Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Getting Excited!!!!

Nelson and I are gonna be travelling buddies next week! On Monday,the 21,we are going to the University of Waterloo School of Optometry for my assessment for a new computer. I should have that later this fall,I'm really looking forward to it,time for an upgrade,for sure!!!

Then,on the 22nd,Nelson and I leave for our BIG trip,to Montreal Quebec to meet our good friends Dyanne & Guy. Dyanne has a black lab Hearing Ear Dog named Pockets. Guy and Dyanne live in a pretty lakeside community about 45 minutes north of Montreal called Deux Montagnes. Nelson and I were there last in July 2002. The pix are of Dyanne and I at the Port of Old Montreal and of Pockets and Nelson near the beach at Laval West.

The sore on Nelson's nose seems to be healing on the new anti-biotics,it's shrinking,so that is great! I got him groomed today,so he's all handsome for our vacation.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Still A Mystery

I took Nelson back to the Vet's this morning. They did a bit of exploring into the sore on his face. All they got out was a little bit of pus,so he was prescribed stronger anti-biotics. I was hoping they'd find something,like a thistle and get it out,but the vet couldn't find anything.
It's been frustrating for them and me, trying to get this thing cleared up. Fortunately,he's not sick at all,still the same Nelson we all know and love. Keep your fingers crossed this new anti-biotic clears it all up and it will be history.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

He's Home and Doing Good!

I am so happy to share with you that Nelson did very well today. He handled the anesthetic just fine,went to sleep and woke up well. I was surprised he didn't need any teeth removed! There was no abscesses or pockets in his gums at all! The vet cleaned his teeth and trimmed his front claws,which weren't long, but she figured she'd do it while he was still sleeping.

The big mystery is what is the thing on his nose that has come up twice now? The vet and I think it's either his nose brushed against some prickly weed while sniffing for a place to go or maybe a bug bite. We know for sure it's not his teeth. He is to finish the anti-biotics and if it comes up again,the vet will just break it open and drain it completely. Maybe we will be lucky and it won't ever come back again.

He needed his teeth cleaned anyway and it's better to know that the problem isn't caused by his teeth. He was hungry when we got home so I mixed some canned food with his regular dry food and he ate it right up and kept it down fine. The vet said he can go back to his dry food tomorrow and give the canned food as a treat. I'm so happy and relieved he did so well for a 12 year old dog!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nelson Having Surgery August 2

Well,as I had prepared myself for,Nelson will be having surgery to remove some teeth and clean the others on Wednesday August 2. The vet just called me with his pre surgery test results and she was happy to report everything is fine and she can go ahead with the anesthetic.

Of course,I'll be concerned about my boy,mainly because of his age. I take him to the vet between 8 and 8:30 am and pick him up between 6 and 6:30 pm that night. Since he's older,he'll need more time to wake up and he has to be able to walk before I can bring him home,no way I can carry him. Fortunately,we only live a block away from the vet's office,so that's good.

I'll post again and let you know how it goes. Please keep good thoughts for my boy. We really appreciate it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lazy,Hazy Dog Days of Summer.

Since it's been so hot lately and I'm going to be busy tomorrow,I thought I'd share a really cute pix of Nelson lazing on my balcony. He was 4 years old in this picture. It was a warm summer day when this was taken. You can almost hear him yawning,lol! When I first saw it after getting the film developed I thought"Aw Nelson,is it boring to be beautiful?" He's a sweetie!

Keep cool and enjoy the summer weather while we have it. It will be gone all too soon.

Tooth Abcess Is Back

A couple of weeks ago,Nelson developed a tooth abcess. It burst open,which the vet said was good and she put him on antibiotics and it healed up nicely. Tonight,his nose is all swollen and red in the same spot. He has a vet appointment on Friday for his annual vaccinations and check up. I'm preparing myself for him having to part with a couple of teeth. He's my baby and I can't help but worry about him. He's 12 years old now,but one good thing in his favour is that his general health is good.

Keep your fingers crossed we get some good news and I'll keep you updated as I find out more.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Boss (Or So She Thinks!)

Hi! My Name is Muffin. I am a 14 year old Shih Tzu and as far as I'm concerned,I am the BOSS of this family! I am a dog with ATTITUDE,you better believe it!

I was born February 2,1992. Mommy picked me out special in late March,after Crystal had went home after recovering from her eye removal surgery. Mommy wanted to wait to get a puppy so Crystal wouldn't step on him/her while she couldn't see too good. By waiting,she was very lucky because she got ME! Cute,aren't I,if I do say so myself(and I do!).

When I was 9 weeks old, I wasn't feeling very good. I was head pressing and had a hard time relaxing. Mommy took me to the vet (I do NOT like that place! They have NEEDLES,OW!). After doing some tests,they found out my ammonia count was over 800!(Normal is about 25). They found I had a shunt in my liver that needed to be closed off and removed. My vet couldn't do it,so at the tender age of 12 weeks old, I was taken the the Ontario Veternary College at the University of Guelph for my big surgery. It was so expensive,Mommy called me her"Million Dollar Baby" after that. Of course I just LOVED that!

The second weekend I was in my new home,Crystal came to meet me. Mommy was working and had warned Crystal to look carefully when she came in so she wouldn't step on me(I am so smart,I learned very quickly that Crystal's right eye was blind and I stayed within her line of sight so she wouldn't step on me.) Funny,I knew Crystal was family from the first time I met her. She saw me laying on living room carpet in front of the couch. I was just a little furball then(Now I'm a bit bigger furball,hehe!) Crystal picked me up"Oh Muffin,aren't you cute?" She gently cuddled me and I knew right then she was family. She carried me out to the kitchen to get a cold drink out of the fridge,but the phone rang as soon as we go there. It was Mommy"Crystal,did you find her?" "Yes Mom,I have her right here in my arms. She is sooo cute!" "Ok,I just wanted to make sure you found her ok,I'll see you when I get home from work". Then Crystal opened the fridge and found one cold Coke in there"Hard to get good help nowadays,isn't it Muffin?" Boy,isn't THAT the truth! I may only stand less than a foot off the ground,but I sure learned how to wrap this family around my paw and let them know when I was hungry or wanted out! I darn near scared myself silly the first time I learned to bark,but boy,could I BARK and did it ever come in handy! After Crystal got her Coke,she sat down in one of the chairs in the livingroom. I promptly made myself comfortable and slept on her lap until Mommy got home.

I had it made,a family that just loved me and spoiled me. Whenever Mommy and/or Daddy had to go away and couldn't take ME,Crystal would come home to look after me. I loved her so much,I could trust her as much as I trusted Mommy and Daddy.

One time,Mommy went away for a few days to visit her brother Kenny as he was in hospital and was just diagnosed with cancer. Mommy took the train to Belleville to see him and Crystal came and stayed with me. One day,she got this phone call and she was all excited for some reason. I used to love it when Crystal would sit on the floor Indian style and I could snuggle inside her crossed legs. After she got this phone call, we sat like this and while she was petting me she said"You know,Muffin,Crystal is going to get a dog of her own one day,but don't you ever forget I will always love you as much a I do now." "Huh? What dog? I don't see no dog!" I just ignored her and went to sleep. Little did I know.......

One day,Crystal came home to visit and I was excited as usual until I saw she had this BIG,BLACK MONSTER with her! The legs were so long,I had to look waaay up to see him! My little heart was broken,Crystal went and got a dog of her own,a big black dog named Nelson whom she clearly adored. She didn't love me anymore! This black "thing" did something called a"Play bow" in front of me,but it scared me,I thought he was gonna eat me or something,so I would run away from him. Then the big creep tried to sniff my butt! I don't let ANY dog sniff my butt. I'm a lady,y'know! All that weekend,when Mommy and Daddy were out,I hid in their bedroom until they got home. I thought that big black monster was gonna eat me,eventhough Crystal told me he just wanted to "make friends" and would never hurt me. I don't WANT him as a friend,I am the only dog here!

Gradually,over time,I learned to grudglingly accept him. One thing I thought was really cool was eventhough he scared me when he got excited and alerted Crystal to a sound(usually in the kitchen). I noticed right away,he got TREATS for doing this! The treats are in the KITCHEN!!! Hmm,there's 2 entrances to this kitchen,if I sit and wait at one and he goes to the other one ,maybe I'll get a treat too.... Yea,I got a treat same time he did! I'll have to remember this cool trick. Heck,I'm smart enough,I could have learned to do what Nelson does.

The things I would not allow was eating at the same time as the Monster did or go out in MY fenced in backyard with him! Geez,the nerve! That's MY yard! So they quickly learned to feed us and put us out separately. See,I AM the Boss!

Then Mommy got really sick and they found out she had cancer. Mommy did really well for a long time,she and Daddy used to go on lots of trips and I got to go with them for most of them. I love camping so much,they couldn't say the word unless they were REALLY going. Crystal used to tease me"You've seen more of Canada than I have,you little twerp!"

Then,one day,an ambulance came to the house to take Mommy away. She never came home again. I missed her for a long time. I'd lay at the top of the landing and watch the door,hoping she would walk through it,but she never did *sigh*

I was so lucky to still have my Daddy. I loved him very much too and he adored me. He still took me on some camping trips or just rides in the truck. Crystal and Nelson didn't come home as often,but I was always glad to see Crystal.

Then,not too long ago,my Daddy died too. Crystal would have loved to take me to live with her,but she doesn't have the room or the money to look after me. I've mellowed out some in my golden years and I've learned to tolerate other dogs better,since we used to meet so many when we went camping. I'm now living with Daddy's son Darin and his family in Windsor. Crystal asked to see me again for what most likely will be the last time, after Daddy's funeral. I was so excited to be back in Daddy's house again! Maybe it was a bad dream! Maybe Daddy is still here,but he wasn't. I let Crystal hold me and cuddle me for a little while. Darin promised her when she e-mails and asks about me ,he'll take a picture of me on his digital camera and send it to her. Funny,Darin has two big dogs ,but I don't seem to mind them as much. I guess it's because they aren't Crystal's dogs.

Darling Muffin,I will always love you and will never forget you.

More Family Photos to Share

Don't know exactly where these are going to post when I publish this,but I will give descriptions and I'm sure you will be able to figure out which one is which.

Mom and Dad, 1998. Dad with his youngest Granddaughter, Jordanna,who just turned 10 this weekend and our family pet,Muffin. Dad just became a Great-Grandfather on October 28,2005 when his Grandson Mitch and his partner Alicia had their daughter Jade,whom I met for the first time at Dad's visitation and funeral. Dad said when he 58."You know,it's conceivable that I could be a Great-Grandfather before I'm 60." Boy,talk about eating your own words! I remember teasing him about that when we found out Jade was on the way!

Mom with her"Baby" Muffin and Dad,Christmas 1997. Dad,Me and Mom,Christmas 1997.

These are the best of the photos I currently have. Since Dad loved photography,he had tons of photos at home. The family decided we will get them put on CD's for each one of us,so I'll get many more one day.

In Loving Memory

The most difficult times in my life were saying Goodbye to 3 people I loved the most.

Shortly after Nelson and I graduated,Mom,Dad,Nelson and I went to Ameliasburg (south of Belleville) to visit my one and only dear Uncle Kenny,Mom's brother. He was at the end stages of cancer.

His face just lit right up when Mom and I walked in the door. Since Mom and Dad had were still seeing each other,it was the first and last time Uncle Kenny met Dad. (He was her 3rd hubby and the best Dad I ever had.) They were married March 27,1998.

Uncle Kenny and Aunt Beth were very happy to see us. We sat at the kitchen table for hours talking and laughing. Uncle Kenny also had a big,beautiful German Shepherd named Thor,who welcomed Nelson happily. I think Thor thought he was a lap dog as he loved to rest his forelegs on my lap! I come from a family of dog lovers so for me to have Nelson is as natural as breathing.

Nelson knew Uncle Kenny was dying. He laid at his feet the entire time he sat at the kitchen table. I believe he knew before the rest of us did.

Uncle Kenny hated hospitals and had a hospital bed in the living room. He wanted to die at home. It was just Aunt Beth,myself and the dogs in the house when Uncle Kenny passed away on Sunday,June 2,1996.

Mom and I were smart enough to pack dresses so we were prepared "just in case." I honestly believe he waited for us before he died.

The funeral home in Belleville was wonderful. They welcomed Nelson warmly. He was at 3 visitations as well as the funeral service and accompanied us in the family limo to the gravesite. He was so well behaved.I was very proud of him.

Exactly 3 years and 4 days later,on June 6,1999,I lost my beloved Mom to cancer. I was the only child she had that lived so we were very close. She and Dad were only married for 15 months. They were the love of each other's lives and sure made the best of the time they had,but of course we all wanted more.

While she was in the hospital having a chemo treatment,she told me."Crystal I know this cancer is going to get me one day,but don't you ever feel guilty,you've always been a good daughter to me." Then,while still holding my hand,she looked down lovingly at Nelson sleeping at our feet and told me." I always wanted to donate some money to Hearing Ear Dogs and I couldn't. When I die,one of the charities I want donations to go to is Hearing Ear Dogs of Canada." Her wish was granted.

Dad and I were with her in her hospital room when she took her last breath. Nelson again joined me for her visitations,funeral service and reception. I was so bereft after Mom died,if I didn't have Nelson to take care of,I'm sure some days I wouldn't have got out of bed.

Then suddenly on May 21 2006,I lost my dear Dad to a heart attack. It was a terrible shock,no one was expecting it. He had just turned 60 in February this year. He missed Mom so much,I think he died of a broken heart. Dad looked after me for 9 1/2 weeks while I recovered from emergency retina surgery. As I told me eye doctor this week"If it wasn't for the doctors and Dad's loving care during so many setbacks,I could be totally blind today."

I have some more pics to post,think I'll do that in a separate post so you can see them all.

Until we meet again......

Posted in loving memory of my Uncle -Kenneth George Kellar -August 23, 1942- June 2,1996

My Mother- Betty Lou (Allen) Howard- October 10,1939- June 6,1999

My Dad- Wm. Gary Howard- February 22,1946- May 21,2006.

Photos: Top : Mom and Dad Christmas 1998 (Her last). Center: Nelson and his Nana. Bottom: Mom and Uncle Kenny,taken March 1996.

A Bit About Nelson

Nelson,specially trained as my Hearing Ear Dog,is my canine soulmate and best friend! "Nellie" is a Standard Poodle crossbreed. The question I get asked most is"I can see the Poodle in him,but what is he crossed with?"

His father was a beautiful black purebred Standard poodle,A Canadian Show Champion by the name of "Tudorose Lord Baden Powell" or "Baden" for short. His mother was a miniature poodle/sheltie/schnauzer cross. Hard to imagine,but just look at how handsome my boy is on Grad Night!

He was born May 6,1994. We graduated May 9,1996 after he was fostered and trained,then I attended a 2 week training session at the Lions Foundation Dog Guides Canada,located in Oakville Ontario. He is specially trained to alert me to sound by touching me with his paw and leading me to the source of the sound. I was also the first legally blind Hearing Ear Dog Graduate. (HED for short). Some of the sounds that Nelson alerts me to are: door knocks,a ringing telephone,timers on various appliances, someone calling my name and the ever important fire alarm or smoke detector.

Grad Night was pretty special. Mom and Dad were the first guests to arrive that night. I was in my room just finishing getting ready for the ceremony. One of the Kennel staff directed them to my room and told them"That's been her cell for the last 2 weeks!" I opened the door to let them in. For Mom,it was love at first sight"Aw Nelson come see Nana!" The picture on the far right is Mom and I just before the ceremony.

Dad is the family photographer and he was behind the camera the whole night!

To this day,Nelson is an energetic,steady and happy worker. His positive reinforcement training with the use of treats,voice praise and hugs (He LOVES hugs!) keeps him happily alerting to sounds.

Nelson has got me through the best and the worst of times over the last 10+years. The bond between us is hard to describe. The best way I can put it is,think how much you love your family pet or foster puppy,multiply that by a thousandfold and you will have an idea how much Nelson means to me.

Mom was so proud of us,she bragged about us to everyone. She told them"Now that Crystal has Nelson,she is totally independent. I don't have to worry about her dying in a fire anymore." I can relax in my own apartment,not worrying if the knock on the door is mine or a neighbour's.(Nelson only alerts me if the knock is at my door), I don't have to hit the "mute" button on the TV whenever the phone rings,he lets me know when it is my phone. I trust him so much I can take my hearing aids out at home and he will let me know if there is a sound that needs my attention. He also loves it when I put his jacket on him for outings. He prances proudly at my side.

Nelson is my special gift from God and Dog Guides Canada.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Bit About Me

Well, It's been awhile since I posted. Amy and Echo will be shocked,along with the rest of you,LOL!

Awhile ago,Amy asked me what caused my vision and hearing loss. She suggested that I write about it here as she found it interesting.

A number of years ago(Ha,ha!), I was born with cataracts and sensioneural hearing loss in both ears. What that basically means is the auditory nerve endings were underdeveloped. This was all due to my Mom's exposure to German Measles(Rubella) during pregnancy. At the time,doctors didn't even know that exposure to this disease would harm an unborn fetus. She never contracted the disease itself.

I was diagnosed with cataracts at age 2 and was the first child in Ontario to have them removed with a series of surgeries starting at age 4(Most children back then went to schools for the blind and had them removed at age 16.) Yep,I'm in the medical journals! I was fortunate enough to pass Grade 1 in a regular public school so I was able to continue my education in the regular school system without having to attend a school for the blind.

When I was 14,I received my first set of hearing aids. What a difference they made! I had no idea how much I was missing and my grades shot up about 30%. I would have never made it through high school and college without them. I still wear bilateral (two) hearing aids and with advances in technology,they are computer programmed with a remote control for them as well as my fm listening system,which is a huge help as it cuts out all the "garbage" background noise that makes it so difficult to hear in many environments.

In late 1991,my right and worse eye developed a great deal of pain. It was treated as an infection for about 2 1/2 months until I saw my eye specicalist and he diagnosed me with Acute Closed Angle Glaucoma. Since I had had no useful vision in that eye for about 15 years at that point,I was told the best thing I could do was sacrifice the eye. It was surgically removed on February 14,1992. After recuperating from this surgery,I was fitted with my first ocular prosthetic (Artificial Eye). They haven't been made of glass for years now, they are made of acrylic plastic,so the term"glass eye " is no longer accurate.

I didn't realize for a long time that I was then legally blind. Since the eye that was removed was totally blind anyway,I didn't realize my left eye became sympathetic to the loss of the right one. I was falling off curbs and buses,banging my head on door frames and I wondered what was wrong. I found out 6 months later that my field of vision had narrowed significantly and my height and depth perception had worsened considerably. After getting a medical form filled out by my eye doctor for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind,I was found to be within their specifications for legal blindness and received photo identification and my first white cane in September 1992.

I immediately began looking into and applying for a dog guide for the blind. I have been a dog lover all my life and having a dog guide was certainly more appealing then using a cane to get around.

I found out that my vision was stable enough not to require a dog guide for the blind at that time and it was felt a dog could help me more with my hearing loss. I graduated from the Lion Foundation Dog Guides Canada's Hearing Dog program with Nelson, a 2 year old Standard Poodle cross,on May 9,1996. Now over 10 years later,my boy is quite grey now rather than black and is still with me to this day. With his gentle soul and loving heart,he is my canine soulmate and best friend. There are no words to describe the depth of our love and loyalty to each other. Getting a dog guide was the best decision I ever made.

Since 2001,the vision in my left eye has got considerably worse,due to a tree branch injury and emergency surgery in December 2004 for detached retina. My distance and night vision have worsened considerably and even with new glasses,I still need to use magnification instruments to read anyhting smaller than large print. Through all this,I consider myself very fortunate and I am very grateful for the vision and hearing I have left. They are precious gifts and I never take then for granted. My independence is extremely important to me. With Nelson's willing help and unconditional love,I am still able to live on my own.

I am hoping to be accepted into the Canine Vision program for my next dog guide. Dog Guides Canada is now doing more dual training and if accepted,I will be the first receipient of a dually trained Canine Vsion/Hearing Ear Dog. I am not giving up Nelson. He is with me until he goes to the Rainbow Bridge. I cannot feasibly look after two dogs at the present time. Dog Guides Canada knows this and as a favour to me,they are putting off my home interview for awhile. Nelson is very special to me. You will learn more why in subsequent posts.