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Monday, March 19, 2012

Patient Jasper

In my last post, I wrote about what a weenie I am about watching movies or reading books where something bad happens to a dog. I avoid those experiences whenever possible. And while today's story is about Jasper and his health issues, I will repeat what I said, so there are no surprises, and no unnecessary tension (though I may be the only one with this weird quirk): Jasper is fine. He is okay. He was never really at risk.
Scene III: Jasper Has Surgery
The operation took place on Valentine's Day. Dr. Christine Newman, from the Harlingen Veterinary Clinic, called me right after the surgery to report, that, while it went well, it took a lot longer than expected because, as she said, there was "nothing normal" about Jasper's anal sacs. Mostly, she cleaned out scar tissue resulting from his previous bouts with infection.

He came home loaded up on pain meds, with antibiotics and additional pain meds to help him.  It was interesting to see how the other animals greeted Jasper. Dr. Lilah (I'll have to write a whole post on Lilah as doctor and diagnostician some time) inspected him from head to toe, and very gingerly sniffed near where the surgery was. She chittered some, as she does when there's a really awkward smell. Tucker examined Jasper as well, and was ever so gentle in his greeting, sensing that Jasper wasn't quite in the mood for the normally exuberant hellos the two of them usually exchange.

Dr. Lilah keeps Jasper company when he first came home from the vet. We got him a comfy cone, instead of the plastic e-collar, hoping it might make things a little less awful.

And the cats: Athena came sauntering into the kitchen, where Jasper was laying on some towels, and she stopped short. Her eyes grew real big. From eight feet away, you could hear the intake of air into her nostrils as she tried to parse the onslaught of new scents coming from an old friend. She leaned forward, stretching her neck out to get closer, but unsure of actually moving toward Jasper. And then she slowly crept carefully in his direction, until she got close enough to really inspect. And she did. She sniffed every individual hair that she could reach with her nose, until he got up and moved. By then Dawn meandered by and stopped in her tracks as well. She, too, was startled by the new smells, but she sniffed them from afar.  Everyone would have to get used to this strange-smelling Jasper.

As his surgical pain meds wore off, Jasper was more and more uncomfortable. Dr. Newman had told me to call her if there were issues, and she took my call; the poor dog was so agitated, he couldn't sleep, he couldn't get comfortable. I had spent the first night on the couch in the family room lying next to him; the only way he would slightly relax is if I hugged him close. Actually, I wound up spending nearly the entire next week "sleeping" on the couch with Jasper. Neither of us got much rest during that time.

We adjusted his meds, but it didn't seem to help, so off to the vet we went to make sure there wasn't something else going on that was causing such discomfort. We put him on a tranquilizer to see if that would help him through the recovery. That did help, but bouncy Jasper was so stoned that when I took him outside, he just lay down on his side. "Ah, what comfortable grass. I think I'll just"

I thought I had everything under control and we just needed to help him through the next few days. Then when I took him outside Sunday morning, I noticed when he urinated that the last few drops were bright red. Bright. Red.

Scene IV: Patient Jasper
Back on the phone with the vet. At this point, it was time to take Jasper to the animal ER, known as Animerge in our neck of the woods.  There was only a short wait until he was seen by the emergency vet. After I brought her up to date with Jasper's medical history, she examined him--and then took a urine sample and had an X-ray done.

Turns out Jasper had developed a urinary tract infection and was bloated and full of gas--possibly as a result of the different medications we were on. Best thing to do--admit him to the Animerge hospital. While I was sad to leave him, I felt like he was in the right place. They'd give him fluids, keep him quiet, give him pain meds through an IV and treat his UTI.

And that's where Mr. Jasper stayed--from Sunday morning through Tuesday night. I visited him in the doggy hospital Sunday and Monday nights, bringing him dinner and give him hugs and pets. Brian came with me on Monday, and by then we could already tell he was improving. Every time we stopped petting him, he would paw for more. One of the techs told me Jasper was their current favorite patient because he was so sweet and well behaved. Okay, so maybe they say that to all the humans, but still...

Jasper hangs out during our visit. We were able to take the cone off while we visted, which made him very happy.

Brian visiting with Jasper at the doggy hospital.

Scene V: Jasper Comes Home
I got the call that I could pick Jasper up Tuesday night--and was thrilled that he was recovered enough to come home. Corinne was on her way in from NYC; we had planned ahead of time to have her hang out with the dogs while I took Wednesday to go be with my mom and dad; my mom had hip replacement surgery scheduled that day (and yes, she's home, fine, recovering, and already speeding around with only a cane). I picked Corinne up at the train station and together we went to Animerge to collect a very happy Jasper who could not wait to get home. The whole dog wagged--not just his tail.

Once again, the rest of the family greeted him cautiously, but they were getting used to Jasper's funny smells. Except Animerge had send him home with a ginormous e-collar since he had figured out how to circumvent the soft one we had outfitted him with; he looked like he was going to pick up SETI signals. And Dawn took one look at that cone, hissed, and made haste to safety in another room.

Jasper wearing his new cone; apparently he figured out a way to thwart the comfy version, so he got sent home with something large enough to pick up satellite signals.

We became nurses to Jasper, soothing his soreness with warm compresses three times a day (which he liked) and keeping him leashed when he went outside to do his business (which he didn't like). Medicines were dispensed mixed into globs of peanut butter (which he liked): Lilah and Tucker performed tricks for some globs as well (which they liked.)

Still on the leash, Jasper looks longingly at his brother and sister, who can roam the yard at will.

Jasper and Corinne spent two days snuggled together on the couch in the family room, watching the first season of Supernatural (well, at least Corinne was watching). This was a Very Good Thing, for everyone loves having Corinne around; she gives plenty of pets and snuggles to the dogs, and provides appropriate laps for the cats. Still a bit gassy, Jasper would startle himself now and again, as strange noises came from "back there." And he became a little wary about sitting on command, as somehow that tended to cause even more breakage of wind. But as long as there were good treats--like chicken--it was worth risking the unsettling poof as he sat.

Jasper relaxing on the couch. We put towels down so it was softer and easier to keep clean. It also helped when we applied warm compresses; if a towel got wet in the process, we just switched it out for a dry one.

By the weekend, Jasper was mostly back to himself. His cone was taken off. And by Monday, he was allowed to be off leash in the back yard. He started playing again. He chased Lilah. He chased Tucker. He chased squirrels. It felt good to be a dog again.

The cone is off...and Athena Must Inspect It.

Scene VI: It's a Wrap
And as the credits roll on this ending scene, I'd like to thank everyone at the Harlingen Veterinary Hospital and Animerge for all they did to help my Jasper Moose through his medical issues, and the nice people at Trupanion who not only patiently answered my questions regarding insurance coverage for this whole issue, but covered a huge chunk of it. And Jasper has wags and kisses for all his varied veterinarians, nurses, huggers and caretakers. He even gave Dr. Newman slobby doggy kisses when we went back for his post-surgical check up. Now he just wants to go outside and sniff and run and play!

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