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Wednesday, January 22, 2014


As some of you may know, on Monday Loki and Diogi ran away. This is not uncommon, though we work hard to avoid it happening.  You can’t really take the run out of a husky. 

Time Line:  
12:15-12:30 Loki and Diogi run away
1:30 Real worry begins
3:00 I know something is not right.  They have never been gone this long
4:30 Post on facebook, maybe it is premature, but were covering bases here
8:00 post on Lost and Found Animals of Vermont facebook page
9:00 Neighbors call to say they have seen Diogi
9:15 Leave for Barton Veterinary Hospital
12:15 arrive home with a drugged, but porcupine quill free (mostly) Diogi

All day long I would put a few dishes in the dishwasher and then go out and call.  Then I would do a few more and call again.  I repeated this until the dishwasher was full and then I would go for a drive to call in the surrounding area where I usually would find them.  Then I would come home and repeat.  Clean a few items off the floor, call.  Finish room, drive. 

When I went to get Diogi I called and he came very quickly.  He was covered in snow and was visibly tired, and I could see that his face was full of porcupine quills.   I called around for Loki and the neighbor said that they had only seen Diogi.   I knew that if they saw Diogi Loki wouldn’t be too far off because they are ALWAYS together. I tried a little longer but quickly came to the realization that I had one dog I KNEW needed attention and that Loki would have to wait.

Having recently paid to have porcupine quills removed from the dogs gave me confidence that we could remove them from Diogi to save money.  We were able to remove a few, but there were so many and they were deep and many of them were broken.  Diogi was foaming at the mouth with pain, bleeding on the floor and becoming increasingly agitated.  We admitted defeat/mercy and we headed out to the vets knowing that on top of regular office fees, medications etc…there was an additional charge for an emergency visit.  It took about 2 hours to remove all the quills.
The next day it all started again except I did less calling and more driving.  At one point I tried to turn around in a snow bank that appeared to be soft and fluffy like all the others I had driven through. And discovered it was in fact hard packed and I ripped off part of the bumper. 

I spent a lot of time in the area where we found Diogi.  I saw lots of tracks and took it was a sign that Loki was on the move, however when I went out later and walked I saw that most of the tracks I thought were dog from the moving vehicle, were in fact deer and turkey prints. 

While at home I was constantly checking online to see if anyone had any news and every time I passed a window I would check and see if Loki was there.  Needless to say I didn’t get much done. 

When Diogi was feeling better I took him up where we found him and in the bitter cold Noah and I followed Diogi where ever he wanted to go.   Noah couldn’t keep up so I lifted him onto my shoulders.   We got back in the car and I followed dog tracks almost to Lowell on a back road that is not maintained in the winter.   All the dog prints had me holding out hope that Loki hadn't come back because he had traveled too far and gotten lost, but in the back of my mind I also knew that Loki is far more impulsive than Diogi and if Diogi looked the way he did then Loki got it worse.  On top of that he was missing half his brain (Diogi) and it was -10.

At 2:00 I turned around to head home (on a one lane un-plowed road, fun stuff I tell ya.)  My back was aching, my leg was beginning to tingle and I knew I had aggravated my herniated disc.  I had a very distinct feeling that I was risking things that were more important than a dog and it was time to move on.  I had broken the rules that were healing my back, I had damaged the car, the house was a mess, I skipped a church meeting…I rolled up my window and drove directly home and did not try to call Loki again.
When I got home there was an email from Aaron telling me about a very strong spiritual experience he had and that he knew everything would be all right.  Not that Loki was or wasn’t ok, but that it was alright.  The time on that e-mail…2:06.

My biggest concern through it all was that Loki was suffering.  Last night it was -22.  I know now that Loki is either dead and not suffering, or someone has him and they are trying to find his owners.  It feels crass to just stop looking for him, but I can’t function with the constant worry that he might come back.  I needed to close that door and move on emotionally.  I still have hope that Loki is out there, but I have to act like he is dead.

It is so sad to see Diogi who is clearly confused and lost without his brother.  He barely knows how to function without Loki.  I called the dogs several times last night to come clean up scraps and each time I forgot and called out, “Loki, Diogi.”  They are just a pair. 
Last night I was falling asleep while reading to the kids and they began talking about Loki.  Jacob said he was worried and scared for Loki.  Ben said he was too and then said, “Whoever let out Loki is the dumbest person in the world.”  For once I didn’t tell him to use nice words as I realized they were just trying to process these feelings they were having.  Ben then asked, “Mommy, who let Loki and Diogi out, because they are in a way responsible for all this.”  In my groggy half asleep voice I answered that it was me that left the door open.  I was carrying in Noah from the car after preschool because he likes to pretend that he is sleeping so he can be carried in.  Loki made a break for it and I grabbed the fur on his back but he still got past.  They ran across the road and I called them back and for once Loki actually came back to me.  I grabbed for his collar and once again he slipped past.  At this point Loki knew I didn’t have the zapper and that he could bolt without getting punished and off he went, and where Loki goes, Diogi goes.  
I have replayed the scenario over and over thinking, “if only I had…”  I keep thinking of all the times I thought about if we hadn’t gotten Loki things would be easier.  If there was ever a problem with the huskies it was Loki who started it. Sleeping on the couch, getting into the garbage, jumping, running off, playing with skunks and porcupines stealing food of the counters and table; these were all Loki’s doing.  Diogi always tagged along and was always minorly affected in comparison with Loki.  Taking the dogs on a walk was always difficult because three dogs is a lot to handle especially when you have four kids.  Loki scared people who came to the door.  The propane guy didn’t deliver once because Loki scared him, and he was in his kennel and tied up!  
All these thoughts weigh on me now that he is gone.  Like maybe if I hadn’t thought them then Loki would still be here.  Like I kind of wanted this to happen so God made it so.  Loki was Aaron's dog, Diogi is mine.  I feel bad that I got my dog back but Aaron did not and it is my fault.
I know that he was just a dog.  But we got Loki and Diogi when they were less than 6 weeks old.  I trained them.  I woke up all hours of the night to take them out.  I cleaned up after them when they had explosive diarrhea in the house from something they ate on one of their runs.  They are the animals they are because of this family that loves them. Even though they were naughty, they were good dogs because of the love and attention they received in this home.  
I have seen them grow from balls of fluff smaller than our cat to the behemoths they are now.  They are just dogs, but they were also much like my babies.  I learned a lot about parenting and sibling rivalry from teaching Loki and Diogi.  I always knew this was a possibility with pets and we have dealt with it with cats, but it is different with a dog.  Gosh darn it if those pesky animals don't wriggle their way into your heart and then disappear.
So because of my need to move on emotionally I may not respond to inquiries about Loki.  I might change the subject if you ask.   I know it doesn’t even compare to the loss of a spouse, or a child, or even a friend, but nonetheless I am grieving, we are all grieving.   At this point I won’t be updating on facebook.  We can assume that Loki is not back, unless I post otherwise.  And it might be best not to bring it up unless I do.  I just need to stop thinking about it and think about all the people and things I love that are here, now.  
I do sincerely thank everyone for your thoughts, prayers, calls, notes, advice, and help spreading the word.  I am astounded and touched but the outpouring care and concern from people near and far.   We have Diogi because of you.  Thank you.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jelly Donuts and Your Back

I have found that many people, myself included, are confused about the terms associated with disc problems in the spine.  I could go to my anatomy and physiology textbook or a scholarly journal to describe how the spine, vertebrae, and intervertebral discs work, but as interesting that would be for me, it is unlikely to add clarification on the subject.  Instead let me demonstrate the difference between slipped, bulging and herniated disc through a series of drawings by yours truly.
Here you have a lovely example of two vertebrae in the lower back.  The round flat parts that look like stumps are called the vertebral body.  On the right side in this drawing is the vertebral foramen, which is a fancy name for opening.  This is where the spinal cord passes through as indicated by the tube at the top of the drawing.  As the spinal cord passes through spinal nerves branch off through openings in order to communicate with different areas of the body.  So even though I am having pain in my butt and numbness in my calf, ankle, and foot, the source of the problem is the compressed nerve root in the spine.  In between the two vertebral bodies is the lovely yet elusive intervertebral disc illustrated below as a jelly donut:
It should be noted that is far easier to draw a complex lumbar vertebra than it is to draw a jelly donut.  So the intervertebral disc is like a jelly donut.  The dough is the tougher outer layer (anulus fibrosis) that contains the jelly which is the softer squishier inner layer (nucleus pulposus).
If you were to take two drinking glasses and invert them,with the jelly donut inbetween them, you would have the basic structure of the vertebrae and intervertebral disc.  Like so:
That jelly donut separates the glasses and keeps the fragile glass from clashing, scratching, and breaking.
If you were to exert gentle pressure on the glasses the jelly donut would squish out beyond the edges of the glasses.  If you were to press on the right the jelly donut would compress on the right and compensate by bulging on the left, hence the term bulging disc.  This is not abnormal and is the function of the intervertebral discs.  They allow the flexibility in the spine that allows us to bend, twist and turn.  However when the disc extends into the opening the spinal cord passes through it can irritate surrounding tissues and cause pain and discomfort.  This is called a slipped or bulging disc.  No worries though, the disc is solidly in place and can't actually slip out of place.
If you were to exert a large amount of pressure, say in a fall, the soft inner jelly squirts out.  It might be better to view the jelly as warm mozzarella cheese, but who has ever heard of a mozzarella donut?  Warm cheese would ooze and goo, but would still remain stringy and connected to the inside of the donut.  When the jelly/cheese/nucleus pulposus "squirts" out you have a herniated disc.  The herniation may compress the nerve root rather than just irritating it and you get a lack of communication between the nerve and the muscles etc they innervate, causing twitching, tingling, numbness, loss of reflexes, and movement of those muscles and tissues.

Sometimes the body takes notice of a large herniation and works harder to fix it than a small herniation.   I guess it is kind of like getting a splinter vs a tree branch stuck in your skin.  The tree branch is much more noticeable so we yank it out, whereas a splinter might not be noticed and may fester.  

So there you have it.  I better you never knew there was a connection between your spine and jelly donuts!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Is It Friday Yet?

I am doing a six days off one day on plan with desserts.  My day where treats are allowed is Friday and I want so badly to break the rule for these delicious little morsels Sophie made:
Despite my attempts to justify or rationalize that they aren't a dessert because they are made with fruit, I held strong and did not partake.  Good thing we have lots of lemons right now.  Is it Friday yet!?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Pain in the Rear

This morning the doctor walked into the room, opened my chart, sat down and said, "Well the good news is that the bigger the herniation the less likely it is that you will need surgery."

Three months ago when all this started I had no idea the path it would take.  It started as a normal sciatica episode.  I thought I had gotten it under control as I was relatively pain free.  But then this weird twitch started in my calf.  Kind of like those muscle twitches you get near your eyes when you are tired except it went on for days.  Then my calf started to feel itchy, then painful, then numb. Also my hip/glut was getting increasingly painful.  I knew these weren't the same symptoms I usually felt but I kept doing what has always worked with no progress forward. In fact the more I did the more it hurt.

I remembered that in the end of October I was outside with our rowdy huskies and Diogi hit the back of my calf at full speed.  It had been snowing and then raining so the ground was slick and the impact threw my leg out from under me and I went down. It didn't hurt very much and normal life moved on.

One night I was massaging my sorest spot and I felt a lump.  Aaron checked and he felt it too. I had a massage (THANK YOU SO MUCH VICTORIA!!!) and she felt it too.  My grandmother and my brother-in-law both had leg pain and it turned out to be a tumor.  I didn't really think that was the case, but I knew it could be a possibility so when Ben had a doctors appointment the next week I had her check and she felt it too.  I told her my fear and rather than laugh it off she ordered an x-ray.  She said that it felt like a sac or balloon and was fairly certain it was not cancerous.  

Meanwhile I was becoming more and more incapacitated and as a mom of four, being out flat is not an option.  My biggest pain relief came from a visit to the chiropractor who adjusted my SI joint.  She said it was so out of whack she didn't know how I could sit straight.

Many physical therapy, chiropractic, and pain management appointments later ($25 co-pay each time...ouch!) and an x-ray and a MRI later and we have visual evidence that I have a large herniated disc at my L5 S1 disc and a bulge at L4 L5 disc.  The pain in my hip was from inflammation in conjunction with the nerve impingement.  

All I have to do is walk 20 minutes a day, some very simple core exercises, juice up on ibuprofen 3 times a day, not bend down and not lift more than 20 lbs and within a year I should be in the clear. If the ibuprofen doesn't continue to work I could need a cortisone shot, but for now we are holding off.  Of course the bad news is that I could damage it more, end up with loss of control of my lower limbs and my bowels and I will need surgery.  I don't plan on getting to that phase. I have had a lot of success reducing the pain and a moderate reducing the amount tingling and numbness in my leg and foot 

The worst part of all this is the knowledge I have gotten through the whole process.  Our money is really tight because of a change in our mortgage payment.  When I very first suspected the fall had caused some damage I tried to fix the problem by myself to save the $25 co-pay at the chiropractors.  All I did was further damage and rack up hundreds of dollars in co-pays.  Live and learn I guess. Thankfully I do not have a tumor or a cyst.  And in a way I am glad to know that it was a trauma not poor posture or misuse that caused the problem, though it certainly aggravates the problem.

There.  That is the whole story more or less.  I haven't told a lot of people what was going on because I didn't really know and I didn't want to have to "untell" a bunch of people.  All is well.  Onward and upward.