Lifes Abundance content relating to 'Golden Retriever'

Health Scares & Family Togetherness

Golden-sheen-2

It’s no secret amongst medical professionals that December is one of the toughest months for pet parents. No one really understands why, but both people and pets fall ill this time of year more frequently than at other times, making what should be a happy time of year one of the saddest. In my time working the veterinary ER, I got to see it firsthand, and it was always just heartbreaking.

We had our own scare last month. The week before Christmas, my beloved Golden Retriever became seriously ill. At 8, he’s old enough to be susceptible to a myriad of problems but young enough that despite his whitening muzzle I still think of him as an overgrown puppy with lots of time ahead of him. He collapsed on a Sunday morning. We headed straight to the ER.

Although Brody was stabilized on intensive care and had undergone myriad tests, they were unable to determine the cause of his symptoms and suggested we take him to a cardiologist as soon as possible. In between taking the kids to a holiday play and maintaining some semblance of normalcy, I shuttled him to the specialty center an hour away at midnight, hopeful for some sort of resolution or at least answers.

After three days of hospitalization and test after test, we were still without a diagnosis. Multiple specialists at the top of their fields came up empty. The “cancer” word was suggested multiple times. After all, this is a Golden Retriever we’re talking about. But despite our best efforts, every diagnostic evaluation came up short. We did what you always do when you don’t know what’s going on: treat the symptoms and hope for the best.

I brought Brody home with a pile of medications worthy of your Great Uncle Joe’s medicine cabinet while we regrouped to await test results. Biopsies, ultrasounds, blood tests, all normal. And despite all indications to the contrary, Brody started to slowly improve.

No one was more shocked than me. In all my years of practice, I can’t recall the last time I saw a dog as ill as mine bounce back. It was truly a Christmas miracle, and we couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful. I had fully planned to spend Christmas staring at his empty stocking in a puddle of tears, and here we were instead, cuddled on the couch like nothing had ever happened.

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I’m sharing this with you for a couple of reasons: first, as hard as it is for me to not know what happened, it’s a good reminder to all of us that medicine is an imperfect science. The people on his case are the smartest I know, and the fact that they couldn’t tell me what was wrong isn’t an indication that they were somehow lacking so much as the fact that sometimes there’s just nothing that can be found. I am so incredibly grateful to the medical professionals who spend the holidays away from their families so that we have somewhere to go when our pets are sick. Their care brought him back to me.

Second, this gives me a real impetus to actually follow through on a New Year’s Resolution for once. I always say I’m going to value my relationships more and spend more time with my loved ones, but this time there is an urgency to it that I’ve never had before. I was quite sure I was going to enter into the new year minus one fluffy lovebug, and yet here we are: I still get to wake up to his face on the side of the bed, roll my eyes in a not-really-mad kind of way at the amount of fur he sheds, and wrestle with him for space on the couch at night.

Every day with our loved ones is a gift, and nothing makes you appreciate that more than the prospect of no longer having it. I have no delusions that everything is back to normal; although we could find nothing wrong, something did go wrong with my dog, and it is very likely to come back. But since I have no control over it, for now I will just be grateful for the small things that fill a dog lover’s heart with joy: dog kisses, tail wags, and unabashed joy at something so simple as a short walk. There are no givens for the upcoming days or weeks.

No matter what happens tomorrow, our time together today is a blessing, so let’s make the most of it. From all the pet lovers here at Life’s Abundance (that’s pretty much everyone), wishing you and yours all the best for 2018!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

May Your Holiday Season be Golden

According to one recent study, upwards of 60% of pet parents buy their pet kids a Christmas stocking. My response is … ONLY 60%? Granted, I fall a little further on the extreme end of the pet-enthusiast spectrum. I don’t just do stockings … we wrap gifts, don holiday sweaters and even keep a goodly supply of festive cookies!

My beloved Golden, Brody, started joining in the holiday merriment as a pup. His first Christmas was 2009, as a bouncy little five-month-old filled with joy at this strange new festivity. The candy-cane shaped chew treats were icing on top of the holiday cake.

My dog gets super excited on Christmas morning. (The cat not so much, but that doesn’t deter me from trying.) He senses the excitement as the kids start tiptoeing around starting at 5 am, poking boxes and whispering their prognostications about what might be hidden inside each festive package. Brody plays along, sniffing at each gift in turn and standing patiently under his own stocking until it’s his turn to discover his holiday goodies.

He isn’t as excited about his ornament as I would like him to be, but hey, we can’t win them all. Maybe if they made scented decorations he’d be more appreciative.

Your dog’s enthusiasm may vary, of course. My dog Kekoa, who blessed our house until her passing in 2012, was not nearly as excited about donning holiday garb. She was quick to figure out that not tolerating costumes meant she got to skip straight to the treats. That’s what you call a “smart cookie”.

As we enter the 2016 holiday season, I’m reminded of how much he has changed since Brody’s first puppy Christmas back in 2009. He’s a little slower, short one ear we had to amputate, and grey around the muzzle. He’s like the Ghost of Christmas Present from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol … an amiable chap who lives in the moment, which seems to pass by in the blink of an eye.

Dogs are an ever-present reminder to stop and enjoy every moment, because you don’t get it again once it’s gone. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to enjoy many more Christmases together. Taking my cues from him, I’m trying not to worry too much about the future, but rather just taking in the precious moments and enjoying his lovable presence in the here and now.

So this year, instead of being sad about that little bit of grey already creeping into his coat, I’m remembering to be grateful for all the joy he has brought us over the years, thankful for him simply being who he is, and appreciative of the varied comforts our four-footed companions bring to the holiday season.

What are your favorite canine holiday memories? Share your story in the comments section below! Or, submit your very own holiday pet pics to our secure Dropbox account.

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season! 

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From My Puppy

I never cease to be surprised at how much I learn from my dogs. Even after living and working with them for years, there’s always something new to learn about them or yourself. The first few months of my dog Brody’s life as a puppy were some of the most joyous weeks of my life. Even at two months of age, he seemed to have it all figured out. Maybe it’s a dog thing.

So, in no particular order, here are all the life lessons I learned from my puppy Brody!

A good solid wink is an essential people skill to master.

If you’re breaking the rules, better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Nap often and with great gusto.

When in doubt, just try looking chagrined.

Truly, no problem is insurmountable.

Did I mention it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission? Especially when it’s ice cream.

You’re never too young - or too old - to be a hero!

No matter your age, be sure to celebrate all of life’s milestones!

What lessons has your dog taught you? Please share your story in the comments section below!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang