Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Side effects, tabs and retail therapy

As I mentioned previously, Toivo has been prescribed potassium bromide to prevent his seizures. He has been the potassium bromide for a couple of weeks now and while he hasn't had a seizure, Zac and I are seriously considering pulling him off the meds. (It's too soon to tell if the meds are preventing a seizure - he was only having them every couple of weeks before we started the medication.) The side effects are driving Zac and I nuts. We're starting to think that we'd rather have a drug-free dog who has seizures than what we have now. I'm not sure which quality of life is better for Toivo, or for us.

One of the side effects that the vet warned me about was that Toivo was likely to get clumsier, since the potassium bromide messes with muscles working properly. He definitely has become uncoordinated. He stumbles around the house, has trouble with the stairs, and generally bumps into things. He also has trouble getting up from lying down. Now Toivo, due to his one-eyed status, has never been the most graceful dog, but he certainly never stumbled about as he does now.

Also he has become very clingy and barks, constantly. He follows you around the house, closely, and constantly yips at you at 30-60 second intervals. If you sit down in the living room, he'll lay at your feet and continue to yip. It's getting to be utterly maddening. Toivo has never made this much noise in his life, and though you tell him to stop, it only stops for a few minutes. Then he's back at it. This probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you work from home and are trying to concentrate on work having a dog constantly bark grows quite taxing.

He doesn't seem to be in any pain from the drugs. I've rubbed him down and massaged him, trying to see if he's hurting (a possible cause of the barking?) but he just enjoys the petting as he usually does. His temperament still seems Toivo-like, napping parts for parts of the day and then wanting to go outside and run around. He just has turned into a very needy dog, which is a 180 from where we were three weeks ago.

It's been hard not to develop a temper when he's constantly barking and you find yourself always tripping over him because he now stands right behind/next to you wherever you go. I'm not happy that we're getting short-tempered with him, because we know it's the drugs. Zoe is stressing out because we're stressing out. It's just kind of a mess.

I called the vet last night to ask about the meds (because certainly we won't stop the meds without talking to the vet) and she suggested a decrease in his dosage. We'll try this for a couple more weeks until his follow-up blood work appointment. If things don't get better I think we're going to discontinue use of the drugs. Toivo's seizures didn't seem to bother him, except when he was having them. And the rest of the time he was a great dog. Right now he has no seizures, but he's a different dog. One that we don't particularly like. That probably sounds awful, but it's the truth.

I don't know which quality of life is better for him - the one where he has seizures every couple of weeks (with possible increasing frequency in the future) but where we have love, patience and compassion for him, or the one where he doesn't have seizures anymore but he might fall down the stairs or hurt himself because of being uncoordinated and where we can't stand to be around him. I really hate all of this. I really do. We're just going to have to wait this one out and see what happens.

On a completely unrelated subject, I spent 45 minutes at the Department of Motor Vehicles (or whatever they call it here) trying to get new tabs for my car today. Actually I think they call them "tags" here. I'm referring to the stickers that get put on your license plate every year when your renew the registration for your vehicle. We got our tabs a few months ago and I dutifully applied them, making us legal for the next 12 months. On Sunday we were washing the cars and as I was washing the rear license plate I noticed that there was no tab there. I was confused and thought to myself, "Well, maybe we only put them on the front plate." I went around front and checked. No tab there either.

I looked closely at my rear license plate and sure enough, it looked like someone had scraped it off. I had heard of this happening to people out here before, but I was still shocked. Our license plate number was printed on that tab so whoever stole it couldn't apply it to their plates without being caught (if the cops noticed). Maybe they were just hooligans who were being jerks and just scraped them off so we would get busted for not having the tabs on our car. I don't know. I can't quite map the logic of people like that. So I had to go down to the DMV this afternoon to get replacement tabs which cost me all of 50 cents. (50 cents made the 45 minute wait a little bit easier to tolerate.) The clerk told me that I should score my tabs with a razor blade, making a "X" on them so that if someone tries to peel them off again they won't be able to get the whole thing. I guess I'll try that this time around.

Since our DMV office in the mall I decided to make myself feel better about the Toivo situation and the tabs situation by buying a new top. I went through my closet recently and got rid of a lot of my clothes. There's no point in hanging on to things that you like but never wear. Since my closet is pretty empty now and since I've been pretty frugal for the last six months and since I just got paid recently I decided I could cough up $20 and buy something new. It felt nice to buy something for myself, I have to say. Since I decided that this afternoon was all about me, I even stopped by Starbucks to get a coffee on the way out. I dare say I was mildly out of control - $25 in one afternoon! (I say this only partly in jest - I'll spend any amount of money on my friends and family with no reservations but it takes a lot of work for me to spend money on myself.)

But lest you think I have no self-control, I did manage to avoid the Cookie Corner though they tried their damnedest to tempt me with their wafting aromas throughout the mall. I'm pretty sure the Devil is the major stakeholder in Cookie Corner and Mrs. Fields and all those other evil fresh-baked cookie places. But not on this day, Cookie Corner. No, not on this day. This day I chose to ignore the pleas of your chocolate chip cookies, begging to be devoured. I won't say I wasn't tempted, I was, but I was pleased that I was able to resist the beckoning treats. Because let's face it, fresh baked cookies are delicious.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More waiting, visitors, and hating HP printers

I'll get the cliff hanger out of the way first - yes, Zac put in for some orders. I'm not going to disclose anything about the details of those orders until we hear if he got them. That should be in a couple of weeks. So for now, we wait some more.

We in the throws of hosting our first visitors of the spring. Zac's brother, his brother's wife and their son arrived late last week and will be leaving later this week. So far we've had a terrific time with them. It has been a lot of fun showing Hawaii to our almost four-year-old nephew. We've spent a lot of time outside and my freckles are out of control right now. I've actually been to the beach three days in a row, which I'm pretty sure is a record for me. Today they're taking a day trip over to Maui to see the whales so I have a chance to catch up on some work and relax a little. Having guests is always fun, but it is tiring. I think all five of us will need a nice, calm weekend to rest up from all the excitement.

We'll be hosting Zac's cousin and his wife in a couple of weeks, plus I just got flight confirmation for Megan and Paul for a few days after Zac's cousin leaves. So it's going to be a busy first half of March to be sure. But we're looking forward to spending time with everyone. And it is nice to actually get some use out of all those swimsuits that I've accumulated since moving here. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them when we move, as the odds are high that we won't be moving somewhere tropical again. I'm sure they'll just sit there in a drawer, taunting me with memories of where we once lived.

Having the day to myself also allowed me some time to get my printer situation straightened out. You know how some things should be really easy? Buying and setting up a printer for your home use should be one of those things. Browse the ads a little, find one you like, buy it when you find it on sale, plug it in and GO. Alas, that has not been my experience with this latest printer. At this point I have no choice but to continue to invest time into getting this mess straightened out, but if anything in my life was ever going to drive me to drink, it may very well be this stupid printer.

I had been thinking about getting a new printer for awhile. I wanted something that had fax capabilities as it seems like 4-6 times a year I need to fax something and I scramble to find access to one. Also, I wanted one that was wireless as I got tired of having to take my laptop upstairs to plug it into the printer every time I wanted to print something out. (I guess you could just read that as me becoming increasingly lazy.) I found a HP printer that met the criteria and I purchased it when I saw it on sale a few months ago. I didn't set it up right away because I was waiting for the ink cartridges to run out on my old printer. That was a big mistake.

So 4-5 months go by and I decide that it's time to hook up the new printer. Still in its box and everything. I open it up, plug in all the appropriate things and put some paper into it. Turn it on and the paper jams. Ok. Clear the jam. Try again. Paper jam. Clear it. Paper jam. I checked to make sure that everything looked okay inside of it. I checked the installation instructions again. I went online to HP's support sight and followed their troubleshooting chart. Every time - paper jam. I was getting really, really irritated.

I decided to look at my receipt to see what my recourse might be with the retailer. Wait a second. Where is the receipt? I couldn't find it. I looked in my file cabinet (where I have a folder aptly named "computer" where I keep all my computer-related papers) and it wasn't there. It wasn't with the box. It wasn't anywhere. I went to the retailers website where they have a function of being able to look up receipts if you know the credit card number it was purchased with, the approximate date, the approximate amount and what state you bought it in. I couldn't remember when I purchased it, and I only had a vague idea of how much it was. I went through re-entering the information for each month with different amounts and got no results. Great. Now I have a printer that doesn't work and no evidence that I purchased it.

My next step was to pour through my bank statements, Zac's bank statement and the credit card statements for the last six months to see when it was purchased and for how much. (Because of course I couldn't remember if it was on my debit card, his debit card or our credit card.) I didn't see it. My blood pressure was rising. I know I didn't pay cash for the darn thing, but those are the only three plastic options that it could have been purchased with. I decided I needed to let it go for a couple of days so I could think more clearly. By this point I wanted to chuck the printer out the back second-story window.

A couple days later I looked at the bank statements again. I found the date and amount, which I must have simply overlooked the first time. I punched the info into the retailer's website and got a copy of my receipt. Ok, things were starting to look up. I called the HP 1-800 number for technical assistance and the nice lady tried everything in her troubleshooting power to help me but none of her tricks got the printer to not jam. (I was turning into Pavlov's dog with the sound of the jam and the beep indicating the error. The printer would make that sound and I'd clench my jaw and have to count to five to keep from cursing.) Because I could prove that I had bought the printer within the year it was under warranty and they would sent me a replacement. Ok, fine. Great.

So after sending the proof of purchase to HP I received a replacement printer in the mail about five days later. Color me impressed with the speed of getting it here. I un-boxed it today and followed the instructions to set it up. I press power, and?

"Printhead missing"

Wha? Um, no. There is a printhead in there. I know this because the picture shows me what the printhead is, I held it in my hand, and I placed it in the appropriate location inside the printer. It is by no means "missing". I took it out, the dread creeping up in me, and tried again. Printhead missing. Power it down. Try again. Printhead missing. I didn't waste time going to HP's website again. I called them straight away. At this point I have devoted numerous hours over multiple days trying to get the first new printer to work and now I can't get the second new printer to work either. I got a HP person on the phone who pulled up my service number. Again, she was lovely and tried her darndest to fix the situation. After eight or nine different attempts she conceded victory. I contemplated tossing both printers out the second-story window to see if they flew identical distances as they were both ineffective.

The HP lady said she'd send me a new printerhead which should arrive in a couple of weeks. Then I am to install that one. If it doesn't work (insert drained, crazed laugh here) I am to call them back for more assistance. Tonight I have to drive over to the FedEx store and drop off the first new printer so it can be sent back to HP for . . . I don't know what. Organ harvesting?

I guess the moral of this story is, if you buy a printer, test it out immediately whether you intend on using it right away or not. If I had done that I could have simply brought it back to Office Max and kept swapping it out until I got one that works. The ease of that alternate reality makes me want to go mildly nuts. So I guess I'll sit here and wait for the new printhead. Because waiting is what we do around here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wait and see

1600 Central Standard Time has come and gone and I haven't heard from Zac yet. The lack of information is causing me to bounce off the walls. But we'll come back to that in a moment.

I took Toivo to the vet today. I'm not sure how much you know about my one-eyed wonder. The short version is Toivo lost an eye to an infection after he was scratched by a cat when he was a puppy. His monocular status means that he has some issues with depth perception and large, excitable dogs that want to wrestle with him at the dog park. I didn't want Toivo originally. My family had a cocker spaniel, Dusty, who was getting old. We knew that the time was drawing near that we were going to have to put him down. I was living with a boyfriend at the time and one day he announced that he was bringing home the dog that his grandparents had gotten as a puppy the previous year. (They didn't want the dog anymore.) I was indignant. I didn't want another dog. I had a dog at my parent's house that was using that part of my heart. Dusty was the dog I had been through junior high, high school and college with. I wasn't about to replace him prematurely with some prone-to-running-away farm dog.

My former boyfriend brought Toivo home anyway. I looked at the ragged looking dog and told him, "You are not my dog." Within the first three days of Toivo living with us he had been neutered and thoroughly de-ticked. I had no idea so many ticks could live on a dog. I spent a couple of days sweeping up piles of dead ticks. [shudder] I was hesitant to like Toivo, and I think he knew it.

Shortly after Toivo's arrival, the time came to put Dusty down. I won't go over that part of the story because I'll start crying like I always do. I came home from the vet, eyes red and swollen from crying the whole drive home. I sat down on the couch and started to cry again. Toivo was sitting on the other side of the room from me, just looking at me. After a few seconds he stood up, crossed the room, jumped up onto the couch next to me, laid down and put his head in my lap. I cried harder. "Ok," I told him, "You are my dog."

So Toivo has been with me ever since. We have lived in St. Paul in my old apartment, in Minneapolis with Grandpa, and Oklahoma and Hawaii with Zac. He's been on long road trips to and from Oklahoma, from Oklahoma to Nebraska, and the great road trip of 2008 that had us drive from MN to NE to Seattle, WA via Yellowstone National Park. He's been a great traveler through all of it.

One constant in Toivo's life has been seizures. Finnish Spitzes sometimes have them. Breeders are careful to try and track epilepsy in the breed, but Toivo didn't come from a breeder. For many years Toivo would have a seizure maybe every 6-8 weeks. Then in the last couple of years they happened about once a month. The vet told me that if they every increased in frequency beyond that I might want to consider putting Toivo on some medication. I've been pretty good at keeping track of when Toivo has seizures. He had one last week and I thought to myself, "Didn't he just have one?" When I went to record the seizure on the calendar, sure enough, he had had one just two weeks prior. I checked back and the next most recent seizure was about two weeks before that. Going back to about mid December, his seizures had started to increase in frequency. (Though they seem to be about five minutes shorter than they used to be when they were monthly.)

So Toivo and I went to the vet today. The vet complimented me on how good of condition Toivo is in. His weight is good, his muscle tone is excellent, his teeth are in good shape, his blood work looked good. We discussed the seizures and the vet gave me the run down. He said that if the seizures were something new that it could be indicative of a brain tumor, but that since Toivo has been having them his whole (known) life that it was probably epilepsy. He said there were two drugs we could put him on, one more aggressive than the other. Because Toivo's seizures were still only every two weeks the vet suggested we use the less aggressive drug, potassium bromide. He said that the best case scenario is that the seizures stop entirely. The next best case is that the seizures cut back to maybe one or two a year. The worse case scenario? The drug doesn't work and we have to try something else.

So, getting back to my impatience from the first paragraph of this post. One of the reasons I decided to take Toivo to the vet to get this straightened out now is because Zac is up for orders right now. We're waiting to see where we move to next. (Permanent Change of Station or PCS in military-speak.) Odd are pretty high that we're moving off island and we could be moving anytime between June and October, depending on what orders Zac gets. It worried me about the possibility of Toivo being stuck in his crate on a trans-Pacific flight and having a seizure. I'm not sure if he'd be more likely or less likely to get hurt being relatively confined. I figured I needed to give us as much time as possible to get his medical situation straightened out before we leave.

So what's with 1600? Zac said that the available orders would be posted at 1600 CST. I know he was anxious to see what was available because he'd like to put in his request for orders as soon as possible. He has a couple of possibilities of where he might go. I just want to know at this point. This will be my second PCS. I had to pack up and move alone from Minnesota because Zac was in El Salvador at the time. This time I have a house-full of stuff, a husband and two dogs. It will be a little bit of a larger undertaking, but I'll have Zac to provide some assistance this time so it may end up being a wash in terms of how easy it is. (Or isn't.)

So we'll start Toivo's medication tonight and watch him for side effects and hope for no more seizures. And I'll continue to pace around the house until Zac comes home to see what happened with orders.

Speak of the devil, Zac just walked in . . .