Dog Sorrow

Today we had to put Pepper to sleep.

As long time followers might know, being Pepper’s owners has been a battle. We weren’t really supposed to be her people. She belonged to my husband’s father and when they moved they asked us to keep her for a while as they got settled in. Then when the time came they refused to take her back and told us that if we didn’t want her to just take her to the pound.

In my life I will never understand this kind of attitude towards pet ownership. My animals are part of my family. I could no sooner just casually get rid of one than I could get rid of my left foot. Taking on a pet is to take on a responsibility for life.

So at any rate we became a three dog family. This came with it’s own trials. Pepper had some minor aggression towards the other dogs that we were mostly able to train out. We don’t hit our animals. Usually when pepper would act aggressive towards one of the other dogs she would get put outside immediately. This was a punishment for her because she hated being outside and she seemed to pretty quickly get the picture.

Then when I got pregnant, things started getting bad again and her aggression and nervousness started coming to the surface. We consulted the vet and he put her on a prescription for prozac, which seemed to calm most of the problem down.

After Charlie came things were okay, but there were a few instances of Pepper growling at Charlie that made me uncomfortable, so we made it a rule that Charlie and Pepper were never to be in the same space together without Charlie being in the arms of an adult. Even so, once or twice Charlie would slip through our fingers, especially as she started walking.

A few weeks ago Pepper’s nervousness and anxiety seemed to be at an all time high. She would just shake all the time. The vet agreed to switch her meds but warned me that he was concerned she might be becoming unbalanced and that switching her meds might not work. At the time I was still hopeful that we could find a way to help Pepper through this and at no point had the thought of things getting worse come into my head.

Yesterday the Captain came over to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life with me. We put Bubba and Bonnie out on the porch because they wouldn’t settle down with having company over but kept Pepper in because she was sleeping peacefully. Around 2:30 or 3:00 Chief came downstairs with Charlie after her nap to get her a snack and put her in the living room with us while he was getting it ready. She of course immediately toddled over to Pepper and I kept my hands on her and told her to be gentle. She petted her once and then walked around to where the Captain was sitting. This is when Pepper snapped at Charlie. She didn’t bite her but she did snap at her, simply for standing about a foot away.

I got up to put her outside with the other two dogs. This is when she attacked Bonnie. And not just a little scuffle-a full blown attack where she latched on to Bonnie’s ear and started shaking her head like Bonnie was a rag doll as opposed to a 60 pound basset mix. I started to call for Chief while Charlie started to cry and the Captain looked on in horror. Chief grabbed a pillow and literally had to beat Pepper off of Bonnie, who was now bleeding with a large puncture wound in her ear cartilage.

We immediately isolated Pepper and examined Bonnie. The wound was bad enough that I called the vet and they asked us to bring her in. He glued her ear back together and we found three or four other gashes on Bonnie’s face and in her mouth from the fight.

At this point the vet voiced what Chief and I had been afraid of in the car on the way over: Pepper had become a danger to other people and animals and he was recommending we put her to sleep. We knew he was right, but we left feeling brokenhearted about it. We scheduled it for 10:00 am this morning.

I cried all the way home from the vet. I cried after the Captain left that night (she had graciously stayed at our house with the baby so we wouldn’t be juggling her and a bleeding dog at the vet). I cried when I came home and looked at Pepper knowing that she can’t control how she is. I cried at how unfair it is. I railed against Chief’s parents for putting me in this position in the first place and then we went to bed and slept terribly.

This morning I woke up with a lump of dread in my throat. I felt grateful for Mother’s Day Out where we dropped Charlie off before we went back home to get Pepper and head to the vet. I walked in the vet’s office where all the staff know me so well with tears already starting to fall. Everyone was so sweet and kind and they got us back into a room immediately. The vet came in and talked to us about how he would sedate her as if for surgery first and then he would give her the barbituate that would stop her heart. He assured us that she wouldn’t know a thing was happening. She would just drift off to sleep and then not wake up.

He injected her with the sedative and left the room and I sat on the floor with her in my arms as she fell asleep, the whole time telling her that she was a good dog and that this wasn’t her fault, and that I was sorry we couldn’t do better by her. After five minutes the vet came back in and checked to make sure that she was truly out of it by manipulating her jaw. Then he went out and returned with the barbituate. Before he injected her he told me that he had taken her chart home and looked it over and felt that we had done everything that could be expected, if not more. He said that he knows the environment of our house is loving and that this is truly just Pepper’s genetics at war with the world around her. I thanked him through the sobs I was trying to control as he injected her with the drug that would end her life. He and my favorite vet tech stayed with us, all of us with a hand on some part of Pepper as she took her last breath. After she left I fell over her body and sobbed and told her I was so sorry and that she was a good dog, and that things would be easier for her now that she isn’t so scared and anxious all the time.

Everyone is telling me I did the right thing for everyone-including Pepper, but it was hard to feel that way when I walked out of the clinic clutching her harness and leash to my chest as the people with their living and breathing pets tried not to look at me, probably thinking that I had just said goodbye to an old dog that had lived a full life. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly move past this guilt.

I know the pain will fade, but the guilt I’m just not so sure about.

Sick Baby…Again

Charlie cannot catch a break guys.

Going back to last week: when last I posted we had met with our doctor on Monday and talked about the terrible incident of the week before, which she took very seriously. She also examined Charlie’s ear infection and moved her from augmentin to rocephin shots. When we went back on Tuesday we were just supposed to see the nurse for the shot, but Dr. J ended up coming in the room to give us an update on our “case.” She spoke to us about how she was sending it up the chain and how she was asking them to give her a definite plan for what they were going to do in the future when she was out of the office. As far as I know nothing has been implemented yet, but it was so reassuring to know how seriously she was taking the issue.

On Wednesday we went for our final shot. We got a call a few hours before hand to say that Dr. J was going to be out for the day but she was going to come in just for us and they were requesting us to meet at the clinic that we normally do instead of the one that she was going to be working at that day (she has to do one day a week in one of the smaller town clinics so that’s where we were originally going to have to go-this worked out better for us because the clinic we usually go to is closer). Wednesday was the day after the election and we were very subdued as was Dr. J and we ended up commiserating for about 15 minutes about how shocking and upsetting it all was. Just further endearing her to us. We were sent away with a good prognosis for further healing and told to come back in two weeks for a follow up.

On Saturday Charlie started acting sick again. On Saturday we were also having a big housewarming party-so that’s convenient. 30 minutes before the party is supposed to start I had to send Chief to the store for an ingredient I needed and forgot for one of the dishes I had already started to prepare. The store is just around the corner luckily, but Charlie was starting to get really cranky. she didn’t feel well and she’d been patient with the party prep all day. Finally, in a fit of rage she took her diaper off and went running through the house flinging it over her head (thank GOD it was just wet).

This put a big hitch in the party prep, lemme tell you.

When I put the diaper back on she threw herself on the floor in a tantrum that was infuriating and heartbreaking all at the same time. I was sitting on the floor trying to comfort her as Chief walked in with the blackberries and goat cheese I needed. I quickly passed her off, and despite the fact that all the food wasn’t done until thirty minutes after folks arrived (they all pitched in because my friends and family are awesome) the rest of the night went off pretty well. Charlie was a charming hostess-that kid loves the spotlight, even when she feels bad.

Come Monday and she’s gotten much worse though, so I got her in to see Dr. J again. When we got there she had a 101 fever and I believed it, because she was cuddled up against me the whole time and I was sweating like a pig from her little furnace body. They gave her some motrin to help get it down and reassured me that it wasn’t another ear infection, but that it’s a virus that’s lasting six days on average. Blech.

So today she didn’t go to MDO. I obviously know this is the right thing to do but I hate it. She’s been doing SO well and I hate to lose progress, plus, you know, we’ve already paid for it. But that’s the way it goes I guess. I’ve been having to go in at night to either give her pain killers or rock her back to sleep, just depending. Dr. J says that the kids who can talk who are coming in with this are saying they have headaches and sore throats. Charlie also has the added bonus of not eating one damn thing today and yet having diarrhea. We’re pushing fluids and my chest is basically an open bar to her. I’m having a hard time staying hydrated frankly. She is nursing all day, but I want her to stay hydrated. It’s impossible to do accurate diaper counts because she’s having diarrhea so often that I can’t tell if its pee or, well, diarrhea, so I’m just really having to watch her demeanor to make sure she’s not getting lethargic or listless.

It’s scary and upsetting to have a baby be sick so often. Charlie has really been sick the better part of the six weeks she’s been in MDO. Our doc reassures us that the first winter they’re in a care situation is the worst and after that it gets a lot better. I’m really hoping that’s true.

Ashamed.

Of my country. Pure shame.

Fearful for my soldier husband, for my daughter, for my rights.

Worried about our future-financially, reproductively, socially.

At a loss. Without hope. Scared. This isn’t being a sore loser. This is genuine fear and grief for the America I thought I knew.

I am a stranger in a strange land.

Listening to Instincts

On Friday, Charlie had a doctor’s appointment. It had been scheduled as several follow ups:

1. Check on her iron levels as we’ve been on drops for about five weeks now
2. Check her weight as she had dropped a few lines on the chart previously
3. Check her ears as she had been on amoxicillin for ten days for both of her ears being infected
4. Get a flu shot

It was supposed to be a lot of things but unfortunately it just all hit at the same time. When we got there on Friday I checked in and the receptionist told me that our doctor was out on a personal emergency. I was not upset at our doctor-stuff happens. Everyone has to take a day here and there. I was bothered that the office couldn’t have called us considering our appointment was at 10:00 am-they had plenty of time to let us know.

At any rate, they told me there was another doctor filling in for her who was okay with handling the appointment if I wanted. I said sure. My preference is always our doctor, but we were already there and our doctor’s office isn’t exactly close. I figured that anyone they had filling in was sufficient.

We waited and waited and waited and waited and FINALLY got pulled back by a nurse who clearly had no idea what she was doing or what was going on. She had not read the chart so when I was explaining to her what was going on the conversation went something like this.

Me: “Well we’re here for a couple of things. She needs a flu shot, but also she needs an iron recheck and a weight check, and also to get her ears looked at because Dr. J wanted to make sure they had healed up from her ear infection.”

Nurse: “Dr. J isn’t here today.”

Me: “……I’m aware, but the front desk lady told me that the other doctor filling in could handle it.”

Nurse: “Okay well why does she need an iron recheck?”

Me: “When she was checked at 15 months her iron had dropped down to 9.9, so Dr. J has had us supplementing with drops and we were supposed to be checking to see if they had worked.”

Nurse: “Dr. J isn’t here today.”

Me: “Yes, so you’ve said, but I was told the doctor filling in could handle this, and then Dr. Jones can call me with what she wants to do, right?”

Nurse: …….

Yeah, I’m not exaggerating. Then when she weighed Charlie she watched the scale and chose to use the highest number displayed….except that number came up because Charlie was yanking on my shirt. She tried to record 19 lbs 8 oz but I know that wasn’t right-she’s 19 lbs. So I forced here to do it again. 19 lbs. This is important for multiple reasons-Charlie’s weight is being carefully monitored. If it showed up as 19 lbs 8 oz this month and then at her 18 month check up was either below that or hadn’t risen much the doctor would be concerned. Also, medicine dosages would be affected. Accuracy is important in medicine, and why didn’t she know this?

Then she didn’t know how to use the pulse ox machine. She also committed a HIPAA violation by examining Charlie with the door open, which another nurse called her on in front of us. Finally she left us and wouldn’t check Charlie’s iron level, which was the predominant reason we were there.

So we waited and waited and waited. At an hour and fifteen minutes past our appointment time, I got Charlie’s shoes on and left the exam room. I stopped at the front window and politely told the lady that we could not wait any longer. She apologized for the back log and asked if I wanted to reschedule, so I set up an appointment for Monday (today). Then before I left I mentioned that I was really unhappy with the quality of care we had received from that nurse and that I wanted someone to know. She told me she would let their head nurse know.

As I’m buckling Charlie in, a nurse comes running out to my car asking me to fill out a complaint form and apologizing profusely. I told her that I already had Charlie buckled in and didn’t really want to get her back out but I could fill it out on Monday. She was really persistent about getting it done so I said if she would bring it out to the car I would do it there. As I’m filling it out she is apologizing and validating my feelings, which was nice and also made me think that she’s not a fan of this nurse (she was the one who called her on the HIPAA violation). She also told me that when we came on Monday she would personally take us back and do Charlie’s vitals-just to ask for her. She then asked what we were being seen for and I mentioned all the things to her. She asked me how Charlie had been feeling and I said that the night before had actually been pretty rough so she convinced me to  come back in to get the doctor to look at her ears to make sure she was okay so we didn’t go through the weekend with an unnecessarily sick baby. She promised we would be seen right away.

She did not lie-he did come right in. He wasn’t a doctor but a nurse practitioner. Personally I have no problem with this. I was seen by an NP as my primary  physician for years and received very competent care with her. However, if you tell me that my child is being seen by a doctor, that’s who should see her. What if I was the type of person who would have a problem with it?

The major problem I had was that the guy had no idea what he was doing. He did look at her ear and said it was “as bad an infection as he’s ever seen” but then his next words were literally “but I’m not sure what we should do.” He also suggested I give her dimetapp, which is wrong on multiple levels, predominantly being that she isn’t old enough. Finally he said he would rx augmentin, a stronger antibiotic. He asked me three times what pharmacy we used. I told him and we left.

Later that day we went to the pharmacy….no augmentin. I called the doctors office, and they had it down that he had called it in to Walgreens. They’re right across the street from the other pharmacy, but we’re trying to switch over to a locally owned and stop supporting such a big chain, so that was a bit annoying. At this point I’m frustrated and feeling very little confidence in the people I had dealt with today. When we got to Walgreens before the pharmacist dispensed the meds I asked her to check the dosage to make sure it was within normal limits. She sort of looked at me like “Great, one of those mothers.”

She was quickly backtracking on that look though-the dosage prescribed was way over what Charlie should take. It was pretty high on amoxicillin but it was over on the clavulonic acid, which is the other half of augmentin. It would have given her severe diarrhea which probably would have led to dehydration and a trip to the emergency room.

At this point I’m shaking I’m so upset. The pharmacist is telling me that she can’t even dispense it legally now that she knows it’s not safe, so she had to call the clinic back to get a revised dose. I said I did NOT want the original prescriber doing the revision and she said she would specifically request any other physician in the clinic.

When we went back to pick up the meds it was almost a third of the original daily dose. A third. Think about how sick my baby could have been. Think about how distraught we would have been to find out that we had overdosed our child. I shook for hours from the emotions-relief, fear, anger, righteousness.

Today when we went in we had to wait for quite a while again, but Dr. J was there and she called us back herself and listened patiently and carefully to everything I told her. She said first and foremost-thank goodness I listened to my instincts. Secondly, she was more than disappointed that they did not get someone qualified in pediatrics to fill in for her, as that had been her expectation. She confirmed that Charlie is not old enough for cold medicines and that the NP seeing her should have known that, and that if he wasn’t sure what to prescribe for her that day he should have asked someone. They even have an in house pharmacy-he could have consulted a pharmacist. She said she would discuss it with the clinic manager but that it would mean more coming from me as well and that that’s how they would get real change.

She looked at Charlie’s ear and it was still pretty infected and she’s pretty sure there’s puss behind it, so at this point we have a persistent ear infection. She took her off of the augmentin (thank GOD, because even on the lower dose we’ve been dealing with diarrhea and blow outs for days) and instead is doing a series of three shots. Unfortunately, this means we have to go in tomorrow and Wednesday to get these shots. She got the first one today. But we’ll know by Wednesday if they’re working. If not, we’ll be referred to an ENT for further treatment. But Dr. J is pretty confident in these shots-she said she’s never had a case where they didn’t work, so that’s worth the inconvenience for me. I’m just so ready for my baby girl to feel better.

As we were leaving the clinic manager came out to reception and gave me a complaint form to fill out. She didn’t really say anything to me which I found disappointing, except that my other complaint had already been sent to corporate. The tone that she said it in made it sound like she thought I was just trying to stir up trouble. I am not that kind of person at all-I’m the girl who still gives a 15% tip even when she gets bad service in a restaurant because everyone is allowed to have a bad day.

Except when it comes to my daughter’s health. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that that nurse was having whatever kind of day she was having that she didn’t feel it necessary to carefully examine Charlie’s chart to see why we were even there, or to weigh her properly or follow through on the iron test. I’m sorry that the NP was put into a position to treat pediatric patients when he was obviously not qualified. I am sorry. But both of them could have done better. Both of them played a role in what could have been a very dangerous situation for my child. So yes, I’m going to complain. I never want either of them to play a part in my daughter’s care ever again, and if I have to be that mom to make that happen, then that’s who I’ll be.

Trust your instincts mommas. I won’t be so dramatic as to say that mine saved Charlie’s life because the dosage probably wouldn’t have been high enough to be life threatening, but it certainly saved us from a traumatic weekend in the hospital fighting back dehydration. Advocate for your children-they deserve it.

The Good and The Bad, aka My Life

Mother’s Day Out is going so much better guys. So much better. She still cries just a little at drop off but she stops pretty quickly. We know because we peek through the window. When I picked her up on Tuesday she wasn’t crying which was a first. When I picked her up today they said she didn’t cry at all all day AND that she played with the other children a lot! Score! Two days a week was the right way to go.

She is always so much fun after MDO. She’s in a good mood to see me and be home. We nurse and cuddle and play all afternoon. MDO days are becoming some of our best days. And this morning I finally got to sew something and made myself a new top out of the yummiest french terry fabric you’ll ever touch. Seriously amazing stuff. I’m going to wear it constantly, I can already tell.

On the downside, she’s sick AGAIN. At first I was afraid it was strep because they notified parents that the kids were exposed, but Hopeful Warrywort assures me that with such recent antibiotic usage it wouldn’t be that, so probably just another cold. It took her two hours to go to sleep tonight. I finally gave her some advil because she felt clammy so I was worried she might be having a feverish up and down sort of thing, which always makes me feel like crap. She’s going to the doctor tomorrow anyway for an iron check, a flu shot, a weight check AND a check up on her ears to make sure the amoxici.llin cleared the infection. She’s really really not going to be happy about any of that.

On another downside, we pulled the old house from the market for good today. We had a showing on Monday that actually seemed like it was going to be THE one. The folks loved it so much, but then the wife’s parents came by to see it and literally talked them out of it. Convinced them it was too old and big. My realtor was flabbergasted and so upset on our behalf, but what can you do? So we’re putting it up for rent hopefully next week. Our property manager gave us a list of things to get done (put on door stops and fix a light switch, plus finish emptying it because we had been storing a few things there).

If we don’t get it rented in the next few months things financially are going to be hairy. Bad timing with Christmas. We have some savings though moving has depleted them significantly, but if we’re careful we should be able to make it through. December is a big military PCS season for some reason so we’re hopeful for a quick turnover on this. Still, I’ve had a few nights of staying up plugging variables into spreadsheets of our financials, trying to see how to make it all work. The thing that’s really working for us is that our utility bills in the new house are soooo much lower than at the old one. It’s saving Chief about $300 bucks a month which is significant, so he’s been able to put $400 into savings the last few months, which will be key for us.

BUT. We really like our property manager so far. He was recommended to us by another military family and he seems really nice. He charges 12% which is a little higher than others, but he doesn’t charge marketing fees like some of the other folks do, so it basically evens out. Plus, he gets to deal with finding and vetting the tenants and not me.

I’m feeling a little stressy about my antidepressants. The nurse at my OBGYN isn’t back in the office until Monday and I will run out of the samples they gave me on Thursday, which really isn’t enough time I don’t think to get an answer about a preapproval from the insurance company, so I’m afraid I’m just going to get put on something else after I’ve spent all this time adjusting to pris.tiq. I’m finally, finally starting to cope with the fatigue better. I haven’t had to have a nap in the last few days and typically I need one every day. So that’s a bummer, but there’s not much to be done about it. I can’t afford even a few weeks out of pocket. It would be well over $100. But it’s obvious that I need to be on something so I may just have to settle for whatever the closest comparable (and covered) drug is.

I will never regret sleep training

When we decided to sleep train Charlie I felt all sorts of invisible but very present judgement, pressure, preconceived notions….etc. People don’t seem to really fall in the middle on this issue-you either think it is definitely necessary and a gift to your child, or you think there is no way you would ever do it and that it’s unnatural.

Frankly, I did fall in between for a while. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it but I also didn’t judge other people who did do it-even cry it out didn’t seem wrong to me as long as it was age appropriate and done correctly. I did tons and tons of research. And at any rate, up until Charlie was eight months old I didn’t really feel the need to formally sleep train. Cosleeping was working for us and she would sleep the first half of the night in her pack n play so I could have some baby free time in the living room.

Then, all of a sudden, what was working just…wasn’t anymore. Charlie couldn’t seem to sleep in our room at all. I couldn’t ever tell what she needed-did she need to be rocked? Nursed? Was I reinforcing bad habits? So we took the plunge and did Happy Sleeper. I don’t need to rehash all of it because I wrote about some of it here. Suffice it to say-it worked for us. Big time. I was able to successfully night wean her gradually and without any trauma to either of us and she started sleeping through the night right around the one year mark.

All of this is well and good, but yesterday I was reminded of how much I appreciate sleep training. I put Charlie in bed and she started to fuss, which is sort of unusual for her. Usually she goes down happily and plays with her stuffed animal until she falls asleep. So I left and watched the monitor carefully. Fussing turned to crying, and crying quickly turned to wailing.

Because we sleep trained I KNEW something was wrong. Charlie never cries at night unless something is up. I went back in and swooped her up to sit in the glider. I expected her to want to nurse but she didn’t. She just wanted to be cuddled. She was clutching her stuffed pig and I rocked her and rubbed my hand up and down her back until her breathing slowed and her weight got heavy. After she had been asleep for about five minutes I was able to lay her (and the pig) back in her bed and leave the room.

Tonight she was fine when I put her down. No problems-went to play with Mr. Pig and Big Bird, and eventually settled in to sleep. I don’t know what was up yesterday. It was a MDO day so she could have been having some need for extra momma time. And I never regret an opportunity to rock my baby to sleep. I’m so grateful that we chose to sleep train so that I could have no doubt that rocking my sweet girl to sleep last night was absolutely necessary.