Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The wonders of modern medicine

An update on the poison ivy situation. I apologize in advance for the iggy nature of this post, especially since the iggy things described have to do with a human and not a dog, and therefore may be distasteful even to those of you who enjoy posts about dog poo, dog vomit, ear infections, and flea reactions.

Yesterday afternoon, my face looking like Florian had scrubbed it repeatedly against a bed of sandpaper and feeling about like that too, I decided enough with the baking soda, salt masks, scalding heat, nail polish, vinegar and other home remedies.

I called my doctor and got some prednisone and fluocinonide creamI wasn't crazy about taking something with so many known side effects...increased insomnia, anxiety, nausea, in addition to the main effect which is not a side effect but the mechanism of action of steroids--suppressing your immune system so the rashes and swelling go away.  But I just had to do something. 

Glad I did. The current crusty situation afflicting the lower part of my face is much preferable to the previous extensive scab combined with swelling, extreme sensitivity, and constant itch. 

With the worst of it behind me, I can appreciate how much I learned on this particular healing journey.

A poison ivy outbreak, at least in my case, progresses from an itch in a small spot, to more widespread itching coupled with oozing blisters on the second or third day, to swelling, redness, blisters, itch, and hard lizardlike skin on the third or fourth day. After the rash has descended from its pinnacle of tortuous ooze and itch, the scaly scab takes over and from there on you're (relatively) golden. 

The scab is due to an infection of the former blisters. I did not know that--did you? So the practitioner I spoke to said I should put a triple antibiotic on there to keep things under control. 

If I had it to do over, I think I'd avoid the nastiest home remedies (including the baking soda, salt scrub, nail polish, scalding hair dryer, and hot water), and I'd stick to safe home remedies like ice and calamine lotion. And I'd call the doctor before I try everything recommended on the internet!

Glad I found some things that work, because its not like I can just stop kissing those dogs.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Poison Ivy

Along with intense storms and accompanying power outages, saunalike heat and near-100% humidity, and a mosquito season that lasts May-September, another of the dubious pleasures of living in the mid-Atlantic is the ubiquity of poison ivy.

I spend part of every summer with my jaw, lips, chin and cheeks itching, red, oozing, and inflamed, and cursing myself for spending so much time kissing these blasted dogs. This weekend, my face swelled up like a chipmunk.

Since having dogs makes it all but impossible to avoid infection with poison ivy, if you live where it exists and are sensitive to it, I thought I would distill here some of the remedies I have found to be effective in case any of you are sufferers. 
Just looking at it makes me itchy

Remedies I've tried:
Tecnu. Dried up rash and removed itch when I used it on a bad case of poison oak when I was at a music festival in California years ago. This time, didn't do much except give me scaly lizard skin.

Calamine plus from CVS. A product containing Calamine lotion+Pramoxine Hcl. Calms the itching for sure.
Benadryl capsules. Take 2 every 4-6 hours.
Vinegar, white or apple cider. Burns like a sonofagun but holds off the itch for a while afterward--maybe 30 minutes to 1 hour. 
Baking soda. Make a thick paste and apply. Rinse when dry. Burned enough to bring tears to my eyes when I put it on, but after rinsing the itch was gone for a good while. Made my face break out in large oozing blisters, while before I put it on my face was just red and swollen. I think this was a vital stage of the healing process though and needed to happen; maybe the baking soda made it happen faster. Many swear by a full immersion in a  baking soda bath.
Banana peel - Touted by many as a homemade "miracle cure", the inside of a banana peel rubbed on poison ivy rashes may bring relief. Maybe helped a bit when I tried it, but not much.
Dishwashing liquid. Apply liberally from the bottle at full strength, leave on until it dries. Did cut the itching when I tried it. 
Gold Bond Maximum relief cream. Contains menthol and Pramoxine Hcl. Worked really well.

Salt scrub. Last night, when the itching was mostly gone, but my face was still swollen like a chipmunk, I made a mask of Trader Joes Lavender salt scrub. My theory being that the greater salt concentration outside my skin would draw excess fluid out of the swollen part by osmosis. Did draw fluid out, but holy mother of dog stung like my face was on fire. Only for the masochistic and those who have anger issues they would like to work through by subjecting already inflamed, raw skin to further abuse.

Update: I spoke to a doctor and she said not to use heat on a poison ivy rash. Use ice instead.

Remedies I haven't tried
Oatmeal - Boil in water, let it cool for a few minutes, then apply warm to the affected area. Can combine with a tablespoon or two of baking soda.
menthol and phenol confuse the nerve endings in the skin and give a cooling sensation but they can sting and sometimes are not sufficient to give you the relief you need. Available in anti-itch creams.
Vicks VapoRub will replace the itching with a cool burn for fast temporary relief. After the burn subsides, wipe off the vaporub.
cortisone anti-itch creams like benedryl 2%. Some say it works like a miracle to diminish ooze and blisters in 12 hours; others say it doesn't do much
Aveeno bath
Old Spice stick deodorant (white only). You can use it on the face and your whole body. It will stop the itching almost immediately and in a couple of days, your poison ivy will be almost gone.
ZANFEL poison ivy cream is supposed to work wonders.

For the swelling and scars that persist for 7-10 days, you can get a  prescription for prednisone. You can also use a steroid cream; Fluocinonide is the one prescribed for me. The doctor also said to use a triple antibiotic like bacitracin on the scars, which are a sign of infection.

All the remedies I've tried, I used in the past 72 hours so it is somewhat difficult to tell which results were the result of which remedy.  My hope though was to pull together everything that might be useful to dog owners and other sufferers during poison ivy season.

Do YOU have a favorite remedy that stops the itch, swelling, or pain of poison ivy??

Friday, July 27, 2012

Crate solution

Early in my journey with Pager, you may remember my commitment to help her feel better about staying in her crate.

Who knows what circumstances led her to feel that way, but it was clear that being so confined awakened in our pup a feeling of fear and desperation that was so intense she could barely contain herself. 

After the last time we left her crated for a few hours in the evening, the destruction--where she pulled things outside the crate in with her so that she could shred them--was so extreme that I decided it couldn't possibly be worse if I just left her at large. I also just couldn't bear to leave her in a situation that caused her that much distress. 

Could she have become comfortable in the crate, if I had spent the right amount of time acquainting her with it in the right way? Probably.

But given that the day after that night of destruction was a day when Florian and I both had to work, I just didn't have time. The excellent crate training protocol outlined at Dogscouts.org should, I believe, be implemented over a period of several days to several weeks.

And while I agree that crates can be a wonderful training tool, I also think they can be overused and abused. I love my bed too, but I can leave anytime. I might love it less if I were handcuffed to it and had to stay there 8-10 hours a day. 

In any case, for the last couple weeks we had Pager, we left her out and about with no disastrous effects! She shredded the edge of an already dogeared dog bed, a map, and a metronome. Not too bad, considering what she might have done. In her case, it seemed the shredding was mostly just a response to distress.

I know, some dogs do love their crates and even go in there unbidden, just for the fun of it. 

Just focus on the dogs, and never mind what my living room looks like

But since Pager didn't have much time with us to learn from older, wiser canines, it was great that she could be trusted--more or less--out of the crate and at large with the big kids.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lessons from a trip to Guatemala

This heat wave and the power outages have reminded me of the time I spent in 2005 in Guatemala, volunteering at ARCAS, a wildlife rehabilitation center in the jungle of the Peten region in the north of Guatemala.

In many parts of the world, where heat and no easy way to regulate it are a part of life, people adapt their lifestyles. 

In Guatemala it was hot, and we definitely felt the heat and the discomfort, but we adjusted the way we lived. We ate lots of fruit, napped or relaxed in the afternoon, swam in the lake often. 

I'm sure the animals were uncomfortable too, but that was what they knew and it was just how they lived, with no complaints.


The stray dogs who hung around the wildlife rehabilitation center were covered with ticks, but they were full of vitality and they enjoyed hanging out with all the volunteers, who loved animals and gave them food scraps. 

Don't get me wrong, life is not easy for stray dogs in Guatemala, or anywhere. Most of them are hungry and poorly regarded by the humans around them. 

It was difficult to see this suffering and feel so powerless to alleviate it. In spite of that though, there was something so magical about that trip.

There was a feeling of spontaneity, of freedom from the thousand responsibilities of our regular lives that make it so impossible to just say yes! to potentially life-changing opportunities as they arise. 

Of being fully in the moment, so if I wanted to take a little street dog with me back to my hotel, knowing I would find some way to do right by her but not knowing how, I would do it.

On that trip, I was somehow free from the usual anxiety and sense of responsibility and the 1000 buts that generally get in the way of just following my heart.


With the result that in addition to volunteering at ARCAS, I learned to SCUBA dive in Honduras, disregarded warnings about shootouts near the border and in Guatemala city and traveled all over, alone, via bus, saw the incredible ruins at Tikal and climbed to the top of an ancient Mayan temple to watch the sunrise, 

cooked a vegan meal for a bunch of musicians in Antigua, volunteered at AWARE, Guatemala's no kill animal sanctuary, and rescued my god-dog Zula. 

Maybe a lack of the routine comforts we are used to puts us in a more spontaneous, risk-taking frame of mind. 

Maybe when we are away from the security blankets we normally cling to, we are forced to jump into the abyss and see what is there. Maybe the comforts of civilization and the familiar hold us back from our true potential, and every now and then we need to separate ourselves from the structures we are used to, in order to discover what we are capable of. 

Maybe--and excuse me as I give free reign for a moment to my inner apocalyptic wing nut--as the comforts of the familiar begin to break down with the advent of peak oil and widespread climate change, we will discover a forgotten spark of spontaneity that animates our relationships and restores our vitality and creativity

And more than any capacity for technological innovation, it is this potential that gives me hope. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pager update and Bloggers Unite for Rescue

Well yesterday was Bloggers Unite for Rescue Day, a most worthy event in which bloggers focused on dog adoption in order to save more lives. As usual, I am a bit late--but I just got an update on Pager, so what better time to reflect on the joys of fostering and rescue!

As you may remember, Pager started out a stiff, terrified little thing who was so scared in the shelter that the staff put out a desperate plea for foster care, as that was her only option. That's right, if she hadn't been fostered she would have been killed. 

You may also remember that it took Pager all of a few hours to loosen up and start acting like a happy, normal puppy, chasing the other dogs around, chewing on stuff, and kicking up her paws in the back yard. 

Photo: Kris Coronado
Now Pager is in her forever home, happy as can be, charming her new people just like she did me and Florian. Her new mom is a writer, so you can read all about how she's doing here.

And the thing is that Pager's story is just one of so many success stories, stories of people who got to an animal just in time, invested just a bit of food and hugs and love and walks and soft places to curl up, and got a beautiful silly happy loving being in return. 

The reasons to adopt a rescued dog are spiritual and philosophical, as you are saving a life and giving an animal a chance, rather than supporting an industry that exploits animals. 

But they are also practical, as rescued dogs are often older and calmer than puppies from a breeder. Dogs lucky enough to find themselves in a progressive shelter with a behavior program, or in foster care, often have some training under their belts. And for those who worry that a rescued dog comes with too many behavioral challenges, buying from a breeder is certainly no guarantee of a well--behaved beastie. In fact, purebred pups are more likely to suffer from the behavioral challenges unique to particular breeds--while mutts come with the "hybrid vigor" that tends to result in robust health and an even temperament. 

I hope everyone will give some thought to fostering a dog, or a cat, or a guinea pig, rabbit, or budgie. Sure it's challenging when you love a creature and he or she moves on to a permanent home, but then you get the next foster and you fall in love again. 

Some fosters get adopted out quickly, while some take longer. If you're worried about getting attached or can only foster short-term, talk to all the rescues and shelters in your area about short-term fostering options. They will love you for it, and the creatures whose lives you save will bear you a gratitude that you'll know in your heart, even if they can only express it in a lick, a cuddle, or a wag.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another fledgling leaves the nest

Well another foster pup has gone to her forever home, and as always it's both too soon and much later than I would have thought, wrenching and a huge relief.

When I first got Pager, I thought--6 month old lab, for Chrissakes. How long is THAT going to take to get adopted? 

With her face, I thought it would be a week, max. 

But the applications just didn't come, or maybe there were a couple of inquiries but from people who worked long hours and had no other dogs and I just couldn't send her away to be alone, knowing how she feels about that.


And then, in the last week or so, I've gotten about 5 really solid applications and one from people who wanted a black lab, she works from home, he's an athletic outdoorsy hiker runner guy, they have lots of friends with dogs, they have a fenced yard with a dog door, and they'll never crate her.  

They met her on Monday, interviewed at the shelter on Thursday, and took her that evening.

And just like that, that little precious face that I could stare into for hours because it is the cutest little tiny thing I could possibly imagine, is gone from our lives.

Pager, I'll miss you, but I'm so glad you'll be loved and have constant company. 
Fozzie and Lamar will miss you, but maybe not that much.

Write soon, OK?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pager takes on the Potomac

With one Kayak trip successfully completed, it was hard to resist another chance to take Pager out on the water.

A nice, calm lake is a great place for a shy dog to get her feet wet and even experience something that would be tricky for many dogs, like kayaking.  

 Going out on the Potomac is a whole other story. 

Pager wasn't the only one who was nervous about kayaking in a strong current with the sound of rushing rapids nearby. 


While I went along with Florian's wacky idea, I did insist that we spend plenty of time just letting Pager explore, 


get wet and cool, 


and even, I think for the first time in her life, swim!

I don't think Florian minded the chance to play in the water.

In fact, he seemed right in his element.  

And so was Pager. It was good for us and for her to learn just how much she likes the water. 

In fact, its hard to keep her out of it. Now she'll climb right in the tub when I'm trying to clean the bathroom! 

I know she's part lab, but that seems ridiculous!

What will YOUR dogs do to get in the water?

Monday, July 16, 2012

More fun at the pool

As you know if you have recently raised a puppy, it takes a fair amount of dedication to tire a pup out and prevent the daily wacky chewy zippy demanding running about session, when nothing in the house is safe from being gotten into and said puppy is more often than not in your face, looking for attention, validation, engagement, comfort, and the other pleasures that puppies need from their companions. If you've ever lived in a place that regularly features 95+ degree heat and high humidity in the summer, then you can understand the challenges in getting adequate outdoor exercise for such a pup. 

Fortunately, social and mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical exercise. A day at Aunt Nancy's pool provides opportunities for plenty of both. 

The only way to cool off in this heat is to be in the water as much as possible.  

Everyone loves Pager, and my aunt and uncle would adopt her if they didn't travel so much. 


She enjoys just relaxing and checking out the scene, and plotzing out when things get too exciting.


Much as I try to avoid hard physical labor except when absolutely necessary, I was not able to escape some duties as water taxi driver. 


Fortunately, Genghis takes his duties as a lifeguard very seriously and kept us all safe.


While Genghis and I were hard at work, others had the day off.

After a few hours, even Pager seems to have had enough excitement! Rest, at last.
And in other news, we are very excited to announce the winner of last week's dogtagart.com giveaway. It's our friend Jodi Stone! Can't wait to find out which wacky dog tag she chooses.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dog tag art: a giveaway!

Though I have yet to realize my dream of worldwide notoriety and unimaginable riches as a result of this blog, I have gotten a couple of very nice offers in exchange for simply writing a product review. The latest? Several free dog tags from dogtagart.com

When I received the offer, I went right on over to the site and was absolutely struck dumb by the diversity and creativity of the offerings. They're a hoot!

There is an incredible selection of creative, wacky, artistic, and absurd dog tags by original artists. 

Or you can upload your own art, and make royalties when other users buy one of your creations.

Fozzie, Lamar, and Pager are sporting the first three dog tags pictured here, but there were others that tempted me!

Which dog tag inspires you? Well, the VERY generous folks who run the site have given me the opportunity to let you choose a tag that captures YOUR dog's joyful, ridiculous, or artsy nature--free!


How to win? It's easy--especially for anyone who's been a diligent reader of this blog for a while. Just answer the following question: What was the name of my white shepherd foster dog?

Email peacefuldog at yahoo dot com with your name, your answer, and the name of your blog. Winner will be chosen at random by a diligently sniffing nose. Good luck!