RSS Feed

Tag Archives: doctor

Haircuts and Cortisone Shots

 

Cricket and Ellie went for their first joint haircut last week, and they came home looking a bit bedraggled. First of all, they both refused to wear the shiny pink and silver hair bows that the groomer was putting on all of the other dogs. Second, Miss Ellie had mats on her ears and tail and was shaved down to the nubs in both places. And, really, Miss Cricket just looked grumpy because we could see her eyes again. But also, Cricket’s back was hurting again. It’s a chronic thing that comes up once every year or two now.

017

Haircuts improve their ability to use mind control. Chicken treats, chicken treats.

I wanted to wait an extra day before going to the vet, to see if the pain would resolve with rest and massage. We do some light stretches and massage, and then she just leans on me and gives me her poor me look until I give in and continue the massage, or give her extra treats. It was scary watching Miss Cricket struggle going up the stairs, and even refuse to be picked up onto the bed or the couch, but at least I knew what I was looking at, as opposed to the first time she had back problems, when I thought she had developed a fatal neurological disorder.

020

“What is Mommy talking about?”

 

Once her eyes were visible again, and she looked as vulnerable as dogly possible, we took Cricket to see the vet. She’d actually gotten herself up onto the couch at breakfast, because Grandma made sausages, and Cricket knew Grandma would want to share. But the stairs were still a problem and we couldn’t hold out sausages for her all day every day. She was, predictably, terrified when we got to the vet’s office. Actually, she was already hyperventilating in the car, squishing herself between my neck and the headrest. When she actually walked into the waiting room, though, she fell in love at first smell with a little dog resting in his mother’s arms. It turned out that he had diabetes, so it’s possible that what Cricket really noticed was that this stranger smelled suspiciously like Miss Butterfly, and therefore he must be worth knowing.

butterfy with hair stand up

Miss Butterfly!

Of course, by the time we saw the vet, he said, eh, no big deal, here’s a shot of cortisone and some pills for the week. And as soon as Cricket left his office she was bouncing like a rubber ball.

Ellie gave Cricket a full sniffing when she came home, and seemed to approve of the vet’s work. Then she went off to play with Cricket’s toys (because all toys belong to Cricket, of course). Cricket has actually seemed to be okay with Ellie playing with the toys, despite Ellie chewing through Ducky’s nose and chopping the top off of the pink plastic vase. But, finally, once she was fully medicated, Cricket hit her limit, because Ellie started to play with Platypus, Cricket’s bestest friend since puppyhood. Cricket didn’t go directly to Ellie with her complaints, though. She went over to Grandma and started barking. Do you need food? Still barking. Water? Still barking. Do you need to go outside? Barking, barking, barking, and glaring over at Ellie who is chewing on Platypus at that exact moment. Aha! Another toy was chosen for Ellie, and Cricket celebrated by mouthing Platypus for a second or two, and then leaving him in the middle of the floor while she returned to her bed for a well-earned nap.

042

Ellie and the poor nose-less Ducky

 

Cricket and her special friend 001

Cricket and her oldest friend

 

She did get back up, though, when it was time for more peanut butter, I mean medicine. She’s still a little ouchy, and not up to jumping on beds, but she’s not giving me the I’m-dying-and-you’re-just-sitting-there look anymore. So, that’s progress.

025

Progress!

Cricket’s Ears

 

Two weeks ago, on Friday morning, we took the dogs to the groomer for their regular appointment. Butterfly’s hair was turning grey around the ears (she’s a white dog) and Cricket’s eyes were disappearing into a mop of hair. My biggest concern, though, was the hair in Cricket’s ears. I’d asked the groomer to pull the matted hair from her ears, every time, but somehow it rarely happened. So this time, I was insistent. Whatever else you do, I said, make sure to deal with her ears.

When we picked the girls up that afternoon, everything seemed fine. Cricket was flapping her ears a bit, but that seemed reasonable given that they’d not only plucked the hair from the inside of her ears, they’d shaved the mats off the outside too, making her look even more like a little lamb. Butterfly started sniffing at Cricket’s ears almost immediately, but it’s something she tends to do, sniffing Cricket’s ears, nose, butt, etc., for secret messages, so I didn’t take too much notice. On Saturday, though, I noticed that Cricket was still flapping her ears. I managed to feel the inside of one of her ears, for a second, and I felt something hard, as if the skin where the hair had been plucked was scabbed. Cricket wasn’t interested in letting me look more closely, though, and I figured it was probably no big deal.

035

“Mommy, why does Butterfly keep sniffing my ear?”

045

Ears mid-flap.

By Sunday afternoon, Cricket was flapping her ears so much that I thought she was going to give herself whiplash, and then I noticed this strange smell. I wasn’t sure if the smell was coming from Cricket, though. In fact, I assumed there was some food in the garbage can that was beginning to rot.

054

flap flap flap!

052

“Mommy, I think Cricket’s ears are going to fly away.”

On Sunday night, after emptying all of the garbage cans to no avail, I was finally able to look directly inside of Cricket’s right ear, and I saw a ring of brown pus, surrounding livid red skin. My stomach dropped, from the guilt, and the smell, and an incredible amount of anger at the groomer, for doing this to Cricket, and for not telling me what she’d done.

At eight thirty Monday morning, when the vet’s office opened, I called and got an emergency appointment. There was just enough time to wake up everyone before we had to leave (Cricket was sleeping on her grandma’s head, and Butterfly was sleeping-guard next to the bed). Cricket was excited, as usual, to go outside without her sister, and get in the car without her sister, and climb behind my head in the passenger seat. But as soon as we got to the vet’s waiting room, she tried to run back out the front door, and failing that, she hid under the bench. Cricket is a terrible patient. The only part of illness she can handle is taking a pill, slathered in peanut butter. Going to the vet and being man-handled? No way.

We were called in quickly, and the vet took one look at her ears and almost gasped. He’s not really a gasper, by nature, but he came close this time. He had to clean out both of Cricket’s ears, with cotton balls and long Q-tips, and then he gave her a shot to calm the redness, and drops in her ears, all with a muzzle on, because she was not handling the stress very well at all. He asked, twice, if we’d rather have her put out during the ordeal, but, knowing Cricket, I thought she’d be even angrier waking up from anesthesia.

The vet gave us ear drops to give Cricket at home, twice a day, and Mom said, of course we can do that. The vet said that if we couldn’t get the drops in her ears, the second best option was to put something else in her ears (at the office) that would last a few weeks. No, we can do it, Mom said, as she looked at Cricket on the stainless steel table, wearing her muzzle, with her eyes bugged out, and clearly imagined a completely different dog.

017

Peanut butter!

020

Peanut butter tongue.

025

“My turn!”

I actually managed to get drops into one of Cricket’s ears, in fifteen attempts, but not in the really bad ear. Cricket bared her teeth at me each time, and swung her head around 360 degrees as if she was possessed by Satan each time I got anywhere near her with the medicine dropper. So we had to go back to the vet, in defeat, the next day, and have him do the second best option. Cricket had to be dragged into the examining room (it’s a good thing the floor is slippery), and then she ran into the corner of the examining room, trying to avoid the reality that she was in the vet’s office, where who knew what horrors could come next. The vet dropped the lotion into her ears in two seconds, before Cricket could build herself up to full hysteria, and then off we went.

The doctor checked Cricket again on Thursday morning, and pulled some more hair out of her bad ear like it was so much fluff. Cricket’s eyes bugged out, and she had to be held still by the vet tech so that she wouldn’t jump off the table, and then the vet told us to come back for one more check-up the following week. I’m not in love with watching Cricket panic as she’s called into the examining room, but I feel like we’re really well taken care of by this doctor, and I wish that we could find a groomer who made us feel the same way. I thought we had, actually. This was the first groomer (after many tries) that Cricket could tolerate long enough to get an actual haircut, and she’s been going there for years.

The thing is, I still don’t understand what went wrong. How come Cricket wasn’t whimpering in pain, or bleeding, right after the grooming? Did they put something on the wound to stop the bleeding and numb the pain, and just not tell us? The other thing is, the scabs were already growing out with new hair in less than a week, and that seems really fast for new growth. The hair inside of the ear is supposed to be plucked at the root, to keep it from growing back so quickly, so, did the groomer shave the inside of Cricket’s ear, and push too hard, shaving off layers of skin?

The vet actually knows Cricket’s groomer and usually trusts her. He said that, from now on, we should come to him every two months to have him remove Cricket’s ear hair, and never let the groomer do it again. I’m sure Cricket will be thrilled when she figures out that she’ll be going to the groomer and the vet on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.

When we got home from the third vet visit of the week, Butterfly had to sniff Cricket all over, to second check his methods and diagnosis, and she seemed satisfied with his work.

I could tell that Cricket was starting to feel better when she scratched her ear against the floor, a sign that her ears were not quite as sensitive anymore. And then she felt so much better that she risked scratching her ear with a paw, though she did sniff the paw afterwards, to check for lingering infection, or just because. She’s like an eight year old boy in a dog costume.

 

Olive, the Morkie

 

At Cricket’s last vet visit in October, there was a dog standing on the welcome desk barking a greeting. She was small, but mighty, with silky grey and tan hair and a willingness to be petted by almost anyone. I talked to Boopy, the African Grey Parrot who had always acted as greeter in the past, but my eyes kept going back to the dog on the desk.

IMG_0627

“Hey, keep your eyes on the parrot. I’m still cute!”

Cricket was in a panic. She peed on the floor and refused to sit still on the scale and she did not want any dry dog treats (as usual). The dog on the desk was put on the floor and given free rein to walk wherever she pleased, and Cricket was horrified when the little dog decided to walk into one of the examining rooms of her own free will!

IMG_0523

“We’re going to the vet?!!!!!!!”

Eventually it was Cricket’s turn to see the doctor and when we walked into the pristine examining room, Cricket tried to hide behind my legs. I picked her up and she climbed behind my neck like a monkey. The doctor came in and I removed Cricket from my neck, very carefully, and placed her on the stainless steel table. I expected him to take some blood and give some shots; I did not expect him to gasp and shake his head and tell me that Cricket needed to have the hair pulled out of her ears. He was not pleased with me, or Cricket’s groomer, for being so lax about such an essential hygiene issue.

IMG_1353

Cricket thinks this is comfortable for me.

A vet tech had to come in to hold Cricket down, because I was no help, and as Cricket started to squirm on the table, the little dog came in to the exam room and walked over to my feet and sat down. I squatted to pet her and she seemed to say, I see that you are anxious, I am an anxiety dog, pet me.

Cricket peed on the exam table, and cried pitifully as the vet ripped hair out of her ears with a rounded, bent, tweezer-like device. The little dog stayed with me, and leaned against my leg. She seemed to think I was taking the whole thing as badly as Cricket, and she was probably right. I kept petting the little dog and talking to Cricket and working very hard not to slap the vet’s hands away from my baby’s ears.

anger

This is what Cricket looked like on the exam table.

Once the trauma was over, and Cricket was back in my arms, I got the little dog’s C.V. from the vet. She was a Maltese Yorkie mix (a “Morkie”), and her name was Olive. The vet brought her to the office sometimes to help keep the humans calm.

 

morkie

This is not Olive, but it captures her expression. (not my picture)

Cricket’s vet is tall and awkward, and not especially warm. He’s so good at his job, in part, because he can block out the anxiety of the dog on the table and do what needs to be done to make them healthy. It’s not a lack of compassion, though every once in a while, I get the sense that his compassion for humans is limited. He looks like someone who would have black labs or German shepherds and take them hiking in the woods, but there’s Olive, the sweet, little, silky-haired girl with the bedside manner. And she’s his dog.

He seemed surprised by the idea that once or twice, at least, he’d had to retrieve Olive from the parking lot when someone “accidentally” tried to take her home with them. But I was surprised that it didn’t happen more often. I had a visceral response to Olive – maybe because we’d been through a traumatic experience together (Cricket’s cries were truly harrowing), or because she is a born comfort dog. Or maybe it’s me, because I have this dog magnet embedded in my belly and I have to fight hard against taking every dog home with me, but Olive made the magnet supercharged. And I felt the tug, and the loss, for days afterwards.

My Rabbi still has not gotten a dog. I made a blanket for his potential dog, thinking, if I knit it she will come. His daughters even threatened to choose a dog for him and just bring her home. He has his reasons for not wanting another dog yet, or ever. I just don’t know what those reasons are.

The thing is, despite everything that I love about my synagogue, there’s too much of me that doesn’t feel safe, or welcome, when I’m there. And I feel totally accepted by dogs. They don’t care how many times my writing has been rejected. They don’t care if I make funny faces or don’t wear fancy clothes. Dogs care that I show interest in who they are, and listen to them, and give them scratchies and honor their unique energies. I do the same with humans, but humans have more conflicted reactions to being seen as they are. Dogs appreciate when you read their body language and respond to them as individuals, rather than just being the same polite, charming, whatever you try to be with everyone else.

Cricket and Butterfly are too much like me to be community dogs. They need to be in their own safe place with their familiar people in order to let down their guards. But Olive the Morkie was different. She sent out calming vibes to the room, even when she was barking.

IMG_0454

Cricket and Butterfly are home puppies.

If Olive were the synagogue dog, she would walk through the rows of people, listening for an erratic heartbeat, or feeling for a tremble in someone’s legs, and she would try to heal what she could. She’d run up to the bima to check in with her Dad, or stand still and listen to the cantor, or cozy up to the piano when the magic noise came out, but she would be there, and that would make me feel like I belonged.

 

I Sound Like Elmo

For more than a month now, I have sounded like Elmo from Sesame Street. Sometimes, instead, I sound like a twelve year old boy whose voice is changing. I’ve always felt like there was a hand around my throat, but I’ve never sounded like it before. It’s like there’s a damper pedal muting at least half of my vocal chords and I have no way of making it let up. I can hit a handful of notes in the upper part of my range, and sometimes a low note will drop in and then disappear again. That’s it.

“Did you say something?”

I did have a cold three months ago, for about a week. And my voice was hoarse, which meant that my voice was actually lower than usual and it was the upper notes that were muted. But when the cold resolved my voice went back to normal. I assumed that this current vocal constriction was a sign of a cold coming on again, but the cold never showed up.

So I went to my primary care doctor. She stuck a tongue depressor in my mouth and said that my throat “could be” red. She wrote out a prescription for antibiotics, and a referral to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, to use only if the antibiotics made no difference. I hate antibiotics, they wipe me out and never seem to actually kill off any of the bad stuff, only the good stuff. And they didn’t do anything for me this time either.

I went to the ENT next, and the first thing he did was to spray something evil into my nose, to numb my throat. It tasted bitter, and the spraying device was sharp, and when I responded like a normal human by pulling away, the doctor said I was going to hurt myself, as if I were the one holding the metal skewer and he had nothing to do with it.

After the spray started to numb my throat, he took a garden-hose-like device (only a slight exaggeration) and started to feed it into my right nostril, telling me to sniff, swallow, and sing at different points, until I was afraid I would swallow the garden hose entirely. And then he did the same thing down my left nostril.

Once he was done he said that that my sinuses were “pristine,” and there were no nodules, or polyps, or cancer, and there wasn’t even mucus on my vocal chords. He said that my nervous system was messing with me.

When we got home, Mom googled and found out that vocal constriction is yet another weird symptom that’s been associated with MS – Multiple Sclerosis – which all of the tests say I do not have. If I go back to the neurologist with this new symptom, he’ll just tell me it’s Fibromyalgia, or a psychogenic disorder, and he’ll ask me if something is going on in my life that I’m converting into a physical symptom. And I will have to kill him. So I’m not calling.

The dogs don’t seem to have noticed the change in my voice, which bothers me. I’ve always thought that the girls found my voice soothing, but when I talk to them in my cartoon character screech, I get the same reactions as before.

“I didn’t notice anything. Did you?”

My vocal weirdness hasn’t kept me quiet. I still speak up at Friday Night discussions at synagogue and talk to neighbors and friends. But I am nervous about meeting new people with this voice, and having them think that this is who I really am. People who already know me can ignore it, but new people will use my voice as one of the ways to get to know me, and they will make assumptions and get impressions of me that can’t be right.

What would happen if Butterfly, whose voice is very low and resonant, suddenly shrieked in a high soprano? Would it change who I think she is? Or even change how she thinks of herself? Her rumbling bass represents something essential about her personality, just like Cricket’s high trill gives you a clue to her emotional life. Who would Cricket even be without her shriek?

IMG_1142

Butterfly

IMG_0441

Cricket

No one has actually commented on my voice. Sometimes I’ll mention it, but mostly I let it speak for itself, and no one asks what’s wrong. Either people are very polite, or they assume I have laryngitis.

Almost everything I say in my high pitched voice sounds funnier than usual, and I don’t mind that. I like that I can make Mom laugh without even trying. But when I’m trying to talk about something serious, or just ask if the dogs have gone out for a walk, I still sound like I’m trying to be funny and it’s hard even for me to take myself seriously.

Sometimes during the day now, my voice is closer to normal. And last night at Friday night services, I was able to sing most of the regular notes – though I did have to shift octaves a few too many times. But, inevitably, by the end of the night, my voice was up in Elmo territory again, and the older people have trouble hearing anything pitched that high, so I had to repeat myself a lot.

Losing my voice, no matter how temporary the loss may be, seems symbolic, and ominous. I keep accumulating these odd, non-specific, undiagnosable symptoms that make doctors shrug and treat me like I have no voice at all. Luckily, the dogs understand me even when I can’t talk. They always think I have something important to say, whether it’s about chicken treats, or walks, or naps, or how much I love them.

The doctor said that my voice would probably go back to normal on its own, but he prescribed speech therapy just in case it doesn’t. And Cricket is chomping at the bit to be my vocal coach. We’ll start with growling exercises, to warm up my low notes, and then move into barking, to build vocal strength, and then, maybe someday, I’ll be to the full up and down, loop to loop, of arguing for a piece of chicken that is not yet mine. Though, and I think Cricket would agree with me, that would be quite advanced.

"Grrr. Now you try."

“Grrr. Now you try.”

“You can do it, Mommy!”

Cricket is on Prozac


 

A few weeks ago, when I was getting fed up with the overwhelming balls of goop under Cricket’s eyes, I went to pick her up to address the problem and she bit my hand, twisting the skin with her teeth. The pain was extraordinary.

Cricket has a prescription for ACE, the doggy version of Xanax, for her trips to the groomer, but clearly, she needed more help. So for this year’s check up with her veterinarian, I planned to ask what else we could try.

I think this was Cricket’s first solo outing since we brought Butterfly home almost a year ago. When she realized that we were on our way to the car, without her sister, Cricket was jumping and skipping with glee. She loved being an only dog again, even for a little while.

Back when Cricket was an only puppy.

Back when Cricket was an only puppy.

She wasn’t as thrilled when we reached the vet’s office, though. She sat on my lap, and then behind my legs, and then she jumped up on Grandma’s lap and started all over again.

There is a bird in the waiting room at the vet’s office who is as much of a scratchy glutton as Cricket. He’s a parrot. An African Grey, I think. He stands in his cage and rings a bell to get attention. When Cricket moved over to Grandma’s lap, I said Hello to the bird and he walked over to my side of the cage and bowed his head for scratching. It was a strange feeling to scratch through feathers. They were soft and small around his head, and I worried that I was pulling them off as I scratched. But when I backed off, he bit the cage and cried and re-bowed his head insistently. He was really quite demanding. And regal. He bowed his head with noblesse oblige, as if to say, I accept your tribute, oh, dog person.

A noble bird, named "Boopy."

A noble bird, named “Boopy.”

"You may scratch my neck."

“You may scratch my neck.”

"Where do you think you're going?"

“You are acceptable.”

I had to leave him behind when we were called into the exam room, and he rang the bell to try and call me back. I was quickly distracted, though, because Cricket was busily looking for a place to hide, and when she couldn’t find one, she asked to be picked up. I tried to hold her in my arms, but she climbed behind my neck and stood on my shoulders, gripping my hair for dear life.

"Help me!"

“Help me!”

The vet is used to her, and her kind. He always has to call in one of the vet techs to hold Cricket in place while he takes her blood and gives her shots. God forbid they have to clip her nails or remove hair from her ears, but we didn’t have to deal with that trauma this time, so I won’t think about it.

When I asked the vet about Cricket’s anxiety issues, he recommended a trial of Prozac. I’ve been putting off asking for such a thing for years. I hoped training would help, or that Cricket would just grow out of it, or that Butterfly would help calm her down, but nothing has really worked.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m less concerned about her behavior and more worried about how she feels. She doesn’t enjoy barking and being on guard all the time. She often looks grumpy and depressed, and worried. I’d love to be able to make a dent in that for her.

The vet said that, other than the crazy, Cricket is in wonderful health. All of the anxiety and barking certainly keeps her weight down.

When we got back home, Butterfly had to do a full sniffing investigation to find out where Cricket had been. There were a few odd smells, like the rubbing alcohol where the doctor took blood, and the faint smell of bird, but Butterfly was satisfied, both that Cricket was unharmed and that Butterfly had not missed out on anything good.

"Cricket has passed the smell test."

“Cricket has passed the smell test.”

Every morning now, Cricket takes her Prozac in a piece of sausage, and while she enjoys the sausage, I think what she likes most is that Butterfly doesn’t get a piece of her own. We’ve discovered that people food makes Butterfly pee in the house. Maybe if we could find a medication to stop the pee, Butterfly could have morning sausage treats too.

But Cricket would not like that.