Monday, June 25, 2012

Humorous Life Story #8- "The Year I Was Duped Into Playing Santa"

I spent part of my time in the US Army Veterinary Corps stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  While I was stationed there, one of my best friends from veterinary school was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base, which is also in San Antonio.  Christmas time was approaching and Shawn asked me if I would like to volunteer with her; her husband,Yves; and her daughter, Jessi to deliver Christmas presents as part of a big charity event that occurs in San Antonio every year.  I told her that it sounded like fun and to count me in.

The day arrived for us to go deliver the presents.  It was December; and it was unseasonably warm.  If I remember correctly, it was in the 80's. As we are pulling into the warehouse where we were supposed to pick up the presents, my friend says to me, "Oh, by the way, you are going to have to dress up like Santa Claus." 

I am about 5 feet tall, red-headed, and female.  So, naturally, I just laughed at her.

She said, "Seriously, they require the person handing out the presents to dress and act like Santa Claus.  Yves can't do it, because no one will understand him and I'm going to be your helper.  I'm going to have to dress like an elf."  Her husband, Yves, was a French Canadian and had a very heavy accent. 

"I'm going to make a ridiculous looking Santa Claus," I grumbled.  Knowing that she had me cornered.  I also knew that she had waited until we were there, because she knew that I would have backed out, if I had known in advance.

I was still hoping that she was pulling my leg, when we walked into the warehouse.  We were greeted by someone who asked, "Who is going to be Santa?"  Shawn, Yves, and Jessi all pointed at me.

I was hustled off into a back area, where I was promptly turned into one of the most unconvincing Santas of all time.  They put me in the red suit, a hat, black boots, a pillow for the belly, and the beard.  Then, they proceeded to paint my cheeks rosy and my eyebrows grey.  My only consolation was that at least Shawn was having to put on the elf suit.

When I walked out of the dressing area, Shawn, Yves, and Jessi all busted out laughing.  "Where's your elf suit?" I asked.

"Sorry, I lied," laughed Shawn. "You're the only one that has to dress up."

They sent us into a primarily hispanic neighborhood.  Most of the kids could speak English, but many of the parents could not.  The kids didn't know whether or not to call me "Mrs. Claus" or "Santa".  I could tell that the parents were torn between hilarity at how I looked and thanfulness for delivering the presents.

The suit was excrutiatinly hot; I was totally embarassed; but I had a wonderful time.  I will never forget the Christmas I was "Duped Into Playing Santa."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pet Health Tip #14- "Do dogs get dementia?"

As dogs age, they can develop symptoms similar to dementia in humans.  It is termed Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD.  Dogs with CCD can show a variety of symptoms.  These include forgetting how to do simple tasks such as how to climb stairs; or they may forget how to back up and get stuck in a corner.  Another common symptom is becoming fearful.  Because the dog is fearful, their personality can change causing them to growl or bite.  Many dogs will also develop a fear of the dark.  These dogs often pace restlessly at night.

There are medications available that will slow the progression of CCD, but similar to humans, there is no cure.  The best treatment is our understanding of these changes and doing the best we can to accommodate them.  For instance, if the dog has grown fearful, we can try to minimize the amount of stress in their lives.  One example, would be allow them a safe place to go if there are small children in the house.  If they have grown fearful of the dark, give them a nightlight.  Also, they will need patience and understanding for when they grow forgetful.

Geriatric dogs can be a challenge.  Our dogs give us unconditional love and the least we can do is give them our patience and understanding as they age.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pet Health Tip #13 - Canine Hip Dysplasia

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia is caused by the abnormal development of the hip joint.  The hip joint is a ball and socket joint.  The head (top) of the femur (long upper leg bone) is the ball and it sits in a socket (acetabulum) of the hip bone (os coxae).  The head of the femur is supposed to sit very snugly in the acetabulum.  It is allowed a rolling motion, but is NOT supposed to have a sliding motion. 

So, in a dog with Hip Dysplasia the ball (head of femur) is usually too small and the socket is too shallow.  This results in a "loose" joint.  In other words, instead of getting that snug fit, the joint has too much motion.  This can allow the joint to subluxate or "pop in and out".  Over time, this extra motion cause "wear and tear" on the joint and results in arthritis.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia is primarily the result of genetics.  That is why it is more common in certain breeds of dogs such as Labs and Rottweilers.  As the puppy ages, the joint doesn't develop correctly and results in Hip Dysplasia.

What are the Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?

It is often hard to diagnose Hip Dysplasia in really young puppies.  All puppies have pretty loose joints.  The question is whether they are going to develop normally or abnormally as the puppy grows.  However, by the time the puppy is about 6 months old, you will often start to see evidence of hip dysplasia.  The puppy may have a "rolling gate" where you can actually see the hip joint slipping when they walk.  This is often missed due to the fact that puppies are pretty resilient and will ignore the inconvenience of a slipping hip joint.

Typically, Hip Dysplasia is diagnosed once the dog has fully matured and the joint starts to break down.  The dog will have trouble rising, may cry out if their hips are pushed on, may have trouble maneuvering up stairs, or jumping into cars or onto the bed.

What Can I Do For My Dog if He Has Hip Dysplasia?

The only "cure" for Hip Dysplasia is hip replacement surgery.  As you can imagine, this is pretty expensive and only a few specialist will even perform the surgery.  The second best thing that you can do is make sure that you keep your dog fit.  The hip joint should NOT have to work overtime.  Obesity will cause the joint to break down much faster causing severe arthritis.  Mild forms of exercise such as swimming and walking will help keep the joint healthy.

There are several good medications for not only pain relief, but also to help keep the cartilage in the joint healthy. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Humerous Life Story #7- "My walk into Canada"

My husband and I were married 7 years ago.  For our honeymoon, we took a trip that started in NYC and moved its way up the east coast into Maine.  Our plan was to take a train from NYC to Boston and then rent a car to drive up into Maine.  The night before we were supposed to board the train, a bomb exploded on a train in London.  The news was filled with information about heightened security at the train stations and border crossings.  My husband and I were really concerned about getting on the train the next morning.

We showed up at the train station several hours before departure in anticipation of the heightened security.  However, much to our surprise, when we arrived at the station, there was no real security that we could see.  We just loaded up on the train and off we went.  We didn't have to show any identification or even have our baggage checked.  We got a pretty good laugh about that.

A few days later, we were in Maine and decided that we would go ahead and venture into Canada.  Basically, just to say that we were there.  When we arrived at the border town on the US side, we went into a visitor's center.  The employee told us that we could either drive into Canada or walk across a short bridge that spanned a small river.  He also informed us that we better have at least 2 forms of ID if we wanted to get back into the US once we crossed over.  At that time, no passport was required.

My husband and I decided that we would just walk across the bridge.  We didn't have that much time and really just wanted to take some pictures and look for souvenirs.  So, we headed across the bridge.  As we were approaching the Canadian shore, we saw a sign that instructed all pedestrians to enter the border patrol station in order to check in.  So, when we arrived, that is what we did. 

We walked into a small office and two Canadian Border Patrol officers were sitting behind a counter.  They glanced up and one of them asked, "What are you doing in here?"  He was obviously confused. 

I answered, "The sign on the bridge says that all pedestrians must check in at the border patrol station.  So, here we are."

He seemed even more confused as he asked, "You walked over here?"

My husband answered, "Yes."

The man asked, "Where is your car?"

"Still in the US," I answered.  I was now almost as confused as the border patrol officer seemed.

"What are you doing here?" asked the man.

"We just want to go into the souvenirs shop across the street," I answered.

"Well, okay. Go ahead," said the man.

"Don't you want to see some ID or anything?" asked my husband.

"No, that's okay," answered the man.

My husband and I walked out of the office completely confused by the conversation that we had just had.  Then we walked across the street and entered the souvenirs shop.  When we travel, I like to buy t-shirts and my husband likes to by coffee mugs.  We looked around the store that was filled with mostly tobacco and alcohol products.  I found one t-shirt that wasn't my size and we didn't see any coffee mugs.  So, my husband asked the woman that was sitting at the cash register, "Do you have any more t-shirts or any coffee mugs?"

She answered, "We may have something upstairs if you want to dig around up there."  She gestured toward a darkened staircase that was roped off.

I said quietly to my husband, "Never mind.  I don't want to go dig around up there."
The woman said, "Let me get Jim to take you up.  I'm sure we have some more stuff up there."  Before we could stop her, she called out to Jim.

Jim came up to us and my husband shrugged at me and said, "I guess we might as well go up."  And he turned to follow Jim to the base of the staircase.

I reluctantly followed along. I really did not want to go digging around in boxes in the attic of someone's shop just to get a t-shirt that said I had been to Canada.

When we got to the top of the stairs, Jim turned on the light and my husband and I were both shocked at the sight before us.  We were standing in a very large room filled with racks and racks of t-shirts.  There were beautiful curio cabinets filled with an assortment of coffee mugs.  We both glanced at each other in wide-eyed shock and busted out laughing.  We spent the next few minutes picking out our purchases.

When we went back downstairs to check out.   We had purchased one t-shirt and one coffee mug that were placed in a plastic bag.  Jim asked, "Where's your car?"

My husband answered, "In the US."

Jim looked at us in confusion and said, "How am I supposed to load the bag in your car?"

My husband answered, "We walked over here.  We will just carry it back."  Then he reached to take the bag from Jim.

Jim pulled the bag back and said, "I can't let you carry the bag.  I will have to carry it across the street to the US Border Patrol station.

"Seriously," I asked.  Thinking that the situation was getting more bazaar by the second and having a hard time not bursting out laughing.

"Yes," he answered seriously.  Then he added, "Follow me."

He walked out the store with the bag held high over his head.  He walked that way until we had crossed the street.  As we stood outside the border patrol office, he handed me the bag and said, "You have to show them this."  Then he turned and hurried back across the street and disappeared back inside the store.

My husband and I turned and walked into the US Border Patrol Station.  When we entered the station, the officer looked up and said, "What are you doing in here?"

I almost cracked up.  So, with a huge grin on my face, I answered, "Because, the guy from the store over there said we had to show you this." I held up the bag.

"Do you have any alcohol or tobacco in there?" the officer asked.

"No," I answered.

"Okay, you can go," said the officer.

My husband and I were both struggling to keep a straight face as we walked back out the door.  "Well, so much for 2 forms of ID and heightened security," my husband said dryly.

"I know.  They didn't even look in the bag," I answered

We both busted out laughing.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pet Health Tip #12- What are "Hot Spots"?

I thought that I would follow up my post on ear infections with some information on "hot spots" as these two issues are often caused by the same underlying problem.

What are "hot spots"?- A "hot spot" is basically a localized skin infection.  Typically the owner will notice an area of matted fur or a lesion that is oozing pus that appeared very suddenly.  The skin will be very red an inflamed. 

What causes "hot spots"?- "Hot spots" are localized bacterial skin infections usually caused by Staphylococcus spp.  Typically what happens is  the skin becomes inflamed and the bacteria that are normally found on the skin invade and cause an infection.

What causes the skin to become inflamed?- There are 3 common causes of the initial inflammation of the skin: 1) Moist skin- this is similar to the cause of ear infections.  The skin becomes moist (bath, swimming, heat).  If the dog has dense fur, then this area doesn't dry properly and the moist skin becomes inflamed allowing the bacterial invasion; 2) Fleas- The skin becomes inflamed from either the flea bites or the dog scratching; 3) Ear infections- Often times a hot spot will develop under the ear due to the either the dog digging at their ear or from the discharge coming out of the ear.

How do you treat "Hot spots"?- The main treatment is to allow the skin to dry.  This is accomplished by shaving the fur from around the lesion.  Once the fur is removed, then the air can circulated over the skin and dry it out.  The next thing is to thoroughly clean the area.  Most of the time the dog will also need oral antibiotics in order to heal the infection. 

"Hot spots" can spread very rapidly.  The are very painful and can cause nasty looking lesions.  It is very important that you get the "hot spot" taken care of as soon as you notice that it is there.