"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, February 27, 2012

Owls, Foxes, Bouncing and the War Between the Sexes

We almost always have a "spring thaw" in the third or fourth week of February and this year is no different other than it has been such a mild winter that it isn't as obvious.
Our Bradford Pear trees are aching to bud and the birds are getting positively flirty.  It is mating/nesting season for the owls and I typically manage to flush them from the Cedars when I go out to the property while I'm clumsily attempting stealth.  I am sure they don't appreciate the intrusion and I always feel a combination of exhilaration to see them, coupled with shame like I'd accidentally stumbled into their occupied bedroom. 

Based on what I see on my trail cams, I've about decided that Owls and Foxes have some sort of special connection that the foxes, at least, aren't happy about.  I've seen Owls dive bomb the foxes and the foxes regularly are anxiously looking skyward at "something" that in the night, I can only think must be an owl.  Moreover, from time to time I see owls on the ground munching on the fox bait I set out.  Their facial expressions are harder to read - more alien - than the angst I can see on the foxes, but I get the impression that they aren't that worried about some ridiculous fox sneaking up on them and giving them trouble.  Until I thought about it, I  never really realized that Owls are such predators that own the night.  They are Bad Asses. 

As a human, I never really worry too much about wild creatures giving me trouble.  We are at the top of the food chain and other than a bison (that isn't going to eat us even if it does choose to run over us, assuming we are idiotic enough to give him the opportunity), not too many healthy wild things in this neck of the woods want to tangle with us.  I feel as though I've been born into some sort of protected royalty because I can assure you, it isn't based on merit.  If a bunny decided to give me a hard time, I'd likely be toast.  And, yes, I would run from an angry duck.  Sadly, the waddling beastie could surely catch me. 

Still, I am not complaining since it gives me the freedom to explore and, well, be free.  Being female all my life, I am used to being prey and avoiding dark alleys, advertising when I am home alone, drinking too much liquor without a sober chaperone, and associating with any hulking human male I don't know well.  No, it isn't fair but try telling that to the monster in human form who decides to take advantage.  Interestingly, the perfectly civilized male doesn't seem too offended when he is tarred with the same brush.  More likely, when confronted with a wary female, their response is to nod approvingly.

It is an odd thing, seems to me, that the only predators I reasonably need to worry about live more in the city and less in the "wilderness."  And like the owls that like to roll the foxes, it isn't about survival when they decide to be a bully.  They aren't looking for a relationship.  They aren't trying to propagate the species.  They are mean for their own amusement.  

Interestingly, to me, is that the ones most worried with the possibility that I might run afoul of an aggressive, savage human male typically aren't other females who you would think would be the most concerned and on guard.  In my experience, it is the males in my life most concerned when I wander into areas that might be risky.  In truth, it makes me feel a bit unsettled that men who I absolutely know would never harm a female are, without fail, fairly convinced that other men will.  In my youth, I would discount their concerns (as a woman, I know best, after all) but I've about decided they probably are in a better position to know things about men I don't so I take heed.  At least more than I did when I was younger. 

In the same vein, if I want to know the measure of a man, I trust the judgment of other men whose opinion has held up over time.  Women, in my experience, typically are way too complicated and make too many allowances for their men.  We might say he has been "hurt" before and that is why he treats women badly.  Men will snort and announce that their brother is just a jerk - and they are generally on the money.

Like most of us, I've been raised in a culture that discounts men's intuition and instincts.  The pendulum swung way back from the old, "It's a man's world" that our great grandmothers lived in.   While there is absolutely no substitute for female intuition (a gift from the goddess that we too often ignore), it makes no sense, to me, to disregard and dismiss the strong instincts of men.  Both sexes managed to survive to this point and they didn't do it by being clueless or riding on the coat tails of the other [superior] gender. 

The rogue cows are back.  I went out to the property a few days ago and they brazenly stared at me.  As  I drew closer, they whirled around and took off.  There isn't that much woodland on the property but they still managed to hide from me - and that is a bit unsettling.  I mean, these aren't squirrels.  They take up space and there were a lot of them.  I told the guy who farms part of the property that cows were loose on it.  He said he'd tell the owner (everyone out there knows everyone) but, apparently, no one cares about the cows but me.  The fence where they get in is still down and the cows act like they own the place:

Pearly is doing much better and goes back to the specialist in the morning.
She has decided she can no longer jump on the bed and Mr. Wonderful and I are debating why this is so.  He thinks she's just lost her confidence because she tried and failed so many times when her vision was gone.  I think that is part of it but I also think she is heavier (from the cookies she gets when she takes her medicine/eye drops) and her liver has swollen from the prednisone so she is less physically able.  She tried to jump up a couple of days ago and cried out, pitifully.  Mr. Wonderful thought she was just frustrated but I think it actually hurt.  Fortunately, she is on a reduced oral prednisone dose and the liver should start shrinking. Her state of mind, happily, is very upbeat.  Not that you can tell that from the above photo.

Mr. Wonderful's great, great nephew is due to be born a couple of weeks so I made a quick baby quilt:
The back:
It is a very simple quilting design and the above photo was taken before I washed it.  It shrunk up in the washer/dryer and I am really pleased with how it made the quilting pop.  Plus, it pulled up any loose stitching, which hides a multitude of sins.
I'd made the nine patches a few years ago and had about thirty of different colors left.   On the right side of this blog is a photo of the Amish Nine Patch that used nine patches I made at the same time.   Moreover, back in Virginia, I'd ordered the purple and blue swirled material, online, and never could figure what I wanted to do with it.  I liked how it went with the nine patches once I added some purple.  Here it is before I quilted it:
It didn't take long to make and since I birthed it (stitched it and turned it inside out), I didn't have to put on a hateful binding.  Ugh, I hate doing that.  I was really pleased with how it turned out.

I periodically move around furniture and, usually, it raises my spirits as much as a new coat of paint, box of chocolate or falling in love (not that I really like to compare furniture moving to new love although there are some similarities).  I've moved around my sewing room so many times that I've about run out of new arrangements.  Most recently, I've had a good sized kitchen table in the center where I kept my house sewing machine (vs. the one in the studio) and cutting mat.  Off to the side, I had a relatively heavy 2 x 4 foot card table that I put my ironing board pad on that was raised to waist level.

I decided the cutting table was too low so I hoisted up the kitchen table to make it waist high. I moved my sewing machine to the 2 x 4 card table and the ironing pad to the lifted kitchen table.  Okay, so it looked better but when I tried to stitch, the card table bounced.  I am not having a sewing table that bounces.  I have a hard enough time keeping my seams straight.

Mr. Wonderful was busy listening to Youtube Squidbillies (don't ask) and not particularly pleased that I interrupted to announce that the sewing table bounced.   Knowing him the way I do, I apologized for interrupting and breezily announced that I was going out to the barn to find something to make a table. 

Trust me, this lit a fire under him.  I could go into the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that goes along with someone intruding on his workshop but suffice it to say that after an initial period of panic (you'd think I was going to go through his workshop with the safety switched off a flame thrower), he immediately found a Singer sewing machine base and agreed to trim an old piece of laminated blue countertop we had sitting around:
No bouncing!! 

Sometimes, falling in love and furniture moving are one and the same. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Bad Time for Pearly

It has been a difficult few weeks for Pearly and I've held off on posting.  Initially, it was because I was so concerned, but more recently, we've had company and I've had a head cold. 

You may recall that Pearly was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, last November, and that after it was apparently cured, she had a relapse at Christmas time.  The specialist released her on January 9th and we were optimistic that she would be fine.  When I last posted about Pearly, in mid January, she was showing a little redness in her eyes but I hoped we were on top of that by giving her prednisone drops.  Not so.  Within a couple of days, her eyes were clearly on a steep downhill slide so we took her back to the specialist on January 23rd.  She was quite unhappy that Pearly had had a second significant relapse.  She put her on a month's worth of antibiotics, "to try to buy us more time between relapses."  Relapses go with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Don't look if you are squeamish:

We set a recheck for a week later, February 6th, and by that time, Pearly was a complete mess.  Her eyes were swollen like little grapefruit, they were blood red and she was all but blind.  It was horrible.  The specialist put her back on oral prednisone to try to bring down the inflammation.  I asked her, point blank, what the strategy was on her treatment and what we could expect.  She told me that she'd suspected from the beginning that Pearly would eventually lose her sight to secondary glaucoma due to repeated relapses, and she simply didn't have any other ideas on how to stop them from occurring.  I was stunned because that was the first time I'd been told that her vision was in serious danger at being lost, permanently.  Moreover, to hear her say that she simply didn't know how to help her was rather shocking.  I mean, it is one thing for someone to tell you that there is no hope.  It is another to have them tell you that they simply don't know what to do.  Both are hard to hear. 

The specialist offered to recommend someone so that we could get a second opinion and we set up an appointment to see him the following morning, which was a Tuesday.  I was out of my mind with grief.  I read up on secondary glaucoma and learned it was extremely painful and that the eyes often had to be removed.   That night, while she was out in the yard, Mr. Wonderful looked at her eyes with his flashlight and nothing shone back.  Evelyn's eyes glowed.  Pearly's were just dark.  I was just this side of a meltdown. 

The next morning, February 7th, Pearly woke up and couldn't see, at all.  Her tail was down and she moved at a hunched over crawl as if the world was going to buck her off.  She got lost in the corner and was on the edge of complete panic.  The look of fear and confusion in her swollen eyes, clouded over and bluish white was horrible.  It just killed us.  She kept bumping into walls and was so scared.
I took her to the new specialist and he quietly examined her.  He then looked at me and said that, at least at that moment, she was completely blind.  Her eyes weren't reacting to anything and she just stared into space, no matter what he did to try to get a reaction.  Did I mention that it broke my heart?  She's only three. 

The good news is that although the first specialist said Pearly had an inflamed optic nerve, the second specialist said her optic nerve looked fine and that he didn't believe she had optic neuritis in the first place.  What Pearly had, he said, was uveitis throughout her entire eye, both sides, front to back, which means the whole things were swollen and inflamed.  He couldn't tell if her retina was detached because it was too swollen to see back there.  Obviously, a detached retina is a bad thing that could lead to blindness.  That being said, since she'd twice gotten her vision back, he was guardedly optimistic that it would happen again. 

Now, the big question is, "what caused the uveitis?"  He needed to know that to know how to treat it.  He didn't think the uveitis was caused by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  He suspected it was an auto-immune problem. He changed Pearly's medication around and set up an appointment for a week later.  He also asked me to take her to her regular vet to get a complete blood workup.

As bad as that was, I felt considerably better when I left his office and headed straight for the regular vet to get the blood work.  Once there, they drew blood and we waited on the results.  The regular vet took a look at the results and became quite alarmed because Pearly's white blood cell count was very high.  Long story short, she was worried that Pearly had lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.  Are you freaking KIDDING me????  Mind you, she didn't have swollen lymph glands, a fever, or any other indications that she was sick other than her eyes.  Still, the regular vet was concerned enough that she thought we should take her to the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Hospital to see an internist.  After consulting with the second specialist, they set up an appointment for us to go to the veterinary school hospital in Stillwater, about an hour and a half away, on Thursday.

Seriously, this had turned into a really bad week.

I nearly drove Mr. Wonderful insane over the next twenty-four hours fretting over Pearly and lit up the internet seeking answers.  I scared myself silly.  In the meantime, Pearly was starting to regain her eyesight, very slowly.  On Thursday morning, we drove up to Stillwater and by that time, Pearly was starting to be able to see enough to avoid bumping into everything, although she clearly couldn't see anything in focus or beyond a few inches in front of her nose.  At that point, we were thrilled with her progress. 

Happily, based on the the original blood work, OSU were confident that she didn't have cancer.  Instead, they thought the high white blood cell count was due to the prednisone she was on.  They re-did the bloodwork and the count was half what it had been two days, before, making them all the more confident that she was fine, other than her eyes.   And as for her eyes, they noted that they were responding to light and that the pupils were even. 

I was so relieved.

By the time Pearly and I went back to the second specialist for the one week checkup, on Valentine's Day, she had regained a great deal of her sight.  Her vision wasn't good but she was no longer so debilitated that she was getting lost in the dark or running into the walls all the time.  The second specialist was delighted with her "exceptional" response to the medication and quite optimistic that she was going to recover.  He said that she still had some fluid behind her retina and is certainly not out of the woods, yet, but there was no question that he was excited about her progress. 

Since that time, she has continued to improve and is beginning to act like our Pearly, again.  She hasn't yet regained all her sight and her eyes are still slightly swollen, but if you didn't know of her difficulties, you probably couldn't tell.  She is getting back her night sight (her eyes shine brightly in the flashlight) and she is no longer having difficulty taking things from our hands.  She has also stopped running into walls, poor baby.  So at this point, we are guardedly optimistic that THIS time, we'll get to the bottom of her troubles.  She has really been through it. 

A note of explanation about the different approaches of the two specialists might be in order. 

The first specialist believed Pearly's eye problem was caused by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a bacterial infection carried by ticks.  The only way to "cure" Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, an infection, is to kill the source.  You do that with antibiotics.  Even if "cured," the patient is subject to relapses so it tends to come back when you are under stress.  It is like one of those weird tropical diseases.  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever doesn't always affect the eyes but it often does.  Oral prednisone is often offered in the beginning to treat the symptoms because it brings down the inflammation in the eye, reducing the likelihood that the eye will be permanently damaged.  As soon as the eye stops being inflamed, they generally take them off oral prednisone (which suppresses the immune system) so that the body's natural immune system can attack the infection along with the antibiotics.   This is what the first specialist was doing.

Unfortunately, Pearly kept "relapsing" and the first specialist believed that she just couldn't get ahead of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever even though she kept treating her with antibiotics.  The repeated "relapses" put Pearly at risk of developing secondary glaucoma.  That was her reasoning. 

Alternatively, an auto-immune disease is when the body has an out of whack immune system that is attacking itself.  That would be the source of inflammation.  Any number of things can trigger an auto-immune problem.  Vaccinations are considered one of the main culprits but usually, you never know, for sure, what caused it.   My own uveitis that I had at about the same time Pearly got sick was successfully treated as an auto immune problem. 

The remedy, typically, is to put the dog on prednisone, which suppresses the immune system.  The trick is to keep the dog on prednisone long enough for the body to get a grip on attacking itself, and then wean off the prednisone when the body has stabilized its over active immune response.   Because the immune system is suppressed, many vets also put a dog on antibiotics at the same time to keep an opportunistic bug from attacking.

A dog with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever who is put on prednisone, alone, could be a sitting duck for it to roar back and attack since its natural immune system would be suppressed.   But a dog with an auto immune problem rather than Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever isn't helped by antibiotics because the problem isn't infection. 

So what all this means is that the first specialist treated Pearly for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, i.e., with antibiotics.  That wasn't helping Pearly.  When she would get worse, the specialist believed the infection was still there and that she was relapsing, as is typical for RMSF.  Instead, if the second specialist is correct, Pearly was actually suffering from an untreated auto immune problem that would respond to prednisone but as soon as the prednisone was stopped, the inflammation would roar back. 

The second specialist based his diagnosis of auto immune problem on how she looked and how she has responded to the treatment given to her, to date.  Additionally, the blood work he ordered showed that she had a high platelet count and this is inconsistent with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  He put her on a relatively high dose of prednisone for a significantly longer period of time than with the first specialist with the goal of allowing her system to stabilize and stop attacking her own body.  He plans to start slowly weaning her off the prednisone beginning in another week.  In his opinion, the reason Pearly has been "relapsing," is because her body never stabilized to begin with.  He believes she never stayed on  prednisone long enough for that to happen.  

Fingers crossed that she will fully recover - and, happily, I just looked over and she was catching popcorn Mr. Wonderful was tossing her!

On a happier note, our friend, Julia, made her annual visit along with her Samoyeds, Blind Willie and Tarka.  Pearly wasn't feeling well enough to be particularly sociable but Evelyn was her usual Miss Hospitality.   She and Tarka had a great time romping in the front yard and talking to the neighborhood horses:

Evelyn and Tarka are both incredibly photogenic:

 Tarka looks a bit like a white coyote:

Pretty Pearly is still recovering but she is making progress:
I will update on her progress after she goes back on the 28th, if not before.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl