Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Tuesday, 2017.07.25
I have the worst luck.  No matter what, when dropped my cat always lands buttered side down.

2006.11.20

Janet’s Boy Drops His Body

Mac DuffFor the third time in the past 18 months I’ve had to hold hospice here at home. First Janet, then our little silky terrier, Oscar, and this past week it was our cairn terrier, Mac Duff. I had to euthanize the pup this past Thursday night.

This all unfolded rather suddenly. About four weeks ago Mac Duff started limping on his front left leg. He reluctantly put weight on it and would hold his left paw in the air when he was just sitting. Pick him up wrong and he would screech in pain. Not a good sign. Detailed blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, MRI, a lump biopsy, $4,000 and four vets later the answer came back as very aggressive malignant lymphoma.

Mac Duff was a rescue dog. We got him at about 6 months of age. Janet wanted a third puppy and I grudgingly acquiesced. She had been through some rather difficult chemotherapy and surgery and wanted some puppy energy in the house to help boost her spirits and had wanted a blond cairn terrier for a long time before that. Mac Duff provided all this in one tiny nuclear package. He never slowed down and had the best temperament of any terrier I’ve ever known. He was Janet’s puppy.

Phyllis Glawe, the oncology vet at the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC) was clear and detailed with the facts. I’d asked for that up front given my history of supporting Janet in her fight with cancer. Smoke, mirrors and candy coated prospects are a bad thing. A very, very bad thing. If I’m to make a decision, I need to know what I’m up against, what the options are and what the likely consequences of any decisions might be.

A vet, or a medical doctor, earns a great deal of my respect from me if they are capable of acknowledging when they don’t know something. The valuable piece of knowledge contained in that acknowledgment is that I need to look elsewhere for an answer. Feigning knowledge for egotistical reasons, presenting speculation as fact and the like is also a very, very bad thing. It was that kind of attitude that put Janet is such a difficult situation before we even knew what was going on.

So, given that Mac Duff’s cancer was very aggressive and already quite advanced, if I had opted to put him through chemotherapy the cytolysis of the cancer cells would have flooded his little body with buckets of dead cell material, further taxing his already struggling liver and immune system and making him even sicker than the chemotherapy drugs would already make him. He could die from the treatment. Then there would be the side effects of the drugs: fur loss, vomiting, incontinence, risk of infection. God damn it, this is all too familiar. Not only this, but after six months of treatment, Mac Duff would have another 3-6 months cancer free after which the likelihood of a recurrence is very great and we would be right back where we were this past week. Only after much suffering and another $4,000+ lighter.

As Mac Duff’s owner/caretaker, the tough decisions are left to me. When Dr. Glawe showed me the protocol Mac Duff would be on, I knew what was in store for him when I saw words like “Adriamycin”, “Anzemet”, “Cytoxan” and “Cycloposphamide”. I could hear Janet’s voice screaming at me “Don’t torture the puppy!”

After the awful experience of having to put Oscar down and the way his last week on the planet unfolded, I wanted to find a vet who would make house calls for euthanasia. After speaking with several contacts, I settled on Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder who specializes in pet euthanasia and calls her business “Beside Still Water“.

What a find! Dr. Ann is an angel. I had expected the house call vet would pretty much do what they do at the vet office except they would give the shot to put Mac Duff down at home. Not so. As soon as Dr. Ann stepped in the front door, she sat on the floor with Mac Duff and worked on setting a friendly rapport. There was nothing about Dr. Ann that said “vet” to Mac Duff. She had tasty biscuits from Great Harvest Bakery, spoke softly to him and scratched his ears. Even my other cairn terrier, Jasmine, took biscuits from Dr. Ann. Jasmine never takes treats from strangers. While doing this, she explained the process. She did this several times during the two hours she was there at the house, no doubt to remind me of what would happen.

Basically, she used four shots over about 15-20 minutes. The first was a strong pain killer, which made Mac Duff relax (first time in 4 weeks) and made him a bit sleepy. The second shot relaxed him even more. He was still aware and Dr. Ann said a loud noise or such would cause him to take notice. He was still tracking me with his eyes. The third shot was basically anesthesia and put him into an unconscious sleep. The fourth shot was an overdose which stopped his breathing and heart. Like Janet, when Mac Duff left, he jetted out of the galaxy.

I have a clear sense Mac Duff didn’t know what was about to happen. At no point was he afraid or agitated. He was comfortable and certainly enjoyed the treats. Unlike Oscar, who I had to take to the vet at 3:00 AM. As much as Oscar was suffering, he knew where he was – that place where people hurt him. So he fought and struggled. And the animal hospital vet didn’t get the euthanasia drug dose right and had to give him two shots. So he didn’t die right away. It still troubles me thinking about how he left. With Mac Duff, I have a much better feeling about his last days and moments. Dr. Ann is the main reason I’m doing better after Mac Duff’s death than I was after Oscar’s. The overall cost of using Dr. Ann’s services are not that much more than taking one’s pet to the vet to be euthanized. But the benefits to both you and your pet are an order of magnitude better.

I have one ding against VRCC for the record. It needs to be said to help readers who may be in my position. First off, understand that the vets at VRCC are very, very good. We refer to VRCC as the “Mayo Clinic for Pets.” They are also very, very expensive. And that’s not my grudge. I love all my pets and consider them a part of the family. Not in the perverted sense that some pet owners do who think it fitting to dress their pets up in people clothes, feed them human food, take them to pet psychologists and pet psychics, etc. Not in this house. We know our dogs are dogs and we care for them according to their nature. My dogs are on a raw food diet for the most part and they thrive on such food. They are given plenty of room to play and frequent walks. What ever care they need, if I can at all afford it, they get it.

My ding is how the tests were triaged. With obvious multiple lymph nodes that had had swollen to the size of plums in just one week, the sensible thing to do would have been to run the blood tests and biopsy first and deferred the $2,500 MRI until after the less expensive and, frankly, more appropriate tests results were available. But VRCC tends to go for the full buffet. They did this with Oscar but I put the breaks on that when they presupposed my instant answer to his potential glaucoma problem was to remove the cataracts in his eyes and replace his lenses with artificial lenses.

When it’s one of my dogs that is suffering, it’s difficult to keep the caveat emptor attitude. I trust the vets to make the correct call and not act as if they have a blank check with which to work. VRCC has my vacation for 2007. I hope they enjoy it because I likely won’t be traveling far.

[Edit History]

2006.11.22

Add more information in second post regarding Mac Duff.

2006.10.31

Rise And Shine

The colors just get better…

Aspen 01 Aspen 02

This was yesterday evening just as I got home from work. Today is damp, gray and cold.

2006.10.28

Das Engel Heiligtum

The aspen are in peak just outside my house.

Das Heiligtum

Standing beneath the aspen, lulled by the the shimmering of the sun and melody of the breeze in the leaves…

Das Heiligtum Aspen

…today is a good day.

2006.10.08

Heartland

A few pictures from a walk several weeks back. I’d meant to post them, but forgot about them until I happened across the digital camera this morning.

dsc00396_50.JPG

Janet and I called this cottonwood tree “Quasimodo.” Out in a field all by itself, it has been struck by lightning more times than I can count. The bark on one side is all black, the after effects of its most recent brush with primal forces. As gnarly as it looks, it has always been an inspiration for persevering and getting through our own tough times.

dsc00404_50.JPG

It used to be I could point a camera in any direction on my walks and end up with a cool picture like this. Now, there is so much mega-house building going on I have to frame my subject as best I can. On this walk, it was quiet, warm, fragrant and tranquil. Just like old times. I stood on this bridge soaking in the sunlight and comforting smells of Fall for a good long time. I want a strong memory of this place before it is gone forever.

2006.09.21

The Tin Foil Brain

This from Swiss researchers, so you know it’s accurate:

Stimulating a certain area of the brain can produce a creepy feeling that someone is watching you when no one is, scientists said Wednesday.

Swiss researchers made the discovery while evaluating a young woman for surgery to treat epilepsy. They believe their finding could help explain feelings such as paranoia which afflict patients suffering from schizophrenia.

When they electrically stimulated the left temporoparietal junction in her brain, which is linked to self-other distinction and self-processing, she thought someone was standing behind her.

If they repeated the stimulus while she leaned forward and grabbed her knees she had an unpleasant sensation that the shadowy figure was embracing her.

“Our findings may be a step toward understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control,” said Olaf Blanke, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in the journal Nature.

The left side of the brain. Hmmmmmmmm. We can only hope that someday appropriate medication will help.

[Edit History]

2006.09.23

Added link to original article.

2006.09.02

Steal This Lunch

Go ahead. I dare you. From the New York Times:

For those with autonomy in their jobs – generally, well-paid professionals – breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator.

I think what creeps people out, and by people I mean “guys”, about this is that it’s stuff which was once inside someone’s body and now is on the outside. Most generally, when this happens, it’s not a good thing, ranging on a scale from unpleasant (“Earl, there’s something on your nose.”) to disgusting (“Earl, that looks infected.”) to flat out horrifying (“Somebody get a tourniquet around Earl’s torso fast!”).

To most, there’s nothing cute about a baby burp, especially as the count rises over time. Although Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might go gaga over baby’s goo goo given their propensity for collecting trophy excretions. What’s worse, from a guys perspective, is the stuff is being saved. And for non-clinical reasons at that. Imagine a bag labeled “Earl’s sputum. DO NOT TAKE!” or “Earl’s sperm. DO NOT TAKE!” parked in the office refrigerator right next to your egg salad sandwich.

That’s how guys think about it. Of course, babies think otherwise. They have yet to be bent by our convoluted, contradictory and puritanical social conventions. They have yet to be pressured by peers and crushed by the protuberant herd in their journey from self expression to self repression.

Personally, this doesn’t bug me. My perspective is rather pragmatic on these things, the result of having grown up with five sisters, three of whom followed my mother into nursing careers, and supporting my late wife, Janet, through 10 years of battling breast cancer. These experiences left scant room for mystery in regard to what women have to deal with while growing up and trying to forge a career.

Pump away girls, it bugs me not.

A discussion thread is happening about this article over on Althouse (H/T, by the way).

[Edit History]

2006.09.03

Fixed klutzy sentence.

2006.09.23

Edited for clarity.

2006.10.02

Updated dead link to Tom and Katie’s trophy.

2006.08.29

Variation On A Theme No. 4,577,308,253 By God

The Spring and Fall are the best seasons to walk along my life long favorite trails. This evening it was the Highline Canal Trail. I’ve walked this trail since, well, since I could walk. It’s evening walks like these, alone with my thoughts, that I feel I could never live anywhere but Colorado.

But the walks are changing. Deep gashes are being hacked out of the land on either side of the trail to build colossal, five story buildings some people seem to need. Stranger still, they call them “homes.” Thankfully, they haven’t rubbed out nature yet.

As I walk, I can close my eyes and listen to the cicada and crickets, smell the woody fragrance of the aging cottonwoods and maturing sage and yarrow. Fall is imminent. When the breeze is just right, and the failing sunlight just so, I can even imagine Janet is walking along with me. At this moment, it would take a powerful force to pull me away from here. I feel the roots fading, however, as places exist in both space and time. The relaxing satisfaction of watching a sunset has been displaced by a deep sadness I cannot define just now. It’s a silence that has me listening for something. My sense is there will be a time when I must go and search for a new home.

All the more reason to enjoy this sunset. And so I did…

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

[Edit History]

2006.08.30

Grammar changes and expanded a few ideas.

2006.08.22

Jacqueline Passey

Because being a self-professed genius means never having to soil your self with those messy rules of grammar…

Also, before anyone feels bad that I felt harassed by their attention, I want to clarify that it wasn’t any one person’s behavior that has made me this uncomfortable, rather it’s the cumulative effect of being simultaneously aggressively pursued by several men who I don’t have reciprocal feelings for. — Jacqueline Passey

Eeek. It’s the cumulative effect of that sentence that leaves me uncomfortable. That feeling is set to rights knowing I fail the date criteria, what with believing in a poverty stricken libertarian God and all. Whew! Judging by her criteria, I’d say she’s looking for herself, anyway. Follow your bliss, kid, and good luck.

[Notice of Full Disclosure: This post is an experiment. After all, what is the Internet if it isn’t one giant sociological Petri dish.]

2006.07.25

RFID In Medicine

This is a good idea and an excellent use of technology:

Technology that helps airlines keep track of baggage and sounds an alarm when a shoplifter tries to leave the store may be able to stop surgeons from losing a sponge inside a patient, a study said on Monday.

Doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine who tested sponges embedded with radio frequency identification tags said the system accurately alerted surgeons when they deliberately left a sponge inside a temporarily closed surgical site and waved a detector wand over it.

And they could go further. Its been widely reported that close to 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. And its been suggested this number is too low. I believe there are many ways computer technology can be leveraged to make the practice of medicine much safer. Mind you, not as a replacement to current practices, but as an enhancement.

I had voiced a related suggestion more than a year ago whereby medication containers (bubble packages, bottles, syringes, etc.) would contain a RFID coded with the drug and dose. The patient’s chart and wrist band would contain data about what they are allergic to, which medications had been prescribed and the dose prescribed. Coordinated with a central knowledge base about all known drug interactions an additional level of checking (assuming the medical staff continues to check medications as is done today) can be done by computers to ensure the patient is getting what was prescribed, the dose and interval is correct and contraindications/side effects are taken into account.

A thread on the use of RFID for surgical sponges can be found at Schneier on Security.

2006.07.08

Life on Fellini Street

Odd week, this. More so than most. Turning 45 without the one I had hoped to grow old with probably set the tone and the rest just flowed from there.

We’ve had a solid week of rain here in the land of perpetual drought. I had planned to replace one of the sprinkler zones during the holiday but that just turned into a muddy mess.

The person responsible for keeping me employed declared I was introverted. The surreal song-and-dance that followed as he strained to make this sound like an asset and a compliment is just too…beige…to describe.

Thursday I came home to discover someone had seen fit to walk up onto my porch and steal the 6 or so small American flags I had stuck into a flower pot. I found one in the street out in front of the house and retrieved it. This one will be hung on the inside of my glass door next to the Urban Scare Crow. I decided this act had some intent behind it which I didn’t like. Was it a political act? Was someone casing the house? Was it a solicitor miffed at the Urban Scare Crow? Is this making me needlessly paranoid (as opposed to necessarily paranoid, I suppose)? I filed a police report for the theft in case I need to establish a pattern or if others in the neighborhood had their flags stolen.

Minutes after the all-business police officer left along with his rather cute ride-along, Bethany I think her name was, all bloody hell broke lose. Six or seven police cars converged on the house two doors down along with an ambulance. The street was blocked and crime scene tape went up. The couple in the house had been in the midst of one of their numerous arguments and the dude went into his backyard and shot himself dead. We know this because the coroner showed up, too. As this was playing out, I looked to the neighbor directly behind me who is busily mowing his lawn. A little leaguer could have thrown a stone from where the lawn mowing neighbor was and hit the dead neighbor. Smelly gasoline powered machine being pushed across a lawn. Dead guy on a lawn. Only one conclusion can be made from this at the end of a week like this: Lawns are bad things. But of course, I already knew this.

I fully expect Rod Serling to ring my door selling cookies, magazines and V8 engine blocks. If he does, would you like me to put in an order for you?

2006.06.10

Social Parasites Wanted, No Experience Necessary

Amy Alkon is attending the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference at the University of Pennsylvania. She makes note of these comments from behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk (University of California, Riverside):

She talked about parasites as a normal part of life, and noted that they’ve shaped life from the beginning: “We evolved with parasites…” and “…we remove them at our peril.” She spoke of the unexpected downsides of removing our pathogens.

This has me thinking. It is a common observation that our social behavior is a more developed or complex extension of basic physical models and that our social structure is often modeled after similar systems in nature. So while Professor Zuk is talking about actual little critters, what are the implications of removing societal parasites? Is it actually a good thing for society to have some portion of the population living on welfare? Does the social burden of 14 million illegal aliens provide some as yet unrecognized benefit, something deeper than the ideas and claims being kicked around in the MSM and blogsphere? And the same for social security, Medicaid and Medicare.

I don’t have an answer to these questions, but they may merit consideration if a socially healthy solution is to be crafted to many of the current issues we face. I believe there is a very real possibility we are failing to define many of these issues in a manner which can result in positive solutions.

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

Friedrich Nietzsche

[Edit History]

2006.06.10 – Ooooops. Wrong link to Advice Goddess post. Its fixed now.

2006.06.20 – Sissy Willis takes a similar tack with regard to immune response research and the social context.


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