Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Disastrous Decision by Egypt

An Egyptian Health worker sprays chemicals to disinfect a local pig farm in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, April 27, 2009. Egyptian health authorities are examining about 350,000 pigs being raised in Cairo and other provinces for swine flu.(AP Photo/Mohammed Ahmed)

Egypt, in its infinite wisdom, has decided the best way to prevent swine flu is to kill every healthy pig in the country. This will mean absolute economic devastation to the 10% of Egypt's population that are Coptic Christians. Their poverty rate is already well below that of the Muslim Egyptian, and this will be interpreted by many as more racism between the two populations. Not to mention that they have had no reported cases, meaning that when they do get cases, it will come from tourists coming from abroad.

My small personal blog appeals to all Egyptian officials to reverse this decision immediately!

*sound of crickets*

Egypt orders slaughter of all pigs over swine flu

By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF, Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 36 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precautionary measure against the spread of swine flu even though no cases have been reported here yet, the Health Ministry said.

The move immediately provoked resistance from pig farmers. At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, farmers refused to cooperate with Health Ministry workers who came to slaughter the animals and the workers left without carrying out the government order.

"It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country's slaughterhouses," Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told reporters after a Cabinet meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's overwhelmingly Muslim population does not eat pork due to religious restrictions. But the animals are raised and consumed by the Christian minority, which some estimates put at 10 percent of the population.

Health Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman estimated there were between 300,000-350,000 pigs in Egypt.

Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza told reporters that farmers would be allowed to sell the pork meat so there would be no need for compensation.

In 2008, following fears over diseases spread by animals, Mubarak ordered all pig and chicken farms moved out of population areas. But the order was never implemented.

Pigs can be found in many places around Muslim world, often raised by religious minorities who can eat pork. But they are banned entirely in some Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya.

In Jordan, the government decided Wednesday to shut down the country's five pig farms, involving 800 animals, for violating public health safety regulations.

Read more!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blown-away Chihuahua reunited with owners

AP Tue Apr 28, 7:18 am ET

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Tinker Bell has been reunited with her owners after a 70-mph gust of wind picked up the six-pound Chihuahua and tossed her out of sight.

Dorothy and Lavern Utley credit a pet psychic for guiding them on Monday to a wooded area nearly a mile from where 8-month-old Tinker Bell had been last seen. The brown long-haired dog was dirty and hungry but otherwise OK.

The Utleys, of Rochester, had set up an outdoor display Saturday at a flea market in Waterford Township, 25 miles northwest of Detroit. Tinker Bell was standing on their platform trailer when she was swept away.

Dorothy Utley tells The Detroit News that her cherished pet "just went wild" upon seeing her.


Information from: The Detroit News,

I wonder if there's a market out there for weighted chihuahua boots?
Read more!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dave Grohl Welcomes "Loud As Hell" Baby

April 21, 2009-AP (From The Huffington Post)

NEW YORK — Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and his wife, Jordyn, have welcomed their second daughter.

And, Grohl says, she likes to make noise.

The 40-year-old rocker says Harper Willow Grohl was born on April 17. She is 7 pounds, 8 ounces, 20 inches long and Grohl says "loud as hell."

He says Harper Willow is named after his great-uncle Harper Bonebrake.

Grohl and his wife also have a 3-year-old daughter, Violet. The couple married in 2003.

Daddy Dave with Violet in 2007 backstage at the Led Zep show.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Neighborhood watch at the Sun Prairie apt. in 2006

Afternoon sun in 2006

No need to Read more!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Cold Day in April

Just hanging on...

Soda never rallied. All night she slept so deeply I was checking to make sure she was alive. Today, she was completely washed out. Wherever I lay her, she stayed, not even changing positions. I don't know if there was pain, or just weakness, but she was going.

As a last test, I had mom and my brother Mikey stop by to see her. Seeing mom is typically enough to make Soda delirious with joy. Today, she could barely stand in the doorway to greet her. No happy growls holding her favorite toy. No tail wagging. Just tremendous fatigue.

I laid her on mom's chest and lap and Soda struggled to stay conscious as she sprawled across her. Normally she would pull her legs up under her and push her head under mom's chin, but she hadn't the strength. After an hour or so, all three of us joined in to give her a last bolus of fluids, each taking turns squeezing the bag to make them go faster. This gave her a small boost, but that was it.

As mom and Mikey took some things to the car, Soda struggled to her feet and stood on the back of the sofa to watch them. As she saw mom come back in, I got to see her last wag. I was ready, and I can share it with you.

After they left, I broke down and soaked her little head with tears. She barely moved. I watched her sleep, then we both fell asleep on the sofa for an hour or so. When I woke up, she was stretched up against the sofa back, watching me sleep. That was a little eerie.

After calling a friend for one last boost, I drove her into town. I had called ahead, and they were ready for us. One bad thing about already knowing the staff was that they were already in tears.

I insisted on holding Soda for the procedure. She never blinked; never questioned me. I had spent the last several hours telling her what she meant to me, and I could not speak as I watched the pink liquid enter her vein. The tech said softly, "Mama loves you." I almost snapped, "Don't you think I fucking told her that?" but held my tongue for once.

Immediately thereafter, I felt the life drain from Soda's body. Unexpectedly, it drained from mine, buckling my knees and leaving me to hold myself up on the table with my elbows. I was sobbing before she was gone, hard as I tried otherwise.

The doctor waited a few seconds as I sobbed with my head on her body, then checked for a heartbeat.

"Her heart has stopped," she confirmed.

"So has mine." I told her. Good job, now I made both of them cry.

Stating the obvious, I told them I would need a little time. They hustled out as fast as if someone had pulled the ring on a grenade, fairly tossing me a fresh box of Kleenex as they closed the door.

I was the only one in the clinic, thankfully, so only the three staff members had to hear me fall apart. I don't know how long I held her--long enough for her to soak my sweatshirt, but I didn't care. I had brought in the blanket that mom had sewn for Cocoa so many years ago, and decided to have her cremated with it. I chose not to bury her at my house since I always seem to move, and I promised her she'd be with me always. It's a promise I intend to keep.

I finally pulled my shit together and left my baby in the room, knowing I carried her heart and spirit with me. I went to the front desk. When the receptionist came out crying, I smiled and told her cheerfully, "Well, I think I handled that pretty well!"

Still have to make them laugh. The bill almost brought me to tears again, but it was primarily the cost of private cremation, which is steep. That was worth the money (as long as they don't lose her).

Again, I want to thank everyone for all the love and support: Mom, Dad, Sarah, Mikey, David, Kurt, Patty, Trish, Mo, C, Kathy, Linda, Sarah F., Sharon, and anyone else I might be forgetting. Those of you who loved her know how much she was worth. Cherish your memories. I know I will.

Letting go...

Breathe easy, sweet baby.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

More Trouble

By late last night, SodaPop began to come around thanks to the drugs she had started. Her fever broke around noon on Friday, and she began eating and drinking. She was still holding everything down as we settled on the sofa to watch a very good movie from 2006, Inside Man. (It's a Spike Lee joint with Denzel Washington, Jody Foster, and who else... Oh, yes, Clive Owen.)
Ginger curled up and went to sleep in her open kennel of her own accord, apparently not a fan, but Soda stayed with me to watch the whole thing. Her eyes closed briefly now and then, but I'm quite certain she was still listening intently.

We all went to bed around 11. I thought we were good. I was wrong.

Soda woke me up this morning with the sound of vomiting. Within an hour she had vomited more than eight times (and I'm still finding locations). First came the food, then water, and in a very frightening new development, all of it contained clotted or liquid blood. She had bad, blood-tinged diarrhea and blood in her urine.

Somehow she managed to remain alert as this was happening, letting Ginger and I handle the alarmed end of things. I called the hospital and we headed in.

A recheck of her bloodwork showed her PCV (red cell volume) to be steady at 28--still low, but no lower than before. Her liver and kidneys showed increased stress, but not alarming levels. But unlike two days before, a test for pancreatitis came up a strong positive. All in all, what the symptoms pointed to was a bleeding ulcer.

This ulcer probably started weeks ago, when I first started noticing her having trouble keeping water down. The sudden barrage of heavy drugs had tipped it over the edge. An ulcer alone is not cause for panic, but an ulcer in a dog we need to treat NOW for hemolytic anemia is grave.

Honestly, as I drove in to the hospital, I didn't think she'd be coming home with me. Of course, I didn't know then it was blood from an ulcer; I thought it was from a complication known as DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation), a very serious bleeding disorder.

I don't know why I didn't give up today. I'm already re-thinking the decision I made to allow subcutaneous fluids and injectable forms of meds for everything from ulcers to hemolytic anemia. I took home more fluids and more shots to treat and monitor her myself over the next 24-48 hours. Something about watching her nod off in my dad's arms as I discussed treatment plans with the doctor made me unable to cut her short.

After a day or so, it should be clear if we have silenced the ulcer. If we haven't, the doc said we may need to go with a feeding tube, another ultrasound, and possibly even surgery to do a visual check for pancreatic damage and possible underlying causes of these developments. I told her we would not be doing that. By that time, in my opinion, the prognosis for her quality of life alone will have deteriorated enough that it will not be worth putting her through the additonal stress. We are also up to $1300 from the last three days of treatment, and in a sickeningly practical consideration, I won't be able to withstand much more financially.

It would be different if I have she had a 95% chance of recovery, like some pit bulls we know and love, but we're talking about dangerous surgery to stabilize her enough to withstand dangerous drugs for a dangerous disease. We're playing an entirely different game, here. And I won't play games with SodaPop.

So whether or not I made the right decision today, we are home and bunkered in for tomorrow's snowstorm. I don't think we'll be able to get out tomorrow even if we need to. I am fairly confident that the medications we were sent home with will keep her relatively comfortable for the next 24-36 hours, at which point we will have to go back and face some tough decisions once again.

Until then, I intend to cherish every minute with both girls. Ginger is staying by Soda's side as much as she can, no doubt easily picking up the scent of blood and illness along with my ever-present anxiety. And I will post more news as it happens.

Soda wishes to thank everyone for the outpouring of sympathy and well-wishes. She has made many friends across the country over the last nine years and they are all following this difficult journey with us.

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This Changes Everything

Ginger Ale and SodaPop in my office last March

I am having trouble making myself write this one, so bear with me.

Last Wednesday, SodaPop stopped eating. As I am always worried of a repeat of the Soda's Great Hunger Strike of 2001, I began to watch her very closely. She deteriorated rapidly, regurgitating water she drank, acting very odd (creeping around like she was in trouble) and becoming dull and lethargic. I cooked--yes, COOKED--rice and hamburger mixed with a tasty Gerber turkey/vegetable paste but she would only eat about a tablespoon from my fingers. By 8 p.m., she had a frightening pale look to her gums, labored breathing, and was running a temperature of 104.5. The normal high end for a dog is 102.5. So I drove quickly (do I ever drive slowly?) to the emergency clinic I trained at but recently decided not to work at. After four hours of bloodwork, ultrasound, bloodwork, radiographs, bloodwork, and God knows what else I'm forgetting, she was diagnosed with Ideopathic Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia.

If you don't know these terms, in real language it means that we don't know why (ideopathic), but her body is attacking (hemolyzing) her own blood cells (immune mediated) to the point where she is severely anemic. It is a bad thing to have. The info the vet printed out for me stated in no uncertain terms that "IMHA is a very serious disease associated with a high mortality rate." (Veterinary Information Network, Inc. 2009)

A lot rested on the volume of her red blood cells. The Idexx machine wasn't working right so the packed cell volume (PCV) kept coming up severe, around 15. The normal low range for canines is 43. The veterinary technician repeatedly came up with 20-25. Techs are more reliable than machines. So, no blood transfusion at this stage, but we have to stop the process. If we don't stop it, she dies. She can also die by throwing a clot, which the vet said can be recognized if the dog drops dead in mid-walk.

She said it with much more sympathy than I write. She was great, actually. She was one I had trained with. Soda was given injectable steroids, and we were to start oral steroids, aspirin for clotting, and an antacid teh next day. She will be on steroids for months. In the next few days I was to to monitor Soda's temperature and take her back in for more--you guessed it--bloodwork. They said we'd know in two to five days if the prednisone was working. If it doesn't, there are other drugs and other avenues. It's a little blind since we don't know the cause, but the good news is that the ultrasound and radiographs ruled out obvious causes such as cancer and internal bleeding. "Scary things" as the vet put it. Since she knew me, the vet let me assist in every procedure, which Soda and I both appreciated. I took radiographs, held for the ultrasound and all the bloodwork. I think that made it much less stressful for Soda, which was good as we were trying not to elevate her temperature. She also worked hard to keep the costs down. You can imagine it was still very significant, though she has quite a ways to go before she catches up with Ginger's bill.

I put Soda and Ginger to bed around 1:30 a.m., and tried to follow, but I had 8 pages of not-very-encouraging information floating around in my head. I listened to Soda's labored breathing until I fell asleep.

Whatever happens, everything changes for Soda now. To survive the disease, she will need strong meds (steroids) that will radically affect her body. She becomes a walking time bomb, a canine landmine, who can succumb at any moment to a small group of clotted cells.

Soda turned nine years old in January.

Soda and a moose friend resting on Cocoa's blanket last year

The Veterinary Information Network recommended a couple of sites that owners have dedicated to this disease:

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Linda in Spokane had this to share

A man and his wife are awakened at 3 o'clock in the morning by a loud pounding on the door. The man gets up and goes to the door where a drunken stranger, standing in the pouring rain, is asking for a push.

"Not a chance," says the husband, "it is 3 o'clock in the
morning! He slams the door and returns to bed.

"Who was that?" asked his wife.
"Just some drunk guy asking for a push," he answers.
"Did you help him?" she asks.
"No, I did not, it's 3 o' clock in the morning and it is pouring out there!"
"Well, you have a short memory," says his wife. "Can't You remember about three months ago when we broke down, and those two guys helped us? I think you should help him, and you should be ashamed of yourself!"

The man does as he is told, gets dressed, and goes out into the pounding rain.

He calls out into the dark, "Hello, are you still there?"
"Yes" comes back the answer.
"Do you still need a push?" calls out the husband.
"Yes,please!" comes the reply from the dark.
"Where are you?" asks the husband.

"Over here on the swing!" replies the drunk.

Disclaimer: Not all drunks are this funny, so we have to enjoy them when we can! Thanks, Linda! Read more!