Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Dog

Our dog is settling in to our family, our home, our way of life, our crazy schedule, and our hearts. She is an absolute dream of a dog with a wonderful, sweet disposition. We do have our challenges with her; she is still going all "statue dog" on us every now and again, but not as much. Our fantastic trainer, found through the Victoria Stilwell website, is very good with her. She uses positive reinforcement to teach The Dog (have to come up with a better blog name for her) what we want her to do. That's key to training her, too; if you teach a dog the behaviors you want they don't have time or opportunity to engage in behaviors you don't want. We are currently teaching her such nifty commands as "wait" (instead of stay), "leave it", and "back". We use back and wait to get her well back from the front door as we are going in and out, which is sometimes an issue with greyhounds. They are taught to bolt at the sight of an open door when they race, so they tend to continue doing that when they are retired and living in a home. The Dog seems to be dealing with the re-training rather well, however, and actually waited when I went outside today. (And she got a nifty treat for her trouble.)

It's not all work and training. We try to do something fun with her as often as we can, and if we can get her around other dogs it's that much better. We take her to the pet store, the local dog park, the dog park at the adoption kennel, (along with a lot of other owners since it's a great place to meet up with other greyhounds) and to a frozen yogurt place that has outdoor seating. She LOVES these outings and has developed quite the obsession with the car! She was starting to get a little crazy and jumpy whenever I went to my purse, and especially when she heard my keys jingle, so we brought that up with The Wonder Trainer and she gave us some great tips on how to handle it, along with tips on how to get her to get OUT of the car more willingly. (She was doing the statue dog thing about getting out.) For the keys, the idea is to de-sensitize her by taking them out and jingling them all the time. For the statue dog thing, The Wonder Trainer taught us how to practice, practice, practice by putting her in the car then taking her right back out several times a day. When she gets out she gets a great treat. (Today it was turkey dog bits.) We have to shove her out of the car, but she's getting the idea. She tries to get back in immediately, but then it's right back out again. The Eldest and I worked on that with her for about 10 minutes today, and when we took her to the dog park we didn't have a bit of trouble with her. Thank goodness!! (And The Wonder Trainer.)

We had a bit of a scare with her too. She threw up a sock! When we told everyone about it (like The Wonder Trainer and the head of the adoption kennel) they said we were incredibly lucky she threw it up. It could have caused an obstruction, which can be fatal if left untreated. I don't know that we would have recognized the signs, which can include no pooping, since 4 of us are walking her. We all would have assumed she was pooping on someone else's watch. Since that happened, we are now keeping a log where we record when she does her business. (And Martha Jr. lost it, after less than a week, so we'll be starting a new one.) (Sigh...) We may be clueless newbs when it comes to dog ownership, but at least we have a lot of great people to turn to for help and advice. The Wonder Trainer, the vet, the lady that heads the adoption kennel, and our neighbors from around the block who own two greyhounds for starters.

So that's how things stand with the dog.

Update on my dad:
He's still in ICU. They are having trouble establishing a site for his dialysis so that's where he'll stay until they get it worked out. I can't wait for him to get out of the hospital!!! I was visiting every day but I have to cut back; it's too much for me with the long drive and most of the time I visit he isn't awake enough to know I'm even there. My brother lives close to the hospital and he's taking good care of my dad; I need to let him do it. Not that I won't be there in a heartbeat if my dad or brother need me, but I don't need to burn out on it in the meantime. My dad's going to be in recovery from all of this for a long time to come. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Dad

My dad is still in the hospital in ICU. He was touch and go there for a while, but it looks like he's in the clear now. It is such a relief to walk into his room and see his smile when he notices me! He had a trachiostomy so he's got a tube in his neck and can't talk, but he is awake and alert and can nod and make motions. They were going to move him out of the ICU but he's got to have a fistula put in on Monday for his dialysis so they decided he might as well stay put for now. He'll be moved to a rehab center sooner rather than later. The hospital gave my brother the names of two rehab centers for us to choose from so we took a tour of each. We agreed on the one that seems to be more aggressive in their approach to treatment. I think they will work harder to get him better more quickly than the other place. He'll also have a private room there and won't have to share, another plus. He's not a sharing-his-space-with-a-stranger kind of guy.

I told him I want to see him at least once a month when he's better. I don't know him as well as I should and I almost lost him; I've got another chance and I want to take advantage of it. We were seeing each other a couple of times a year, but that's just silly when he only lives about 45 minutes away. I am also getting to know my brother better and I am so happy about that. He's a good guy; I'm so proud of him and proud to be his sister. He's been amazing through all of this. He's very "take charge" and makes things happen. There were a couple of things I mentioned that he hadn't thought of (and even more that he did think of, of course) and bam, just like that, they were handled. Very impressive.

I've been driving to the hospital almost daily. Luckily my fibro hasn't acted up too much; it hasn't been a limiting factor in seeing my dad. Not that I'm not wiped out when I get home every day, because I am, but it's been manageable. I've even kept up with some chores around the house. Not everything I need to do, but the essentials. My kids have clean clothes, at least; there's something to be said for that!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hospital Mode

Once again, I find myself with a loved one in very bad shape in a hospital ICU unit. This time it's my dad. He suffered an aortic aneurysm, something not many people survive, on July 1. My brother and I have pieced together what happened that got him to the hospital, and it appears he was at his primary care provider's office, someone there realized he was in bad shape, and they called an ambulance to rush him to a nearby hospital where he had emergency surgery. He's been heavily sedated since then and we haven't been able to talk with him. We've talked TO him and he's been able to nod yes and no every once in a while, but he's pretty much out of it. He's been in a lot of pain even with the medication. He's had complications from the blood clots and the surgery that include acute renal failure, liver problems, and fluid around his lungs. His feet have also been affected by compromised blood flow to the point that they were talking about amputation. His feet at least seem to be somewhat better at this point so I don't think they will want to amputate anything after all, thank goodness. Now the rest of him needs to recover!

Dealing with all of this is so stressful. My uncle came down for a week but had to fly back home so it's basically my brother and I dealing with everything. My brother is closer to the hospital so he's borne the brunt of it all, but I'm doing what I can. I've been to the hospital (a 45 minute drive each way) every day except for the day of The Wild Child's birthday party. I've had loved ones in ICU before but there was always another generation ahead of me and lots of other adult relatives to help with all that needs to be done. I learned a lot from going through those situations though, even if I wasn't the primary decision maker. This time it's just the two of us. My brother is young (I am 17 years older than he is) and hasn't been through anything like this before (to my knowledge) but he grew up with my dad so I told him he has the ulitimate say in what happens. I didn't start spending time with my dad until I was 18. Of course I want to be consulted and have input, he's still my dad too, but I will defer to my brother if we disagree. That led to some problems for me- I wasn't strong enough in insisting on keeping informed and letting the doctors know that they do need to talk to me as well as my brother. The ultimate decision may be his but I do want a say and I absolutely have to be informed of all that is going on. I expressed that to the nurse and the nursing supervisor today and I think they heard me, so we'll see.

Aside from that, I'm in hospital mode. That means keeping a hospital bag ready to go every day that holds my Kindle and other reading material, my "to do" notepad, a cushion for those hard hospital chairs, some water, a snack or two, and my charger. (Works for both the phone and the Kindle.) Sometimes I'll take a light jacket but this hospital isn't chilly so I don't need it this time around. I also take my cane seat thingy since they are a little stingy with the chairs in the ICU. (Although I asked and the nurse got me a recliner today- a joyous thing since I was able to nap for a few minutes, and boy, did I need it!) If there is a regular chair available I can use the cane seat thingy as a foot rest. When you've got fibromyalgia it's kind of essential to find a way to get comfortable. The other days I've stayed for long periods of time have been really difficult when I only had a regular chair, or no chair. Plus the driving itself is hard; for some reason a lot of driving really makes me ache.

But I'm coping. DH is helping out by taking over everything at home. He also walks with me to keep up my exercise routine. (A 30 minute walk most days.) It's super important that I keep walking; it helps with stress relief. My stomach is starting to act up from the stress so I know I need those walks! (It's the IBS, which tends to go along with fibromyalgia for many, many fibro patients.) When I realize I'm feeling stressed out I try to remember to breathe deeply and relax. I think I need yoga or something, or maybe I should go back to the acupuncturist. (Oh, if only I had time!) Right now though, I'm going to bed. Sleep is the best stress relief of all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When Life Rains...

When things decide to pile up, they can really pile high. Right now, for instance. I was busy for a couple of days this past week with completing and turning in reports, both my Girl Scout leader reports and The Eldest's 4-H project. After that was done I was hoping for a breathing spell but it was not to be- my brother called with news that my dad was in surgery for a ruptured aorta. (He's in ICU and holding his own at this point.) That meant a long drive to the hospital, lots of worry, and hours of waiting. My brother lives close to the hospital and I don't so I spent the night at his house. I didn't grow up with my brother so this was the most time I've ever been able to spend with him. I'm so sorry about the circumstances that brought us together, but I'm so happy I got to hang out with him. He's totally awesome; everything a girl could want in a brother.

On the way home today I had to drive by the kennel where we chose our greyhound to adopt. I wanted to visit her to see if her UTI was better and find out if she would be delivered soon. The head honcho of adoptions looked at me and said "how about if I let you take her home today". Are you kidding me? HECK YEAH, I want to take her home! We've been waiting for 2 weeks, knowing she was ours but yet she was stuck in her kennel. She rode home with me and was a very good girl in the car. I drive a mini-van (go figure) and she stood behind my seat the whole way home. I was able to reach back and put my arm around her for part of the drive.

When we got home The Eldest was in the shower and the kids were playing at a neighbor's house. I had to make phone calls about my dad so DH took over. He walked her all around the house and took her outside to show her where she's supposed to go pee. The kids all straggled in one at the time and were a little on the surprised side to see our puppy waiting for them! (Understatement in use here.) I don't think we could have planned it better; the dog (hmmm, have to come up with a blog name for her) was able to deal with them one at a time.

The Wild Child has been beside himself all day. He's wanted to feed her and walk her and groom her and bake treats for her from scratch and... well, NOT clean up after her! He won't leave her alone; he's been trying to engage her in play all day unless we really lay down the law. It's exhausting to keep on top of him! She's tired now; I'm hoping all of the upheaval today will leave her tired enough to sleep through the night once we put her to bed. For the first few days "bed" will mean her cage. Racing greyhounds are used to their cages so for a while it's comforting to them because it represents the familiar. (Plus she did have one accident today so we want to get her house broken before we give her free run of the place.)

The greyhound adoption people emphasize that the first few days can be really traumatic for the dogs since everything they know has been removed from their lives. Our baby's life changed completely from the time we loaded her into my car. She was used to living in a crate with all sorts of dog friends around her 24/7, but now it's just her. She only had the most perfunctory of interactions with adult people. Now there are no other dogs, there are kids, and the people she's used to for feeding and other care are gone, replaced by new people she barely knows.

I think she's OK with it. I also think it helped that we went to see her more than once and hung out with her before all of the upheaval. I spent at least an hour with her today before we loaded her in my car for the ride home. Once in the house she's been very curious about everything, walking around and sniffing, but she's also wanted to stay with us. She seems to love the kids already, especially Martha, Jr., and will follow her around. She didn't seem to mind The Wild Child's constant attempts to play, and mostly played when he wanted her to. She still has a week's worth of pills for her UTI and I managed to get her first one down her with no problem (peanut butter did the trick) and she ate all of her dinner. We ALL took her on a short walk before dark and that went well, too. No squirrels died and she met a few of the neighborhood dogs. We walked about half the distance of my usual walks and she was tuckered out by the time we were done, but then she had a lot of exercise at the kennel before I brought her home. She's zonkered out now. DH will feed her again before he goes to bed, let her out, then put her in her cage with a Kong toy for the night, and that will be her first day at her "Forever Home".