Resiliency

Melvin’s tail is slightly better. Not healed. I have found it’s useless to make plans on this issue, that tail has an agenda of its own! We agreed to super-wrap it again, this time for two weeks. The vet wouldn’t even agree to bathe him since he’s so wiggly in the tub. Goal = healing. Got it!

I had dinner with my friend Becky recently. She has a dog, Max. Becky rescued Max years ago from the side of the road. She was driving, saw this sweet boy, opened her car door and Max jumped in. I find stories like this to be heroic. So many would keep driving, hoping for the best. Becky had no idea if Max was friendly, she only cared that at the moment, he was in danger of being run over. Turns out that Max ran with drug dealers, he was not loved or cared for and his health was not attended to. He just existed. Becky offered him a forever home (indoors and all) and Max shows Becky his gratitude everyday by being the sweetest, most loving and gentle companion.

Recently Becky was watching her boyfriend’s dog and somehow, both dogs ingested something poison to them. No one really knows what. It’s so easy for this to happen, every day I walk Melvin I will glance over at him and he’s eating something. Max showed signs of illness first, he started bleeding from his mouth and rear. Not minor bleeding, bleeding-out bleeding. Becky rushed him to her vet who realized immediately they were not equipped to help. Becky loaded Max back into her car, driving frantically to the emergency center. Oh how I wish they had animal ambulances.

The emergency center was initially not sure they could save him but in the end were able to stabilize Max (Becky’s direction to them was to do ‘whatever was necessary to save my boy’) and when the dog she was watching went through the same issue a day later, the vet was prepared for what to do. Today, both dogs are running around as if nothing bad ever happened. It is clear that the emotional damage and scars of these types of events rests on the humans. The dogs bounce forward almost instantaneously.

Melvin still has a tail!

As most of you know, we arrived at the vet on Thursday to have Melvin’s tail removed and the surgery got postponed. The surgeon (whom we had never met before) became so enamored with Melvin and his tail that he asked us to give him one week. I was a bit in shock and thought I’d heard him wrong. After a night of worry, guilt and crying I figured I’d either misunderstood him or I was on a very hurtful reality TV show. He wanted to try wrapping the tail himself, a wrap that he guaranteed would stay on for seven days. What he couldn’t promise was whether it would work. As mentioned before, I like to be able to say I did my best/tried all that I could in everything I do, especially where Melvin is concerned. I felt so fortunate we were getting another chance.

Having Melvin’s tail thumping for another week has been wonderful and even if the approach doesn’t work, it’s been a blessing to have this week to fully celebrate it in all it’s glory while not having to deal with the frustration of wrapping, re-wrapping and blood.

Amputation.

Melvin is having his tail removed tomorrow. Like so many issues with dogs, he has no idea. I feel terribly guilty about that. I ask myself, did we do everything possible? Yes, I think we did. It’s been infected and it’s breaking open every day now. The decision is not easy, it will haunt me indefinitely. I want what’s best for Melvin and some days that means making decisions that feel blinding and incomprehensible. I have consulted opinions of countless vets, animal experts, friends and family. I only wish Melvin could chime in, his vote would matter most.

I don’t know how much Melvin wagged before we met. I do know that since joining the family he has earned ‘happy tail’. Each day he wags harder and more often. The range of motion and fierceness that he wags with is such a beautiful part of my day. His wagging shows me he’s happy. Right now, I feel like I’m removing his smile.

Melvin and I have gotten through a lot together, this will be no different. I pray for a smooth surgery and no complications. I’m grateful for an awesome vet, one that I know loves Melvin and wants only the very best for him. I’m grateful for pain medications and for antibiotics, I want him comfortable and infection free. Most of all, I’m grateful for Melvin and his outlook on life. That sweet tail of his wags if I’m coming at him with a hug or an allergy shot. He loves life and I look forward to him figuring out a his new way to wag. I love him no matter what comes.

Frustration.

The above photo shows the contents of my evenings. Melvin’s tail must be wrapped every night so that topical medication can be put on. There is the medication, the sterile pad that goes on top the medication, the soft batting to protect the pad, the blue vet tape (sticks to itself, nothing else) the pipe protector (from Home Depot) to cushion the blows of Melvin’s wagging and then the sticky tape (looks like ace bandage wrap) that sticks to absolutely everything (itself, fur, the floor, my fingers, the tube of medicine, etc.).

Melvin moves the entire time I’m trying to wrap his tail. First he thinks it’s a petting session so he refuses to lay down, he just tries to snuggle. It’s comical but then it’s frustrating because he’s wagging madly and one swipe to a hard surface and it will look like another murder scene. I lure him down with treats and he thumps his tail with brute force the entire time I try to get the ointment on. I know he senses my stress. I try to calm us both down but a dog with happy tail is happy, his body is constantly in motion. It takes 3 minutes to get the first two steps done. By then I’ve cursed and my face is red and he thinks it’s his fault. I’m overcome with guilt, it’s not his fault. Must focus; must persevere. I get the blue tape on, then the pipe protector then the sticky tape (that I hate with the intensity of a thousand hot sun’s). Done. We’ll be lucky if it lasts the night let alone to tomorrow night when we’ll do it all over again.

The outcome…

Sad tail.

Melvin’s tail is not healing. Despite our best efforts his tail flails out of control 24/7 and has made no improvement whatsoever. We are trying one more thing (I’ll feature photos for that in the next post). Until then, here is Melvin’s 5th cast. It goes from tip to butt.

He loves me, he loves me not.

Family vacation gets planned early in the year. Finding one week that we can all go to the beach house is challenging so once the week is chosen there is no excuse mighty or worthy enough to change it. Not even a move. Family vacation came exactly one week after move in. That meant that I uprooted Melvin from one home, moved him to another and then left him a week after arrival. I considered taking him with me but in the long run leaving him in his new home to continue his adjustment was going to be better for him than moving him to yet another house he had never been to.

To soften the blow our dear friend Heather came to stay with him. She has stayed with him many times before and she loves on him and lets him do whatever he likes. He loves her so much that for a week after each return Melvin will go into the guest room looking for her. I think it’s two-fold; he truly misses her and he wants me to know that I’m not the only girl in his life.

The moment I return from vacation he is extremely excited to see me, waving his tail (still blue casted) wildly and he follows me around for hours. Then comes the indifference. He puts distance between us. I call him over and he will only come if given a treat. I invite him up on the couch and he opts to lay on the floor, just out of my reach. He barks at a passerby and when I say ‘no’, he barks louder. I know the drill. It will be exactly three days until we are back to normal. In that time I’m permitted to leave for regularly scheduled activities but anything else is strictly prohibited. He will challenge boundaries (pull on the leash, take longer to sit for dinner) and will not cuddle with me. Each day he’ll close the gap an inch or so.

I’ve been back for one day. Here is my view of Melvin as I type…

Please don’t go.

Melvin did great with the move. He is completely at ease in the new house and moves from sun filled spot to the next for nap after nap. He sleeps soundly all night. He does all of this while I am at home. When I leave, he is not as easy breezy.

When Melvin joined the family he was gated in an office while I was gone. Max had free roam of the house and they were not ready to be left alone together. When Max died I started working on letting Melvin have more freedom. I set up a video camera to see what he’d do when left with so much room to move. He sat for two hours straight staring at the door that I’d departed from. The door was windowless. He didn’t move a single muscle. So I worked with him, I’d leave for 15 seconds then come back. Then a minute, then five then thirty. Eventually, after about a week, he relaxed and we were good to go.

I did the same this past weekend at the new house. I thought I’d try him in the office that has french doors. I left Kong’s full of treats. He rammed the doors the moment they clicked closed and he was able to bounce them open. I tried again, left the laptop taping him and he just went from window to window and barked non-stop. Round two I clipped the curtains closed. This didn’t correct the barking. It continued for two days regardless of how long I left him. Since he was much more comfortable outside the office I decided to try giving him free roam. Video on – check, keys in hand – check, check. He sat at the door I departed from with the saddest face and waited for me. I’d drive around the block, there he was. I’d drive to the store and return, still there. It was a relaxed sit, but it made me feel guilty of murder. After SEVERAL trips to nowhere, he finally laid down. It had worked.

The next day I realized it was all in vain. He had settled down on a holiday weekend when no one was in town and the brand new neighborhood we live in was not overcome with dump trucks, drill noises and workman. Tuesday morning was if we’d never trained at all. So what did I do? I started over. Love is not always easy.

Happy Tail.

The day before we moved I noticed that the walls next to the garage door were stained, it looked like a chocolate fountain exploded. I had no idea what it could it be. Turns out, it was blood.

Melvin’s tail is more powerful than a light saber. It’s range of motion is astonishing and he wags it with brute force, in fact we say that his tail wags his body. While at the vet on move day it was discovered that Melvin had ‘happy tail’. His tail normally crashes into things (furniture, walls, doors) but with all the boxes at the old house his wag space was much more limited and the injury stemmed from him making so much contact with the corners of the boxes. They sent him home with a hard cast and a warning: casting the tail is tricky (read almost impossible). The cast lasted six hours. It was able to dent drywall and bruise legs before flying off of his wildly wagging appendage. Called the vet and they said to come back in the next day.

The next day happened to be our first morning in the new house. Melvin awoke, went for a walk and had breakfast. I had my first cup of coffee in our new home. The peacefulness lasted 38 seconds. As my family started to arrive Melvin’s tail went into turbo motion and one swift hit to the corner of the kitchen cabinets and all hell broke loose. Imagine a sprinkler, the type that spin a bit wildly. Now imagine you have the sprinkler hooked up to a blood source. Melvin’s tail started spurting blood all over the place. Across the brand new white cabinets. Across freshly painted walls. The ceilings are nine-feet high and yet blood made it up there.

One emergency vet trip later and we are now trying a soft wrap. So far it seems to have staying power. The secret is apparently to keep the dog’s tail from wagging. Oh sure, I’ll get right on that. Melvin’s tail wags in his sleep. For now we are doing what we can, the alternative is tail docking which upsets me too much to think about.

Photos below of the soft cast and one of Melvin on a self-imposed time out. Why he choose to face the wall is still a mystery.

Melvin’s new house.

Moving is beyond stressful. There comes a time when the movers are loading the truck at the old house where you just want to say ‘You know what, just leave it, let’s go’. I was anxious to move, to have a new house, to decorate and unpack all the wonderful new things I’ve purchased. My light at the end of the tunnel was clear. Melvin likely felt trapped in the tunnel, walls of boxes all around him. I really had no idea how he’d respond to the new environment.

Melvin went to the vet the day of the move. He got a bath and some loving from all his friends at Great Falls Animal Hospital. I love our vet, Melvin is beyond overjoyed every time we turn into the parking lot. We’re so blessed that way. After the movers left I unpacked Melvin’s bag so when he returned he’d have his bowls, his 500 beds, his Kong’s and balls. I brought him into the house that night and so far, he’s doing great. He slept soundly and pretty much returned to his normal routine (up, walk, breakfast, nap, etc) the two days we’ve been here. He’s barked some, certainly not as much as I’d expected. My family has been here so he’s just been loving the full house and abundance of attention. So much so that he now has ‘Happy Tail’. More bloody details on that next. Meantime, here are some photos of Melvin’s new house.