Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sad Pet News

Louie and Rolf. Louie is a Briard and Rolf is a German Shepherd

Haven't posted in a couple of weeks. It's been busy and I've got plenty of photos for the blog, but I didn't really feel like blogging.

We had some friends over on Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. One of them noticed a funky dark wart-looking thing on Louie's gum. We'd noticed his bottom teeth didn't look quite right, but maybe it was just that they were dirty. We were surprised we hadn't noticed the dark warty thing. Over the next two days, it increased in size at an alarming rate and his teeth were shifting in position daily. By Tuesday we called and made an appointment at the vet, and he squeezed us in on Wednesday. The results were not good - even if the tumor was benign, it was agressive and it was in the bone. That's why his teeth were being pushed out of alignment. The vet took a biopsy and sent it off, but said the outlook was grim.

We cried a lot.

The results came back and Louie has canine oral melanoma. It metastasizes readily, though the lab said this particular type doesn't spread as rapidly as most. We thought we'd have to put him down within a couple of days, because the tumor was growing so fast we didn't think he'd be able to eat much longer.

We cried some more.

The vet told us about an experimental treatment whereby they inject a dog with a virus constructed to match the DNA of the tumor. The dog's immune system fights off the tumorous cells just like it would fight off a cold. But you have to get rid of the tumor first for the treatment to be effective.

My husband talked to an outfit in Ohio that does this stuff all the time. They said that to get rid of the tumor, Louie's lower jaw would have to undergo "radical surgery", removing a significant portion of the bone and perhaps the entire lower jaw. Or we could opt for radiation instead, which would kill the tumor but also all the healthy tissue and his teeth on the bottom front would fall out.

The injections would give him a median life expectancy of less than a year. During that year he'd have to make trips to Ohio from time to time for the injections. And he would still eventually die from the cancer. It likes to spread to the lungs and the lymph nodes.

So we talked it over and cried some more. We decided not to treat the tumor. The surgery wasn't an option, because Louie's quality of life would be so poor afterwards. The radiation was a possibility, but we decided that prolonging his life by a few months and then filling those months with anxiety-ridden road trips, treatments, and overnight stays at the animal hospital were just not worth it. Louie wouldn't understand why he was being subjected to the pain and the scary stuff, and in the end he'd not live much longer anyway.

The vet said just enjoy him, and spoil him, and when it's time, we'll know. So that's what we're doing.

The tumor is still growing but Louie is still eating well. He likes his dry kibble with some Campbell's cream of chicken soup poured on top, please. Or perhaps a generous sprinkling of parmesan. Or rabbit broth.

Louie and Rolf playing

This is a game where Louie feigns indifference and Rolf incites him. It's one of their favorites. Louie has some very playful moments, but he's sleeping more than usual. A lot of that may be due to arthritis rather than the cancer. He gets half an aspirin each morning and each evening, stuck into half a hotdog. He LOVES aspirin time. He tap dances all around the kitchen in anticipation of the delightful treat.

So, that's had me down, as you can imagine. There are dogs, and there are great dogs, and there are dogs that are as much a part of the family as a person. Louie is a family member. So this is a tough time.


In other news, Postal the supremely intelligent got herself stuck high in a tree on a steep hillside. We couldn't get to her with a ladder or a tractor. So she stayed up there, and we heard her meowing in the mornings and evenings as we went about our chores, feeding the rabbits and the chickens.

I'd heard that a cat will eventually get itself out of a tree if left to its own devices. It may take three days, but the cat WILL come down.

We heard Postal meowing from that tree for six days, and then no more meows. Six days is a long time to go without water. We feared Darwin had won this round. And then she showed up at mealtime, ravenous. If that cat makes it through the winter it will be a miracle. But for now, she's holding her own.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Beautimous Bee Hives

I have beautimous bee hives. If it were up to me they'd be plain old boring white. Except for the gray ones where I needed a hive body NOW and all I had around the house was gray spray paint. But they'd be boring.

Fortunately, my husband is a man of vision. He remarked "They'd be more interesting if they had some color."

In late Spring or early Summer I got some empty supers. We assembled them and I painted them white. Of course. Then I remembered my wise husband's comment. So we got some spray paint in assorted colors.

We had some family and friends out for the long Fourth of July weekend, and I put them to work painting hive bodies. It was pretty cool seeing the different ideas folks came up with.

Now I have a whole bunch of colorful hive bodies, plus two that my husband wants to decorate. They will come in handy in the Spring when my bees flourish and I split my hives and become a honeybee mogul.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Soup Fixin's

When I butcher a rabbit, usually most of it goes into the freezer. But some of it goes toward making stock or soup fixin's.

I simmer the ribcage in a stock pot with something to make good broth. This time I used some tops from walking onions, some lovage (an herb that tastes like celery), and some parsley. I simmer it slowly until the meat falls off the bone.

Then I pick the meat off the ribcage and put it into jars. I add onion, celery, and carrots. Usually I use dehydrated veggies. They keep forever, and I don't end up running to the store all the time (20 miles one way) or throwing out veggies that have gone bad.

Then I fill the jars with the broth that the ribcage and seasonings simmered in. I use a gadget that lets me pour from the bottom while the fat floats on top. I pour the broth through a strainer to make sure little bits of bone don't go in the jar.

I process quarts 90 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure.

When I want some delicious home-made soup, I just open a jar and put the contents in a sauce pan with rice or noodles and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice or noodles are done. Add salt and pepper to taste. I use quite a bit of salt and a little crushed red pepper. It is DELISH.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I had a major craving for a salad the other day. I wandered through the garden and came up with:

turnip greens
a little lettuce
nasturtium leaves (yum!)
borage flowers
cherry tomatoes
cabbage leaves
onion tops
italian pepper

It was YUM. I'm going to miss fresh salads. Cold weather is just around the corner.

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