Posts Tagged ‘pets’

tilleyBeing told that your dog can’t stand up and keeps falling over face first, is constantly drooling and looks like she is drunk is a scary phone call to get.

We were out when it happened, but fortunately our kids were home and knew to call right away as soon as it occurred. Rushing home our first thought is that it sounds like a stroke.  We rushed our 12-year-old dog to the emerg vet – it was New Year’s Day so our regular vet was closed – and took her in expecting the worst, having had many dogs over the years and experiencing what looked like a total shut down of her faculties.

The vets were pretty quick to let us know it looked like what they referred to as “old dog” vestibular disease, actual name is idiopathic vestibular disease, (idiopathic meaning no known cause) and that basically it is nausea mixed with vertigo and that as scary as it is to look at, it is relatively common in older dogs but there is no known cause of it, or real cure short of treating the symptoms and waiting for the dog to recover.  Which apparently most do.

From PetMD…

The vestibular system is composed of portions of the brain and ear and is responsible for maintaining our sense of balance. When something goes wrong with the vestibular system, it feels like the world is spinning.  Dogs with idiopathic vestibular disease have some combination of the following symptoms:

  • A head tilt
  • They are unsteady on their feet and may fall over
  • They circle in one direction or even roll across the floor
  • Their eyes flick back and forth, up and down, or rotate in a circle (this is called nystagmus)
  • An unwillingness to eat due to nausea
  • Vomiting

For us the treatment was to stop the nausea and the vertigo, and then keep her calm and quiet while her body worked thru it.  The first 24 to 48 hours are the scariest.  Not knowing if she is going to recover, or when, or how much.  We were told most do make a full recovery if that is all that is wrong with her, but since the symptoms are so common to many other diseases it is tough to know if that is the real problem.  Time is the only true way to know.  After some anti nausea medicine and something to treat her anxiety, she seemed to be improving a little.  We kept her at the emerg clinic so that way she could get 2 full days of rest and constant attention away from our other dogs and our noisy house.  We visited her the morning after the episode happened, and as heartbreaking as it was to see her this way, we could see some improvement and the vets could tell she perked up with us there.  After the second full day we took her home.  Still staggering and needing more or less constant attention.  Carrying a 50 lb dog in and out of the house every few hours is not a fun thing in the middle of winter, especially during the cold snap we just had, but we could see small improvements.  Sitting up on her own.  Looking around and seemingly being able to focus on things, and the fact she would flop over and change positions on her own.  All good signs.

We took her in for a follow-up appointment at our regular vet yesterday (5 days after her episode), and everything seemed to be coming along pretty good.  Sitting waiting to pay our bill, she actually got up on her own from her blanket and walked slowly, albeit a little clumsily, to the door obviously wanting to go outside.  With a little help she walked outside and started to sniff around.  Everyone was thrilled and amazed.  This is a huge step in her recovery, and since bringing her home she has managed to walk around outside on her own quite a few times.  Sitting down often to rest, but nonetheless, walking and sniffing and doing her business without assistance.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but there is hope of a full recovery, or at least a nearly full recovery.  From what I’ve read many dogs recover fully, while some have slight head tilts or balance issues so only time will tell.  Rarely there are dogs that never recover, but I’m hopeful that shedding a little light on this disease and its symptoms will help someone else who is going thru it.  It is very scary and from the message boards I have visited it seems many people have given up too soon because they didn’t have all the info about the problem and thought euthanasia was the only option to stop the suffering.  Please share this with anyone you know who has an older dog.  Being prepared and informed could save a life and a lot of stress and worry.

The body, whether it be a human or a dog, has the ability to handle and fix many things on its own given enough time, patience and help.  Don’t give up too soon.  As Dylan Thomas so eloquently put it…  “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rage at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-barkerp

(disclaimer:   I am not a vet, have no formal medical training, although I played doctor often as a child but that’s another story…  this information if offered up only as helpful advice.  Make sure you discuss with/and see a vet should you think your dog is experiencing this disease.)

Boots. A life lived.

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

When people think of beloved family pets, typically what comes to mind is the family dog, or possibly a cat, but rarely do they think of chickens. Mostly due to the fact that most people don’t get the opportunity to have them as pets, but if they had one like our beloved “Boots” that opinion would certainly have been changed.  Sadly, she has left this world and moved onto greener pastures.

We got Boots and she was already well into her senior years, past her egg-laying years for sure, although she did manage to lay one once in a while.  For those who don’t know, once mature, chickens will lay nearly daily for the first few years and then it slows down to every few days, then maybe once a week or so, to the point where they are just “used up” as I’ve heard it called. This is when we got Boots.  She was a layer, retired.  We don’t know her age since she had already had a few owners prior to us. A beautiful buff Cochin that just seemed so friendly we had to take her from “our chicken guy” when we were first looking for layers even though she was past her egg-laying prime.

boots and liza

the ever protective old mother hen

Once home, she immediately became the matriarch of our little brood of chickens, literally taking the new younger chickens under her wing for protection and warmth. Even standing up to the dogs if they got too close to the new arrivals.  She stood on the drive with the kids awaiting the school bus on the first day of school.  It would seem her brood was not limited to just chickens but also our kids.  How many chickens do you know that answer to their name? Heck we’ve had cats that wouldn’t even do that, but boots did.  Anytime you called her name, you were ensured a verbal response, and if the weather was good and she was outside she would wander slowly over to you even as her eyesight failed, she was always willing to come close and be petted.

Anyone who ever tells you that a chicken is just a dumb bird is wrong.  They have personalities, they are curious, they like to be around people and contrary to what you might think, are smart enough not to try to cross the road, regardless of what is on the other side.  As people tell us all the time when they see our chickens on the unfenced lawn near the side of the road grazing, watching the traffic but never venturing onto the busy highway out front.

Boots was a beloved pet and as strange as that may sound to all the city dwellers, our feathered friend will be missed dearly.  As James Herriot so eloquently put it… “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

Times like these I’m often reminded of the words of the great children’s author, Dr Seuss, who put it best “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

tcg

Ginger: April 2008 - May 2010

Our favorite chicken died. We love all our chickens, but she was special, for one, she was MY chicken and she was too young to go. Her name was Ginger, a Rhode Island Red, and she was one of the first chickens we got, just over two years ago, but she became part of the family very quickly, just as much as any pet ever could.

It happened Sunday. She seemed a bit off the previous day and we were worried, since she has always been the one to greet us first in the morning and be right by our sides whenever we are busy outside working.  As a matter of fact, as I was digging the hole to bury her, my wife and I thought about how she would have been right there beside me as I dug, watching, picking up worms and just being Ginger. The curious, friendly, funny, and loving chicken.

Anyone who has ever had a dog or a cat knows how close they can become, one of the family, a companion.  Before we got our chickens if anyone had ever said chickens were the same way I would have called them crazy, and i would have been wrong – very, very, wrong.

From the moment we brought them home from the Mount Forest animal show, they all found a place in our hearts. That day when we bought our first chickens, we really had no idea what we were getting, since they all look so cute and fuzzy at that age.  We kept them in the house as they grew since they were too little to be outside in the cold, and I think that is what helped them bond so well to us all, including our dogs.

Ginger, orange fluffy one on right

Ginger on right, with Pumpkin, Zena & Jet

They grew quickly and after 4 weeks or so they were big enough to be outside in the newly converted shed turned chicken coop.  It wasn’t being used for anything except storing a couple of bikes, so it was insulated, lined with plywood and a operable window put in, as well as a small door on the front for the chickens to go in and out of. We had originally bought 6 chicks, two little day-olds at 50 cents each, a slightly older fancy one for a whopping $5, and then the 3 chicks that became our favorites at $5 for the trio.  Sadly the day-olds didn’t survive, and neither did our little fancy chick – she just always seemed frail and slow to grow.  The trio thrived and survived though, waking us in the morning as soon as the sun came through the window, their little peeps and squeaks awakening the dogs, and in turn the whole house.  Cute little feathered alarm clocks. When the day came to put them outside in their own house, they were probably confused by the sudden freedom and were slow at first to venture too far from the safety of their new home, unless of course we or the dogs were outside.

the trio's first day outside

We were worried at first, but it quickly became apparent that they liked to remain on our property and not venture too far from home.  They would wander the extent of the property which was unfenced and open to the road in front with farmer’s fields on the other 3 sides.  Chickens are brighter than most people think.  They wander close to the property line at the front of the house, but never onto the gravel shoulder of the road, much to the surprise of passersby and it seems that any new chickens we get follow along in the trio’s example.

As I hinted, 3 chickens led to more, we had the room in the coop and once you have a few, adding a few more is really no more work day to day. Each chicken we have is a different breed and an entirely different personality as well.  Ginger was the bravest and most curious one, which probably led to her disappearance in the big storm in early 2009.  The weather was nice, a lot of the snow had melted so the “chicken” door on the coop was opened and we let them out to get some sun. Coming home later was when we found the feathers & blood and Ginger was missing. We were devastated.  Thinking she had been attacked and carried away by an owl or hawk (they are often seen circling our property) we thought she was dead.  That night we had a huge snow storm, approx 12″ of snow and the temperature dropped to well below freezing.

A week later I looked out the kitchen window and noticed a small chicken standing in front of the coop door. It was Ginger, minus most of the tail feathers, one of her claws, her comb looking like it had suffered from frostbite and sporting talon marks across her back that were already starting to heal.  Whatever had attacked her obviously couldn’t carry her off and she must have found some place to hide and heal. From that day on, she was our miracle chicken, having survived in the sub-zero weather for a weak while badly injured. Amazing.  She healed up and the feathers grew back in, getting back to her full size, and eventually her comb grew back in again to, although she was always missing one claw.

As i mentioned, she was always there in the morning, her happy cackle as she and the other chickens bolt out of the coop door in search of food.  Tapping at the front door with their beaks when they think its time for a treat (grapes, spinach and bread are their favorites) or hopping up on the arm of your chair when you sit outside having a meal.

bug hunting

helping me dig

is it edible?

Chickens, when you keep them for laying eggs like we do, are pets.  The recent decision (or lack of) by the City of London not to allow people to have chickens in the city is near-sighted and uninformed in my opinion.  Sure, you have to look after them and clean up after them, but how is that any different from a dog or a cat.  With proper maintenance of their living environment, they take little work and give us back so much joy, and eggs too which is more than you can say for a dog or cat.  Many cities in the U.S. allow chickens, and to paraphrase a friend and fellow chicken-lover on twitter “it’s shorter to list the cities that don’t allow them yet than those that do”.  A simple rule limiting the number allowed per household to say 4 or 5 chickens and not allowing roosters would be a start in the right direction.  Plenty of other municipalities and cities allow them, why does London always have to be the last to adopt an idea?  But enough about that, that’s a rant for another day.

some of our flock

watching the sunset

the trio w/ Nash

For us, having chickens is a joy, partly because we had the fortune of having a very special one named Ginger in our lives.  She is laid to rest beside other departed loved family pets and will be sorely missed.  The poem about the Rainbow Bridge always comes to mind when a pet is lost (posted previously here), and when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil, Ginger along with all of the other pets that we have had the pleasure of knowing even for a short time will be waiting.  In my case, I better make sure I bring raisin bread as I cross the bridge.

tcg