When your dog is sick...

Brahms German Requiem -- gorgeous but time consuming to learn!

Brahms German Requiem -- gorgeous but time consuming to learn!

I have been woefully neglecting my blog over the past few months, for a variety of reasons. Yes, concert time is approaching, which means rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals, and more rehearsals. And because it's hard for me to say no to musical opportunities, I tend to overbook myself. But that's another subject for another time. The principal reason I haven't been keeping up with the dog blog is because Moki has been very sick, and it took a great deal more of my physical and emotional time than I thought it would.

Now, I can sort many of my friends into two categories when it comes to owning a dog: those who do, have done, and might do in the future; and those who don't and never will. The former, when I cry on their shoulder about Moki's illness, give me a hug and really do understand, whether in person or on social media. Those people provide really great moral support. The latter think I have lost my mind and gone completely bonkers. "You paid how much to the Animal Medical Center?" they say, their eyes wide with [horror, shock, disbelief, anger] (choose 1). "For a dog? You realize that would have supported a third-world country for a month?" Back in the day (way back in the day), dogs were chained up outside and schlepped to the vet once a year for a rabies shot. When they got sick, frequently their owners put them down. This feels harsh even to write, and I realize I am generalizing, but I think that was a much more "a way of life" than it is now. If you're reading this, you likely know me. Likely you understand that my dogs are my family, and when I take one on, I take it on for "better or for worse." And for life.

Moki with his doggie-sitter Jessica Lou

Moki with his doggie-sitter Jessica Lou

Moki came to live with me when he was 8 weeks old. He was always hardy, healthy, feisty, "wicked smaht" (as we say in Boston), funny, and lots of fun to snuggle up with. He's a hugger and a leaner. He's not allowed on the furniture, except for the bed--his bed, which he allows me to sleep in too, if he's in a good mood. So back at the end of last year when I noticed he was losing a lot of weight and turning his nose up at his food, I got really worried. You New York City natives know what I mean when I say, Moki was always a dedicated fresser. (If you're not from NY, it means he loved to eat more than just about anything else in the world.) But he would look at his food bowl sadly, sniff it, and walk away. And his vertebrae and his pelvic bones started becoming way too prominent. So, it was time to do something.

Moki's meds!

Moki's meds!

After an ultrasound and an endoscopic biopsy, he was diagnosed with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and possible PLE (protein-losing enteropathy). His albumin levels were abnormally low, as were his folic acid levels. His lymph nodes were enlarged. The good news was, there was no sign of cancer. So, now the fun began. Many prescription medications (Prednisone, Mirtazapine, Cerenia, Prilosec, Metronidazole). And prescription dog food. So we waited and hoped he would begin to gain weight. Against veterinary advice, I consulted a prominent holistic vet on the West Coast, who did a saliva test on him, which showed that he was indeed reactive to many many foods, including but not limited to chicken, turkey, white fish, cow dairy products, corn, wheat, peas, lentils, and many more. I then consulted a prominent doggie nutritionist in Florida, who used the list of no-no foods to personalize a diet for Moki. I combined the new diet with some of the prescription diet, and began the process of cooking for my dog. Then, voila! Slowly, he began to eat and to enjoy his food again. But for weeks, the scale inched up only slightly. 

This is not Moki! He didn't morph into a Golden Retriever!

This is not Moki! He didn't morph into a Golden Retriever!

Only within the last two weeks or so, when I took him to the AMC for a weigh-in, had he gained a significant amount of weight--seven pounds of the twelve he'd originally lost. I danced a jig! My vet danced a jig! And I'm going to confess that I sent the doggie nutritionist an email asking her how to adapt the diet so that he wouldn't gain too much weight! She laughed and said, "Cut back on it. That's all you have to do." Doh! The bottom line is, Moki will live with this condition for the rest of his life. And there's no guarantee he won't develop sensitivities to some of the foods he can eat now, so it will be vigilance and no more taking for granted that I can open a random bag of dog food and give it to him.

The other good news, though, is that making Moki's food has become less of a pain and more of a normal process. I figured out a system, so I'm not spending all my time doing it. And somehow, during the time he was sick, I was able to finish the edits of galleys and such for the new book, Time Out (see cover photo below), finish another novel, called The Journey (my eleventh!), and get cracking on yet another one, The Rise and Fall of Arensky. So watch this space. My pledge is not to neglect it for such a long time in the future. But truth be known, if my dog gets sick again, I will take care of him just as well as I did this time. He gives back a great deal more than I even give him.

My new book! Time Out

My new book! Time Out