Allergies Spawn Visit to Colorado!

Mast cells are involved in allergy. Allergies ...

Mast cells are involved in allergy. Allergies such as pollen allergy are related to the antibody known as IgE. Like other antibodies, each IgE antibody is specific; one acts against oak pollen, another against ragweed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t been writing here much recently. We’ve been trying to deal with Emmy’s allergies. [Sigh!] We discovered her food allergies include: Barley, peanuts, soy beans, and sweet potato top the list, with borderline allergies to beets, corn, rice (!) and yeast. Now, just try to find a dog food, moist or dry, that does not have corn, rice or soy in it! She was put on a special – expensive – diet food: Royal Kanin potato and duck (dry food). So, while we eat our chicken, she eats her – duck!

But there was more bad news: She is also allergic to: Alder, Ash, Bayberry, Beech, Box Elder, Maple, Juniper, Elm, Pecan, Hickory, Pine, Walnut, and Willow! Have you ever seen a southern neighborhood that did not have pine trees in it? Or maple trees? We have 18 pine trees on our property alone. Even if we had the $4000 to have them all taken down, all the years of pine needles on the ground – ground into dust – would still cause Emmy problems. There are maple, pecan, walnut and willow trees all over the neighborhood, too.

English: Baby pine trees under snow in Boreal,...

English: Baby pine trees under snow in Boreal, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But wait! There’s more! She’s allergic to grass: blue grass, Bermuda (!), and timothy. What yard in the southeast does not have at least some Bermuda grass in it? She’s allergic to weeds: cocklebur, daisy, dog fennel, English plantain, goldenrod (!), nettle, and pigweed. We can tell the change of seasons by ragweed here in the southeast. Seems goldenrod has the same cycle.

But Wait!! There is still more! She’s allergic to three very common molds (that are in our house despite attempts at mold abatement), mildly allergic to cats (I can’t get rid of the cats!) and dust mites (our house is dusty despite all attempts to keep it vacuumed and dusted), and highly allergic to FLEAS! The flea problem is under control. Emmy is on Advantage Multi, which covers fleas, ticks, and heart-worm. If there are fleas in the backyard, a flea jumping on her will go ERK! and die. But a bite before it dies leaves her itchy for days!

We keep her on the diet. We tried allergy shots (saw no difference after a year), and Atopica (cyclosporin) – a drug that changes the dog’s immune system, reducing it some to curb response to allergens – without success. When she went on diphenhydramine (Benadryl) she would scratch a little less, but would sleep all the time. She would get so groggy that she would be unable to respond to her cues appropriately.

After fighting with it for 3 years, a number of vets that PAALS consulted about it suggested a 2 month “break” in an arid climate. One of the “star” dog foster families recently moved to Colorado Springs (military transfer) and was willing to take Emmy in for a while. So, off to Colorado she went, thanks to US Airways Puppies-in-Flight program! She even flew first class! WOW!

She had a bit of a problem adjusting at first, but seems to be settling in. She has a new friend (6 month old puppy, Hope) to play with, and a cat to annoy. She is in dog heaven!

The only real hitch from our end (aside from her not being here) is that she still needs all the diphenhydramine she was taking (probably because of the cat). We are cautiously optimistic because she isn’t scratching and licking and gnawing herself while on the diphenhydramine [which she does here], but she does if the diphenhydramine dose is reduced. It’s only been 19 days, so I don’t want to get discouraged, yet.

If she is still allergic after 2 months out in Colorado, we may need to put her on prednisone when she gets back. In the past, I have asked the vet to put her on a prednisone taper just before recertification weekend each year – but no more than that. [A prednisone taper involves starting with a large dose one day, and cutting it back slightly each day for about 10 days, then off the medication.]

Prednisone is a wonderful drug – a miracle drug – for people with autoimmune diseases or with allergy problems. It reduces the response of the immune system down to a more “normal” level. Like all drugs, however, it has side effects – in dogs as well as in people []:

  • suppression of the immune system which makes the dog more susceptible to infections; [the immune system cannot protect the dog, so his health must be carefully monitored and secondary diseases must be treated as soon as they occur]
  • Increased appetite, that leads to weight gain
  • Increased thirst and more frequent urination
  • Water retention, caused by the sodium in the salt, in case the dog has a diet rich in salts
  • Fluid in the stomach
  • Myocardial arrest
  • Oily skin, which may be due to hormonal imbalance
  • Coarse hair, unhealthy looking coat
  • Sudden aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Kidney problems
  • Ulcers, stomach problems
  • Colitis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Many of those are similar to the side effects of prednisone in humans. Because of the side effects, prednisone on a daily basis is discouraged – especially in a working dog. It will decrease both the dog’s life-span, and working life-span. I’m not happy about that, obviously. But even worse, if the allergies cannot be controlled, Emmy will have to be “re-careered” into a pet. That is very hard on working dog. Working dogs are not pets. They work for a living. Emmy is used to being with me 24-7 – going to the hair-dresser, going to the grocery, going to visit people, going to Red Hat meetings, going out to eat with me, even going to doctors’ offices and to hospitals. She has been left at home, perhaps twice or 3 times since we were partnered, and then only for 1-2 hours at a time, max. On days her allergies were bad, and she had taken full-dose of diphenhydramine, I would change my plans to be home with her. A working dog and her partner are simply inseparable. Working dogs not only want to work, they need to work. Being made into a pet will be very hard for poor little Emmy – not to mention me! So I keep hoping and praying that the visit to Colorado will work.

Please pray with me on this!


Emmy Wishes You a Happy New Year!

Happy 2011 from Emmy, Herself and Himself! May it exceed your desires in every respect!

Happy New Year!`

Happy New Year!!


Emmy and Me

Emmy and Me


The Different Car

Last week our car was in the shop. I had been backed into by someone, and had enough damage we thought it was worth getting fixed – on the other person’s dime, of course. We were provided a rental van – a 2010 Chrysler Town and Country with Sto-and-Go seats in the back.

As Emmy does not do well on a bucket seat – and it REALLY isn’t safe for her – I stowed the bucket seats in the back, attached her seatbelt harness to the heavy hook in the floor, and off we went.

Within 4 blocks Emmy was starting to whine – which she NEVER does. Thinking I had missed a cue somehow, I stopped in a parking lot, and walked her to the grass. She just “read the newspaper” and never did anything. Hmmm. Something else. Recently fed. I brought her over to the van thinking to put her in and check her over while she stood there. She balked at getting in, but eventually did with much encouragement. Hmmm, again. She was whining before I got her harness on and latched. I pulled her extra blanket over for her to cuddle against, and her towel to chew on (or vice versa – whatever she wanted to do) and firmly closed the door.

We drove the rest of the way home with whining and squealing going on. When we got home, she was trying to stand up and get out. I had to get the Ol’ Curmudgeon to come down and wrestle her into position so the harness could be unlatched! Once out of the car she slunk upstairs and into her crate. She didn’t come out until she was SURE we were not going anywhere. Then she was her sunny, goofy self – as if nothing had happened.

Each time we went out, she was apprehensive and unhappy, whining a lot. She would slink down the stairs with her head down, not want to get into the van, and then whine the entire time she was in it.

Finally, the day came to turn in the van and pick up our van. I left her at home with the Ol’ Curmudgeon. There was just no point in setting up our van again down there at the service center in the cold (22deg) weather. I just slipped from one car to the other.

The next time we went out, she was apprehensive and unhappy until she saw her own van! Then she was happy again.

We are NOT looking forward to 2012 when we have scheduled the purchase of a new van! None of the current crop of mini-vans (2008 forward that I’ve researched) have a bench seat in the back – only in the third seat. I can’t get in and bend enough to fasten her in to put her there. So the Ol’ Curmudgeon will have to devise something that will let her be more happy. We are thinking about it, and will try to devise it for her to try out before we actually change cars.

I don’t like it that she can be tossed about a little. The bench seat provides some stability and security for her. We’ll see what we can do.

In the meantime, however, she is happy again riding in HER car!

Yup, I talk to My Dog. Don’t You?

Denise Portis has a marvelous post on her blog today! Just had to share it!

Oso Comes to Play

A friend came by for a few minutes with his Chocolate Lab in his car. He had left him out there, not wanting to intrude. We invited his dog in after checking about immunizations and at least basic behavior (no real obedience, but friendly, part of a 5-canine pack).

Oso Comes to Visit

Oso Comes to Visit

So, Oso came in to play with Emmy. Emmy was SO excited at first. Oso was more interested in going out into the back yard. We took them both out and watched them for a while to be sure they were “playing nice.” They did fine. Emmy followed Oso all over the yard while Oso ignored Emmy and marked territory everywhere he could think of! LOL!

Finally we brought them in – panting and happy. It FINALLY occurred to me to get out the camera! DOH! Obviously I’m just not a “camera person.”

Oso and Emmy

Oso and Emmy

Oso and Emmy Ignore Each Other

Oso and Emmy Ignore Each Other

Oso Resting in Kitchen

Oso Resting in Kitchen

It wasn’t a very long visit, but as you can see, they don’t have any problem with each other! Oso is invited back anytime we are at home!

Sick Husband

We are being rather quiet at the moment. Himself has had a raging kidney infection and has been horribly sick. I’ve been totally worried about him, and Emmy has been beside herself. Several trips to MD and to pharmacy. Thank goodness for Publix Grocery’s free antibiotics program! Our doc looked at the culture and sensitivity results and plucked an antibiotic on Publix’s list of freebies from the list. The offending organism is very susceptible to that antibiotic, so we are using a good one. Himself is gradually getting better, but not altogether with it as yet. At least he isn’t a limp dishrag like he was for a while.

So Emmy has been beside herself. She would trot back to the bedroom and nose Himself’s hand, then come back into the living room and stand looking at me with a puzzled/worried expression on her face. Then she would yawn widely (sign of upset or stress) and trot back to visit Himself. She did a LOT of trotting back and forth in the 2 days he was in bed! When I took her with me to the pharmacy, she would sit up and look for him until I got us underway, then sit up and look for him the minute I pulled back into the driveway. She disapproves of me going places without him, or him going places without me. She wants Himself and me to be as joined-at-the-hip as she and I are!

We are a trio, as far as she is concerned. I’m her Food Goddess, and Partner, but Himself is somewhere in the mix and is important to her. Perhaps it’s because he is so important to me, and she senses that. She doesn’t obey him with the alacrity she does me, but does basic obedience for him. For me, she does nearly anything, and I can help her learn new behaviors rather rapidly [like taking my shoes and socks off, pulling off my slacks, pulling my jacket off by pulling at the sleeves].

She loves her little fuzzy animals. She does not tear them up! She still has some from 2 years ago when she came to me! So she has spent a bunch of time over the last couple of weeks with her “puppies” (as we call them) snuggled on her bed with her. Now that Himself is in the living room, again, she still keeps her “puppies” nearby, but not to the extent she did when he was feeling so rotten. She was actually feeling secure enough to play “fetch puppies” today. Guess we will all survive!

I Try to be Prepared…

… but sometimes I’m less prepared than others. Like during our Public Access Recertification Test last Saturday. We had practiced and practiced the things we did poorly on last year. But I had the wrong time for our test, and we were late. OMG – I was just mortified!

But I tried to put that behind us, and just concentrate on what we needed to do.

I got her out of the car safely and appropriately. Then we went into the Columbiana Mall, and the first thing I did was not give Emmy enough leash, so when I told her to “Wait,” she was forced to try to crowd in with me. OOPS! I realized it, and gave her more leash. Yikes! I had also forgotten to tell them Emmy had “done business” just before we rushed into the car at the hotel to get there and didn’t need to “go” right then. Yikes! Again!

Well, first was the Recall test – Emmy had to be left in a “Down-Stay” then called from 6 feet, and again from 20 feet, bringing her leash to me each time. She was picture perfect! Whew! I reached into the treat bag – OOPS, again! I had forgotten to put any of the “high value” treats into the pouch!! In fact, I was running a little low on treats in the pouch! So I had to be sparing when giving her treats. Probably just as well in terms of her weight and nutrition status (although I was pleased at out last visit to see she is still, at 58.2 pounds, within 3 pounds of her weight when we became partners).

Then through a store that had an elevator – or two! My daughter-in-law (my “pusher!”) did the elevator bit just fine, and so did Emmy. She “Waited,” then went “Through” and sat down in the elevator, then “Moved” out of the way of my wheelchair! We went up one very small elevator, and came down another, very slightly larger, elevator with a “panorama.” We wandered through the store checking that I controlled Emmy, preventing her from “sniffing the merchandise.”

Later she had to demonstrate how she picks up things for me. She was perfect, again!! In fact, the testers (all 4 of them) were so intrigued, they threw down more things of different sizes, shapes and textures for her to retrieve! But the joke was on them – Emmy retrieved them all, and brought them to ME. So I had to sort out who had tossed out what and deal out the items to the right people!

In the food court we demonstrated how she can restrain herself when tempted and even teased with food (she was shaking and drooling, but she maintained restraint). She went “under” the table (as best she could – small mushroom tables with “X” feet), and stayed there until allowed up. SUCH a good girl!

Emmy did all kinds of things – brought things to people, went “Under” a bench I was sitting on, “Braced” to help me stand, resisted temptation when other people offered her food, remained calm as people stepped over and walked close to her and when not just 1 or 2 but FIVE children all came up at the same time to pet her! Then she absolutely NAILED the “Target” (pushing the button to open the handicapped door). She “did business” a little on command in the grassy plot by the car, and we got her into the car correctly and safely.

All was well!

We went to a high tension lunch, while all the testers gathered at a separate table (along with the head of the PAALS program) and decided our fate. We passed! All of a sudden I had an appetite again!! I have our certificate in hand for 2010-2011! Yea!

Emmy is so smart and so cooperative! How wonderful she is!

Ten Life Lessons From My Service Dog

1. Pee before you leave the house – and at every opportunity thereafter

2. Wake up to a new day with new expectations – don’t bring yesterday’s baggage into today

3. Forgive totally – seventy times seven

4. Assume everyone is nice until proven different

5. Try to please the Powers That Be (PeeTayBee)

6. Focus at the task at hand – don’t try to sit and stand at the same time!

7. Portion control – don’t put more on your plate than you absolutely need!

8. Enthusiasm and zest for life – these are good things

9. Nap when you can

10. Bask in the love of your family

Local Man with CP Receives Special Service Dog!

Here is a happy news story from Binghamton NY!

It’s not as though Anthony Sepe, of Binghamton, never had a dog before.

When he was a boy, Princess was the family’s pet — a sweet, obedient, black-and-white mixed breed still wistfully remembered by Anthony and his mother, Mary.

Then there was Jack, a Belgian Malinois — a police dog — who was tan in color and took his responsibility of looking out for his family most seriously.

They were great dogs, but Anthony, 49, never felt about them the way he does about the two-year-old black Lab named Phineas.

He never bought super-plush beds for Princess or Jack, but Phineas has one. [– MORE –]

I’m always happy when I see news stories like this. And I think of when Emmy and I first met. When I looked into her beautiful brown eyes, I KNEW we were a match! And after only 3 days staying with me in the motel while at PAALS’ training camp, she looked to me to ask if she should obey the cue given by one of the main trainers! There were collective gasps from the onlookers, and one of the trainers said, “It’s happened – already!”

We were recognized as a new team right away. A young, inexperienced team, but a team! In the year and a half since then, we have matured as a partnership. Emmy is distraught to be apart from me, even for a short time. She doesn’t whimper or cry, but she is restless, and when I reappear, she is as excited as if she hadn’t seen me for a week!

We’ve had to be separated on occasion during the past couple of weeks. I had that fender-bender, and am using my daughter-in-law’s van. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a bench seat in the mid-back. It has 2 bucket seats. After one trip, trying to perch on the bucket seat, Emmy just didn’t want to get in the van. My Ol’ Curmudgeon had to lift her into the car, and she struggled to get out the entire time he was attaching her restraint harness to the seatbelt. After that, I didn’t try to take her with me. Perching on that seat, I thought, was dangerous. There wasn’t room in front or between the seats for her to lie on the floor, and I can’t get to the back bench seat to put her there. There wasn’t a place to attach the restraint in the hatch area. There is also the consideration that under no circumstances can I pick her up and put her in the van! So I’ve been without her for the few short trips I’ve made – one to the grocery with daughter and 8 year-old grandson, two to the pharmacy drive-through, one down to the doctor.

Each time, the Ol’ Curmudgeon has stayed with her except one time we both went out to dinner. We were only gone 2 hours, but you would have thought we had been gone a year! She whirled around us wagging her tail and licking our hands, did her little circle-dance with each of us, then concentrated on me. I love her little circle-dance. She turns circles in front of me, rubbing her head and body against my legs as she does. Then she not-so-gently whaps my legs with her tail, and she’s back to rubbing against me. She is practically in a circle as she does this, with her nose almost at her rear end! We go through this delightful greeting every morning, and every time she has done “sniff-about” in the backyard. When she comes in, she greets me with her lovely little circle-dance! I can hardly wait to get my van back! I DON’T like going anywhere without her!

Every day, I am deeply grateful that we have each other. She helps me in so many ways – flipping the dishwasher door closed, flipping up the footrest of my stairlift, picking up clothes from the floor, pulling clothes from the basket, pulling clothes from the washer, pulling clothes from the dryer. She picks up things I can’t lean down to get – even little pieces of paper and the occasional dropped Kleenex. She gets things off grocery shelves that I can’t reach down to. She is a great ambassador for service dogs – people are always stopping me and asking me about her, telling me how beautiful she is. Of course, I’m just “puff-ed with pride” (as my Momma used to say), and will stop and chat about her at nearly any time. Sometimes, my informal meetings turn into a demonstration. Emmy is delighted to “show off” her talents. Someone asked me why I bring her when I’m in an electric cart at the grocery. About that time, my cane fell off the cart from where it had been propped onto the floor. I cued Emmy, “Cane!” and she immediately went to it, picked it up and brought it to me, putting it into my hand. The person was flabbergasted – had never thought of that.

So, I know many of the things Anthony Sepe in Binghamton NY will do with his new service dog – and I wish him a very happy experience with Phineas!

My 50th High School Reunion!

The three of us had a marvelous time at my 50th high school reunion last weekend. Emmy is not used to tight crowds, and when I saw how tightly packed people were, I was concerned for a bit, but she adapted beautifully. She kept pretty much out of the way of people, didn’t block traffic up and down the ramp to the porch very much on Friday night. Greeted people properly (for the most part – she “broke” a couple of times and turned her head to try to lick people who were petting her, but she got it together). People were most complimentary of her!

The event on Friday was just an informal late supper catered by The Varsity (a heartburn-high Atlanta fast-food landmark for 75 or 80 years). The event started at 7pm – the time that we usually are closing down for the night – and was supposed to go on until about midnight. I figured I’d last until about 9pm – and I was right. We started weaving our way out of the recreation center about 8:55, and made it out to the street about 9:15! I was totally exhausted – just wrung out. And I dozed some on the way home, but the Ol’ Curmudgeon had an exhausting week last week, and kept yawning really big and hard, so I had to keep waking up and talking to him. We made it home about 10pm, and actually got to bed about 11:30pm.

Saturday, we dragged out of bed about 7am, and I made breakfast. Then we both napped a little. Mostly rested. I made sure Emmy’s coat was spotless – as were her toofies and her ears. Toenails were freshly dremeled on Friday AM.

We snacked about 5pm because it was a “heavy hors d’oerves” event. It was at a rather decent restaurant in downtown Atlanta – Shout. We had the entire upstairs area. BUT, to get upstairs, first we had to ride down in a wine elevator disguised as a wheelchair elevator. I was very worried about Emmy, because there was a gap in the back and the whole thing was about 2 1/2 feet wide and 5 feet deep! No fooling! So we 3 along with one of the hostesses went down. There was no light, so we went down in the dark. Luckily none of us had claustrophobia! Then we had to walk through a maze of halls to the concierge desk in the Peachtree side of Colony Square. The Concierge took us through another maze of halls to another elevator (a “real” elevator this time!) up to the roof, across the roof and then into the area reserved for our group! It was really Byzantine!

The hors d’oerves were wonderful! little lamb chops from a crown rib roast that were perfect! And panko-encrusted fried lobster. Spring asparagus with a wonderful sauce. Meatball sandwiches. And a bunch of other things I can’t remember. I indulged in a glass of wine. I got to really talk to about 4 people, and had passing “hello-how-are-you-it’s-been-a-long-time” moments with a bunch of others.

{Aside: If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a bit of a loner and was almost a total loner in high school. So most of these people didn’t even remember me – except I have a very unusual middle name (that I no longer use, but I did use in grade school and high school), so people remembered that name, that it is a boy’s name and that I’m a girl with a boy’s name. So some of them remembered that part!}

Emmy was in her element. She was most dignified and obedient. Finally, however, we were all getting tired – about 8:45pm, and we began to wend our way out. We decided to not repeat the elevators. I was worried about Emmy in that blasted wine elevator, so we went down the stairs – a lovely curving set of stairs in gold-tones. What we did, was, my Ol’ Curmudgeon took Emmy down the stairs, and I leaned against the handrail and went down the stairs sideways. V-e-e-e-e-e-e-r-y s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y. I was too tired, and the Ol’ Curmudgeon had my pocketbook, but I wish I had been able to take a picture of Emmy! She loves my husband – they romp together when he is up to it. But she only had eyes for me. She watched me coming down the stairs one step at a time, slowly, carefully, hanging on to the rail with one hand and my cane with the other. And she was dancing in impatience (no she did NOT need to “do business!”). Her ears were pricked up, her mouth was open, she danced up and down the bottom step with her forefeet. There was no doubt about it – she only had eyes for me!

We got home about 10:30pm and got to bed about midnight. We dragged up again about 7am, and dozed off and on all day on Sunday.

I could not have done this without both my husband’s assistance and support and Emmy’s assistance and support. I’m so glad we went. This will be a memory I will savor for a long time to come!

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