Thursday, November 29, 2012

Health, Doctors, Meds, All Day Everyday

It seems that everyday we are dealing with more doctors, more meds, more tests, more physical therapy, adding more pieces to the puzzle created by A-Fib and CHF.  The consequence is that we are both wearing out.

Today we were back to Dr. Tess, the nurse practitioner.  Tuesday we met with GP that we both share.  Tuesday night they conducted another sleep apnea test on Hubby hoping to find a sleep mask that would suit him. 

The knowledge that we can now add to our collective Hubby medical tomes include:
    1.  Hubby is pretty much always in A-Fib; this also means that a heart rate of 150 is probably going to be his norm (most people are around 60 - 100).  The A-Fib is on the right side, rather than the left which is unusual.  We learned this from the monitor he wore last week.  This news was not encouraging.  Being in atrial fibrillation so much of the time is causing Hubby to be worn out and his heart rate to stay elevated.  

    Hubby is now experiencing quite a bit of dizziness when he exercises or has to walk any distance.  This is to be avoided and the exercise should be paced to make sure he doesn't get dizzy (and fall down and break something). 

    3.  Hubby was anemic by the time he ended up in the hospital when his blood pressure was soaring and he had all the symptoms of congestive heart failure.  Since he was hospitalized I've been cooking three meals a day -- and it's paid off, thankfully (how I miss serving up a bucket of chicken and fries).  He's been taking a daily vitamin with iron and eating food with very low to NO salt content -- and he's lost six pounds.  I don't worry so much about the diabetes -- but I make sure every meal is full of things he will eat and that are good for his heart.  If that includes some food with sugar, so be it.  Ice cream is much preferable to salted nuts right now.  Some days the only thing I manage all day is the cooking.  Still everybody was pleased that his blood pressure was 125 / 63 this morning and that he had been losing weight (CHF patients gain weight suddenly -- one of the symptoms -- because they are containing water).  

    4.  Since we have now reached the limits of what the meds can do, we are going to look into ablation.  We meet in December with the heart doctor associated with our heart clinic that is the expert for electric shock therapies for the heart. 

    Research on the web shows:
    A specific form of catheter ablation is called AV junction ablation.  The goal of this procedure is to eliminate conduction through the AV node or adjacent structures.  Therefore, there are no heart beats that get from the top chamber to the bottom chamber.  The patient is therefore reliant upon a permanent pacemaker to maintain their heart rate in the ventricles.  Such as strategy does not prevent atrial fibrillation, but simply controls the rate, specifically the ventricular rate, in the patient.  Nevertheless, many patients have a significant improvement in their symptoms if they have had excessive heart rates previously on medication alone.  

    The treatment of catheter ablation of the AV node or junction is irreversible, and therefore should be only performed where it is certain that a return to conduction is not desired.  This is usually when all previous medication strategies have been excluded.  In addition, it has been determined that the patient is not an appropriate candidate for catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation itself.  
    5.  Hubby hated all four of the sleep apnea tools but he did last through the entire testing procedure.  He claimed that every machine dried him out so much that he found it more difficult to breath.  This was true even when they tried moisture with his treatment.  We are back to square one with the sleep apnea.  Yesterday was pretty much a wash for both of us as neither Hubby or I had slept much, if at all, Tuesday night while Hubby was undergoing the tests.  

    This morning was met with Dr. Tess at 9 a.m. It's good to know we have so many experts in our corner, trying to find solutions and offering help. Then we drove downtown and rented the "big car" for the trip to Houston over Christmas.  Holiday season rates showed that the Lincoln we usually get was going for $900 (we should have rented the car much earlier and we'd have gotten better rates -- but this chore, like many others, fell below the radar when Hubby got so sick).  We all compromised and rented at Crown Vic (Ford) for $400 instead.  Bah.  Then we drove to Sam's and got some light bulbs for the kitchen and dining room -- both had been dark for two days.  I picked up some paper plates and stocking stuffer for Houston and dang if the bill neared $200. 

    Gus is doing well from his teeth extraction.  We are so grateful that he survived his procedure.  We weren't so happy with the bills:  $93 for meds, $789 for the surgery.  Still, we have a very good vet and Gus experienced no health reactions at all -- and even though all his teeth except three very small ones in the sides of his mouth are now gone --and his tongue still stays in his mouth.  He looks a lot cuter without that tongue dropping down.  We can tell he's feeling a lot more perky without those infected teeth. 

    At 5:30 this afternoon we'll drive over to the Research Health and Fitness Center for a little workout (Hubby trying to keep from getting too worn our and thus dizzy and me trying to work out the kinks in my hip and back with some water aerobics).  My new swimsuit and swim shoes have arrived and I'm anxious to try them out. 

    Thankfully we have no more medical appointments until the second week of December.  We have an exercise regime to follow, though.  A diet to stick with.  A trip to get ready for.  Strength to build.  And prayers to offer up that life goes on.  We continue to try to keep the faith.  

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    The Heartbreak of Saying Goodbye

    To lose the anchor in your life in unimaginable.  To lose that anchor when you are both still young and haven't had the joys that are supposed to come to you in your "dotage" is so unfair. 

    I have a friend who is experiencing just this horrible fate.  I don't know what to say or how to offer comfort. 

    I have never met this friend.  I read a local blog and found her there, responding to stories of farm life. 

    local blog:  Just Me

    friend's blog:  Stargazer

    She lives in the Northwest, exercises and is alarming lithe and slim, has two adult daughters, drinks coffee religiously, is a more than a decade younger than me,and speaks and writes fluent French.  We seemed to have nothing in common.  Except she's been a teacher in a public high school all her adult life.  Her husband was much like mine -- refusing to dress even for formal occasions, a man handy with tools and fixing things around the house.  She struggled at times with her family -- except for her it was the in-laws, while for me it was the parental units.  She is plain spoken, feisty, and full of spunk. 

    We took to reading each other's blogs and talking on Facebook.  When her husband became chronically ill, we kept up a running commentary about how we were faring with the illnesses that surrounded us.  We can't see each other but we have forged a bond that has meant much to me, especially in the last 12 months. 

    Except now her husband is dying.  From lung cancer.  He's only in his early 50's.  And soon he will be gone. 

    She's facing my worst nightmare and I have no idea how to comfort her or offer solace.  How does one face something this horrible and still have to go on working and maintaining and keeping a stiff upper lip?

    She's written beautifully on CaringBridge about their current situation. How the family is coming between his bouts of lucidity.  How scary it is when he's drifting away.  How she's holding him and surrounding him with love.

    What will she hold tomorrow night or the next one when he's finally gone?

    My heart is breaking for my friend and her family.  Lord, please don't let this be my fate for many, many years.  Please. And please, bring peace and acceptance to my far-away friend.  Let her heart be strong and her spirit unbroken.  

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Leftovers and Beginnings

    I started the morning at 7:20 dog walking and man! was it cold!  I wore the dog walking coat -- heavy with elastic sleeves, hood, zipped lining, huge pockets -- and a hat and gloves but I still had to pull the hood up over the hat because the wind was blowing so hard I couldn't keep the hat on.  The dogs started out all frisky and happy but even they were glad to get out of the wind by the time we'd covered the park.

    Home and fixed Cheerios with bananas and hot tea for Hubby but he really wasn't able to eat.  In fact he looked sort of "green" but continued to deny anything was wrong.  Most of the cereal went in the garbage. 

    The Research Center for Integrative Therapy where we do exercising and water aerobics was only open until noon but they had scheduled a water aerobics class for 10:30 so Hubby agreed to go practice his PT while I took the class.

    It was heaven for me -- not so much for him.  He was sitting in the waiting room after 10 minutes of exercise.  The pool water had been heated up about 10 degrees from Tuesday and it was absolutely perfect.  About 10 more people were in the class than had been there Tuesday but the exercising felt wonderful.  Everybody who got in the pool went "Ahhhhh" as soon as they hit the warm water.  I was so jazzed by the whole experience that I wasn't even cold when I came back outside into the chill air.

    From this --
    -- to this

    Back home Hubby requested a plate of candied sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and gravy and a little cranberry sauce.  It was pretty clear the throat was bothering him and swallowing was proving difficult.  I had a lovely turkey sandwich while the boys ate the turkey neck and finished off the second turkey leg.  Pretty soon it will be time for a slice of pie, apple for Hubby and French Silk for me.   

    I did do some online shopping today but we never left the house except to around the corner and down the block to the Research Baptist Campus.  I checked out swim shoes on EBay but couldn't tell if I'd like them so I went to Google and found a pair for $13 with only $5 for mailing so I bought them in black and pink.  Then I checked out swim suits -- mine is over 20 years old. Macy's wanted $164 for a suit in my size -- a plain black suit.  Wow!  But after doing a Google search I found that J.C. Penney's had then in my size on a Black Friday price with free mailing -- $35 and no cents.  They were even decent looking -- for bathing suits.  So I got an entire swimming outfit for under $55 and felt like I'd scored big time.  Hopefully this little shopping spree will continue urge me onward in my water exercising. 

    Hubby is back in bed, feeling rather blah and I'm doing clothes and pots and pan washing from yesterday.  The football games are on the telly and the Kindle is being recharged because Amazon delivered a new book for me to read.  Luie is snuggled up with his papa while Gus is passed out from pain meds -- his teeth have begun acting up again (no matter how hard to tried to keep the infection away).  The only black spot on our horizon is that Gussie is scheduled for several extractions come Tuesday and after our last experience where he coded on the table, we are just a little bit worried. 

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Thanksgiving Greetings

    The turkey is roasting, the stuffing and candied sweet potatoes were made yesterday, the rolls are ready for baking, the Yokon Golds are sitting on the counter ready for Hubby's ministrations, the apple and French silk pies are in the pantry, the cranberry jelly is in the can, the Macy's Day Parade is on the telly and the football games are cued on the DVR -- what a wonderful Thanksgiving day we are having! 

    We feel exceptionally blessed this year -- retirement and enough funds to keep the wolf from the door, Hubby's heart which continues to beat, doctors and medical staff which help us keep that heart beating even if irregularly, loving pups, walks in the park, a new gym keeping us both in shape so we can help Hubby continue to recuperate, family and friends who provide unconditional support -- we are grateful beyond measure for all these good things. 

    May you too experience these joys in your life.  Keep the faith, my friends.  

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Getting Physical

    On my bucket list for things to do once I retired was joining the Research Hospital Brookside Campus gym.  Hubby calls it a spa.  Either way, it's a cool place with a fabulous pool for both swimming AND walking.  Even better, the pool is always heated to 84 degrees -- which makes it almost as good as bath water (not quite, but nearly).

    When Hubby was prescribed physical therapy at the Brookside Campus, I went with him for the evaluation and a tour of the facility -- and though I had heard of the wonders of this pool, in person it was even better than I supposed.  And the real selling point (besides the warm waters) was the price:  $29 a month OR $290 for a year.  And the second membership came in at $250 a year.  How could we pass that up?  We joined immediately. 

    It took me two weeks to work up enough courage to go to my first water aerobics class (all the classes offered by the center are FREE!!!!!).  I had read the descriptions of the water classes and I picked the one that looked the least energetic (no swimming required, feet are kept on the pool floor at all times) and daunting. 

    Hubby refused to attend with me, of course (no water touches his delicate skin).  And the class was pretty informal -- it just kind of started with no big announcement and I had to ask if this was actually aerobics class and what should I do to participate. 

    Only one man was participating.  Most of ladies seemed to be five to ten years older than me, one was maybe ten years younger, and one young thing kind of participated in the far lane but mostly did her own thing, running up and down the swim lanes. 

    The pool has no deep end.  The bottom is all tile (unlike the YMCA's around here which have concrete bottoms) so it wasn't too hard on my feet, though I will need to get swim shoes. 

    From the beginning exercise, walking with my knees and toes pointed out, pumping my arms, I found I was having trouble keeping up.  The knees don't like bending outward.  The jogging left me breathless.  By the time we were doing overland ski slides, I was exhausted -- and those old ladies just kept on moving. 

    Our instructor was big enough to be a combination of Hubby AND me -- and she never let up.  The class was ONLY 45 minutes -- and I didn't make it.  I lasted 40 minutes before the knees, screaming said, "Quit or die!" So I shame-facedly climbed out of that pool and took my shower and went home. 

    But I sure intend on going back.  This is exactly what I need.  No, it's not a diet plan.  It's an exercise regime in warm gentle waters which will help me build strength and stamina.  Next up -- I'm going to try chair yoga.  But Friday morning at 10:30 I'm going back for water aerobics.  My knees are demanding a rematch. 

    The only thing that would make all this better is if I had someone going with me.  It's easier to motivate yourself into leaving home in a bathing suit (oh! the indignity!) if you know you have someone waiting for you. 

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Testing Complete -- for now

    We finished our latest round of testing with the pulmonologist around 10:30 this morning.  He was a sweet, young lad in a very adult suit and thoroughly knowledgeable and willing to communication at length.  The office, in the same complex as Hubby's cardiologist, was small so I sat in the waiting room while the testing took place but was invited in for the consultation with the doctor. 

    Upshot:  Hubby does not have constrictive lung disease, even a mild case.  Hubby was greatly relieved hearing we were not adding in a new problem.  Hubby does have a red throat and so they believe he has on-going allergies, even if he does not admit to them (he never has, he never will) that can be handled with the nasal spray and over the counter meds which he is to take daily for here-on (Claritin and Flonase). 

    Hubby does have sleep apenia and is going to be fitted for a CPAP machine that will include a humidifier to see if he can tolerate it.  I think all the physicians have worn Hubby down about this problem -- and assure him that he will both breathe better with it, as well as sleep better.  He now seems (thankfully for a stubborn old coot) open to the procedure, though whether he will actually wear one once he sees how big they are, is anybody's guess.  

    All the tests show that the frozen larynx and the sleep apnea combined with the A-Fib and CHF have caused all Hubby's throat problems. 

    The web has some good articles on the frozen larynx problem for pets -- it seems to appear most often in animals.  The technical name is laryngeal paralysis and, quoting from a pretty decent article on the subject:  in its closed position, the larynx prevents food and water from entering the windpipe, or trachea. When speaking and breathing, the larynx opens to allow airflow in and out of the lungs. When frozen the larynx causes problems when swallowing food (Hubby pretty much sticks to a soft diet now), changes in the sound of the voice, and difficulty in breathing -- all the symptoms that Hubby has experienced.  The solution is working with a speech therapist which he was doing in the late summer, but stopped when he couldn't function as the congestive heart failure worsened.  We must must start back with his therapy. 

    On Monday Hubby wore a heart Holter monitor to keep track of his heart's electrical activity for 24 hours.  This was the simplest and easiest of the tests we have undergone except that you had to be fitted for it in the hospital at the cardiac unit which is in the middle of very long corridors in the bowels of our local hospital.  We turned the monitor back in at 8 a.m. this morning. 

    Throughout all these procedures I'm learning more and more about what is causing Hubby's problems, especially with the throat congestion that has annoyed him so cruelly.  The larynx is the initial cause of the phlegm while the erratic and poor heart beat have exacerbated the problem.  Then add in the post nasal drip from the allergies and the poor sleeping from the apnea and you get a pool of misery in Hubby's throat that his frozen larynx cannot handle.  It just builds up and Hubby feels like he is drowning in it.  We finally, after five years of requesting help for this problem, actually been given a cause -- and to know that if Hubby is unwilling to wear the CPAP or take the allergy meds properly he will have this for the rest of his life.  Hopefully, the speech therapy, once we resume it, will also help Hubby learn to exercise his larynx and regain some of its function.  There is no magic pill and some problems we just have to accept and do the best we can to alleviate. 

    The cardiac nurse team will now review all Hubby's tests and will also consult on the meds to make sure they are adequate and efficient.  Hubby will be fitted for a CPAP to see if he will use it -- as well as make sure the one he is given is helpful to him. 

    Next week we meet with our GP and Hubby completed his physical therapy training. We both joined the gym at the hospital so we can continue to exercise and gain strength.  In early December, we meet with a second cardiologist to discuss some alternative therapies for the A-Fib.  Then we consult with the cardiology nurse practitioner about how the meds are working.  At the start of the new year we meet again with pulmiologist to see who the CPAP is going and with Hubby's own cardiologist. 

    Currently, Hubby is struggling with being very cold -- undoubtedly because his blood thinning level, which should normally be at 2 to 3 has risen to level 4 (normal is 1 to 2 -- but his blood is thinned to made sure the heart has an easier time pumping) -- but we are still not in a dangerous zone (6 to 8). 

    All Hubby's heart meds are now at their highest dosage point -- but he is no longer filled with fluid, his heart beat is within normal range, and his blood pressure is really good.  Stand up and cheer! 

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Sister's Birthday

    We celebrated on September 28 -- her actual birthday -- while we were visiting the Chesapeake Bay area.  Hubby and I planned as our gift to Wendy a high tea / luncheon at 3:30 in the afternoon.

    We just downloaded the pictures from our camera -- because Hubby has simply been too worn out and sick from the Congestive Heart Failure to figure out the download process (he know how to download but I could never find the pictures once they had been put on the computer).  This afternoon, after we had a really nice morning of dog walking and health spa joining and some minimal Thanksgiving prep (ham baking and freezer clean-out), he was able to access the pictures and put them on my desktop.  So, here is one of the more fun things we did when we traveled to Virginia and Maryland this autumn.
    Hubby and his little sister -- we are ready to set out for high tea

    The tea was held at Reynold's Tavern in downtown Annapolis -- almost directly across from the naval school.  The tavern was built in 1747 -- 30 years before the Revolutionary War.  In 1935 the plan was to turn the space into a filling station, but instead the citizens of Annapolis decided to save the building and use it as a library.  In 1984, when the library needed bigger space, the tavern was leased to Historic Inns of Annapolis, a private company, who restored it to its original purpose.  The first floor tea rooms are very much like the original rooms of the tavern and upstairs are two suites and a bedroom for rent.  There is a cellar pub in the original kitchen and during the warm(er) weather, a courtyard for al fresco dining. 

    Reynolds Tavern, Annapolis, Maryland

    Tea Room on 1st floor

    Each tea plate and cup was different
    Tea has been served -- flowering tea for Wendy and a Hawaiian blend for me -- in the green pot. 
    Quiche is the first course

    Wendy, Hubby and Me -- we were having an "experience" and a really good time. 

    Hubby did not partake of the tea goodies, but instead had a lovely chicken salad sandwich

    Wendy after the tea back at the beach house

    Big Brother and Little Sister -- we had had a lovely afternoon and now it was back to the beach house for a round of Heaerts. 

    Hubby and me
    We highly recommend the tea at Reynolds Tavern if you ever are in the area.  It was a lovely experience, cost less than I had imagined (not cheap but not budget busting either) and even Hubby had a nice time.  Plus, the location is right on the bay.  What more could you want? 

    Wendy and me -- the beach house is on the right and yes! behind us is the view from the house -- the white pickets on the far right  frame the back porch where we sat every afternoon / evening.  Isn't this one of the loveliest spots on earth?

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Update for the Family

    This entry is really just for family -- it's merely a recitation of Hubby's current health condition.  Of course, you can read it if you want -- but the contents are really boring. 

    We are heading into a seven day period of major doctoring for Hubby -- and hoping beyond hope that we get some answers. 

    Tomorrow Hubby starts off with his second physical therapy session at 7:30 in the morning.  Needless to say he is going to those by himself.  He claims, though, that he likes the exercises and he thinks they will improve his balance and walking considerably. 

    At 11:00 we meet with the Cardiology Clinic associated with Midwest Heart Associates and Dr. Wineburg, our new cardiologist.  This is a group of nurses who monitor meds and are available 24 / 7 for consultation.  They also act as liaisons between all the doctors we are seeing. 

    Hubby gets a rest then until Monday when he goes to Research Hospital admitting -- and though he isn't being admitted, he is being fitted for a heart monitor and has a full day of appointments around the monitor. 

    On Tuesday he meets with a pulmonary specialist, again at Research Hospital. At least a full morning has been carved out for this appointment, necessitating our moving his third physical therapy appointment to another date. 

    We get a little break for Thanksgiving but the week after we start again, this time seeing our general physician, Dr. Patel, who will be back from his honeymoon and then with another cardiology specialist with Midwest Heart Associates to see what other options are open to us. 

    The blessing in all this, of course, is that Dr. Wineburg has followed through on everything he heard us talk about in our meeting.  We may not be able to solve all Hubby's heart problems, we may not even get answers we want to hear, but we will get some response to our concerns -- and at least we know we are being heard and the doctors are concerned.  

    The physical therapy is addressing Hubby's tiredness and weakness.  The pulmonary specialist will look at the lingering lung problems and congestion that Hubby repeatedly experiences.  We know the heart can not be repaired and we have reached the limits on the meds that Hubby can take for relief from the A-Fib so now we will investigate what else we can do -- if anything.  At least we will have covered all our bases. 

    Hubby had a pretty good weekend, taking care of me, walking dogs, having dinner with dear friends on Sunday night.  By Monday he was down for the entire day -- never moved from the bed.  On Tuesday he had his first PT (physical therapy) appointment and managed to walk the dogs in the morning, while I took the afternoon shift.  Then he drove me to the store and we got our Thanksgiving turkey.  Today was a good day, though I got the early morning dog walking in the park and the "take-out-the-trash" duty.  By the time I'd returned from the park and made breakfast, Hubby was ready to take off for the morning.  Now, he's napping once again, but he's not had as much trouble breathing as last week and he is manfully sticking to his no-salt diet (we won't even mention the ice cream he's had for the last three days). 

    This is the time of year where people are counting blessings and we know that we have been given so much.  I'm especially grateful that I was able to retire this year -- I can't imagine how much more difficult things would have been for us if I were working every day.  Medicare is a real god-send -- we could never afford all these specialists without it. Finally, we thank each of you for your kindnesses and prayers during this time -- the dinners prepared just for us, the soup send home to calm upset tummies, the phone calls, the emails, the events planned for outside the house -- it all means more than we can express.   

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Pulling Together

    Thursday night a friend treated me to dinner and a show.  It had been a rather rough day, what with Luie pooping massive, steaming piles in the living room around 5 a.m. and I felt grumpy and out of sorts.  By afternoon I felt tired and "not quite myself" but enjoyed the process of getting dressed in something other than jeans and a tee-shirt for an evening out.  

    Dinner was wonderful and the show was entertaining, but mainly the shared friendship made the evening a big success.  When I left home, I reminded Hubby that there was plenty of food in the house, all he needed to do was microwave some chicken soup or make himself a low sodium chicken / ham sandwich.  On my return, I round he hadn't eaten dinner -- in fact, he hadn't moved from the bed.  I fixed him some cornbread and soup and noticed that I felt fairly queasy.  By midnight I was pretty miserable and by 2 a.m. I had a pretty decent case of the "24-hour misery" -- what we used to call the 24- hour flu but is actually gastroenteritis.  For the next 18 hours I was down for the count.

    By 6 a.m. I warned Hubby that there was no way in h*ll I could walk those dogs so he manfully climbed out of bed, donned his turtleneck and set out, boys in tow.  At 11:00 he was out in the kitchen making chili -- now Hubby's chili is a "too-die" for dish - but not when you can't keep anything down, including soda crackers.  Still, there was food for himself -- and there was still chicken soup left over from a friend's ministrations earlier in the week. 

    For 24 hours Hubby re-manned the household.  Of course he didn't do any dishes in the kitchen but he made sure the boys were exercised, the 7-Up was stocked, and the covers were pulled tight.  I really didn't resurface until late afternoon on Friday, and then only to slurp down some of that delicious smelling chili and head right back to bed.  Yesterday I walked the dogs -- but it wasn't until afternoon (and I think they were grateful that we were finally back to longer walkies which Hubby really can no longer accomplish).  We took in a movie in the afternoon -- Hubby wanted to see Denzel in Flight (bah!  I lived with a drunk -- I don't want to watch one on the screen for over two hours -- I know what the behavior is like) and then we both headed home and to bed. 

    Today it's rainy and turning cold but the boys and I headed out for a morning circle in the park -- they both produced pee and poop right away knowing that to do so would get us back out of the rain quickly.  It is good to know as we continue to age, that we can pull together enough to make sure this household continues to function no matter our current health situation, Hubby, me AND the boys.  I felt incredibly grateful for Hubby on Friday -- sometimes I'm impatient with this chronic heart condition but when the chips are down, we find we still can pull together as a family unit. 

    Thursday, November 08, 2012

    Exercise Part II -- or the Dog Saga Reprise

    Luie, Gus, and I have just returned from our morning "romp / bah! humbug!" walk in the park (you can guess which two think it's a romp).  As always, I return amazed at how brilliant my two pups are -- each in their own unique, incredible ways.

    Luie does not greet other dogs appropriately and because of his energy and putting his nose where it really doesn't belong can start a growling, leaping dust-up.  This requires that Gussie -- half Luie's size --  must get right in the middle and start a full fledged fight.  Left to his own devices, Gus is friendly and out-going and knows every dog in the park.  Regardless of their size, he runs with them.  Actually, because Gus can NOT really run but pumps all four legs at the same time, he hops around with them -- but he's having fun and he's chasing after a big quarry, so it's all good. 

    Luie is always on leash because of the blindness and this also hampers his interaction with other dogs.  When we find the labs and goldens in the park we skirt them, letting Gus interact as he can until he becomes tired and joins us at the edge of the park, as Luie and I amble from interesting smell to strange bushes inhabited by urban city park creatures. 

    Yesterday all day was bad for me -- because it began with wiping up, disposing of, and the desmelling piles of runny poop left in the early morning hours by Luie.  Normal poop no longer fazes me -- but yesterday's steaming piles left me queasy and out-of-sorts all day long.  Luie was pretty much in my inner doghouse from 7 a.m. until bedtime. 

    Gus, on the other paw, and I have begun to have "chats."  I tell him in simple language what I'm expecting.  I take his little beard in my hand, look him deeply in the eyes (he's always been a dog who enjoys staring contests with you -- except he has these baleful, huge eyes that just lure you right into his heart -- and they plead for love the entire time) and I tell him what I'd like him to do. "Gus," eye contact made, "Please come when I call your name.  You can run wherever you want, but when I call you must come right away." 

    For three days now Gus has roamed the park at will, but always with his head and body alert to where Luie and I are walking.  One, "Gus" from me has brought him trotting right up to us to rub against my legs and let me know that he's obeying.  Moreover, he comes with joy and delight in his steps.  I'm incredibly impressed.  We've had Gus six years now - and I didn't realize that right before me he had turned into the very sweetest dog we had ever owned. 

    I had known that our first pound Schnauzer, Miss Milly, was the strongest willed dog we'd ever had.  She truly was the Queen of all she surveyed.  She was also incredibly wily and could get around her family with ease, making sure HER needs were met at all times. Wolfie, Schnauzer #2,  had been my heart dog -- he loved me (and eventually Hubby -- but that took a lot on Hubby's part to get there) with a fierceness that will never, ever be replaced.  To Wolf I could do no wrong and he would die trying to make sure he had pleased me.  My heart will never heal from his loss. 

    Fritzy, from a pound in Ottawa, Kansas,  was the scamp.  He wanted top billing in our household -- he was wiling to concede that place to Hubby but he never, ever gave me a secure second billing.  Every three months or so I'd have to turn him upside down and lay across him on the bed to remind him who was stronger.  He was also a sneak -- we never stopped him from peeing in the fine china tea cups and tea pot collection on the bottom self of the stereo cabinet.  He would growl at me when I'd try to get in bed with Hubby.  It was an on-going battle, even to the end. 

    Gussie came when Wolf died, poor little boy.  At that point I didn't want another dog -- I only wanted Wolfie.  Fritzy, who loved Wolfie too, had gone under the bed and would only come out for car rides.  Hubby found Gussie in the same pound where we had adopted Fritzy and the two were immediate friends. 

    Gussie doesn't seem to choose sides in the family.  Always before the dog had aligned with either Hubby or me but Gus, he's one-dog-fits-all type.  Even though Fritzy's pee scent was still in the house, Gussie did not pee on it.  He knew to pee and poop outside and that's what he does.  He loves his food but he's not aggressive or greedy about it.  He learned quickly to walk without a leash -- streets are "no-no's" and sidewalks are good.  Now he's relearned to come immediately when called, and he does it willingly.  He's friendly with adults and likes other dogs.  He shares the bed space while still wanting to cuddle with his humans.  He's a little pansy where pain is concerned -- he's the first moaner and whimpering dog we've ever had.  But he has his reasons, too -- instead of the sleek Schnauzer body, his is squat, with short legs.  He's almost always two to three pounds overweight, no matter how we monitor his diet.  He can't jump well -- and he has to be lifted into our bed.  His teeth rot faster than an unpeeled banana left in the sun.  His gait is off and he moves his legs in unison instead of like a galloping dog -- still he loves to run and does it every chance he gets.  He's prone to skin allergies and we are usually treating him for some kind of lesion around his head or neck and trying to keep him from scratching.  Razor burn from his grooming is a particular problem. 

    Gus is very independent.  He did not mourn Fritzy's untimely death from kidney disease.  He accepted Luie, who absolutely adores him, with aplomb -- almost indifference.  It's Luie who always initiates interaction.  He travels well and does not complain if he's in a car for 12 to 16 hours at a time.  He believes, however, that on short rides the front seat, especially my lap, is his prerogative, even if he doesn't want to sit on it -- Luie had better NOT try.  On long trips he likes to have a pile of pillows in the back seat for lolling and snoozing.  He does not play with toys -- I think because his teeth are so bad.

    The honest truth is -- that I'm learning more and more each and every day -- Gussie is the perfect little boy and exercise partner at the park.  If only his vet bills were not always in the upper three figure (sometimes four figure) range. 

    Gus watching Luie whirling after a Christmas toy

    I started this post two days ago about exercise -- honestly, I did.  I do have an exercise story to tell.  Yesterday Hubby met with a physical therapist and I joined a gym for a year.  This is probably the most interesting news in our lives -- but I keep getting distracted by my wonderful doggies.  Tomorrow I'll tell you about the gym.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012


    The title is misleading.  I do NOT exercise.  I hate exercise.  As the years pass I have become more and more sedentary.  When I was teaching I had to walk long halls to get anywhere from my classroom so at least I could say I did some walking.  But exercise?  Um, NO! 

    Hubby has walked the dogs since I went back to teaching -- well, actually before that, but certainly for the last six years.  I walked our first dog, Miss Milly, all over the neighborhood and the city parks -- but then finances decreed that I find work and my really dog walking days pretty much ended. 

    Hubby also walked the boys this summer even after I retired.  But then, in September he got much, much sicker and it finally became my turn to take over all job walking details.  Hubby, being a morning person, unfortunately trained Luie that unless you were walking in the park before 8 a.m. you could poop under the grand piano in the living room at 8:01.  I've been unable to retrain him so since September I'm out in the park between 7:15 and 7:45 walking, walking, walking. 

    It took some retraining of the pups, let me tell you.  Hubby didn't care if Luie tried to pull him over -- Luie, being being blind is always on the leash.  Gus, never on the leash, had learned the calling of his name meant you could turn your body in the opposite direction and just wander off.  During the trip to Williamsburg, Gus learned how to rewalk on a leash -- he got just one time to turn and walk away from me before we had a "come to Mama!" meeting and the leash went right back on him until he knew to come when he was called.  Now, he's once again able to walk leash free in the park because he knows the consequences of not coming the moment I beckon.  Luie is still learning that everything comes to a dead standstill the moment he starts tugging the leash, trying to direct the movements of our travels, but he's doing better. 

    It also took some retraining for me to get out of that bed every single morning (weekends are NOT time off for good behavior!) and put on massive amounts of clothing and shoes so we can hike our way for 30 minutes around the park.  I had to learn not to curse so loud that everybody within ear shot could hear.  I also had to keep remembering it wasn't the dogs' fault or Hubby's fault that early morning walks had become the habit and now I was stuck having to continue that god-awful time frame.  It just was what it was and I had to come to gripes with it. 

    So, every morning I'm out there, plodding through the pine cones and acorns and flying squirrels and chirping birds.  I'm not enjoying it but I'm doing it. The dogs are better for it because Hubby had gotten so he couldn't really walk with them -- and poor Luie was stuck going in small circles while Papa sat on the park bench and Gussie went off the wandered alone.  Now we get in some pretty good runs before our park time ends.  Papa is home in bed sipping hot tea (which I have to make before I leave the house) instead of gasping his way in the cold, dark morning air.  And me?  Well, I'm walking which is a form of exercise. . . I guess.  It's not up to aerobic speeds yet, but we are consistent in our daily ambles. 

    Tuesday, November 06, 2012

    Practicing Good Citizenship

     Hubby and I just returned from casting our vote(s). 

    Good thing:   we did NOT cancel each other out; on liberal politics we both agree. 

    Bad thing:  many of the ballots had been misprinted on the borders (not on the candidates) so they were not being scanned by the electronic submission machine, though the ballots were accepted as valid. 

    Good thing:  the minority community was out in force. Liberals unite! 

    Bad thing:   -- very long lines, too few tables because of the huge crowd -- and we picked a time that was supposed to be after or before the big rush occurring between 7 and 9 in the morning and 4 and 7 in the evening.  Our polling place was way too small for the crowd that showed up.

    Good thing:  our polling place was way too small for the crowd that showed up -- young, old, wheelchairs, lame, blind, white and black -- our voting place was a microcosm of the world and people were excited to vote!

    Bad thing:  Hubby was completely exhausted by the process because the wait was too long and the crowds too heavy and the room way too small so there was no place to sit and it was beastly hot.  Plus -- why don't the election judges know their alphabet?  

    Good thing:  we have hope that right will prevail, politicians will finally try to work together, and our country will remain democratic, ethical, and generous. 


    Sunday, November 04, 2012


    Hubby is not doing well at all.  Things seem to be going downhill rapidly and we are both thoroughly frightened by the fact that he can't seem to recover and no one really understands what is happening.

    We know for a fact that the A Fib has progressed but can still be controlled.  We know that his heart rate is still way too fast when he's moving around but at rest he approaches normal.  We know that we can control his blood pressure -- though when he feels rotten it does climb.  Frankly, I'm letting the diabetes take care of itself -- I can only get him to eat low salt OR low sugar, and right now the low salt is more important. 

    What we can't seem to get a grip on is the nasal / throat congestion that makes him feel like he is drowning.  The minute he tries to rest, or God forbid go to sleep, he begins this awful hacking and clearing of his throat -- and he becomes unable to get words out or breathe easily.  Immediately his blood pressure and heart rate climb, as he becomes less and less able to breathe easily. 

    I'm convinced the super-duper drug dosages are giving him bad dreams and now whenever he goes into even a light sleep, he starts to talk.  The night before last he kept telling us (dogs and me) "get in the back seat."  Last night he kept dreaming about shoes, probably because on Wednesday I went out and bought two pairs of very expensive and ugly shoes to get me through the winter.  Now that I'm dog walking daily, I need shoes that don't have mesh tops.  Anyway, Hubby has taken to talking quite loudly, sometimes incoherently but more and more he makes sense -- and he keeps it up all night long.  It's hard for the rest of us to get any sleep with all the hacking, coughing, wheezing, and yelling going on in the bedroom.

    Today he's got the upset stomach.  Yesterday around 4 p.m. he rallied a bit and we went for drive.  But Thursday and Friday he spent all day in bed.  Today we're back to the bed, moaning while watching hours upon hours of college football and heading for the bathroom on a regular basis.  

    All the while, he's refusing to do much of anything for himself.  He just lost the TV's remote control in the bed and called me to find it for him.  What?  He couldn't sit up to find the remote he was using?  At noon he decided he needed to eat -- but the Salisbury steak I had fixed yesterday, especially for him, would not do.  He needed more tuna fish salad.  Luckily I had the eggs already hard boiled.

    We had multiple doctor appointments for this week.  I'm praying we get some answers.  Frankly, we're reaching the end of our proverbial rope(s).  


    Thursday, November 01, 2012


    We are home from the hospital and Hubby is better, if not cured.  It is so good just to have him around and being his own cantankerous self. 

    Cooking is problematic, of course, because no salt and then no leafy greens and then no sugar -- and he's a major picky eater.  But we have a shelf of Penzy spices for substitution and I made a very small meatloaf which he enjoyed -- just onions, bread, eggs, Penzy's.  Then we have a huge vat of homemade tuna salad chilling -- and he's been very happy with tuna sandwiches.  Plus I crock-potted a lovely roast (which he can't really eat because of the larynx problems -- he can't swallow it very well) with lots of small potatoes and carrots -- and then made gravy from the juices.  So adding the gravy to his potatoes and over his meatloaf (no salt in the gravy, I promise -- and all the fat was skimmed away), he's been eating pretty well and even getting his fresh veggies in what with the carrots.

    He's still pretty congested but nothing like it was all last week.  He manages to sleep a little better at night and didn't even have to sit up for part of the night last night.  Lou, our dear friend, lent him a pillow wedge which has helped keep him propped up at night.  His heart is still racing, his larynx is still not moving, he still has a lot of throat congestion - but he's coping.  Which means, of course, that I am back to coping, also.  

    Nothing makes my heart sing or the dogs more energetic than having Papa home.