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Monday, March 27, 2017

A Glimpse of Shyla

A good friend asked me yesterday about how Shyla is. I replied that the best word to describe her demeanor is "depressed".

On every leash walk or run, she lags behind us. During the day, she chooses to nap at the other end of the house from us. When Shyla is normal, she likes to be on a dog bed close to us.

We started off Sunday with the same routine as every day since Shyla started phenobarb. Shyla went running on-leash with the Runner, and R went mountain biking with me. The reason why Shyla hasn't been with me is that it's impossible to ride a bike in the woods with a dog on-leash.

R and I had fun in the morning sun, playing the "toss the treat" game.

He gets very excited about this game and then begins drooling, which can look rather dramatic as he wildly tries to catch the treat.
He has been such a source of joy to me through this phase when Shyla has been "absent".

When R and I arrived home, I asked about Shyla's run. She lagged but she became incredibly enthusiastic when they crossed the route that R and I had taken. Upon hearing that, I wondered if a short mountain bike ride with me might raise her spirits.

No doubt about it - our little ride made Shyla wild with exuberance. At the start, I saw her heading toward a log as she ran toward me and got a photo of her arrow-like leap over it to get to me.
The problem was that her leap was one of the only coordinated things that she did during our little ride. I saw lots of stumbles on small rocks and high speed "slide-outs" on curves that she took too fast. The good news was that I didn't see any signs of her getting confused about her location relative to me. I didn't feel worried that she was about to get lost.

And, this afternoon, she's hanging out close to us, as if her funk is lifting. I see more of Shyla's spirit sparkling in her eyes than I have in weeks. It's going to be a difficult decision as to whether to repeat today's experiment in the coming days.

Tomorrow, we get her blood test results, finding out how her liver is responding and whether the phenobarb is at a "therapeutic level" in her blood. I think that I'll ask about whether we can consider a lower dose. We're now on Day 17, and she's not close to normal in terms of coordination. However, she's had no seizures - so it might be working.

Life is such a windy path - and I wish that I could see around the next curve!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Silhouette Sunday

Shyla, in silhouette!
I took this one way back before she started the phenobarbital. I can't wait until she can climb on boulders again!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hoping for Change!

I watched our elk herd last night around sunset. I was struck by how bedraggled some of them look and that they were eating such dry grass.
As I watched them, I was hoping for a change overnight.

First, I was hoping that Shyla would make a step in the right direction in adapting to her new epilepsy drug. I think that she did - although not a huge step. She came over to me for snuggling this morning, and that was the first time that she requested snuggling since she started phenobarbital. It made me very happy. She also got into the car far more easily than a week ago when the clumsiness and weakness from the drug made it almost impossible for her. Maybe we are headed toward normalcy. I can't wait to have my little girl back again!

The second thing that I was hoping would change overnight was how dry our world is. Look at that tall dry grass around the elk. That dryness has everyone on edge about wildfires.
A snowstorm, potentially big, was heading our way, and I had high hopes that we'd get enough moisture from it relax a bit. Unfortunately, it veered too far south, giving us only a thin layer of snow.

R and I had fun in the snow this morning, despite how sparse it was!

R and I have spent more one-on-one time out in the forest over the past couple of weeks than ever before. I absolutely love his enthusiasm. I also love that he's finally learned "impulse control" so he's a much easier off-leash companion than even a year ago.

We played recall games. One of my favorite training "tricks" is to find a place that is saturated in the scent of wildlife that were nearby very recently. In this case, it was deer. I put R in a stay right where the scent was the strongest (based on tracking signs) and then I called him from that spot. We had a huge treat party when he arrived at my feet!

Here's the amazing thing that happens when you play this game a lot. Your dog learns to run to you whenever they see wildlife (before you even call them) because they know that they'll get a treat bonanza for it. And they are absolutely thrilled to do that self-motivated recall!
The transition to our dogs coming when they see wildlife without us calling them has happened naturally after we've practiced a lot of recalls around wildlife or wildlife scent. I love it!

We are about to go for our sunset hike - and that's one of the times when we can truly observe whether Shyla is doing better. I'd love to have her yank me forward with enthusiasm on the hike.  Believe me, I never thought that I'd be wishing for her to pull on the leash but I am!!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Coyote Prediction Meter

At the start of this year, I couldn't check any trail cameras for weeks because there was too much snow on the ground. I finally waded through the snow in late January, and this was the first series of photos that I found.

After the past few weeks, I have to wonder if this coyote was making a prediction about our 2017?

No, he couldn't have been. He must have been one of the coyotes who put on a beautiful show in front of a camera on a frosty February morning. What beauty! I like that as a predictor for our 2017.
I have faith that 2017 will get better.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Springtime, Our Black Dog, and Shyla

We have had a frightful period of warm, dry, and windy weather. It's produced the earliest spring signs that I've ever seen. It's scary - to be honest. At this time last year, we were dealing with several feet of snow on the ground.

Alas, there is a lot of snow in our upcoming forecast so perhaps our terror of potential wildfires will let up. My favorite forecaster says that some models have 4' or more snow falling here over the next week. I am so hopeful that his forecast is right - and our world will get the water it needs.

Because I can't change our current weather, I'm choosing to be thankful for it as I sit our deck typing! We have mountain bluebirds here already. Their plumage is so brilliant!
Don't worry about them - they flee to lower elevations during our spring snow storms.

Like every year, they don't love having their photos taken so this one took off just after this photo.

And, our wild crocuses are starting to bloom.

I was down on the ground admiring the flowers when I saw a tick perched on one. Yuck! We shouldn't have ticks this early in the year!

Most years, we are inundated with snow now, and I feel like winter will never end. For the first time, I planted amaryllis bulbs timed to bloom around when the late March "endless winter doom" feeling hits me. The joke is on me because they are blooming now, and we have wild flowers outdoors!

As it is thankful Thursday, I don't mean to sound like a broken record but I am SO grateful for the time I've had with R while Shyla has been sidelined by the side effects of phenobarbital. I love our black dog, and he's made me smile almost everyday even when the blank look in Shyla's eyes has made me want to weep.
Our vet and others have told us stories of people who gave up on phenobarbital during the adaptation period - and so they never found out if it would stop their dog's seizures. They feel that their dog's spirit is gone forever. I totally understand their decisions because it does feel as if Shyla has been "absent" during this phase - and that would not be an acceptable state in the long term. I am so thankful for my vet and my friends who keep reminding me that Shyla will almost certainly be back just like the millions of epileptic dogs before her who have started this medication.

In fact, in the hugely thankful category, I think that it's starting to happen. Shyla has a sparkle in her eyes for more of the day now, and she runs around with toys at random times (not just during her golden 30 minutes in the morning). Her coordination still isn't up to par - she often stumbles and slips while playing - but I'm so glad that she wants to play.

I hope that we'll be able to let her romp outdoors again sometime soon!

Thank you to Brian for hosting this blog hop!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Black Dog Happiness

Our Black Dog lifting my spirits!

Running beautifully, with his bionic elbow!

Playing silly games with me - Do you see the treat flying past him?
I miss Shyla but it has been a joy to spend solo time with R on the trails. I am utterly amazed by his physical strength and super behavior. As much as I don't want to admit it, I think that he's finally growing up at age 9!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Little Nosework by Shyla

I am still taking full advantage of the brief window of time every morning when Shyla is less affected by her new medicine than the rest of the day. For most of the day, she is very sedated, uncoordinated, and not enthusiastic about anything. It's heartbreaking to see, to be perfectly honest.

But, for about 30 minutes before her morning phenobarbital, she is much better than for the rest of the day. She can balance on a very tippy inflatable bone.

And, she can play nosework games. She's less outwardly enthusiastic than usual. That is most obvious in that her "alerts" when she finds the scent source are subdued. Before she started this drug, she'd wag her tail incredibly hard with her nose as close as possible to the source. Now, her behavior is different, and I'm trying to learn the subtlies of her new "alert" behaviors.

I put together a very short video of her doing a couple of searches. She's not allowed to be off-leash outdoors so one is on our deck (fully contained) and the other is in our spare room. In the spare room search, you'll see her new "super power" - finding sources that are inside fully closed drawers. I'm so proud of her!!!!

You can watch it at Youtube if you need to.

We are now on Day 11 of phenobarbital. I am counting the days, hoping with all my heart that Shyla returns to somewhere near normal soon. For the moment, I cherish our 30 minutes of near normalcy almost every day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fun on Monday

I continue to enjoy the brief windows of time when Shyla seems like herself. We play games on the deck. We are not able to let her off leash anyplace else because she might get confused and lost.

On the deck, I tossed her a cheese cube. It looks as if she's tracking it perfectly.

Imagine her horror when she missed! Her expression is priceless, in my opinion.
During her good phases, she's quite capable of this sort of game. The next one was a success.

She balanced the cheese on her nose and awaited my release word so that she could toss it.

A small toss...

The snarf...

And enjoying the taste of cheese and of victory!
Aside from these windows of time when Shyla's usual self shines through, we're not yet seeing any reduction in the side effects from the phenobarbital. We are now on Day 10 so we are more than halfway to the point where our vet says that she will improve.

I love this girl, and I can't wait to have her full spirit back all the time!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunset and Silhouette Sunday

Our sunsets have awed me recently.

High winds make the clouds string out into long thin lines. It makes our familiar landscape look otherworldly.

The one thing that has made me sad is that my usual silhouette model, Shyla, has been in no shape to clamber on boulders. This sky was calling out to me for a silhouette photo!
But, then I realized that R used to sometimes be my silhouette model. I thought that he could remember the routine. So, after I saw the sky in the photo just above, we walked very fast to a good boulder for silhouettes.

Indeed, R remembered the routine, and he was *thrilled* to be the dog who was the silhouette model. Fortunately, the phenobarbital had Shyla sedated enough that it didn't occur to her to be upset that R was playing her role.
It's fun to mix up our normal routine sometimes! Happy Silhouette Sunday!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Shyla's Sparkle on Saturday

In general, Shyla isn't improving yet from the side effects of the phenobarbital. However, I am figuring out that she has a window of time each day when she is feeling good enough to have some fun playing with me. I take full advantage of that time!

During that window of time, she has some sparkle in her eyes. She can even balance on one of R's rehab toys while waving at the time of day when the phenobarbital concentration is lowest in her blood.

Look at her eyes as she posed for me. I see Shyla's sweet spirit in those eyes. It's not as intense as usual but it's clear to me that Shyla is in there, just waiting to escape when the adjustment period is over.

And look at her focus in this one - I love that intensity! We had a fun time while she felt good yesterday.
We are now on Day 9 of phenobarbital. The side effects have been very tough to handle but Shyla hasn't even shown a hint of a seizure so maybe it will indeed control her epilepsy. Our vet tells us that the adjustment period is 14 days for phenobarbital, and that we'll see a big change for the better on Day 15. I'm not sure whether I believe the precision of that prediction but I keep reminding myself that, if Shyla is like most dogs in adapting to this medication, each day is one day closer to Shyla feeling better!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Feline Friday

We are having outrageous weather for March with almost no snow on the ground and such warmth that I'm able to sit on the deck. I wouldn't be upset about it except for the extreme wildfire risk. We already have an outdoor fire and shooting ban to prevent wildfires. I don't ever remember worrying about wildfires in March before now.

Anyway, while we wait for more snow, I have been busily checking trail cameras that I haven't been able to get to since December. I found some hilarious photos on one.

This kitty was so curious about my camera that his nose was squished against the lens!

Then he backed away a little to give us a beautiful view of his eyes. Do you see how huge his pupils are? That's part of how bobcats see so well at night - by having pupils that can open so widely!
I love our bobcats!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Today is Thankful Thursday. I am thankful that I've started to see a little sparkle in Shyla's eyes at certain times of the day and that I get to spend time in the forest with our black dog during this transitional phase for Shyla.

I've started to see the rhythm to Shyla's days. She has short "good" periods just before she gets her next phenobarbital pill (that's probably when the drug levels are lowest in her blood). During those good periods, she's more mentally sharp although she still moves in an unsteady and clumsy way.

She managed a wave for the camera during her morning good phase! That is a wonderful sign. I am so thankful for figuring out that she has windows of time when her usual spirit sparkles. It reminds me that we will get through this adjustment phase and have our Shyla back again before too long!
I also set up a small nosework puzzle for her this morning during her good period. When I say "small", I mean that it didn't require much physical agility (because she doesn't have that). However, it did require that she be a bit mentally sharp. She did a great job and seemed to have fun with it! I think that I'm figuring out how we'll get through this phenobarbital adjustment period.

After that, I spent some time mountain biking with R, which I have been enjoying so much. He's such a fun, happy, crazy, and loving dog.

This photo shows his crazy side as he snarfed a treat out of the air.

And this photo shows the glowing sweetness in his eyes even when he's galloping through the forest.
I try to always look for silver linings. The silver lining to this difficult phase for Shyla is that I've had the gift of time with our black dog out in the forest.

I love the idea of focusing on thankfulness on Thursdays, as our friend Brian has suggested by starting his blog hop. Focusing on being thankful is good for my spirits.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Few Words Wednesday

I took Shyla for a little hike yesterday morning, hoping to catch the sunrise light together and to see the moonset over the mountains. The clouds obscured both the sunrise and the moonset. However, the sun came out a little later.

Shyla was very low energy - "mellow" might be a positive way to describe her.

She can start to doze off in an instant.

And standing in this spot was a challenge to her balance. It's a rocky spot on the trail that she usually sprints over.

After these side effects pass, I'll never again take her pure athletic talent for granted. I took these two photos shortly before she started the phenobarbital. She was 2-3' above the ground in the next photo.

She landed with complete control and strength.
I know that she'll be back close to normal after this phase passes. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our sweet little strolls. We all love our Shyla.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I miss Shyla

Yesterday, my spirits plummeted. I miss Shyla being herself.
Now, not only is she uncoordinated like a drunk dog, but she's very sleepy all the time. It's making me realize how much this girl's happiness and love bring joy to my days. I love playing all sorts of training games with her - nosework most of all! She's lost her ability to do any of our training games for now.

I know that we'll get through this tough phase. And I know that 99% of dogs have almost no side effects after the first couple of weeks - and they have far fewer seizures than before starting to take phenobarbital. Despite that knowledge, I have to be honest that I'm still feeling down.

I'm still enjoying my morning outings with our Black Dog. I appreciate the Runner sharing him with me for my morning bike rides. He brightens every day!
He's a fun companion except when he puts his head under the dirt and can't hear me call him. He loves to dig, and he can dig a deep hole very fast. That's when his head goes underground which, of course, hampers his hearing. I have to find him, pull him out of the hole, and brush off the dirt. I forgot to take a funny photo before I cleaned his face when he did this routine yesterday.

After I rescued him from his own hole, he ran around like a normal dog. But we all know that this cracker dog is no normal dog!
He makes me laugh, which is a good thing. However, all of us miss our Shyla. I hope that her normal spirit returns soon!