So I Give Up….

So I Give Up….

*I’m writing this post because I cannot figure out how to put a widget on here ~ pretty sad. Or funny depending on my mood at the time.*

I won’t write how long I sat at my laptop today trying to figure out HOW to put a widget for my German Shepherd’s blog on this one. It would be the ultimate embarrassment if I did. I definitely need those “dummy books” more than I thought. It’s just one of those simple things that one encounters in life that totally confuses you and when you see how it’s done you say, “Oh duhhhh@me”.

I’ve written a few times about my dogs, specifically Sasha and her rather unique medical problems. She had stem cell therapy in April 2016 ~ and a whole bunch of other things. I’ve  decided in my next life I need to marry a veterinarian. Ironically, I found a picture of her today when she was having an MRI of her spine in April. Wow was I shocked!

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When I first began researching treatments for Sasha, I primarily went to vet school websites and avoided “Mary Sue’s Dog Blog” because I wanted the most accurate information I could find. I’ve come to learn that vets are sometimes not as open as they could be. Having said that, I did rely on both FB pages, blogs and You Tube videos of dogs that had stem cell therapy (SCT) because it gave me the opportunity to see real dogs in their home environment. Often the veterinarian sites show dogs in a clinical setting. Looking back I’m surprised my family didn’t hold an intervention because I had so many YT videos on the television ~ sometimes for hours. Many of them were done  by people in other countries; there were Spanish, Italian and Russian. It didn’t make a difference that I didn’t know what they were saying because both their body language and the dog’s behavior gave me the answers I was looking for.

I originally had a Facebook page for her where she had over 200 followers but Facebook is not the venue for me and subsequently I deactivated it. I’ve been transitioning Sasha’s story over to her blog, starting it in March when her medical journey began.

I belong to both Sasha and her litter sister Inga whose parents were imported from Germany. I call them “The Germs” ~ because I think I’m rather funny at times. The Germs actually have a variety of names. Inga Patrice is Annika Von Den Westlichen Bergen and Sasha Clarice is Angel Von Den Westlichen Bergen. To me however they’re just Ring Ding and Sash. Even though my late dog Callie was truly my soul mate, aware of my every emotion, The Germs also keep me going ~ just in a different way. Their soulful brown eyes and head on my lap have enabled me to weather many a PTSD trigger. PTSD is in a way my cross to bear but these dogs by my side have eased that burden. perhaps that doesn’t make sense to everyone but those who have a special relationship with a dog will understand.

Up until a Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE), also known as a spinal stroke, hit Sasha in 2011, both dogs and I were actively involved in Schutzhund training and completion. Going to the club was our weekend getaways. Sasha was just shy of earning Sch3 (which is the top-level) when she was paralyzed by the FCE.

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She made an 85-90% recovery after fast intervention by a veterinary neurosurgeon followed by months of physical therapy. While no longer able to compete, she nonetheless remained active all year-long. She was still an excellent tracker, hiked with me in spring and fall, swam like a fish every summer, and tagged along when I snowshoe in winter. Even now, with all the medical issues that have just piled on her one after another, she remains so resilient that I just want to cry at times.

So I’m posting this because I know a few of you are dog people and would like to invite you to check her out her blog, Sasha’s Journey. She also has a You Tube channel which is also called Sasha’s Journey. If  interested, please subscribe. I really do give a lot of information and use hyperlinks frequently. Maybe when WP Live Chat resumes on September 26 I can get one of the tech kiddos to walk me through the widget thing ~ if I have any marbles left by then.

Thanks!

❤️❤️My Germs❤️❤️

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Then God said, “Let there be light”

Then God said, “Let there be light”

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”.

Sasha Quick ERG April 22, 2016
Sasha’s ERG ~ April 22, 2016 (not exactly flat lined)

 

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One of the many tests by the opthalmologist
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More tests

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.

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Sasha ~ In Schutzhund class one month before the FCE

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.

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Albert Peyson Terhune & his collies of Sunnybank

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!

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Sasha May 2016

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 ~

 

 

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Sasha Smiles

My Sweet Sasha & Why Internet Trolls *^(%*# Me

My Sweet Sasha & Why Internet Trolls *^(%*# Me

I am somewhat disheartened today which is a step up from last night when I was in full attack mode. I am not a huge participant on social media. Correction ~ on Facebook  (I use Twitter). I do however have a personal FB page which enables me to stay in touch with friends and former colleagues in NJ. When my dog Callie was diagnosed with canine lymphoma last October I created a FB page for her. I’m a researcher by nature and wanted to share articles, nutritional recommendations for dogs undergoing chemo and so forth. Sadly Callie passed a month later so her page is more of a tribute. When my German Shepherd developed some health issues in the beginning of 2016, I created a FB page for her called Sasha’s Journey. Little did I know the path her journey would take; stem cell therapy. I frequently update her page with procedural videos, photos, and general musings about the medical issues she has and which treatment modalities work or don’t work. That’s about the extent of my FB activity and most of the time I do it using my iPhone. It was less than a year ago that I learned about the many features of FB because I happened to be on my laptop where the format is different from mobile. For example I discovered we have an “other” mailbox which is where messages sent by users we’re not associated with wind up. *Hold that the thought* Interesting but I quickly forgot about it. Yesterday however I was on my laptop researching boots for my GSD. Sasha’s primary issue is knuckling of her rear left foot which is a residual effect of a neurological event she suffered in 2011. In essence knuckling means a dog will turn their paw under when walking (the frequency depends on the dog’s medical issue) and this can lead to abrasions on top of their foot as well as loss of balance. Wearing a single boot on the affected paw can help their mobility and reduce injury. I have a small collection of boots but hadn’t found the right one for her until recently. Yesterday I was online printing the sizing chart and looking at the company web-sight. Regressing a moment ~ I admit I don’t have my laptop tweaked because I’m not on it much. It’s only a few months old but I spend so much time driving for veterinary appointments that it’s easier to use my iPhone. While looking at the boots I kept seeing annoying little notification boxes and finally checked to see what they were. There were messages in my “other” FB mailbox; messages about Sasha. As I read my mouth literally fell open because although there were only four, they were beyond cruel. One troll said that I was forcing a “half dead dog” to stay alive by playing Dr. Frankenstein. One suggested I shoot her. The next just rambled on about stem cell therapy being against God’s will. The last wrote that I was torturing Sasha and she needs to be “put down”. That begs a question I’ve always pondered ~ what exactly does “put down” mean? I’ve never liked associating that term with the death of a beloved companion animal. I put down my knitting, put down a fork. How do I put down a dog? I chose not to answer any of the misanthropic message senders but because it bothered me SO MUCH  I made a rather lengthy post on Sasha’s Journey which I’d like to share on my blog for anyone who might be interested. You know, I’ve had a rather difficult life in that I overcame (for the most part) horrific childhood abuse and incarceration before age 10. I kept moving forward and with the birth of my first child felt I finally had a family, I was complete. The missing component to happiness that had eluded me for so long was finally in place. Animals also played an extremely significant role in my life as their unconditional love and acceptance allowed me to feel grounded. I made a career switch to nursing and worked in a large inner city teaching hospital where I saw everything and anything. I am most definitely somewhat cynical and sarcasm is my middle name. Even with my feisty Jersey personality I never intentionally try to be cruel or unkind to another person. I’ve been the recipient of vicious comments and it hurts so why would I do the same to another? Yet despite the passing years, life experiences and just plain crap that one encounters, I still cling to the belief that people are inherently good and when idiots like those message senders shatter my perceptions, I still manage to get myself into a tizzy and last night’s tizzy was of mammoth proportions!  Now onto that post…

 

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Summer Sasha August 2015

 

I usually use FB while on my phone so when I access it from my laptop I see the many features I often miss when on a smart phone. Today while researching boots on the Mac I saw something I wish I hadn’t but because of my personality, can’t let it go and therefore shall address it. I am very sad at the moment regarding a few messages I happened upon in the “other” FB mailbox; messages about my GSD, Sasha Clarice (Angel Von den Westlichen Bergen), for whom this page was created to chronicle her medical needs and subsequent treatments. From the same litter as her “sister” Inga Patrice (Anika Von den Westlichen Bergen) whom I purchased from the breeder at 8 weeks, Sasha initially went to another family in Maine. A very affluent and connected local family. Sadly, her first few months were anything but pampered; she was barely tolerated. They wanted a GSD who was extremely quiet and docile ~ one who acted like their recently deceased 14 yr old GSD. Delusional thinking. When Sasha (she had a different name back then) tore up a tissue she was put inside a closet. There were no toys or treats in their home. They never took her picture, not even once. For some strange reason they would call me weekly to compare Sasha and Inga. Perhaps because there were only (3) females in the litter they assumed all female pups acted alike? They took her to numerous vets because she frequently licked her genitalia. I mean, multiple vets in different towns! One day I overheard a conversation while in a local store that upset me greatly. That evening I called Sasha’s owners and the wife answered. I didn’t want to say what I’d overheard so decided to lead the owner into the direction I needed. My fear was substantiated. Sasha had been hit by a slow-moving car in front of their home and thrown several feet into the air before landing in the street. My first question was “What did the vet say”? Can you imagine my shock when the woman said they didn’t take her? This from someone who was obsessed about a puppy’s occasional licking? Trying to keep calm I asked how Sasha was and I will NEVER forget the sinister laugh on the other end of the phone. She said (and I quote): “Well she’s been rather mellow and quiet the past few days. Too bad she can’t get hit more often”. Then she laughed again. I made up my mind then and there to get Sash away from these freaks. In the past they had offered her to me because she committed some dastardly deed like shredding a piece of mail but when I arrived to get her they’d changed their minds. So I searched the internet, found the type of contract I needed and filled it out. The next time they called I was ready. I arrived with contract in hand in addition to my daughter who is a notary. I had them date and sign before I even sat down. The contract clearly specified that it was irrevocable. I changed her name to Sasha because it rhymed with her original name (so as not to confuse her), registered her with the AKC since they never bothered, plus had her microchipped.
I still remember the look on her face when she moved to her new home. She was clueless about toys such as ropes and antlers. I remember watching her face while she watched Inga and Callie as they went to the toy basket, water bowl, or the outside play equipment and then followed suit. I cried because I was happy she was in her forever home yet sad that her first year had been so terrible. She and Inga had alpha issues and it took a lot of time and work. The one constant has been Sasha’s resilience and happy disposition. She trained hard in Schutzhund and could scale a 6′ fence in a flash. She took to water like a fish and snow like a polar bear. When she became sidelined by the FCE (Fibrocartilaginous Embolism) also called a spinal stroke in 2011, she worked hard to recover and recover she did; 85% use of the affected leg. In 2013 she had sudden onset of PFD  (Perianal Fistula Disease) but once again, persevered and between her support team at home and an incredible internist she’s been in remission for over (3) years. Remissions of that length are almost unheard of. PFD is such a nasty disease that many GSDs have to have their tails amputated. Yet here’s Sasha, a testament to overcoming and defying the odds.
So for the few people who, after reading Sasha’s Journey, have sent me private messages suggesting I am torturing her, that she is too old, too weak, too blind, too ___________ (insert adjective) and should be “put down” I say this. Ain’t happening! Sasha is loved and cared for, her needs are more than met, and most of all, she is happy and content. If reading her page disturbs you then I suggest you find another more aesthetically pleasing page to follow. FB has a plethora of pages that have pretty dog pictures accompanied by happy dog quotes. Sasha’s Journey is dedicated to a real dog, with tangible health issues – issues that affect thousands of companion dogs on any given day. Her page documents not only her struggles and setbacks but progress made due to her incredible strength, determination and phenomenal veterinarians. Most of all ~ Sasha’s Journey represents love. It’s enabled me to share her story with other people so that they can see options or alternatives that they might not known about or are simply curious about. As I frequently post, stay tuned ~ Sasha is a work in progress.
Oh and as for the freak couple that originally owned Sasha? I saw them towards the end of April while in a local market. The husband asked about Sasha and I told them she was going to be undergoing SCT in a few days to help her arthritis. His response? “Next time do the smart thing like us, get a poodle”. If attitudes like theirs are indicative of being smart, I opt to remain dumb.

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