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Neglect

October 26, 2011 Fido, Fun No Comments

The blog has been neglected lately.

I blame the children. And the dogs.

Seriously. Those of you who know me in real life (as opposed to the exciting life I lead on the internet – that’s a joke, MOM) know that I have taken on some part-time work caring for other people’s children and dogs. It seems I’m quite good at it, as I get calls almost daily with a request to come back. Also, children cry when it’s time for me to go home. I think this is a good sign.

I enjoy watching other people’s children. The best part is giving them back at the end of the day.

I also enjoy watching other people’s dogs. But it makes me wish I had my own. This guy left us too soon.

Stay tuned for greater regularity here at the F-Spot. I think I’m finally figuring out a way to make it all happen.

How do you squeeze in your hobbies on top of everything else going on in your life? 

Argus The Dog: 10/15/05 – 7/29/11

August 5, 2011 Family, Fido 1 Comment

Argus left this world with a howl on Friday July 29, 2011. Diagnosed with bone cancer in October 2010, Argus fought hard until the very end and never lost his sense of humor — he snagged a piece of fresh salmon off the dining room table the night before he died.

Argus’ early life was fraught with peril. Rescued by a shelter in Woodland, CA, “Tad” had already suffered a broken leg by the time he was three months old. Just as he was getting used to his new name and home in San Mateo, Argus contracted a mild case of parvo and fought bravely to overcome it. There were numerous other near-death experiences during his puppyhood, often triggered by his own misbehavior. It was joked that he was just one poo-rolling incident away from an early demise. He was famous for escaping from the back yard and splashing around in the nearby creek, choosing to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.

In adolescence, Argus developed characteristics of the breed his trainers believe he was partially descended from — Anatolian Shepherd. With acute hearing, exceptional eyesight, and the strength to take down wolves, horses, and even lions, the Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a superb guardian of his flock. Argus took his role of guarding his flock very seriously, lovingly earning him the nickname “Killer” by friends. He loved adults and children of all ages, but did not take kindly to dogs he felt were a threat to his territory.

Most notably, Argus was an adventurous dog and enjoyed exploring new places with his people:

Tahoe!

The Beach!

Yosemite!

Camping!

Hiking!

Kayaking!

Stand-up Paddling!

He mostly just wanted to be along for the ride…

Argus is survived by his adoptive parents, Greg and Molly, and numerous friends — both human and canine — who will miss his stoic charm and unconditional love.

Farewell, Good Boy

August 1, 2011 Family, Fido 3 Comments

Twelve hours before the gun went off for my Half Ironman on Saturday morning, Argus took his last breath on this earth.

Here he is a couple of hours before that, relaxing with us along the Russian River:

We’re heartbroken, but relieved he is no longer in pain.

There is much more to say. But for now, this sums it up: we miss our good boy.

Minor Surgery

July 15, 2011 Fido 3 Comments

Argus had the tumor on his chest removed today. It just wouldn’t stop bleeding.While we certainly didn’t want to put Argus through more than he’s already suffered, we were having to change the bandages every couple of hours and it wasn’t going to get any better.

A lot of blood (his) and a lot of tears (mine) were shed yesterday.

Dr. Sutter was able to mildly sedate him and use a local anesthetic for the procedure. He suspects the tumor was a kind of hemangioma, which may or may not be cancerous (but probably is). He was not expecting so many blood vessels feeding the tumor and remarked about the number of clamps he had to use as well as the significant blood loss. Argus walked out of there looking like quite the wounded soldier — blood spatters everywhere and glazed eyes.

We’re happy to have him home with us again. His appetite seems good and he’s resting comfortably.


Duct Tape Use #432

July 13, 2011 Fido 3 Comments

The tumor on Argus’ neck/throat has reached critical mass. I woke up to a bloody damn mess yesterday — literally. I will spare you the pictures.

We were just at the vet on Monday to see if there’s anything we can do about it (like remove it), but Dr. Sutter is worried about the can of worms he might be cutting into if he takes off the small section that’s bleeding. Based on the smell emanating from the wound, I think he’s right…

As you can imagine, it’s hard to get a Band-Aid to stick on a furry dog…but duct tape does the trick. It actually does it little too well; he flinches when I remove it to change the bandages. We’re also trying a styptic powder to help stop the bleeding, though I am pretty sure this wound is too big for what it’s intended for. I changed the dressing three times yesterday and it was soaked through each time. This is far worse than cutting a toenail past the quick…

No fun, my friends. No fun at all.

He still looks handsome as ever, though. I think we’ll be seeing more duct tape in the fashion scene this fall.

My Good Boy

July 12, 2011 Fido 3 Comments

I love this guy. I’m so sad that the end is near.

Perspective from 245 Feet (and WWW: June 19)

June 27, 2011 Family, Fear, Friends 2 Comments

Last week’s excitement was the would-be jumper on the Golden Gate Bridge. The GREAT news is that he didn’t end up jumping! Several friends have sent me links to news stories that ran about this man and another person who was talked down on Wednesday. What a relief!

I promise I won’t go on and on about this incident beyond today, but the dichotomy between me and a fellow human being was just so stark. Thanks to all of you who have reached out via email, blog comments, on Facebook and Twitter, and over wine. I suppose that level of support adds to the dichotomy… which is where I’ll pick this back up.

Most days, I have the luxury of waking up roughly 9 hours after I went to bed. For the last week or so, there has even been sunshine streaming through my windows. Have you heard? I love sunshine! Thursday was one of those days where I woke up — and STAYED — grateful for the wonderful life I live. I knew I had a long run in front of me. I knew it would be the longest distance I had run since the Big Sur Half Marathon and the longest distance I would run before Barb’s Race.

But I couldn’t be bothered to let this run loom over me and bring me down. I drove to San Francisco, fighting traffic to get to the Marina Green, parked my car, and set out. If you’ve done anything like participate in endurance events (long distances could mean 4 miles if you’ve never run beyond a 5K before!) or suffered from an injury, you know that the battle is at least as much mental as it is physical. It’s best to start off with positive thoughts and let them snowball. The worst thing you can do — AND I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE — is start off in a negative frame of mind. So I was out there with the feel-good vibes going right from the get-go, and they were sincere!

What a beautiful day!

I am so fortunate to get to run in such a beautiful place!

Hell, who am I kidding? I’m so fortunate that I can walk without a limp!

I’m meeting with someone about a Big Idea after this. How exciting!

I love having a lemon tree in my backyard. Every time a recipe calls for lemon juice, this is such a blessing.

I have such good friends. I saw friends Tuesday night and I’m supposed to meet up with more friends tonight at a free concert in the park. There will be wine.

I realize my car is 15 years old, but I love it when we get 10 convertible-perfect days in a row. And it’s paid for!

I am so lucky my skin deals with sun exposure well.

I can’t believe Argus has lived almost two months longer than the doctors predicted, and he isn’t showing signs of nearing The End yet.

Ooooh, looky! The Golden Gate Bridge!

Admittedly, the mind wanders a bit during a long run, but I was really feeling good about how the run was going (despite the hills and getting lost in the Presidio construction mess) and life in general. I was excited about running across the bridge for the first time and let the good times roll all the way there… and almost all the way back.

Having another human being almost take his life right in front of you will really put a damper on things.

When the police officer told me to keep on running, I did. But I couldn’t keep my brain from going right back to the situation, wondering what I could have/should have/would have done differently. There was also the incredulous almost “giddiness” (and I feel terrible saying that) about having witnessed something so raw. A la, “My friends are never going to believe this!” And that made me feel bad. I was nothing more than a rubber-necker at that point (although I had more couth than to take pictures, like the tourists had…).

I went from being really high to being really low in a matter of about 90 seconds.

But even so, I was nowhere near as low as that man was. And I never have been. I am sure it’s a combination of a lot of things — a great support network of family and friends, an ability to put things in perspective, a love for (but not addiction to) wine as a means to take the edge off,  an optimist’s disposition. Hell, maybe it’s just a fear of missing out on something when I’m gone! Honestly, I don’t know what separates me from people who have the courage (some call it cowardice) to take their own lives.

I got home from my meeting that afternoon and canceled my plans to meet friends at the free concert in the park. Greg was mountain biking with his buddies and I was relishing the alone time in my house, thinking about the events of the day. I found myself even more grateful for all the things I had been thinking about.  And for even smaller things, like how pleased I am that I cleaned out my refrigerator last week and that the shelves are still shiny.

I rode my bike across the Golden Gate on Saturday. It was much busier with tourists, which made it more miserable (in that sense) than Thursday had been. I kept my eye out for anyone suspicious-looking, but mostly did my best to remain considerate of others taking in the majesty of the bridge and its views. I made a commitment to myself to do a better job of living among a population of people who may not have such a positive outlook on things. They are the ones that need a smile or a dose of patience the most.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 1500-yard swim

Monday – 21-mile bike ride (first time with aero bars!)

Tuesday – 5 mile run

Wednesday – 90-min bike ride with 45 mins climbing

Thursday –  11.5 mile run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 67-mile bike ride

Good Days and Bad Days

June 15, 2011 Fido 4 Comments

Like most cancer patients, Argus has good days and bad days. For a long time now, the good days have outnumbered the bad though we may be reaching the point of diminishing returns on that. Since he can’t talk, it’s hard to tell how he’s feeling. We hope to get a dog that talks next time…

External Changes
The lumps and bumps are hard to overlook. The one on his neck — the very one that came back as dead cells when the doctors tested it in Davis — is growing seemingly as we watch. Whether these cells are cancerous or not, they are alive and well!

He also has a large mass on his back. This one is different than the one on his neck. It’s harder than the one on his neck and much larger. The one on the neck seems to be a soft mass and this one is hard. Maybe it’s a bone tumor?

Finally, we can’t deny that there is another bone tumor on his remaining front paw. He licks this paw often (more than just grooming) and it’s very clear to us he is in more pain. Dogs carry 60-70% of their body weight in their front paws, and Argus now only has the one in front to carry his ~80-pound load. He is much more selective about which events are important enough to come down the deck stairs out back (neither Greg nor me coming home makes the list) and his walks are shorter. We’ve got him on 30 mg of prednisone at this point, given to him in one dose with his breakfast. Dr. Sutter has assured us we can’t OD him on the prednisone, so we feel like we can give him more if/when it appears he needs it. We started at 5 mg back in March and have ticked it up along the way.

Internal Changes
His breathing has been pretty steady up to this point. When we met with Dr. Martin in April, she recommended we take a baseline measurement of his breaths per minute when sleeping soundly. At that point, it was 9 breaths per minute. His sound sleeping is still consistent, but he is coughing more often and more things trigger coughing. This could be a result of the lump(s) they found on his lungs or perhaps the one on his neck is affecting his windpipe.

One example: he loves to bark at the mail person each morning until she gives him his well-earned three treats. The barking now results in a coughing fit every time. The same thing happens when he barks at the raccoons at night. Also, he will get into a play stance to instigate one of us to play with him, but as soon as he makes a sudden movement to be chased, he starts coughing. It sounds and looks like he’s trying to hack something up, but nothing (thankfully) ever comes.

His spirits still seem good and his appetite has certainly not waned (though we know this is also a side effect from the steroids). He is interested in going out each afternoon and enjoys being around us when we’re going about our day around the house. I took all the above photos Tuesday evening when we went over to the lagoon for a paddle and he was game to tag along.

Around The House
His favorite spot used to be on the couch, but he never gets up there anymore. Even when I lift him up there to snuggle with me, he quickly jumps back down. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of him from a couple of years ago:

The next best spot was the overstuffed chair and he rarely gets up there anymore. It seems that he can’t get comfortable when he’s folded up, which used to be his normal sleeping position. I haven’t see him curled into a ball in at least a month. This picture was taken immediately after surgery; I couldn’t believe he got up there unassisted:

He has found a comfortable spot on the guest bed and he gets himself fully spread out when he lays there. My desk is in the guest bedroom, which means we spend a lot of time together during the day. While we miss him at the foot of our bed each night, we’re grateful he has found a place where he can get the rest he needs. Luckily, our overnight guests have been happy to share the bed with him!

The heartbreaking thing, of course, is that we don’t know how long we have with him or what will end up being the last straw. Will it be his own breathing? Or will we have to make that awful decision that the pain is too much? Of course, our hope is that he goes to sleep one night and just doesn’t wake up…but we are not fooling ourselves to believe it will be that easy — for him or for us. We continue to live in the moment with him and be thankful for each good day we have with him.

Argus Update: Still Going Strong!

May 12, 2011 Fido 2 Comments

Our last appointment with Argus was on March 9. That was the fateful day we learned the cancer had spread and we stopped the conventional treatment. The doctors told us that we could expect somewhere around two months with him. Their advice was to feed him as many hamburgers and ice cream as we can. *sigh* We are definitely being more lenient with the people food he gets, and we have continued with the homemade diet and myriad supplements that are [hopefully] slowing the cancer’s progress.

In April, we met with a “Wise and Wonderful” mobile vet, Dr. Martin, who will likely do the euthanization when the time comes. She came to the house to meet us all and did a full examination on Argus while she was here. Her assessment was this: “If you hadn’t told me Argus was sick, I wouldn’t have guessed it from the exam.” We were thrilled to learn that his lungs sounded good and his heart rate was well within the normal ranges, meaning he’s not in stress or pain.

Since that meeting about a month ago, there have been a couple of setbacks. He has begun coughing, but not every day. He can usually get it under control within a minute and the episodes don’t happen more than twice a day when they happen. He also seems to be in more pain. I think there is another bone tumor in his remaining front paw, based on the way he favors it similarly to what he was doing with the left one. Also, he isn’t interested in walking long distances. He wants to get out of the house, but is happy to sit down quickly in the car and at our destination. He gives stairs a second look before going down them — it may be time for the ramp again. Even so, I don’t believe that my dog is going to drop dead any day now. Maybe it happens that fast, but I don’t feel like he’s on his last leg (ha).

Here’s a day in the life:

6:15 AM – BREAKFAST
1/2 c cottage cheese + 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
4-5 oz homemade dog food with the following mixed in:
1 scoop DiGuPi
1 scoop wheat grass powder
1 teaspoon canine digestive enzymes
A few squirts of fish oil
3 krill oil tablets
10 mg prednisone
A little hot water to mix it all up

10 AM – SNACK
1/2 scoop vanilla ice cream with 4 Apocaps hidden in it

10:30 AM – USPS TREAT FEST
The mail carrier brings him three treats every day. He barks at her incessantly if she tries to get away with anything less than three treats.

1:00 PM – IMMUNITY BOOSTER
1 meat-flavored treat full of immunity-boosting ingredients

4:30 PM – HAPPY HOUR
The family unit heads over to the Bay Trail for a walk and a sniff. Argus isn’t interested in walking long distances these days, but he visibly enjoys sitting down and taking in the scenery.

6:00 PM – DINNER
1/2 c cottage cheese + 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
8 oz homemade dog food with the same mix-ins as at breakfast
12 oz raw meaty bone, like a chicken back or turkey neck

10 PM – BEDTIME SNACK
4 Apocaps, delivered via almond butter

Sea Otter 2011

April 24, 2011 Family, Fido, Fitness 3 Comments

Greg competed in the 2011 Sea Otter Classic road race this year. He’s done it in the past and specifically signed up this year to get his “race legs” ready for Wildflower on April 30. Argus and I went along for the ride, enjoying a sunny Friday along the coast. The race is held at Laguna Seca Recreational Area just outside of Monterey. It was a little windy at race time (Greg’s race started at 3:35 PM), but otherwise a nice day.

The expo area was set up a little differently this year than in the past. Greg said you used to be able to drive right in the main gates and do a quick packet pick-up. That’s what we had intended to do, then I was going to leave there and find a good vantage point to watch the race. The course consisted of a short prologue out of the expo area and then six laps through the hills of Monterey County before an uphill finish back at Laguna Seca. This year, they re-routed us to a back entrance where we had to park and walk to the packet pick-up area, all of which was up the hill from the expo.

Argus made himself at home on a nice sandy spot in the parking lot while Greg got ready. He usually parks himself right in the middle of the lane, so I was glad he was mostly out of the way. He was about 5 cars down from us, exercising his independence.

We said our farewells to Greg as he made his way down to the start and went in search of a good vantage point. For all the other races I have been to, this usually requires a fair amount of jockeying to park and then walking … and then requires standing in a big crowd of people trying to see your guy as they all whiz by.

I had scouted the map of the area and knew right where I wanted to be. I drove right to it, only to find one other car and a Monterey County Sherriff’s car. I figured the area must be closed to spectators since there was no one there, but I thought I’d ask the policeman if he knew of an alternate spot to spectate. He said that I could park right in front of him and watch from right here. Score!

The only down-side to this was that I had intended to enjoy a glass of wine or two while waiting ~30 minutes between each of the six laps… but that wasn’t happening with it pretty much being me and the cop hanging out there. Oh well! We had a great spot in the sun and out of the wind — and we were right between two curves so the guys had to slow down each time coming around this bend.

There were a few age groups racing at the same time, but not many guys in each group so it wasn’t that hard to pick out Greg the first time they came through. He was riding around the middle of the pack that first time and he estimated it would be about 30 minutes between laps. His peloton ended up averaging 25-26 minutes each time and I was able to get a couple of good shots with my point-and-shoot camera since I had an idea of when to be ready.

By the second lap Greg was at the front of the pack and he stayed there for the next three laps that we watched. We left after the fifth lap to get back to the finish line. I was hoping that Greg was dropping back on the other side of the loop, letting other guys do the work while he drafted. The side of the course that we were on was heading into the wind and right between two hills. He was doing a lot of the pulling!

In the end, Greg finished 9th out of 21 riders. To me, the ranking feels really disappointing, especially considering he was in front the whole way. Of note, the time difference between the #1 guy and Greg was about 30 seconds. He said it was an interesting race this year, where none of the guys stepped up to take on the job of pulling. Most waited until the end, having drafted off of him (and others) for ~45 miles, and made their push right at the uphill finish. He also said his average speed was a full mile per hour slower this year than it was last year. Just a different group of guys, I guess. The “nice” thing is that several guys did thank him for doing a lot of the work, so I guess that’s sportsman-like.

The reason that Greg isn’t disappointed with his ranking is that he wasn’t going after a win. He was going out to use his race legs. If he’d wanted to win, he would have dropped back into the peloton for several laps and let other guys do the work — regardless of what that did to overall speed. His goal was to work hard and that’s what he did. He felt good about his performance and his endurance throughout the race; his nutrition plan was appropriate. The bike race during a triathlon is not draft-legal, so he won’t have the benefit of letting someone else pull him around for 56 miles next week. He will have to do the work then, so he went out at Sea Otter knowing he would do it now.

This illustrates the importance of setting your race goals ahead of race day. These goals are the things that are entirely within your control — not things like weather or a flat tire or a crash ahead of you that slows the field down. Set your personal goals and train for them, then do your best to perform well and meet them. In Greg’s Sea Otter example, if he had wanted to win, his race strategy would have been entirely different. His time would have been slower, he would have worked less hard, and he wouldn’t be as prepared for his first Half Ironman triathlon next weekend. Mission accomplished!

After the race, Argus tested Greg’s legs and squeezed a little more work out of them just for the fun of it: