Has everybody in the world gone freaking nuts or is it just me??? I am dealing with a pompous asshole vet from CA who developed the protocol that has successfully reversed SARDS Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome) for over 200 dogs. He is an unmitigated prick ~ plain and simple. I sent him a short albeit pleasant email about Sasha’s medications earlier this evening. His response? “Whatever floats your boat”. The other day I also emailed him because Sasha had such severe distress over the weekend because her medication was increased from 8mg to 10mg. He had the balls to write and tell me that “Sasha wants to get better but you are too close to the situation. She will get well if you leave her alone”. I’m too close? Should I hand her over to a stranger and ask them to monitor all her meds and lab tests? ” Oh yes then he called me on the phone a few minutes later. Because I was crying over Sasha’s sad state, I didn’t look at Caller ID ~ just answered. He immediately became annoyed that I was crying, cursed then told me to “Cool it”. Tells me to cool it??? What the fuck is this? Happy Days and he’s Fonzie?????
What kind of asshole tells that to a pet owner? Or a human patient?? He is so lucky he lives on the opposite coast because he and I would be having words face to face. Nobody but nobody is allowed to be dismissive and cavalier when it comes to my dogs health and well-being. Call me “The Crazy Dog Lady” but every dog I’ve been blessed to have in my life has given me unconditional love which is a hell of a lot more than most people have given me. I was forwarned about his cantankerous and abrasive personality but when dealing with MY dog’s health, you answer my questions in a responsible and professional manner. You don’t fucking say “Whatever floats your boat”. What a freaking piece of work!
*As usual, written in the middle of the night during a bout of insomnia.*
My heart is heavy tonight. Sasha seems depressed. Before you laugh, I truly believe dogs are sentient beings thus capable of feelings. She has been through so much that I think it’s wearing on her. I also think she’s grown weary of multiple pills three times a day, of which six are rather big. I’m going to see if I can get some of her medications in a liquid form from a compounding pharmacy, flavored with bacon or something palatable. I’m also going to try to rig a boot to stay on so that she can go swimming in her beloved river, something my resident water baby hasn’t done at all this summer.
Sasha “knuckles” which means when she walks she sometimes turns her toes under. This not only makes a dog lose their balance but it causes abrasions to the top of their foot. Dogs that knuckle have had such severe scrapes that they’ve lost a toenail. Because she knuckles frequently when walking, I’ve avoided the river this year because the rocky bed will surely damage her foot when she’s playing AND knuckling. I’ve purchased so many different boots for her but none of them seem to stay on despite measuring her foot. I recently learned of a woman whose dog knuckled the way Sasha does only sadly Rufi had Degenerative Myelopathy, the canine version of ALS and soon progressed to a wheelchair. Sasha’s knuckling as I’ve previously written is a residual effect of a neurological event in 2011 called a FCE (spinal stroke). The owner bought a pair of Ruffwear boots and took them to a shoemaker to be customized. With a customized boot, there is the bottom boot as well as a wrap around top that goes just above their hock. A strap is attached by a clip to the boot and to the top wrap. This is called a “knuckling strap”. It’s adjustable in case it needs to be made looser or tighter. The purpose of the knuckling strap is to keep the foot straight and in a normal position and not allow the toes to turn under. Here’s the original Rufi boot:
The stars and planets must have been in alignment because just two weeks ago I saw an article in the local paper about a shoemaker from a distant town being at our local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. There’s not a shoemaker around here and you have to drive 50 miles one way to find one so this was great news. I reached out to him immediately via email, gave a brief synopsis of what I needed and asked if it was a project he could do. He responded within an hour that he could so I took Sasha and met him at the market last Saturday. We decided instead of using the Ultra Paws brand boots that I have (try 4 pairs!), he’s going to make Sasha a custom pair of boots. Complete with Vibram soles, sheepskin to line the upper strap as well as other areas. It’s $130 for the pair and I’m fine with that because to buy her the Ruffwear boots alone (recommended over Ultra Paws) would be $80. He’s also taking one pair of the Ultra Paws boots (that I bought too big), stitching up the sides a bit and making a strap for the top along with the “knuckling strap” connector, just no Vibram sole. These will be her “water shoes” for river days.The strap connectors will be a hard plastic on the water shoes to prevent rust but metal on her other ones. Sasha needs water shoes because swimming in the river is a major part of her life PLUS it gives her exercise for her legs, targeting muscles that need it. There isn’t an animal rehabilitation facility here so I’d have to make a 5 hour round trip for hydrotherapy. I was a little surprised that he wanted to construct a custom pair but once I did the math, to take the Ultra Paws boots and customize them to fit her, add leather etc. it would have been more money. His suggestion is actually better because they’re going to be customized for her feet with a soft inner lining. The liningcomponent is particularly good because Sasha now has toe arthritis in her affected rear foot because of the knuckling. If you look to the right of this photo, you can see the awkward way Sasha is extending her left rear leg (the proverbial problem child):
He took all her measurements and I’m quite excited. I was really impressed by him as well as the products I saw displayed and the finished work he was giving customers who came for pick ups. My late brother-in-law was an Italian cobbler and people from all over NYC used to come to him because he did such good work. Talking to this young man was like talking to Angelo ~ minus the accent. He told me that he does work for people from other states; many send him their Frye, Bass or LL Bean shoes/boots for repair. Sasha has been pretty fortunate in that she never had serious abrasions from knuckling because we live in a grassy area ~ until Saturday. I pulled up and stopped the car in front of his booth but just from walking a few feet on the asphalt parking lot she got several abrasions on her foot, one surrounding her toenail. These are definitely the worst ones she’s had and I’m cleaning them daily followed by antibiotic ointment. Initially I used a gauze wrap but quickly learned bandaging was an effort in futility. The downside is the custom boots will take three weeks. I think once her abrasions are healed I’m going to try to rig one of her many boots and hope it’ll stay on so that she can go swimming as I believe it will cheer her. I just have to be sure her foot is 200% healed to eliminate any chance of infection from the river water. Sasha’s foot from the asphalt on Saturday:
As of today she won’t take her favorite snacks and instead of lying in the room with her family, she remains alone in another room. She won’t eat her favorite snacks including her #1 ~ vanilla yogurt. I’m really quite sad and if necessary, will make changes in her treatment plan. I want to improve her medical issues but not to the point that it impairs her quality of life.
My Sweet Sasha ~ as always a true work in progress and so very loved.
I wrote most of the following entry on June 27, 2016 on our way home from a progress exam with Sasha’s internist. Decided I would leave it as is. I posted part of it on Sasha’s FB page but omitted personal details…
We are almost home (Sasha’s internist is a 5 hr RT). The AC in our Honda Ridgeline simply stopped working, we’re hitting construction everywhere, and I’m starving. However none of it’s annoying me for I’m still ecstatic because Sasha’s pupils are beginning to react to light (PRL). Being realistic, today’s discovery is a baby step but nonetheless it’s progress.Sasha woke up blind on April 7. Since she was in the process of preparing for stem cell therapy, I initially had the veterinary neurosurgeon perform diagnostics to uncover the cause. I did the gamut; MRI imaging of her head to rule out an organic disturbance, a spinal tap to rule out neurological infection, a plethora of lab tests especially the ones that would indicate a tick borne illness however everything was normal. My next step was having Sasha evaluated by a veterinarian ophthalmologist which included more tests and an ERG ( electroretinogram) which is a test to evaluate retinal function. Think of it as an EKG monitor that we see hooked to a hospitalized patient on a medical drama. When the patient’s heart stops, the EKG makes a noise and the camera zooms in on the flat line shown on the monitor. When an ERG performed on a dog shows a “flat line” it indicates total destruction of the visual cell layer (the rods and cones) of the retina with subsequent blindness. The diagnosis is Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS), you are told there is no treatment and given handouts on “Dealing with a Blind Dog”. Nearly 5k in diagnostics only to be told to help Sasha adapt to blindness as she’ll never see again. “You can’t help her”.
Somehow it didn’t “feel right” to me and since my mantra is “Can’t is a fellow that never tried” I didn’t accept it. Not because I didn’t want the burden of a blind dog but rather, I wouldn’t have accepted that diagnosis for a human family member so why would I for Sasha? If there was a chance to regain either full or partial vision I wanted her to have it. She’s had so many atypical medical issues yet always landed on her feet. After the FCE in 2011, I accepted that she wouldn’t reach the last Schutzhund level or scale a 6′ fence – who cares? But I wanted to be able to watch her face as her eyes followed a tossed snowball or a chirping band of tree hopping squirrels. And if there were no options, I would have accepted that too; but I owed it to her to explore.
As a young child I was not allowed to touch, play, talk to, or interact with the family dog on ANY level. Her name was Beauty; jet black fur with a slight wave to it and long lovely ears. Looking back I think she was some type of spaniel. To be honest I don’t know where she came from as she simply appeared inside our house one day when I returned from kindergarten (just as she mysteriously appeared, a few years later she was gone). I also don’t know where she was most evenings and on weekends as I would only catch fleeting glimpses of her. I asked my father one night (when he wasn’t drinking) why I couldn’t play with Beauty. He said “Mommy told me she caught you sticking pins in Beauty’s ears”. I can still feel the hurt and shame that enveloped me that night because I knew I had never, ever done anything to hurt Beauty but from living with a mother that lied, I inherently knew to protest or deny her accusations was futile. I can also remember the rare times I would see Beauty in the living room while my parents watched the evening news. My father would be stroking her and my mother alternating between giving me her famous smug smirk or looking at me in horror and making motions with her arms as if to protect Beauty from the me ~ the resident demon. She would do it when my father was engrossed in the current new story so that he wouldn’t see her. I always felt like she was a like a taunting schoolyard bully instead of a mother. Gotta tell you, it was a real joy being 5 years old in that house! So as usual I immersed myself in books, many which were about dogs. Our home had an abundance of older books, many of which I still have today. We seemed to have many by Albert Payson Terhune, a native of NJ. He wrote about his beloved collies and while I couldn’t read many of the words in his books, I still enjoyed them.
Until I became a mother the only happiness and unconditional love I’d ever had was from the dogs I was blessed to have in my life. Their wagging tails and sloppy kisses kept me going when I wanted to literally give up. They lay by my side as I cried uncontrollably. They entertained me with their hilarious antics on lonely nights and weekends. An introvert my nature, I sat on the floor with them and enjoyed a Saturday night party of treats and tracking. They were usually the only ones who were openly happy to see me. Somehow because of them I felt validated as a person. All the hateful venom hurled my way as a child didn’t matter because in the eyes of my dogs, I saw love and acceptance and that was enough to sustain me. As we do with our loved ones, I put their veterinary needs before my own the same way I later put my children’s needs before my own. That’s just what we do in life. I won’t deceive or gild it though; keeping up with Sasha’s medical costs has been one of the biggest financial challenges of my life, especially since I wasn’t working and involved in a legal matter. It pained me deeply that I had to turn to asking people to lend me money but it all goes back to what mattered more; my pride or Sasha’s well-being. Definitely a no-brainer!
So yes, today I am excited, blessed, thrilled and confident. Tomorrow something may crop up in her care that changes that but I know that whatever obstacles she encounters will be stepping-stones. I believe Sasha knows how very loved she is. I also think she senses that her internist, Dr. Sarah Noble, truly cares about her. You can see Sasha perk up and radiate contentment whenever Dr. Noble enters the room. Her other hero is Dr. Plechner who ironically is located on the West Coast while we are on the East. Opposite ends of the country yet he has been there every step of Sasha’s SARDS journey. Dr. Noble collaborated with him for Sasha’s treatment by using a protocol that he researched and developed. Many in his profession believe he is too controversial but I say this; it was the controversial pioneers that gave us many of the gold medical standards (both human and animal) in today’s world. Bottom line, Dr. Plechner’s theories made sense. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. As a healthcare professional I researched SARDS, his protocol for treating it, spoke with owners of dogs whose vision returned after using his treatment plan. At the end of the day I knew it was an opportunity I wanted to give Sasha but accepted that, like anything in life, no guarantees. Both Drs. Noble and Plechner care about their patients, viewing them as a sentient beings as opposed to Patient #936. With heroes like that in her corner along with the beautiful thoughts and prayers from all of her followers on Sasha’s Journey , Sasha has a sure-fire recipe for success. Most of all, she is loved and that will never change ~