My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Josie's Tale & Townie Deer

Thank you to everyone for your well-wishes for Josie, who had her second bladder surgery on Tuesday. She did great and was very happy to come home yesterday, bringing a chow-hound appetite with her (she normally is a rather dainty, bird-like eater but she's been putting away the groceries like an NFL lineman since she got home!)

Here she is earlier today, enjoying some lovin's from BW in front of the cozy fire...

Josie has suffered chronic urinary tract infections for several years, and last October an ultrasound showed a mass in her bladder. Figuring that's what was allowing bacteria to congregate and cause her infections, our vet (Jen) removed the mass - a benign fibroid - and had Josie complete a final course of antibiotics, and we all thought that would be the end of those wretched infections. But first Josie experienced an allergic reaction to the dissolving sutures, and then her next follow-up U/A showed a new bladder infection!

After clearing that one up BW and I started Josie on Cranimal organic cranberry supplement, which really helped balance her pH (always too alkaline before) and have been giving her the rainforest herb Chanca Piedra, which works wonders for kidney stones and also helps fight urinary tract infections and promote urinary tract health. We thought surely this time she'd pass her U/A with flying colors (she never has obvious symptoms!), but no - last week her second post-surgery follow-up U/A showed she had yet another infection and an ultrasound showed another bladder polyp. And so, more antibiotics and Tuesday's bladder surgery.

Jen's first discovery was that there was no polyp after all. She thinks what looked like a mass on the ultrasound was probably sludgy infected urine pooled in that area of the bladder (yuk!) Her second discovery was that unlike last time she operated, when she said Josie's bladder was "red, inflamed and angry," this time it was, "pink, healthy and happy." Her urine was bacteria-free (the week of antibiotics would account for that), and everything was functioning normally. All she found that was unusual were little blister-like bumps on much of Josie's bladder wall, which she'd never seen on a bladder before but has seen on eyes with chronic irritation. With all the infections she's had, Josie's bladder has definitely suffered chronic irritation! Jen biopsied some of it (we'll get the results next week) and removed the rest by curetting the bladder wall. Then she flushed her bladder with antibiotics-laced saline solution and sewed up both bladder and belly using un-dyed sutures (the dye being what usually causes allergic reactions) and stainless steel staples for her skin incision. I took a photo of Josie's Frankenstein tummy staples, but BW deemed it "too gross" for my blog. :-)

As you can see from this photo taken just a day or two after we adopted her from the local shelter on Sep 30, 2005, bladder infections and surgeries are the least of the traumas and afflictions poor Josie has suffered in her life...

Josie & Willow, just became sisters and playing already.
Josie looks so different without her beautiful, plush fur!

Josie had been found along with her daughter about 20-25 miles from Sheridan near the Montana border and brought to the shelter by a good samaritan. Both dogs were filthy, undernourished, covered in ticks and burrs... and pregnant! Worst of all, Josie had been shot in her hind leg at some point and never given medical attention, so that her leg had healed twisted and short with atrophied leg muscles. Cleaned up (Josie's fur was so bad it had to be shaved off), fed, wormed and vaccinated, Josie and her daughter gave birth to their puppies, were spayed, and everyone was adopted out except Josie who was considered special needs. Our then-vet Lou (who since moved away) was consulted about Josie's leg. He took her to a specialist in Billings, MT who agreed with Lou that amputation was not necessary. It didn't seem to cause her pain and though she carries it off the ground when she trots and runs, she uses it a lot when she walks and pivots, and at times to help stabilize herself when standing.

The shelter eventually found a home for Josie with an older couple. But Josie was a nervous piddler then (who can blame her?), and when she got nervous and piddled on their floor the first night they yelled at her and put her outside. So she skeedaddled! She was found by someone and brought again to the shelter, whose staff was wondering if they'd ever be able to find her a good home. It was about then that Dr. Lou told us about her. We'd just lost our last two elderly dogs, Tater and Pris, three weeks apart (Tater at age 15½ of lupus and renal failure and Pris at 18 or 19 of extreme old age). We hadn't actually planned on adopting another dog, having adopted Willow in 2002 and having suffered the loss of our five old dogs within a four-year period. But when we heard about Josie's plight, I went to meet her. Then I brought BW and Willow to meet her. Then we filled out all the forms and did interviews, while Lou and his vet tech - who was on the shelter staff, knew our dogs and had been to our house - vouched for us. After everyone declared their approval (most importantly Josie), we adopted her. And right out of the gate, poor Josie had yet another thing to deal with...

Josie takes a another lickin' and keeps on tickin'

Until a suitable home could be found, Josie had been living with the shelter's administrator who raises German Shepherds. (A sad irony not lost on us and not the only sad irony at that shelter, which raises money to help some species of animals by selling the barbecued flesh of other species of animals and selling raffles for hunting rifles and hunts on local ranches to kill yet other species of animals. And this sort of deep disconnect and resulting hypocrisy is not at all unique to this particular shelter, unfortunately). Anyway, one of the Shepherds had recently had puppies, and had taken a dislike to Josie who pretty much preferred to keep quietly to herself (I can relate!) But one day Josie apparently did something that set off the Shepherd and the dog fight was on. Since she was half the size of the Shepherd Josie fared the worst, getting a huge gash over her right eye. She still had a bald patch and stitches when I met her and her wound was still visible when we brought her home. We didn't know how that incident would affect Josie's behavior toward Willow. Though a little standoffish toward Willow at first, Josie was quickly won over by Willow's innumerable charms. They were playing within 15 minutes and have been best buddies ever since. :-)

Josie, just a few weeks after joining our family,
fell sound asleep cuddling "Tiger Baby," Willow's favorite toy.

Uh-oh, I've been busted! LOL

Her gunshot wound, feral existence, being separated from her puppies, cast out by her new people, and mangled by a German Shepherd should have been more than enough trauma for one dog, but the Fates weren't done being cruel yet. In June 2009, Josie tested positive for heartworm.

Ever since moving to Wyoming from Texas, where we always had to give heartworm preventative to our dogs, I'd asked every vet we had whether we needed to do that here. And every vet told us without hesitation that we didn't since there was no heartworm in this area (and we have almost never seen mosquitos at our house and don't travel anywhere with Josie). They didn't heartworm their own dogs, rarely tested for it, and didn't stock heartworm medication. Sounded good to us - we don't take meds unless absolutely necessary and feel the same about our furkids. Besides, heartworm medicine is expensive. (We've since learned it's very cheap, relative to heartworm treatment!) That spring of '09, as I did every year during our critters' annual checkups, I asked again. And this time I was told I might want to consider it since there had been 12 confirmed cases of heartworm in the county so far. So I dutifully had all three dogs tested (on BW and my wedding anniversary, no less), thinking it was just a routine square-filler so I could start them on the preventative, and was loading Josie up to head home when the vet ran outside to tell me Josie had tested positive. I don't know which of us was more aghast! It was our vet's first positive heartworm test on a local dog (a visiting dog with symptoms had tested positive a year or two before) in his 42 years of vet practice here. And Josie had no symptoms of heartworm infection. So they decided the test kit must have been faulty and tested her again for free. Positive again. And so another ordeal began.

It started with a ton of research on both ours and our vets' parts (this was one of the most helpful web sites we found), then a course of antibiotics to weaken the heartworms followed by three terribly painful shots deep into the back muscles requiring hospital stays and several days of pain medication and recovery time. The treatment also required six months of confinement. No walks, no play, no jumping up and down - Josie could only go outside on a leash to go potty and had to be kept in very small confined areas in the yard and in our front hallway. I think that was the toughest part for all of us. And the cost of the treatment was over $1300. Josie was lucky that her infection appeared to be either very mild or caught very early, she was young and otherwise healthy, and asymptomatic. Most dogs don't survive heartworm infection and some don't survive the treatment. We don't know how or when Josie was infected - maybe she became infected before we adopted her, maybe she just got unlucky on a trip to town one day. They think that the Katrina dogs brought to shelters in neighboring counties brought heartworm to our area, but who knows. Josie was the 13th local case in our county that year and by last June there had been 34 cases. We now give the preventative year-round, despite our winters and still relatively low heartworm incidence here. Regardless of where you live, if you have a dog (or cat!) please get them tested for heartworm and be diligent about giving them the heartworm preventative! You don't want to have to go through this, and you sure don't want to have to put your furbaby through it.

Josie patiently endures Willow's constant desire to play ~
sure beats enduring gunshots, heartworms or bladder surgery!

So as you can see, bladder infections and surgeries are just the latest in poor Josie's afflicted, traumatized life! But you'd never know it. She's patient and sweet and uncomplaining. Even our vet clinic's staff talk about how despite all they've had to do to her, she never holds it against them. She walks in and loads right up in the kennel, and endures the latest indignity and discomfort with grace. They love her to pieces, spoil her rotten, and always hate to see her go. But the feelings's not totally mutual, because when it's time to come home Josie nearly dislocates my shoulder trying to get out their door and into the car! :-)

After I picked BW up at the dentist and we all headed for home, we were driving through a busy residential neighborhood near the dentist, an elementary school, a church, the hospital and various doctor's offices when I looked to my left and saw this sweet scene...

See the muleys? I was so glad I'd brought my camera along!

A pair of mule deer enjoying a siesta in someone's front yard.

We used to see mule deer at our place every once in a while, but haven't for years. It's always fun to see them, almost always on the outskirts of town, but I don't recall ever seeing any relaxing in someone's front yard in a busy neighborhood before. :-) You can see from their big ears why they're called Mule Deer (or "Muleys!") So cute! But still no match for Punky, beauty queen of the White Tails! :-)


  1. Josie has had quite a complicated life — thank heavens she finally wandered into yours. Can't think of a better place for her to find a home.

    Here in Seattle our vet assured us there is no heartworm, but I'm not so sure what to think. Because we took Buffy back to Wisconsin last summer, we gave her prevention, but when we're here, the vet says we don't need it. I'm going to do more research. Buffy is too old to survive treatment.

  2. I am so very glad to hear that Josie is healing well and I hope the biopsies come back clean (still waiting on Sasha's) and that there are no more trauma's in Josie's life. What a terrible amount she has been through! And like Andrea, I also have been told that heartworm is non-existent here--had to do that in AZ, IL, and MI, but not here apparently, but I too will ask again. Josie sure was lucky to have found you and I imagine you feel the same about her! I also never suspected that there might be allergy complications from colored sutures. Chauncey had purple and Sasha is currently sporting both purple and pink. I figured they used the colors not because of my color mania but because the colors were easier to see in fur, but I don't really know. Anyway, it sounds as if things are doing much better for all of you! Do take care and give Josie a big hug from all of us here!

  3. Andrea ~ I'll say! Josie's got some challenging karma, or something! It's sweet of you to say you can't think of a better home for her to have found. I know that you and many if not all of my regular blog visitors/commenters have provided homes every bit as loving and caring to critters of all sorts who needed and deserved them, and count myself in awfully good company! :-)

    Having been told the same thing, and then having gone through heartworm treatment with Josie, I'm definitely in the "err on the side of caution and give the preventative" camp. But I also understand that it's not at all an easy decision when you live in a place with such low incidence as Seattle. I don't know how helpful these might be - the American Heartworm Society's incidence map only goes as far as 2007, so I hope they'll update that this year. It definitely shows it spreading in WA (and elsewhere) since 2001, though. This 3-part article, Heartworm in Seattle might be helpful to you, though it's from 2009. I'm glad it's rare there, at least for now, and wish we knew where and how Josie got it since it's rare here too. Lou and the shelter folks thought she probably came off the Crow Reservation in Montana, and heartworm is more prevalent up in that area (how do mosquitos know where the state border is? Haha), so maybe she got it there and had it for years before we had her tested. You'd think she would have had symptoms though, unless she was lucky enough to have been infected with just a couple of worms. But Josie isn't exactly famous for her good luck!

    Anyway, I hope you're able to make a decision you can feel comfortable with.

  4. Daphne~ Thank you! I doubt the biopsy will indicate cancer or other disease, but Jen seems to think the results may tell her what caused them (everyone's thinking it's chronic irritation) and help guide her treatment recommendations. I'm going to resume the Chanca Piedra, but may wait till the antibiotics are finished.

    I thought of you when I read Andrea's comment, and wondered if you've been advised the same. Not surprised to hear you have. I would definitely keep on top of it - if I hadn't asked my vet in '09, I know he wouldn't have mentioned it himself - it was still too rare to be on his radar. But Josie's results and treatment were traumatic for the clinic staff too, and has had them advising all their clients to get their dogs tested! (There are still a couple of vets here who tell their clients that there "is no heartworm" in Sheridan County and not to bother testing).

    We do feel lucky to have found Josie! Though I admit to feeling weak in the knees over the vet bills sometimes, I'm glad we've been able to afford her treatments. And our vet has given us discounts and done a few things gratis sometimes too (we joke about Josie's Frequent Flyer Miles there!)

    I had no idea that suture dyes could cause allergic reactions either! Jen told us they're rare (that's our Josie!), but do happen. Josie had purple sutures the first time, and ended up with lots of ugly, dark reddish purple welts all along her incision that came and went over several weeks before they finally disappeared for good. LOL about thinking Sasha's sutures were pink and purple because of your love of colors! Her sutures almost qualify as camouflage in your house! ;-)

    I hope you get good news on Sasha's biopsies, that she's still doing well and that you're all managing to stay warm! Thank you for all the hugs - we're sending you all twice as many in return! :-)

  5. So glad surgery went well - sounds like she deserves a good turn of luck.

  6. Josie is such a sweet trooper! I hope this surgery was the final chapter of her trials. I agree with Andrea; she couldn't have found a better or more loving family.

    I can understand how the 6 month confinement would have been soo difficult. Poor girl. It's so difficult to not be able to let them do their normal activities.

    Thanks for the heads up about heartworm, I'll check into it for my kitties..

    Love the mule deer too.

  7. im so sorry i didnt read that post sooner! i was working my way down. its always so bad when animals have health problems. im so glad she has you guys to take cre of her.

    lol shes been putting away groceries like a lineman:)lol i bet!

    that picture of punky with her tongue out? so cool! you are quick with the camera!

    i have heard of D-Ribose powder for bladder infections for people, might help dogs too?

    i didnt know that about the heartworm and how deadly/expensive it was.

    Josie has been through an awful lot, just one thing after another!SO glad you opened up your hearts especially after losing so many other dog friends.

  8. Poor Josie. I had heard all of these stories one at a time just after they happened but reading about them all together like this really makes Josie's life seem really unfair! It's amazing that after all that, she's such a sweet happy girl. No doubt alot of that now has to do with you and BW! Hopefully this is the end of the bad luck for that poor girl!

    Your photo of the mule deer is so good. The close-up especially came out so well. Obviously you weren't that close so your camera did a great job! (not to undervalue you as the photographer).

  9. I'm so glad to hear that Josie is doing well and that nothing seems to be serious. Yay! She's definitely paid her dues now and has deserved a life of leisure after all of this. It's amazing how dogs can go through so much and still love humans. I can't say that I would be as forgiving. She's such a sweetie. <3

    We give Emma & Rowan heartworm preventative 6 months of the year, but I used to do it year round. With Rowan's candida, I'm trying to avoid things like that unless if absolutely necessary because medications can cause it to flare up again. It's a frustrating predicament! We haven't tried this, but there are reviews on this herbal heartworm preventative, for anyone that's interested.

    I hope that Josie continues to do well and I'm so thankful that she's in such a loving home.

  10. You two are such good parents! So glad Josie's ok and along with you we hope for her continued good health.


    Spud & CG

  11. Laloofah -- Josie is a trooper! It sounds like her demeanor has never wavered. So wonderful that she has you and your husband to give her love and excellent care. -- barbara

  12. Muleys are cool but Punky Rules! I really enjoy your posts, thank you for the pictures and thank you for caring so thoroughly for Josie. So many innocent beings ill-treated by life never have the opportunity to taste some of the goodies life can bring...the world (and Josie) is lucky to have you...thanks again.

  13. Jamie ~ Thank you, we think she's way overdue for some good luck too!

    Rose ~ Thank you for your compliment, Rose! I know the home you provide all those critters in need is without equal when it comes to love, compassion, care and fun! (Bet there aren't many other little rattie kids who get swimming pools and swimming lessons!) :-)

    The confinement part of Josie's heartworm treatment was just awful, especially when she was feeling good (which she was most of the time, except after those terrible shots). She wanted to play, be loose in the yard and go for hikes with everyone else and it killed us to have to leave her behind and keep her confined. We set up an outdoor kennel (about 4'x6') in the dog run for her with shade and a wind block, so at least she could see us on the deck, through the kitchen window, could have Willow and Tess nearby when they were in the dog run, and could look out over the ravine and Mocha's pasture. Indoors we set up barricades in the front hallway for her, so she was right near the living/kitchen area and across from our bedroom. We tried to make it all as pleasant for her as possible, but confinement is confinement! She was a lot more patient about it than I would have been!

  14. DD ~ No worries, I doubt anyone is "behinder" than I am on blogs (mine and those of others) and comments! It's always sweet of you and everyone else to take the time to visit and leave a comment, I really appreciate it even if I'm unable to respond in a timely manner!

    I got lucky with that photo of Punky - she just happened to be sticking her tongue out when I snapped it! I didn't even realize it till I downloaded it onto the iMac! :-)

    I've never heard of D-Ribose powder for bladder infections, I'll have to check it out! Thanks for mentioning it.

    I'd known how awful heartworm treatment was before Josie because my last boss in the AF had a Springer Spaniel who got infected and she had to give her arsenic for it (I'm pretty sure the treatment is still arsenic-based, but it's safer now than it was then - still can be deadly for the dog, though, and every bit as hard on them!) Her dog survived, thankfully, but I remembered how risky and awful it was. The expense of it was a shock, though!

    "It's one thing after another" is pretty much our motto around here (though several cuss words are usually inserted into it!) Thank you for your sweet comment. It's hard to go through losing our furbabies, but the need is so great and so is the joy of having them in our family, I can't imagine not opening our hearts and home to more whenever we can. Which is why I'm no longer allowed near the shelter or on Pet Finder! LOL!

    Jo ~ I had the same sort of reaction while writing this post - it really is overwhelming, all that she's been through. Especially since the heartworm (two years ago this June) and the bladder stuff have all run together almost without a break. I sometimes wish she could tell us her story from before she was found, but then again maybe it's better that we not know it. I'm sure it's very upsetting and traumatic. It is amazing how sweet, loving, trusting and patient she is - I'd like to think it has to do with us and our TLC, but I think it's mostly Josie, and it's how most animals are. They take a lot of abuse and respond with kisses. Amazing. Most animals are better people than most people I know!

    I was parked just across the street from those muleys and used my zoom to get most of the photos (though I didn't have to use the full extent of my zoom powers to get them!) :-) The only real skill required was holding the camera steady, since - as with my Christmas lights photos - the dogs were in the back and jostling about! But the mule deer were very serene and patiently, cooperatively held still for as long as it took.

  15. What a sweet girl Josie is! I'm SO glad she's found such a wonderful home after such a traumatic life.

    I know what you mean about the shelter helping some animals by exploiting others. You'd think they'd see the connection, but to them, dogs are 'pets' while other animals are there to be farmed or for 'sport'. Don't get me started!

  16. Molly ~ I agree. We've adopted other dogs who have had really hard, abusive and/or traumatic lives before we got them and they've been shy, skittish or even terrified for a while before they get back their confidence and let their true personalities shine forth, but not a one has ever been mean, as it would be fair to expect.

    I'd never heard of herbal heartworm medication, thanks for sharing that link. Poor Rowan, I've known people with candida who really have to watch what they eat, but didn't realize dogs can get it too. It seems that I dimly recall from my conversations with someone I knew who had it that after a while of being diligent about it, it (sometimes? often? always?) clears up. Might that eventually be the case for Rowan? I hope so! And I'm glad she's in such a loving, caring home too! :-)

    Spud & CG ~ Awww, thank you so much guys! We took the dogs on their first hike in a long time and Josie was full of energy and really enjoyed herself. (The same can not be said for BW and me, as the trail up the other side of our ravine is so snowpacked and crusty and slick we had to climb some of it on our hands and knees and all of it very slowly and carefully so as to not go sliding and tumbling to the bottom! The dogs had no such problems, since they have built-in crampons! LOL)

    Barbara ~ She sure is, it never has, and thank you! :-) She's easy to love, but it's a wonder she manages to put up with us and all the things we've had to put her through!

  17. Vegan Elder ~ Punky will be so pleased when I tell her what you said! :-)

    I'm so happy that you enjoy my blog, and am very touched by your compliments and your appreciation! I know the world is a better place for your being in it, you are such an eloquent and compassionate voice for the voiceless. I appreciate all you do, too! Thank you!

    Penny ~ Thank you, we're glad she did too! I wish there weren't so many like her out there, still waiting for their loving forever homes. They all deserve nothing less.

    I know what what you mean about the speciesism on display at so many shelters. I realize it's a microcosm of the attitude shared and reinforced by the society at large, but you'd think that for people who devote their lives to helping abused, abandoned and homeless dogs, cats and other beings labeled "pets," it wouldn't take much to make the connection between the suffering endured by one set of animals and the suffering endured by another, and to want to act with compassion toward all of them. And I sure wouldn't think that someone who sees firsthand, every day, the tragic consequences of dog breeding and overpopulation and who encourages spaying and neutering during her working hours, would contribute to the problem in her spare time by breeding more dogs! Argh. Don't get ME started, either! (Tooooo laaaaate!) ;-)

  18. I know you're busy. Just wanted to ready your comment back and say I love ya!!

  19. Jo ~ I don't expect you to return to see my reply to your reply to my reply to your comment (lol), but regardless, thank you! I love you too. :-) xoxo

  20. Oh poor Josie - what a traumatic start in life. So glad you found her, and hope all is clear after the op.

  21. Barbara (UK) ~ :-) Thank you, we hope so too!

  22. I'm so so happy the surgery went smoothly. She looks like such a sweetheart, I love her! And just wanna squish her! So cute and happy :) Enjoyed her story and so glad she has you to lover her!

  23. Johnny Nutcase ~ Thank you! Oh, you would adore Josie, and she's very squishable on account of being so soft and plush. :-) And since she never gets enough lovin's (just ask her), she'd love to have you squish her! I've passed on your compliments to her, and she sends you kisses in return!

  24. Wow is all I can say. Josie's story made my heart ache for all of the injustice she has endured. Thank goodness she found her angels in you. All of your dogs are so adorable. I have three rescue dogs and I love them all. It seems like rescue dogs are so thankful for the second chance and love that come their way.

  25. Lori ~ Thank you for your visit and your lovely comment (and our girls thank you for the lovely compliment!) :-) Kudos to you for opening your home and heart to three rescued dogs - I've been reading about your beautiful Jordan, whose story is so similar to our Willow's. I think rescued dogs are definitely grateful for the love and second chance they've finally found after knowing little but abuse, fear, confusion, and/or neglect. It must seem like a miracle to them to suddenly find themselves loved, cared for, safe and surrounded by compassionate people! And it's so heartwarming and inspiring to be able to give that miracle to them. If only we could do it for all of them! (Better yet, if only no one needed to be rescued anymore!)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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