Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mine. Mine. Mine.

Mommy was hogging the blog too much and I haven't had any airtime. A lot of stuff has been going on in my life! Much of it involving BARKING, much to the delight of the neighbors. So I finally let Mommy have a place of her own to post her venting thoughts about her shoulder injury, surgery, recovery, and other non-dog stuff. She made me post a link, but really, it's going to be very very boring because it is not about ME. And I have lots to tell because I am 8 months old and I'm starting to like girls. Woo hooooo!!! Amber Mae and Chloe and Pacco, can you hear me??
Evidently not. I must not be barking LOUD enough. 
Anyway, here's Mommy's blog about being left-handed or right-handed or whatever. Who cares which paw you use to open my crate, so long as you get it open? 

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A one-handed post that doesn't talk about dogs but is self-absorbed nonetheless

(Originally written on January 18):

So I had shoulder surgery on my left shoulder on Thursday, and I'm a lefty. This is a result of about 20 years of shoulder injuries from water polo played mainly with guys, and skiing. A number of friends have asked for the backstory. I have 30 minutes to go before I can take another percocet, so this is as good a way as any to work through the pain.

Last May P-Daddy and I were in a water polo tournament in Paris. P-Daddy happens to be an orthopedic surgeon - this turned out to be highly relevant. We were in a hard-fought, physical game that shouldn't have been as close as it was. Short-handed and off-balance on the side of the pool I was covering, I had to guard 2 players at once. This is a dangerous position because eventually the defender gets caught off balance and scored on. As a defender when this happens, your job is to charge the person as they get the ball and knock the arm down for a quick foul (takes away their opportunity to shoot) or at least intimidate 'em enough so they pass instead of shooting next time they get the ball. It's exhausting, but you need to do it until reinforcements arrive or someone shoots. Going back and forth between the two players, I was getting slower and slower. Where was my help?
In that retrospective mind's eye slo-mo that starts recording with any accident, I saw the opponent get the ball and saw that he was going to shoot. I charged him, knowing I was going to be too late. With all my speed and my weight, I lunged up, out of the water, watching only his hand with the ball, my only thought to knock his arm down. This was going to be the shot. knock it down, knock it down, knock it...
He shot, and I heard our goalie yelling. He or I had blocked the shot. I felt and heard an intense, shattering pain in my left arm as I saw my teammates sprinting down the pool on a counterattack. I thought, I've broken my arm. I can't move it to swim, I need to get out. I rolled onto my back, kicking at the surface, and placed my right hand where it hurt, expecting to feel my shoulder, except it wasn't there. My shoulder was gone. I moved my hand down the length of my arm, looking for the shoulder. I found it a few inches down, about parallel with my breast. Signaling to the ref for a time out, and screaming at the same time, I felt my teammate (and shoulder surgery veteran) Jeff supporting me and getting me to the side of the pool. My teammates on the bench got me on the side as they were yelling for P-Daddy (who later said he was about to score when the refs stopped the game and he heard the entire team yelling for him at the other end of the pool).
It all gets a bit hazy at this point, as I was oxygen deprived from either screaming or hyperventilating from the pain, or both. My teammates lay me down on the deck and when my shoulder blade hit the deck, my shoulder popped back into joint. Just as the pain from the dislocation was excruciating, the sudden absence of pain when it popped back in was one of the most pleasurable sensations ever.  But someone had taken my cap off, and when you take your cap off during a game, you are out for the game. So now I had a new thing to scream, even as P-Daddy was trying to see if I had a fracture, and my team was crowded around me. 
With all the endorphins and adrenalin, once my shoulder went back in, I felt FINE. I felt more than fine - I needed to get back in and play, dammit! So I started yelling "CAP ON! CAP ON!" at the top of my lungs. Patrick took my cap and dropped it on top of my head, which made me stop yelling for some reason. P-Daddy, still trying to see if I'd fractured anything, had had enough and grabbed the cap off my head, shouting, "This tournament is OVER for you!" and flung the cap out of the circle of my team around me.  
I'm told that I got a standing ovation when I finally got up. I don't remember at all, because it started to hurt again. Aanie helped me get out of my suit, get dressed, and P-Daddy and I took a trip to a Paris hospital to get x-rays. The notable aspects of my one and only experience with socialized (or maybe just Parisian) medicine: a really long wait in a 17th century building, an antiquated x-ray machine, a drunk lying on a stretcher in the hallway of the ER who took a piss in the ambulance bay, and the most stylish sling ever.

Before (with another recent shoulder surgery survivor):

After (with Jeff):

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reading is FUNdamental!

Biggie here at last - Mommy finally let me use her new laptop. She is always working working working and so is Daddy. Daddy was talking about how he didn't get to play much "goff" last summer because I came along and turned their lives "upside down." I have no idea what they are talking about since everybody looks pretty right side up to me unless you are talking to me when I am getting a belly rub. 
So. I wanted to see what the big deal was about this "goff" thing. While Mommy was working (ok, she was IM'ing her friend but pretending she was working) I thought I would entertain myself quietly. Mommy always says reading is a good way to keep the mind occupied and to spend some quiet alone time. 

Now I know why this is called Goff DIGEST. (har har har)
I decided to read the whole magazine into little pieces so Daddy can't read it. If he goes goff next summer I will not get to play with him and goff is stupid if puppies can't be involved.  That'll show Daddy what I think about goff!

(And I will have a hard time convincing P-Daddy that I didn't put Biggie up to this!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I don't know why but I'm really saddened by Heath Ledger's death. After Brokeback Mountain he became one of my favorite actors, and hearing about him and Michelle Williams living in Brooklyn and just trying to be normal folk, had me really rooting for him. As I read on the internet from an anonymous commenter, you might expect this to happen to Britney Spears but not Heath Ledger.

Today was also my first day back at work and - after reading about Heath's death - will be my first day without percocet (aka oxycodone). I've been slowly ramping down the percocet since the drama of last Thursday night, with mixed results. On the one hand, I am feeling better and so I can move my left arm a little bit and can help in dressing myself. On the other hand, this added movement makes my shoulder sore and I'm probably not supposed to be doing it. (Don't tell Dr. K!) Sometimes, like tonight when I was on my way home, I can feel every one of the SEVEN anchors !! in my shoulder. Ironically, I was carrying a paperback copy of The Left-Hander's Syndrome in my out-of-commission left hand tonight. The book is barely over half an inch thick, and it hurt my shoulder to be holding it, even as I let my arm hang in the sling. Dr. K says I should be able to play water polo again (for real, full contact) in about 6 months.  Hard to believe right now.  

It's frustrating to be a righty when I am so strongly left-hand dominant. My other pills, naprosyn (naproxen, aka Aleve) also require me to eat something while taking it. So after a creaky day at work learning to use my office as a righty, I am sitting trying to eat a yogurt right-handed. I look like baby just learning to feed itself, and I have to remind myself not to overload the spoon with yogurt and risk spilling it in my lap as my hand wobbles the spoon to my mouth. Baby steps... baby steps...  

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Staying ahead of the pain

I lean against the wall with my left shoulder pinching the tubes between my arm and the wall, pushing them forward and holding them steady. My right hand, clumsy as ever, holds the hose that's connected to the little cooler. With one hand I push the ends of the hose toward the tubes dangling from my left arm. As the two nozzles connect with a quiet click, I feel the ice water begin to circulate in the pad strapped to my shoulder. The cool relief cuts through the queasiness from the percocet even though it doesn't do much about the top-of-my-head-is-detached-and-floating-away feeling that sounds like it should be enjoyable but really isn't.
Over the last 48 hours I've been learning about pain in all its myriad forms, and what it means to "stay ahead of it." When I first came out of surgery I was hooked up to the ice machine which I couldn't feel anyway, because of the nerve block which had deadened my arm. I was acutely aware of the ice pad digging into my left side, which was not blocked, and the IV in my right wrist, which felt like it was digging and grinding into my arm every time I moved. But mostly all I wanted to do was doze off. My left arm felt like another person's arm, warm but completely limp. I willed myself to wiggle my fingers - nothing. I watched the nurse stroke and wiggle my fingers. "Can you feel this?" I can imagine what it would feel like, but no, I couldn't feel a thing.

The shoulder surgeon told me that I'd had a 360-degree tear of the labrum and he had to use SEVEN anchors! to reattach it to the glenoid (shoulder socket). I heard the buzz in the recovery room when people talked about my shoulder: "SEVEN anchors!" always with the !! and always with SEVEN in caps. I had no idea what it meant but it sounded serious.

The doctor prescribed percocet and naprosyn, telling me to take 1 to 2 tablets of the percocet every 4-6 hours as needed for the pain. When the nerve block wears off later today, he said, your arm will come back from the fingertips first. When you start to feel some tingling in your elbow, he warned, you will want to take 1-2 percocet because that's your 10-minute warning that your shoulder will start to hurt.

But I don't want to be totally zonked on painkillers, I said. If I feel ok, can't I wait until I actually feel some pain? (After all, I reasoned to myself, I've been through three shoulder dislocations already, and one of my coworkers who's been through both told me that a shoulder dislocation hurts worse than childbirth. By that measure, I've already birthed 3 babies without anesthesia. It hurt like hell, but arthroscopic surgery can't be that much worse, can it?)

Dr. K said, very gravely, you should take the percocet. Don't wait 'til it starts to hurt. You want to stay ahead of the pain.

After a couple hours of grogginess in the recovery room, P-Daddy took me home. As soon as we got home, though, he got called back to the hospital. For those of you who don't know - if you sever a finger or a hand in the greater NYC metro area, and need it reattached, P-Daddy is the guy you need to see. If you hurt your hand or break your arm any other way, if you are below 42nd St., chances are P-Daddy will probably hear about it. This was about the worst - a VIP (family member of a fellow orthopedic surgeon) had severed a finger and they had just shown up at the ER. Although P-Daddy would have stayed if I asked him to, I couldn't in good conscience do that. Besides, I felt pretty good and I had pain meds and all I needed to do was rest anyway. Around 3:30 pm, my elbow started tingling and P-Daddy gave me a percocet right before he left. I slept for several hours and my friend Jane brought dinner. I was pretty much pain free and we laughed about my limp arm. I finally had feeling in the fingers and could wiggle them a little, and my elbow was still a litle tingly but not much more. But I was relieved that I could still carry on a conversation even if I felt a little woozy from the painkillers, and the little ache I was feeling in my shoulder was totally manageable. At 8:30 pm, just before Jane left, P-Daddy called to tell me he was going to be several more hours. Looking at the clock, I figured I might as well take another percocet now. One every 5 hours was not a bad pace to start, and it would probably tide me over until P-Daddy got home. I reached for the pills and wedged the bottle in my sling against my limp arm so I could take the cap off with the other hand. Here, let me get that for you, you gimp, Jane said, laughing, and took the cap off and shook out a pill in a swift, two-handed move that I'd taken for granted all my life, anytime I reached for a bottle of Advil or vitamins. Thanks for contributing to my drug use, I said.

10 pm - with the help of our neighbor (Zola's mom) we walked Biggie in the sleet and came back for a play session in the lobby with Zola. Our neighbors all remarked on how lucid I seemed on the pain pills. Yeah, It's really not too bad, I said. Much better than I'd expected.

At 11:30 P-Daddy called to say they'd just finished in the OR and he was coming home. About 10 minutes later the pain caught up to me.

In retrospect, the nerve block probably didn't fully wear off until then. Before that, it was just toying with me and my macho, I-don't-need-drugs mentality. It started with a little niggling ache deep in my shoulder. It was a little early to take another percocet if I was trying to keep to the 1 every 5 hours schedule, but I could take up to 2 every 6, so maybe I could do with another pill.

I got the pill bottle and tried to open the child-proof cap by steadying it on the counter with my barely functional left thumb and forefinger while pressing down with the right. No go. The niggling pain started to throb a little. I tried using my hip and more of my left hand to wedge the bottle against the edge of the counter, turning with the right. I had images of the bottle and cap flying through the air, pills spilling everywhere and the puppy gobbling them up. When I tried to brace my left arm to give some resistance, all I got was a torquing, fiery pain shooting up my arm and deep into my shoulder. I think I whimpered.

Stopping to catch my breath, the pain shifted shape again and settled in. I thought I could feel every one of the SEVEN anchors drilled into my bone. I thought about other one-handed ways to open the bottle, including using tools. Given my complete ineptitude with my right hand, I stood a better chance of injuring myself than getting the bottle open. P-Daddy was on his way home, so all I needed to do was survive a few more minutes of the pain.

If I could only lie flat on my back and not move, maybe the pain could be manageable. Biggie lay in his crate, watching me sympathetically. I would have to meditate my way through this. I eased myself onto the bed, whimpering with the effort and hating myself for whimpering. The pain changed yet again, burning and throbbing and coming in waves. I braced my feet on the bookcase next to the bed and tensed my legs with each wave of pain, as I compared every aspect of the current pain with the double dislocations from my skiing fall and the pain of easing my body into the Sled of Shame and feeling every bump in the mountain as we slid down to the clinic. The pain from the dislocations was worse, but this time I was alone, with no adrenalin and no snow to numb my shoulder.

Seconds passed like minutes, and I finally gave in and started crying. Oddly, it felt a little better. I raged at my powerlessness, lying on the bed in excruciating pain. The tears flowed down the side of my face, and I hated that childproof cap with all of my energy. I was angry at P-Daddy's patient for cutting his finger off, angry at P-Daddy for leaving me alone, and really angry at always having to be the brave one. Here I was, incapacitated by a child-proof cap and all alone barely 12 hours after surgery, and my husband is off taking care of someone else. I railed at being alone. All our friends had said, You must be so lucky to have P-Daddy 'in the business' and there to take care of you. Look at me now! I wanted to scream. This is the picture of the doctor's wife, whose husband is taking care of someone else while I am a blubbering, incoherent mess!

I managed a short call to P-Daddy, who was only blocks away. You have to come NOW! I sobbed. I can't stand it anymore, I really can't, I can't, I can't do this, I really can't handle it, please you have to make it stop, I can't get the pills open. I can't stand this pain...

When P-Daddy burst in the door and ran across the apartment to give me two pills and I grabbed a bottle of water to gulp them down, my last thought was, this is what drug addiction must look like - wild hair, tears of pain mixed with tears of relief, to be so desperate for the pills that nothing else matters.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Breaking news...

It turns out my puppy is not a kuvasz after all! CNN explains why he likes fish so much.

Kuvasz Kryptonite UPDATE

It took all of 3 days for Biggie to figure out that the Gentle Leader won't bite him, and he can still get socks out of the laundry basket as long as he pulls them gingerly and doesn't touch the Gentle Leader. So now we have a metal crate divider on top of the laundry basket. 
Humans, 0; Kuvasz, 1.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

MY side of the story

Gentle Leader Head Collar in Action
I cant believe Mommy made that post about kuvasz kryptonite. It is shameful that ANY kuvasz, especially one as magnificent as ME should be forced to wear such a humbling device. The dog in this picture must be on drugs! No, wait, it's just a golden retriever. You'd expect them to smile like that even when they are being enslaved by a little piece of nylon. His people probably told him he could play ball after they took the picture. They're always so damned happy about everything. Yeesh. No dog I know has ever smiled about the "Gentle Leader."

Wimsey, I know how you feel. It is simply beneath our station to be seen in public with one of these things. It really cramps my style. Here is a more honest picture of what these instruments of torture look like in use. It is not the most flattering picture of me, but I sacrifice my pride to save others from the same fate:

See how I have taken refuge here in the bathroom and rearranged the bathmats while trying to free myself.

Kuvasz Kryptonite

Gentle Leader Head Collar in Action

With my shoulders still healing and one to be operated on next week, walking an 80+ pound puppy can be a little difficult. So I use the Gentle Leader headcollar, which Biggie hates. It attaches under the chin and gives a lot more control over the dog's direction. He runs when he sees it come out, even if he has to go. He paws at it, rubs his nose on every conceivable surface, and try to get other dogs to help him get it off. When it first goes on, he slumps and hangs his head in shame, and while he walks beautifully with a loose lead, it is a slow, plodding, depressed walk. People who don't know dogs see a big dog with a strap around his mouth and immediately think that he is a vicious, uncontrollable attack dog.

One unexpected benefit of the Benevolent Dictator is that Biggie hates it so much that it has stopped his sock stealing. When he's not wearing the Kim Jong Il, we place it on top of the laundry pile and, voila! no more hamper diving!

So, here's an update on Biggie's resolutions:
1. No more Cujo.
He's gotten more protective of me since I got hurt, but he's going off on fewer people. We're better at anticipating what will set him off, and distract with treats, lavish praise when he lets a horse, bicycle, skateboard, loud car, person with luggage, etc. pass without barking. Kim Jong Il helps.

2. Sock stealing
Kim Jong Il works like kryptonite and we didn't have to resort to scolding the laundry, but unexpected side effects include wastebasket foraging - paper and fur from his brushes are his favorites.

3. Separation anxiety
Having interactive toys and toys that work off his energy help a lot, and limiting those toys to when we leave gives him a positive association with our departure. He playing with his Kong roller when we leave, but he doesn't cry any more.

4. (Gentler) Crotch sniffing
Still working on this using "leave it."

5. Wastebasket diving and sidewalk surfing
Sidewalk surfing is much better with the Kuvasz Kryptonite on. He is also learning better self- control and the "leave it" command.
Wastebasket diving on the whole is slightly better because we don't chase him when he has something in his mouth, but he checks out the wastebasket more because he is avoiding the laundry. We use "leave it" as he approaches the wastebasket and he gets rewarded with attention and play if he ignores the wastebasket. But if he's gotten into it when we're not looking, game over. Then we move into Plan B - expressing loads of interest in an approved toy, until he drops the toilet paper/feminine product/napkin/receipt and comes over to play.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo


Two words that strike fear in any pup-parent's heart - and text message inbox.
Stop reading here if you found Mr. Hanky horrifying and not in the least bit funny.

Okay, you're still reading. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Biggie's been dealing with some digestive issues since early December. Lest you call Animal Welfare on us, the pattern - to the extent there is one - is 1-3 days of diarrhea/soft poo followed by seemingly normal/improving poo for 3-5 days, repeat. So each time we're in an upswing of the cycle, we optimistically think we're done, until the next poo disaster strikes.

First we thought it was a corn allergy, then there was the time he ate 1/2 of a 8" long rawhide in one fell swoop, with an underlying concern that Biggie's sidewalk surfing and garbage ingestion keeps causing the problem. He seems to think that "DROP IT" or "OPEN" means "take whatever gnarly rotting shit is in my mouth and hide it under my tongue or, better yet, swallow it whole as quickly as possible before my jaws are pried open and Mommy sticks her fingers down my throat." Back in my lifeguard days (long ago) I was certified in CPR and First Aid. Although I haven't practiced it in a while, I think I can clear an airway as fast as the best of them.

Anyway. Our first entry in the Poo Disaster 2008 category comes from Friday, January 4. Roger, Biggie's walker, called me in the office late that afternoon saying that Biggie had pooped in his ex-pen and it was all over the floor and had probably ruined the cheap and ugly K-Mart rug that Biggie has slowly been destroying since July 15, 2007. Now Roger, bless his heart, has cleaned Biggie's "accidents" many times in the past, but this time I could tell from Roger's tone that this was different. "Your rug is probably ruined."

The problem is that Biggie has figured out that he can move his ex pen around the apartment while he's in it. And he's a pretty clean dog. He doesn't like being around poo, especially his own. So. Imagine 80+ pound dog who has diarrhea and is upset that he couldn't hold it until his walk. He's stuck in his pen and can't get out. How to get away from the mess? WWBD?

Easy - to Biggie. Just move the pen away from the pile. Of course this has the effect of moving, spreading and grinding the poo into the hardwood floor, its crevices, and any carpet that happens to be underneath.

R.I.P., rug.

Which brings me to The Definitive Poo Disaster of 2007, or,


It was July 16, 2007. Only hours before, we had brought a cuddly, sweet, shy little furball from Vienna, VA - the last leg of a multi-day relay from Texas. P-Daddy and I were just in love with this little cuddly polar bear cub. Stubby and quiet, with the softest, sweetest smelling fur around. He was just beyond cute.

This is what he looked like when I left for work that fateful Monday morning.

Note the wee wee pad in the photo - Biggie's breeder had him paper trained already, which was such a blessing. He had some chew toys, water, a wee wee pad in his ex-pen, and I'd be back in 4 hours to feed and walk the kid. What a cute little angel!

What I had utterly failed to consider was that this was probably the first 4 hours in this little guy's 8-week life that he had ever, EVER been alone. He was asleep when I snuck out (after snapping that picture with my cell phone) and when he woke up he must have been terrified.
What I also failed to understand was that Biggie expresses his angst through his digestive system. My old dog, Boo, would puke when stressed, like Stan when he saw Wendy Testaburger. Biggie poops.
I walked into the apartment. All quiet. Something smells a little funny, but he probably went on his wee wee pad. Puppy is standing in his pen and looking at me. The pen is full of shredded wee wee pad. There are cottony pieces of wwp strewn all over the place; I could swear there were still pieces floating in the air. Puppy is all innocence and cuteness, until I get closer, see more details, and infer the following:
1. Puppy woke up from nap.
2. Puppy used wwp for its intended purpose - i.e. spot to pee and poo.
3. Puppy got bored/stressed/playful/silly/worried and decided to play with wwp, flinging poo everywhere. There is poo in his water dish, there is poo outside the pen, inside the pen, all over the floor, hanging on the pen mesh, covering his toys ... there is poo on the puppy's head.
At this point, P-Daddy, no longer able to contain his excitement, texts me: "How is he? Is he totally cute? What's he doing?"
And all I can do is respond: POO DISASTER
How does one handle POO DISASTER?
Step 1: Change out of business suit.
Step 2: Gingerly extract poo-covered puppy from pen, place in tub.
Step 3: Gather paper towels, garbage bags and lots of cleaner.
Step 4: Ignore crying puppy, breathe through mouth.
Step 5: Wipe, mop, wipe, mop...repeat ad nauseam.
Step 6: Bathe puppy.
(and then on to the originally scheduled feed/walk plan)
Three hours later, I was back at my desk at work. Good thing I live walking distance from the office. Of course, by the time P-Daddy got home that night, all order was restored, despite text messaging silence. He didn't believe that such a cute little puppy could produce so much poo. The problem was, I was so overwhelmed that I didn't take a picture. Now no one will believe me.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Thank you Tex!

Dear Tex,

As you can see from the picture above, I am very much enjoying my squeaky hedgehog. I love the noise it makes! Here you can see me administering the "kill" bite, which also happens to be the BEST place for making all sorts of squeaks and groans and grunts, depending on how hard I bite down.
The best of all, of course, is the SMELL. (ed. note: Tex's mom rubbed the hedgehog all over Tex before packing it up. There were still Tex hairs in the toy. Biggie was beside himself!)
Ok, I realize this is a family show but it just smelled SO GOOD (and I am in the middle of puberty)! From the moment Mommy broke the seal on the box I was very, very interested in the smell, and I carried it to my favorite place on the flokati, where I collect all my toys in a big pile.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your people. Did you enjoy your puzzle and your knuckle bone? Mine is in Vermont and I take it everywhere with me.

Much love, your little brat brother Biggie