Getting Back To The Basics

A place to show the changes in our yard, our garden, our home, and our life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our Little Slice of Hell

We had a medical emergency with Sadie over the weekend - it started on Wednesday.

On Wednesday I noticed Sadie was a little off. She threw up once and seemed to have a tummy ache. I cancelled agility just to play it safe and give her a chance to take it easy and let the stomach issue pass. Her activity level was down a little but I felt safe letting her ride it out because she was still eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping.

Some pictures of Sadie taken Wednesday - walking around gingerly secondary to her "tummy ache"

On Thursday I went home on lunch to check on Sadie. Other than not wanting to chase her ball (weird) she was acting fairly normal. After work I noticed her movement was a little stiff, like she was moving gingerly. I felt her abdomen and it was tense, like it was on Wednesday. Still eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping. What's a girl to do? The symptoms are fairly benign on the surface and I knew if all her bodily functions seemed to be going on normally, chances are she is fine.

But her behavior bothered me enough I went to the ER vet. I walked in and they asked what was up. I honestly felt a little stupid saying what was going on. She's acting normal and yet she isn't. How's that for a vague description? I told them they're probably going to tell me I'm nuts and that she's fine, but at least it'll come from someone of authority. I just had a nagging gut feeling, and that is why I am here.

The vet did an exam on Sadie, who stood still and wagged her tail the whole time. She even reached over and gave her gentle kisses. Here's what's wrong with this picture: Sadie sitting still, tail not giving the vet bruises, and Sadie not muzzle punching her with kisses. Weird. Just weird. The vet agreed with my assessment of her abdomen - she probably has a tummy ache, probably some mild enteritis or maybe even pancreatitis. We talked briefly of obstructions but Sadie's symptoms didn't fit the classical presentation for that diagnosis. She was happy to do an xray but wasn't pushing for it because Sadie seemed "normal" (to her, not me). I looked at my well behaved dog who was sitting politely, wagging her tail gently, just watching the vet and I talk - being such a good girl.

I ordered the xray.

I sat in the room chatting on facebook. We (Sadie's cheering section) were all fairly certain it would be fine, but better safe than sorry, right? I noticed they were gone a while. That's never a good thing.

The vet came back and showed me the xrays. She was shocked. I wasn't. I was disappointed - I wanted to be proven wrong - but I wasn't shocked. There was a foreign body in her stomach. One of the views raised the possibility that this foreign body had perforated the stomach, but the vet assured me this is unlikely given Sadie's symptoms. She said dogs with perforations tend to be REALLY sick and very obvious in their presentation --- remember this point, because it plays a key part in the story.

The vet recommended repeating the x-ray in 6-8 hours. If it was still there, surgery would probably be in our future. If it had moved or changed, we could probably just wait to see if it passes on its own. So I woke up at 3am to bring my little girl back to repeat the x-ray. As we waited for the radiologist to give us the results, Sadie and I sat in the lobby on a little bench. Sadie was curled up on my side, watching everyone come and go. Whenever someone would walk by her tail would start thumping in anticipation that they might come by and say hi to her. Very attentive, more or less comfortable appearing.

The vet came back and said the object was still there but since Sadie is so normal she was ok letting us go and repeating the x-ray in 24 hours. I explained to her my concerns over her behavior. She acts normal to her, the vet, because she doesn't know my dog. After listening to my concerns, she opted to keep Sadie at the clinic for an ultrasound and a consultation with their on-site radiologist when they come in at 8am. I agreed.

I went to work on 2.5 hours of sleep.

I got a call at 10 am from the radiologist. They wanted to do surgery. Still questioning perforation but Sadie's symptoms don't support it so they were anticipating a straight forward surgery. She said she'd call when it was over.

And so I waited. And waited. And waited some more. That's never good.

Finally she called me back and this is what they found - 

There was a 5" rib bone jammed tightly in her stomach. The stomach was perforated at the fundus (top part) of the stomach and the bone then went on to perforate the diaphragm and invade her chest cavity giving her a pneumothorax (air in chest cavity). There was minimal spillage of stomach contents into her abdominal cavity. The stomach had started to adhere to the abdominal wall and diaphragm. 

Sadie shocked everyone - including me.  I knew she was sick but I had no idea how bad it was. The vets were floored - she was a lot sicker than any of them realized.  The surgery was very in-depth and intense which is why it took them so long to get back to me. I went and visited her later that night and she looked terrible. The incision was huge! I knew it would be but it still broke my heart seeing it. She wouldn't sit or lay down, I assume because it hurt to do so. She was definitely drugged out of her mind which I was grateful for.

I went home with a heavy heart but thankful she was in capable hands and they were keeping her comfortable. The next day I visited her in the afternoon and she looked better, but tired. I brought a fleece blanket and laid it on the floor and sat down on it. She curled up in her favorite spot, between my legs, and immediately fell asleep. We sat like that for an hour waiting for the vet to come in and give us an update. They had another emergency going on but I was more than happy to wait that long. 

The update went well and said if her blood tests came back good and she remained stable I might be able to take her home that night! I was surprised, as it had been indicated to me she'd probably be there two nights because of the nature of her surgery, but my healthy little girl was doing very good and I ended up getting her that night.

Sadie's "YAY I'M HOME!!" party - finally getting back to some normalcy.

She was VERY happy to be home and it made my night seeing sparks of my crazy girl coming back. No jumping on furniture and no stairs for two weeks which means we have to pick her up and carry her to go outside to potty and we help her on the couch if we are there to supervise. I weighed her this morning and she has lost 3.5 pounds in this ordeal which is a lot for her considering I keep her so lean to begin with she has no buffer for this kind of weight loss. Food consists of 5 small meals a day of chicken and rice, and I have her medications on a schedule because she has a few and they've all got their specific special requirements.

The incision :(

She has been sleeping a lot which is very good. Keeps her still which helps the healing and obviously her body needs the rest.

So that's where we are right now. It's been two days since her surgery and she'll have the staples removed in two weeks. Once that is done she can start working her way back into flyball and agility.

Moral of the story - Listen yo your gut. Sadie is a very stoic little girl. She did NOT present in the classical way and if I had waited until she started showing the more typical symptoms it may have been too late. The vet said dogs like her don't show those symptoms till they are circling the drain. It is a chilling thought - she easily could have died because she is just too damn badass.

The vet techs called her the happiest sick dog they had ever met.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yard Update March 2012

The yard slopes downward so we added dirt to elevate this corner. Cool air travels low, hot air travels up. So naturally the lowest points in the yard are the coolest. This corner is where I planted my fig - a heat loving plant - so elevating the corner up will hopefully keep the fig happier, even if it's only by a degree or two. When you are growing a marginal plant in a marginal corner, every nudge helps.

So I planted the fig (desert king) and then I planted 20 Tri-Star strawberry plants around the fig. I also planted my Yellow Hinnomaki Gooseberry. You can also see the Mason Bee House.

The Yellow Hinnomaki Gooseberry is planted right in between a bunch of bulbs. Pretty cute! Sadie is photo bombing, checking out the new addition.

Overall view - I went a little crazy with the barriers. It really does help prevent the girls from plowing the plants over. I plan on keeping the barriers up till the plants get bigger and stronger.

Mason Bees!

I went to a little fruit tree pruning work shop put on by one of my neighbors, Knox.  I hung out a little longer after everyone left to ask about a few things. Knox is about four years ahead of me in regards to the garden. We're doing very similar things but he has been doing it four years longer than me so it was like a little glimpse into the future (can't wait!)

Next to his plum tree he had a small hive - Mason Bees! He told me a little bit about them and I added them to my 'must get this' list. To summarize, they are a northwest native. They are docile, gentle, and one heck of a work horse. Their purpose in life is to pollinate all our early spring bloomers. Rain doesn't even dissuade them like it does the honey bee.

I went down to my local nursery - incidentally they had a nice little sale going on for all their Mason Bee stuff. I went ahead and bought a nice big Mason Bee house that'll last me a while, as well as the Mason Bee cocoons. I went ahead and hung them up and put them out since the nursery lady seemed to think I'd be okay putting them out now. They won't hatch till the temps hit the 50's three days in a row.

The cocoons go on top of the house, still in their boxes. They will eat their way out of the box when they hatch.

The little carved out piece at the end of the roof is their escape hatch

A look from the front - you can see the escape hatch at the top. Hopefully they will come back and reproduce in those little holes you see. In the fall I will collect them and put them in the crisper of the fridge. Then I'll clean the house and put it all back in the spring to start all over again.

The blue protective cover keeps out squirrels and wood peckers who would like to eat the bees and larvae.

I set up the box on the south facing wall of my fence, near the fig tree

I will update as time goes on!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Worm Factory 360 - setting up

We got a worm composting bin called the worm factory 360. A lovely co-worker brought me a big container of her fat, healthy red worms and we are set and ready to roll!

I was trying to pose the girls in front of the open worm bin (below) and Violet kept trying to sneak in bites of the food I put in there for the worms. Problem? Yes, I see them.

The worm bin is staying up and out of their reach until we get a bungee to tie the lid down. Worms AND food scraps? Doggy heaven!

Dogs are gross.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More Yard Work - Plus Violet!

Well I have been busy this weekend. Between the Seattle Dog Show and the garden I am tired!

Yesterday was the Seattle dog show. I went there with Violet to work at the 'meet the breed' booth. Obviously there were lots of dogs around but Violet did great. She didn't care at all if a dog walked by - she only got concerned if a dog started to approach her bubble but that was easily avoided. For three hours this little girl schmoozed the public with grunts, kisses, and body leans. She educated the public not only on Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but she also helped educate the public on BSL and how it doesn't only affect "pit bulls" - it was a very good day for the princess.

Then once that hurdle was crossed it was onward to the garden. I planted two trees and a bush in the back yard.

Dolgo Crabapple Tree

Seneca Plum

Hinnomaki Red Gooseberry

Then it was on to the front yard for a little make over. I weeded and Rob helped me pull out the decorative white rock.


I made these stepping stones probably 10-12 years ago. I had given them to my gramma and took them home with my after she passed away.

Goji Berry plant and a dwarf lilac

Autumn Britten Raspberry - everbearing variety

Jonkheer Van Tets Red Currant

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Another Yard Update - and puppies

A lot has happened to this yard but because there aren't any leaves on anything it is hard to appreciate the changes. Here's an updated picture.

I had a little baby grape vine in the ground, but I had worries about its long term prospects in a shady spot. The girls already trampled it once so I opted to take it out and put it in a container where it can get full sun. Once it is bigger and stronger, I'll put it back in the ground. It's in a shade filled spot on the ground, but once it gets some height it has access to full sun on the pergola. 

Before the move - too much shade and way too much puppies

After - not as pretty,  but safer and with more sun

My posts from earlier today demonstrate how busy we've been, but we aren't done. We have a shipment coming in from raintree nursery and one green world - I'm hoping they will arrive within this next week or two. I expect a couple of currants, gooseberry bushes, strawberry plants, some vines, a seneca plum, a dolgo crab apple, and a raspberry bush.

Once I have those things in the ground, we will be about 85% done with this massive "things must go in the ground" project. Aside from a few flowers and herbs here and there, that will be all till the following year. A hot tub is in the plans, and more plants will go in then around the hot tub, but not until then. Maybe next year.

Now onward to puppies!

We had some sun today, which was a nice surprise. As I was digging around I threw the ball for the girls and let them goof off and enjoy the yard.

Sadie is the blue lady in charge

Here comes trouble

This is Violet's way of telling Sadie "I heart you"

Sharing is caring

1:8 paws on the ground. We (nearly) have lift off!

The peacock wants to play too

pretty prancing puppies

This is Violet playing keep away from Sadie. She has her eyes locked onto Sadie and is trying to will her to give chase.

And afterwards, all that hard play is rewarded with a nap in the warmth of the sun by a window

Potatoes Are Planted!

I know I'm a little on the early side for planting these potatoes, but I don't care. I'll deal with the consequences if we get a cold snap.

I planted three varieties of potatoes. Two purples - Purple Majesty and Adirondack Blue. I also got one batch of Yukon Gold. Those three varieties are split up between four containers. We'll see how they do! As the plants grow I'll add more soil, till the container is full.

Espalier Fruit Trees - The Beginning

Today we started the process of getting our fruit trees in the ground and pruned so that they can take on a fan style espalier form.  Espalier is a term used for growing trees or shrubs flat up against a wall. The heat of the wall is good for fruiting trees and shrubs and the shape allows people to grow fruit in small spaces - which is basically our yard.

For this project I picked out two pear trees and one apple tree, all on semi-dwarfing root stock. The pears are Orcas and Comice, and the apple is Karmijn De Sonnaville. The Orcas Pear matures in September while the Comice matures through the winter, allowing me to spread out the harvest.

The location - south facing wall - before planting

As we started digging the first of the three holes we ran into a problem - tree roots. On the other side of this fence used to be some bigger trees that were cut down. I think we were saying hello to part of its root system. It took us a while but we dug out a good chunk of it. Hopefully enough to allow this Comice Pear to thrive.

The finished product, before pruning. Comice, then Karmijn, then Orcas. You can barely see Karmijn, but trust me. It's there.

So then it was time for the scary part - pruning these trees back. The pears were a little bigger than I wanted to start with, especially the Orcas, so hopefully these harsh pruning techniques won't harm them.  Time will tell. Worst case scenario I'll have to dig them up and look harder for younger trees.

I went with this very helpful article on how to start your trees into a fan shaped espalier tree. I didn't even cut them back as short as the article recommended. It basically comes down to preference. The article said to trim them back to 12" from the base, I went with 20". And since I was doing pretty significant cuts, I treated the cuts with pruning sealer to protect the wounds from disease. Not sure if it's necessary, but I wanted to be safe.

The final product

Comice Pear

 Dwarf Karmijn De Sonnaville Apple

Orcas Pear

In the next few weeks the trellis will be built and installed. We are using the trellis to train the branches and the overall look of the tree. Can't wait :)