Sunday, July 23, 2017

Day 2768

It's been three years since Dot suddenly became ill and I thought we were going to lose her. I learned a few days later that she had cancer and I'm still learning how her incredible determination to survive changed me in ways I don't fully understand. From the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2017 Dot defied the odds over and over again, forever becoming my hero in the process. I became so convinced that she could go on forever that it's still hard to believe that she's not with us today.

Caring for Dot became a way of life that made it easier for Janet and I to care for each other while we've been dealing with our own medical problems this summer. We're both getting better now and there is a little less fear of the unknown with each passing day. As long as Dash doesn't give us another scare with his ongoing vestibular disease problems, there will come a day pretty soon when I will no longer be either a patient or a nurse.

What comes next? When people tell me "you can do whatever you want," I am baffled. I'm not sure what I want. I need to focus on realistic choices, since going back in time isn't really an option. When I look backwards, I see so many fond memories. When I look forward, I only see the Zombie Apocalypse. This certainly isn't the world I envisioned when I was making big plans back in the 1970's.

I'm not going to change the world at this point, but I need to become more comfortable living in it. Like it or not, it's the only world we've got. I have a feeling that something pretty simple might do the trick for me. Maybe I should take piano lessons. Years ago I used to enjoy playing the piano, but I have forgotten everything. Maybe I should drive to Wyoming with a sleeping bag and a camera and wait for the eclipse. That's probably a little too bold, but you get the idea. I know there's a world beyond cleaning the house with a pressure washer. I just need to find it.

I went back to the store today and picked up the things I forgot yesterday. I got caught in a brief rain storm on the way home, but it was so hot outside that the rain turned to steam in a matter of minutes. By this afternoon, it was hard to imagine that it had rained at all. We've started walking Dash very early in the morning so he is able to enjoy at least one good walk before the heat becomes oppressive.  He seems to enjoy this new schedule. I'm watering the new grass religiously, but it's going to be an uphill battle to keep it looking good for the rest of the year. What can I say. It's hot. It's Texas. It's summer.

I decided to skip going to the gym today. The swelling in my leg has subsided, but it is still pretty sore. My wrist doesn't feel very strong either. I'm supposed to see the orthopedic specialist later this week. Maybe I'll just ask him when it is OK to exercise again. Until then, I'll try to amuse myself one day at a time.

Jewel is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 2767

I finally finished cleaning all four sides of the house with the pressure washer this morning. This is a somewhat futile effort, since spiders have already returned to the part of the house I cleaned first. I've finally learned to wear long pants and a hat when I do this job. It's pretty messy and the spiders aren't happy. I also learned that my wrist hasn't really healed yet. It wasn't very comfortable holding the pressure nozzle for any length of time.

In an attempt to beat the heat, we got up before sunrise to walk Dash. There was a light breeze and the temperature was only in the mid-80's, so the walk was actually enjoyable. Two hours later, it would have been an entirely different story. We got an unusual amount of rain in June. As soon as we put the new grass in, the rain stopped. I run the sprinkler for an hour or so every morning, but I still worry that the grass will dry out before it gets established.

I think we had a heat index of over 105 degrees today. When it gets this hot, it's hard to get motivated to do anything. I did go grocery shopping, but came right home afterwards because I didn't want the fresh fruit to spoil in the car. Several times today, I joined Dash on the bed for a nap. Hey, I had already battled spiders and won. I deserved a nap. Later in the day I did manage to finish one quick website update because I knew that the guy who sent me the job probably wasn't napping with his dog.

Janet and I are becoming so forgetful. We never used to forget things. When we finished our errands this afternoon, we had both forgotten essential  things that should have been on our lists. Oh, well. I guess we will have to go back to the store tomorrow. This is probably what happens when you get old. You spend your entire day trying to remember what you forgot.

We're still debating whether to take a car trip somewhere before Janet returns to work. It would be nice to get away, but the thought of being on the road in August with a dog who could have a seizure at any time in a car that could break down at any point just isn't very appealing. This is probably why we never take car trips. There was a time when we used to travel quite a bit. It was easier when the dogs were young and healthy and we didn't have to leave them in a boarding kennel. We had good friends who would look after Spot when we were away. Spot absolutely loved visiting Lynn and Bob and got along well with their dogs. That was a long time ago. Bob is dead and we haven't seen Lynn in years. I can't imagine leaving Dash. There are just too many health issues.

I was thinking about going to the gym again tomorrow, but after wrestling with the pressure washer this morning, I don't think I'm ready yet. I'd hate to screw up my wrist before it has had time to heal. I asked the doctors at the emergency room how long I needed to wear the splint on my wrist. They just said to ask the orthopedic specialist they referred me to. I don't think they realized that it would take a month to get an appointment though. I don't see any need to wear the splint now, but I probably shouldn't be lifting weights yet.

I just fell asleep at the computer while trying to think of what to write next. I assume that means it's time for bed.

Pongo os today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 2766

I must have been really tired this morning. When I woke up, Janet had already eaten breakfast and walked Dash. I've lost the urge to go out for breakfast on Friday mornings, so I fixed myself some pancakes and bacon instead. I really got off to a slow start today. By the time I'd cleaned up the breakfast dishes, the day was well underway.

It didn't seem like Friday at all. I had work to do and spent most of the day writing a new article. It's hard to believe that not that long ago I was writing three or four articles a day for weeks at a time. Times change. Now, it's the exception rather than the rule when I'm busy with work. I can't say I enjoyed all the deadlines, but I was certainly comfortable with them. Writing under pressure was something I'd done for most of my life. Now, as I find myself sliding toward retirement, I'm not certain what to do next.

I try to stay busy and am happy with the occasional assignments I get, but there is no clear purpose anymore. I've become adverse to risk, I don't welcome change, and nothing could convince me to sit through a status meeting. Basically, all the qualities that helped me create and sustain a successful company are gone. Some of my friends have reinvented themselves and gone on to second or third careers, but I'm uncertain what I want to do next.

Luckily, when I've got a writing assignment I don't have to worry about all that. I wrote for most of the day, took a shower, paid my July Mastercard bill, and picked up some burgers for dinner at Chili's. I was going to  use the pressure washer to clean the Eastern side of the house, but it was way too hot for that. The temperature was well over 100 degrees this afternoon.

Dash seemed back to normal today. The frightening thing about idiopathic vestibular disease is that there is no known cure. There are lots of tests you can do to rule out certain things, but if the tests are inconclusive, you just have to try to keep your dog calm when there is an incident and hope for the best. Dash's symptoms are often severe and they make us wonder whether he has some rare disease that hasn't been diagnosed yet. I'm always happy when he recovers, but I'm always worried about what might happen next.

I probably should just quit worrying. My life is still calm and serene compared to what I see on the television news. Janet, Dash and I are all getting older, but I think we are still aging with a certain amount of dignity. I'm smart and I still have a sense of curiosity. It shouldn't be that hard to turn the next twenty years into a meaningful experience. The world might not even be here in twenty years, but I'm going to remain hopeful. I just need to find a purpose.

Katie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 2765

We had to take Dash to an emergency vet last night. He had thrown up earlier in the evening and we'd hoped that giving him a Cerenia pill would settle his stomach so he could sleep. Unfortunately, things got worse. About 1 AM he woke up up drooling heavily while walking anxiously around the house. It seemed like he wanted to throw up again, but when we took him outside, he just froze in the back yard and couldn't seem to move. Something seemed very wrong. We thought he might be having another vestibular seizure, even though there were no rapid eye movements or head tilting. After about twenty minutes, he calmed down and tried to sleep on the bedroom floor. We were relieved that the episode seemed to be over, but then about an hour later it started all over again. This time the heavy drooling was even worse. We began to worry that he might have been poisoned and rushed him to the nearest emergency vet. His vital signs were good and the veterinarian who treated him said that there weren't any obvious signs of poisoning. We were at the vet for about an hour and around 4 AM, Dash began to stabilize. The vet agreed that this looked a lot like vestibular disease, but said the symptoms could also be caused by a half a dozen other things.

We took Dash home and tried to get a little sleep before Janet had to get up and go to the eye doctor. Poor Dash. We've been hoping that his vestibular seizures were over, but apparently not. There isn't a lot you can do about idiopathic vestibular disease. If you can determine the cause, you can sometimes eliminate the problem, but not always. We've already done an MRI of his brain and eliminated the possibility of a brain tumor. He doesn't seem to have an inner ear infection either. I'll have to check his thyroid levels again. Sometimes low thyroid levels can cause symptoms of vertigo and nausea very similar to vestibular disease. There really isn't a cure, so we may be dealing with these periodic episodes for the rest of his life.

Dash seemed fine today. We didn't walk him and fed him a very bland diet. So far, so good. I've started taking Niacin before bedtime again. My doctor say it helps with cholesterol problems, but the flushing it causes is uncomfortable, so I try to be asleep when all the little capillaries start to dilate. Last night when Dash woke us up, the Niacin flushing had begun and my skin was bright red. When we went to the emergency vet, I looked like I had a severe sunburn all over my body. The vet probably though I'd gotten confused and gone to the wrong hospital. I certainly looked worse than Dash.

By the time Dash's heavy drooling stopped, my skin had returned to it's normal color. The only good thing about the worrisome night was that on the way home from the vet, I got a chance to see a beautiful thin crescent moon in conjunction with Venus in the early morning sky. Today, we were all pretty tired and Dash and I spent a considerable amount of time napping.

I got a few things done today, but not much. I picked up some meds for Dash, bought a new sprinkler for the yard at Home Depot, and filled the car with gas. I received a new writing job this afternoon, so I'll probably be busy tomorrow. For some reason, I thought it was Wednesday for most of the day. Janet had to remind me to take out the trash this evening. I was going to wait until tomorrow evening. I hope that Dash sleeps well tonight. I hope we all sleep well.

Lady Jane is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 2764

I walked Dash by myself today and everything seemed fine. My wrist didn't give me any problems and the swelling on my leg didn't get any worse. My left leg still looks larger than my right leg, but the difference isn't alarming anymore. The cuts have even scabbed over enough so I can take normal showers again without bandages or bleeding worries. If I'm patient, even the ugly black and blue marks will eventually disappear. Now, I just need to make sure that I stay far, far away from the aggressive dogs in the neighborhood.

Janet got good news from her oncologist. She won't need chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The oncologist will want to monitor things for quite a while and there are some pills she'll need to take, but this was definitely the outcome everyone was hoping for. There will be one more minor surgery before the reconstruction process is complete, but everything is going according to plan. It looks like Dash and I will be alone in the house again soon. Janet is eager to go back to work.

The one thing we forgot to ask Dash's oncologist yesterday was why he still throws up occasionally for no reason at all. He has been normal for well over a month, so it just slipped our minds. Sure enough, he threw up again today, one day after his exam. He seemed fine all day, took a normal walk, ate a normal dinners, and then threw up about two hours later after taking a nap. I'm pretty sure he didn't eat bugs, or anything nasty today. He didn't seem to have an upset stomach either. It's a mystery. We gave him a Cerenia pill and hopefully he won't throw up his phenobarbital later this evening.

I told the Land Rover people that there wasn't much point in their marketing department doing elaborate service promotions if the dealership was just going to pretend they didn't exist. They still wouldn't take anything off my bill, but finally agreed to issue me a hundred dollar credit that I could use on my next repair. I felt pretty good until I looked at a pile of mail on my desk later in the day and discovered another different coupon that could have been used to reduce my bill even further. I'm going to call them back tomorrow. Land Rover repairs are too expensive to let this slide.

I lost the ability to run Unix software when I upgraded my system recently. Things were so slow today that I thought it might be a good time to reinstall the software tools I needed. Unfortunately, I needed to install everything using the command line in the Terminal window. I've forgotten just about everything I've ever learned about Unix commands, so the install process took a while. I don't know why I wasted hours doing this, because I've never used these Unix applications anyway.

Other than cleaning up dog vomit, it was a peaceful, uneventful day. Things are slowly but surely getting done. About the only major thing left on my Summer do-do list is getting my passport renewed. I think I'll wait another week to do that. Even though my leg is much better, I still don't think I'm up to standing in a long line for hours.

Jade is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day 2763

Things are looking up. Dash got a good report at his semi-annual cancer review. He is still cancer free and his doctor saw no reason to worry about his enlarged heart or vestibular disease. We learned what to look for in case his heart condition becomes worse and we pretty much already knew what to look for with his ongoing vestibular disease. For an old dog who has had many problems, Dash is looking pretty good.

The yard looks pretty good too. The landscapers arrived early this morning and spent the day removing a year's worth of dead leaves and small sticks before installing a brand St. Augustine turf. Janet and I realize by now that because of our soil and the four large trees in our back yard, that the grass won't last forever. It never does. The yard sure looks pretty now though. It should be a lot easier to keep the house clean too, since Dash won't be tracking mud inside every time there is a rainy day.

The landscapers probably think we are nuts to keep replacing our back yard every year, but there really isn't an alternative. A lot of large trees in the park don't have much grass under them either. The tree roots cover the yard like a canopy and suck up all the water. There is almost no way to provide the grass with an adequate amount of water during a hot Summer. We'll do the best we can. One thing is certain. Our water bill is going to go up next month.

I took my first walk since the dog bite this morning. My leg didn't swell appreciably afterwards and there was very little pain, so I think it will be OK to return to a more active life. The July heat will prevent me from over doing things. Early mornings are really the only time when it is cool enough outside to safely walk a dog. I'm going to continue sleeping with my feet elevated for a while. That seems to be the key to keeping my ankles from swelling.

The combination of good news at the vet and a pretty yard spurred me on to tackle some other ongoing problems. I contacted the roofers and asked them to come out again and make a few more patches. I have't received a response yet, but I seldom do. I also contacted the Land Rover dealer and asked them to apply my discount coupon to yesterday's bill. They gave me some sort of weird answer, saying that it was difficult to apply a credit to a job that was already closed. Come on guys. I'm a good customer. If you keep treating me this way, I might buy an Audi next time.

Dot was really loved within the veterinary community. When we had Dash up at the cancer center today, her medical team came out and gave Janet and I a hug, telling us what a special girl she was to them. Her oncologist said she would never forget her. This meant a lot to me, since I will never forget her either. I will remember when Dot and Dash were young and healthy as the best of times. I like having dogs around, but we're not thinking of getting a companion for Dash. He's adjusting well to being an only dog and he's getting older too. I'm a realist. Taking care of Dot was exhausting and taking care of Dash will be equally exhausting when he starts to fall apart. Dash will always get the love and care he deserves, but I don't have the energy to start over with a puppy again.

Janet has started talking about going back to work. Her recovery is really going well and if she gets a good report from her oncologist later this week, Dash and I might be on our own again sooner than we expected. It's been a really tough Summer, but I think we have weathered the storm. Although I'm a glass is half empty kind of guy, today the glass actually seemed half full.

Beemer is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 2762

The landscapers didn't show up today, but I did get my car back. I knew the bill was pretty high, so I was planning to use a gift card I'd gotten for my birthday to help with the payment. I couldn't remember the exact amount on the card, so I called the activation number to get a balance. They told me that the card had already been used and that there was a zero balance available. How was this even possible? The card was brand new and I hadn't even taken it out of it's sealed packaging yet. This was a whole new kind of fraud that I wasn't even aware of. The purchase that drained the card was made on my birthday when the card was in my possession. The transaction was made at a Wall-Mart Supercenter in Houston. Again, how is this even possible? The only thing that I can think of is that the cashier who activated the card when Janet purchased it knew how to use the bar code information in the packaging to redeem the card after it was activated. The Visa people said they would send us a new card, but that it would take 90 days. This has destroyed my faith in gift cards. I don't think I'll ever buy one again.

When I was leaving to pick up my car at the dealership, I saw two loose dogs running around the neighborhood in my rear view mirror. I was going to call Janet and warn her about the dogs, because I knew she'd be walking Dash soon. The light was already green where I needed to turn left though, and I didn't have time to get my phone out. As soon as I turned the corner, I saw that the two dogs had run out into a busy street and gotten run over by a car. I don't know how the dogs had gotten from a neighbors front yard to this busy street in the time it took me to drive around the block, but they did. The whole thing made me sick to my stomach. The dogs were transported to a nearby vet, but I still don't know if they survived. Please people. keep your dogs on a leash and don't let them run loose in a busy city. Things like this happen way too often in Dallas.

This was not a good day. Two dogs got run over as a result of someone's carelessness. Some scammer managed to suck all the money out of my birthday gift card before I even opened the cardboard packaging. To add insult to injury, my car repair bill was twice as much as I expected. Brembo brakes are great until it's time to get new rotors and pads. Yikes. I forgot my discount coupon too. I could have knocked 10% off my entire bill. I was so flustered about the gift card fraud that I totally forgot to bring the coupon with me.

At least my leg continues to get better. It will probably take forever for the swelling to completely go away, but I'm starting to be able to walk normally again. My wrist feels better too. I think I might start taking short walks again tomorrow. I hope Dash is cooperative, because I'm not really ready for long walks yet. This better be the last time I'm bitten by a dog for a long, long time. I've been bitten before, but this is the most painful bite I can remember.

We need to make a list of questions to take to the vet tomorrow. Dash has so many weird little quirks that it's hard to remember them all. Strange behavior has always worried me, because it is often the first sign of a larger underlying problem. We need to do a chest x-ray and make sure that the cancer hasn't returned. Since Dash has an enlarged heart, we need to determine if this is going to become a problem in the future. He's still a little wobbly from the vestibular disease, but I'm not sure if there's anything we can do about that. Dash has good doctors. We just want to give him the best chance possible to live a healthy and happy life.

The landscapers just told me that they will be here tomorrow. We'll see. I'm going to call Land Rover and see if they'll still honor their discount coupon. They should, but that doesn't mean they will. I can't bring back the two dogs that ran into the street, but I can make sure that Dash is always safely on a leash. I'll do my part to ensure it's a good day, but a little good luck wouldn't hurt either.

Riley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Day 2761

It's weird to feel bored and tired at the same time. I want to get out and do something, and yet I don't feel like doing anything at all. Resting with my feet elevated is completely mindless, but it sure beats walking around for any length of time.  My legs still hurt. The swelling in my right leg is almost gone and the swelling in my left leg continues to subside. Even though the inactivity is driving me nuts, I'd better not tempt fate at this point. Judging by the way things are progressing, I have a feeling that I'll be good to go after one more week of rest and limited activity.

The neighbors mowed my grass this morning. This was a nice gesture and I really appreciate it. I'm glad they were able to quarantine their dog at a veterinarian's office instead of being forced to take it to the city pound. Although it was painful being bitten, I'm not mad about the whole incident. It was just one of those things. If the neighbors were home at the time instead of an inexperienced house sitter, I doubt that anything would have happened. If you have a dog, you need to remember that any dog can bite, given the right circumstances. This is why I'm nervous whenever I see loose dogs in the park. You never know what might happen. Years ago, I was responsible for a foster dog who bit somebody. I had the dog well controlled on a short leash while I was talking to a friend about fifteen feet away. For some unknown reason, the dog suddenly ripped the leash out of my hand, lunged and bit my friend. It was all over in less than a second. To this day, I am super cautious around dogs. I wish everybody was.

I really hope I can get my car back tomorrow. Dash has an appointment at the cancer center on Tuesday and the dealership frowns on having dogs in their loaner cars. If I'm forced to take a dog to the vet while I've got a loaner car, it takes forever to carefully remove all the dog hairs so you can say there was never a dog inside. Dash rides better in my car anyway. Truthfully, Dash doesn't ride well in any car, but he is familiar with my car and we've learned to make things work.

With any luck, the landscapers should arrive tomorrow morning. Dash will have to stay inside, because even though I tell the landscapers a million times to keep the gates closed, they always tend to leave them open. We'll just put Dash on a leash and take him down to the park when he needs to pee. We should be able to handle this, even though we are becoming forgetful. The landscapers are very noisy and hard to ignore, and since Janet and I are both home, we can remind each other not to let Dash outside unsupervised.

I worry too much. Worrying isn't very productive, but it is hard to avoid. I don't worry about nuclear war and global warming much because I think the human race is doomed anyway. The planet will survive. We won't. On a good day I think we've got maybe 30,000 years before we become extinct. On a bad day, I think 300 years is optimistic. We have become an invasive species, just like Kudzu Vines. In just a few years, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Think about that for a minute. Unless we can all agree to quit having babies for a couple of generations, I think the planet is doomed. If I can't get you to change your mind about something so basic, I think I'll limit my worries to things much closer to home. Will Janet and Dash stay cancer free? Will I stay healthy? Did I save enough money to survive whatever lies ahead? Why knows? Life is such a mystery, but I do feel blessed to have the opportunity to think about what it all means while I'm drinking my fruit smoothie tomorrow morning.

Laura is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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