Thursday, December 24, 2009

All we wanted for Christmas

This morning when we opened the door to his cage, Chickens stood up and walked out.

He may have wobbled like a drunken sailor, and after two steps he promptly fell down. But this is still huge, huge progress. Three or four weeks ago, he couldn't stand on four legs even with our help - we'd prop him up and he'd flop down like a rag doll. But this time, ever so briefly, we had dog who stood up and walked all by himself.

Now, there's still much ground to cover and many problems to solve. For instance, how to get the husband off the couch, where he has slept every night for three weeks because that's the only thing that keeps the caged dog from barking and waking up the baby. Or how to get Chickens to learn how to pee without his beloved lifting of the rear leg. But for today we're just going to be grateful for his Christmas gift to us.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chickens on the mend

As we enter the fourth week of Chickenbone's recovery from emergency spinal surgery, I have a few hopeful things to report.

Last week after giving him a bath in the kitchen sink, I sat down on the living room floor to finish toweling him off. For one split second I relaxed my grip on his body, and before I knew it the HALF-PARALYZED DOG skittered on his front legs across the floor and flung himself headfirst into his old dog bed. The one that has sat empty for three weeks while he has lived in his crate. It was the most unbelievable thing - the little rascal was just so damned FAST. And when he hit that cushion, he began wriggling around joyously and wrapping himself up in his little blankets. You could almost imagine that he had been eyeing that bed from behind bars every single day, just waiting for the opportunity to make his great escape. After so many unhappy days, it was thrilling to see him act like his old self again. Here is the triumphant Chickens relaxing in his bed:

The other cool thing is REALLY cool: Sal's parents, who are two of Chickenbone's favorite people in the world, came over for a visit this weekend. And when they walked in the front door, that freaking dog wagged his tail.


Now, it was the sorriest, most pathetic wag you ever saw. Especially if you knew how he wagged it before, when his tail was a springy little curl that popped up above his back. This new wag was fairly limp, and the curl is mostly gone, but who cares? It wagged, man. And wagging was not even within the realm of possibility two weeks ago.

I was really bummed that Sal didn't see this (and a bit fearful that I imagined it) but Chickens wagged it again today when we visited the vet for a post-op checkup. We got a pretty good report, all things considered. No miracles yet - he still can't walk, and he still needs help going to the bathroom. But in addition to the wagging tail, the vet also detected some small movement in his back left leg. So small we could barely see it, but it's there.

It may not seem like a lot to get excited about, but very slow progress was something we were warned about from the start. Chickens isn't even halfway through his two-month initial recovery period, so we still have lots of time for more improvement. Now, since he is in no pain and his surgery wounds have healed up, our focus is less on crate confinement (though he still needs to stay in there most of the time) and more on rehabilitation. Each day we will continue doing range-of-motion exercises, as well as sling-walking him in the back yard, encouraging him to pee on his own, and even doing water therapy in the bathtub.

So, pretty good news, no? Let's see how the next four weeks go. Even if improvements continue at this exact rate, we'll be overjoyed. And hey, maybe Chickens and Mia will learn how to walk together! AWWWW!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Colic or not, it's all so easily forgotten when your baby learns how to do this:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The C-word

Introducing the most annoying question since "So, have you had that baby yet?":

"Do you think it's colic?"

Oh my, does this question make me crazy. It's just so pointless. I mean, whether it IS or IS NOT colic, how exactly is this label going to help? Let's say it is colic. Does that mean I get to go out and buy the special colic pills that make it all go away? Will we get a visit from the colic fairy, who will sprinkle my baby with the magic cure? No! So spending even one precious sliver of time trying to decide if my baby is colicky - which isn't even an official diagnosis ANYWAY - seems completely stupid. So don't ask me if it's colic, and especially don't ask me if I happen to be in the third or fourth hour of wildly swinging, shushing, bouncing and rocking my wailing daughter.

If I sound a bit edgy, it's because I live in the house of horrific noises. It's a vicious cycle that includes one pissed-off dog in a cage who whines and barks to get out, which wakes the sleeping baby, who howls and screams at being woke up, which gets the dog all agitated, causing him to whine and bark. And I don't mean to lay all the blame on the dog - sometimes it's Mia who gets the show started with her fussing, which wakes the dog and gets him riled up all over again. Once in awhile, the cacophony grows so unbearable that we take Chickens out and hold him for a little while, just to stop the madness. But we can't just go plucking the dog out of the cage all the time, because (a) he's supposed to be RESTING IN THERE, DUDE, and (b) acknowledging his barking in any way just exacerbates the problem by teaching him that barking works. In an ideal world, we'd ignore him until he stopped. But ideal worlds definitely do not contain sleeping infants.

So, yes. We've had a lot of fussy baby around here lately. But there have also been many things that are wonderful and not ear-splitting at all, and if I hadn't been so busy with the paralyzed dog, I would have been sure to write about stuff I don't want to forget about Mia's first six weeks:

- When we came home from the hospital, there was a banner hanging in our living room welcoming us home. It was from Chickens, who probably had a little help from his dad.

- Mia was born with the little tufts of dark hair on the edges of her ears. I'm told this is temporary, but at the moment I find it to be the most adorable thing ever. I call them her werewolf ears!

- She seems to like a little singing name game I play with her, involving variations of rhymes with her name. Mia Tortilla is my favorite, but we also do Mia Taqueria, Mia Mantequilla, Mia Flotilla, Mia Carpenteria, Mia BobbyBonilla, and so on.

- Sometimes when we have tried every trick in the book to calm Mia down, we have to bring out the big guns: Switching on the CD player so dad can belt out some Sinatra. It is already such a treasured memory, watching him in her room dancing and singing her to sleep - although if you know my husband, you know he does a MEAN Sinatra, so even more often than she falls asleep, she stays wide awake and stares up at him in wonder.

- After her umbilical stump fell off (a ridiculous FIVE WEEKS after her birth) we were finally able to give her a real bath. We just plopped her into the tub with me - so much easier than fiddling with keeping her upright an infant tub - and she loved it so much. Her eyes get wide as saucers, like you've just told her the most shocking secret ever. Also, it is surprisingly hard to get her entirely clean, particularly between the folds of chub on her arms, legs and neck. One time I counted the arm chubs - there were six! ON EACH ARM! Scrumptious little thing. Oh, and after a bath, her hair sticks up all over. I call her Porcupine Head.

OK, my time has run out! I hear the familiar sounds of a hungry baby coming from the bedroom, and if I tend to her quickly, we may be able to avoid this morning's "concert." An update on the furry patient coming soon!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A little bit of peace

The baby is asleep in her swing, the dog is asleep in his kennel, and the husband is at the gym. I should be taking this opportunity to nap myself, but I'm just so thrilled about all the blessed silence in this house that can't bear the thought of falling asleep and missing it!

So at least one of our suspicions regarding Chickens was correct - that big surgery collar was making him miserable. After the vet removed 12 industrial-sized staples from his back incision yesterday, we were finally able to take the damned thing off. And when we got home, Chickens promptly curled up and slept for three hours. Without drugs. We couldn't stop staring incredulously at that quiet little heap under the blankets. It seemed miraculous that the dog who kept us awake for a week with his crying could sleep like such an angel.

No other updates on his paralysis - his back end is floppy and limp. But the good news is that his spirits are getting higher by the day. Yesterday when the vet set him down, Chickens bolted across the floor like a little seal, "walking" with his front legs and dragging his back behind him. He went straight to his dad for a kiss and a cuddle. A few minutes ago when I opened the door of his cage, he skittered toward me and out onto the floor. When I gave him a treat, he started whining with it in his mouth (he does that when it's a REALLY good treat) and then he dragged himself back into the cage to bury the treasure inside his blankets. And about 15 minutes ago, he even growled at his mortal enemy, the mailman! So his back end aside, he is more and more our old Chickens every day.

Now we wait. It could be weeks or even months before we know whether he'll ever walk again, but there's still plenty of room to hope for the best. We just have to be vigilant about his care. Several times per day, we have a session of P.T. in which we extend and retract each of his back legs 30 times. We also have to help him go to the bathroom. Poops come out on their own, but pee only comes with some help, so four times a day we have to manually express his bladder onto one of those doggie pee pads. You guys, I am an EXPERT manual-canine-bladder-expresser. It was really difficult at first, because I was so nervous - you have to push kind of hard, with your hands all over his back end where the surgery happened. Plus, well, it's just not easy to locate a dog's bladder with your hands and squeeze it in just the right way that makes pee comes out. The nurse who taught us how to do it was like, "Oh, don't worry - it's just like milking a cow!" Ah, yes. Very helpful. I'll just fall back on all of those cow-milking talents I picked up in college.

Later today we're going to take him to the back yard and let him sniff around. See if we can help get his brain and his bladder talking again. We're also very excited about giving him his first bath, now that the staples are gone. I mean, during those first dozen or so potty breaks, let's just say the farmer had a tough time aiming the teat at the bucket. The vet also said we could let him out of his cage for short, supervised periods. Let him scoot around and feel like he's part of the world again.

Life with a dog who requires this much attention, plus an adorable 5-week-old baby who is even more demanding, is hard. But when I start to feel like I'm losing it, I try to think back to where we were even five days ago, and I realize we have already come a very long way through this storm. And I'm hoping that five days from now, and five days from then, life will settle back into something that - even if it isn't - will feel kind of normal.