Maine: Passed A Law That Could Harm Animals And Their Veterinarians…Part 1

Maine: Passed A Law That Could Harm Animals And Their Veterinarians…Part 1

Like nearly every state, Maine is dealing with an opiate and heroin epidemic. In 2015, Maine experienced 272 overdose related fatalities.

In an effort to combat the opiate epidemic, the Maine Legislature enacted   P.L. 2015, ch. 488 (An Act to Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program) which became effective January 1, 2017. PL 488 affects nearly all facets of healthcare by establishing specific rules for prescribing and dispensing controlled medications. It defines the protocols that must be followed and sets prescription limits on how much opiate a patient may legally be prescribed to take per day. This is called the Aggregate Morphine Milligram Equivalent and the total daily amount allowed is 100 Morphine Milligram Equivalents (100 MMEs ).

PL 488 mandates that whenever a medical provider prescribes a controlled substance, they first check the PMP (Prescription Monitoring Program) to review the MME for the patient, what controlled drugs the patient is currently taking, who prescribed them and the pharmacy that filled the prescription. They must calculate if the drug they want to prescribe will, when added to the patient’s current daily MMEs, increase the allowed 100 MMEs and if so, not prescribe it. They  must note if there are multiple prescriptions, providers or pharmacies. If the provider notices anything in the patients PMP profile that raises a red flag, they are required by law to report it to the PMP Coordinator. There are of course many other components to PL 488 but I only want to touch on the highlights and how it impacts Maine residents who are pet owners in addition to  veterinarians. Yes that’s correct ~ veterinarians because Maine’s Legislatures have determined that the inclusion of veterinarians in PL 488 will help reduce the opiate epidemic. I disagree because including veterinarians in PL 488 creates two major violations. First however I’d like to walk you through a veterinarian’s education.

If a young person thinks they want to become a veterinarian, they should begin preparing in high school by paying attention to their performance in science courses, such as chemistry, biology, and physics. This same attention applies to math courses; trigonometry, geometry, and algebra. After high school graduation the student attends a 4 year college to earn their bachelor’s degree where they take the prerequisite courses for admittance into veterinary college.These consist of many advanced science courses, such as biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and physics. They are necessary to prepare the student for the vigorous coursework in veterinary college. Prospective veterinarians must complete a doctor of veterinary medicine degree. Typically, a doctorate in veterinary medicine takes four years to complete. Of these four years, three are spent on classroom training where students take courses in animal anatomy and physiology. They also take courses on disease diagnosis, prevention and treatment. After completing three years of classroom training, students take another year left to complete their degree in veterinary medicine. The fourth year is typically spent getting practical, hands-on training. This takes the form of a one-year clinical rotation in a veterinary medical center or veterinary hospital to gain experience in a variety of areas of veterinary medicine. After graduating with a doctorate in veterinary medicine, veterinarians are not yet able to open a practice. Before practicing veterinary medicine, graduates must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination and any applicable state exams. Their path is definitely not a short one but throughout it is focused primarily on one thing ~ animal anatomy, physiology and wellness. 

Maines’s new PL 488 and it’s impact on veterinarians is such. If an owner takes their pet to be seen and the veterinarian feels it necessary to prescribe a narcotic or benzodiazepine for your pet, they must first do a check on the owner with DHHS to determine if the owner is on a controlled substance. As I previously mentioned I still need to clarify the parameters but the fact that a veterinarian or perhaps his staff has the power to access a person’s prescriptions is a huge HIPAA violation. But I digress. Let’s use a hypothetical situation. Owner has an anxiety disorder for which he takes Valium on a daily basis. He also has a severe back issue (long-term) so is on hydrocodone for pain control. His cat is hit by a car and taken to the vet where she undergoes successful emergency surgery but because her injuries are severe, the vet prescribes a pain medication; hydrocodone. Would the fact that the owner is on hydrocodone prohibit the vet from prescribing it for the cat’s postoperative pain? If so, would he be allowed to prescribe a different pain medication such as tramadol which also falls in the opiate category? Is he is prohibited from prescribing any narcotic because the owner is on two (2)?  Or is it only if the owner is on the same drug? If his prescriptive powers are limited because the owner is on a controlled substance, what criteria is used to determine if the animal can or cannot get a prescription?

Whilst I understand the opiate epidemic our country is tackling, how can a veterinarian or anyone for that matter be absolutely certain that a person who is taking several controlled drugs is abusing or trafficking? Plus the thought that an innocent animal might have to suffer needlessly because his owner is on a controlled substance is not only abhorrent but inhumane.  I want to know if it’s possible for the check to be done during non-business hours when DHHS is closed. Does the veterinarian’s office have to speak directly to a DHHS employee or is the information accessible online? And if it is accessible online, how can we, the human patient, be assured it’s secure? If the drug check on the owner can’t be done when DHHS is closed, then what happens to the animal who is in pain?  Any pet owner knows that many accidents happen at night, weekends or holidays when government agencies like DHHS are closed; what then?  Going back to HIPAA, who has authority within the veterinary practice to request the DHHS information? Can a receptionist do it? A vet tech? Or only the veterinarian? Finally, I do not understand how PL 488, a state law, can override HIPAA, a federal law enacted in 1996 by Congress and signed into effect by then President Bill Clinton. Under HIPAA an individual’s medical and other health information including prescriptions, is private and protected. The Privacy Law sets limits on who can look at and receive our health information such as covered entities and their business associates. As a nurse and former Union representative I am extremely familiar with HIPAA. In light of PL 488 however I reviewed it once again and nowhere did I find where veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or veterinary employees of any type are entitled to our records in any form. Additionally, PL 488 is in essence requiring veterinarians to understand human medication dosages compared to animals which often differ greatly.

I chose a veterinary team for my German Shepherd based on their reputations and expertise in animal physiology, not human. I value all members of her team despite being in different practices because of their knowledge. Having said that, I expect they keep current with the newest modalities of treatment for my dog. They work long hours yet now the State of Maine expects them to undertake additional training in order to understand and monitor the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)?  A program historically used only for humans?

This is ludicrous. There has to be a middle ground, a way the government, human healthcare providers and law enforcement can work together in an effort to reduce the rampant drug abuse without violating a person’s rights or including veterinarians where there is potential for an animal to suffer because “something” raises a red flag when in reality it could be legitimate.

Let’s Talk About Boots ~ Dog Boots That Is..

Let’s Talk About Boots ~ Dog Boots That Is..

*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.

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Sasha August 2015

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:

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The original Rufi boot ~ named after a great dog!
Ruffi Boot 3
This gives a better idea of how the knuckling strap works

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 lining component 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):

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Inga & Sasha August 2015

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:

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The worst she’s ever had!

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.

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.

Sasha aka Chomper
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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My Incomprehensible Loss

My Incomprehensible Loss

On November 6, 2015 I lost my beloved dog, Callie Ann. The events leading up to her unnecessary death are still too painful so I’ll address them at a later time. After an extremely brief illness she suddenly went into kidney failure. When her local vet was unable to treat her effectively I took her to an emergency vet clinic in Portland ME which is associated with a specialty veterinarian practice that I use. At first they believed they’d managed to turn her around but by early morning her prognosis was dire. She was technically transferred to the care of the specialty vet practice and I was blessed to have the same internist who treats one of my GSD’s. I couldn’t ask for a more kind or compassionate person to ease Callie’s transition from this life. They walked Callie into an exam room so that I could spend as much time as possible with her. The tech’s words were “This is YOUR room for the day”. Callie lay on a soft matted blanket on the floor and I stayed next to her, stroking and talking to her. She had a pink stuffed bear “Pinky” next to her that had been her favorite toy since she was a young puppy.

Callie loved "Pinky" her entire life
      Callie loved “Pinky” her entire life

After several hours she began to appear uncomfortable so I summoned the vet. She sat on the floor with us and I sang our “special song”(substituting ‘Callie’ for ‘Johnnie’) to my angel as she administered the drugs. Before the drugs actually flowed Callie wagged her tail several times. When she was gone I stayed for a bit then somehow found the strength to leave the room. It was only then that I noticed the number of the room we’d been in all morning ~ #3. The irony of it made my tears flow even more because 3 has always been my favorite number.

We have several dogs, all of which we love dearly. Callie however was my “heart” dog. Once I became a mother it seemed as if my children were always finding stray pups and bringing them home. Being an animal lover I kept each and every one. Once the children grew and left the nest for college, the “girls” became my best friends. We decided for a variety of reasons to leave our native NJ and relocate to the Western Mountain region of Maine. I was fortunate to find a home off the primary road with 20 acres in a wooded mountain. I had a 6′ high chain link fence installed on an extremely large portion of the rear property which gave the girls ample room to exercise and helped keep the forest critters out. At this point they were all aging so I lovingly referred to them as my “Golden Girls”. It was devastating when all four of them passed away within 18 months, each one mourned terribly. For the first time in years I didn’t have a dog and it was strange. The first Christmas after the last girl passed, I was putting out decorations when I realized how much I missed having a dog. And so the search began. I discovered PetFinder and would sit for hours reviewing page after page. One day I saw a photo of an adorable black fluff of fur at the PAWS shelter in Calais ME.

Baby Doll
‘Baby Doll’ was part of a litter of nine, all jet black ~ 2005

I remember having to Google Calais because I’d never heard of it. It’s far up at the northern section of Maine bordering Canada. I filled out their application and was approved. I had to wait however until she was 8 weeks old before getting her. My daughter and I made the trip which seemed to take an eternity. Once I’d picked her up I realized I hadn’t picked out a name and on the long drive home I decided on Callie Ann because she hailed from “Calais”.

What a delightful handful she was! We live in a log home and she systematically pulled out the chinking (insulation material between the logs). I used to tell her that if we got cold it was her fault but somehow it never phased her.

                Callie Ann Quick ~ 2005

 

 

 

Her nickname? Callie Angel
         Her nickname? Callie Angel ~ 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ALWAYS wear orange during hunting seasons~ Oct 2006
We ALWAYS wear orange during hunting seasons ~ Oct. 2006
Loved her special kisses
      Loved her special kisses ~ June 2007

 

 

Once had just

 

 

 

spring arrived I enrolled her in Puppy Class. I had a new VW Jetta and as she jumped in after class one night I realized she was getting too tall for the car. Off we went the next week shopping for a mid sized SVU. Once I found one, the dealership sales person was kind enough to install the dog barrier gate I’d purchased elsewhere (one that I’ve rarely used however because she doesn’t like it). As spring progressed into summer I began socializing her in earnest. My daughter worked in law enforcement so I took Callie to the jail and let her walk up and down the exterior catwalk type steps.

 

Callie struts the "catwalk"
         Callie struts the “catwalk” ~ 2007

 

 

Callie LOVED car rides!
            Callie LOVED car rides!~ 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her first two years I tried taking her with me whenever possible so that she could experience elevators, airports, etc.  She accompanied me on my road trips back to NJ to visit family. The uncanny thing about Callie Ann is how fine tuned she was to my emotions. Whenever I raised my voice she would hurry over to check things out. It was usually just my loud mouth personality she heard but the few times I cried she was the first one at my side. For someone like me who suffers from PTSD, having that close bond is invaluable. While not an aggressive dog at all, just her attention to my mood was like manna from heaven.

As a nurse I worked 12hr shifts and the drive was a 3hr round trip. But on the positive side it gave me more days off than a traditional 40hr week. We added more dogs to our family whom I love dearly but Callie and I continued to have that special and unique bond. I had a teeter totter built along with an A-frame that only Callie liked to climb up earning her the name “Queen of the Hill”. We live across the street from a private river where we frequently go during the summer and I must admit, this summer was Callie’s happiest one yet. For a labrador X she wasn’t a typical water lover but this summer she swam and frolicked more in the river than ever before. Lots of happy entries into my memory book for sure!

Hanging by Clearwater Lake
       Hanging by Porter Lake~ 2009

 

 

 

 

Summer 2015 was the best!
     Summer of 2015 was the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2012 I made the decision to leave my job of nearly 10 years because the long commute had taken its toll. I started working for a more conveniently located company. Unfortunately, since 2012 I’ve been involved in a lawsuit which remains ongoing. Needless to say it’s been one battle after another and still not resolved. Callie had been my muse, my salvation. After the lawsuit began, my previously controlled PTSD flooded me. Some days I barely had the strength to go on. Through our unique bond she let me know I was important and that gave me courage to get up and manage ~ one step, one day at a time.

 

A late November walk 2012
         A November walk ~ 2012

 

 

 

Winter Fun 2012
              Winter Fun ~ 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Callie LOVED her sticks 2013
       Callie LOVED her sticks! ~ 2013

 

 

 

She had me up and outside like only she could! 2015
Callie got me outside like only she could! 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m still wracked with grief; some days I cry only once and others multiple times. It’s funny how a seemingly insignificant event will trigger waves of gut wrenching anguish. Saturday night I opened the dishwasher to put a dirty dish inside. I paused and wondered why the bottom rack had so much empty space when it was well after dinner and it should have been full. Then it hit me like a tidal wave; Callie’s dinner bowl wasn’t there. A torrent of tears flowed which I couldn’t stop. I ached for her on a visceral level. Yes, I’d cried terribly when each and every one of my previous beloved 4 legged companions left for I loved them all. I believe however that for those of us who are animal lovers, a special one enters our life and becomes our “heart” companion. Callie Ann was my heart dog. In time my daily tears will subside and I’ll even laugh at a recalled memory. But she’ll be indelibly etched within my soul until I leave this world.   Run free my angel…

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     Callie’s Place Created in 2007