Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Archie: Progress Report

I'm pleased to report that Archie's "brain surgery" was a success! At the time, he was deep into a period of hormone surges, so the sudden removal of those hormones resulted in equally rapid changes in his behavior. It only took about 72 hours before I started seeing big differences, although to be fair, he was drugged to the gills on the good shit for the first 24 hours of that. 

The two changes that would be obvious to even outside observers were these: he no longer had his nose glued to the nether parts of any girl dog within a meter, and when he peed outside, he was completely emptying his bladder instead of placing 2 or 3 perfunctory drops on the fence, saving it all for marking inside the house. Just as quickly, I was able to relax all of the "monitor Archie" tactics I had put into place in an attempt to change his behavior. Most importantly, he is now left free in the house with the girls when I shower. This doesn't mean that hijinks don't ensue when the Eye of Sauron isn't on him, but they are the normal sort of playful dog antics that my house is well proofed against. Everyone is much happier with this new state of affairs. 

One unexpected consequence is that I now regularly brush Archie's teeth. I brush Mimi's teeth every other day or so. When she wanders into the bathroom after I get out of the shower, I know that she wants her teeth brushed. It's been this way for quite a long time, something that she started doing even back when we lived in Saudi Arabia. I keep the dog toothbrushes and tooth gel in a plastic container on the bathroom counter, always at the ready. Archie started following her into the bathroom and watched the procedure with great interest. After smearing some gel over his gums for a week, I decided it was time to jump right in with the brushing (each dog has their own toothbrush). And now when I pull back the shower curtain, I am often greeted by both terriers jostling for position to get their teeth brushed first. 

His performance in agility class has also accelerated noticeably, drawing appreciative comments from the instructor and my classmates. Right now, I'm the weak link in that chain. He's blazing fast, far faster than any fox terrier I've had in the ring, and very responsive. I'm old, slow, and fat. But I've mentioned that his instructor teaches a particular style of agility that emphasizes distance handling and independent performance from the dog. So my job is not necessarily to keep up with him--I can't--but to give him information at the right time and with the right inflection. That last bit is kind of important. If I get too excited, too loud, too flailing, Archie gets too high to perform. If I remain calm, controlled, and quiet, he does much better. He loves to run flat out but he's simply amazing on the tight, technical stuff. 

Many dogs suck into tunnels like they are pulled in by invisible forces. I've learned that, most surprisingly, Archie is a weave-sucker. Many of his early weave problems, such as lifting his head around pole 4 then popping out and hopping into the air at the last pole, have completely disappeared. He drives through the weaves like he's a drill bit. It's quite amazing to see this in a novice dog. 

His first agility trial is coming up in 10 days. I have no idea what he will do when turned loose in that new space. I hope he decides to do some agility with me. I've been renting our practice facility for extra hours to work on AKC-style sequences with him and so far, he takes everything I throw at him in stride.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Diary of A Second-Year Vet Student: Finals Week Is An Endurance Event

Finals week of the fall term. Five comprehensive finals, one per day. It is so, so much worse than that short little sentence makes it sound. Surviving this week will take a fiendish combination of physical and mental endurance. But there's no sag wagon or friendly people handing out cups of water by the side of the road.

I was smart and kept up a constant level of studying throughout the term. And I preloaded my studying over the weekend, working on material for the first three exams. 

The amount of studying we are doing is starting to wear us all down. We passed the halfway point today. Even so, we can't rest, there is no rest for the wicked or weary. The most difficult exam will be tomorrow morning. There's no time to reflect on the exam we take each morning, no time to catch our breath. We must immediately begin studying for the next one.

While I get that all this studying can make it difficult to maintain a normal routine, and I will freely admit that I am not getting enough sleep, some of my classmates continue to dismay me with their apparent inability to organize their lives on even the most basic levels. Half a dozen of them appear to be sleeping in the vet school library at night. They have been wearing the same clothes for three, maybe four days now, walking around the building in what appear to be pajamas, wrapped in blankets. I just do not understand this. It smacks of a helplessness or fecklessness that is not professional. Maybe they think they are being edgy and cool ("look at me, I'm sleeping in the library!") but I think they are just sort of pathetic.

I am studying just as many hours as they are, but I have somehow managed to continue to cook real food every day, shower every morning, put on clean clothes that are different from those that I wore the day before, feed and play with my dogs, take Archie to class (he was a superstar! brain surgery a success!), do laundry, put gas in my car...you get the idea.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Archie's Naughty Bits

Yep, this is exactly what you think it is.
I was fully committed to leaving Archie intact until and unless problems arose. Problems arose so the decision was made: Archie’s naughty bits had to go.

I gave Archie a decent interval of time in which to sort out the signals that his naughty bits were sending to his brain. But he started marking in the house, a behavior that is extremely difficult to stop once it starts. And his obsession with girl dogs was interfering with his ability to play agility. I tried bribes, baby gates to block his access to favorite marking spots, crating when I wasn’t able to watch him, but none of these things were able to compete with his hormonal urges.

Basically, Archie turned into a 12-year-old boy who has seen real tits for the first time.

He is now 14 months of age so he has reached his adult height and the growth plates in his long bones are closed (this would not likely be the case for a larger breed of dog; the growth plates could remain active until well after 18 months of age). Even though it has not been definitively proven that early neutering affects growth, I think it is moot for Archie at this age. But neutering him now will certainly alter his behavior.

My friend Kathryn, the CVT who I worked with a couple of summers ago in the emergency clinic, arranged for me and my classmate McKenna to bring Archie in to the clinic on Monday night. That is usually a very slow night in the clinic and the doctor on duty graciously agreed to let us scrub in and help. 

A routine surgery that would have taken less time to complete than it took to prepare Archie for it stretched out to nearly half an hour as the doc walked McKenna and me through the minutiae of every step. She and I each got to tie some suture knots around the spermatic cords and we each snipped a testicle once the tying off was complete. It was, not surprisingly, a fumble-fest as we tried to sort out the unfamiliar tools and maintain a sterile field.

Most animals given the induction and anesthetic drugs that Archie received take anywhere from a few to 20 minutes to wake up once the inhalant anesthetic gas is turned off. Archie was trying to get off the surgery table in less than two minutes! It was a surprised rush to get his breathing tube out. I was telling a friend in class about this, and she said, “Well, he doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, Archie’s volume of distribution is Archie!” Then I paused and said, “Sadly, I think I just made a pharmacology joke.” We both laughed sadly.

(The volume of distribution is a calculated value describing the theoretical distribution of a drug in an animal. It is usually a much larger volume than the animal itself. My joke played off her comment about Archie having no fat. It’s a really funny joke if you are a second-year vet student taking pharmacology. It’s not funny at all to anyone else on the planet.)

Archie was sent home with some nice drugs and I kept him sedated for two days. He spent the first 24 hours sleeping it off but starting Tuesday night, he started trying to get Azza to wrestle and trying desperately to get me to play fetch. I finally relented and played some toy games Wednesday morning and he was very happy at the return to our normal routine. I figured he didn’t need any more drugs by then. Today (Saturday), he was high as a kite but naturally so, full of life and joy, zooming laps around the living room without touching the floor.

Archie also proved to be fairly sensible for a fox terrier. The cone that he would have had to wear to prevent that long nose from reaching his incision was enormous and it stressed him a lot to have it on. So I decided: no cone. He’s not bothered his incision site other than a few tentative sniffs and licks.

Even though it might take a couple of weeks for his system to completely recalibrate to his new testicle-less state, I’ve already seen some subtle changes in his behavior. And not one marking incident since Monday.