Sunday, July 4, 2010

El Grande... Chico

El Grande Chico Perro...

The big little dog describes Chico in sooo many ways!
Chico Burrito!
Chico was born December 5th, 1998.
The very day after Snoopy passed away.
His parents Lil Bit & Peanut lived next door.

My neighbors were trying to sell the litter of pups, but unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for us, Chico was too big for his breed.

It seems, Chico's daddy, Peanut, was a little 4 pound pedigree Chihuahua who had a gene that came from his much larger ancestral breeds. Because of this larger dog gene, all the puppies he fathered were larger than officially acceptable by Chihuahua standards.

And so, my neighbors, having trouble selling the round little burrito of a pup with the Dino bark, brought the little fella here. A secondary benefit was they could watch him grow up.

Chico has very long legs and stands about a foot or more tall. His heaviest weight, and a little overweight unfortunately, was 29 pounds. When he became sick with diabetes, he dropped to as low as 16 pounds. He has yo-yo'd back and forth between 16 & 19 pounds since being diagnosed, but lately has evened out at a very round 19-20 pounds. His heftiness from birth has lead to the nicknames 'Chub Chub' and 'Chico Burrito'.

As for that Dino bark... well, think back to the Flinstones cartoon and Dino their dinosaur 'dog'. He barks just like him; so, he has also earned the nickname... Dino!

In August of 2007, Chico began showing symptoms of diabetes; however, due to the summer heat, we believed he was drinking more because of the hot, humid Texas summer. Because he was drinking more, he also was beginning to ask to go outside to urinate more. We again just attributed it to him drinking more because it was so hot. After all, it was August in Texas.

By the end of August, the excessive drinking & urinating really caught our attention. Chico was brought in to see his vet. He was officially diabetic.

He was started on Vetsulin. He was to begin getting injections, 'shots', of insulin 2x per day.

At first, he didn't fair to well. Later in the evening, after the first injection, which had been administered by his vet, he began vomiting, and lost his appetite and began showing other signs of ketoacidosis.

He was rushed to the emergency vet clinic some many miles away. They immediately checked his sugar/glucose levels and ran some other tests. The verdict: ketoacidosis. He began an IV of insulin to get his sugar/glucose levels under control. He spent the rest of the night at the emergency vet clinic. When Chico's vet reopened the next morning, he was rushed from the emergency vet clinic to his usual vet, who allowed Chico to come home.

Chico's vet admitted he only had one other diabetic patient, who was controlled. Chico's diabetes was extremely difficult to control leaving him dumbfounded as to how to handle it. The vet recommended we take Chico to a specialist. The specialist was, like the emergency vet clinic, some many miles away.

We took Chico to the specialist vet, who kept Chico for a day and night. Chico was fed, his sugar/glucose levels were monitored and he was given insulin during the day. After being brought somewhat under control, Chico was allowed to go home.

These first few months were quite daunting. We were sure Chico would not live through the next year. We were all but told that by our regular vet. We were told his sugar/glucose levels were never going to be under control because some dogs are difficult that way, and Chico was going to be one of the difficult ones.

By the time Chico's sugar/glucose levels again became a problem, we had switched vets. Chico's new vet, Dr Wendy Rhoads, seemed to have more experience with diabetic dogs, as she herself had a diabetic dog. In her eyes, Chico's diabetes should be under control. Dr. Rhoads worked at getting Chico's diabetes under control.

It has now been 3 years since Chico's diagnosis.
He has lost some of his hair, which has led to his need for a sweater on chilly nights when he goes outside.
His vision isn't what it used to be. He has difficulty seeing in the house when he just comes in from a bright outside. In the past several weeks, he has become a little more nervous outside at night leading him to go outside and just bark at whatever he hears.

All in all, we are very grateful to be enjoying his friendship 3 years into a diabetes diagnosis, in addition to, on December 5th of this year, his turning 12 years old.

The Guardian... Dusty Maverick

Are you a fan of the TV show Maverick? Maverick is!

Maverick is named for the character Maverick.
Since Bart & Bret were already used, he wanted a really cool name; so, because of his coloring, he decided on Dusty. Besides, Dusty sounds like a good ol' western name!

Maverick is not named for the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, as most people assume when they meet him.

Maverick is believed to have at least Border Collie and Great Pyrenees in him, but we all know now what a critter looks like may not be what they truly are.

As to the title of this post, Maverick is the guardian of everything. If you have seen the cartoon of the Old English Sheepdog & the wolf, you will know what I mean. The two go to work, punch their time cards and begin their day. The Old English Sheepdog sits in his stoic guard dog position. The wolf dresses like a sheep and tries various ways to sneak in amongst the herd and steal a sheep. Well, as you can see by Maverick's pic, he sits and he guards. In his younger days, he could sit like this for quite some time. We have built in benches on the deck, just behind him in this pic, where he usually sits and watches. It's all he does. Inside, he will lay in doorways where he can see most of the house at once or with the turn of his head.

If you've ever wondered what happens to the "Wal-mart dogs", wonder no more. What? You don't know what a "Wal-mart dog" is? Well, you know those folks that sit in the parking lot with a crate or box full of puppies and a sign: "puppies for sale". We've all seen them. They look real cute, but who would get a dog from these people?

Well, according to the old man who had Maverick, he did. Here's how I came by Maverick.

In December of 2000, an old man, as I am told, had his van towed to the shop my brother worked at as a mechanic.
Because he had no where to stay, they took him to a shelter. The shelter would not take the man's new 6 week old puppy he just got in the Wal-mart parking lot; so, the man left the puppy in the van.
The owner of the shop took him home the first night. My brother brought him here the second night.
I was to take care of him until the man's van was fixed. It turns out the van was not fixable. The man was told.
He did not show up to claim the puppy.
About two months or more later, the man finally came back tot he shop with a very small car. He asked the guys at the shop for his puppy, the one he left in the van and never once called about or checked on.
Because the man never came by for the puppy, never inquired about the puppy for so many months, they tried to talk the man out of taking the puppy back. At first, the man refused, but the guys offered him $50, which is, from what I understand, what he paid for the puppy. He agreed, took the $50 and left.

Of course, hind-site being 20/20, this was probably for the best.

Maverick has a long double coat which requires extensive grooming and clipping to keep it well managed during the summer time in Texas. The cutting also helps keep him cool, as it takes the heavy weight off of him, as well as keeps hot spots to a minimum. He has allergies to almost everything he touches from grasses and weeds to ragweed and cedar pollen. He has chronic yeast infections in his ears because they flop to close to his head. He has had an ear resection in both ears to try to open his ears a bit more to allow more air flow, but this did not work. Yeast infections are caused by moisture in enclosed areas that are constantly warm. Because Maverick is always hot with all his hair in Texas, dampness sets in and yeast infections soon follow. Rainy season is the worst. He also, from time to time, gets yeast infections between his toes and has been on medication to eliminate the infections. He has joint issues in his knees, as he suffers from ACL, anterior cruciate ligament, problems. This is a problem more well known to athletes. It can be helped with dogs, but it has to be done when the injury occurs. If you wait, the injury leads to arthritis and cannot be corrected properly or with good results.

Maverick is tri-colored being mostly white with tan and black markings. He has chocolate brown eyes, and he knows how to use them to get what he wants. He self-taught himself to shake hands. When he wants you to not make him do something or you are mad at him, he will try to shake your hand, as if to plea with you to stop forcing him to do what he doesn't want to do or to please forgive him and not be mad at him anymore. It is heart-melting! Gotta love him; he's a real sweetheart!

The Lady... Tiffany

How do you catch a stray dog?
Some simply call it to them.
Some use a trap.
Some offer food.

When my brother & his co-workers at an auto repair shop saw Tiffany, they offered her food. Hamburgers, I think. She refused, as her trust in humans was non-existent. She would only run and grab the food when they were not nearby. She then ate it under nearby cedar trees.

Finally, after weeks of trying, on January 26, 2002, she cautiously approached and ate the food they offered while they were there leading to their catching her.

When she was brought to the vet, she tested positive for heartworm.
She was immediately put on a heartworm treatment program to kill the heartworm.
The heartworm treatment takes some time and offers no promises.
Tiffany was lucky. She survived her heartworm ordeal.

The vet guessed her to be about 2 years old and obviously a mother, at least once.

Her breed was a whole other story.
People have speculated about what she is from the first time anyone laid eyes on her.
The obvious, a Finnish Spitz, probably means she doesn't have an ounce of it in her, as I later found out with another new addition, a kitten now named Bonnie. You'll just have to come back to read about her and why I now know... just because a critter looks like a specific breed doesn't mean it is!

Some believe, because she has one small black spot on her tongue and her red color can only mean she has Chow Chow in her.

Her foxy appearance also leads one to make the assumption she is a coy-dog, coyote dog mix. I am not so sure about this, as I have heard you can not have a coyote or a coy-dog with cats. Coyotes & cats are supposedly mortal enemies because you cannot stop a coyote from thinking of a cat as prey. Well, Tiffany absolutely loves cats. So much so, she thinks she can mother the kittens and play with all of them. Her favorites are Punkin, Dusty (not yet bio-ed here) and the newest addition, Bonnie (also not yet bio-ed here).

Another guess is possibly something along the lines of a Sheltie.

After knowing the parents of Bonnie and seeing what pure breed she appears to be, I would be curious to know the parentage of each of the critters, as I have often wondered "what's in them"!
To know just what I am speaking of, you will just have to keep checking back for when I get little Bonnie listed. I can say this, she is the newest member of The Critter Gang and there are 5 critters in front of her waiting for their bio's.

As for Tiffany, she has made some social improvements, but I don't get to give her a lot of one on one with so many critters. She does walk a little on a leash, but she still panics near parked cars causing her to try to scoot under them to hide. She is still very skittish with noises and unexplained things. She has improved on her human contact though. A huge improvement, as she will actually come out to visit with people who come over. She still has a hard time on linoleum floors. She has learned how to take a treat (human food) from a fork.

The Second Miracle... Pearl Ann

A little more than a year after the first miracle a second miracle landed right in front of my truck on May 30, 2002.

On that day, I was headed home from work on the same US Hwy I scooped Amber up on.
I was a little closer to town though this time.

As I just entered town, a small kitten, about 7-8 wks old, bounced off the driver's door of a truck going the opposite direction. My first thought was "I can't believe this person just threw this kitten out the driver's window in front of me".

Dumbfounded, I have played that scene over and over in head year after year.

I quickly pulled over and stopped. Almost without looking, I ran out to the center of the road to try to catch this little kitten. She, obviously, was in no mood to be caught and plopped back into another truck.

As I, bent over, chased this little kitten all about the road's center stripe, I unwittingly had stopped traffic into town... 2, 3 and at least 4 cars just going into town and at least one leaving town. After what seemed like forever, I finally caught the little kitten.

I got back in the truck, placed her in my lap and drove home.

She didn't appear to have any injuries, but I made an appt with my vet to check her out.
She was fine.

Whenever I tell this story, the usual response from people is "did you report the guy?"
Well, um... no, I did not. I don' t even know if the person was a man or a woman.
I barely knew what color the truck was. I only know it was white because it was coming in the opposite direction, and I had a good long time to see the color. No I did not stop to get the plate number. I was locked in on "get the kitten out of the middle of the road before someone comes and runs it over". It was my top priority. Dealing with the other driver was not. Besides, how would I prove what I just saw?

The other question I get is "how do you know the person threw the cat out the window?"
I, too, have often asked myself this question, thinking maybe I was wrong.

Here's the conclusion I reached as to how I am not wrong...

1. Pearl was 7-8 wks old... approx. 2 mos old.
2. I saw her bounce off the driver's door?
3. If she was already on the ground, how did I see her bounce off the driver's door?
4. If she was already on the ground and was hit, how could she bounce high enough off the ground to hit the driver's door?
5. Critters don't bounce.
6. If she was already on the ground and was hit, she would have been run over and died. She was 2 mos old.
7. Maybe she jumped out the window. If she jumped out the window because the driver was holding her, wouldn't the driver stop and pick her up? Seriously, I would.

So, the only explanation I can understand is she was thrown from the truck.

When I tell this story, I met with total disbelief. People always reply "I have heard of that happening but never knew it actually did happen."

I often have thought I should have spelled her name Purrl, but I spelled it Pearl in honor of Minnie Pearl, of whom I was and am a huge fan.
Pearl is a silver, tan & white Tabico, Tabby/Calico, leaning more toward the Calico.
She has large round green eyes.
She has been such a sweetheart of a miracle.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The First Miracle... Amber Lynn

February 6, 2001 was a devastating day for Amber, but also the day she experienced a miracle, as did we!
She was about 6 mos old when she was struck by a car on US Hwy 56 heading out of town.
Amber is a pale peach Tabby with white markings and light green eyes.
Obviously, her name comes from her color.

Living in a rural area has its ups and downs. One down is the constant reminder that humans often move in on rural critters... spring doesn't just bring forth flowers. Spring also brings forth young critters who cannot judge the speed of an oncoming vehicle. Many critters lives are ended on the roadside of our rural roads, highways and byways. Some get used to it, some don't see it... I always see them. I always say a prayer for each one of them.

On this particular day, we were on our way out of town headed to the vet to pick up Ashley, who had just been spayed. As usual, I noticed this little pale red Tabby lying in the shoulder of the road. It broke my heart to see her there. As we passed her, I looked over at her. In a rather animated motion, she lifted her head and turned it my way, as if to say "please, help me; don't leave me here." I screamed "stop, back up, turn around! It's alive!"

We turned around and headed back to where she lay. I always keep old sheets in the car to cover the seats when it's been raining and the dogs are muddy. I grabbed one of the sheets and ran to her. I scooped her up off the ground with no fear of her biting or scratching me. Jumping back into the car, we sped off to the vet.

She was bleeding from her mouth and her rear; so, we figured she would not make it. How could she? She was hit by a car. It was surprising she was still alive at all, really.

When we arrived at the vet, she was in shock. They took her to the back and started her on fluids. After a quick exam, it was discovered her tail/back bone was broken just above the base of the tail. They kept her on fluids for a couple days, as she could not handle surgery yet. When she was strong enough for surgery, her tail was removed. Further exam proved her only injuries were the broken tail/back bone, some missing front teeth, a tiny notch in her ear that soon fell off as it was covered in tar.

$200+ later, she had survived... a real miracle!
It would be the first miracle.

Years later, we found she had also suffered an injury to one of her eyes, as her pupils are no longer the same size. One eye does not see as well as the other. As one eye reacts normally to light becoming smaller, the other does not.

Today, she is a loving, affectionate kitty. She may not see all that well, but she is a good bug catcher. Her balance & jumping is a little off because of her eyes and the lack of a tail. Her rear where the break actually happened is still a little sensitive. She is a true blessing.

The Five Kittens

Carmel Taffy, Tammy Sue, Ted E Bear "Teddy", Silver Mittens, Frosty Punkin

These 5 kittens will be forever known as "The Five Kittens".
They were born March 20, 2000.

My cousin accidentally ran over their mother, a Siamese mix, when the kittens were about 2 wks old.
Their father was a stray Tabby.

When my cousin decided to leave her husband quite quickly, our aunt, not her mother, told her she could not leave the kittens for fear her husband would do harm to them. She suggested putting them in a laundry basket and bringing them to me, as she knew I would take care of pretty much anything. Boy, way she right!

No sooner I laid eyes on these little 2 wk old kittens, I had fallen in love with them. They had names within the week! And, everyone knows... once you name'em, they're yours forever!

Because of their age, they had to be bottle fed. There was little sleep during this time, but the time seemed to speed by. In almost no time at all, they were being weened off the bottle and starting kitten food.

Unfortunately, in 2008, Mittens was the first of The Five Kittens to become seriously ill and pass away.
She is buried in the St Francis Paws4Critters Cemetery out behind the dogs' fenced in yard.

Here is a brief description of each of The Five Kittens...

Carmel Taffy
Taffy is a carmel colored Tabby with black tips and gorgeous green eyes. She looks like a smaller version of her sister, Mittens. She has the Siamese build, as she is the smallest of the group and barely weighs in at 9-10 pounds. She is the talker of the group... and the house. She will have a conversation with herself if no one else is inclined to listen! She loves dogs and will use them as a ladder to get where she wants. I have a photo of her "riding" on Hershey's back. Although her name is Carmel Taffy, she answers to Taffy, Taff & Taffarini (I have no idea if she has any Italian in her, but I do!)

Tammy Sue
Tammy Sue is a silver Tabby Siamese with beautiful blue eyes. She is the only one of the group that is cross-eyed. She doesn't let it bother her, as she is one of the best bug hunters. She takes after the Tabby with her build and is a fairly large cat at about 14 pounds.

Ted E Bear "Teddy"
Teddy is a Blue Point Siamese with some Tabby markings, albeit very slight markings.
He has the typical Siamese slim build with beautiful blue eyes against his silvery gray color offset by some white on his chest and toes. He loves the ladies even though he is neutered. He is affectionate and clingy. He suffers from separation anxiety when left without human companionship and will follow you everywhere once you return, making sure your attention is on him, and only him. In general, he is very shy around other people.
Teddy occasionally suffers from Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). This is a crystallization of urine in his urinary tract. These crystals can cause a blockage, which is extremely dangerous. The condition needs to be monitored and owners need to be aware of the symptoms. When symptoms occur, action must be taken immediately to rectify the problem. The number one symptom is difficulty urinating or not urinating at all. In Teddy's case, when I begin to realize he is having trouble urinating, I start him on vitamin C. He gets 1/4 of a 500mg chewable vitamin C tablet crushed and blended into his can food 2x's per day.The vitamin C helps his urine be more acidic. Interestingly, Teddy likes the watermelon flavored vitamin C. I give him the vitamin C in his food until he becomes fussy with eating his food with it in it, usually about 2 weeks.

For more info on FLUTD, please click here: The Pet Health Library

Frosty Punkin
Frosty for his icy blue eyes. Punkin because I was trying to grow Lumina Pumpkins the previous year, and then again the year he was born. Never did get them pumpkins to grow, but Punkin, boy did he ever grow! Weighing in at a hefty 26 pounds, he is the heaviest of The Five Kittens! Punkin is a Fire, Flame or Red Point Siamese with reverse Tabby markings. Reverse because he is white to cream with orange Tabby stripes, which are becoming darker as he gets older. He was the largest kitten and he never stopped growing. Taking after the Tabby build, his fiery points and killer icy blue eyes are the only hint at his Siamese background.
Because of his sister, Mittens, and Misty, who I spoke of in another post, I am leery of putting him on a diet, for fear of him losing too much too fast and turning his liver to fat. I have asked 2 vets how I could get him to lose weight safely. Both vets expressed the same concern as I do. Fatty liver disease in cats is extremely dangerous and putting him through losing the weight is not worth the alternative... death from fatty liver disease.
He does have a health issue because of his weight, and it must be kept under control. He has chronic constipation. Because he is so large and because he has never been that active a cat even when he was younger, he does not have regular bowel movements. When this occurs, it builds and builds in their bodies. The longer it sits; the harder it gets because of lack of water/moisture/fluid. This causes constipation. When he finally has the feeling to go, he can't. The first time it happened, the vet explained to us how to give him an enema. We use generic water-based enemas equal to Fleet brand. He gets 1/2 the bottle at one time and then wait. Sometimes, it takes 3 enemas. We know keep enemas on hand at all times as part of critter maintenance. In addition, he has been prescribed lactulose. This liquid draws fluid into the intestines and keeps his poo soft; so, he does not become constipated. It does work, and thank God he is not diabetic or lactose intolerant, as it is related to the milk sugar, lactose.
Recently, he once again had a severe constipation. I, again, took him to one of my vets. She took x-rays to make sure he did not have another condition, megacolon, which is another very serious condition. He did not have megacolon. I discussed what I could possibly do more than I already was with the vet. I told her he primarily eats dry cat food, but I have been trying to get him to eat more canned cat food. She said if he will not eat just canned cat food; then, he needed more fluid intake and more fiber. She suggested using a syringe filled with water several times per day to get him to drink more.
This is because he has an issue with water. I do not know if he knows how to drink, as he paws at the water to spill some out on the floor. He, then, drinks off the floor. I have a plastic tray under the water now because of it. It seems he copied Gizzy, who I already posted, with his drinking. Gizzy used to drink by pawing at the water, as he was used to having the old Coke bottle waterers, where you have a bowl that fits a Coke bottle upside down in it. It releases water as the bowl empties. Gizzy knew the water in the bottle was fresher; so, he would paw at the bottle opening to get the water to come out, and he would only drink from near the bottle opening. Towards the end of Gizzy's life, he didn't have that style water bowl either, but he continued to paw at the bowl. In addition, his eyes were starting to fail him; so, he couldn't see the water as well. I have a feeling Punkin copied his pawing without realizing what he was doing, as Punkin never had that type of water bowl. I suppose, with his blue eyes, Punkin may have difficulty seeing the water, as well.
Anyway, I didn't end up needing to give him water with a syringe, which is a good thing. I don't think he would have liked that! I leave a bowl in the sink now, and he drinks from it. If he paws at it, it just goes down the drain. I use to flavor his water with the gravy you can buy to add to the food to make it enticing, but it got old quick. I did switch his food. I searched and read many, many food labels. I found Blue Buffalo makes a "Healthy Weight" food that is high in fiber. It is the highest in fiber I could find. And believe me, I read a lot of labels to find out! It comes in an orange bag. I told my vet and wrote the brand and name of the food down for her because she had another cat with the same problem.

Silver Mittens
Silver Mittens was a black and tan tabby with white markings on her feet, chest and belly and silver tipped hair. She had gorgeous green eyes. She was the second largest of the kittens weighing in at about 16 pounds. She had markings around her eyes that made her appear to be wearing eye liner. When she looked at you, she always gave you her bedroom eyes. She had a very sweet personality.
One day, I noticed she began eating a little less than normal. Over the next several days, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary except her eating less. Within the week, she went from eating less to not eating at all. I scheduled an appt with the vet.
The vet thought maybe she had a bug and gave me some amoxicillin. I tried to hand feed her to make sure she ate. Nothing. I called the vet again in a couple days to let them know there was no improvement.
They had me bring her back to run some blood work. Her red blood count was almost non-existent. Seriously. He should be the test tube with her blood separated. There may have been a small drop of red cells at the very bottom of the tube. He said she was extremely anemic. Well, that was obvious. He suggested cancer, but before we had a chance to figure that out for sure, we had a secondary disease take hold... cirrhosis of the liver, better known in kitty world as fatty liver disease. He ran some more tests for Feline AIDS and Feline Leukemia. All the tests came back negative.

We were now trying to figure out what was wrong with her and had to deal with the fatty liver disease. We knew this illness... Misty passed away from it. I knew I didn't have much time. Misty died within 2 weeks.

I desperately tried to get Mittens to eat while trying to figure out what made her sick in the first place. I never did find out what she became ill with, but as I said, it is believed she probably had cancer.

I said when Misty passed away from this dreaded disease, I would never let another critter suffer like she did. I was beside myself. I still couldn't bring myself to have Mittens euthanized. I prayed for guidance. I prayed, I prayed and I prayed. As a last ditch effort, I brought Mittens to another vet for a second opinion. When they examined her, they, too, came to the conclusion it was probably cancer, but in her condition... about 2 weeks into fatty liver disease, there was nothing they could do. They said they could only recommend euthanization. I said I would have to think about it. I cradled her in my arms and brought her home. I spent all afternoon and evening with her. She stayed close, but she was restless. She wanted to lay on the floor; so, I let her. I laid down beside her. She hardly meowed at all. A couple times she may have whimpered a little, if a cat can whimper. I curled up beside her, and she beside me. We stayed like that until just after 11pm when she finally drew her last breath. Her body went limp and she passed away.

The first of The Five Kittens was gone... Mittens passed away May 19th, 2008 at a little after 11pm.

Her death changed everything.

I no longer rely on one vet. I no longer wait to see if they get better.
When any of the cats stop eating, I give them 1 day. On the 2nd day, they go to the vet.
I always have more than one vet. I do not rely on one to "fit" them in. I will keep calling vets until I find one who will see!

For more on Fatty Liver Disease, please click here

I will try to post some info on this topic soon.