Soolin update

Sadly, Soolin’s real 7th birthday gift was to undergo surgery to remove a fatty deposit which had been growing at an alarming rate over the last several years. We first noticed it three years ago when it was a small golf ball-sized lump in her armpit. By March this year at her checkup it was mango+ sized, and when they finally removed it Monday last week it was three pounds and about the size of a football sliced in half.

If I could do it over again I would have asked them to remove it last year, because when they removed it they discovered it had infiltrated the muscles under her arm and were not able to entirely excise it. Still, they took ~3 pounds and the overwhelming majority out. The hope now is that it won’t recur. The infiltration of the muscle works against this unfortunately, but the odds aren’t terrible (~40% is what google tells me) and even if it does, hopefully it will grow at a slower pace.

By and large her recovery from the surgery has been messy and unpleasant for her but relatively smooth. She has staples along an incision that runs from her armpit to her navel, and she had two drains installed which protected her from too much fluid collecting in the void left by the excised tumor. I had to apply hot compresses twice a day to the region and keep her dressed in a tshirt to help corral the bleeding. Her first day she barely moved and was in obvious discomfort (and on painkillers to help with it) but by the second day she was starting to perk up and move about, and seemed even better on the third day. Unfortunately she had a relapse possibly caused by us letting her go for too long of a walk that began on the 4th day and had her bleeding fairly heavily at times and again becoming immobile with discomfort. This lasted a couple of days. She had her drains removed last night and seems to be doing well – she tried to roll around in the leaves this morning when I took her out, throughout it all her appetite has been strong, and she’s starting to show signs of her normal playfulness. I’m fairly optimistic at this point. She’s still leaking from the areas where the drains were, but the flow is significantly less.

So…could have been better, but could have been much much worse, so all things considered I’m thankful that it’s looking good, and she handled it well throughout. I’ll post a few pics to the gallery with the warning that a couple of them might be disturbing.

Brady’s 6th month

Brady’s 6th month birthday was Wednesday. It’s amazing how time flows by so quickly. The little tyke’s had a pretty good month all things considered. The only real negative was a bout of brown vomit which had him rushed off to the Dr for assessment. Their conclusion was acid reflux and a prescription for a cloudy white goop which we feed to him with an eyedropper. He’s done great otherwise, and even during that episode he was largely cheerful and unconcerned, giggling as he spouted like a casting reject from the exorcist.

In terms of eating, he continues to get new food types from us as we expand his palette. So far he’s much like me – willing to try and eat most anything and enjoying most of it. There were no home runs in terms of preferences this month, though he does seem to enjoy the mango the most of the new stuff. He also tried avocado again and liked it this time (we’ll chalk the initial rejection up to me not blending it well enough), and similarly now enjoys summer squash after we tried mixing a tiny bit of applesauce into it. He didn’t like the apricots Susan tried this week, at a guess because they were too sour. He also likes the sweet pea mash made from peas we grew in our garden. Brown rice gruel is also going over well. Susan’s been mixing it with a bit of fruit and he seems to love it. He continues to enjoy apples, pears, bananas, and sweet potatoes. So far Susan has been making all of his food from scratch, and as our vegetables in the garden mature an increasing portion of his diet will also come from food we’ve grown ourselves.

Behavior wise, he continues to experiment with vocalizations, moving from the quiet little chirps and coos to loud, explosive shouts, sometimes for prolonged periods. I can still get him into ‘conversation,’ though he’s less easily engaged with that now. Mostly this seems to be because he’s much more dexterous now – his head’s now on a swivel and he’s constantly twisting and turning, staring intently at everything and curious about anything new that is introduced into his field of view. His hand and arm dexterity is also much improved. He can reach for and grasp objects with a reasonable degree of success now, and anything he can draw to his mouth, he does, including appendages, hair, Soolin, anything he can get a hold of. He’s often more interested in checking out his environment and the new stuff than he is in chatting with me. Sometimes his curiosity extends to me though, and now that he can sort of use his hands, he will occasionally reach out to touch our faces – lips, cheeks and mouth especially.

I think he’s starting to connect words to things, mostly because I have occasionally noticed if I say Soolin or Nana, he’ll look at them. The same trick doesn’t yet work with Mom and Dad. I’ve been experimenting now with words to see how I can help. I’ve started with ‘Up’ which I repeat endlessly when he’s lying down or in his chair or stroller and I’m going to pick him up. I always try and end with a big exuberant smiling ‘UP!’ when I’m done as I drape him onto my shoulder. I think he’s already recognizing it because even when he is crying a smile sometimes crosses his lips the first time I say it. We’ll see where this gets us by the end of his 7th month.

He’s still not mobile. He can almost keep himself steady while sitting, but his arm strength isn’t to the point where he can keep his chest off the ground for long periods. He’s funny to watch though – his legs are strong, so he’ll squirm around trying to move, with his little butt poking high up in the air and his face and chest planted in his blankets. Mostly he can turn in circles and occasionally push himself slowly along, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to pull all these pieces together into concerted locomotion. He can also roll himself over, though not yet consistently, which occasionally leads to crying and frustration because he gives up and concludes he’s stuck, then starts wailing. He also doesn’t like to sit most of the time, and actually prefers standing in our laps with us providing the balance.

He’s pretty consistently slept through the night all month. He’s to bed by 7PM or so, and often wakes up around 4AM but can be coaxed back to sleep until 6AM. We’ve moved him out of his co-sleeper and into his own crib in his room, and so far that’s gone pretty well. We feel especially blessed in this department. We don’t get as much sleep as regular folks, but compared to what some of our friends have gone through we have it really easy.

Susan continues to post images to our gallery. The gallery of photos taken during Brady’s 6th month is here, and here’s a sample from one of his new experiences, swimming in the Lords awesome new swimming pool:

photo of our son Brady entering a swimming pool for the first time

Susan and Brady as Brady tries a swimming pool for the first time



The ectasy and the agony

So let me just get this out of the way – my golden retriever Soolin is the greatest dog ever. Today’s proof is here:

my dog Soolin leaping into the pool

this despite the fact that she’s got arthritic hips so creaky she sometimes has trouble making it up stairs, and a fat deposit under her front right armpit that causes her gait to be way out of whack*. So you get the full picture, here’s her sticking the landing:


and paddling immediately on over to retrieve the tennis ball:

paddling over to her ball

so, that’s the good news. My dog is fricking cool and possessed of an indomitable will to enjoy herself. The bad news? She pays the price:

This is after it had healed a bit. It got her on both sides, her neck, and her back.

She got hotspots so badly on her cheeks that we had to pay the vet to shave her for us – she wouldn’t let us near them because they were so uncomfortable. She was diagnosed with a yeast infection in both ears at the same time. All told she’s on two oral medications, some goop that goes in her ears twice a day, and a topical spray that goes on the wounds 3 times a day.

My poor, fabulous, glorious Soolin. There’s no stopping her no matter the consequences.

*(she’s going in for surgery to have that removed sometime in the next month or so)

Scene of a poultry murder

scene of the crime

One of our chickens was killed early this winter, and while some of the details of what happened are clear to us, some of it’s a bit mysterious as well. I’ve been sitting on a draft of this story for literally months. I’ve finally found time to post it.

We have a habit of checking in on our chickens in the late afternoon, dropping a bit of cracked corn into their coop and making sure all is well. Susan and I had just returned from a Doctor appointment for our son Brady last week, and after letting our dog Soolin out I headed back to the coop. As I approached Soolin rushed off barking – she had detected a large raptor in our garden, hunched over the carcass of one of our chickens. This fantastic little scene evolved as Soolin chased the raptor back towards our property line, her barking and snapping and it flapping furiously, trying to gain altitude. Ultimately it escaped, but I commend Soolin for her effort. It reminded me of an old warner brother cartoon.

As to what happened, well, I’m not really sure. As you can see in the second photo, something pulled the screws to the coop door latch out of the coop frame. They’re tiny screws, but still it would require a fair amount of strength to manage this. Plus there were no signs of something grasping or gnawing at the coop or coop wire, something you’d expect to find if a predator was trying to work out how to bust into the coop. Our best guess is it was a bear or racoon. Our neighbor watched a black bear pull down his birdfeeder to get at the birdseed this winter, which lead to our operating theory: a bear showed up and tried to get at the chicken feed pellets, freeing the chickens, one of which was subsequently killed by the raptor. There were large bundles of both black and yellow chicken feathers in piles outside the coop, suggesting some or all of the chickens were outside the coop at some point, and several of the other chickens had wounds.

How the criminal broke into the coop

In terms of fallout, the chickens were traumatized, and would not come down from the loft of their coop for two days. After the second day, I opened the top and chased them out of it, figuring they had to eat so I would force the issue. They pretty quickly returned to their old behaviors, sans their sibling.

If you click on the last photo to enlarge it, you’ll see the raptor perched in the tree in the center background (the far tree) of the photo. He spent the 30 minutes it took me to clean up the coop and repair the busted door circling the yard and doing low passes over the coop, with me occasionally shaking my fist at him. After the chicken carcass was no longer visible to him he settled into the tree in the photo to watch me, and was still there when I headed in.

We did lose another chicken over the winter, but I have no photos of it because I discovered the murder scene in the dark. Our best guess on that one was it was a coyote or fox based on the scat it left behind.

All of this has us concluding we need to build a better coop – the current one isn’t adequate in terms of protection for the birds. I did reinforce the chicken wire and apply a layer of metal cloth to it in response to all this though, and we haven’t lost a bird since then. We’ll see if Susan and I find time to work on another coop before the seasons change again.

The perpetrator

Another rabbit fence story

Some weeks ago we dug a trench and ran chickenwire around the perimeter of our garden after the rabbits managed to eat up a bunch of our greens. Since then, things haven’t gone especially well. Now another example of how well this is working, courtesy of Susan. She was out walking Soolin one morning this week and Soolin managed to chase a rabbit into the garden. This time, Soolin got into the garden with the rabbit proceeded to chase it around. The rabbit panicked, ran face first into the chicken wire, bounced off it, recovered, and then scampered up over the chickenwire by using it like a ladder.


Fucking rabbits.

Here’s how well our new rabbit fence works – it protects rabbits

So last weekend we worked half a day, with help from Parker and Steve, to get chicken wire installed on our garden fence. 300′ of fence, buried ~6″ deep and stapled to the existing wooden rail fence. This after I spent several weeks digging the trench around the exterior of the fence.

Yesterday I let the dogs out to do their morning business, and Soolin went zipping off towards the garden, barking. Turns out she had spotted a rabbit. Said rabbit? Inside the fence. Soolin? Stuck outside the fence. Soolin, apparently our only effective rabbit deterrent, was reduced to running furiously up and down the perimeter of the fence, barking madly but impotently. Eventually the rabbit scooted out of the fence and into the nearby shrubbery, but its point was made. We’re debating our next move.

Incredible leaping dog

Susan and I have two dogs, Soolin and Nori. On Saturday they were flipping out in the yard, so we went to check it out and discovered what appeared to be a stray dog sniffing noses with them through the ~4′ chainlink fence that surrounds the yard. We live on the corner and one of the streets is pretty busy, so we worried about the safety of the dog, and both of us tried to coax it into coming over, Susan from inside the fence and me by making my way onto the street from the other gate. The dog was skittish and ran away once, but then came back and to our great surprise it coiled itself up in a ball, made a huge standing leap onto the top of the gate, perched there for a moment like an owl, then lept into our yard. It was pretty amazing to see. This was not a large dog, standing a bit shorter than Soolin at the hips, but boy, it could leap like a kangaroo. Our best guess was it was on the prowl for a mate based on how he chased Nori around, but he lept right back over the fence when we tried to approach him to read his collar.

Two dogs, one skunk

Midweek last week, Susan heard the dogs scuffling on the side of the house and tried to call them in. She saw a flash of white and thought maybe they were after a cat, but she caught a whiff of skunk and quickly closed the door then called for me in a minor panic. I was in the midst of a Team Fortress 2 match and couldn’t really hear her – all I heard was urgency in her voice. I knew she was downstairs making pickles and was thinking…who has a pickle emergency?!? But after the second time she called for me I came downstairs and could immediately smell the skunk. Still – what could we do? I opened the door and Nori, our black lab, was up on the porch waiting to come in. Soolin was out of sight. I could smell skunk in the air but when I sniffed Nori I couldn’t really smell it, so after running my hands over her I let her in then started calling for Soolin. She came up onto the porch tossing her head about, a thick white froth covering her mouth and chin and a long dribble of drool spraying about. Susan and I were a bit freaked by her appearance and behavior – she kept tossing her head violently, smacking her lips, and drooling profusely. I sniffed her and while the smell of skunk was very strong in the air, she smelled more of chemicals, like windex or something. We brought her inside, confused, as I kept sniffing at her mouth and wiping away all her drool. We started to panic a bit, fearing that she had ingested chemicals or something toxic, based on her behavior, the lack of a skunk smell on her, and the drool. Susan called the vet and pretty quickly we headed off to the animal hospital, expecting that Soolin was going to have her stomache pumped.

By the time we got halfway to the animal hospital we had concluded it really was a skunk we were dealing with, not chemicals. We couldn’t explain the different smells, but the way my car reeked made it clear that it was skunk on them.

It cost me $100 for the vet to confirm this, and I ended up feeling pretty foolish. Susan and I had a really long night – we had to put the dogs in a tub and scrub them with a solution made up of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dish soap and water. The good news is aside from their faces, which we couldn’t scrub so assidiously, the dogs smell ok. The bad news is the odor lingers around our house and most especially in my car, which absolutely reeks. Based on a conversation with a co-worker who also ended up with a skunked car, I’m going to pay someone to detail it and ask them to focus on steam cleaning the upholstery, we’ll see if that clears it up.

[update] I forgot to mention the reason Soolin was drooling and frothing at the mouth. She took the skunkblast straight to the face and mouth, which is why she was so agitated and drooley. The vet told us it was harmless, but you can imagine how disgusting this must have been, even for a creature acustomed to the occasional snack on some other dog’s poop.