Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It Was Bound To Happen...

....the 120 cm ball freaking popped. :(

Le sigh.  I brought the giant thing out of retirement because our center wide talent show (which we did a few years back) was in danger of being cancelled.  I agreed to do the giant dog on the giant ball routine, but with a week to prepare, I realized that I should probably practice a little bit with Heffner.  Things have been going great the past few days until last night.  Heffner got up on the ball, things were going fine, and then it just tore.  To be honest, I probably should have expected it.  It's been sitting in my hot garage since I moved in and I haven't inflated it until last week.  The material isn't meant to hold up to that kind of heat stress, even while being stored inside the house after inflation.  This time, I'm not going to bother replacing it.  FitPaws has more than enough fun and new equipment that's more manageable for me with a giant dog, that it's not worth the cost of replacing a ball that size.  In the mean time, the audience will just have to appreciate a giant dog on an overly large inflated peanut. ;)      

In memory of this giant ball, I thought I'd post the links to a few posts that it has so graciously made an appearance in:

Conditioning

The Evolution of the Ball Studio

DVD of the Month

The National Continued - Parades

We're Back!

Darwin's Post on Dane Outreach's Education Day

Our "act" for the talent show is going to be a little different than the last time.  I'm tweaking a few things.  I haven't worked on a lot of these tricks with Heffner in quite some time.  And of course, he and I are getting older. ;)  It's been really exciting getting back into working with the conditioning equipment again.  Heffner and I both missed this fun training time together.  His eyes just light up and he gets so excited!!  Working on some of the "old" tricks has also given me ideas for new tricks that I want to work on, that unfortunately won't be ready in time for the talent show.  It's gotten both Heffner and I up and working on fun things and building on what we already know.  All happy good things. 

Looking back on the old posts, pictures, and videos, I am thankful that I have these memories to happily look back on and relive.  Good memories with my wonderful dogs.     

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Milk Thistle

In my ever ongoing search for ways to keep my dogs happy, healthy, and with me for as long as possible, I naturally turn to supplements.  Barring my finding a sugar daddy who can single-handedly fund research into making my dogs bionic and therefore live as long as I do, I have to work with what I've got. ;)  I've written a few posts previously about the supplements that I was already giving my dogs, but there's one that I've added more recently that I have absolutely fallen in love with!  So much so that I'm actually taking it myself.  This wonderful supplement is milk thistle.

Milk thistle is a hepatoprotective supplement.  Meaning, it helps protect your liver.  You cannot survive without your liver.  And if your liver is damaged or failing, it creates a plethora of health issues that may not immediately seem like they are directly related.  While the liver has MANY functions, one of the more important ones is that it works to detoxify the body.  Without a fully functioning liver, toxins build up in the blood stream and damage the body as a whole.  If you'd like to read more about the function of the liver I recommend going here.

Use of milk thistle has been shown to protect the liver against damage caused by free radicals as well as increasing protein synthesis in these same cells.  A protected liver, and better yet, one that can regenerate it's cells more effectively, leads to better overall health for the body.  Basically, a happy liver, is a healthier, longer lasting body.  Additional studies have shown that milk thistle appears to have some tumor growth inhibiting properties as well.  The sky almost seems to be the limit with the benefits of this supplement.  Not sure you buy into what I'm saying?  Don't trust me, trust some of these peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject!

Silibinin Inhibits Tumor Promotional Triggers and Tumorigensis Against Chemically Induced Two-Stage Skin Carcinogensis in Swiss Albino Mice:  Possible Role of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Milk Thistle:  A Future Potential Anti-Osteoporotic and Fracture Healing Agent
  
Milk Thistle:  Early Seeds of Potential

Silibinin inhibits accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and tumor growth of murine breast cancer

 Hepatoprotective Effect of Silymarin

You may need to look around on the pages of some of these papers to find the link to the full text version, but they should all be accessible to anyone, I believe.  These are just a smattering of papers that I found on the subject that I thought were helpful.  I'm a fan of science and I'm a fan of work that has been peer reviewed and deemed accurate enough to be published and stand up to public scrutiny.  It's the basis of what I do for a living and I believe whole-heartedly in it.

Now that we've gotten the technical stuff out of the way, lets get down to the anecdotal, which ultimately is what people want to hear about.  There are very few things that I expect to give to my dogs and see a rapid benefit from.  I, personally, am well aware that things like physical activity and staying in shape are something that you build on.  You don't just work out once and expect to wake up the next morning with a body builders physique!  However, I will admit that I noticed some positive changes in Heffner within just a few days of starting him on milk thistle.  I was not expecting that at all.  The most obvious change that I noticed with him was in his ears and his eyes.  I went to clean his ears about two days after starting him on the milk thistle and his ears were clean.  There wasn't really anything for me take care of.  Bess always had nice clean ears.  For the longest time Heffner had one ear that was always clean and one ear that always had a darkish, waxy build up.  Even with weekly ear cleaning, by the time ear cleaning day came around, there was always something to clean.  I never thought too much of it until he actually got an ear infection last year.  The first time that he'd ever had one and it was in the ear that always had the waxy buildup.  After medicating and cleaning the ear, it cleared up.  But I was now afraid that if I wasn't diligent enough with his ear cleaning that he would get an infection again.  While his ears clearing up wasn't a result that I expected, it makes sense thinking about it now.  His liver is in better shape and better able to clear the toxins from his body in a healthy way, so these toxins don't have a chance to build up and cause him issues elsewhere. 

In addition to his ears clearing up (and they've continued to stay cleared up!), he doesn't have much in the way of eye discharge any more.  The discharge was never anything overly concerning.  It was clear and not unhealthy looking, but it was just always there.  Particularly in the morning when he'd wake up after a full night of sleep.  He'd shake his head and it would get flung on the walls, or land on the floors, or he'd do his favorite thing and stick his head between my legs and rub his eye boogers off on my pants.  While he doesn't have overly loose eyes, his eyes were not quite as tight as Bess' and I just assumed that because of this there were goobers that would build up.  Those goobers have almost completely gone away.  He may occasionally still get a little schmutz in one of his eyes here and there, but it's definitely not the regular occurrence that it was.

As for the benefits that are going on within his body, that I can't tell you for sure without taking actual biopsies of his organs and running a bunch of blood tests to get all the parameters.  What I do know, is that my dog seems overall healthier and that's the most important part for me.

To all you skin and fur mothers out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Don't Let Them Age!

"An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion." -Newton's first law of motion

The past few months Heffner has had some health issues pop up (angry liver and stupid tumor).  Each time it has way laid him from his regular exercise routine of jogging and hiking with me.  Then there's the gradual build back up into shape.  And then he turned 8 and I basically started treating him like a piece of porcelain that would potentially shatter.  In a nutshell, I was letting my dog get old before his time.  

This wasn't necessarily a bad thing when there were two other dogs in the household to keep him mentally and physically engaged.  But now it's just him.  And he and I have both been a little mopey lately.  I had to give myself a firm shake to get my butt back in gear and start taking care of my dog the way he should be taken care of.  Yes he's technically a senior dog.  Yes he is actually starting to age.  But I'll be damned if I'm going to let him get old before his time!

There were a few things that caused me to realize that I needed to make some changes and be more supportive of Heff.  He was letting me sleep in.  Like past 8:00 am without coming to whine at the baby gate across my bedroom door.  He was sleeping all the time.  I could be in the office on my computer and he would just stay out on the couch sleeping, no matter how long I was in there for.  Pretty much the only time he would get up to greet me at the door was when I came home from work.  That is NOT my dog, and I needed to do something to change this.



Due to the various issues that have come up with him and some minor foot issues that he's had, I've retired him from running with me.  So he hasn't been getting the same level of exercise that he's been used to for the past several years.  And yes, it totally sucked when I made the decision to do this, but it's what was best for Heffner.  I had already implemented what I was fondly calling "old man walks."  Instead of going running with me, I'd take him for walks in the evening.  Just he and I.  It was sweet.  But it wasn't enough.  There was only so much variety that I was giving him on the routes that I would pick and that's just not enriching enough.  So I've implemented what I am fondly calling our date nights! (Hey, I've gotta maintain my crazy dog lady status some how!  I'm practically normal now that I only have one dog.  I've gotta do something to amp up the crazy ;) )  Date night involves a bunch of other things, but part of it is that I load him up and we head off to one of the pretty parks in the area, that have some lengthier trails/walkways.  I make sure that I pick places that have softer footing for his feet and joints.  I make sure that there are plenty of places to go so that we're out for at least a half hour.  The pace is set by Heffner (this gets more critical now that the weather is warming up and I don't want him over heating).  If he wants to stop and sniff something, then we stop and he sniffs.  My cell phone is turned off during this time.  It's just Heff and I, enjoying our little outing.  We do this twice a week and he definitely is enjoying it!  We've got some really pretty parks in the area and he LOVES going for car rides.  It's really a win-win situation.  
We're still going hiking, so we've got at least three outings away from home a week that we do.  Spicing up Heffner's physical activity?  Check!  After last year's trip to the Great Dane Club of Northern California's annual specialty weekend, I retired Heffner from competition in all performance sports.  I also basically stopped training him for anything.  That was dumb.  Nothing quite lights up my dogs and gets them excited than when I would do my bouts of daily training with them.  Well, nothing except when they'd lose their little minds as they watched me get the truck ready to take them for an outing. ;)  It's pretty well known that if you keep animals and people mentally engaged, they age slower.  I know this.  And apparently I chose to ignore it.  I know, I have serious moments of stupidity at times.  So, I've started back into training Heffner to do random tricks and behaviors.  I'm back to videoing each training session for each activity.  And I freaking LOVE it!  Even better, Heffner freaking loves it!  He's so excited to be "working" again.  And he's so excited to be getting yummy treats for these activities again. ;)  There's an added bonus of additional physical activity for him that is absolutely helping as well.  I've got a plan for tricks/behaviors to train right now and more to come.  While there are sports that would be friendly to an aging dog competing in, I doubt that we'll actually compete.  But who knows!  Right now we're having fun working together and re-establishing that working bond that I let falter.  I'm feeling re energized and excited and I'm getting my obnoxious boy back. 

My dogs used to jump up and follow me any time I got up from where ever I was sitting in the hopes that it meant I was going to do something with them.  Because it usually did.  Heffner hasn't done that in a while, and it's understandable since I was being a huge slacker.  But now he does!  I'll be sitting at my desk and need to get up for whatever and he's up and following me where ever I go.  As I mentioned, he used to just stay sleeping on the couch regardless of where I was in the house or what I was doing.  Now he's with me all the time, keeping an eye out for when our next activity is going to happen.  He's eager, bouncy, and ready for action!  Even more surprising, while still definitely heat sensitive, that boy is still wanting to play and engage outside, even on the gross 90 degree day that we had recently.  It feels like I've stopped the aging process in him and I've got my boy back.  It feels really good.:)

There's a few additional things that I've started implementing for him (and more that I plan to add) to help with the aging process and to keep him around, happy, healthy and as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.  I'll be sharing those as well.

Newton's first law of motion is particularly pertinent as our dogs age.  While we do need to look out for them and make decisions that are best for THEM, we also don't need to cause them to age prematurely.  If we want these guys to be around for a long time and stay in motion with us, then we need to do what we can to keep them in motion.  Don't be a jackass like I started to be.  These guys give us everything they have and they stand by us no matter what happens.  We owe it to them to keep them happy and healthy and aging gracefully.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Bessy

                                            Photo by Stacie Knudtsen

I have tried writing this post a few different times.  No matter what I write, there's no way to put into words what Bess means to me.  And inevitably, it gets more personal than I feel like sharing. 

I did put together a video of pictures through the years.  The majority of it is chronological.  Towards the end of the video, things are a little out of order because I wasn't saving pictures in as meticulous of an order as I have previously, but it gets back in order.  After completing the file I realized that there were a bunch more pictures that I had left out.  Unfortunately, the way that I created the file, it wouldn't be quite so simple to just add them into the bunch, so I left things as is.

I started to put together a video of a variety of clips that I have of her through the years, but that became a VERY lengthy video and honestly, it became something that was only for me. 

Without further ado, here's Bessy:


And the eulogy that her breeder put together:  "It is with great sadness that I let everyone know of the passing of Lindsay's "Bess". Everyone who knew Lindsay and Bess, either in person or as a facebook friend, knew what a special bond those two had.


Bess came into Lindsay's life as an older puppy. Sired by Elizabeth's Diesel (who also, sadly, recently passed over to the Rainbow Bridge) and out of Metta and Karl's Abby, she was sold as a puppy into a home. However, even though the home said they were ready for a puppy, they were NOT ready for Bess! She was returned to me at about 16 weeks of age, and it was evident in the first five minutes that they a) had not done ANYTHING with her and b) she was a wild child!

Because Bess was truly one of my "Great Dane versions of a border collie", she needed a special home; one that could deal with her high energy, prey drive, and also focus all that energy by giving her a job to do. I interviewed several homes--all wanted the couch-potato version.

NOT a good fit for Bess.

Finally, the perfect home-Lindsay with her love of outdoor activities and Danes. If anyone has visited her blog "Living With Big Dogs" you can see how active she is. Lindsay came and visited Bess and the rest is history. Lindsay accomplished much with Bess; many titles in performance events and nice wins in conformation events......but most importantly, a perfect home and a perfect fit for the two of them.

Sadly, that awful killer of Danes, bone cancer, struck swiftly, cutting Bess's life short and leaving a large hole in Lindsay's heart and home.

Sleep sweetly, silly girl. Only Lindsay truly understood your need for speed and now there will forever be only green fields to run in and rabbits to chase."
 


Monday, April 14, 2014

Bess

Okay, here goes.

On Wednesday, April 2nd, Bess was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

On Thursday, April 3rd, the results of Bess' chest x-rays were back from the radiologist.  The cancer had already metastasized to her lungs.

On Thursday, April 10th, I let Bess go.
I love this dog.  I'm not really okay with using past tense for her right now.  At the time of her diagnosis I could not understand how someone so vibrant and full of life could get shafted like this.  And now I'm missing her happy, uplifting presence something fierce.

I cannot come up with the words to do her proper justice right now.  Her wonderful breeder put out a very touching eulogy of Bess.  When I've had a little more time to put together something more significant, I will share all of that.  For the moment, here's to my little crackhead for being such a fantastic part of my life.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Midget

You want to eat her face from that picture too don't you?;)  This is a difficult post to write, but it's gotta get done.  I have never felt more like a failure than I did earlier this year.  At the same time that Heffner was going through his surgery and difficult recovery from anesthesia, I called Ruthie's breeder to let her know that I couldn't do it any more.  Things just weren't working out with The Midget.  Because she's a reputable breeder, she took Ruthie back. 

Ruthie went from being in a home where there were a lot of people around a lot of the time to living with my ex husband and I.  Two people who worked full time and also had two giant dogs that were established in the house.  I knew this was going to be a transition for her and I was prepared, or so I thought, for the difficulties that potentially come with transitioning an adult dog into an established household.  At the time, I really thought my biggest hurdle was going to be Heffner.  He HATED her.  That first day I had serious doubts because he couldn't even stand the sound of her.  I had them on different floors of the house and any time she made a peep, it would set him off.  With time, a LOT of effort, and stubbornness on my part, as you've seen from this blog, all three dogs were able to coexist together.  Not only that, but Heffner and Ruthie could be loose in the house on the same dog bed together.  Now THAT seemed like quite the accomplishment!  I think I was so focused on making it work and maintaining the balance that I had found with all three dogs, that I was initially seeing certain things as just an annoyance.  But they were an annoyance that continued to build and not get better to the point that I just couldn't deal with it any more.

There were the constant accidents in the house.  I have never had a dog on SUCH a strict schedule as I did with Ruthie.  I literally could not take a shower and leave her loose in my house without coming out to find some sort of accident.  As soon as I got home for work, I'd rush all three dogs outside in the hopes that I could get her outside before she had an accident in her crate.  While all three were outside pottying, I'd quickly grab collar, leash, and dog coat for Ruthie so that I could quickly get her suited up and out on a walk in the hopes that it would prevent her from having an accident in the house.  I say quickly because it was not uncommon for her to start pooping while I was putting her coat on.  The regimen goes on and on.  Every day, every part of my time at home was centered around this dog and trying to maintain a happy balance that did not include cleaning poop or pee up from inside the house. 

Now add to that the screaming in the crate.  If I was lucky, I could sleep in until just past 7am.  That was her alarm clock regardless of how late I let her out to potty the night before.  I had some nights where I would be out with friends and not get home until after 1am (this was not often.  I'm getting old and staying up late is not my forte).  I'd let her out to potty and to have a break from her crate.  That did not reset the alarm clock.  There was still the blood curdling screaming at around 7 am.  There was the blood curdling screaming if I was trying to take a nap.  I couldn't leave her loose while I slept because there would be accidents to clean up.  But keeping her crated when she knew I was in the house was inexcusable.  The only way I was able to get relief was with a bark collar.  She was stubborn enough that she managed to scream her way through the first two out of five settings.  Even so, she would still periodically test the collar.  And the screaming was always there as I was putting the key in the lock upon getting home from work.  It came from inside the truck as I was unloading the big dogs for whatever outing I took all three on.  It happened during nail trimming (don't even get me started on that half hour weekly ordeal.  I seriously would start drinking before I did her nails in order to be able to work myself up to it).  And it happened during ear cleaning.  To the point where I've had neighbors look over my fence while I was cleaning her ears because they thought someone was getting brutally murdered in my backyard.  To be honest, there were times where I wouldn't have been surprised if I had the police knocking on my door letting me know that they had reports of domestic abuse from my residence.  It was bad.

There were other things as well.  She had burnt out two house/dog sitters because she took so much more effort to monitor than the two big dogs.  I just hit my breaking point where it seemed like no matter what I did and no matter how controlled I tried to keep the situation, it wasn't making a difference.  I hate that I couldn't figure out how to make it work, but ultimately that wasn't the complete problem.

Ruthie went back to her breeder about a week after Heffner's surgery.  Because she's been breeding frenchies for so long and has so much experience, there were things that she was able to pick up on that I had either missed or didn't think much of.  I chalked a lot of things up to Ruthie transitioning from a bustling household to one with two working adults and two giant dogs, to one with only one working adult who was trying to split her attention between three dogs.  Everyone knows that all dogs transition differently when going to a new home.  There are periods of adjustment.  I just kept thinking that this was what she was going through.  Ruthie had some degenerative neurological issues going on.  Potentially a brain tumor.  She was also losing sight in one of her eyes, which wasn't helping.  For these reasons and other issues going on, Ruthie's breeder decided it would be best for Ruthie, to let her go.

And yes, that's hard.  I felt like a failure for this little dog because I couldn't seem to figure out the perfect combination of whatever that worked for her.  And I also missed that there were health issues going on with her that were ultimately leading to some of the behavioral issues that I was seeing.  It sucks.  Life with Ruthie was not easy, but she was a hilarious and sweet little dog.  While there were trials along the way, there were also great moments.  Ultimately, I loved that little dog.  Here are a few parting shots of the Almighty Midget: