Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Blogger - Asha!!!

Its been almost three months since my last guest post and boy have things changed.  Here is what I had to say last time.

I had just started on a new anxiety medicine and my doctor had said it was just the beginning for me and he was right.  Its really been a combination of things.  After I saw Dr Pachel last time, he decided it was okay for me to go see Doctor Hope Valentine.  She does Chinese medicine and a needle thing.  My regular vet, Dr Muldanado has wanted me to go see Doctor Hope Valentine for a long time now, but we kept waiting until my regular medicine started to settle in.

On April 7th, I met Dr Hope Valentine for the first time.  She had talked alot to Dr Muldanado and so she knew all about me. She just knew that she could help me.  She said that I am a fire, that's Chinese Medicine talk for out of control and crazy!  She started me on some herbs and then she did this needle thing that I really hated, but also really loved.  I have seen her 4 times and every time I feel a little better.  She told my mom that her main goal was to get me to sleep through the night. I said "yeah right, like THAT'S going to happen".

Dr Hope Valentine also has a woman who works with her who does food therapy. I don't know what that means, but two weeks ago, my food changed and I love it!!  I feel so much better - like my fire is cooling down.

Shortly after I started seeing Dr Hope Valentine, I was finally able to tell my mom and dad that I didn't want to sleep upstairs in their bedroom anymore.  See, I have been feeling that way for months but I didn't know how to show or tell them that.  They tried all kinds of things to make me sleep all night, including 5 different drugs and none of them worked.  It was really frustrating for all of us.  One night, I decided I was just not going to sleep at all - I got up every 15 minutes.  My mom took me down to the couch and I slept all night.  Then it hit me....I want to sleep downstairs.

Ever since then, that's how its been.  My mom is sad that she didn't try that sooner, but I'm not sad or mad, this is just how it is...we are all learning together.  The older I get, the easier it is for me to express what I need.  Its been really great.  At bedtime, we all go upstairs.  I go up to make sure that Maggie and Buster go in their kennels, then either my mom or dad will take me back downstairs to the couch. It only takes about 15 minutes and I fall asleep.  I wake up a couple hours later and they aren't there - so I either run and bark for them or I'll go upstairs and put my head on their bed.  Then my mom comes back down to the couch with me. I like that because I can put my head on her legs and go back to sleep.

I am not taking anymore drugs to make me sleep and I love that. I feel so much better.  I think my new food and herbs are really kicking in because in the last 4 days, I have slept from 10 pm to 5:15 am THREE TIMES!!!!  Its almost the normal routine now.  The first night, my mom thought I was dead because I never sleep through the night. I mean, really, its been since November since I slept more than 4 hours at a time.  I just feel better now.  I feel more relaxed during the day.

Sometimes, I still run and bark and yell, usually when I want something.  Mom and Dad are getting better at figuring out what I want and giving it to me.  So I don't need to get so worked up.  Its nice.  My mom says I am maturing.  Whatever THAT means.

Yesterday we went to the vet so I could be weighed. Mom thought I looked thinner.  Well, I gained two pounds and then I figured out a better way to check my weight....
 Maggie and I have been getting along really great. Sometimes she gets mad at me, but she's figured out how to manage that.  She's my friend.  I love Buster too, but there is something special about sisters.

Here's me in the back yard.  Maggie and Buster have worn a path...they say that a dog named Opal wore the path down and its the way we come in from the always use the path. I can't see or hear and even I know to use it.  

And the most exciting news of all (except for sleeping through the night), is that I was in the paper yesterday!!!  Here's the link to that.  Lots of people read it and everywhere we went yesterday, people would say "is that the dog from the paper?"  It made me feel real special.

Right now, its a good life, for all of us.  I still think Dr Pachel is right....this is just the beginning for me....

Monday, May 28, 2012

All night long baby

Its no secret that since Asha joined our family, we aren't getting much sleep.  It wasn't so bad at first, then it got really bad, then it got a little better.  The last month we've been doing okay.  A normal night entails Asha sleeping until about 2 am, I get up and put her back to bed. Then she sleeps until about 4:30, I get up and go sleep with her on the couch until 5:30 when the rest of the family is ready to get up.  Some nights there are more wake ups, but never are there less.  Until last night.....

I woke up at 2:23 and listened carefully to see if I could hear little paws clicking on the hardwood floors.  I strained to hear...but nothing.  Instead, I heard Maggie breathing the heavy breathe of sleep.   And since she knew I was awake, I heard Daisy taking a bath on my pillow (we are convinced that she only does this when we are in bed and trying to sleep).  I went back to sleep and woke up at 5:31.  I again, listened closely to see if I could hear anything.  I could heard the faint chirping of birds and mistook it for Asha's collar jingling.  But it wasn' was just birds.

I laid in bed for a moment, mostly in disbelief.  Then I said to Trevor "I'm going to go check on Asha and make sure she isn't dead".  I walked downstairs almost afraid of what I would find.  I saw Asha, laying against the couch.  I quietly settled into the cushions on the other couch and looked closely to see if I she was breathing. I watched for the rise and fall of her chest.  She must have been dreaming because her paws started to twitch. I put my head down and just watched her.  My sweet little one, sleeping all night long.  For the first time in MONTHS.

After about 10 minutes, she lifted her head and stretched. I got up and moved to the couch she was leaning against.  She stood up, put her chin on the couch next to me and then jumped up with me, curled behind my knees and went back to sleep.    I didn't even want to go back to sleep.  I stretched out and just looked at her, so peaceful and calm.  She slept until 6, when the rest of the family got up.

I know it may not happen again for a long time, but I love that it happened this once.  We had a busy day yesterday. We went to the Farmer's Market and met lots of new friends. I know she was exhausted, but she's been exhausted before and hasn't slept through the night.    So while I am hopeful, I am also realistic.  I expect that tonight when I wake up at 2 am, I'll hear the clicking of paws and the jingling of a collar as my girl looks around and says "where's my mom?"

Here are some pictures from the market.  Her friend Victoria is doing a story about Asha for a photography class, so she joined up to take pictures of our Sissy.  Asha knows her and loves her.
We were meeting a new friend - Daisy Mae, a deaf Dalmation puppy.  Asha was exhausted before Daisy Mae even arrived.  Here she is waiting, with Mika, Victoria's dog who joined up.

Time for sleep?
This is Daisy Mae - she says "are there any dogs NOT sleeping around here??"
Yesterday was a great day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finding the value

Remember a while back, when those Chilean Miners were stuck in that mine for 69 days?  They were trapped in August and once the rescue operation got underway, it was reported that they hoped to have them out by Christmas.  Trevor and I were watching the news and when I heard that information, the not getting them out for 4 months, I said "they should just pump gas down there and put them out of their misery".

I'm the one who wouldn't want to be kept alive on life support, the one who sees soldiers coming home from war with no limbs or brain injuries and thinks "everyone would have been better off if he had died".   I see things that people go through and can't stop myself from feeling like I would rather die than live like that.  I admit, I'm not the hopeful one.  I believe that if I had a flesh eating disease and they had to take my hands and legs, I'd say "just let it kill me instead".

So its ironic that I fight so hard for Asha's life to be seen as one of value.  When people say "what do you do with a blind and deaf dog?" or "wouldn't it be more kind to have put her down?", I get angry.  I want the world to see that just because she is blind and deaf doesn't mean that her life can't be amazing.  It doesn't mean that she can't be happy, feel joy and love.  I live with this dog every day and let me tell you, she loves to be alive. She does not care about the things she is missing. Her life is full and she makes use of every second.

Just this morning, I watched her in the backyard. We have a willow tree in the corner of the yard. She was standing under it and the branches were brushing against her face.  All of a sudden, she took off at a dead sprint towards the deck.  She ran with total abandon...her body was so alive, her ears flapped in the wind, the smile on her face was huge.  She got to the deck and stopped.  Then she turned around, walked back out to the willow tree, felt the branches on her face and did it all again.   Seeing and hearing?  Who needs that....not our girl, she's doing just fine without it.

Its funny how the Universe gives us lessons.  I love when I realize that I am learning something, changing how I see the world.  Finding the purpose in Asha's life allows me to see purpose in so many other things that I previously dismissed.  It has allowed me to feel a sense of purpose in my own life that I've never felt before.
So I'll be more kind when people wonder what kind of life a dog like Asha could have, I'll understand that I don't know other people's circumstances and that just because they don't experience the world in a way that I can understand, their life still has value.  We all have value.  This face has taught me that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two years with Buster, One year without Opal

May 23rd is the anniversary of one of the happiest and one of the saddest days of my life.  Two years ago today Buster joined our family.  Last year, we said goodbye to our sweet girl Opal.   So today we will celebrate the lives of both these babies.

We'll start with Opal.  I cannot believe she's been gone a year.  She was the last of the original three to pass away.  Wookie went first, then Gus, then Opal. Within 17 months, we had to say goodbye to the best friends we have ever had.  Those pets saw both Trevor and I through the loneliest times of our lives.  There were many times when they were all we had, all that mattered.  Then we met and joined families and together, we all mattered.  Our goodbyes were terribly painful.


In some ways I don't feel like these three are even gone.  They are still part of our family.  We still talk about them often. Their pictures hang on the wall and are on the window sill in the kitchen. I look at them everyday and miss them.  We have the new generation now, but we still long for the original three.  Our lives are different because we loved them. Our current pets and all future pets will have better lives because we loved those three.  I'd give anything for one more day with each of them and I hope every night that they will come to me in my dreams.

Then there is Buster.  Oh how I love this dog.  Two years ago, we had said goodbye to Wookie and our hearts were broken.  Maggie had come to live with us and was more than Opal could handle. Maggie was a puppy, Opal was 13 years old and going downhill.  Maggie wanted to play and Opal tried to keep up but couldn't. We thought we should get a younger dog for Maggie to play with and to bring some positive energy into our home.

Trevor had been searching at a local rescue called Family Dogs New Life  There were several dogs that he was interested in.  After a couple weeks, we had narrowed it down to a few that we really like. Trevor wanted a dog named Max and I had my heart set on Buster.  On Sunday, we had a long bike ride planned and it was raining.  Trevor said "what are we going to do" and I said "go get a dog".  I knew that we would come home with Buster, even though that wasn't Trevor's first choice.

Buster had this look on his face that hit me right in the heart. Plus, his white belly had black spots on it, just like Maggie and I thought they belonged together.   We went down to the shelter and were asking about Max.  They said that Max wasn't good with cats.  "We can't get Max, let's meet Buster", I said. I knew that whatever dog we met first was the one we would take home with us, so I had to be sure it was Buster.

They brought this little dog in to meet us.  I loved him right away.  Maggie came in to meet him and did not care either way.  We took him on a walk and came back to the shelter.  We were sitting in the waiting room and I finally said to Trevor "why are we sitting here?  Let's finish the paperwork and take him home".  There was no doubt.

As we drove home, Maggie slept on the floor in the backseat and Buster layed in the kennel.  You can see how scared he was. Buster had been in three homes and taken to different shelters each time.  His heart was broken and you can see that on his sweet face in this picture.  He and Maggie became the best of friends and still are to this day.


As I've said before, Buster is the best dog I've ever known.  He is my best friend and I can't get enough of him.  He is so happy with us.  All he wants to do is make us happy.  I love the difference in his face from one picture to the next.  He knows he belongs with us and he knows that he'll be with us forever.  When he looks at me with those dark eyes, I know he knows.  We'll never let him go.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pictures are worth a thousand words....

Here is a picture of me and Trevor from a holiday party in December.  This was at the height of our stress with Asha.  We had just gone to the behavioral vet two weeks earlier and were in the midst of "it will get worse before it gets better".  This is our favorite holiday party every year.  This year, I felt like I was going through the motions.  I was so tired, more exhausted - mentally and physically - than I have ever been. I think we sat in the same spot while we were there, ate some food, didn't do much talking - I couldn't muster the strength.  I felt like I had aged 10 years in the 5 months since we got Asha.

Fast forward to May.  This picture is of us on our trip to Maui.  We have come so far with our little one.  While Asha still challenges us, we've achieved some amount of peace and quiet.  We are getting more sleep, all the dogs are getting along.  I'm not nearly as exhausted as I was back then.  I have hope for the future and for a long time, I did not.  I can see the difference in my face and in my eyes.  Back then, I was really struggling to hold it all together and I think it shows!  Now, I am back to my usual craziness and that sure feels good.

Monday, May 21, 2012

21 years

Time is a funny thing.  Something can seem so long ago and at the same time like it was just yesterday.  That must mean I am getting older.  I've heard it said that the minutes go slow but the years fly by.  That is so very true.

Yesterday I had the chance to meet up with a friend from high school.  I haven't seen her in 21 years.  If it weren't for facebook, I probably would never have seen her again.  A couple years ago we became friends on facebook and quickly began following each other's adventures.  She was one of my biggest fans while training for Ironman.  I remember receiving her text messages on the days leading up to and following this life changing event.  It was like we never lost touch, even though it had been more than 15 years.  

Krista was coming to Portland to run the Rock n Roll Half Marathon.  Trevor and I had breakfast with her and her friend afterwards.  When I saw her walking up to the restaurant, I felt like I was home.  We gave each other a long overdue hug. There have been so many times over the last couple years where I would have loved to hug her.  Difficult times, happy times...we've shared them all across the miles and I was so glad to finally get my arms around her.

There is something about the people who you grew up with, something about people from the place that will always be home.  Krista brought a little piece of Washington Township New Jersey with her.  That shared experience of a time and a place brings with it a connection that will always hold true.

We sat for a couple hours catching up on things and just talking. It was so comfortable, so amazingly fun.  I hadn't heard her voice in person since high school, but I hear it in every facebook post, message, email and text.  So I knew it by heart.  Like if I heard it in a crowd, I would know it was her.

I cannot believe it has been so many years because it feels like just yesterday we were playing soccer and softball together!  I am so glad we got to meet up, 3000 miles away from where it all started.  We are living in a different time and place but it felt much the same as all those years ago.  If I could go back to those days and know that so much time would pass before I saw her again, I would have hugged her tighter at graduation!

I am so proud of who she is now and the life she has created for herself. Krista is smart and funny, beautiful and kind.  I am envious of her sense of adventure and I look forward to seeing all the things she does in the future.  I hope its not 21 years until the next time we meet!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012


Trevor and I have never wanted children, for many different reasons.  Instead, we have pets.  I have always said that we love our pets more than is probably okay.  To us, they are our children. We would do anything for them, we would spare no expense and our lives revolve around them.  They are the topic of the majority of our discussions and no decision is made without taking into account the affect on our babies.

When people talk about their children, the only thing we have to compare is our pets.  Some take offense to this "are you comparing your dog to my kid".  Yes.  I am.  And there is no better compliment that I could pay than to compare your kid to my dog.

Now, I understand that our pets are not human. I understand that it is different.  I do, I promise that I do.  But much of it is the same for us.  I know that's not the case for everyone, but it is the case for us.

That being said....I was talking with a friend who has a child with special needs.  He turned 5 the other day and she wrote the story of his birth and how she wasn't even sure he would live.  Through a tremendous amount of dedication and effort, he is thriving.  When I am dealing with Asha and many of her issues, I think of my friend. When I am struggling and getting no sleep and feeling lost and lonely, I think of her.  I think of how her situation is much more difficult than mine and I wonder how she has done it, how she has held it together.

From our experience, I know that there is so much more to her story than anyone knows.  I think of all the things that go on in our house,dealing with Asha, that no one else can possible fathom.  The routines, the struggles, the exhaustion, the emotion.  There are things that you just can't share with the world and the truth is, most people don't want to know anyway.   I know that she has done things for that kid that the rest of us can never understand or imagine having to do.

When I was telling her how much I admire her for the things she has endured and that on many levels I can relate, she said something really awesome.  She told me that we were lucky, that we were chosen for something special like that and that it was a reward.  I love that.  For so long I have felt like this was a punishment.  Like the Universe was trying to show me just how selfish I am and just how little patience I have and what a bad person I am because of that.  Just recently, I have started to see it differently.  I think my friend is sweet Asha is not a punishment, she is a blessing.  And while its been the most challenging thing I have ever done in all my life and many days I have wondered how I would make it another day, I know that we are doing something amazing.  We are doing something that most people could not and would not do.  For that, we are lucky.

When I see how much progress Asha has made, when she leans against me while I sit on the deck in the sun, when I see my other dogs run and play, it almost hurts.  Because we are happy.  For so long, I've been stuck seeing all that is wrong with our situation.  I couldn't see all the things that are right.  Alaina could not have said it better.  We ARE lucky.  All of us.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Food Therapy

As we continue our journey with our Asha, we have embarked upon another new adventure!  Food Therapy.
Trevor and I deal in nutrition for humans at our business, so this is something I am totally comfortable with. I understand what food can do for a person, not just how much you eat, but when and what.  I have many food intolerances and know what that has done to me.  I expect its the same for animals too.

I am embarassed to say that we have not been as vigilant with what we feed our pets as we should be.  We buy kibble for both the dogs and the cats.  In our defense, our animals have lived long lives, but now that we have a multitude of issues its time to get serious.

The Dr who does Asha's accupuncture and Chinese medicine has a food therapist on staff.  Yesterday, I took all three dogs to see her.  Asha is a bit overweight and obviously has her behavior issues.  Maggie is quiet a bit overweight and has always had food issues.  Buster came along for the ride.  He seems to be the perfect weight.

We talked a lot about our routines, the dogs' personalities, their histories, their histories with food and weight, their relationship with each other, with us.  My head was spinning.  Trying to explain our routines to someone else is overwhelming (probably for her too).  This is all very Chinese medicine based and so we focused on the dogs' constitution based on the 5 elements - Earth, Wood, Fire, Water, Metal. I know about these things through Asha's accupuncture and herb treatments.   Its fascinating stuff.

I was there for over three hours.  I got a new perspective on our pets and how they related to the world and to each other.  While I am often exhausted with Asha, I totally love the things she is leading me towards.  I love that I am able to learn new things, to get a new set of eyes on our situation.  I am able to look at the relationships and interactions in our house in a different light and they make much more sense to me when I see them this way.

The dogs were so great.  Buster just layed down and slept. Maggie wanted to do the same, but Asha thought they should play.  Maggie LOVED these little cushions and said "see...I'm not overweight".

Eventually Asha went to sleep.

By this time, Buster was in my lap, so no picture of him.

It was exhausting for all of us!  By next week we should have a food plan for all dogs that should allow Maggie and Asha to lose some weight.  It will also include foods that will help them get back in balance, calm them, heal them.  Oh man....I can't wait.

Happy Birthday Buster!!

Our sweet little man turned 5 on Wednesday.  We celebrated all day long!  I am totally in love with this dog.  He is the best dog I have ever known and I cannot believe how much I love him, how much more I love him with every passing day.

The day was Buster's and we did all his favorite things.   We went for a long car ride. Buster LOVES to ride in the car. He settles down in the passenger seat and closes his eyes. Every now and then he looks up at me with eyes full of love.

 I let him lick my face for as long as he wanted.   I gave him a special bone, that he didn't know what to do with because he doesn't usually get bones.  We sat out on the back deck and just enjoyed life.

Buster is so special in many ways.  Perhaps the most special thing about his is how happy he is to see us.   Always.  We can be gone for 5 minutes or 5 days and when he sees us, he explodes with happiness. He runs and wiggles, his little body can't contain his excitement.  And he is always smiling.

Buster had three homes before he came to us. The thought of him being taken and dropped off at the shelter is more than I can bear because I know his heart was broken.  They must have yelled at him before they took him away because if I raise my voice at him or disapprove of something he is done, he gets really sad and upset - like he thinks I am going to send him away.  I would never send him away. Ever.

I want Buster to live with me forever.  I don't want time to pass, I want to savor every second with this little guy.  When I look at him its like my heart is living outside my body, inside his heart.  When my cat Gus died, I said that he gave all the other pets some of his duties.  He gave Buster the job of best friend.  And Buster has taken on that responsibility. He is my best friend.  Happy Birthday buddy.  I hope you have 100 more.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What it all means

Over the last six months, we have struggled to get Asha to sleep though the night. We've tried medications, calming sprays, sleeping on the floor with her, getting her tired during the day.  Nothing has worked. She wakes up every night at the same times, like clockwork.   We could not figure it out and it was so frustrating.

We started Asha on accupuncture several weeks ago. At the same time, we also started her on some Chinese herbs.  These things have really started to make a difference in how she behaves during the day.  It was also making some difference at night, but only for a day or two after her accupuncture treatments.  About two weeks ago, her nighttime behavior got even worse. She seemed to be refusing to sleep upstairs with us. Instead of getting up at her normal two hour intervals, she was up non stop.

For a while now, Trevor has been wondering how she would do if she slept downstairs. I wasn't sure it would work because she seems to always want to be with us.  I was hesitant to try it because we were getting a couple hours of sleep and when we try something new, it often means we get no sleep and that just makes me angry.

Out of desperation, one night, I took Asha downstairs around 11.  We had been in bed since 9:30 and she was up every 15 minutes.  I got her down on the couch. She jumped right up and snuggled in behind my legs....and we both slept until 6 am.  I woke up and could not believe it.  The next night, I ended up doing the same thing.  The third night, we all went upstairs.  We got Maggie and Buster settled and then Asha and I went back downstairs. She hopped up on the couch.  I layed with her for about half an hour.  Then I got up and went to bed.  I woke up at 4 am and Asha was coming upstairs.  She has slept for almost 6 hours on the couch by herself. She came up and put her head on the bed next to me as if to say "I woke up and you weren't there".  I went back downstairs with her and got on the couch. She jumped up with me and did my favorite thing - laid down against my legs and put her chin on my foot.  Then she sighed...that sigh of contentment.  I love that.

The accupuncturist/Chinese medicine doctor that we've been seeing was asking me questions about Asha's sleeping environment - are there any power lines near our house, anything that turns on and off during the night.  I said "", I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head.  Then I started thinking, really thinking about it.  She is waking up at the same time every single night so there must be something.  Then it hit me...the train.  There are train tracks a couple miles from the house and you can hear the train in the distance.  Its not that loud and Asha can't hear, so that cannot be it.  Or can it?

Now that Asha is sleeping downstairs, she makes it through most of the night.  But she wakes up at either 3 am or 4:30 and always within a couple minutes of those times.  The other night, Trevor was letting her outside at the time and he heard the train.  A couple days ago, I was out on the front step with Asha in the early evening.  She was resting her head on my lap and then she lifted it up, kind of startled.  In the distance, I heard the train.

The bathroom attached to our bedroom, where we have been trying to get Asha to sleep for six months, has a skylight.  You can hear and probably feel alot in that room that you don't get in other, more insulated rooms in the house.  I feel terrible.  I've been frustrated, even angry with her at night for months because she wouldn't sleep. I was losing my mind with tiredness.  Now, she climbs on that couch and is out like a light. That's all she has needed...a change in sleeping venue.  It makes me want to cry.  I don't think she holds it against me and when she lets out that sweet sigh of contentment, my heart melts into hers and all is right with the world.

Now...if I can just get that train schedule changed.