Monday, March 31, 2014


Monday morning, I brought Cole to Auburn University Veterinary Hospital for him to begin hydrotherapy (swimming lessons). Last week, the surgeon who had performed his CCL repair four months ago recommended this, thinking it would strengthen his leg.

I was excited, this was going to mean progress!  I packed his life preserver.

Any dog referred for physical therapy undergoes an evaluation.  A bloomin' waste of my time and money (so I thought). He'd had all four limbs X-rayed and had his knee manipulated over and over again just 10 days ago at Tuskegee's Vet School and everything was sound. 
Who knows how it was missed, or why, or whatever, this is why medicine is 'practiced'.  But, it appears that Cole is among that 40% who have repaired ligament failure. 
When the veterinarian showed me the 'drawer' motion the knee was making, I knew this was really bad news. 
Dr. Montgomery's plan is to be more aggressive with the repair and use his preferred method: Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).  It's more invasive than Cole's previous surgery, as it involves carving into the tibia, inserting a metal plate and correcting the joint's angle. 
I had done some research on this method a few months ago, but decided it was too risky and too painful.  Now, I see that 4 months lost on a failed surgery is too risky and painful.  Besides, all evidence points to this more gruesome technique is less painful than other CCL (Cruciate Cranial Ligament) repairs.  Aaargh, it's so hard to make the right decision.  I wouldn't hesitate for myself.  But to put another sentient creature through the wringer hoping for good results, that's rough.

What Cole will be sporting after Tuesday.

Why they'll keep him on Morphine for two days.

If all goes well, I pick him up on Wednesday. 

I left him there this morning, upon agreement that if I changed my mind, I could pick him up after work.  A million thanks to all the folks who've posted about their experiences with TPLO.  Thanks to those who took the time to write back answering my questions. 

So, I came home without the Kid today. 

I went back to AU to bring him his food, bed and blankets.

Packed his stuff in his beat up marathon drop bag...kinda fitting I thought.

Speaking of marathons, I received my race packet for the Boston Marathon today.  Pity, I'll be missing it.

Almost sad, but I can't be bothered to stew over it, I've got bigger things on my agenda right now. 

By the time I finally finished work, it was well after 8 PM when I rolled into the driveway.  No Cole to lead the charge, only Jinx.

All 15 lbs of him put on the best one man 'OMG Mom's Home' show:  running, jumping, yipping, chasing, the works.
Dogs are pure love. 
Thanks to all of you who know exactly what I'm talking about and why I choose to make my animals part of my family.

Spring Has Sprung

It appears we've had our last frost here in Central Alabama.  Time to fold and store all those garden tarps 'til Fall.  IF I liked tomatoes, I'd be setting them out in the garden soon.  So cruel of me to mention, since my family in Canada won't planting tomatoes for another 2 months. 

Heralds of Spring are popping out everywhere.

A wee little ground skink was trapped in a client's garage.  Cute as a button.

I accidentally uncovered a burrowed frog.

Mr. Leopard Frog was covered back up and the area marked off with flags.

I LOVE my amphibians.  In the Summer, there are so many toads in the yard at night that you have to watch your step.  I could trim up the entire yard with the weed-eater in ten minutes, but it takes me an eternity because I go so slowly to avoid injuring my little bug eaters.  The emotional meltdown, that I had two years ago when I had to dispatch one of my toads that I'd mortally sliced with the trimmer, is to be avoided!

Rains throughout last week have turned everything around here to mud.

Having the weekend off, I attempted to finish some projects.  The feeling that a Mack truck had hit me, backed over me and run me over again was hindering my enthusiasm.  Could've been the flu or Ike's workouts combined with two hours of jiu jitsu on Friday where I was either tossed around like a ragdoll by my partner, or I was instructed to drop and roll over and over again. No need to tell me, I've come to the same conclusion:  I'm getting too old for this!

Maybe I was disappointed that I was missing my 100 mile race this weekend.  Maybe not.  As far as I can tell from the Twitter feeds, only 3 racers finished the race.  Of the 24-30 hours needed to complete the race, it had rained hard 75% of the time and the trails were a soupy mess.  So maybe being out of shape for an ultra this year isn't such a bad thing!

4/1/14 update:  18 finishers, only 2 females, what troopers.

One fun project to cheer me up was giving Poppy, my Ameraucana hen, protection from bullying.  The other hens have plucked all the feathers from her back. I've tried various sprays to make her feathers unpalatable with poor results.
Enter the baby onesie:

Customize it.

Sewed it one her... the benefit of having tame chickens.

Poppy's new suit.

Ruby almost fell off her perch laughing.

The Belle of the Ball.

Another project was to bake bread.  I hadn't had time to bake in two months, so I hadn't had any bread in two months.  Yes, I hear they do sell such things at that place called the grocery store, but I prefer my bread. 

I've eaten pecan butter and jam for every meal since Saturday.  Heavenly!

When I haven't been in the kitchen, in the chicken coop, in the garden, or under the house working on the piers this past weekend, I was curled up with my new best friend.

 Kim, gave me a Kindle last week.  I waited until Saturday to turn it on, fearing that it would take this Neanderthal hours to figure out how to use it.  Surprisingly, I had bought my first e-book and was on the second chapter before an hour had passed.  What a guilty pleasure!  It even has the cutest built-in night light.  OK, so some modern technology is good.  I still hate microwaves and TV's!  One must maintain pigheadedness over some matters!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Luck of the Irish

I'm only about one fifth Irish, but, somehow my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is always overflowing.
Starting on Monday, St. Patrick's Day.

My tiny Winter vegetable garden is outdoing itself.  All manner of salad greens and arugula share the plot with Irish potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, cabbage, onions and garlic. 

Work lately has been bountiful too.  A big job dropped in my lap.  I started it after my regular jobs at 5 PM and I worked 14 hours through the night and jumped into my regular jobs on Tuesday...without a wink of sleep. By the time I got off work on Tuesday at 9 PM, (the pessimist would say that I hadn't slept in 2 days), I had worked so many billable hours that my upcoming dental work, my horses' and Cole's upcoming vet bills were more than covered.
Thomas Edison said:  "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work".
And, I had the chance to steam clean my carpets with the machine I had rented for work, while I flew by the farm to feed animals.  Very groovy.


Cole, who hasn't made a satisfactory recovery from his surgery, was taken back to Tuskegee University for another round of radiographs.
Dr. Horne had postulated last week that he may have hip dysplasia... a bad prognosis.
The X-rays didn't back up this theory. How's that for good luck?  Unfortunately, they have no idea why he's still not bearing much weight on his repaired leg.  But, I'll take an enigma over terrible news any day.

Thursday. I finished an art project.  Before you fall off your chair laughing, let me assure you that I have no illusions of leaving my day job.

It's my attempt at being overly symbolic.  Bear with me.  It's a modified Carbon atom (true C atom only had 2 orbitals and that didn't jive, so I added another). Carbon is found in all living organisms...the building blocks if life. The vines, rocks, moss and lichen all came from the farm because that's home = me.  The nucleus is where I want to hang out because it contains all my little protons:  Cole, Jinx, Axel, Angus, Bella, Tommy and Mack. But, to grow, I must venture out on the different orbitals.  Sometimes, the outer orbital is too negatively charged and I shouldn't stay out there too long (ie. working 30 hrs without sleep), but going 100 mph around my orbitals is how I'm hardwired.  As long as I can keep one foot on homebase, my little atom will remain happy and complete.
This is why my sister is a Fine Arts major and not yours truly... 

Friday.  Dr. Brown, my equine vet, did her semi-annual checkup and vaccination. 

The vet, pregnant with twins, without her usual assistant, was saddled with me as her helper and with one 2000 lb Percheron that was being less than cooperative, in spite of sedation.  Perk of being the doc's assistant:  I got to stick my hand all the way to the back of Angus' mouth, feel all his molars!  Very groovy.

By Friday night, it appeared my lucky leprechaun was off shift.  I drove in to see Axel acting strangely. It's been said that a horse only ever has two thoughts running through it's brain:  how to kill you or how to kill itself.  Absolutely true and I take the latter one very seriously. 

About 5 years ago, I lost the best two horses to colic.  Admittedly, both were 27 year old draft horses, but my Alice and Charlie were/are irreplaceable.
So, with Axel showing signs of colic, I temped him, poked and prodded, called his equine vet after hours, got Dr. P to give Axel some Banamine from his stash, I kept him locked on the barn overnight and feed him alfalfa cubes laced with 16 oz  mineral oil to flush out any impactions.

Axel was my first rescue 15 years ago.  He was a young stallion that had gotten himself seriously injured in a fight.  Getting a rank stallion as your first horse is not recommended, but we've both mellowed out over the years!

Saturday.  I'd spent Friday night going back and forth throughout the night to monitor Axel.  By 8 AM, he was back with the herd and I was thanking my leprechaun for his overtime work!

By lunchtime, I was in Heaven = Petals From the Past nursery in Jemison, AL, about 2 hrs away.  I'd escorted a client/friend up there to introduce her to the addicting vice of gardening.  She was an easy convert.  Within minutes, she'd wandered off to drool over shrubbery and left her girls wondering:  "Mummy, where's mummy?"

Cole acted as my budgetary tool.  By taking up the backseat, I couldn't fill it up with plants.

Good dog!

I ONLY bought two plants.  Two more rose bushes for my antique rose collection.  One rosa hansa...

...and one rosa 'Souvenir de Sainte Anne'.

Sunday.  The two dogs that are boarding with me and the Great Cole headed to Birmingham.

After almost two hours of driving through hard rain, the rain stopped.  My 1/5th Irish at work.   Mark and I were able to work without so much as a droplet of rain interfering.

Cole did a fine job supervising.

Helene's future 2014 vegetable garden before lunch break.

The garden after the revitalizing effect of Helene's home made food for the work crew.

Another wonderful day.  Did I mention she sent me home with her famous Pecan Crispy cookies???  Very, very groovy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Update On My Brother

I hadn't posted any news about Jordan since he was found because he has been, understandably, mortified about all the attention.
But, we'd received so much help and support from everyone, that it doesn't seem fair not to let you know that he's doing much better.
What I can tell you is that my devoted sister stayed in Toronto for a month to help before returning to Paris to finish her sabbatical. She's amazing.

My Dad, who had been looking for a new home, has decided to relocate to Toronto.  All three will then be living in the same area.  Things can sometimes turn out to be wonderful!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Plan J (b)

The Smith battalion is still winning the war, despite having lost a few of the last battles.
What do they say about staying on the porch if you can't play with the big dogs?

For now, I'm staying in my own backyard --- plotting my multi-frontal attack upon the enemy.

Not that there aren't any scrimmages at home either.

I've been practicing my jiu jitsu moves on Cole.  He's amazingly patient.

Jinx has been practicing his assassination skills.  His covert operations involve killing my daylilies by laying on them. 

Spy vs Spy.  Let's see how comfortably he naps on a bed of 25 tent pegs.

Cole demonstrating how well concealed the tiger trap is under the pine straw. 

On Sunday, Mother Nature hit us with a gully washer of a rain storm.
The troops were ready.

Perhaps not willing, but ready.

By the time I had finished doing my morning chores, my pyjama bottoms were soaked.  They chose not to remain on me when I pulled my boots off.  A test of me flexibility -- I failed.

Later on, Cole insisted I cease office work to help him wage war against his favorite foe...

...the squirrel.  Who could resist when he's pointing?

A hard working man with his future squirrel stew.

Cole needed his sniper ASAP, no time to put my boots on.  Never doubt the therapeutic benefits of manure squishing between your toes.

Off-farm activities continue to challenge me to be a better person/intergalactic warrior.  We're living without a plan until I can figure out how to get Cole back up over 50% mobility.  A great exercise in patience -- I'm failing this one too.
But, he's my priority right now.

(Proof of the existence of other like-minded people with healthy pets and underfed retirement funds)

I don't spend all my money on animals.  With some of the money I'd saved up for our May trip, I'm spending on myself.  Well, actually, I'm giving it to Ike. 
After multiple failed attempts to evict fat from my person, I called in for backup. Ike is the personal trainer at Aldridge Fitness. 

Role reversal...I feel like Yoda learning from a wiser Jedi. 
You can check Ike out on Facebook at Ike's Personal Training. 
Don't let his smile fool you, he can revert back to drill sergeant in two seconds. Unlike in jiu jitsu, Ike does not allow me 'tap out' when it get tough. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Today, Cole went for another recheck.

Two weeks ago, I had been told that his patella had gone lateral...and nothing else.  You just don't tell me my kid's kneecap has moved East and expect me to deal with it calmly!
I consulted Dr. P, I scoured through my Journals of Veterinary Medicine and found two studies analyzing the success rates of the surgery Cole has already had and the correction of the patellar luxation I thought would be the next step.

I was prepared to argue that a heavier dog, like Cole, is 60% more likely to have a reluxation of the patella after surgery. 
But, the surgeon isn't so sure anymore that it is his kneecap bothering him. 
"Dysplastic...bring him by the clinic next week for X-rays", that was all the enigmatic doctor said before walking back into his house. 
Hip dysplasia.  I wasn't expecting that. 

 Cole and I are tired of slow walks around the farm. When will we ever be able to run together again?  We only have 13 states left to trail run.  Our Spring trip up the NE Coast and to Canada has been postponed to August--- we may not be ready then either!  How discouraging.
Not that I'm ready either.  I know that I can still run 20 trail miles, but 100...I think not.  My race at the end of March will need to be scrapped. 
Lack of sleep makes things look bleaker too.  Last night, I worked on projects between 2 - 7 AM...because I couldn't sleep due to a sore neck!

My jiu jitsu partner and I were trying out some new throw techniques.  The photo above is from Google, but if you were to imagine the airborne guy as a me, you can then understand how I fell like a Sequoia instead of like a ninja.  We were taught that we could 'tap out' (literally tapping your partner to make them stop murdering you) if we needed to cry Uncle. Too late when you're flying like a wounded albatross.

A concerned client told me today that I should start acting my own age and slow down.  "Get a TV perhaps"...yeah, I suppose it would be nice to curl up on the couch and catch up on all the reruns I've been missing for 6 years. Or NOT. My hatred of television will not abate any time soon, but she's right, I could stand to reevaluate my goals.

Time for outside inspiration.
Meet Bernice Ende .Over the past 10 years she's logged 20,000 solo miles on horseback criss crossing the US and Canada,  sleeping on the ground without a tent, dodging terrifying weather and braving Winters.  I can only aspire to be one third as tough and resourceful as Bernice one day. 

You will notice how her dog, Claire, has her own carpet lined throne on the pack horse.  Bernice is a class act. A retired ballet teacher with no cell phone, no real outside help.  True grit.

So, I won't be tapping out any time soon, Cole and I will simply move on to Plan J.  If that doesn't work, we still have K.