Sunday, October 29, 2017

Blind Cockapoo, Gilbert

Gilbert is almost 8 yo.  He’s been a joy and a companion for all that time.  He’s a therapy dog who comes to work with me.  So many patients have benefitted from his love and some have actually been cured of their fears or paranoia by his persistence. He has sailed the ocean in my Sailing Vessel, Giri. He is most known for riding on the back of my Harley Davidson Electroglide, to and from work. He’s ridden in the Rides for Dad rallies with his friends Dave and Dave’s dog Emory.  Last year, hearing me say how much I loved the Guess Who when we hired them for the Vincent Massey High School dance for $500 and ever since, he rode on the back of my Harley to Sturges North in Merritt. There he heard the incredible Burton Cummings and loved him.  Given my own history of being shot at, stabbed, held hostage and repeatedly falsely accused by psychotic borderline personality disorder patients or sociopathic drug addicts, he’s been what keeps me getting out of bed going to work.
Last spring he developed hereditary glaucoma, correctly diagnosed by Dr. Christopher Douglas at Oak Animal  Hospital. He was referred to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist but despite best treatment his pressure didn’t come down.  Dr. Christina King his much loved Veterinary Ophthalmologist at Western Canada Veterinary Eye Specialists removed that eye and he did very well. Once the eye was removed the pressure which was like a constant migraine was removed. While he hated the horrid cone of shame that made other dogs think he’d had the dreaded orchiectomy, he recovered very well, returning temperamentally quickly to his old carefree friendly self.  He had months more of sight with his remaining eye. Then one day that eye went red and he curled up in a fetal position despite the drops we’d been giving him.  He saw Dr. King and despite a couple of weeks more of intensive medical treatment the pressure didn’t come down and really was out of sorts. Both times when the pressure first went up he lost his sight and it just simply didn’t return despite treatment.  This apparently was what usually happened as well as the loss of the second eye some time in the year after the diagnosis of the first eye.

So the surgical date , a thursday , was set and his eye was removed. The cone of shame was especially difficult now that he was completely blind.  As well he’d just about figured out every way to avoid the tramadol pain killer I”d been giving him since the second eye pressure went up.  I tried peanut butter, liver, roast beef, ice cream.  He’d find that tramadol and spit it out.  The Metacam NSAI he accepted very well, the manufacturer having obviously considered taste whereas the tramadol folk lacked a dog palate.   For 2 nights he was in pain, the first with me holding him most of the night and the next with Laura coming over for the weekend calming him half the night. Mostly he was lonely and afraid and confused.  He hated the cone banging into everything with it.
And all the other dogs wouldn’t play with him because they didn’t want their genitals or butt banged by the hard plastic edge of the cone. He couldn’t even lick himself.  We reassured him. It wasn’t personal and wasn’t even sexual.  He was a good dog. I said that every sentence.  It was such a hard time. Good dog, Gilbert. Good boy.  And Laura reassured her little fur baby too.
Dr. King took off his cone last week saying that he’d healed just fine when she took out the sutures. “I”m sorry to tell you but the eye’s all okay but you dog has fleas.”  I felt as ashamed as a parent whose teacher tells them her kid has scabies.
He’s on monthly Sentinel. I’ve sprayed all his beds with industrial dose flea killer and even took him in to Oak for the nuclear subcutaneous Men in Black 3 bug killing one shot injection.  Still he’s got fleas.It’s been a bad year. My patients have human fleas, lice. Vancouver has the highest priced property in the world and everywhere there’s bed bugs.The rats come up from the shoreline and run through the $500 to $1000 a night hotels.  It’s all quite absurd. Despite working through the Aids epidemics with the Aids Dementia patients I had my personal melt  down, despite my doctor denial armour, when a patient dumped a bottle of bed bugs and lice on my desk to show me  "how bad it was.”  I didn’t need that.
Two bottles of Kwellada total body washes for a couple of days immersion healing got me back into my standard denial. So many of my patients have resistant staphylococcus infections, cellulitis, hepatitis, AIDS, injection site abscesses.  Now my dog had fleas. So I went through all the treatments, sprayed everything and concluded that maybe George the indoor cat was passing them back and forth. But Laura and I both looked George over and no fleas and no eggs and no scratching.  I just don’t think the Sentinel is working so plan to see the veterinarian and ask if Sentinel resistant fleas have come along.
George, Laura’s rescue cat, a skittish surly guy, has become Gilbert’s best friend and confidant since Gilbert's sbecome blind. Each morning Gilbert wakes up and goes off to rub nose with George then the two of them play before Gilbert and I head out to work.
My nephew Graeme sent Gilbert a toy for blind dogs, a ball he rolls about with his nose.  When the toy moves it  groans and laughs. Gilbert loves it. We knew he was back to his old self when he began throwing his wee hedgehog toy at Laura for her to throw back to him. I throw him a ball but he loses it. He likes the Kong toy filled with peanut butter. He smells that out.
He’s only slowly learning to locate things purely by smell. I have to remember that it's only days he's been totally blind and that he'll just keep learning.  In time I may teach him a blues  guitar and get him some gigs on the road to bring in doe for kibbles..
His nemesis is getting caught behind a half open door. He’s woofs then, unable to turn around and not quite sure how to back up. Laura and I have both rescued him several times from that dilemma.
In the new motels and cabins we’ve stayed at he’s had difficulty the first day orienting himself but by the next he’s pretty settled. Strange sounds upset him.  He’s thoroughly at home at my place but even now sitting outside he barks when he smells something but there’s nothing I can see.
Hunting on the weekend I took him along in the evening in the truck.  He liked being along.  He’s a bird hunting dog and always found my grouse for me when I shot them.  He retrieved the birds though they were as big as his little head.  When I shot a deer once he raced to it before I could get there and when the deer started to raise it’s head he jumped on top of it holding it’s head down till I arrived and put the deer of it’s misery. I always feel sorry for that deer in deer heaven shamefully explaining he was killed by a cockapoo.
We walked along way down a logging road, brush and pine and fir trees along one side with an open clearing along the other.  I was carrying the rifle and hoping a deer might come down that hill the other side of the clearing.  I let Gilbert off leash with a little blue flashing light on his collar. He walked behind me as I stalked quietly along realizing Gilbert's flashing blue light and my snapping my fingers and calling to Gilbert might not go unnoticed by the deer.  I ‘d look back and see him following as he usually did. Then he wasn’t there and I remembered in the past he’d take off circling to raise a grouse I might have passed. Only now he was hung up in fallen trees in their maze of branches with me having to call him orient him to the way out. This happened a couple of times with me actually once having to climb over the trees and lift him out of where he’d got himself stuck. After that he stayed close behind me. It’s all a steep learning curve.
He likest to lie on the bed beside me.  Laura saw him jump up on the bed and sit beside me listening to my breathing with his head cocked. Then as if he could see he had his head just above my chest before he lunged forward and lay right across me. This is one of his early morning wake up statements. Normally he’s on my chest but this time he was just off a tad and I had cockapoo draped arcorss my face.  “Good Morning, Gilbert!”  His tail still wags a mile a minute.
He’s vulnerable but loves meeting other dogs. They say blind dogs in the wild stay with the pack and survive. Blindness in older dogs is quite common.  I’m Gilbert’s pack.  When my father went blind Mom who was going deaf became  his eyes as he was her ears. With all Gilbert's growling and barking at strange noises I think he thinks I’m deafer than normal. He’s elevated himself to Guard Dog too, something I’d discouraged before when he was hunter and therapy dog. But it gives him purpose now. In time he’ll be an even better therapy dog and hunting dog.  I might even get him dark glasses and a seeing eye companion dog. I already have a blind dog white leash but draw the line there. My dog’s not getting a cane and cup with a hand printed sign.  I say that now but with the way Canada’s economy is being mismanaged, I might have to reconsider our options.
I like holding him closer more.  Knowing that my carrying him up and down stairs was tough on me,  he began making his way up and down himself.  Since the cone's gone, he's been doing everything he can to be independent again. Better natured than me he's going to adapt. However, he’s had so many treats from Laura and I this past week it will be tough to get him back on his regular kibbles and little caesar’s.  I say that but know he’ll be sharing the grouse I shot this weekend when I get around to barbecuing it.  He's had barbecued steak last week and prime beef on the weekend.
We will prevail.  I think of him as a little biblical Samson as well.  I feel too he’s Gloucester of Shakespeare’s Lear. All the Blinded character’s in history are now here in Gilbert enshrined. He's given me a whole new appreciation for those who are blind and the amazing cyborg eye advances happening technologically.
As I'm adapting to my increasing deafness and loss of taste I can still help Gilbert  who is blind and doing his best to warn me of dangers, albeit too frequently. I’m reminded when I think of the two of us old warriors of the picture I have from the horrific Japanese Changi WWII Prison I visited in  Singapore.  I made a point of going there after having had the privilege of having a surviving vet from that place as a patient.  I brought back the sketch, "Two Malarias and a Cholera"  by  Ray Parkin.
I'm reminded too of the story of the child,  who seeing all the bad news of CNN and CBC,  asked her mother how humans could be so bad.  The mother instead told her to look for the "helpers." “There are always helpers.” she said.
So in Changi when the prisoners fell from disease the Japanese told the other prisoners  to leave them to die not letting the healthier men leave their work to help them. Instead two men with malaria between them helped the worse man with cholera back to camp that day.
Gilbert’s always been a helper.  It’s in the nature of cockapoo.   He’s been the best of little dogs and my heart goes out to him now.  We're in this together and we're get through and thrive.  Like that amazing woman I met , Heidi Cave,  who wrote the book, "Fancy Feet, Turning My Tragedy into Hope."  

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