Thursday, August 27, 2015

missing gabe

Gabriel and Steve
Most of us take pictures everyday, not thinking much about anything but the moment captured. We file them away with all the other pictures we take and often don't think much about them after that. Until something happens.

Sunday, August 23, 2015, we lost a member of our family. I can't even call Gabe a furry member because he was as much a part of our family as any of us were. I still think if I go to the back door and open it I will hear him stir, grunt and peek around the end of the deck to say good morning.

Gabe at 10 weeks
I'm not telling you this just for sympathy, but also as a way to share some information. Gabe died from a heat stroke. Sunday was no different than any other day, and not that hot in the scheme of things. July had been much hotter than Sunday. It had rained at daylight for a long time, and it was overcast and humid, but the temperature was only in the mid 80's. Our morning routine was the same as it had been for years. Steve would go outside at some point during the morning, let the dogs out for some exercise, and then drive to town on his daily trip to "pick up a few things", leaving the dogs out. The dogs were just as predictable. They would watch Steve back out of the driveway, and then lay in the shade in the driveway or under the walnut tree in the shade and wait for Steve to come home.

Except yesterday was different. After Steve left, Gabe decided to take a walk out to the end of our road. When Deb left to get some things at a local store for her cat, she noticed him coming home. Then she noticed he had foamy saliva coming out of his mouth. She came back home and ran inside screaming for me.  I ran out and even though I am not a vet, I could see he was in respiratory distress. Gabe had made it back nearly to the front door before collapsing. He was struggling for air, and as I took his collar off, I could see in his mouth, all the way down his throat.  Jim had run to the house by then and checked to see if there was any obstruction. There wasn't. Gabe's tongue was blue by this point, and Jim and I checked him for snake bite, a common occurrence here in the south, and something both dogs had experienced in the past. I got a wet rag and wiped his mouth, stumped by his symptoms. Deb got another wet rag and started wiping his head. We had no idea that Gabe was having a heat stroke. If he had been human, I would have suspected it immediately. But we had never heat stroke in a dog, and we were baffled. I briefly considered hosing him down, and will always bitterly regret that I didn't, because it might have saved his life. But as I thought about hosing him with water, I thought I had better not, because it might stress him more to be sprayed. I wish now that I had. How I wish I had.

Gabe and Caesar
But I didn't, and Steve, who had been called by a panicked Deb, soon arrived home. Jim picked Gabe up, they loaded him in the truck, and took him to an emergency animal clinic in Birmingham. That was when we found out Gabe had a heat stroke. I was baffled, because he hadn't been out long, it was fairly early in the day, and it was overcast and a bit cooler than it had been for weeks. Our dogs always had plenty of water, and Steve even kept a kiddie pool full of water for them to get in when it was hot. So how did this happen?

It was Gabe's age. He was almost 13 years old, and I later learned life expectancy for a Lab was ten to twelve years. When I checked information on heat strokes, I saw the mistakes I had unknowingly made. I am going to share risks and symptoms with you here. It is important to know if you are a dog owner, and I hope you will share it with anyone you know who has dogs.

Very old or very young dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke. Breeds that are bred for cooler climates also do not do well in extreme heat.

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include:
  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
  • Increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C)
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Sudden (acute) kidney failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
  • Blood-clotting disorder(s)
  • Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Generalized (systemic) inflammatory response syndrome
  • Disease characterized by the breakdown of red-muscle tissue
  • Death of liver cells
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
Risk factors include:
  • Previous history of heat-related disease
  • Age extremes (very young, very old)
  • Heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization to the environment (such as a heavy coated dog in a hot geographical location)
  • Obesity
  • Poor heart/lung conditioning
  • Underlying heart/lung disease
  • Increased levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
  • Short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds
  • Thick hair coat
  • Dehydration, insufficient water intake, restricted access to water
Gabe didn't make it through the night, and I wanted to share the lesson we learned too late.
If you have dogs, make sure you learn how to deal with hot temperatures, and how to prevent heat stroke. We have brought Caesar, Gabe's constant companion and our other chocolate Lab, in the house now, and watch him closely to make sure he doesn't get too hot.
Caesar looking for Gabriel

Caesar is having a tough time. Since Sunday night, he has paced the floor every night, whimpering and unable to rest. We have had a hard time adjusting to Gabe being gone, but I think Caesar has suffered the most. We buried Gabe Monday. Tuesday, while Steve was doing yard work, Caesar spent most of the day lying on top of Gabe's grave. It's been a hard adjustment, and will take time. For now, none of us are getting much sleep as we miss Gabe, and try to help Caesar with his grief.

I know the hurt and sadness will eventually ease for all of us, but we will never stop missing Gabriel.

[For more information on heat stroke in dogs you can click here or here. There are also many other resources on the Internet for more information.]

...missing someone is part of loving...  cat
i am @jonesbabie on twitter

Saturday, August 22, 2015

sisters don't suck

I haven't been much in a writing mood lately.  I started a new medication to prevent a recurrence of the breast cancer they just scooped out of Goliath.  My hands hurt like a toothache that won't go away, I have hot flashes that make me glisten with sweat like a greased pig, along with white-eyed insomnia, and a total lack of energy that makes every step an effort. I feel almost guilty that I am bitching about this at all, and I should sound grateful that the cancer was caught so early that I have a marvelously high chance of beating it. And I am grateful, make no mistake.  Every minute that I am miserable I am grateful for my luck. Grateful for the machine that found the lump long before it could be felt by hand.  Grateful for the surgeon who cut it out. Grateful for the radiation oncologist who will soon be barbecuing my boob to kill any cancerous cells lingering around. Grateful for the oncologist who prescribed this pill that has caused side effects that have placed me in temporary (hopefully) hell.  

And today I am grateful for my sisters.  They are so much a part of who I am that sometimes I feel we breathe for each other. They are the best part of my life, during the worst part of my life. They taught me about trust, laughter, anger, happiness, and what being a sister is all about. They also taught me that love is unconditional. I've learned acceptance, and how to listen to their counsel. Growing up, I was the one they looked to for advice, being the eldest sister.  Those tables have been reversed in the past several months as I struggled to deal with this cancer. They are MY rock now, the ones who make me laugh when my mood is dark, the ones who I know are always thinking about me.  They are still part of me, have always been part of me, and will be until the day I die.
vix and dooj
So today, in response to the Friday Reflections prompt "Tell us about your brother or sister", I share my love of the two remarkable women in my life that I am privileged to call sisters.  This is for you, Vicky and Debbie.

I love you.  Thank you for being my sisters, and for being who you are.

(More about Dooj and Vix here and here.) is good. ~cat
i am @jonesbabie on twitter

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

the starry night

One night last week, I found myself lying on a lounge chair under the stars, with my youngest daughter Deborah lying beside me on another lounger.

It had been a difficult week for both of us. I had been to the radiation oncologist and was one step closer to getting my boob barbecued.

Deborah's week had been equally difficult.  Life has been sending her curves for a while now, and every time she gets a foothold and feels as though she is beginning to move forward, something knocks her down.  This time the something was enough to make her feel hopeless for a bit, before she righted herself and decided to plunge forward.

So there we were, watching the Perseid meteor shower on the peak night in August when they were shooting across the sky leaving long trails, talking about a lot of different things.  It brought to mind a favorite song about one of my favorite artists and that song ran through my mind while we lay there star gazing.

The talking included a couple glasses of wine, so that may explain why our conversation ambled along about these subjects:

Nocturnal cow mooing.  We thought it was a romantic time of the month for cows, and the meteors were putting them in the mood.  One cow in particular bawled her way across the pasture from where we sat, mooing loudly from one end to the other.  Occasionally another couple of cows would chime in.

Tiger chuffing.  Not to be mistaken with roaring.  Deb said it was a sign of her lack of a social life, that the last thing she searched for on her iPhone was tiger chuffing.  It was replaced by cow mooing, which is when we discovered it wasn't cow sex going on, but one cow trying to find the herd.  Which totally burst our romantic notion about cows.  I was irritated at this point by the cow screaming across the road, so I.....

Stirred the cows up with my iPhone flashlight.  I know, totally mean of me, and I paid for it by being flogged by a million bugs rushing at the light and up my nose, in my eyes and ears, and...well you get the idea.  Deb also was eaten alive while Googling cow mooing.

Our California road trip.  Possibly the best road trip of our lives.  While we reminisced about the trip, we also talked about our own insignificance in the scheme of the universe, watching the sky light up with orange meteors shooting past in the sky overhead.  Then things deteriorated again when we decided to move our lounge chairs to face the house because it seemed like the meteors were coming from there.  That was when....

I peed my pants trying to get up off the lounge chair to move it.  I hadn't been to yoga in a couple months due to recouping from surgeries, so my abdominal muscles were jello, and so were my legs, which led to the above.  After we got settled down, we realized that the meteors were actually more visible in the direction we had just turned from, and somehow I made it up off the lounge, then Deb said something, I laughed, and peed my pants again. Just a little.   At that point, we started to laugh and talked about....

Estrogen levels and how they affect homicidal behavior.  I had just been taken off all estrogen, given a tablet to block my body absorbing any estrogen it might try to produce on its own, and told that the pill would probably give me hot flashes.  By a doctor who was smiling so kindly at me when he said it that I thought seriously about slapping him.  Just for a second.  Which means this ain't gonna be good, if I felt like that while I had estrogen still floating around.  About this time a leaf blew off the tree and hit Deb's shoulder, and she screamed loudly.  Which made a cow start mooing again and made us....

Laugh at shadows, more bugs, and leaves.  About that time we were sipping the last of our wine, and didn't notice Steve slip out and say something in his booming deep voice.  I jumped and screamed and so did Deb.  I thought a cow had gotten loose, circled around behind us and was about to charge us.  I invited Steve to join us, but he said no, he was going back to bed, which caused me to wonder out loud why the *#&$ he had bothered coming out at all.  Except I knew why.

He wanted to make me scream and pee my pants.

Because he is evil that way.

Thanks Deb, my Wretched Daughter, for being there to watch stars with me.  Let's do it again kiddo. Same time, next year.

(This post is in response to two prompts on Friday Reflections, how I deal with anxiety, and reflecting on my favorite song.  Somehow, this week, they were both tied together.) is good. ~cat
i am @jonesbabie on twitter

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

steaming isn't the same thing as vaping

Right now I am steaming mad.  I got up this morning, meaning to write a blog post about something on my mind.  Then I saw a post on Facebook and saw red.  It also hurt me, because it brought back my own memories and how easy it is to hurt someone's feelings.

School started just days ago for my grandkids, and already the cruelty has started.  My daughter posted on Facebook that some little girl had told my granddaughter Maddie that she is ugly.  Maddie told Jen about it with tears in her eyes.  As I read the comments from Jen's friends and family reassuring Maddie that she is beautiful, I felt something else.

I felt anger.  And shame.

Anger for all the times I remember enduring things people said that were hurtful.  I keenly remember how unkind words can rip at self esteem at a time when it is fragile and growing.  I remember wondering if maybe the person who said the ugly words was right, and what they said was true.  I remember wondering what I had done to deserve the words.  I know now I had done nothing, but because I reacted to the words at the time, a few other kids joined in, and hammered me pretty relentlessly for a time, until they tired of the game and moved on to new prey.  Back then we knew what bullies were, and these girls were bullies.  I know now that I wasn't much different than the other kids.  But it was the ability to make me THINK I was different that gave this small group of cruel girls the power to hurt me.

Shame.  I feel shame for all the times I have said cruel things to other people.  I see how hurt Maddie is, and realize how the mean things I have said over the years to other people have hurt them. Sometimes it was unintentional, but sometimes I said things deliberately to hurt others, when I had been hurt.  There is no way to be unhurt by words, and saying cruel things to others doesn't undo what has been done to me, and this was brought home to me by Maddie's reaction to that little girl.

That is what I want Maddie to understand.  How we treat others has a lasting impact.  Words hurt, but it is important to understand that the person saying the words doesn't really know her.  The person saying the words is trying to hurt her, to get a reaction from her.  If I could, I would give Maddie the strength to laugh in the face of anyone who says anything mean, because words like that, in the end, are not what is important.

The important thing to understand is her own worth as a person, and to understand that people say things for different reasons.  I could go on and on about the whys of it, but the important thing is to know the truth.  That we all ride on the same planet, and in the end, there isn't much different about us.  We are the only species that tries to feel like we are different from each other, and better than each other.  But we aren't.  We are all one family.  The family of man.

That sounds a little smarmy.  I would still love to grab that little girl by the ear and ask her just what she means by those ugly words.

But Grammys shouldn't act like that.

Most of the time. is good. ~cat
i am @jonesbabie on twitter

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

house of the rising sun

In response to Friday Reflections bonus prompt: What did I enjoy this week? Check out Reflections from a Redhead, and reflections from me for more about this wonderful blog link up...

This much I know is true...
When I can't get my writing brain going, photos or art speak for me:
Seeing the rising sun immediately brought music to mind:

Sometimes, words aren't necessary. is good. -cat
i am @jonesbabie on twitter