Gina Is Well

Gina is well.

We have returned from the vet and Gina was given an “all clear” on her ultrasound – liver, kidneys, bladder, gallbladder, spleen, and everything in between are all good and in fact in “excellent” condition, according to the vet who did the ultrasound. Gina is well!

She did mention that because Gina is a “big girl” (although, “quite petite for a Bernese”) the scope only reaches 10cm or 5in in depth, so could there be issues, yes.. but she said that looking at the other organs and the surrounding tissues, she says it seems that it is unlikely (at the moment) that anything is lurking beyond the range of the ultrasound scope.

She handled the procedure well – she’s a pro, having had many ultrasounds in our quest to figure out her tummy issues etc – and the vet and techs were all enamored with her, of course. Even one of the resident vet office cats came to check her out.

So, after discussion and a quick research on my phone, we have found the generic (US-based) form of the Forekor 28 that we were giving Gina in Germany, and we have started her on that. It’s also LOADS cheaper, so when (not if!) her levels drop on this, we can easily keep it up without breaking the bank – not that it would ever stop us from getting her medication, of course, we love our Ginabear to the moon and back.

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Weather out there was gloomy and dark and stormy – a good day to be inside, snuggled and warm with a nice cup of tea.

Gina concurs.

Poor little Azzie

My poor little Azzie monster, she got herself another hot spot AND an ear infection at the same time, in BOTH ears. Thanks, Georgia summer.

This hot spot was so enormous that the vet was astounded at the size of it.

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They had to sedate her to shave the area, and to apply all the ointments and shots and the medication to her ears. The vet said that she would be a bit “strange” after the sedation, for at least 24 hours. Bernese Mountain Dogs are very sensitive to the effects of anesthetic and sedation, and generally need less to get them “out” than most other breeds, so it’s more than 24 hours since she came round from the sedation and she’s still not quite “herself” yet.

I am very grateful that this was nothing malignant, or difficult to treat. So we’ll get through this post-sedation funk with my poor little Azzie, and hope the hotspot clears up as quickly as the last one did.

As20161026_145844 I write this, she is sitting close by my chair, resting against my legs. When she is … lucid… she has become even more of my big fluffy black shadow dog than she was before. When she’s in sleep mode (which is about 90% of the time at the moment, due to the sedation after effects) she plops down anywhere and tries to find a comfy position. The first night was the worst – she could NOT get comfortable. She cried and whimpered and whined from the moment she saw me down the end of the passage at the vet office and came running – wobbling is more descriptive – to me, until about 4 am the next morning. It was a difficult few days as my husband had to be up incredibly early in the morning and neither of us got any sleep in our worry and care of her, but she is feeling much better, thankfully. The other two dogs were very worried about her, and they didn’t sleep so well either. Weirdly, Gina has been much more her “old self” (before we got Azzie) while this has been going on. It’s like as Azzie’s loud, proud and crazy personality lulled, Miss Gina’s personality rose to fill the “gap” created. She’s been playing with Odin in the mornings (and at the dog park) and is very feisty and silly and runs around outside and does her own thing – investigating bushes and rushing forward on the walks to walk next to Odin, who is always in the lead… while Azzie has fallen right back behind me, and sometimes just stops and stands there thinking about things. It’s a strange phenomenon, and one I should speak to my friend Nicole about at some point – is it normal? I know Gina kinda went into an aloof state when we got Azzie – I think she thought she would always be an “only child” as she had been for the first 3 years of her life before we adopted her.

In a way, I’m hoping that this will help Azzie slow down just a little and grow up just a little, so that her personality can balance with Gina’s, and Odin’s, and they can become a balanced “pack” and be happier in their interactions with the world and other dogs. But if the “old” Azzie comes back I am still just as happy – I just want her to be herself again. This quiet, non reacting version of my poor little Azzie bear is just downright WEIRD, and she barely wags her tail – but that’s getting a little better now. She stares off into space a little bit, but not as bad as yesterday, and she at least responds to her name now.

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What took me so long?

Since I started walking Azzie, I have had issues with her pulling on the lead and dragging me off in various directions randomly, leaping around. On occasion she has nearly dislocated my shoulder, bowled me over and twisted my fingers until I thought they would snap… all the while dragging Gina around by the neck as well.

I tried various things: the whole stop-and-wait method, when that didn’t work (doesn’t work when you have two dogs to deal with and one is tentative already :/) I tried the gentle pull – I didn’t want to hurt her neck. That didn’t work at all as she is so big she barely notices my weight. I tried to remain calm and to not yank on her – it’s bad for them when they are young – but I could not get through to her. So I switched to her harness, but unfortunately this just made it worse, as she is built like a tank and all her strength (like most big dogs) is in her shoulders and front legs…

I was getting to the point where I didn’t want to walk her anymore – it was just too exhausting, frustrating and annoying. I was aggravated and fuming every time we walked. This upset Gina as well, as she picks up on my mood/body language very quickly. I also didn’t want to “ruin” Azzie as a young, exuberant pup! She’s a darling, just… large and doesn’t know her own strength. She doesn’t do things to make me mad, she does it because she is still learning and testing boundaries and her breed are very slow to mature (we have years of this to look forward to :))

I had a thought, two days ago. Apparently these “easy walk” harnesses work wonders. Not too clear on the exact mechanics of them, but I know that it removes all the force/pull from their neck and shoulders, as they are basically pulling on themselves to a certain extent. Since I didn’t have one of these harnesses handy, I thought let me try make my own…

I put her normal harness on, but attached the leash to the loop on the front, on her chest.

You want instant results, then try it yourself.

I cannot even begin to explain how my dog transformed. I do not know HOW it works – I didn’t pull on her and she didn’t pull on me, at all – but it works.

Every walk we’ve had since then has been an absolute pleasure!

I can’t believe it took me so long!!

Azzie is a happy puppy – still full of bounce and puppy silliness, but no longer being hissed at, or yanked on by me – and Gina is a happy dog – her tail remains up the whole walk now, instead of slowly drooping down at her back legs as she gets more and more upset by my bad mood – and I am a SUPER HAPPY OWNER!!

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Upon reflection…

Another much better night with Azzie after my husband and I made some compromises with her – I came to some conclusions about myself and about the dogs, and about life in general. Very deep, I know – but it happens sometimes.

She slept 4 hours, did her business outside quickly, and then slept another 5 hours right up until the time my husband and I normally wake up – I set no alarms, but let her wake me when she needed to go out. I was so proud of her! I managed to get at least 6, maybe 7 hours of sleep this way, as opposed to 3 or 4. It caused a marked improvement in my attitude and mental state, let me tell you.

She also vomited up the (entire) soft cloth chew toy that she guzzled down 2 days ago, early this morning. I so relieved that it came out in tact, and that it had not caused any damage to her insides.

She grows daily – she is now too large to sleep in her crate and that’s another reason we came to a compromise: she gets her “in your bed” treat ball, and she happily goes into her crate turns around and sits for it. She eats it in the crate, but then is free to come out and sleep where she wants in the bedroom. Surprisingly, this is not always ON the bed, as I assumed it would be. She likes to be able to stretch out, and to find different areas of the room to stay cool. Berners run very warm most of the time (summer is a nightmare for these poor pups) so she spends a lot of her time (And Gina as well) laying on her back with her legs in the air, on the cold tiles. She gets up on the bed only after I’ve taken her down for her loo break (around 0130) and demands cuddles… then gets off and goes and plops down (The Berner Flop) somewhere to get cool again.

I also noticed (this morning) a wonderful improvement in her eating habits – she no longer hoovers the food down, but actually chews each piece and slowly investigates her food toy to make sure she gets all the yummy stuff out. She even LEFT some kibble in her bowl this morning!

She is also taking her treats so much more gently! No longer biting your fingers or shoving your hand halfway down her throat.

There has been a breakthrough in her attitude, as well as mine, I think.

I hope it continues – I will be disappointed, but not surprised, if she has a few relapses. She’s just pup – but she’s definitely starting to show the gentle Berner nature now, in between stubborn fits, of course 🙂

Gina is playing more with her as well. They sleep next to each other sometimes, in the passageway and on the one bed that I put down in the lounge (there is another bed, but Azzie wants to be close to Gina if at all possible – I think this is why the compromise has worked: She feels like part of the family, finally.)

They are BOTH enjoying the snow so much it’s ludicrous! Azzie does head first plowing and flops over and rolls around in it at every opportunity – especially soft powder snow! Gina eats the icy bits and loves to catch the snow if you throw it in the air for her. She is loving the cooler weather as well. These dogs were born for this, and it shows!