Today is the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to take both Nika and Piper out on the trails. For me, this is a turning point in a very long, stressful illness that Piper is still recovering from.
A couple months ago Piper got what we can only assume was an abscess inside her chest cavity. The result was that her chest filled with fluid and made breathing very difficult for her. The original diagnosis, made before she started having any real symptoms, was cancer, and we were preparing for the worst. Thankfully, Andrea didn’t give up on her, and several fantastic veterinarians in town didn’t either.
She spent some time in a hyperbaric chamber to get her oxygen levels up, and she had the fluids drained from her chest several times. Eventually, she had surgery to insert a pair of tubes into her chest, and we spent the next two weeks flushing her with fluids, every six hours. There’s a photo of the setup below. The procedure was to hook the saline bag to the input port on one side of her chest and put in 250 ml of fluid. Then we’d switch sides, and open the drain port on the side that had just been filled. Repeat until a liter has gone in and come back out again. The whole procedure took more than an hour, four times a day. At the same time, she was getting pain medication and antibiotics.
In the beginning, even after we had a good diagnosis, she was so sick that I don’t think anyone had much hope that she could be saved. She was too weak to stand without help and had a head tilt that seemed to indicate she’d gone septic. But as soon as we got some of the fluid out and the antibiotics started working on the infection inside her she improved dramatically.
Throughout all of it, Piper was fantastic. She went up on the couch to get treatment, went into her kennel at night, and handled all the trips to the vet without complaint or struggle.
She still has to take antibiotics for at least six months to make sure the infection really is gone, and it’s been a cold couple months because her chest was shaved prior to the surgery, but it’s all worth it. Seeing her running around on the trails today with Nika was a pleasure, and I think she enjoyed it too.
Buddy got some of his stitches out earlier in the week and was given permission by the vet to go for his first run of the year on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, it was 34 degrees above normal yesterday and above freezing so we decided to take him out to the Creek instead. Piper and Nika have been going with me on most of my trail walks, but this was Buddy’s first experience off the leash. He was nervous at first, and kept running back to the dog yard, but eventually settled into it and had a great time warping around the Creek with the other dogs.
Nika was going crazy; click on the image below to see a close up of her craziness. Piper looks a little freaked out.
I took Nika out on the Creek today to see how far we could get on the ice. All of the open water on our property had frozen more than a week ago and we’d noticed bicycle tracks and footprints in the snow, so I figured it was probably safe to walk on. Plus I wanted to see where the bicyclist was coming from. The photo on the right shows our bridge and the house from down on the Creek, and the photo at the bottom of the post is a Google Earth view of the GPS track we walked. The red dot is our house, and the blue dot is where we got off the Creek.
I would have kept going on the frozen Creek, but there was a small dam at that point and I could hear running water just below the surface. Just past the dam was a hole in the ice with water running underneath and I didn’t want to take a chance of falling in or having Nika break through the ice. It turns out that were we went back up onto land is a section of trail between two roads that were originally supposed to intersect. At least that’s how it looks on the map.
The bicyclist is using this trail, the Creek, and our road to travel between the two roads that don’t intersect, which is pretty clever and is probably several miles shorter than where they’d have to go to get around the break.
Garmin hasn’t come up with the software for my GPS for Linux or OS X, but gpsbabel lets me download the data from the GPS and will also convert it into a KML file I can view in Google Earth. It works really well, except that in our area Google Earth isn’t perfectly geolocated, so the GPS track isn’t lined up with the satellite topography shown. The commands are:
$ gpsbabel -t -w -i garmin -f usb: \ -o garmin_txt,date="YYYY-MM-DD",datum="WGS84",dist=s,prec=6,time="HH:mm:ss" \ -F out.txt $ gpsbabel -t -w \ -i garmin_txt,date="YYYY-MM-DD",datum="WGS84",dist=s,prec=6,time="HH:mm:ss" \ -f out.txt -o kml -F out.kml
You could take the GPS data directly to KML format but it’s handy to have the text version first so it can be edited before generating the KML file. The -w flag to gpsbabel causes it to download all the waypoints from the GPS, and I usually want just the waypoints relevant to the current track (the -t flag). The text file makes it easy to remove the waypoints you don’t need.
For the past couple weekends I’ve been taking Nika out on the trails around our house. We did this a lot when she was a puppy, but our previous house was in too much of a neighborhood and there weren’t any trails to speak of for us to walk on. But now that we’re in the middle of nowhere, she can run around like a crazy dog again. Concerns include her running off (obviously), but also the possibility that she’d encounter a trapline and get herself stuck in a trap. But she’s always been very good, staying close by, and coming when she’s called. Unless there’s a moose to chase…
Today I tried taking Piper out with us to see how she did. Nika was her usual good self, and I was pleasantly surprised at how close Piper stuck to me. There was one point when she disappeared for longer than I would have liked, but she came back and stayed close since. There were snowshoe hare and red fox tracks all over the place, so she probably got caught up following a scent or chasing one of the around. Next trip out I’ll probably keep a pocketful of treats and try to reinforce the idea that being near me is a good thing.
All that running around did Piper some good too, as you can see from the second, after photo:
Things are slowing down as the house is ready for winter and almost everything is gone from the old place. A couple more trips this weekend and I hope we’ll be done moving. We haven’t done much unpacking, but there will be plenty of time for that now that it’s starting to get cold.
After the sunrise this morning I took Nika out on one of the trails on the other side of the road from our driveway. There’s a trail that goes along the road, and off that is a trail that goes mostly east up over the ridge, which is where I took Nika. It’s about ¾ of a mile to where the trail intersects what looks like it might be a road, but since I didn’t know where I was, I turned around and came back. You can sort of see what the environment looks like from the photo on the right. The forest was dark and the sky was lit with the sunrise, so it was hard to get a good photo.
The other photo shows the toilet repair I did earlier today. The toilet didn’t flush “all the way,” even when there wasn’t anything but liquid in the bowl. I was worried that it was installed incorrectly, but the plumber that came to charge our glycol lines said it was just scale inside the toilet. He suggested getting some hydrochloric acid and letting it dissolve the scale by running it through the toilet. But since we’ve got our own sewage treatment plant that needs to be treated gently (the instruction manual says we need to treat it like a pet, since it's a living system), I pulled the toilet out of the house and ran acid through it from the top tank into the bowl. I’m glad I did it outside, since the reaction released some really nasty smelling (and probably poisonous) gases. The photo is what happened when I neutralized the acid with a couple boxes of baking soda. The acid came with a pH testing kit to verify the acid was neutralized before disposing of the solution.
After all that, I wiped it down, installed a new wax ring, and screwed the toilet back in place. Turns out the plumber was exactly right: now it flushes like a toilet should.
I also made some time to try out a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. I finished reading the book last night and prepared the soaker and biga for the basic whole wheat sandwich loaf. Reinhart calls his new baking method a delayed fermentation, “epoxy” method where a large percentage of the dough is prepared in advance. Half of it is a traditional pre-ferment, with either a small amount of yeast added, or is a sourdough; and the other half is a soaker or mash that sits overnight, allowing enzymes to develop flavor and enhance the dough structure and fuel for fermentation. On baking day, you mix the two blobs of dough with the remaining flour, yeast and other ingredients, knead and bake it. Most of the gluten and flavors are developed overnight, so even though the entire process takes more than one day, it involves less effort on each day.
It’s just out of the oven now. Tomorrow, when the bread has cooled, I’ll have a report on how it turned out, but it rose nicely, and I got enough oven spring that the loaf is quite round in cross section.