at the very end of the day. It was too hard and too biased to one's ability to run at great speed. The course was a borrowed one from one of our own UK judges but for some reason the organisers decided to send us to the opposite end of the tunnel at the start of the course and also added in an extra jump. These two changes made a difficult course too hard. Of course that's just my opinion but I don't think I'm being unfair. In fact I managed to scrape round that course in a very ugly fashion. Overall we didn't do too badly, made some silly mistakes but had a go at the challenges set. We ended up in 3rd position in our height category. Now we have to wait until some time in December to find out if we have qualified. The finals are in Belgium in May next year. Zeki thoroughly enjoyed the day being an 'only' dog. I left my others at home with Andy as I knew it would be a busy day and they wouldn't get much attention.

Zeki was invited to Discover Dogs for the medium ABC competition.  I really enjoyed this experience.  I kind of expected Zeki to take things in her stride and she did.  She was completely at ease with the atmosphere and ran really well.  She came 4th in the jumping and 6th in the agility with the second fastest time but with 5 faults.  I was thrilled with how she ran on the carpet.   She hasn't competed at an event like this before so it was a really nice warm up for her Crufts debut in March 2012.   Leah came for the day as my groom and was really helpful in keeping Zeki nice and calm before she ran.  I didn't want her screaming and barking prior to her run so it was nice to have that help.

Leah suggested I bring Tidey for the day.  I wasn't looking forward to that as I thought it would spoil my nice relaxing day with Zeki but I am so glad I did take her.  I was worried she would be a bit spooky with all the dogs and crowds but she was fantastic.  She was totally chilled walking along the streets of London with big buses whizzing past and she loved the crowded stalls inside the venue.  She was fine with all the dogs and absolutely loved the people and children.  She must have had a hundred cuddles during the day.  She got to pose with the vet from the Dogs Trust for one of their promotional leaflets so hopefully I might get to see that some time.

Here are both my lovely girls playing crate games at Discover Dogs!

Here is the video of Zeki's jumping round (thanks to Bernadette for filming.)  Pop back later to see the agility run which is still slowly uploading onto YouTube and I've lost patience!

Recently I have done a couple of extra training sessions with both Niamh and Zeki at Leah's. As always they have been very challenging but also very enjoyable. I love to do these training days with my girls once the show season has wound down.

During October our old friends Chris and Dave Hurst came to stay for the weekend along with their younger daughter Ellie and their two dogs Ruby and Spider.  It's was so lovely to see them and catch up with everything.   I can't believe where the years have gone as it seems only yesterday that Ellie was a tiny baby at Burridge Agility show.  It is also scary that Ellie's elder sister, Casz, is now studying to be a doctor and we knew her as a tiny tot!   I love this picture of Casz with Poppy when she was about ten weeks or so.  Poppy will be fifteen in April so it shows you how long ago this was taken.

Here are some pictures from their visit with us.  I notice now that Chris and Andy managed to avoid the camera!

Above is Poppy and her litter sister Ruby with myself and Dave.  These two little dogs hadn't seen each other for best part of five years and yet they greeted each other so sweetly.  I do believe they remember.  They are both doing so well for their age.

Tidey 'Tidal Wave' with Ellie

Above Ellie with Spider (who is also a Woodsorrel like Poppy and Ruby) and a gorgeous dog; below with Poppy and Spider 

Below is Ellie with Kizzy being typically stand offish but eventually unable to resist Ellie's charms!

Our visitor Spider making himself at home!

As usual once the season winds down I tend to do longer walks as Autumn progresses. I like to lengthen their daily walks during the off season in order to keep them as fit as possible. Plus I rather like Autumn/Winter walks despite the fact that the dogs get dirty sometimes. Either you have a gorgeous day without the searing heat when it's just a joy to be outside or it's cold, wet and depressing and when you get the dogs back indoors it's a lovely sense of satisfaction that they've had a nice walk but are now tucked up in the warm again. Either way I love walking at this time of year!

Just love these pictures of the sunflower field on part of our walk.  This field used to be for hay but this year, for the first time I can recall, they ploughed it which looked horrible to start with but then these came up and it looked beautiful.  This photo was taken a few weeks back and they have all gone now.  The field has just been deep ploughed so back to being ugly for a while!

Tidey is growing up fast. I have lots to update on her as I haven't been blogging of late. In the meantime, here's a current picture of her together with Niamh and Zeki on our walk yesterday.

If I could choose how a border collie turned out in terms of confirmation, colour and of course most importantly ears then Tidey would be my perfect dog.  That is not to say Niamh isn't perfect also because she is.  She is a much bigger, rangier type and I have come to love that look even though it probably isn't my preference.  I wouldn't change a single thing about my beautiful Niamh.    Tidey has the look of my previous collies, Bess, Abbey and Poppy.  She is quite petite, sharp featured and very intense.  The only thing I would change about Tidey is the naughty spots on her legs.  I'm not a lover of naughty spots and in Tidey's case every single one of them has proved to the purveyor of extreme naughtiness.

More of Tidey in another post, but meantime here is a little video of her instant downs which we work on every day during our walks.

Lastly, a couple of garden photos.  The long border is now just about finished for the season but we are lucky to still have a little bit of colour here and there.   I can't wait for spring as Julie has planted loads of new bulbs.  It will be exciting to see them emerge.

Absolutely lastly for this post, the new addition to our family.  Andy's 'new' BMW which he loves.  We have sold the big VW Transporter as it was really surplus to requirements.  My little Caddy will tow our tiny caravan next season.

 Kizzy, Becky, Murphy and Poppy are very happy cruising round in this motor car.

Back soon with Tidey and Becky updates!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The beginning of Autumn - pictures of the garden

A few pictures of the garden as things are starting to turn.  The new grass is growing really well, we are so lucky to be getting this late September sun which is perfect timing.  It's had two cuts now and hopefully we'll be able to use it in a couple of weeks.  

My favourite time for the Russian Vine as it starts to turn

Julie has had a good clear out of the long border but there's still stuff to come and lots of colour left

We have hundreds of bulbs to plant (well, Julie does lol) and they will be going in soon

I could make my own weave poles from the bamboo sticks!

Just a nice view

The weeping willow and our tallest tree, the Eucalyptus  

The new grass growing helped by the late September sunshine!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The summer garden in pictures

Our lovely garden from the summer in pictures.  We have done a lot this year with Julie helping us with the border and the rockery; Al sorting out the hideous tip that was the very top of the agility area and putting up post and rail fencing. We finally got round to putting some planters in the front which have been really lovely and colourful.   As you can see my planting theme is mainly pink ...... would you expect anything else!

Reg, one of Michael & Ellen's cats hiding in the undergrowth

Only taken four years to put this little hanging basket up, it's been sitting in the yard since we moved here

Brought the above planter from my Mum's house before it was sold.  Every time I come into the drive I see it and think of her.  She loved her garden.  There used to be two but one of them had a bit of an argument with my sister when she was reversing her car .... enough said, Sal!!  So we bought the planter below to go opposite.

The border in full bloom

The border and the repaird bird house (Andy makes these from scratch)

Part of the new rockery above and below

Above and below the reclaimed area at the top of the agility area ready for seeding

Our runner beans which were delicious

Above and below the new post and rail fencing sectioning off the agility area.  Al and Andy did this and I'm very pleased with the result!

Some of my planters on the decking area

The garden wall after Andy gave the Russian Vine a bit of a haircut

Above and below, apple picking!

Just for the sake of comparison, here are a couple of photos: one is of the long border last summer, very full but mainly of green stuff very little colour at all; the other is of the top end of the agility area, a real mess.

However, a good excuse to post a picture of my dear little Abbey, we didn't have her for much longer after the above photo was taken.  She was so precious and I still get a lump in my throat whenever I look at a picture of her.  So, for the heck of it here's another photo of my oh so special girl.

Abbey 'Karrider Kwik Step' - my dog of a life time who I still miss very very much