Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sgt. Thomas Tibbs on steroids

So, here's the good news about Sgt. Thomas Tibbs:

After three and a half years with me, he is still making slow progress toward becoming, as I like to characterize it, "a real dog." He has settled in nicely to life in Calimesa. We both loved the fact that over the Fourth of July holiday it was relatively quiet around here, except for the occasional bottle rocket shot off by some miscreants on the nearby golf course, and of course, a half hour or so of muted booms from the fireworks display at the local high school (which we toughed out nicely by sitting in the truck in the garage, me reading, Thom panting).

Dog lovers know that living with a dog is like living with a secret agent; you're constantly followed by someone who seems to take notes of everything you do, everywhere you go. I never thought Thomas would ever get to this level of companionship, but since I've been retired, he's been very intent on scrutinizing my routine. He knows if I put on a certain pair of sneakers, we're going for a walk, and he will follow me down the hall without being called. On the now rare occasion that I put on slacks or a skirt, he stays on his bed—with very sad eyes. In that case, he knows I'm leaving without him and will be gone for a long time.

And he absolutely loves riding in the truck. Every afternoon at 4:00 (he reminds me if I'm caught up in writing something and forget the time), we go for a drive to get the mail and just get out of the house for awhile. Thomas is happy to sit in the back seat for as long as I want to chauffeur him around. Yes, this is the same dog whose anxiety would make him puke if he had to ride more than a mile or so. Now that's progress.

He's also gotten extremely good at playing 'possum. I'm still getting up pretty early, usually around 5:00. All the dogs I've ever companioned with (except for Osa, when she was very, very old) have begun their potty dance as soon as I swing my legs over the side of the bed. Thom remains where he is, absolutely still, until I come to his bed and rub his belly. When he first started this, I thought he wasn't feeling well. He'd lay in his bed, unmoving, until I came to sit by him and pet him. Slowly, he'd begin to "wake up." It took me awhile (humans are notoriously slow to catch on, as dogs know), but I finally realized he was staying in bed so I would come scratch his back and behind his ears. When he's felt sufficient love and adoration, he simply jumps up, shakes all over, wags his tail and trots for the back door. He's such a goofy, funny dog now compared to the depressed, traumatized and shut down dog he was three years ago.

But... here's the bad news about Sgt. Thomas Tibbs:

He was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It's called Pemphigus. When his nose began to look like this

I Googled "Why does my dog have spots on his nose?" and ended up on, reading about how dogs can get lupus. I picked up the phone and called the vet's office.

Our new vet, Dr. Thompson at Adobe Veterinary Clinic, was really great with Thom, understanding and empathizing with his fear of humans. (And Dr. Thompson appreciates the work of Temple Grandin, so that makes him even more wonderful.) Plus he has horses. And a sense of humor.

He explained that no, we don't know what causes Pemphigus, but yes, it usually does respond well to a certain steroid, and he is confident that Thom's quality of life will remain good. "He has a strong heart," he commented as he applied his stethoscope to Thom's ribcage. We left with medicine which Thomas is swallowing down with his treats (never suspecting). I think he'll be fine in a few weeks. I've already told him I need him around for a few more years. We've got a lot of walking—and driving—to do.

Monday, July 10, 2017

68 points

Here are the two salient points in today's post:
1. I've lost weight. (YAYYYYY!!!!!)
2. I've lowered my cholesterol—by 68 points. (In this case, "yay" in all caps with five exclamation points may not suffice to express my elation.)

If you read the blog on a regular basis, you may recall being vaguely annoyed by my post of January 3 wherein I discussed my weight gain over the holidays and my strategy for fitting more comfortably in my clothes again. So here's the update on that:

I stopped eating sweets. No homemade oatmeal cookies or lemon-lavender muffins through the winter. No more agave nectar (or half & half) in my morning tea. (Whew, that was hard. Like, really, really hard.) That's all. Well, I mean, I tried not to overeat or snack out of boredom or whatever but mostly, I curtailed sweets. I've lost eight pounds. Yep. Sloooooowly, a couple ounces at a time, the weight came off. I feel better. I move more fluidly. My clothes fit better. Yoga is... still hard but slightly less hard and worth every bit of the workout every time. Namaste.

In November, my new-really-horrible-doctor had me do blood work and my cholesterol level was 278. She sent me an email saying she'd enrolled me in Kaiser's here's-how-to-eat-better class—even though I'd already told her I do eat healthy and I've been a vegetable vegetarian for fifteen years. I didn't attend the class. I did ask Kaiser nicely for another new doctor. I was then assigned my new-really-wonderful-doctor (Dr. Vendiola in the Redlands facility, and she's awesome). She asked me to do blood work. I said, "Of course. I came in fasting for that very purpose." Three days later I got the result: My cholesterol level is now at 208.

Seriously?!? This is good news. I haven't had a number below 240 in twenty years.

How did I do it? I retired.

You're laughing. I'm serious. That's all I've done differently. I'm not exercising any more than I did before. I'm not eating differently (other than these past couple of months without cupcakes—sob).

I was so fascinated by this number, I spent a bit of time researching the correlation between stress and high cholesterol, and then it made sense. Want me to explain it? You can read a fascinating abstract by clicking here, but this is the bottom line of the study:

Stress produces elevations in serum cholesterol concentrations.

Know what else does? Standing. In the same study, the cholesterol concentrations in test subjects rose when they were tested while standing. Yeah. What did I do all day long five days a week for twenty-seven years? I engaged in a highly stressful activity (teaching teenagers in a public school setting—damned bell to damned bell) while standing. No wonder my cholesterol kept going up and up and up no matter what I did. When the stress ended, my cholesterol level plummeted. Just. like. that. Booyah.

So once again, I highly recommend retirement (unless you can sit while performing the very relaxing tasks required for your job). Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going out to work in the garden. Then maybe I'll play my guitar for awhile.