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Sunday, August 2, 2009

K's 'tragic' expression? And ladybugs galore.

Summer. Warm sun. Birds singing. Hummingbirds buzzing. Breakfast on the deck with K by my side and 'my' flycatcher family calling from the trees. They fledged more than a week ago but still snag flies out of the air in the clearing around our house. K and I enthusiastically headed out into the forest today to enjoy summer.

K and I pedaled straight to our view point, where I took her photo.Then, I realized all these photos might help me with a question that my vet has repeatedly asked me - whether her face looks swollen or has a 'tragic' expression. This subtle facial change can give insight into how to tweak K's thyroid medications. The problem is that, even when the vet has said that K's face looks swollen and tragic in the past, I haven't been able to see it. So, below I included a photo from 8 weeks ago. Do you think that her face today looks different from then?Here's another one from the same day 8 weeks ago but from a different angle. What do you think? Is her face more 'swollen' or 'tragic' today than 8 weeks ago?K's thyroid problems are tough to manage because, not only is her thyroid gland gradually failing, but her body cannot convert T4, the common thyroid supplement, into the other forms of thyroid hormone, including T3. Most dog's and people's bodies can make this conversion so managing hypothyroidism is relatively simple - you simply give them oral T4. In K's case, my poor vet has to try to tweak each component of thyroid hormone separately. In her last test, one component was normal and another was low but yet another seemed to contradict the other two. Befuddling, don't you think?

Because of the confounding blood test results, my vet has been asking me a ton of questions about K's body and behavior to decide how to proceed - including the one about her face. My vet tends to trust my observations, perhaps more than she should, because she knows how closely I watch K. For the moment, we've started 'tweaking' the meds but my vet said that it might take a few tries to get it right.

After I took K's photo on top of the world today, I noticed a ladybug or two crawling on a Limber Pine Tree that sits courageously on the pinnacle of this windswept peak. Limber Pines have exceptionally flexible branches. I can bend a branch like spaghetti without breaking it. In the photo, three stunted trees perch, shoulder-to-shoulder, with a beautiful mountain view but frequent gale-force winds buffeting them. The middle one is the Limber Pine.When I looked more closely at the ruby-red ladybugs bedecking the Pine's needles and cones, I noticed that they all marched from the same hidden spot under a branch. I lifted up a bough and voila!A roiling mass, the size of a softball, of ladybugs crawled all over each other.This crowd of beautiful beetles inhabited the east side of the tree where sunlight would have touched them soon if they hadn't hidden in the shade of pine needles. I've read that ladybugs congregate when they're preparing to hibernate. Perhaps our cold weather a couple of days ago, when the damp air never warmed above 45 degrees, triggered autumn-like behavior in these ladies. I'd have to guess that our return to summer will have them flying again soon.

K seemed less anxious today despite picking up a bear scent and racing toward it with a vengeance early in the ride. After that, she kicked back and trotted along at my relaxed pace. We girls had a peaceful sojourn in the forest.

We noticed a white lacy flower, Yarrow, which has been quietly blooming for at least a month. This flower lacks the pizazz of some other mountain flowers so I easily overlook it. But, I discovered that when I look very closely, it's an intricate puzzle of tiny flowers woven together with orange pistils projecting upward (click on the photo to see closeup). It provides splashes of white in the midst of the oceans of purple and yellow flowers that tend to capture my attention.
Enjoy summer. If the ladybugs are right, autumn will be upon us in the blink of an eye!


  1. I'm no help with the "tragic" look. I mean, her face looks broader in the first photo but I don't know if that's just the angle. She looks pretty happy and relaxed in all the photos.

    I have never seen ladybugs congregate like that. Actually, I've never seen that many ladybugs at one time. And I'm not sure we ever hit summer. Although I'm not really big into heat so I won't complain.

  2. It does seem like there is a subtle difference to the shape of her face, but it is hard to tell - in the first photo, it looks like she is squinting in the bright sun. I think the difference might be too subtle, especially if it is something that happens gradually, to make it a useful indicator.

    By the way - glad to hear that the weave poles have been going well! I'm planning to start training B on weaves in another month or two.

  3. My best guess is that there is a subtle difference in the first picture from the others, but it really hard to tell. I think you are the right judge.

    As for the ladybugs, we were invaded in the house last winter by them. We live in a log house and they settle into the logs for the winter. They do no harm, but they can swarm inside the house on some days which makes for some entertainment.

  4. Hi KB,
    How lucky to see all the Ladybugs! You'll have Good Luck all year now! (At least that's what my Mother always said - and she was always right!) I thought K's face looked different at first, but then saw the 3rd photo, so just think she's squinting...
    My son's young family all camped on Georgia Pass this weekend. Amanda (6) called to tell me about their adventures.

  5. i can see the tragic expression very clearly.....

  6. KB as always catching up with you is a joyful visit! I feel like I took a mountain vacation!

  7. I agree with most of you who thought that the facial change in K was subtle. But, I think it's real... so I left the vet a message to that effect. I don't know if it'll change the treatment but the vet seemed very intent on finding out the answer the last time that I talked with her.

    I've never seen ladybugs in a swarm like that either! I don't think that I'd like to have that many of them in my house. But, I'm glad that I've gotten a dose of good luck from seeing them!

  8. I am certain your veterinarian is wonderful, but there are in fact canine endocrinologists. I'd be sorely tempted to see one just for consultation and peace of mind.


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