Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mustang, 1993-2007

Mustang, 1993-2007

January 31, 2007
Today was my birthday. It seems that almost every year something happens to make the day one I can’t stand, despite all the well-wishes. In the past it’s been illnesses, weather, or just timing.
This year is was having to send Mustang to the Rainbow Bridge to run free forever. A day to celebrate life should not be used for death.
Just over three weeks ago we sent Bluebird. That hurt—a lot. It still does at times.
This time it still hurts, but not as much, and for a different reason.
Mustang came to us as a Katrina survivor, and only at her end did we come to fully understand what all that meant. Katrina has claimed one more victim, this one a senior greyhound with and iron will that her body couldn’t keep up with.
When Mustang came to us, she had been three weeks alone in the toxic sludge that was flooded New Orleans. Iris was forced by the Coast Guard to leave her behind, one of tens of thousands of displaced pets. Mustang was one of the lucky ones that made it. Thousands more didn’t. But the time in that sludge changed her for the worse. She developed a scavenger instinct that stayed with her to the very end, and in fact played a role in her demise. The toxic sludge exposed her to carcinogens that developed into skin hemangia, a benign form of hemangiosarcoma that travels in the blood and manifests itself as blood moles on the skin. A large one of these was surgically removed form her shortly after we got her. Only at the end did we know what it really was, and not just a pigment mole.
But there was more. Mustang had been given her normal 3-year rabies vaccine just before the hurricane hit. When she was rescued, she got the vaccine again, just as every other rescued animal did. So she got 6 years of rabies vaccine in three months. That overdose led to her getting vaccinosis, which among other things causes brain damage. Most of the effects are never cataloged by veterinarians since the veterinary and pharmaceutical industry both have a vested financial interest in denying adverse effects of vaccinations and their overuse. In Mustang’s case the overdose was accidental, based in good intentions, and happened from a lack of records.
She also battled thyroid, incontinence and kidney failure, and deafness in her final days. Whether these came from age, vaccinosis, or toxic exposure we’ll never know. But her battle was uphill and her days numbered, but the silent killer that actually got her was lurking, waiting. On Saturday, January 27, it struck.
That day she ate breakfast as usual, went out, then came back in, and as she sat down she started to pant and whine in pain. She could not get up again unassisted. She was in great pain. We got her to the vet, and a regimen of Prednisone and Tramadol seemed to help some, as did some acupuncture on the following Monday. But at the time the vet found her hindquarters bruised up and swollen, and one thigh was badly swollen. We thought she had taken a bad spill on the sidewalk outside. We were wrong, and that brings us back to the silent killer and the events of tonight.
We went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. When we left, Mustang was asleep on the floor in the middle of the den, away from everything. We were gone for an hour and a half. When we came back we found her panting in panicked pain under the desk on the chair pad. We got her out of there and tried to get her to her feet, but she could no longer put any weight on her hindquarters at all. Her back legs also felt cold. Back to the vet we went, and they stretchered her in. When the vet examined her he found our silent killer—a blood clot in the femoral artery in one leg. She had a thrombosis in the legs, basically a stroke in the body instead of the heart (heart attack) or the brain (stroke). This was the same thing that almost killed Slim in 2003. What we think happened was that somehow she got to her feet, was scavenging, and the clot hit while she was by the desk, she lost her legs and fell, and that’s how we found her. This was probably the second strike by that killer, with the first being back on Saturday after she came back inside from her turnout. A morphine shot at the vet did nothing to cut the pain at all. With her quality of life shot and the constant pain, it was time. She went to the Bridge.
Mustang will be cremated and the remains sent to her real owner, Iris. We weren’t her owners, just her rescuers and caretakers. We were hoping to pull a reunion in the summer, but it wasn’t meant to be. Mustang pined for Iris, even as her body failed her, she held out hope in her heart to see her Mama Iris again.
It hurts here for a lot of reasons. We can’t help but feel some failure somehow from what happened, part of it because of what she went through despite our efforts, and part of it as a feeling that we couldn’t handle the care she needed at the end. I hate having to put down another greyhound, the second in three weeks and fourth since July. I’m sick of doing it, and I hate myself for doing it, even as I know they all are free of pain and back in full command of their bodies and minds. I hate the death, the misery, the health declines that killed them, be it stroke, cancer, age, or whatever. It’s the loss that’s the price we pay when we love, and it truly sucks.
The rational part of us recognize that we did our best and that even if we had done everything possible for her it would not have been enough as she was fighting too many things at once and she was overwhelmed. We also know that she got a second chance with us and that Iris was ever grateful for that. But adopting greyhounds is all about second chances at life and love.
Like Bluebird in her cancer, Mustang in her conditions taught us lot about how to work with senior greyhounds and big health problems. We are wiser and better dog owners from her.
Two more things have come from this.
One is a resolve, to adopt another young girl for Surf and to carry on. We will be doing that this weekend, and like Bluebird did with him, he will pick her for us. Hopefully that will end the sending of our hounds to the Bridge for a long time.
The second is some unexpected comfort. As I was leaving the vet after it was all over, a couple came in with their 10-month German Shepherd, a big happy guy who came over to me. I knelt over to pet him and got a loving face baste for my effort. His owner was concerned and asked me if that was okay. I told her “I needed that” and explained about Mustang. That put it all in perspective—the end may be lousy, but the bad at the end is far outweighed by the love that we give each other along that journey of life together. All from a happy puppy with a wet tongue.
Run free, Mustang, and wait for Iris, Bell, and George at the Bridge. And thank you for all you’ve taught us.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Universal health-care insurance DOESN’T mean better health care, just more socialized medicine

OK, the Gubernator has unveiled his universal health-care insurance scam to the people of Kahleefournya. This person isn’t buying.

First the disclaimer up front. I have health insurance. I have good health insurance provided by my employer. But it doesn’t make me healthy. All it does is make me able to cover the costs of getting unhealthy.

And therein is the problem. Arnold’s scam doesn’t address true health promotion, but rather paying for bad health. It’s treating the illness rather than working to prevent it in the first place. And that’s how government, Big Agriculture, Big Insurance, and Big Pharma want it.

See, the big secret they don’t want you to know is that they *want* you to be sick. They don’t want you healthy! Why not? Because a healthy person makes them no money! Their income is based on your illness! Let me repeat that: They make money when you’re sick, and they don’t when you’re healthy. Big Insurance doesn’t care about your health—they care about your wallet, and only your wallet.

That’s why Big Pharma puts out allopathic chemicals called drugs that have side effects that require even more drugs to treat, and those drugs have their own side effects which require even more drugs to treat, and on and on.

That’s why when truly effective treatments are available--that Big Pharma didn’t make--they are dismissed as ineffective and unproven, mainly because Big Pharma hasn’t commissioned the independent studies that actually confirm the effectiveness—they have no control over it! That’s also why Big Insurance won’t cover those effective treatments.

That’s why Big Pharma won’t put out the cures for cancer, AIDS, heart disease, ADHD, autism, and a myriad of other diseases.

That’s why the FDA is bought and paid for by Big Pharma, and why Congress is bought and paid for by Big Insurance.

That’s why government only gives lip service to controlling the pollution that invades our bodies and makes us weak and sick, and tries to restrict access to treatments that actually work by outlawing them, shutting down their manufacturers, and in some cases, killing the producers.

That’s why traditional Chinese medicine, a mainstay in China for thousands of years, is under attack by Big Pharma IN CHINA! That’s why alternative treatments such as that, herbalism, and homeopathy, are continually being battered by government restrictions and regulations demanded by Big Pharma.

That’s why Big Agriculture has laden our food supply with carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides, low-quality foods that need excitotoxin additives to enhance flavor like MSG and corn syrup, deplorable farm conditions for meat, and subsidized prices that we pay for first in taxes and later again in the checkout line for this junk.

That’s why our children are over-vaccinated to the point of autism and ADHD, and our pets as well.

So what do we do about it? The answer is that we don’t play their game.

We don’t play it with the food, we don’t play it with the drugs, and we shouldn’t play it with the government.

We don’t play it with the food by buying organic food, whole unprocessed foods, and scratch cooking instead of processed garbage. We grow our own food where we can, properly building and maintaining the soil, absent all of those petrochemicals and petro-fertilizers that cause cancers. We fill up our spice racks to add flavor, and we fill up our freezers and refrigerators with our own cooking. We eat healthy stuff with minimal ingredients and no chemicals. We minimize our eating out in restaurants because they are the trade-off of convenience for trash. We demand processed food ingredient transparency and full disclosure since we have the right to fully know what we’re eating and drinking.

We don’t play it with the drugs by finding and using naturopathic, holistic, homeopathic, and herbal alternatives. They are easier on the system with minimal side effects (if any!) and usually easier on the wallet. We supplement our diet with vitamins and herbs and minerals that promote health. We detoxify, purge, cleanse, and balance. We say no to vaccines because they are poisons.

And we’re a growing crowd.

We shouldn’t play it with the government, either. We own our bodies, our minds, and our souls, and we have a responsibility to ourselves and to those around us and close to our hearts to take care of ourselves. That means not playing the games of Big Agriculture and Big Pharma. That means demanding better pollution controls on the air we breathe and the water we drink to prevent industrial carcinogens from polluting us. (There is a huge economic opportunity for someone to produce the devices needed to do that, BTW!) That means putting government back to work for the people instead of for the Big Businesses. That means it has to come from the grassroots, from each of us. That means each of us have to leave Big Agriculture and Big Pharma behind and move forward to better health and if they don’t respond to what we demand, then they get sick and they die. That’s the nature of the free market, after all.

We have the motivation and we ultimately have the power. In today’s age we have unprecedented access to the needed information to take the right steps. The rest is up to us getting off our fat butts, being responsible for ourselves, and making it happen.

So what are we waiting for?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bluebird, 1996-2007, Loved and Missed

January 9, 2007

Today I had to do something I knew I had to do, but still hated to do.

Today I sent our Heart Hound, Bluebird, to the Rainbow Bridge to run free forever.

This is Bluebird:

She was a blue brindle greyhound. She came into our lives in 1999 after we had just bought our first house. I had wanted a dog all along and my wife suggested a greyhound. We were set to adopt a different greyhound, but Queenie died at the track on her last race, of a heart attack. A few days later we went to the kennel, out jumped this blue brindle bundle of happy fun from a top crate, she put her paws up on our waist, tail wagging away, and it was Game Over. It was love at first sight. She had a little adjustment trouble with us, partly because when it came to greyhounds we were totally green and also because she was battling Giardia. With the help of another greyhound, Saturn (gone to the Rainbow Bridge July 2006, we miss you, you big red goof!), she adjusted in and became our Heart Hound. Several months later to help with her being lonely, we adopted Slim.

Slim was his own self, a injury-retirement living on borrowed time and a broken leg. He was content most of the time to just be around us. He suffered a stroke in October 2003 just before we moved from Colorado to California and almost didn't make it. He went to the Rainbow Bridge September 9, 2006, exactly 4 months ago, from hemaginosarcoma (cancer) that had been found late and had spread to other organs from his spleen. His death broke Bluebird's heart.

In Colorado we teamed Bluebird and Slim up with Saturn and CJ and Miesque, two whippets that were also owned by Saturn's owner, a dearly loved family member. CJ and Miesque are also at the Bridge after long and productive lives, including helping me overcome a childhood fear of dogs that led to us falling in love with and adopting (to date) four greyhounds. The Choya Keep Pack was formed, named after all the cactus on the land.

In late 2003 we moved to California and Choya Keep Pack was split up. In 2005 Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and we got lucky and wound up being able to adopt Mustang, who was somewhat of a celebrity on Greytalk ( because of her plight. She came to us just before Halloween 2005, and while she is a ripe old 13, she is still hanging around.

In late September, about two weeks after Slim crossed the Bridge, Bluebird began to limp. Not sure what was going on, we took her to the vet. They did some X-rays and it came back as early osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. After about a month of denial and trying to get definite confirmation, she had her right front leg amputated on October 25. She spent the time up to Thanksgiving recovering from the surgery and then began chemotherapy. Unfortunately the chemo was ineffective and the cancer returned, much more aggressive than before. In the past 3 weeks a new tumor grew, going from small to softball-sized when she died today, and the cancer had metasized into her lymph nodes and were causing her kidneys and thyroid to fail. we took her off all medications except a painkiller and let her be as spoiled and as comfortable as she liked. Today she could not get up from the sofa without screaming in pain and showed no desire to lounge in her morning sunbeam. She also gave us "that look". It was her time to go to the Bridge. I took her to the vet and they made it painless for her. She died with her head in my lap, her favorite spot, with me telling her we loved her and scritching her ears until the very end. After she was gone I took off her collar and took it home. She will be cremated and we'll figure out the rest at a later date. Her collar will go with her picture up on the mantle, next to Slim's.

Before she went this past weekend we did one final road trip, Bluebird along, this to the Greyhound Adoption Center in San Diego. We knew we were going to get another greyhound. Bluebird's last act would be to pick him out for us. She came through like a champion and we adopted Surf, a three year, four month black brindle male who she took a liking to. He came home and has fit right in, being the protector of the house and especially of Mustang and Bluebird.

It's hard to write this. I know that she is free of the pain, whole again with all four legs, young again, and free of the poisonous cancer that was killing her. I know that I did the right thing. Yet the selfish part of me feels guilty for it, because I still wanted her around, wanted, no, needed her love, and part of me was angry for being unable to help her live instead of die, and angry at that little cancer bastard that took her (and Slim) from us.

But I have to look forward. Bluebird was the first and the last of the Choya Keep Pack. Mustang and Surf are the new pack, the Pachappa Pack. So in one way it is the end of an era here, but the beginning of a new one as well. Bluebird did it on her terms and made us better dog owners and better people for it.

But she also leaves behind seven years of memories that we will always cherish:

  • When I came home from a business trip after a week and she did a Dino to my Fred, knocking me flat on my back and licking me like crazy
  • Laying on my back and licking the almond oil off that my wife had used for a back massage
  • Being an ambassadog and conversation piece everywhere we took her
  • Befriending another greyhound named Haley and watching them streak past a dog pack like greased lightning at the dog park
  • Missing a rabbit in the garden by the puff of its cotton tail, running into a cactus and not caring because she wanted that rabbit!
  • Barking at herself in the mirror and startling herself because she hadn't barked before and she wanted to play with the dog in the mirror
  • Sleeping on the bed on our legs, keeping them and her warm
  • Learning to do stairs because Saturn was at the bottom of them
  • Spinning around three times and rolling over for treats, but then not doing it for auditions for Dave Letterman's Stupid Pet tricks--she knew better
  • When we lost our first son William due to a stillbirth, she cried with us
  • When we got pregnant with our second son John, seeing her light up when she smelled my wife pregnant
  • Going crazy at John's birth and getting to smell him shortly afterwards and recognizing him as the "Alpha Puppy"
  • Letting John chew on her tail when he was teething, and the brood mother in her came out
  • Her going crazy whenever she heard the cookie jar open, the leashes rattle, or the car door open
  • Always greeting me at the door with a wagging tail and a snuggle
  • Picking out Surf for us--she adopted him for us!
  • Bringing out the best in us
  • Giving us all the love we could handle
  • Teaching us about cancer, family, and how to cope

She is at the Bridge now, but she is never forgotten, always loved, whole again, and back with *her* pack, but only after having made sure that she got us to our new pack. She is our Heart Hound--unique, special, and first.

Tonight we will toast her memory, celebrate her life and her gifts to us, and mourn her death.

We're already missing her deeply.

Farewell, dear Bluebird.