Improvement – Just in Time for Thanksgiving

Within 24 hours of surgery, my “second daughter” is showing signs of feeling in her rear legs already.  That is the best news that we could have hoped for.  The biggest fear that hung heavy over our household was the possibility that the dog would never regain the use of her legs.  If that happened…the consequences were unthinkable but very real for us.

Susan went down to the hospital to drop off some familiar things with her scent on them to make her more comfortable.  The hospital staff have fallen in love with her and are showering her with affection.  Sounds like she’s getting just a little spoiled at this place!


What is it about a family pet that can escalate them to the status of human family member?  In our house, this entire drama was just as gut-wrenching as if the surgery was required for my REAL daughter.  I remember growing up in rural Pennsylvania, where “farm cats” and “farm dogs” had a more raw existence.  If one of them had an accident and was paralyzed, they’d be put to death immediately without a second thought.  But these days in our family, the pets are priceless gifts from God.  Years ago back in Knoxville the girls rescued an older dog they found by the side of the road.  She was in such bad shape that it took a hefty vet bill of more than $1,000 to get her patched up and healthy.  That sounds like a lot, but little Sophia became a family member and enriched our lives for several years thereafter, right up to the point where we left for Oz.

We don’t think about the cost.  All we can focus on is restoring our lives by restoring our missing family member.  This is a young dog, only about 2.5 years old and there are years of rich experiences ahead we will have to be a bit cautious with her to prevent another such occurrence with her spine. The doctors were so great at the vet hospital and so sympathetic to Susan’s anxiety over Ziva.  They saw her tears, heard her voice shaking, and noted her red face.  Their responses were compassionate, their phone updates positive and upbeat, and they even took the photo above and sent it to Susan to reassure her after she had dropped off the dog’s stuffed animal for her this afternoon.

Back in the early 1980’s at Michigan State I had an interesting observation.  The vet students had all the knowledge of the medical students and even took human anatomy classes, but had an extra dose of compassion and grace that the wanna-be doctors lacked.  If I ever got sick, I thought I’d rather go see a vet for his/her humanity more than a traditional doctor!  Now, it’s not fair to speak ill of all doctors and I appreciate all the good ones that are out there today.  But my conversations at Owen Graduate Center were just very different with the vet students than the osteopaths.  Just sayin’.

Due to all this drama, and the fact that Ziva won’t come home until at least Friday and possibly as late as next Monday, we’ve decided to cancel our annual Thanksgiving turkey fry for our Aussie friends.  We are focused on the issue of how well Ziva will recover and concerns about how we will manage her behavior so her young dog spirit doesn’t send her back to the hospital.  A house full of 20-30 people would make her pretty manic, which she doesn’t need during her recovery.  We also can’t focus on both the dog and managing all the preparation required to inject and fry a 20 lb turkey and bake multiple pecan and  pumpkin pies.  We’ll have to have a picnic closer to the Christmas holiday, and by that time we’ll hopefully have something to really celebrate!

So Happy Thanksgiving to our friends back in the USA; down in Oz we plan to be thankful for something a bit different this year.  She’s in the photo you see above.

PS:  Well, maybe we’ll have at least ONE pumpkin pie this weekend…we’ve got 9 cans of pumpkin from the USA.  Would taste good with ice cream while we watch the Ohio State – Michigan football game!


Not the best day

November 19/20 was one of our worst days for The Smiths in Oz. At about 10:30pm I let the dog Ziva out for a final potty break prior to turning in. Within seconds, I heard her crying in pain and when I turned the flashlight on her she was desperately trying to move but both her back legs were trailing lifelessly behind her. She was effectively paralyzed.  What the heck?  I rousted Susan from sleep and thus began a nightmare evening where I tried to carry this HEAVY dog back up the hill, up the steps, and back into the house. Susan called our vet and discovered where we should take her. We got her into the back seat and she was terrified and trembling. For all I knew, she’d been bitten by a snake but instant paralysis didn’t seem to fit with that. Susan and I were both beside ourselves. It was really like a second daughter had suffered a terrible injury. We got to the vet clinic and Susan hollered for help; we couldn’t carry that heavy dog any further.  The docs began by first checking to see if she had been poisoned, and then would do testing for snake bite. But first they had to cool her down. Ziva had worked herself up into a 40 degree C temperature so they used ice packs to cool her down to avoid brain damage.

Then they sent us home, promising to stabilize and watch over her until the 6am shift checked in. We got a few hours of sleep before they called us to say a conclusion hadn’t been reached but they were still working on it and would call us about the next steps to be taken (surgery.). Not what I’d call a restful night. In fact, the entire next day was unsettling as we basically went into a waiting mode while they continued to work on her. By the afternoon the specialist arrived and they did a CT scan on her.  The surgeon called Susan to report that the dog’s disc “shot out of place like a cannonball” and injured the spinal cord. But it wasn’t severed, thank God. The surgeon said he’d never seen such a thing in a dog only 2.5 years old. But the procedure had a high success rate, with 70-80% recovery odds. That was the first good news we’d had all day.  So now the surgery is done, the dog is recovering, and the Smiths are collapsing into bed to find some peace and get some needed rest.

Not a particularly sunny day for us.  But we did everything we could and are hopeful that our dog Ziva will regain the use of her legs and start down the rehab path toward returning to her old self.

Australia Day Weekend 2016 in Berry, NSW

Just got back from a marvelous getaway south of Sydney, out in the countryside where instead of cars, trucks, and buses it was the sound of crickets and frogs at night!  This little town had a lot of charm and we had a great place to relax-just the two of us–and reconnect.  It was misty and cool there; lots of birds and wildlife (a wallabee, parrots, and even an echidna.)   Here is a slide show of photos that I snapped while we were there.  At times it reminded me a little of Pennsylavania, but the hills around Berry are much more intense than that, as I found out on a 4-hour bike ride!

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Spring Cycle: 104 kms

Never before have I done something like this. 5+ hours of cycling, 64.6 miles!  And although many riders finished ahead of me, there were still a fair amount of riders behind me as well!    

 Wow, what an adventure!  To be honest, the real challenge was bike handling skills, not endurance. Multiple stops for red lights, traffic merges, narrow bridges with posts at entrances, trying not to hit other riders…that kind of stuff. I didn’t start feeling the fatigue until roughly 70km into the ride. Found some riders that were going my pace and shadowed them. Cloudy with some wind all morning, but I’d prefer that to hot sunshine so conditions were nice for this ride.  Stated 6:30, was done before noon.  But now I’m taking a few days off to give my body a little rest!

Sue and Cindy in the House!

They’re here!  A little bit of Pennsylvania came home with me last night and Susan had a great dinner to welcome them  to Manly.

We had Brooke and Gus, and the Kilpatricks (Jode, Sharon, Maddie, Riley, and Ava).  What a Monday night!  This morning I’m playing tour guide, showing them the northern beaches area.  After a trip to Queensland, they’ll head back here and I’ll hop on the plane with them for the trip back to the USA!  Nice to have family with us again, if only for a day!