Thursday, March 29, 2012

What You Missed

Uh-oh! A month has passed without a post. Good thing that writing this blog is not a paid position or my salary would be docked.

Here's what you missed in the meantime: (You can click to enlarge images.)

1) New Work

Duet, 2012, Mixed media with encaustic on panel, 36" x 36"

Shifting Red, 2012, mixed media with encaustic on panel, 24" x 24"

Shifting Blue, 2012, mixed media with encaustic on panel, 24" x 24"

With these pieces, I'm trying something a little new - a sense of movement in color and value to indicate the passage of light or journey from one side of the piece to the other. You may hear more about this work in the near future.

2) Kirby gets sick and has surgery

Kirby with his usual smiling face

Facebook people have heard all about this, but for those who spend their time more wisely, our younger Yellow Lab, Kirby, - age 7 1/2 - suddenly began having difficulty walking, going up stairs and movement in general. His condition worsened rapidly to the point where he could barely walk. Our veterinarian discovered that he had a loss of sensation in his rear legs. She suspected that his condition related to a spinal problem. We had tests run to rule out other illnesses but nothing showed up in them or in x-rays. We were referred to the neurology team at the world-renowned Angell Animal Medical Center (formerly known as Angell Memorial) in Jamaica Plain (Boston). (Here's the link to Angell via the Boston MSPCA, with which it's allied .)

Dr. Avril Arendse, board certified veterinary neurologist and neurosurgeon
on the neurology team at Angell Animal Medical Center

We met the wonderful Dr. Arendse this past Monday with Kirby. After she had examined him and had him perform a few tests, she correctly suspected that he had a compression problem in his cervical spine (the top of the spine in the neck area). Here's a description below of what happens to a dog with this problem. I hope you will read this so if it happens to your dog, you will be aware of what's going on.
(This info is from )

Signs will vary depending on the location of the problem.
With cervical (or neck) disc disease, sudden onset of neck pain is usually the first sign that something is wrong. As the discs in this region can affect a dog's front and back legs, clumsiness or an inability to walk also indicate presence of the disease. One or both sides of the body may be affected. A lower back disc injury can present only in the hind legs.

Neurological function is lost in a particular order and the dog owner should seek veterinary help immediately for the greatest chance of recovery. In the first stage, the dog loses its ability to locate its limbs. Next, the dog will lose its ability to move its legs and, finally, it will lose the ability to feel its legs.

The first sign we had is that Kirby started walking as if he was walking on eggs and his legs would go out from under him from time to time. He had a frantic, scared look on his face. We thought it could be Lyme Disease because sometimes that shows up with these symptoms initially. By the time we brought him to the hospital, Kirby was probably in the middle of this deterioration of functioning. But as with many dogs and most Labs, he did not let on that he was in pain until it must have been excruciating. 

Kirby not only had "bulging" but rupture of a disc:

Intervertebral (between the vertebrae) discs act as spinal shock absorbers. A disc typically has two sections: a gel-filled center and an outer fibrous ring. It turns degenerative when the gelatinous material calcifies into a gritty substance that can no longer cushion vertebral movements. The disc center then becomes prone to bulge and rupture into the spinal canal, resulting in spinal pressure, pain and paralysis.

Here are the dogs that are most susceptible to such problems:

Small dog breeds with long bodies and short legs, such as dachshunds, are prone to the form of spinal disc disease referred to as "disc extrusion". Disc extrusion occurs when the disc center explodes into the spinal canal.
Large breed dogs, such as Labradors, are more prone to "disc bulging". Disc bulging occurs when the disc center protrudes into the spinal canal but does not explode.

Dr. Arendse told us that to see just where the problem was, Kirby would need an MRI and probably surgery. The outcome with other treatment such as rest and steroids does not work long run. We placed our doggie boy and ourselves in her hands, and said that we would go along with her advice. She recommended that Kirby stay overnight for the MRI on Tuesday and if the results were what she suspected, he would undergo surgery on Wednesday. This made sense because it's about a two and a half hour drive for us to Angell and he would settle in better if he just stayed at the hospital.

Kirby had surgery on Wednesday and Dr. Arendse reported that she was able to repair the problem quicker than she expected and he did very well. This is an involved surgery with a long incision from his trachea to his sternum because she had to be able to move aside his esophagus and other organs to reach the spine. This morning Dr. Arendse reported that Kirby was doing even better than anticipated and is recovering nicely. We expect to pick him up and bring him home on Saturday morning. 

The convalescent period is pretty extensive and will require us to limit his activity for four or five weeks by confining him to a small room and just allowing short walks on a harness. Whew! This was all so stressful! Of course the financial burden is a big item, but we are focusing on getting our high-energy, smiling little guy back to health. Dr. Arendse says that we can expect 100 percent recovery of all function!

Our glum chum Hercules

Meanwhile, our other dog, Hercules, who is Kirby's father, has been totally sad. He is moping around and keeps looking for his boy to appear. They were inseparable and had huge reunions if they were apart for even a few minutes so this is really not good. We know we will have to be careful to prevent the usual roughhousing when Kirby comes home.

Typical bone-chewing postures (Kirby in foreground)

3) My own physical problems

Image from via the internet

I've been having trouble with a pinched nerve in my hip plus general inflammation in my body. This is making me tired, irritable and cranky - and not inspired to write blog posts. Fortunately, I have found a very good acupuncturist in Amherst ( who has been treating me with needles, heat and acupressure massage. This is pretty painful, but not as painful as her suggestions that I also need to exercise regularly and restrict my diet to foods that are not so inflammatory. Here's a list of things I should avoid among others.

Ever notice that it's always something?


lisa said...

Feel better to you and Kirby and Liking those paintings

Kate P. Miller said...

Although most of the information about foods that cause inflamation is not news, it sure leaves one thinking that therew not much left to eat!

Jo Murray said...

Hope you and Kirby are recovering well. LOve the paintings!!!

Todd Camplin said...

I agree, hope Kirby feels better and recovers. I could use a little acupuncture myself, but got to get brave enough to try it.

A few things on the paintings, this just a great change. I would venture to say breakthrough. Can I blog about your new work? I would like to tell more people about this new direction and repost one of your images.

Adrianne in Portland said...

Beautiful, beautiful paintings.

Glad you and the pup are recovering!

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

Update: Kirby came home Saturday morning, 3/31, and is recuperating well. Thanks for your good wishes.

Wendy Rodrigue Magnus said...

Your paintings are beautiful, Nancy. Kirby is adorable and hopefully feeling well today. And YOU should stick with acupuncture. A God-send in my opinion. Hope you're feeling better too. Great post. I've missed reading you! Wendy

Jessica said...

Sorry to hear about Kirby but also glad to hear that he did well with surgery!! I found your blog because my dachshund will be having brain surgery with Dr. Arendse in two weeks. Praying all goes well! Hope you are all well!