Grateful This Christmas Eve

A Christmas Eve walk with Kloe this morning put this particular holiday season in perspective for me.  It was a brisk forty five degrees as we headed out at about 8:30 am.   The morning was calm with no wind, the tall pine trees at the Golden K were still, the sky was grey but dry, and the neighborhood was quiet.

As Kloe and I headed out I was grateful that we had nowhere in particular to go and all day to get there.  Quite a difference from the days when my children were small and there were so many tasks to complete in time for the “big day”.  All those tasks parents like us were fortunate to be able to undertake to make that big day special for our children.  They were great times that I will cherish forever.  But I have to admit this morning as we headed out to walk I was grateful that those days were in the past and Kloe and I were in the present.

This has been quite a year for my special girl Kloe.   It was April when she was diagnosed with a torn CCL.   For over seven months we nursed her back to health.  In that time she tore the other CCL,  had double CCL surgery (bi-lateral TPLO), and then convalesced back to so far what seems to be a full recovery.  During that period much of our life was consumed with caring for (and worrying about!) Kloe.  Her injuries had a major impact on our lives as well as her two sisters who often took a back seat to Kloe’s needs; especially puppy Koda who just wanted to play with big-sissie but could not because Kloe was at zero activity level.

So as we walked in the crisp air I reflected on how grateful I am for Kloe’s recovery.  Grateful for having the flexibility and resources to dedicate much of our time over the past months to ensure the best chance for her recovery.  Grateful that she is now pain free, can run and jump without restrictions,  can wrestle with puppy Kloe and just be a dog again.  But mostly I am grateful that Kloe came into our lives as a nine week old pup three and half years ago and changed our lives for the better and for ever.

Kloe and I stopped along the seasonal creek to take a quick photo and memorialize this special walk.

Christmas Eve morning 2019

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Kloeville

I’m a worrier and also an optimist and worry and hope have been omnipresent since Kloe’s Bi-Lateral Tibia Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) just over ten weeks ago.

It was sometime in April when we learned that Kloe had a torn CCL and then a few weeks later when she tore the other CCL.  Because both tears were partial our vet suggested a wait and see approach.  Wait and see if they heal on their own.   This meant that Kloe would have to be held to almost zero activity in order to give these ligaments a chance to heal.  They  didn’t.

After four months of watching an waiting it was clear that surgery would be necessary in order for Kloe to return to normal activities and a normal of life.  Our vet recommended the TPLO.  Kloe is only three and a half and god willing has many more years of running, jumping, wrestling, and frolicking to experience.  Without surgery she wouldn’t have that.  At least not without pain.

Now, after ten weeks post surgery and observing daily improvement in Kloe,  I have even more hope and reassurances although the worry is still there in the background.

The TPLO surgery is invasive and includes cutting a semi circle through the tibia and then repositioning the bone with a plate and screws.

We have the most fantastic vet and her guidance throughout the past six months has been invaluable.   She told us to begin taking Kloe on short walks on flat ground at four weeks.  Apparently this stimulates healing process in the bones.  At eight weeks we began walks of increasing distance and also began a little up hill walking and a few stairs.  The idea is to go slow enough to be safe but also to begin introducing normal activities.   Most recently in the past few days we have allowed Kloe to be outside off leash under our supervision.

Play with sister Koda (the 18 month old) is still supervised and broken up when it get’s too rough or extends too long.  But play has begun again and both Kloe and Koda are enjoying that to say the least.

It makes us so happy to see Kloe happy again.  To see her smiling again.  To see her go to Kloeville which is lying on her back with a ball in her mouth and just staring into the sky.  Kloeville!   Kloe’s old playful personality has reemerged and Puppy Poses are frequent.

Dogs mostly live in the here an now.  But if Kloe could remember or realize all she’s been through in the past six months she would be very proud of herself for how far she has come.  I know I am!

KLOEVILLE

 

A Model Patient

It’s been three weeks since Kloe had her Bi-lateral TPLO surgery.   She is doing fantastic!  She is feeling so good that the hard part now will be to keep her on a short leash  – figuratively and literally – for at least another month or so.

The first few days home Kloe mostly slept and soaked up the love and attention that we gave her almost 24 x 7 staying within feet away to make sure there were no mishaps.  We’re fortunate that we have a one bedroom apartment under our home that has ground level access and a small patio area.  The apartment is used for friends and family when they visit the Golden K.  But for the first ten days post surgery it was Kloe’s convalescent home staffed primarily by Holly who did what she is so good at – taking care of her family.  I spelled Holly from time to time but it was mostly Holly who monitored Kloe during the critical first several days, administering medicine and changing bandages when needed.   Holly created a safe and comfortable environment for Kloe setting up a day bed in the main living area of the apartment and a nighttime bed in the bedroom where Holly could sleep on the floor next to Kloe.

After a few days Kloe became more ambulatory and willing to walk the few feet to the patio to “get busy” what we call it for our girls to pee and poop.   The summer temps were very warm and Kloe relaxed next to Holly’s side on the shaded patio.   Every minute that passed Kloe’s bones were knitting back together and our vet said a little bit of walking helped that process.

After about ten days we felt Kloe was strong enough, and safe enough, to come back upstairs.  Between the car, the driveway to the upper part of our home, and me carrying a heavy 75 pound load for the last 40 feet Kloe arrived back upstairs.   We celebrated on the deck by doing what we normally do – hang out with our girls, drink wine, BBQ, and enjoy the beauty of the Golden K.  It was great to have the band pack  back together!

The five of us are together so much that ten days of fragmented family life seemed like a lifetime.  It was great for this group of habit creatures to be back in our routine, even if it meant Kloe had to be tethered while on the deck.   She also must be on leash when we take her to “get busy” (pee and poop).  The sight of a squirrel, feral cat, or other critter could cause her to take off and run and jump which for now is a major no-no.

Since then we’ve lengthened the leash a bit but Kloe can still not be outside untethered. She once again has mostly free reign inside the house but when we leave she has to be sequestered in our bedroom by herself.  We’ve come too long to risk injury or setbacks.  Our vet says that in a week we can begin taking her for short walks – five minutes – on flat ground.  What comes after that I’m not sure.

I’m trying not to get to far ahead of things but I can’t help but wonder what the signal or trigger will be for when we can let her off leash outside and let her return to “normal” activities.  The prognosis is that she will return to almost 100% of her old self with periodic spells of soreness after very active periods.  In my eye’s mind I can see her muscular athletic body running through the Golden K as she once used to.  That image makes me both very happy and also scared.  I’m a worrier and I know I will be cringing every step of her way at first but hopefully not forever.

So for now I try not to think too much about the whats and whens of Kloe returning to normal activities and just focus on how far our sweet girl has come.  She’s been a model patient, stoically accepting everything we’ve thrown at her over the past several months not least of all an invasive surgery and long recovery period where she now feels normal but cannot yet act normal.  All in good time sweet girl (the authors says for himself as much as for the patient)….

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Kloe hanging on the deck next to me while I write this post

TPLO

Golden Kali followers may recall my last post where I described our three year old Kloe’s condition: two torn CCL’s (cranial cruciate ligament) that after three months did not heal on their own as we had hoped.   The TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) surgery took place this past Wednesday and everything went as planned.  No surprises, no complications, and a prognosis of full recovery over the next few months.

With surgery behind us the recovery period begins and Kloe’s condition should get better every day.  The hardest part now may be keeping Kloe’s activity level to almost zero for the next four weeks.   She will begin feeling better and stronger each day.  After about four weeks we can begin to introduce more structured and supervised activities but no running, jumping, or play for at least 8 weeks or longer.  Aside from a swelling and the trauma of surgery, where a semi-circle of the tibia is sawed, rotated, and secured back in place with an orthopedic plate, Kloe’s knees after four days are probably feeling better than they were before the surgery.   For those interested in more info on the TPLO procedure you can get it here.

Dropping Kloe off Wednesday morning for the surgery was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  During the days leading up to surgery both Holly and I were stressed, worried, and didn’t sleep well.  We trust our vet Dr. Tanya Jackson without reservation.  The surgeon she recommended, Dr. Justin Uhl, has a lot of expertise with the TPLO procedure.  Plus Dr. Jackson would be assisting him and by Kloe’s side the entire time.  Still, when I worry about things outside my control I go to that dark place of unfounded fears.

What if the saw cuts through the bone got botched? What if Kloe had a problem with the anesthesia and didn’t wake up?  What if during surgery there was an emergency like a major fire or earthquake and the building had to be evacuated?  What if a giant fissure opened in the earth and the building, Kloe, and the doctors fell to the earth’s core of molten lava where evil monsters prey on canines?  What if!

I kept mostly busy Wednesday but found myself looking at the clock periodically. The surgery was to take place about 1:00 and take up to two hours.   At 12:30 I told myself that Kloe was probably sedated by now and therefore not too aware of things.  At 1:15 I told myself that she was now under anesthesia so not awake or scared.  At 2:45 I told myself they were probably sticking her up.  At 3:30 the phone rang and it was Dr. Uhl.

Dr. Uhl told me that Kloe was starting to wake up and that the surgery  went just fine.   I asked him if she would fully recover and he said she would and be able to resume normal activities in a few months so long as we took good care during the recovery period.  I wanted to ask him if there had a been any natural disaster warnings or if he had noticed a fissure opening in the earth’s crust but I though better of it and simply thanked him and hung up.

Dr. Jackson is the best.  Around 9:00 that evening she called to give us an update.  She was still at the office and had been sitting with Kloe for quite some time.  She told us Kloe was looking more like her normal self, and staring into the doc’s eyes and pulling the doc closer to her with her paw.  That’s our Kloe.

Kloe has been home since Thursday afternoon and recovery is going very well and has been a model patient.  Each day the redness and swelling diminishes and her spirits elevate.  She is starting to get up on her own and taking a few steps without assistance.

So, day four.   We’ve got a long way to go but we will go as far and as long to get our Kloe healthy and back on her CCL’s, or feet as the case may be.

CCL

The past three months have been challenging for our pack.  Especially for Kloe!

Three months ago she was diagnosed with a partial tear of her right cranial cruciate ligament (CCL).  This is analigous to the ACL in humans. Since this was a partial tear the prescribed treatment from our vet was almost zero activity except to pee and poop and monitor for improvement.  After about six weeks of getting better she came up lame on the left leg and – yep – she tore the left CCL.  So just as she was improving on the right to the point where short walks on flat ground would be ok she was back to square one!

Now after three months there has been limited improvement and after in depth consultations with her vet we have scheduled her for a tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO) which is a surgery performed on dogs to stabilize the stifle joint after ruptures of the cranial cruciate ligament.

That’s a lot of acronyms and tongue twisting words!  There is also a lot of fear and worry.  But there is also a fair amount of optimism that it is a pathway to get Kloe back to Kloe.  A specimen of athleticism, muscle, and strength who used to run like a gazelle.

For the past three months Kloe has not been allowed to do much of anything as we were in our zero activity mode.   Now it will be another three months of the same zero activity.  Surgery is scheduled for the end of this month (August 28th) and then recovery and more rest time of 6 to 8 weeks after that (for starters..).

Rest rest rest! After all this is all over with Kloe is going to be the most rested dog on the planet!

Kloe’s eyes are often sad these days as she looks out the window longing to be out on her own.   She perks up when we pick up the leash because she knows that means we are taking her outside.  Sometimes to do her “business”.   But sometimes to just sit on the deck or patio where she can smell whiffs of squirrels, cats, and other critters in the air.  While sitting I see her eyes darting back and forth surveying what used to be her domain.  Her world where she was free to run, jump, chase, and wrestle.   But more recently a world she can’t be fully part of.  It’s sad for me and we’ve both adjusted but I don’t want either of us to let this be the new normal.  She’s much too young at three years old to make this her new normal!

I’ve resisted the temptation to go into the nitty gritty details about Kloe’s early symptoms,   information about the TPLO surgery, or about other alternatives that were considered.  Because this is not a medical or science blog.  It’s a blog about my three girls Kali, Kloe, and Koda, and our collective life and experiences living in the mountains.  But if any readers are interested in the details of the injury, or once the surgery takes place the surgery itself and subsequent recovery period,  please feel free to comment here to this post or email me at mike@goldenk.net.   I am not an expert by any means but I expect I will learn a lot over the coming weeks and I would be happy to share those learnings and related experiences with anyone who is interested.

Meanwhile, your well wishes, prayers, good vibes, chants, indigenous dances, or any other ways that you can send positive energy towards my sweet girl Kloe will be appreciated.

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Kloe during healthier days.

Our sweet Kloe last week

Our sweet Kloe last week

Meal time used to be real simple

Meal time used to be real simple.  Kali and Kloe each ate dry food for both breakfast and dinner.  Initially Kloe got high protein puppy food and was on a slightly different dry mix than Kali.   But eventually when Kloe got old enough they were on the same food.  Back in the day meal time inventory check:  two dogs, two bowls, one dry food bucket, one food.  Simple! Scoop scoop wham bam thank you dad.

Meal time used to be real simple.

Over the past year Holly and I introduced raw meat into Kali and Kloe’s diet.  We’re fortunate to have good friends who own a pet shop and are quite informed and knowledgable about canine nutrition.  Owners Dee and George made suggestions for the raw meat and over the first couple of months we experimented with different types, varying portions, etc.   Wanting to still provide good grains to the girl’s diet, and after a few calculations to consider caloric content of the dry, the raw, and each dog’s weight, we landed on a regimen of dry in the morning and raw in the evening.  The raw meat is sold frozen and we buy it in quantities of 25 one pound flat pieces.   Every two days we would put two one pound portions in the refrigerator to thaw for two day’s of meals.   So, still not too bad, right?   Not as simple as two dogs, two bowls, one dry food bucket, one food but definitely worth the extra meal planning and preparation to yield a healthier diet for the girls.  Plus, they absolutely love the raw meat it keeps their weight down.  And did I mention they love it?

When Koda arrived three months ago we put her on the same dry food that Kloe and Kali eat but the large breed puppy version that is high on protein.  Then about a month ago we began giving Koda a portion of raw meat with her dinner.  She too is crazy for “the raw”.  So let’s do a another meal time inventory check at this juncture: three dogs, three bowls, two dry food buckets, two dry foods, and varying portions of raw at dinner.   And as the old television commercials for kitchen gadgets used to say, “But wait – there’s more…”

Kali is slightly overweight and we wanted to reduce her caloric intake so we introduced some variations for her.  For breakfast she gets half a cup of dry food and half a cup of scrambled egg whites.  For dinner she gets a portion of raw meat and a half cup of salt free canned green beans.   It’s getting complicated isn’t it.

Real time meal time inventory check:  three dogs, two dry food buckets, two dry foods, three bowls, varying portions of raw at dinner, scrambled eggs in the morning, canned green beens in the evenings.   Based on our highly scientific caloric calculations dog size,  age, and overall weight management goals the dry food and raw portions are different for all three pups but at least the eggs whites and green beans are the same portions for Kali.  Hurray for small victories!

Meal time used to be real simple.   But are my girls healthier and happier? Yes.  Is it worth the planning and coordination and calamity amusement of three dogs squirming at your feet during preparation?  Absolutely!

The pace of the meal

Kali and Kloe used to finish their meals at almost exactly the same time even though Kloe’s portions were bigger. Now with Koda who has relatively large portions and eats a little slower (thank you puzzle bowls),  and the variation of portions and content,  they all finish their meals at different times.  Kloe is always finished first.  Koda is second, and Kali – who has the smallest portions – finishes last.  Sometimes by a good 5 minutes after the other two.   What Golden Retriever doesn’t love food, right?  But Kali takes it to the extreme.  Kali worships her food.   To watch her eat with the deliberation and devotion one might think that meal time is a spiritual experience for her.

Before Koda, when Kali and Kloe finished at the same time, it was amusing to watch them in unison like synchronized eaters move to the other’s empty bowl and lick around the edges and grooves of the puzzle bowls.  Now that finishing times are staggered Kloe typically walks off and asks to go outside having her sisters behind to finish up.  Kloe finishes next and it’s endearing to watch her watch Kali finish.  As Kali methodically addresses the meat and green beans that remain in the bowl Koda stands or lays nearby showing respect and does not try to steal any of the food.  But she’s not shy about getting her face right next to the Kali’s bowl.

And Kali just keeps eating seemingly in food bliss methodically conducting her business while her baby sister watches.

 

My Golden Therapy

When I turn into the driveway of the Golden K, my body tingles with anticipation of seeing “my girls” who will greet me at the gate or inside the house.

If they’re outside Kali and Kloe will trot to the rod iron gate at the first sound of my truck rolling up the Golden K driveway.  They watch me pull into the car port with their tails wagging and anticipating our physical and verbal greeting ritual.

If they’re inside the house I can usually see them through the windows of the doors.  Kali is usually sleeping right by the door and Kloe somewhere near Holly. As the door to the kitchen opens Kali springs to her feet and Kloe runs in to join us.  Kloe’s a little pushy and will always come to the front of the greeting line while Kali hangs back and patiently waits for her turn.The anticipation and intensity of the ritual increases the longer the time I’ve been away.

Lately I’ve been away a lot and for longer than usual periods…

Recently, both my mother and sister have been very sick.  It’s been a difficult few weeks and the seven hour round trip to and from the SF Bay Area to help with their care during this period took me away from my girls for several long days and a few over nighters.  The worry took an emotional tole and the hours driving, often in heavy traffic getting into or out of the West Bay, has been fatiguing.

But when I arrive back home and pull into the driveway the tingling begins and it slowly becomes better because of the healing powers of dogs.   In my case two very special, sweet, and tender dogs that in many ways define the Golden K.

Kali and Kloe.  My girls, my medicine, and my therapy.  My Golden therapy.

The driveway leading to The Golden K and my Golden Therapy

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The Girls chilling’ in the back of my truck

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What is hip?

There’s a favorite song of mine by Tower Of Power called What Is Hip?  Tower of Power was a very successful soul band in the seventies and eighties and continue to tour and play their brand of soul with the same enthusiasm and “hipness” that they did when I was a teen going to their concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Unfortunately Kali’s version of the song is “what is hip dysplasia?

Kali arrived in the U.S. with hip dysplasia, a common ailment with Golden Retrievers.  Also common for Golden’s is not to complain about much of anything.  So while she has always been a little slow going up the stairs and can’t jump she has gotten along pretty well.   Until recently…

Over the past few months I’ve noticed Kali slowing down.  I attributed this mostly to her getting older – she was approximately five when she arrived and is now eight.  But my overall observations and instincts suggested that it was more than that and the obvious reason was her hips.  It became really evident when she was laying on one side and wanted to turn to the other side.  She moved slow, grunted a bit, and was clearly uncomfortable making this move.

We’ve had her on Dasaquin since day one and we her dry food includes glucosamine.   While these supplements may have helped for a while it became very evident that she needed something else.

A week and a half ago Kali’s vet did a thorough check of her hips and prescribed a newly approved medicine for dogs called Galiprant.  After just a couple of doses there was striking evidence of improvement.  Kali has always pranced but now when we head out for walks she is very animated and jogs down to the edge of our property where she waits to be leashed for our walk.  She seems genuinely happy to be stretching her limbs.  What a joy this is!

So is Galiprant a miracle drug?  It may be too soon to say, and I certainly don’t want to jinx anything, but for now “what is hip dysplasia” has become “What Is Hip?” and Kali and I are both feeling a lot younger as she gallops freely around the Golden K and I reminisce about Tower Of Power.

What is hip?
Tell me, tell me if you think you know
What is hip?
If you was really hip
The passing years would show
You into a hip trip
Maybe hipper than hip
But what is hip?

Tower of Power

Kali at home 1

Kali almost three years ago the day after coming home forever

Pearly Whites

Earlier this week Kali had her world rocked!  I think her brain short circuited for a short time evidenced by a few puffs of smoke billowing from her ears.

The morning started out normal enough:  rise and shine at sun-up, head downstairs and go outside to take care of “business”, dad freshens the water bowls, come back in, perform histrionics while dad fills the bowl with kibble, and eat breakfast.  But the bowl never came out and the kibble remained locked tight in the magic container.

Kali had a teeth cleaning scheduled for that morning at 8:30 am.  Because she would be receiving anesthesia she couldn’t eat anything.    So as I got my coffee and sat at the table to read the sports section all Kali could do was stare at me -indignantly- and wonder why I was not going into the closet to fill her bowl with kibble.  As I sat down I could swear her head did a few Scooby-Doo-like swivels as her lips uttered, “Wha…?”    To Kali’s credit she settled down quickly, stopped doing double takes towards the closet, and laid at my feet as I drank coffee and read the paper.

I brush Kali’s teeth regularly, often,…. I should be better about brushing Kali’s teeth.  She’s relatively tolerant of my gauze wrapped finger in her mouth mostly because it’s slathered in liver flavored tooth paste (yum, right?).  The biscuit interludes as rewards for being patient are also appreciated.   So I should be better and more disciplined about brushing Kali’s teeth.  When we changed vets earlier this year and Dr. Brenda was checking Kali’s teeth I say something like, “I’ve been brushing them often and they look pretty good, right?”.  Brenda says, “Well the front teeth look pretty good”, and then she pulls back her lips (Kali’s lips, not her own) to expose the molars and says, “but back here she has some pretty bad gingivitis.  You should get her in soon for a teeth cleaning”.  So we got her in for the cleaning last week….

Later in the afternoon I go back to pick up Kali with great anticipation of what will surely be her pearly white teeth and a happy dog hungry and anxious use those pearly whites to chomp into a biscuit or two as a warm up for dinner.

Have you ever gone in for an oil change for your car and when you come back to pick it up the service advisor meets you at the door and says something like, “The front end is out of alignment and you have an emissions error on the computer.  We’ll need to do some more diagnostics to see exactly what’s needed.  It’s safe to drive for now but you’ll want to have these repairs done soon”.

Dr. Brenda comes out to greet me saying, “Everybody always get’s nervous when the vet comes out to talk to you, but don’t worry Kali is just fine”.  I have to admit that when Brenda came out I thought something was up and began processing: if something had gone bad they would have called me, Kali’s ok, but why is Brenda here and not just the tech to say thanks and see you next time?…

Brenda explained to me that the ECG picked up Arrhythmia – abnormal heart rhythm – while Kali was anesthetized. More specifically, Premature Ventricular Complexes (PVC).  PVCs, for those of you with inquiring minds, [from Wikipedia] “are characterized by a premature ventricular contraction without a preceding P wave, with a duration of more than 0.12 seconds (P waves dissociated from the QRS complex)”. OK – now I’m doing a Scooby-Doo double take, “Wha….”.

Brenda went on to say that Kali was fine throughout the procedure and never in any danger.  Her oxygen saturation was well within normal limits and she showed no signs of distress.  Still, Brenda being conservative and not wanting to take any chances will speak with a Cardiologist about Kali’s PVC. I also learned that Kali has a cracked incisor and also has a molar that is separated from the jawbone.  Yikes!  Another “procedure” that will preempt breakfast… But before the extractions we’ll need to make sure the heart is good and that the combination of anesthesia and the PVC is not a risk.  That’s where the cardiologist comes in.  Dr. Brenda says it could be nothing, or something that is very treatable, but she doesn’t like to leave anything to chance.  This is why we like Dr. Brenda and the great care Kali gets at Livermore Country Pet Hospital.

The gingivitis is probably years in the making and the problem with the molar is likely related to that.  The cracked incisor is a mystery.  Kali has never exhibited any pain or discomfort while eating but then again, she’s a Golden and she’s Kali; never complaining and always wanting to please.   She may or may not be in any pain when she eats but we may never know.  Dogs have a great way of adapting to their environment and as an owner it can be easy to become complacent.

Oh yeah, and the PVC… Dr. Brenda will be calling this week after she hears from the Cardiologist and we’ll go from there.  Meanwhile, guess who will be jumping head first into research about PVC, causes, and treatments?  On the other hand it is what it is and maybe we’ll just sit tight and wait to hear from the experts before we get too much education on something that could be nothing.  Paws crossed!

Hey - those molars look real nice now but what's up with the sweat band on your leg?

Hey – those molars look real nice now but what’s up with the sweat band on your leg?