Bill, dogs, family, first world problems

When Bill is away, steroid mad Arran drives me CRAZ-AY!

Holy crap. Tomorrow, we’ll be halfway through December already. I haven’t even gotten to a proper Christmas market yet, although we did get a little snow the other day. They’re calling for some today, but we’ll see if it happens. It’s certainly cold enough!

Bill has been “TDY” this week– that is “temporary duty yonder”, for those of you who aren’t up with typical military jargon. Bill had to go to Bavaria again, as he did for two weeks in October. He used to go on more interesting temporary duty assignments when he worked for AFRICOM and EUCOM down in Stuttgart, but his current job mostly takes him to Bavaria or Poland, with rare exceptions. He has gone to Vegas a couple of times, too. Sometimes I go with him on his trips, but I haven’t done one with Bill since 2019, just before COVID became a global nightmare.

In October, when Bill was last at “Graf”, I was very worried about our old dog, Arran, who was diagnosed with lymphoma. I was actually very concerned that Arran might die while Bill was gone, as untreated lymphoma can kill quite efficiently. But we decided to do chemo for Arran, and in many ways, that has been a miraculous decision. Some long time readers might recall that our dog, Zane, died in 2019 of a type of lymphoma that I think was much more aggressive than what Arran has. It came up while we were on vacation and killed Zane a mere week after he was diagnosed. Arran is our fourth dog to get cancer, and the first one we’ve been able to treat in any meaningful way, other than giving painkillers. Treating him has definitely been educational on many levels.

I am not usually one to want to do extreme treatments. I thought of chemo for a 14 year old dog as “extreme”. I don’t anymore. Arran’s treatment has been pretty minimal, when it comes down to it. For the past eight weeks, he’s gotten weekly IV Vincristine infusions at the vet’s office. He got Prednisolone and Endoxan (pill twice a week), and not even every day. So far, we’ve spent about 1000 euros for everything– vet visits, meds, and consultations. The IV appointments take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The rest of the time, he eats, sleeps, takes walks, poops, pees, snuggles, jumps, and even plays a bit. He still stands guard at the door when someone comes with a package or wakes me from my naps, wanting me to sign up for a service. 😉

I’m starting to think of his lymphoma as more of a chronic disease than a death sentence, as we ease Arran into his final golden days. For his ten years of love and companionship, we think it’s worth it. And starting this week, he doesn’t have to go to the vet weekly for IV drugs. Now, we’re in phase two, which means he only goes every other week, and takes the Endoxan (pills) every other week, and takes Prednisolone every other day. I know the cancer will eventually kill him, but we still have him for now. We’re going to enjoy him for as long as possible… even though that means putting up with some annoyances and inconveniences. That’s what I’ve been dealing with this week.

The Prednisolone Arran takes is lifesaving, and has had some miraculously beneficial effects on his well-being. It also has some annoying side effects. It gives him some really rancid farts that would easily a clear a room of the unindoctrinated. It makes him need to pee a lot, so that has resulted in some household accidents. Arran has never been 100 percent reliable when it comes to his housetraining, anyway. For some reason, he never has learned to tell us when he needs to go outside. He has, though, learned very well how to tell us when he wants to eat. And Prednisolone makes him want to eat a LOT and more often. He’s already mostly beagle and almost all hound, so eating has always been one of his favorite things to do, anyway.

Arran has also become unreliable at home alone, so I’ve found myself spending more time at home, just to keep him from tearing up anything that smells like food. Twice, he’s broken into our makeshift pantry in the basement and made messes (most German homes don’t have built in pantries). He also gets up several times during the night to pee and demand food. Bill often finds himself feeding him at 3:30 AM, just so he can sleep a couple of hours. Today, I made him wait until 4, after he’d already gotten me up at 1:45 for a potty break.

If we were in the States, I might keep Arran in a crate when he can’t be supervised. But we left our crate in Texas, and haven’t seen too many of them for sale over here. Germans don’t tend to leave their dogs at home alone a lot… not that I would need to do that, since I mostly stay at home, anyway. Arran also tends to howl a lot when we aren’t home, and that could be worse in a crate… although it’s also likely that he’d see it as his den and calm down.

If you’re reading this and wondering how Arran gets into the basement to raid it, here’s my answer. Like most German basements I’ve seen, the basement in our house doesn’t have a door. There are just steps that go down to the lowest floor. We bought a pet gate when we lived at our former house, which was originally a communal home. The steps to the basement in that house weren’t conducive for using a spring-loaded gate, because there was a wall and just a metal bannister with no wall to brace against. I also didn’t want to do any “construction” in that house, because our landlady was extremely anal retentive and always looking for a reason to be critical of me, in particular. And, as we found out when we moved, she also looked for every reason to charge us.

The stand alone pet gate worked for a long time. Until very recently, Arran mostly respected the gate and stayed out of the basement. But the steroids make him a demon from Hell, when it comes to wanting and pursuing food. Fortunately, this house has two walls at the basement stairs, so we will probably invest in a more secure gate to thwart his attempts to steal food. The benefit to having such a gate is that it can be open and shut, so I won’t have to step over the gate anymore in the mornings, when my muscles are stiff and unreliable. Even if we lose Arran very soon, the sturdier gate will still come in handy if and when we get another dog. Noyzi is, seriously, a perfect gentleman, so we worry a lot less about him. He didn’t even need to be potty trained when we got him! Can’t believe he was born on the streets of Kosovo!

Needless to say, taking care of Arran has been more challenging than usual. But other than looking after his increased needs for food, potty breaks, and supervision, I’ve found myself kind of bored as I wait for Bill to come home from his latest TDY. I spent a lot of years living alone, so it’s not like I can’t cope with it. I miss him when he’s gone, though… even though I tend to eat and drink less when he’s not home. I’ve mostly passed the time by watching movies. I was thinking I’d like to add my thoughts on the movies to this post, but now I think maybe they should get their own posts. I have a lot to write about them, and this post has gone on long enough… And it’s mostly about Arran, so my thoughts on made for TV movies are out of place here. I could probably write an entire book about Arran!

So, I think I’ll start a new post… write that, practice guitar, put fresh sheets on the bed, and if I’m lucky, maybe even score a nap. I think I could use one, after all these nocturnal disturbances.

As you can see from the featured photo, Arran is worth it, in spite of being a little shit sometimes. That photo was taken the other day, as Arran copied his deceased beagle brother, Zane, and tucked himself into bed. He almost never does that, so I wonder if Zane was paying us a visit. I’m weird like that.

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animals, complaints, dogs, modern problems, Trump

Today is a day I’ve been dreading, yet anticipating…

Today’s featured photo is of the moon, which I didn’t see last night… If it had been out, maybe being repeatedly forced to get up in the wee hours of the morning might have been more interesting for me.

It’s finally Thursday, which means that today Arran gets his second chemo IV push treatment of Vincristine. All week since last Thursday, I’ve been giving him Prednisolone, which truly is a wonder drug. However, it also has some significant side effects that can be quite annoying for both man and beast. For most of the past week, Arran has been handling things like a trouper. But as I wrote yesterday, the steroids are now causing some noticeable side effects that are interfering with things like my being able to sleep. Arran has to go out often, because the drug makes him pee a lot, and he constantly wants food, because the drug makes him hungry.

Fortunately, today we will start giving him 5 milligrams less Prednisolone. I also see, based on the schedule the vet gave me last week, he will be getting it less often. For instance, tomorrow, he won’t take any medicine at all. Saturday, he’ll get the reduced dose of Prednisolone and the Endoxan (Cytoxan) chemo tablet, then he gets another day off from the drugs on Sunday. I have noticed that the drugs have been very effective. A week ago, he was having trouble eating, had low energy, passed slimy, mucousy, bloody poop, and was shivering a bit. He was also in pain, as his lymph nodes were very swollen. This week, the lymph nodes have shrunk almost to normal. His eyes are bright. He wants to take walks and eat. His poop is also much more normal.

So far, the Endoxan seems to make him tired, so he’s now resting on the blanket on the floor in my bedroom. In a couple of hours, I’ll drive him to the vet to get his infusion, and he’ll probably spend the rest of the day recovering. However, he will also get to see his favorite person in the world, as Bill has finished his latest business trip and will be coming home today.

Arran and I have both been looking forward to Bill’s return. I’ve missed having him at home, as it gets pretty boring here by myself. We’ll probably get the first bill today, and it may be painful… but I suspect it will be less than what we’d be paying in the United States. Canine cancer is a real drag, but every time we experience it, we learn new things. This is our first experience with chemo, but it probably won’t be our last. It won’t surprise me if what we learn from taking care of Arran will even help us in our own lives at some point. There’s every chance that either Bill or I or both of us will have cancer ourselves someday. And I can almost guarantee that we will have another pet who has it, unless this experience turns me off of pet ownership. I can almost guarantee that it won’t, though. As I have mentioned a few times, we’ve definitely experienced worse pet cancers than lymphoma. At least this one can be treated, and isn’t as terribly painful as the others have been thus far.

In any case, so far, the treatment hasn’t been terrible. I’m reminded of a hopeful book I read a few years ago about a woman whose dog had an aggressive form of mast cell cancer. Both Arran and our previous dog, Zane (RIP), have had mast cell cancer, which is also often very treatable, but then leads to lymphoma. That book, which was written by a twice divorced lawyer whose dog had mast cell cancer, was also about the author’s own breast cancer diagnosis, which happened at the same time. I reviewed the book for the original blog and have reposted it here, for those who want to read about it. Unfortunately, a lot of us dog lovers are dealing with this shit… and a lot of us Google for hope. I know this, because I often see people hitting my post on the travel blog about homemade dog food and holistic help for cancers in dogs.

Anyway, I don’t want my blog to turn into a canine cancer diary, so I think I’ll move on to another topic. Unfortunately, I don’t have a happy one to write about today, as I’ve mostly been here by myself all week, taking care of Arran and watching the news, as well as YouTube videos about the news. And so much of the news is about Donald Trump, and his multiple legal woes, desperate attempts to avoid accountability, and inflammatory public statements. I can think of two he made recently that were blatantly racist/anti-semitic. It’s hard to understand why a regular person can be quickly “canceled” for doing something like complaining and/or calling the police, while Trump can pretty much do what he wants and get away with it. I am glad to see, though, that there are finally some officials who are at least trying to take him to task.

The other alternative is to read about inflation, high gas prices, and Putin’s war against Ukraine. I have a good friend who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Russia in the early 90s. He later worked in Armenia, which is where I met him, then embarked on a global career. He married a Ukrainian woman and had two children, then immigrated to Canada, which he was able to do with relative ease, because his mom is from Canada. My friend often posts about what’s happening in Ukraine, as his wife’s family is still there. Yesterday, he posted about a young woman he knew who had worked in a wine store he used to frequent when he lived in Kiev. The young woman was happily married and six months pregnant with her first baby when, the other day, she and her husband, as well as the developing baby, were killed by one of the Iranian drones Putin has deployed to Kiev.

Such a tragic story! People need to wake up to evil of some of the world’s leaders.

I could spend some time reading about Kiev, feeling more hopeless and angry and frankly, depressed… I could read more from MAGA idiots who are bitching about expensive gas. I could engage in unpleasant interactions on social media with people who pop off at the slightest provocation (and in fact, I just had one with someone from the Czech Republic). But, as it’s Thursday, and I’ve been looking forward to, and dreading, this day, maybe I should just focus on getting through the next chemo treatment with Arran. He’s now parked in my office with me as I type this. In an hour, I’ll put his harness on him and head the 2 kilometers to the vet’s office, don a fucking face mask, and get him this week’s treatment. Hopefully, the coming week will go as well, or even better, than last week did. He will be getting less Prednisolone, which may, at least, help me get a full night’s sleep, right?

And finally, I wish to share a funny meme I saw on Twitter yesterday. It about sums up my mood…

This could be plausible.

I did buy a bunch of books this week, too. If I could get through the one I’m currently reading, maybe I’ll have a crop of new book reviews. Especially now that I have the right contact lenses and can read properly again.

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animals, controversies, dogs, mental health

Another day on the lymphoma roller coaster…

Today’s post title might be a tad dramatic. But then, I woke up at 2:30 am to Arran needing to go outside. He went downstairs and started to pee on my rug– a place where he’s peed a bunch of times before. But this was the first time I ever caught him in the act. “Arran!” I yelled, as I opened the door, “Go outside!” He went out and did his business, then wanted a treat, because he’s a beagle and Prednisone makes him hungry. I gave him a couple of dog cookies, then went back to bed.

A half hour later, Arran wanted to go out again. He was also obviously starving, so I gave him a handful of kibble. He went out, but not before he dropped a couple of turds on the same rug, which I stepped in with bare feet because it was dark in the room. So then I had to clean THAT up. Then, at about 4:00 am, Arran got up again, and this time he insisted on getting some food. The sound of the kibble hitting the metal bowl woke up Noyzi, who also thought it was time to eat. I made him go out while Arran ate a little more food to stave off his hunger pangs until a slightly more civilized hour.

Naturally, I couldn’t sleep after all of this activity, so I started reading the New York Times, where I read a couple of fascinating articles. One was about “atypical anorexia”, and with it was a photograph of an obese woman who, seemingly paradoxically, also suffers from anorexia. Naturally, there were many insensitive comments, as well as mean spirited laugh reactions. As someone who doesn’t look the part, but has dealt with eating disordered behaviors, that reaction really pisses me off. I thought it was a very insightful piece about a misunderstood problem that is killing a lot of people. If more people would read and understand about eating disorders with an open mind, lives might be saved. I was heartened to see a few stalwart folks speaking up about the ignorant idiots laughing at these women who are suffering from a hellish problem. I’ve about had it with the compassion challenged people in the world… especially the ones who are based in the United States. Anyone who wants to read about atypical anorexia is welcome to click the link, which should take you to the unlocked article.

Next, I read a sad update about a 26 year old retired New York City carriage horse named Ryder who, in August, became famous after he very publicly collapsed while working in Manhattan. After the collapse, Ryder got a new owner, and was sent to spend the rest of his days at a farm. But Ryder was losing weight and, on Monday, collapsed at the farm where he was living. Later, he had a seizure, and his new owner decided to have the Standardbred put down. You can read about Ryder by clicking the link, which is also an unlocked New York Times article.

The vet suspected that Ryder, like Arran, had lymphoma. I have no experience with equine lymphoma, but from what I’ve read, it’s expensive to treat, and horses who are diagnosed with it, are usually in an advanced stage of the disease. On the other hand, for those who have the means, chemo for horses with lymphoma can work. The University of Pennsylvania article I read reported that the mean survival rate for horses being treated with chemo for lymphoma is about 8 months, but that was taking into account horses who had died after just a month, and some who haven’t died yet after a couple of years. I have a feeling that, as it is with cancer a lot of the time, you just kind of have to leave it up to God.

As I know from personal experience, lymphoma often sneaks up on animals, and it varies in how bad it is. Ryder was already up there in years, so if he was still working in August and was ill with lymphoma, it’s no wonder he collapsed. Lymphoma causes weight loss and exhaustion, among other things, and unfortunately, even the best cared for animals can get cancer. While Ryder did have a new owner after his collapse, I wouldn’t necessarily assume the old one was abusive. It’s possible that he or she didn’t yet know that the horse was ill with cancer. There will be a necropsy to determine what ultimately caused Ryder’s demise.

My heart goes out to his reportedly devastated new owner, who doesn’t want to be identified, because people have been sending hate mail. As someone who also got a little bit of “hate” after we lost Jonny, the dog we tried to adopt in 2020 who escaped his pet transporter before making it into our home, I have empathy for Ryder’s owner. People can be really shitty to one another… and they justify being shitty for, frankly, spurious reasons, like tragedies that they negatively judge, often without having all of the facts or giving the situation much rational thought. What would have happened to Ryder if his latest owner hadn’t stepped up to care for him? I’m sure his owner’s loss is truly heartbreaking. The last thing he or she needs right now is shitty comments and mean spirited missives from so-called anti-carriage activists, especially if the cause of death really was cancer. People shouldn’t feel emboldened to harass others with hate mail, especially if they aren’t personally involved with a situation.

I do think that at age 26, Ryder was probably too old to be doing carriage work in New York City. I say “probably”, because I don’t like to make such statements without actually knowing the individuals involved; but in reality, I do think 26 is too old for horses doing that kind of work in a city. It’s a real shame that Ryder didn’t go to a farm earlier in his life. But, I also understand that these decisions can be complicated. One of the reasons I haven’t tried harder to get back into my beloved former pastime of riding is because I get attached, and my current lifestyle doesn’t really allow for having horses.

Horses aren’t like dogs. They don’t tend to stay with one owner their whole lives. And they require a lot of work and money to maintain. When they are part of someone’s livelihood, it’s not so easy to just decide to retire them simply due to age. But I will agree that in a just, humane world, these horses would get more kindness and consideration. On the other hand, I wish that for human beings, too. And most humans can’t afford to just take care of horses as “pets”. I also know that most horses prefer to work, especially when they are specifically bred for certain jobs. Standardbreds are usually bred for harness racing, so it makes sense that Ryder made his living pulling carriages.

I have mixed feelings about the New York City carriage horse industry, which has become very controversial in recent years. I don’t think working in Manhattan as a carriage horse is the most ideal life for equines, especially given that they don’t have a place to be turned out. However, I would rather see a horse working in Manhattan with somewhat decent, but less than ideal care than, say, being hoarded by some mentally ill nut, or being sent off to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. Also, I do believe that many of the carriage drivers do care very much about their horses. Why would they choose that line of work if they didn’t enjoy it? As it is with anything, it takes all kinds. I just hope Ryder is resting well, and wish much peace and comfort to all of those who loved him. A lot of people who are against the industry are people who don’t know anything at all about horses.

Well, I suspect I’m going to be tired today, since I didn’t get much sleep… so I think I’ll practice guitar, and consider taking a nap… if Arran will let me, that is.

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dogs, healthcare, politics, Trump

Chemo, comedians, and crazy Trump supporters who need a clue…

As I write this, Arran is about 17 hours beyond his first chemo treatment. He is noticeably better than he was 24 hours ago. I was a bit worried about him last night. He took the actual chemo treatment well. It consisted of infusions of Vincristine at the vet’s office, then some Prednisolone, and another chemo drug delivered by tablet called Endoxan. In the United States, Endoxan is known as Cytoxan, or Cyclophosphamide. I’m supposed to wear gloves when I give him that drug, and when I pick up Arran’s poop or clean up any urine accidents in the house.

Prednisone and its various incarnations are pretty incredible. We’ve given it to three of our dogs when they’ve had cancer, and the short term results are kind of miraculous to watch. However, the drug has some pesky side effects. Arran got me up twice last night because he needed to pee. On the other hand, the drug also stimulates appetite, which Arran actually needs right now. He had gained an undesirable amount of weight over the past couple of years, but has now suddenly lost some. So, eating is good, because I have seen cachexia in dogs, and it’s not pretty. This morning, he eagerly ate a full ration of his usual kibble, which he hasn’t done in a week or so.

But what really impresses me is that I just felt his lymph nodes, which I haven’t been able to bring myself to do in several days. They are noticeably smaller, and probably hurt less. The vet is concerned because Arran’s a little anemic, which apparently isn’t uncommon with canine lymphoma. It may mean he’s further along in his illness than we’d hoped. On the other hand, everything I’ve read online has told me that he should have already died by now. I knew he had lymphoma when I spotted the enlarged lymph nodes, but it took the vets about two weeks to confirm the diagnosis, because the results of the fine needle aspirates each took a week. I suppose we could have taken him straight to Tierklinik Hofheim, which is an actual hospital, and that would have delivered faster results. But, again, we aren’t hoping for miraculous cures, because Arran is already elderly. We just want a little more time… or as long as he can enjoy himself before he inevitably starts to feel like crap again.

I think he’ll be around to greet Bill when he comes home tonight, and that was one of my personal goals. Next week, we’ll get him through another business trip. He’ll have another round of chemo on Thursday. I fully expect him to make it to the appointment, although I am still a realist. Just seeing him feeling better lifts my spirits, though. I truly hate seeing suffering. I would probably make a terrible nurse, because I would get depressed and burned out in a very short period of time.

But anyway, right now he’s parked behind my desk chair, farting away… He farted after his treatment, too. The tech opened a window, because it was pretty rancid.

Moving on… (and a warning that the next two parts are more profane…)

Yesterday, I watched the below video in absolute shock.

I hope the asshole who threw that can at the comedian got arrested!

Once again, I am absolutely flabbergasted by the sheer idiocy of Trump supporters. This comic was doing her routine when she got heckled by some Trump supporting moron. The comedian handled herself beautifully, as the Trumper kept running her mouth, fucking with the comedian’s act. Comedians have to deal with that stuff, of course. It comes with the job. What they should NOT have to deal with, though, is acts of violence against them. The heckler got verbally nastier with the comedian, who refused to be cowed by the Trumper’s unhinged comments and insults. I guess the comedian’s composure was too much for the heckler, because someone suddenly threw a full can of beer at the comedian, narrowly missing her!

Without missing a beat, the comedian completely p’owned the heckler. Watch the video to see what she did. It was pretty epic.

If I were that comedian, I would definitely be pressing charges against that crazy person who doesn’t support free speech or expression and throws things at people who say things they don’t want to hear. But then, I’m not as funny as the comedian is… 😉 I’m also not as young, or as patient. I don’t suffer bullies. Edited to add: CNN reports that it was a man who threw the beer can, as the heckler had already been kicked out of the venue.

I have really had it with Trump supporters, and it’s not because I’m a “leftist”. I just want life to go back to some semblance of normalcy, when there was an expected level of decorum in our country’s leadership. In what world is it okay for someone to attend a comedy show and throw a full can of beer at an entertainer who is performing on stage? On a smaller scale, it’s the same kind of shit that Will Smith did to Chris Rock, and it’s completely UNACCEPTABLE. What that person did is against the law, and he should be punished. And it really upsets me that people have lost so much respect for each other, and for elected officials that they think it’s okay to act like that.

You don’t like someone’s comedy routine? Just get up and leave. You don’t get to be violent because a comedian says things you don’t want to hear. If that beer had hit the comedian, she could have been injured. Fortunately, the Trumper missed, and the comedian had the chance to turn that foolishness around on the stupid bitch. I don’t usually like to namecall, but in this case, I think the situation calls for it. That person obviously doesn’t know how to behave in public and shouldn’t be on the loose. In that way, she’s not unlike her hero, Donald Trump, and his fucking stooge minions, Marjorie Taylor, Lauren Boebert, Greg Abbott, and all the rest of the extremist MAGA fuckwits who want to turn the United States into Gilead.

Edited to add: The comedian’s name is Aerial Elias. CNN also covered this incident, and evidently, the woman who heckled her was escorted out before the beer was hurled by a MAN. Aerial declined to press charges against the guy, but the club is pursuing legal action. I hope he gets NAILED. I am going to do what I can to support her work. She’s got a new fan!

Edited to add again… No charges for the beer thrower. Shameful!

Moving on…

Once again, some Trumper on Amy Klobuchar’s page decided to leave me a comment when I posted that I voted all blue. The guy was more concerned about cheap gas and inflation than human rights, women’s rights to privacy, and basic decency. He claimed that Americans think Biden has turned the USA into a dystopia. I told him to speak for himself. He came back with some tripe about money, and how rising prices was making his life terrible. I was going to respond to him, but I decided that dealing with Arran is stressful enough. If he doesn’t see why having MAGA extremists in power is bad for America, and the world at large, nothing I can say will convince him. So I used my block button again.

I know that very few people care about opinions that don’t match theirs, and I don’t want to deal with strangers who think I need to hear from them, when all they care about is $1.89 gas and $20 extra in their paychecks. As a conservative white male, he doesn’t understand why taking away women’s rights to make private medical choices was a bridge too far for a lot of people, myself included. That’s why I am DONE with Republicans, because how dare they?

I just watched the latest installment of The Handmaid’s Tale. I wasn’t too surprised by what happened at the end, but I did have a flash of recognition as I listened to June talk to Serena Joy about hate and violence in the world, and the wish that their kids would do better. We used to be better than this. The Handmaid’s Tale is scary viewing, not just because it’s so violent and depressing, but because a lot of what’s in that show is frighteningly close to real life… and not just in the United States, either. I hope some people wake the fuck up and vote accordingly.

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