April 18th, 2018
Yesterday, our area was hit with another snowstorm. It was crippling enough to shut down the schools for the day. The boys rejoiced until they realized that snow shovelling was the main activity for them. My plans were also derailed as snow removal became the central activity of the day. Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humour. She teases us with glimpses of grass exposed as the snow melts. Then, in just a few hours, any signs of spring are erased by newly formed blankets of falling snow. Don’t get me wrong, I love our long winters to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing and trail hiking. Even shovelling the white stuff is fine if it comes 5 cm at a time. A couple of big dumps depositing over 25 cm can make one long for the spring weather enjoyed by southerners. From the look of things outside, we will be waiting for a while. Bailey loves her snowy wonderland. As we shovel and haul the snow away, Bailey gleefully charges up the snow bank to retrieve her ball that one of us has thrown. After several of these climbs, she is quite content to lie down and watch us work. Bailey may belong to the working dog breed family but, her four humans are the “working dogs” today. The exhausted troops were rewarded with homemade sourdough bread and tomato soup. Evening plans to attend a volunteer appreciation function were cancelled. I wasn’t fit to stay awake. Bailey quite willingly joined me for a nap to regain our strength for the next snowstorm to roll in.
April 10th, 2018
Like being on a roller coaster ride that had delivered too many dips and turns, Bailey and I were ready to get off. What began in January as a bad case of infected ears soon spread to inflammation on the skin between her paw pads. Her ailments were most likely to be caused by food intolerances. Treatment should have been simple or so one would have thought. One of the challenges of living in Northern Canada is that often services are offered by only one provider. Shopping the specials is limited with only one grocery store in Labrador West. The same is true for veterinary services – just one. In January, the local vet left. The Veterinary College has been sending replacement vets every three weeks until a permanent one can be found to fill the position. You see, our clinic is not owned by a vet but, rather an accounting firm (or so I have been told). Bailey saw a total of three vets. Each one had a different treatment plan to get our girl healthy. They meant well. The first vet suggested a duck-based kibble. The next one told us to give a fowl and grain-free kibble. Ironically, the one that she ordered in for us had grain in it. We refused to buy it. The last one actually suggested putting Bailey on a black bean and sweet potato diet. Really, I can’t imagine Bailey eating beans and sweet potato for 6 to 8 weeks. Just thinking about the amount of gas that she would produce meant a greater willingness on my part to spring the extra money needed to buy the fish-based, grain-free kibble. Bailey has come around to accepting her new kibble, although she longs for a return of turkey roaster licks – not a chance. The kibble seems to be working for her after several weeks of being on it.
The ears have been slow to respond to the various treatments prescribed. The second vet ordered a culture to be taken and sent away. I was surprised because last year, I had asked for a culture of her ear to be taken and was told transporting cultures in winter temperatures was not done. The culture sample would likely not survive the trip. My husband, not knowing this information, agreed to the culture being taken as I was instructing at ski school. The single type of bacteria present in the ear had become multiple bacteria. No cleaning or medication in the ears could be given for 4 days prior to the culture being taken. The results came back stating no growth according to the animal technician. No antibiotics would be prescribed even though the second vet felt they were necessary after 4 weeks on steroids. I questioned the result’s accuracy given that transportation could have killed the sample. The clinic was between vets. Bailey was to go back on a medication that had not worked earlier and to which she had reacted badly. I made another vet appointment with the next one who was expected to arrive in a couple of days. In the meantime, my husband and I brainstormed for other options. How far would we go to get treatment for our sweetness?
Well, 3,400 km to be exact! My husband and the boys were leaving to spend Spring Break in Quebec City with relatives while I stayed home to care for Bailey. We decided to make an appointment with Bailey’s vet in Peterborough, Ontario who she sees while attending courses with the Southeastern Ontario Newfoundland Dog Club. The extra days of driving combined with the hotel costs meant something would have to be given up. We agreed to cancel our 25th anniversary trip to Nova Scotia planned in July if necessary. Bailey was more important to us than spending our first holiday alone since our teenagers were born. I made the vet appointment in Peterborough for 1 ½ weeks later.
Bailey saw the third vet who examined and swabbed her ear. I brought every bottle that had been prescribed by the previous vets – all ten of them. The vet could not detect the presence of any yeast or bacteria. She wanted to reduce the swelling and inflammation quickly so Bailey was given a high dose of steroids for 5 days. The ears were to be kept dry and if possible, the ear flaps needed to be pinned up to increase airflow. I was to only clean her ears twice a week. Apparently, my daily cleaning sessions endorsed by the first two vets had aggravated the inflammation in her ears. I followed the prescribed treatment and saw improvement within a few days. Bailey wasn’t thrilled with the clothes peg holding up her ear flaps. We compromised with me laying her flaps back every time she was lying down. A day before Spring Break, I cancelled the vet appointment in Ontario and gave a sigh of relief that I would be staying home with my girl. Bailey was on the mend and as of last night, she is back to her old self. Our roller coaster ride has come to an end.
April 4th, 2018
By all accounts, a storm is coming soon to Labrador West. It has left dumps of snow across Northern Ontario, moving through Quebec and arriving around midnight tonight. My husband and boys are spending Spring Break in Quebec City with family while Bailey and I take care of the homestead here. They experienced the snow blizzard there early today. Staying in a hotel means no shovelling for them. I won’t be so lucky if we get the predicted snowfall. Tomorrow will be all about snow removal in the form of shovelling. Knowing the cleared parts of the yard will once again be covered in white stuff, Bailey and I spent the afternoon playing in the open space around the house. A pathway has been kept clear around the entire house due to the hard efforts of my husband. Besides allowing the basement windows to be free of snow in case of fire, Bailey and I can practice our Rally-O techniques as we move around the outside of the house. The snowbanks are over 6 feet high and act as a natural barrier between distractions and Bailey. It may have been -36 degrees Celsuis on our walk this morning (-41 degrees Celsius if you count the windchill) but, the sky was blue and the sun shone down on us. The air was invigorating. It was quite pleasant as long as one was dressed for the weather. We played with the ball. Bailey fetched. Then, the two of us wrestled with the ball. A simple “Leave it” command and the ball was mine. We soon collapsed down on the snow in need of a rest. Life won’t be so leisurely tomorrow. While Bailey will be thrilled to see the white stuff, a morning of shovelling will definitely dampen my spirits. Tonight, I plan to enjoy the calm before the storm.
March 13th, 2018
It was time. No more delays on my part. I grabbed the necessary equipment to fix the horrific wounds on not one but, two patients. Bailey`s twin stuffies required immediate attention or they were not going to survive another vigorous shake from our sweetness. I decided to tackle the task while Bailey was out for a business stroll. One of the bear stuffies had just been laundered. The other one had just spent the last hour being sucked on and licked by Bailey. I decided to start with the dry one. The stuffies have been her go to toy since they were picked up at a garage sale. They were unused and unclaimed until Bailey got a hold of them. Buying two identical bears allowed us to clean one while the other was kept under Bailey`s watchful eye. Since that time, Bailey always has her Stuffie nearby. It is her constant companion in the house. The house rule is that Stuffie must remain inside where Bailey can always find it. As soon as she is given the okay to go into the living room, Bailey retrieves her Stuffie from the toy basket that stores her other neglected toys. For Bailey, it has always been about Stuffie. If it is important to Bailey then the mangled bear is worth fixing.
And this is how I find myself trying to sew using a blanket stitch. A long time ago, I learned that sewing was not my talent. I spent 3 years in 4-H Home Arts followed by 2 years of Home Economics. My mother tried her best to cultivate my sewing skills with minimal success. It must skip a generation because my sons excel in the area given their Home Economics marks. I used to select thread to match Stuffie`s fur – not any more. Both stuffies sport Frankenstein-like stitches that cover their bodies. They are testament to my lack of skill. But, Bailey doesn`t seem to mind in the least bit. Another repair session was underway when our girl returned home and a quick poke in her basket revealed no Stuffie. She looked baffled until her eyes caught the treasured bear in my lap. Bailey approached and tugged gently at one of the bear`s dangling paws. The operation was in progress so releasing the patient for further abuse was out of the question. Bailey would have to wait. She did. Our girl sat down in front of me with eyes glued on the bear. Talk about being under pressure. The repairs looked ugly but, I hoped they would hold up to the tender mercy of our girl`s affections. With a quick toss, Bailey leapt into action. The bear was given a quick shake by Bailey`s mighty jaws before she settled down to run her tongue over its entire body. My break was over as I had a second patient who needed immediate attention.
March 8th, 2018
Should we be rejoicing now that Bailey has eaten two meals per day for the last two days? After days of no eating followed by a few nibbles of the new kibble, I think our stubborn girl has finally relented for good. It is not because she’s particularly fond of the kibble. I find it frustrating to have her turn away from this new upscale food at $100 for a 22 pound bag. According to the pet store owner, dogs can’t get enough of it. Our girl was certainly able to say “Nope”. The hunger pains after numerous skipped meals must have tipped the scale. Our sweetness is eating it.
The two of us compromised to get to this point. I began placing two bits of kibble in her mouth. Then, she was prevented from spitting it out. Each of us determined to outlast the other. Bailey folded when the kibble became soggy and released its flavour. The swallowed bits gave me hope. I advanced to the next step of my plan. I grabbed eight kibble pieces and held them in my hand. Bailey sniffed and then with one slobbery swipe, they were gone. I took another handful of kibble and positioned my hand over top of her food dish. She moved cautiously forward before removing the kibble chunks and coating my hand with more slobber. Normally, I would never think of hand feeding my dog. Who wants to do that for the rest of the dog’s life? Desperation calls for trying something different. I removed my hand from the food dish. Bailey magically began eating. I tried this technique one more time before she was willing to just eat the kibble from the dish without any help from me. Eating times have changed. Bailey prefers to eat after her midday hike and then again, when she returns from the dinner hour walk. I am not thrilled with chowing down kibble after exercise. Bailey doesn’t seem to be bothered by the new meal time. Now, it is my time to compromise.
This new limited diet will continue for the next 5 weeks to address possible food allergies. Bailey’s paws are slightly improved after being taken off her old kibble last week. The ear infection is another thing. The bacteria are still present in both ears but the right one is much worse. The vet scheduled a culture sample to be taken on Monday morning to determine what antibiotic will kill them. Monday will be our fourth vet visit in less than a month. It seems like we are bleeding out money at a quick rate. Culture samples are done as a last result here in our remote Labrador community because they must be flown out for processing. Cold weather creates transportation difficulties and makes the service more expensive. Yet, our love for Bailey means redirecting more money towards getting her healthy. Hopefully, this health crisis will be fixed in the near future. Until then, our sweetness will continue to soak up the extra massages that are needed to get the medication down her ear canals.
February 27th, 2018
Bailey’s follow-up vet appointment on Monday revealed that the bacterial ear infection had now become a multiple one and her paws had not improved. The prescribed medication still had to be administered and cleaning these areas nightly continued. I shaved the fur on the inside of her ears and paws to allow for better ventilation. The vet and I agreed that food allergies were the most likely causes. As a result, Bailey needed to be put on a diet of only grain-free kibble without any type of fowl as quickly as possible. Chicken and grain seemed to be to the culprits. Surprisingly, Bailey’s grain-free labelled food wasn’t. It had oat bran in it. I felt horrible that Bailey had been battling food allergy symptoms for the past few months and I was clueless. Thanks to information given to us by Bailey’s breeder, I learned of a possible kibble to try that other Newfs who were kin of Bailey had been put on with good success. I remained hopeful. The transitioning process began by reducing the old kibble and increasing the new kibble until she would be eating only the healthier food. Total time allotted for the transition was one week.
Bailey was introduced to the new kibble yesterday. Her reaction was not one of being impressed. Was it the shape or size? She took a sniff and then proceeded to lie down beside her bowl. The ironic thing is that Bailey is crazy about her wild Alaskan dried salmon strips (only 1 ingredient) and canned salmon. Her new kibble is completely fish-based. She is a Newfoundland dog whose ancestors were fed fish. How could she not want to eat it? Eventually, she was hungry enough to try. To my amazement, she managed to separate her old kibble from the new kibble. She reminded me of my son who would painstakingly pick out every piece of corn from his mixed vegetables. The older stuff was completely gone but, only a portion of the newer kibble was. Our girl did not want to give up the fowl. Or, was she thinking foul play?
Like it or not, Bailey needed to adapt to her new food regimen. Our options are very limited here. A raw diet is not practical given what we have to pay for meat at the one and only grocery store in a remote community. In fact, our family has been eating more vegetarian meals as of late. Last time I looked ground beef was going for $16 per kg. No one in the family has the stomach or the passion for hunting so, wild game is not an option. Our area only has one pet store that carries only one higher-end grain and fowl-free kibble product and it is fish-based. If we lived closer to a bigger centre then ordering on-line with a free shipping option might provide other kibble options. Sadly, Labrador is not a place to which free shipping applies. I did find out that the Northwest Territories and Inuvik do qualify. I would have thought that they were as remote as us. The thought of paying more for shipping than the actual kibble with its own hefty price is enough to drive me crazy. The best course of action is to wait Bailey out. Sooner or later, she will be hungry enough that it won’t matter. If tonight’s refusal to eat her dinner is any indication, it is going to be a long week. When Bailey saw that she was getting no plate or pot licks, it was time to sulk in the garage. Tomorrow is another day and I can be just as stubborn as my sweetness. Seeing her suffer with food allergies is motivation enough to make the necessary changes.
February 20th, 2018
Life has gotten a bit complicated for Bailey lately. My suspicions about a possible ear infection were confirmed last week. Both ears were affected by this bacterial infection. She had been experiencing discomfort with our nightly ear cleaning. Vet appointments are difficult to get with the recent staff shortage forcing us to wait a few weeks to have Bailey seen. Living in a remote northern community with only one vet clinic can be frustrating at times. In the meantime, her ears were becoming more sensitive until she cried if they were touched. I was relieved when she was finally examined. Besides her ears, I showed the vet that three of her paws were red on the undersides. Testing showed that Bailey had a bacterial infection there as well. Medication was prescribed and the vet demonstrated how to administer it. Bailey wasn’t too thrilled with the procedure. She shook her head as soon as possible launching much of the medication out of her ear and onto us. The solution was to place a cotton ball where her ear lobe narrows for a couple of minutes while her ear was massaged to move the medication further down the ear canal. Her feet required a 5 minute dip in a container filled with water and antibacterial soap. For a water dog, Bailey was even less thrilled about this new procedure.
She was fine with the nightly grooming but, displeased when the tray appeared. Bailey seemed to think that sitting wedged in the corner of our entry would prevent the paw dip from happening. Our girl was wrong. My husband held her in place so she couldn’t bolt while I lifted each paw, one at a time, into the tray. Fifteen minutes later and her paws dried, Bailey needed no encouragement to go to her blanket. Between ear cleaning and paw dipping, the nightly groom session had become much longer. Bailey’s ear antibiotic was given an hour later after the cleaning. It involved me holding her head while wearing a headlamp so my husband could see clearly to insert the syringe and direct the medication into the ear canal. I followed this step by placing a cotton ball in her ear before the ear massage would begin. My husband cleaned and refilled the syringe to do the other ear. The process was repeated again. Bailey did not appreciate all of this extra attention. Any delay on my part to get the cotton ball would result in a vigorously shaking of her head. Ear gunk and the meds would splatter on the sofa, wall and more often, us. Bailey was making it just as unpleasant for us as it was for her.
But, night after night, the three of us resigned ourselves to the procedure. The ears are improving which is a good sign. The paws are not. She goes back for a follow-up vet appointment next Monday. The vet had suggested that the underlying cause might be food allergies if these infections do not clear up. It would mean putting Bailey on a special kibble and nothing else – no treats or plate licks – to determine food sensitivities. Our sweetness loves food and is not likely to embrace this “special” diet for 2 months. But, a healthy Newfoundland dog is more important. The family will do what must be done to get her back to normal again.