A “Good News For Penny” Update

Many of you have asked about how Penny is doing.  We appreciate your concern about our long0time pet and occasional Webner House contributor.

IMG_3408I’m happy to report that today we received the results of Penny’s biopsy.  The tests indicate that she doesn’t have cancer, for which we are grateful.  Instead, according to the vets, she has some kind of acute case of gastrointestinal disease/chronic  inflammatory bowel disease.  It sounds disgusting, and it is, but it can be controlled with steroids, which lessen the swelling that cause the incontinence.  Kish has the happy chore of getting Penny to consume steroid pills that she really doesn’t like — but it’s a price we’re happy to pay.

Of course, there’s always a downside.  In this case, it’s that the steroids make Penny incredibly thirsty . . . which in turn causes her to drink copious amounts of water . . . which in turn causes her to periodically have accidents around the house.  Oh well!  They say that into each life a little rain — or other fluids — must fall.

Wrestling With A Life-Or-Death Decision

We’ve been dealing a big health scare with Penny.  It’s frightening because we don’t know the exact status of her condition or what is causing it, and it’s uncomfortable because it has caused us to start talking about very difficult end-of-life decisionmaking.

Penny is having gastrointestinal problems.  We’ve had to buy her special food, and at times she can’t keep it down.  If you know Labs, you know that is a warning sign; normally Penny would gladly eat her own weight in just about anything.  Last week, things took a turn for the worse.  Penny was losing it from both ends without regard for what she was doing, leaving our carpets terribly stained and the house smelling like a latrine.  She also was disoriented, apparently uncomfortable sitting, and moving and wandering aimlessly.

-1Thursday Kish took her to MedVet, a local emergency room for pets.  They concluded that she had a severely inflamed stomach and intestinal lining and was dehydrated.  They kept her for two days, gave her intravenous fluids, prescribed steroids for the inflammation, and did a scan and biopsy to try to determine the cause of the problem.  The fluids helped her disorientation, and the diarrhea stopped.

We brought Penny back home on Saturday, with her belly and bands on her forepaws shaved, and have held our breath hoping that she is okay.  So far, she hasn’t had any accidents — thank God! — her appetite seems to have returned, and this morning she had a solid bowel movement, which was a cause for minor celebration in the Webner household.  That’s the way it is if you are a pet owner.

We still don’t know why Penny had this problem in the first place, though, and we’re waiting on the biopsy results to see if it was caused by disease, environmental factors, or something else.  In the meantime, Kish and I have talked about the possible scenarios.  If Penny has a disease that leaves her unable to control her bowels, what alternatives do we have?  She’s a house dog, not an outdoor dog, and her prior bout with this problem was intolerable.  How comfortable is she?  If she does have a disease, what are her prospects?

The discussion includes difficult, almost mathematical calculations.  Penny turns eight next month, and Labs typically live to 11 or 12.  If she has a problem that could be addressed by surgery, what would it mean for her likely life span, and what would her post-surgery quality of life be like?  If it could be treated by medication, would it have side effects?  And lurking behind all of the scenarios are uncomfortable considerations of cost.  Penny is a member of the family, but if the news is bad how much should we be willing to pay — on top of what we will have to pay already — to give her another few months or a year?

This kind of decision-making is profoundly difficult and depressing.  I don’t want to be the Grim Reaper, making life-or-death judgments about a pet.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that the tests indicate that this was a one-time thing, and dreading what we might have to decide if we get bad news instead.

Let Slip The Inner Asshole

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In my family, cards were serious business. You played to win, and if you blundered you could expect to be called on it — in spades.

Taunting was not only accepted, but viewed as a crucial part of the play-to-win process. A well-played hand that produced an unexpected loss for your opponents had to be accompanied by a well-played barb, and if you were on the losing end you were expected to respond in kind. It was all part of the game, and if you didn’t like the insult process you just shouldn’t play.

This is all well and good when card playing is confined to the family unit. It’s a bit uncomfortable when you sit down to play an innocent game of euchre with friends and realize that your inner asshole sees the deck of cards and concludes that it’s time for him to make an appearance.

Worms Of The Earth, And Garage

Richard has an interesting story in the Chicago Tribune about vermiculture:  that is, worm composting.  I’m all in favor of composting and reducing our waste footprint, and using the lowly worm to accomplish that important goal seems like a good idea to me.

As always, I learned something from reading Richard’s story.  For example:

Worms eat about a third of their body weight a day, and great compost packed with nutrients comes out the other end.

Charles Darwin was a big fan of worms, and wrote that he doubted “there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world.”

Worms are temperamental, and one lazy worm can turn an entire worm colony into a bunch of malingerers.

Worms apparently will eat just about anything, including burlap and scrap paper.

Remember the useful aspects of our worm friends, and be sure to sweep them off the driveway after the next big rainstorm rather than pulverizing them into the asphalt!

Richard’s Fine 9/11 Piece

Richard has moved over to the Metro desk at the Chicago Tribune, and yesterday he had a fine piece in the paper about an art exhibit that includes pencil drawings of every Illinois soldier killed in action since 9/11.  The exhibit, called “Portrait of a Soldier,” includes more than 300 drawings of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

It’s a touching piece about a gentle way of remembering what has happened in the aftermath of 9/11, and the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform, and their families and friends, have made since that terrible day.  Interesting, isn’t it, how art can be such a powerful way of expressing things, and how something simple like a pencil sketch of a soldier can nevertheless have profound meaning?

Thanks for the Rafting Roommate for sending this along to me.

Keeping Track Of Uncle Mack

10502429_944538671533_2387090454819837848_nFacebook obviously has its faults, but it’s got one huge virtue — it makes it so much easier to keep track of what your friends and family members are doing.  Take Uncle Mack, for example.  What’s the lawyer/saxophonist/actor/occasional Webner House contributor in the family up to?  It turns out he’s been working on a film called The Orangeburg Massacre.  Calhoun ‘da Creator’ Cornwell is the motivating force behind the movie, and his Facebook page has lots of information about it, including the photo above in which Uncle Mack is prominently featured.  A trailer for the film is due in the near future, and I’ll post it when I see it.

The Orangeburg Massacre is the name given to the incident in which South Carolina Highway Patrolmen opened fire on students at South Carolina State College, who had been protesting in an effort to achieve desegregation of a bowling alley.  Three African-American students were killed and and 27 people were wounded in the shooting, which occurred on February 8, 1968 — more than three years before the much more well known Kent State shootings.  Does anyone doubt that the relative notoriety of the two incidents has at least some relationship to the race of the students who were victims?  It is wonderful that a film is being made about the Orangeburg Massacre, 45 years later.

Some people retire and do nothing except work on their tans and frequent Early Bird specials at local restaurants; others use their newfound free time to explore new interests and expand their horizons.  Uncle Mack is squarely in the latter camp, and I think what he is doing is pretty cool. I don’t know anything about the movie or his role, but I am proud of his willingness to tackle it and, we can hope, contribute to greater awareness of a shameful, racist chapter in American history.

Penny, The Cover Girl

In today’s mail we received Healthy Pet magazine.  Imagine our surprise, and double-take, when we saw our dog prominently featured on the front cover.

IMG_2906That’s right — that’s Penny, looking all noble, in the circle on the cover.  Sure, her name is misspelled, but that kind of publicity is priceless.

Upon close examination, we saw that it was, in fact, our Penny — but it’s not the actual, glossy cover of the magazine.  Instead, it’s a kind of add-on cover courtesy of the Animal Hospital of New Albany, where Penny’s veterinarian practices.  Presumably it was added specifically for our benefit, and the homes of other four-legged patients received special covers about their pets.

We’ll have to save the cover, because along with her brief brush with stardom Penny’s medical schedule is advertised for all the world to see.  There’s no federal law protecting the privacy of pooches, so there’s no problem with a magazine cover that embarrassingly discloses that Penny will be getting that heartworm/lyme/E/A test in a few weeks.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t come back positive, now that the mailman knows all about it.