Sep 6, 2010

Home is where three paws meet cement

Day 10 - September 2nd

It's also where the ♥ is, of course. And the Castor...

After a short night's sleep, we awoke ready to tackle the day.

Ok, so that's me talking with my thinking-positive hat on. I was tired. And Castor, well, he was enjoying most of the bed. I slept better than you would think after seeing the room Cas left for me. (Yep, this is exactly how we slept. I had that space to the left of his bum. He's so generous, huh?)

I'm so happy to have this little bed hog still by my side, though.

Before adventures with Cas, it was time for me to teach yoga at Laughing Lotus. It was very healing to create a class designed around the theme of living in transitions. It was also healthy to focus on non-Castor beings for a couple of hours. Plus, I had everyone do a bunch of 3-legged dogs, in honor of my boy. Cute.

Afterward, I headed home. Time for stairs, cement, and hills. Bring it.

god me he's trained
There are commands Castor learned that I knew were important. "Sit," "stay," and "slow down" come to mind. Now, some are essential. Think: "go potty," "step," and "up." Perhaps the latter two need some explaining.

This January, after a trip to Santa Barbara during which Cas seemed trepidatious and rather clumsy, we went to see an eye doctor. He was diagnosed with progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The vet estimated he had about 10% vision left. It's gotten worse since, though his growly cuteness the other day (see last blog entry) proved to me he still sees something. Not much though.

You will notice that Castor's eyes are glowing bright green in his bath time picture. Rather than absorbing light, his retina reflect light. This had been going on for quite a while before I noticed him having trouble seeing. During a sunny day out, for him it's dark as night.

On the way home from the ophthalmologist, to help him see better in the house, we purchased several new lamps.

The next month, our electricity bill doubled.

And so, I officially became Castor's seeing eye human seven months ago. I had to train myself to be his guide. I still let him be off leash most of the time. He listens when I tell him slow down, wait, and over here. And he would never step into the street without me. How he knows he's reached the corner, I still don't know. I learned to pay close attention to him and his surroundings.

The important additions to our language became words for stepping up and down. I chose "up," for obvious reasons, and "step," because "down" was already taken. (I didn't want him to lay down at the end of a sidewalk, after all.) A few weeks later and with the addition of gentle tugs on his collar, it was impossible for most to notice he was nearly blind.

Except, of course, for those unfortunate few who he runs straight into at the dog run. They know. Zero serious injuries, so far. =)

With his new challenges, I am grateful that we've overcome the lack-of-sight obstacle. The biggest difficulty his vision presents now is that it's not easy for him to adjust to new environments. So, the idea of moving to a new place without stairs, for instance, is not without it's drawbacks. Also, the new ramp for my car is a very mixed bag for him (see: below).

All in all, I have never been so proud of myself for his training. It's one thing to show off a dog that won't beg at Holiday gatherings. It's another to support a highly adaptable, confident tripawd. Soon, we'll review and relearn "down dog," but for now, I'm letting him get used to hopping around. He's already got being adorable down.

(Note: Jen was invaluable during the first year of training. Without her mentorship, the inevitable and tiresome, "who's walking who?," questions would be justifiable.)

Down we go. On three...
Our Castro apartment comes complete with fantastic bay windows and is filled with beautiful things and thriving plants. Unfortunately, one must climb twelve marble stairs to enjoy it. This morning Castor had to find his way back down on three.

Thankfully, there were four sets of hands to help. If just for reassurance, Castor, and perhaps I, needed them. It went ok. We got him down safely, averting his first plan to jump down about six stairs in one giant leap.

Thank you hands! Along with hands, however, there were also four human mouths creating a bit too much audible chaos for the boy (and you, the viewer?). Hence my newly adopted only-meL-talks-to-Castor rule. This has been a successful dictatorial decision so far, if I do say so myself.

All teasing myself aside, it was just too much having everyone try to give Castor commands. He was frozen with confusion. He listens best to me and loves to please, so we all agreed it was the way to go. The stairs are getting easier and easier as we learn how best to help him.

Going down is easier on his rear legs and tougher on his fear of falling. When he climbs up, I try to take weight out of his rear leg. Hear wears a ruff ready harness now, so that we can lift some of his weight off of his joints. There's a delicate balance to find where we help but don't freak him out. He still has to feel grounded on his own three paws.

Gawd, a ramp too?!
We decided a ramp was the way to go for getting Cas into my car. The one we found, however, is only 17 inches wide. Not wide enough. He kept stepping off the side and usually ended up clawing his way to the top. You can check out the drama for yourself. This first time was actually not one of the worst attempts.

Still, I decided pretty quickly to ditch the ramp. I just park perpendicular to the street now, rear tires to the curb, and help lift his rear into the car. It's quicker, more familiar, and my beetle isn't too far up from the ground. The way out is even easier. I support his chest with my arms, and let him down easy. It's like giving him a big, arduous hug. No more ramp.

I will look for a wider ramp for times when we need something, but for everyday trips (i.e., the everyday trips to the park we'll be having now), it'll be a quick hop in and out.

The grass is always greener at the park
At least all of this effort was getting us somewhere fun. We ended up at Dolores Park. He was happy to be in grass again. We found a nice shady area to sit in. There was a sweet couple sitting nearby inquiring about Castor's situation and recovery (you can see them in the background of the picture to the right). Almost immediately, he demonstrated his ability to poop on three legs.

Yep. Rob even caught it on video by accident. Again, I'll spare you the images. They understood, of course, and we were all happy he went.

We spent some loving time in the ridiculously warm (for San Francisco) weather. Mom, Matt, Rob, Cas, and I breathing, laughing, and appreciating each other. Well, Castor didn't laugh so much as grunt. But I know that's his way of saying he's pleased.

After a couple of hours, we headed back. The adjusting is so much more pleasant surrounded by family.

At home, I gave Cas a long massage, and put an ice pack on his left hip. The swelling is gone. The bruising is gone. He is down to 50-100mg of tramadol once to twice daily, and almost over his 14 day Cephalexin course (antibiotics). I will take his staples out on Monday.

Time to start setting up the first chemo appointment. I still have to decide between VSA in San Mateo (pricey but sweet Dr.), UC Davis (cheaper and maybe some clinical trials), and a practice in Los Angeles (very far => more car rides => ugh).

I'm leaning towards UC Davis at this point. We're supposed to start 2-3 weeks post-op. Stay tuned.

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