Oh Those 'Omas'

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was a cold frosty morning actually. Big Blue didn’t get his breakfast and he was a little cross about this. He hadn’t received his bedtime treat either. But all of that was almost made up for when it became clear that Mumma was going somewhere and she was taking him with her.

Blue greyhound recovering from anesthesia
Where Mumma took Blue was to the vet’s office. Blue has had little blood blister like spots that show up on his bum. They appear, grow larger, fill with blood, pop and then heal up completely. Then it starts again. He’s seen Dr. Edelbaum about this a couple times but unfortunately we had not been able to get in to the office while the spots were growing or blood filled. Finally we were able to time a visit with Dr. E when the blood blisters were at their worst. She felt that they could be skin cancer or they could be hemangiomas.

Given our history, the mere mention of cancer stopped my heart. And hemangioma? What was that? I recalled in all my research for Girly Girl, that I read about hemangiosarcoma which is a very nasty form of cancer (really, is there a non-nasty form of cancer?). I think Dr. Edelbaum could see the panic setting in because she tried to reassure me. We scheduled a time for Blue to have the offending spots removed.

I dropped him at the vet early in the morning. The entire time I was having flashbacks to a similar morning, very near this same time of year, when I dropped Girly Girl off at the same place for x-rays of her leg due to a persistent intermittent limp. I was doing my best to hold back the tears as I turned over his leash to George, the vet tech. I gave him a short bum rub and left quickly.

Blue greyhound stitches
The day continued in a strange warping of space and time. I simultaneously remembered how things rolled out with Girly Girl and was feeling the same feelings about Blue. It felt so strangely familiar, like a bad dream you have over and over again. You know it’s a dream but somehow you cannot wake yourself up.

There were some differences though. With Girly Girl, I had a call from Dr. Edelbaum around noon to give me the bad news that GG’s x-ray showed what she was certain was an osteosarcoma tumor. This time, Noon came and went with no news from the vet’s office on Blue. By 2p I still had heard nothing. My mind started concocting all sorts of horrors. Blue had died under anesthesia and they didn’t know how to break this news to me so they weren’t calling. Blue had terrible cancer and Dr. Edelbaum didn’t want to break this to me a second time.

I called the vet’s office to see what Blue’s status was. It was busy. My next three attempts met with busy signals as well. I was nearly frantic when finally, I got through. I mentioned Blue’s name and the woman on the phone didn’t go silent, her voice didn’t take on that “you’re about to get bad news” tone. My heart fluttered a little, showing small signs of life. Instead she said she would go check on his status. When she came back she said Blue was doing fine. He was awake and would be ready to go home in an hour.

I went to get my sweet boy. When I walked in, Dr. Edelbaum was in the lobby. She said he had done fine and now had a clean mouth (we did a dental at the same time since he was going under anesthesia anyhow) and some stitches in his bum. It would be at least a week before we heard anything back on the biopsies. They had gotten a chuckle out of the fact that I had circled the two spots with black marker. It seemed prudent to me since Blue is covered in everyday spots. I didn’t want them excising something else. I didn’t intend to subject him to anesthesia again any time in the near future. Admittedly, I’m a bit OCD, but I can imagine how humorous it was to get Blue ready for surgery, for Dr. Edelbaum and the surgeon to walk to his hind quarters so Dr. E could be sure and show the surgeon exactly which spots were in question only to find two modified bulls eyes, one on each bony cheek.

After I received his discharge instructions and an antibiotic, out wobbled my big guy. He was still very woozy from the anesthesia. But the one thought that did seem to be clear in his mind was that he was ready to leave. He tried lying down on the ride home but that caused one end or the other great pain. He lay there screaming for a few seconds and then decided to just stand for the rest of the ride. His head was hanging almost to the ground, he was panting and all his legs were shaking by the time we got home.

When we got inside, he went straight to his crate and lay down. He turned his head away from the small dinner I made. He definitely wasn’t feeling well if he turned up food. Blue continued to refuse food until about 11:30p that evening. At that point, he looked much less foggy. He was able to navigate outside for last potty and when he came back in, he had dinner on his mind.

Blue greyhound stitches close up
Blue seemed pretty well recovered by the next day. His stitches looked clean and they didn’t seem to be bothering him in any fashion. He didn’t attempt to bite, lick or chew at the two surgical sites. He had stitches on both butt cheeks, almost exactly in the same spot on both sides. Blue was excited about eating full meals again but Mumma lived in dread while we waited for those pathologists to review the offending pieces of butt cheek under their microscopes.

Today we received a call from the vet who did the surgery. He had received the pathology report back sooner than expected and wanted to give me the news. Blue's misbehaving spots were hemangiomas. They were benign. Luckily, they were spotted very early in their development. The vet said he probably wouldn’t have noted them as anything unusual had he seen them on examination. He advised that I continue to keep watch for any more as sometimes they can turn into cancer.

Moral of this story to all my reading friends: No one knows your furry baby like you do. If it doesn’t look normal, then it probably isn’t. Get it checked and insist on follow up, the sooner the better. I have probably lost a few more years off my life waiting for these results, but I know that I’ll be sleeping soundly tonight.


If I Could Talk to the Animals

I was recently reading an article about a study conducted in Budapest. The researchers recorded dogs barking in different situations such as while left tied to a tree or while guarding their yard or at the dog park. Without giving any other information the researchers let humans listen to these recordings. They found that almost all of the people could tell what the dog’s emotional intentions were from the sound of the bark alone.

Bettina greyhound with boneAccording to the scientists, both researchers and mere mortals measure three things in a dogs bark in order to determine the dogs’ state: frequency of the bark, tonality and the interval between the vocalizations. Now ain’t that something. I think for most of us, this isn’t any earth shattering news. Live with a four legged creature long enough and you get to know quite clearly what their emotional status is and what their intentions are.

That set me to thinking about my greyhounds, Blue and Bettina. Most greyhounds are not barkers. They may whine from time to time. Get them together in a group and you can usually elicit a group roo which is somewhere between a howl and a whine. But that tends to be the extent of their vocal range. It is one of the many things that make greyhounds such great pets. No dog barking all day when you’re at work. On the other hand, it would make life difficult for anyone trying to determine a greyhound’s intention from their bark alone.

Blue is a typical greyhound in that sense. He doesn’t bark. He whines on occasion (much more now that Bettina joined us and acquainted him with her bad habits) and he likes a good roo every now and again. Bettina on the other hand starts making noise from the moment she opens her eyes until the moment she closes them. She only stops for sleep and chewing.

Blue greyhound lounging on couch
While the researchers in the study identified a list of different emotions/communications in dog barks such as anger, fear, excitement, and happiness, I am under no illusions about Bettina’s emotional range. Her barks mean only two things: “I want.” Or “I want more.” Bettina has an amazing range of vocalizations. She makes noises I haven’t ever heard coming out of dogs. And she missed the memo on greyhounds not barking. But all her noises are employed for the same purpose. It’s, “I want food” or “I want more food.” She’ll throw in an, “I want attention” or “I want more attention” for good measure. She usually ends with, “I want to go out” or “I want to go out again.” I didn’t get a complicated girl in Bettina.

This study is seen as a big step forward in our understanding of the canines that share our lives, though it may seem a little silly to some. Science had previously considered dog vocalizations to be random noise (Really scientists?). Any dog lover can tell you differently, but very few dog lovers are scientists and therefore cannot be trusted. I wonder what the scientists in the study would have made of Bettina? If they had included her in their sample, I expect they would have lost their government funding.