Body by Jake.

Jake had his sixth therapy session last week.  The first few sessions we did laser and acupuncture. Even with an every-other-week schedule, I wasn’t really seeing a difference in the monkey-man.  He has what I call ‘uptime’ on his legs, which is about 75% of the (awake) day and ‘downtime’ on his legs, which is the other 25% .  While he was not worsening, therapy just didn’t seem to be doing anything.

There are a few goals with Jake in general — bulk him up and build as much muscle mass as possible.  Also, keep his hind legs working as much as he’s able to so that they don’t atrophy.  For all we know, a cure for spinal scarring could come one day and we won’t have that option if his legs atrophy.

So on our fifth session of therapy we decided to mix things up a bit and swap out acupuncture for B12 shots (injections given at the same points the acupuncture needles go in).  While there was no shift in the uptime versus downtime, I did notice that during his uptime, he seemed much stronger, even after just one B12 treatment.  That continued with the last treatment as well.

When you have a dog who has paralysis in his future, little victories like this are HUGE.  Like I may get him a trophy. And a theme song.  Also, little man is much beefier now and you have no idea how cute he looks.  I keep expecting him to say ‘I’m da terminator’.

Look at those rolls!3 31 14a

His waddle is now so epic it can hold his head up while he sleeps. 3 31 14b

Mine.

Apparently, the boys grew closer in my absence.  There have been several times this week where they are huddled together and Jake will look up and give me the ‘he’s mine’ look.

” Look away woman, ain’t nothing for you down here.”3 28 14b

It’s pretty rare for them to start off next to each other before I’ve even sat down. 3 28 14a

“He belongs to me now, deal with it.”3 28 14

Melvin NEVER lays this close to the fireplace.  He saw Jake lay down and immediately moved closer.  They may be planning a coup. 3 28 14c

Shift ALT delete.

Prior to Melvin, I had only seen the letters ALT on the keyboard.  Now that I have Melvin, I know the keyboard variety AND the liver enzyme version. A normal dog’s ALT level is somewhere between 10-84. I usually just ballpark that normal is below 100.   Melvin’s number, in the time I have had him, has never been remotely close to that.  Melvin’s level laughs at double (and triple) digits.  Melvin’s ALT value has risen up year after year, no matter what we’ve tried. A year ago, we hit a high of 2,600.   Two thousand six hundred is a long way from 10-84.  We did bile tests and ultrasounds. We saw specialists.  We knew it was likely the result of his lifelong need for medication.

Melvin has severe allergies.  His former-not-forever family thought about putting him down to end his itchy suffering.  Even after I got him, while I never considered putting him down, I wondered if he’d ever find relief.  Part of our journey, in addition to hundreds of food trials, allergy shots and baths, was inevitably going to have to be…medication.  It took years to find the balance of what meds worked for him.

“Do you want Melvin’s life to be measured in days or quality of life?”

“I want his life to be measured in joy”.

I remind myself of those nine words, daily.  Every Sunday when I fill up his pill container for the coming week, I chant, ‘joy matters most’. I know that some of his medications (prednisone) are necessary for Melvin to live a pain-free and somewhat itch free life and I know those same medications will ultimately shorten our time together.

Now…to that end, I’m not great at simply accepting everything that’s told to me.  I trust my vet but I trust myself too.  So throughout the years, I have proactively weaned him off the some of the very medications that ease his itching, knowing full well I could upset the delicate balance.  I do this because something tells me it can be done.  A gut feeling.  I do this while balancing diet changes, like the switch to raw. That switch was not ‘vet recommended’ but I read a lot before making that change and then I read a lot more before weaning him off some less-liver-friendly meds (Atopica).  What I’ve come to find out is that there are options, and sometimes mom knows best; sometimes the vet does.

In the past year, I have successfully gotten him off three meds.  That is three less things his liver has to process.  We started him on a new liver supplement. He is thriving on a raw diet.  It may not work forever, but it’s working right now. Joy does not mean we sit and wait for the end, Joy takes some work.  Joy leaps.

Melvin had his regular every-six-months blood work done a few weeks ago.  The vet called while I was in the Bahamas and while it would have been ok to let him leave a message and call him back upon my return, that is not how we roll in this family.  We face things as they come, together.  Turns out, it was a great phone call to answer, Melvin’s ALT value is now 1,100!  It’s the first improvement, ever! The first time we didn’t have to use the + sign to figure out how much it went up.  We finally got to dust off the minus sign!

Eleven hundred is still very high, it’s a number that would cause worry and emergency action for another dog.  Eleven hundred is 1,016 higher than the ‘high’ level for the value.  But you know what, this is Melvin, and hot damn if we aren’t showing that liver who’s boss!!!  One day, one day it will be in the hundreds, I just know it!

Just to be sure it was not a false positive, we had Jake examine Melvin – he gave the ‘liver smells good’ thumbs up! Video of that examination below.

 

 

Bahama Mamma.

The past six days were spent on Paradise Island (how awesome is that name?) for our annual family (adults) trip to the Bahamas.  Breakfast overlooking the ocean, days spent at the pool and beach with adult drinks and lunch delivered to our chairs. Naps. Happy hours. Unbelievably awesome dinners followed by gambling and shopping and the best sleep anyone can imagine.  Not to mention, the best company this life has to offer.

I’ll pause while all of you still stuck in winter get your hate on.

But there is that moment on any vacation (especially the ones where everyone doesn’t go) that no matter how heavenly the sun and sand and moments are, you want to return home.  To the kids, the rest of the family, to your friends and to THE DOGS!!!

While they were very well cared for and loved on, I can say with all honesty that snuggling with the boys on a cold winters night is just as spectacular as any day in Paradise. Love is strange, indeed.

Just a few photos so you don’t hate TOO much..

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo photo[1]

Tune in tomorrow for an update on Melvin (I got a call from the vet while on the trip) — he’s totally fine (but I was so nervous answering the call!)

 

Make yourself comfortable.

When Jake first came to live here, he would sit, on the hard wood, for hours.  The same, uncomfortable, spot.  I got the sense he was trained to wait; for what I don’t know.  Even when he laid down, it was on the wood floor or tile. Since we were training him using tie-down (He was on a leash so he could learn how life here worked), I started putting his tie-down on softer surfaces, just in case in his previous life he was not allowed on soft surfaces.  On carpet, he sat less, relaxed more.  I’d bring him on the couch with me and at first he’d sit like a statue, but then, he realized it was ok and he snuggle in.

This is the exact moment I should have noticed I was creating a COMFORT MONSTER.

Now, Jake sees every soft surface as his a bed.  And if there is a hard surface where he would prefer to lay, he will drag a soft item over to make it happen.  In short, Jake’s butt likes to sit upon fluffiness, he refuses to settle. Luckily for him, I’m addicted to buying dog beds.  Match made in heaven.

One goal for rescuing dogs, being sure they know comfort. Jake says ‘check, check’!

Here he is on two pillows, and the couch. photo

On the loft ‘girlfriend’. photo[1]

On top of a fuzzy matt that is on top of a fluffy carpet.  With a soft toy. photo[2]

On top of bed that was just washed and has not even been reassembled. photo[3]

In his own bed, post ‘workout’. photo[4]

Hard surface? Drag a mat over. photo[5]

This bed had just come out of the delivery box.  Jake claimed shotgun. photo[6]

Cocooned in comfort.  photo[7]

Warm and comfy. photo[8]

Under the bathroom dressing table. photo[9]

On big brother’s bed. photo[10]

Date night with girlfriend. photo[11]

Date night with girlfriend AND Melvin. This is also known as physical AND spiritual comfort. photo[12]

The day he found the blanket basket and claimed them as his own. photo[13]

The one day we tried him sans condo.  Just before he pee’d in Melvin’s bed. photo[14]

Helping me make the bed. photo[15]

Boot Camp.

Most people start boot camp programs on a Monday, or January 1st.  We like to start our program on a Friday in mid-March in case someone pulls something and needs to rest over the weekend.  With Spring upon us, I am hoping to get the boys moving more.  They get regular walks throughout the day (on non-Polar-Vortex weeks) however the morning walk has always been pretty low-key.  Melvin is not a fast riser in the morning and Jake’s legs don’t always wake-up with the rest of his body. So today we went for a walk to warm-up and then went into the backyard to work on some recall.  I made sure the boys were as far from me as possible before giving the command and once I did, they both would come running.  Even Jake (in his own wonky-rific way)!  We did this for quite some time and when we went in for breakfast, the boys were peppy and limber and happy.

Ten minutes later they called it a day. 3 14 143 14 14a

Happy weekend!