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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tumultuous skies

The world seems to have leveled out for me - no sudden lurches in my universe in the past 24 hours. I'm still scared and vigilantly watching for any more symptoms. The upside to fear is that it's a good motivator to get to the bottom of the visual special effects that visited me the other night. I'll be spending more time than I'd prefer in medical facilities next week - but I love my life too much to surrender to the urge to deny, deny, deny. The best case scenario is that it was an 'ocular migraine', and the descriptions of the visual symptoms seem to fit perfectly. Moreover, the usual triggers - fatigue and stress - were overwhelming me that night. So, I feel relieved that one potential diagnosis is not life-threatening. The ER doctors were pretty focused on the life-threatening scenarios - leaving me petrified.

This morning, K and I headed out, rolling on trails that were more dirt than snow. We stopped for a view of the mountains at the start of the ride, and the deep blue sky dominated. Just 20 minutes later, we zipped out to the same viewpoint to avoid a dog that scares K, and the transformation stunned me. Both photos show almost the same view - although the trees are the only hints of similarity. Mountain weather can change in a heartbeat - just like life itself.K's thyroid adjustment has almost completely changed her personality. She's zipping around with the energy and confidence of a well-adjusted dog. I loved rolling through the forest with her today, feeling like I was slowing her down. When her thyroid levels were low, I felt the opposite - that I was pushing her too hard. So, life is good in K's universe.

Below, K was wired to riding this morning, and played hard with her brother, R, while she waited for me. It's interesting to notice that, at the end of each bout, she shakes, like she's shedding water. Behavior books says that shaking is a stress-reducer, like she's shaking off her tension. Interestingly, R doesn't mirror her behavior. When S used to play with her, they'd both shake at the end of a bout. The second thing to notice is that K sneezes twice at the end of the second bout - she almost always does this to end a play session as have our other dogs. So, in past play pairings, a bout would end with both dogs sneezing up a storm! Again, R doesn't mirror the sneezing.

The news on S is also pretty good - he'd definitely taken a downturn early last week, with a loss of hind end strength that hasn't returned, but now he's staying about the same. He's hiking twice a day - alas, a bit more slowly than before - but he's a happy hiker! He's tolerating the steroids so well that we're not tapering back as initially planned. He's also taking two herbal remedies that our vets recommended. Neither has side-effects, and, who knows, they might help. I'm laboring, with some success, to enjoy each day with S as opposed to constantly worrying about his future.

After I dropped off K today, I rolled along noticing that the springtime transformation has taken off like a runaway train. First, I noticed male catkins on a willow, blurring between red and yellow. The photo below includes catkins early in their development, when the red and yellow of the tiny flowers is just emerging through the fuzzy covering.In willows, an individual tree has either male or female catkins. The male catkins (shown here) are a collection of many stamens, each of which produces pollen. Below, a catkin that's further along in development has reddish and yellow pellet-like structures, anthers, on the ends of long hairs. Anthers produce pollen that must be transported to a female catkin on another willow tree for reproduction. Some trees rely on the wind to capriciously carry their pollen to receptive female catkins and others rely on insects and birds. Apparently, willows need insect and bird reproductive assistance.
Based on watching the development of catkins on deciduous trees, it makes sense that my pollen allergies are starting. In previous years, I was mystified about why they started before anything obvious blossomed - I'm learning a lot this year!

Another new bloomer caught my eye today, the Oregon Grape.Before photographing it with my macro lens, I didn't realize that the 'grapes' which become bitter-tasting fruits later in the season, start life as tiny flowers. Moreover, it looks like the flowers sprout from the left-over leaves from last season. In the photo below, the leaves are about the size of holly leaves - and you can see the tiny clusters of flowers to the right of them. If I hadn't been laboriously pushing my bike up a wall-like rocky trail while staring at the ground as I passed them, I would've never noticed the flowers.After pushing my bike to the top of the ridge, I discovered that the face of the mountains had changed again - the word 'tumultuous' came to mind. But, the snowy brightness of the mountains glowed through the clouds and blue sky shone overhead. That vision best describes the mixed up emotions in my life right now.


  1. I'm glad that you and S are both hanging in there! My dogs often shake it out after playing, but I've never seen them use sneezing that way. My S dog frequently yawned whenever he was on the verge of getting really annoyed with one of the other dogs - we called it his "tolerance yawn."

  2. Interesting. I had ocular migraines (a diagnosis of exclusion after many expensive tests) for many years. They stopped with menopause and I haven't had one since. Rather than lights, I experienced a relatively small blind spot in my field of vision. I never knew whether or not to check "headaches" on physical reports since I never had an actual headache when the episodes occurred.

    I loved the wrestling match. Our dogs do that several times a day. Such fun to watch.

    Beautiful photos of the mountains. Outsiders have little appreciation for just how quickly the weather can change.

  3. Dog Geek: I wonder if the sneezing signal is something particular to my pack that gets passed down through the generations through imitation. The part that baffles me, however, is how they could produce a sneeze voluntarily. It's odd...

    NCMountainWoman: Thanks for your input about the ocular migraines. I recently went through medically induced menopause to deal with endometriosis so my hormone levels are now truly menopausal. Apparently, such a sudden change in hormones can induce migraines, even ocular migraines with no headaches, in people who never had them before. However, like you did, I'm probably going to have a million expensive tests before they'll rest on that diagnosis. I understand the need for the tests given the many scary possible diagnoses but it's daunting.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.


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