Archive for the ‘First Six Months’ Category

The Cone of Shame was quite a horrific accessory for Duchess.  You know the nervous drooling thing I’ve written about before?  Well, just imagine that but now only with a nice, nifty, big bowl around the head to catch it all.  Just wonderful.

Not only that, but apparently the Cone of Shame impedes all movement in a Great Dane.  Duchess could be standing in the kitchen, put the Cone of Shame on her, leave the room for 30 minutes, and she’d be standing in the exact same spot she was in when you got back.  Only of course now she had a nice healthy bit of drool collected in the cone, for strategic drool purposes I suppose.

The point of the Cone of Shame is to keep overzealous dogs such as Duchess from licking and chewing on bandages, stitches, etc.  That’s all well and good… but only if it can keep the dog from reaching them.

Duchess has a very, very long neck and quite a substantial muzzle to match.  Somehow she figured out that she could press the Cone of Shame against something like the wall of her crate, push it back down her neck, which would leave her big ol’ shnoz free to do all the self-mutilation she liked.

So that’s what she did.  Only, of course she didn’t do it until the vet’s office closed.  Going to the vet during regular business hours is sooooo passe, plus she doesn’t get all the attention and babying if we could just immediately hop right in the truck and fix the ailment in a matter of minutes.

So, again we had another night of watching her like a hawk, and again not much sleep (I was not the happiest person to be around during this time period).  Next morning – same routine.  Up, truck, vet, re-wrap.  However, we fixed her little red wagon this time.  At this point and time we decided to unleash the beast – the MEGA Cone of Shame!

With this thing on, if you held her head in just the right position you could receive interstellar communications.  I’m pretty sure we broke some sort of international law there, but really the only thing floating around the airwaves these days is gossip about Miley Cyrus or Lady GaGa so I didn’t see much harm in it.

You can see the size difference between the Cone of Shame and MEGA Cone of Shame in this handy dandy side-by-side comparison.

Armed with the MEGA Cone of Shame, we were able to get through the remaining days of recovery with minimal difficulty.  Except there’s that part about where she finally decided to get mobile while wearing the stupid thing.  She wiped out various decorations, lamps, and other knick-knacks with the interstellar information gathering device.

I didn’t mind it though – anything to keep from more emergency phone calls to the vet.  It’s been a couple of months now and she’s recovered nicely.  She still has a really big scar on the belly, but that’s to be expected.  It will dissipate over time.

Her wrists, you can barely tell that she even had surgery there.

So, if you’re reading this Doc (and staff at the clinic), then thanks for putting up with all the trouble we’ve gone through with this ordeal.  From now on before any surgery, we should sit down and make sure there are no holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, alignments of planets, etc. going on the week or two after they go under the knife because nothing – nothing is ever run-of-the-mill in this household.

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Again, we had another sleepless night since Duchess absolutely refused to leave her dew claw bandages alone (both the professionally done and the Bubba-fied ghetto triage method one that Dad and I had done).  However, my lovely vampire wife got up early as always on Christmas morning to fix brunch for the family… another tradition we have.

I got up a little later, and let the dogs out for their morning potty break.  That’s when I noticed something was terribly, terribly wrong with Duchess.  The paw just below my electrical tape/Ace bandage job was GIGANTOMUNGOUS!  At the end of her long, gangly leg was what seemed to be a 1 lb burger roughly in the shape of my dog’s paw.  It was like looking at a three legged dog that had a tennis racket bolted on where the fourth leg should be.

Dad arrived a few minutes later and we assessed the situation about as well as two bleary eyed men can do who didn’t sleep much the night before.  It was decided that her butt explosion got the paw infected due to her swollen paw being hot to the touch.  She was already on antibiotics, so I didn’t know what to do.  My future obedience star was going to be severely disfigured because I had to go all Larry the Cable Guy on her leg.  Bleh.

I spent most of Christmas day right by her side, monitoring her every breath.  About mid-afternoon I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer and that I needed to call the emergency vet line… again.  I called and apologized profusely for having to call on the holiday, but that I couldn’t help it – Duchess’ paw was in bad, bad shape.

They advised me to cut off the bandage and put a band-aid over the wound and to bring her in first thing in the morning.  I cut off my southern engineered bandage and did as they said.  Nothing happened.

I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited for hours.  Nothing.  Then all of a sudden it was like a switch flipped and her paw started to recede back to normal.  We had obviously just wrapped her bandage too tight.  Like, way too tight.  She didn’t have some wicked poop infection in her paw and gangrene wasn’t setting in (have I mentioned I tend to overreact when there’s a sick dog?).

We went to the vet the next morning and they re-wrapped both of her legs just for good measure.  This time we left with a special post-Christmas present though – the Cone of Shame!

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We always open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.  It’s a family tradition that we have and one that we’ve done as long as I can remember.  Maybe my family wasn’t big on delayed gratification – I dunno.  So anyway, the Christmas Eve of ’09 we sat down to a lovely dinner that my vampire wife fixed for us and proceeded to open presents.

We had a great time with dad, and he spoiled us with way too many gifts as always.  Afterward, we were cleaning up the pile of discarded papers and boxes when I noticed Duchess was laying on her bed (her Christmas present), chomping away on her dew claw bandage like Kirstie Alley at a Vegas buffet.

Pandalerium ensued (and yes I’m quite aware that’s not a real word).  Blood was going everywhere.  She had pulled her bandage down and chewed the stitches off of one of her wrists leaving a big, open, seeping wound.  I thought, “I’m the biggest idiot in the world for scheduling a surgery for one of MY dogs before a holiday.” (By the way I don’t need any comments from readers affirming this.)

My dad and I wrangled Duchess into the utility room and shut the door (the only room in the house that doesn’t have carpet) and I started screaming for a first-aid kit.  I might as well been screaming for a boat anchor because we don’t really have much of a first-aid kit I found out.  Luckily, my wife found a basket that had various band-aids, bandages, gauze, etc. in it.

Oh wait, I need to back up.  I’ve left out the part where the stress and medication caused Duchess’ butt to EXPLODE in her crate earlier that day.  Yeah.  Good times.  She’d stepped in her mess several times, so I’m sure she was covered in all sorts of wonderful bacteria – including her bandages and the now open wound she has on her wrist… not to mention the stitched/stapled belly.

Because of the aforementioned nastiness, we made sure to clean her latest handiwork with some alcohol before trying to wrap her up again.  We got her sanitized, put some Neosporin on the wound, applied gauze, then began wrapping with an Ace bandage.  Only problem – no tape.  The only tape we could find was some black electrical tape.  Any shelter in a storm I suppose.

Got her wrapped and taped up – looking like a (really cute) version of Frankenstein’s monster.  Crisis averted – again!  Until of course the next day – biggest holiday in the United States – Christmas Day.

***Sorry there are no pics with this post – there was too much chaos at the time to get any pictures.  I promise there will be some tomorrow!***

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Where were we?  Oh yes (strokes his beard, lights his pipe, and leans back in the rocking chair to spin a yarn white whittling on a stick).  The belly had been filleted open by some eager chewing and licking by Duchess.

So there we were late at night, looking at a fresh surgery wound.  This wound I might add – went from her hoo hoo to her ribcage.  That’s not very far on say, a chihuahua, but on a Great Dane that’s quite a substantial gash.  I kept waiting for her insides to fall out at any moment… because I’m paranoid.  It’s not like she didn’t look bad enough already with her front legs wrapped in bandages and stitches on her belly that went for miles and miles, but now she looked like an extra from Kill Bill.

Please, no one be shocked that my vampire wife is out and about during daylight hours.  As you’ll notice, she’s obviously weakened by the sunlight and can’t even walk.

So, I begrudgingly make the call to the emergency line at my vet’s office.  I was told to bring her in first thing in the morning.  We didn’t sleep much that night.  Every little move she would make resulted in a “DUCHESS!!!  NOOOOO!” from us to try to keep her from doing further damage.

I awoke that morning, loaded my dog with the gaping wound into the truck, and headed for the clinic.  They took her in the back and she came back out with staples in the area that she had used as a chew toy.  Crisis averted!  Until… Christmas Eve.  That’s when things got a little hairy.

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I’ve been meaning to get to this for a while now, but things just kept coming up, photo opportunities presented themselves, etc.  Plus, this is such a looong drawn out story that I was afraid I might lose interest (especially since it’s not something currently going on that I can get pictures of).

So how do I recount the drama of the Christmas season of ’09 and not lose my few (but faithful) readers?  The only solution I could come up with was to chop it up into bits (no pun intended).  Maybe I can do a soap opera-esque cliffhanger with music at the end… you know,  like DUMMMMM DUMMM DUUUUUUUUMMMM with a picture of Duchess looking off into nothing with one eyebrow raised (like they do).

So off we go with The Great Surgery as I like to refer to it as… Part I.

Before I even got Duchess, I knew there were two procedures that would need to be done on her.  One being to have her spayed, the second being a gastropexy.  The gastropexy is performed in dogs that are prone to bloat.  Unfortunately, Great Danes are very prone to this deadly condition – the stats floating around the interwebz (so they must be true) are that 45% of Danes will bloat at least once in their life.

The pexy is supposed to keep the stomach from flipping over, preventing torsion on the stomach, which gives the owner more time to get to the vet for the dog to be tubed or have surgery done on them to release the gas.

What I didn’t expect was for Duchess to still have her dew claws, but she did.  After having her slice and dice us up repeatedly, it was decided those things had to go as well.  After discussing it with my vet, it was decided to do all three procedures at the same time – well… because horrible things come in threes of course.

The first attempt was postponed due to her possibly having doggie ebola (which you can read about a few posts down), but she got the green flag the second go-around.  She was dropped off the morning of December 21st, and later that day I got a call that everything went fine and that I could pick her up the next day.

The next day I picked her up and she hopped right into the truck like nothing had ever happened.  I should’ve known right away that this was going too smoothly.  You see, our rat terrier Dottie was spayed and then we had about 3 months of complications to follow (the procedure was done by another vet – not the one we use now).  There were reactions to the sutures, reactions to medications where she almost died, a fall off the vet’s exam table during follow-ups that resulted in a concussion… the list goes on and on.

I’d sworn off owning female dogs at that point.  Oh how quickly we forget.

Everything went fine for Duchess that day.  She rested peacefully, ate a little bit of food… all pretty routine.  Of course things changed after the vet’s office closed.  That’s when I looked down at her and noticed that she’d torn her stitches open and her belly was laying open like a butterflied shrimp.

I looked at my wife, sighed, and muttered – “Here we go again…”

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Von What?

We have a very long history of weird stuff happening to our dogs and family members.  It’s something in the genes I think.  Or perhaps one of our ancestors built something on top of an Indian burial ground.  Whatever it is, the cosmos, fate, karma… it’s usually stacked against us.

Whether it’s purchasing a flawed item, a home repair project gone awry, or a medical situation – we usually hear “Out of a million times this will only happen once.  You just have bad luck.” from someone involved in the fiasco.

So of course when Duchess got old enough to be spayed, it was time to research all the possible things that could go wrong… because that’s usually what happens when it comes to us.  Giant breeds such as the Great Dane have special requirements when it comes to surgeries, and there is a fantastic post on the DOL forum that outlines the things to discuss with your vet before scheduling the surgery.  Actually, it’s a great idea to discuss any potential problems with your vet prior to any surgery for all dogs.  You’d be surprised – if your vet is a good one like ours, they really enjoy conversing with owners that take the health of their pets seriously.

You’ll notice on the post I linked on the forum, that number 4 states:

Ensure that you elect to have the pre-surgical blood work done (CBC and serum chemistry panel) and ask them to also include a CLOTTING PROFILE.

So that’s just what we did.  I dropped Duchess off early that morning before work so that they could get the blood work done.  About an hour later I got a phone call on my cell – it was the vet’s office.  I couldn’t answer the call immediately so I let it go to voicemail as my heart began to pound faster with each passing minute.  Many people have lost their Danes on the spay table due to bleeding issues so of course my mind went to the worst possible scenario – because as mentioned above, that’s just the way it goes in our house.

When I got the voicemail a little later, it was my vet saying, “Don’t worry, nothing is wrong… I just need to discuss Duchess’ blood work with you.”  *sigh*  Of course we need to discuss the blood work.  We’ve obviously purchased one of the only 2 Great Danes known in the written history of the entire world to have the uber rare form of Doggie Ebola.

I called the clinic and they patched me right through to the doc.  Having known us over the past 15 years or so (and the many nights I’ve called and awakened him because our dogs refuse to have emergencies during normal business hours) he knew I’d be thinking the worst.  If I remember correctly, the first words out of his mouth weren’t hello – they were “Everything’s fine, don’t worry, we haven’t even done anything yet.”

Mmm k.  So then what’s the phone call about eh?  I was told that her blood was not clotting well, which had been my fear all along leading up to the surgery.  He said that he had taken some blood and sent it off to the hospital to have a full workup done.  Wait a minute – did I hear that right?  My dog’s blood was going to the hospital for a workup?  Maybe I didn’t hear that right, but in my adrenaline rushed, panic stricken state that’s what I understood – so I’m sticking with it.  Can you imagine if the samples had gotten mixed up with some patient there?  I’m sorry Ms. Smith, but it looks like your child doesn’t have H1N1 as we thought… we need to talk.

The vet also said that he wanted to rule out Von Willebrand’s disease.  Von who?  Van Helsing?  My dog has a disease that turns her into a vampire killer?  That doesn’t sound bad at all – kinda cool actually.  The late nights would eventually wear us down, but maybe I could take a different job to work around her schedule… all in the name of making the world a safer place of course.

He explained this disease several times, but I still couldn’t get my head around it, so I had to google it.  Von Willebrand’s is a form of inherited hemophilia in dogs I found out.

Here’s the kicker.  The only place in the U.S. that tests for Von Willebrand’s is Cornell in New York.  So we had to ship her blood across the nation and wait for the results.  I was told we needed to postpone her surgery until we got the results back and that I could come pick her up.

I went to pick Duchess up, who was thoroughly confused as to why I felt like the vet’s office was an appropriate place for morning doggie daycare and the receptionist informed me that I could pay later because, “I have no idea what to charge for that blood test, we’ve never had to do that before.”

There it is!  That line we always hear no matter what we’re doing.  Of course you’ve never had to do that before – because we’ve never owned a giant breed before.  If we’d had giant dogs this entire time, it would be a routine procedure for our local clinic by now because we’re cursed obviously.

A couple weeks went by with us sitting on pins and needles.  What if she tore off a claw and bled to death? (Our dogs have torn claws off several times – we’re quite adept at the ghetto triage method of packing the paw in flour now.)  What if she got a scrape while playing with the other dogs?  What if she happened to bust out the door, run away, and join up with some bad dogs and get in a gang fight?

Things were pretty tense around the house for a while.  Luckily, after a couple weeks the test came back negative which was a huge relief.  We rescheduled the surgery for another time (which is a whooooole separate ordeal unto itself).  She’s completely recovered now as you can tell by the snow pics taken the other day, but it was a rocky road there for a while.

So she’s evidently free and clear from Von Willebrand’s (and Van Helsing’s as well), which is all good.  However, I’m just waiting for the next thing to happen where we have to send off a fur sample, mouth scraping, and a piece of her ear to test for something else that’s potentially life threatening.  Let’s hope Cornell has a test for that.

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Okay, so now I’m finally getting around to the story of how we completely lost all capabilities of reason and said to ourselves, “We have a somewhat smallish sized dog, a medium-largeish sized dog, a 6 year old, as well as ourselves all in our small house (which is jam packed with junk in every nook and cranny)… let’s buy a ginormous dog and keep it in the house!”

Sounds like a good plan, right?  Well at least it did to us.  Everyone else in the world didn’t see it our way.  I don’t think anyone else we know loves dogs as much as we do though.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure of it.  If we had eleventy billion dollars, I think we’d have a whole ranch full of them… some sort of rescue operation.  Dog Ranchers – I’m sure there’s a huge job market out there for it.  I’m just way ahead of the curve on this one… I can feel it.

So anyway, it was getting close to our 14th wedding anniversary and we were trying to decide what we wanted to do for gifts for each other.  With the economic downturn, there wasn’t a whole lot of options.  Flying off to Greece, dinner at Bobby Flay’s restaurant, or a scenic tour of California’s wine country were definitely off-limits (not like we’ve ever done anything like that anyway).

That’s when it was decided that we should find another four legged furball to join the family as our anniversary gift to each other.  We had narrowed it down to either a Goldendoodle (since they don’t shed) or a Great Dane after many, many months of research.  We love Jake with all our hearts, but man that dog can shed!  I honestly don’t understand why he isn’t completely bald.  My wife knits, and I’ve joked many times that she needs to learn how to spin that fur into yarn to cut down on her yarn bill.  Plus, it would be quite a memorial to Jake wouldn’t it?  Unless of course that snazzy scarf you’re wearing happens to get wet… then that could be rather unpleasant smelling I suppose.

It had also already been decided that the next dog would be a female and that her name would be Duchess.  I’d always wanted a Duke, but since a female fits better into the current menagerie, we had to make the switch to Duchess.

We’d searched for Goldendoodles for a long time, but they all were about $1,500 and we just didn’t have that kind of cash to drop so we opted for the Great Dane who is supposed to have the loving heart that we like in Golden Retrievers, but has somewhat of a more clown-ish personality.  We found out quickly that in Duchess’ case, the “somewhat” is more like “over the top” when it comes to clown-ish behavior.

The thing is, there aren’t many Great Danes out there – at least not in our immediate vicinity.  We had decided to make the six hour drive to go look at a litter after receiving some puppy pics via e-mail when we found an ad for some about an hour away.

We hopped in the truck and took off one Sunday afternoon to meet the owners of the litter.  They lived in the country and the guy was headed in town to play golf so we could meet them there at the course.  They agreed to put the puppies in their SUV, we could look at them, he could stay to play golf, and his wife could head back home.  We were only interested in a female and they only had one female left out of a litter of 12 so they put her in along with a male to keep her company for the ride.

We arrived in the parking lot that hot summer day and parked next to the mud-covered SUV that had seen its better days.  The guy got out with his grimy shirt and Crown Royal baseball cap… the kind of guy you cringe a little bit when they want to shake hands because you’re not sure if its been washed in oh… a few weeks.  You know, like he’s been eating fried chicken, changing his oil, and picking his body parts?  Yeah, that kinda guy.  The first impression was not the greatest let’s say.

We exchanged polite formalities (about as well as a guy wearing a Crown Royal baseball cap can do) and took a peek inside to see the pups.  And there she was.  This tiny little ball of perfection.  A beautiful merle Great Dane.  Both had been sacked out, but the male raised his head for a few seconds and wobbled a foot or so and collapsed again as I lifted Duchess out of the SUV.

Here’s where all emotion has to be set aside – look for the health of the dog, personality, quiz the owners relentlessly as if they’re in some sort of Dateline puppy mill sting… the usual drill you’re supposed to do.  Truth be told though, I knew we were coming home with that dog when I saw her.  Blame it on the puppy breath.

Please let me stress here how important it is to NOT purchase your dog from a pet store or from a puppy mill.  They operate all over the place and crank puppies out 24/7.  The dogs are living in the worst possible conditions and most are put down or worse as soon as they get too old to be effective breeders.  They sell to pet stores as well as to the public… so before you buy that cute little puppy in the window, stop and think about where it came from first.

The only things I was really concerned about was the overall health and that her personality would fit the calm submissive energy we were looking for (thank you Cesar Millan).  So we paid our $150 (she’s unregistered *gasp*) and took off to Petsmart to get puppy stuff.  By the way, I think that they need puppy showers just like you have baby showers… maybe I’ll write a Congressman about that or something.

After spending about 52038413 times as much on stuff as we did on the actual dog, we started home to get her settled in.  She rode in my wife’s lap and slept the whole way, grunting and groaning like a little pig.  I don’t know why Danes do it, but it seems to be a common thing throughout the whole breed.  She still does it a little bit now, but it’s a lot, LOT louder.

Here are a few pictures from her first night in her new home… my wife was determined that the only other girl in the house would have bling.

At 8 weeks old, she already had some gigantic paws.  Little did we know that these were formidable death weapons.

The comments we got when people found out what we had done ran the gamut.  “Oh how cute!”  “You did what?”  “That’s not a Great Dane, that’s a Catahoula.”  “Do you know how much that thing is gonna eat?”  “You realize how much that dog is gonna poop?”  And my favorite – “You…. are sooooo screwed.”

I still laugh when I think about that last one.  What we consider to be the best anniversary gift we’ve ever had would be an absolute nightmare to someone else.  I guess that’s not why every household has a giant dog in it (which should be against the law – everyone that has a sense of humor should own a giant dog at least once in their life).

But I guess that’s why a Dane is such a good fit for us.  When I’m awakened in the middle of the night (which is rare – it’s usually my wife that wakes up, and in a much less happier state than I) by the thundering crash of her flopping around in her crate to find the spot that’s juuuuuuuust right followed by a bellowing groan that sounds like Pavarotti after eating way too much at Taco Bell… I have to giggle just a little bit because I know the next day will be a whole new adventure.  And God willing, the day after that, and the day after that…

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