Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God Isn't In My Home Room Class

Okay, I try to stay out of politics and religion because that's just not a nice topic between friends. Especially on the internet, where our associations and friendships are apt to cross every category of belief known to man. But there's one thing floating around the internet right now that frankly troubles me.

I'm speaking of those copy/paste/re-post things that go on about "Q: God, why weren't you at that school? A: Because I'm not allowed in school."

Now I know a lot of people who share that - and I am NOT looking at anyone in particular; hell, I don't even remember who DID post - don't mean any ill by it. Most likely they see it, read it, and think, "Yes, I believe this country is really suffering from a loss of morals and just plain Christian kindness."  And that's fine. I have my doubts about our society these days, myself.

But God in schools ... what ARE they talking about? I'm a Methodist preacher's daughter. When I was in grade school 40 years ago, there was no GOD in schools. Sure, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the school had a dress code, and we weren't supposed to fight at recess. But God in schools? Seriously? Where?

My school didn't have the Ten Commandments on the wall. We didn't say grace before lunch. In fact, I don't remember one single thing about God in school. And that's the way it should be. Faith and spirituality are private choices, and parents alone should have the right to guide their children's' spiritual growth. If I had kids, I wouldn't want their school to stick so much as a pinky-toe into their religious upbringing!  So, I really don't get this moaning and hand-wringing about "God in schools."

But most of all, what I really, REALLY dislike, is the inference behind that meme. It's saying that God wasn't at that school when the killer opened fire, because the school didn't allow Him inside.

Bullshit. Bull. Shit. That is so much crap I can barely articulate it. GOD had nothing to do with that massacre of the innocents, one way or another - a deranged human being did. God has never in the history of the world stepped in to stop humans from performing brutality upon each other. And as I see it, that's not His job. We are here to look after each other and to guide our children's moral paths. All He is required to do is catch lost souls into His care and bear them away from pain.

How are we supposed to put God in schools, anyhow, when the children of this country now represent every faith in the modern world, or even a lack thereof? We can't impose a Christian ideal upon a purely secular institution. That's not what our taxpayer dollars are for. If people want God in schools, then they should sign their kids up for a nice parochial school. But the public schools should not touch religion. Where I grew up, they never did.

Bottom line is, human beings have free will. We do what we want, for good or evil. God is not going to change that, now. And honestly, I think passing around some vague outrage about God being banished from schools is disingenuous. It does nothing. It *means* nothing.

And it sure as hell does not address a tragedy on the scale of the massacre in Connecticut. God isn't waiting at the schoolhouse door. If you believe in Him, he is waiting at yours.

Think about that. And stop looking for a place to lay blame. If people don't see enough of God in the world, then they should step up and do more of His work.

Okay, that's me, over and out. I offer my regrets to anyone whom I may have offended by this post.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts By the Side of A Road - Election Day 2012


Today I took my time driving home, stopping often to enjoy the fall colors and look for photo opportunities. I'm stopped to snap some shots of a particularly beautiful stand of golden cottonwood trees when I notice a little old man in a cowboy hat trudging down the road towards me. There's a house a few hundred yards beyond him, so I think maybe it's the owner coming out to growl at me for taking pictures of "his property."

But since it's a gorgeous day and the old fellow has taken the trouble to walk this far, I figure I'll wait for him. He's an odd, wee old guy, shorter than I am under that grey Stetson, and he's also wearing a black, fringed leather "cowboy" coat to go with it.

As he draws near my truck, I come around the back of it to say hello. He gives me a somewhat distracted "hi" and stops, blinking vaguely around him. Okay, so no growling or ass-chewing.

Abruptly finding focus, he looks up at me with a lopsided grin, touches the brim of his Stetson and says, "You like my hat?"

The penny drops. He is a 6-year-old in a 60-year-old's body. I tell him it's a great hat and that he looks very handsome. He grins with mismatched teeth. We're suddenly old friends.

"Did you hear about my brother?" he asks.

For a second I just look at him. I've never seen this little guy before in my life. But in the next beat, I remember that a quarter mile ahead of me is the house of a man who'd been killed, along with his girlfriend, in a head-on collision with a drunk driver a month or two ago. An accident only a couple miles from my house. Somehow we never heard the sirens.

"Yes," I reply. "It was a terrible thing."

My little cowboy-man then proceeds to ramble companionably about this and that. He tells about his brother's funeral and his brother's girlfriend - "I think they were gonna get married" - and how even their little dog was killed. But people made up a book with pictures and things, about his brother, and he was pleased with that. The girlfriend's family even had his brother's picture at her funeral.

"I came here with 4 people," he says. I don't know if this was recently or 40 years ago. "Now I'm the only one left."

I can't read him well enough to tell if he feels grief as I would know it. Then he looks up at me again.

"Did you know I had a seizure in the driveway?"

Oh, crap. I need to be heading home. But we're standing by the side of the road amidst a few hundred acres of alfalfa, and I do not want to leave a seizure-prone little old boy wandering alone out here.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

"Oh, yeah, I'm fine."

I then ask if I can give him a ride anywhere, and he thinks for a moment and replies, "Yeah, I'll have a ride."

When I ask where he wants to go, he points off down the road - towards the home of his dead brother.

"My friend is living with me," he says.

So, I move stuff off the passenger seat and he hauls his small self in and aboard. His keys are on a lanyard around his neck, and he points out what gate I should drop him by. He's thankful in the careless way of small children and closes the truck door with a hearty bang. He goes towards the house, the house of his dead brother, where a friend is living with him and keeping him fed and clean.

When he's gone, I notice a penny lying on the seat where he'd been.

Does this story have a point? Probably not. I stop by the side of the road to take pictures of trees, and meet a simple little man whose brother died in an horrific accident not two miles from my house.

Or maybe there is a point. Maybe it's to point out how connected we all really are.

But all that won't matter, when we wake up tomorrow morning, because the "wrong" political party (no matter which one it is) will hold power, and half the country will crying out in dismay. We're connected, damn it. By the finest, most delicate threads. A chance meeting on a rural road can help someone, or leave them dead in a puddle of smoking gasoline.

But it won't matter, tomorrow. In the morning, no matter how the elections go, we'll be a country at war with itself. I hope people will forgive me if I just stick to looking at the world's beauty, at humanity's beauty, and maybe sometimes see if I can reach out to someone alone on the side of the road.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Breeding Shelter Dogs - and Other Myths

A couple of my Facebook friends shared this, and I think it bears reading. So go ahead - read it.
Then come back and read the rest of my thoughts on the subject.

Who Killed These Dogs? - Dogstar Daily

Okay, so. Did you read?

The point here is that responsible and INFORMED dog ownership is the key to ending homeless and unwanted shelter dogs. I've seen so many absurd, misinformed and simply wrong things repeated by otherwise intelligent people that it frightens me how uneducated much of the dog-owning public really is.

Placing the blame for unwanted pets on breeders - ALL breeders - as a blanket accusation is not only erroneous, it's untrue.

Case in point. A woman I know bred a litter a couple years ago. She breeds only seldom and she screened each prospective owner to the very best of her ability, turning aside people whom she felt would not be a good fit for her dogs. One of her pups went to a young family with a nice home, a big yard, an active lifestyle - it seemed perfect.

And for two years, this breeder assumed all was well. Until one day someone called to tell her that this dog had been posted to Craigslist. These people didn't bother to call her, the breeder, per their agreement when she sold the pup. They didn't tell anyone at all. They just ... advertised on Craigslist. The next step undoubtedly would have been the local pound.

Fortunately, the breeder was able to persuade the people to return the dog to her, and so it escaped becoming another set of shelter statistics. But let's look at this.

IF the breeder had never learned of the dog's situation, it probably would have gone to some random home, where it would have overwhelmed its new owners with its complete lack of social skills or understanding of rules, or perhaps its snappishness around small children, and it would have wound up in the local pound or on the streets, to be snagged by animal control.

Nice Rescue Person then goes to the animal shelter and sees this beautiful dog, and they are horrified: how could ANYone abandon a beautiful young dog like this? What horrible, irresponsible person put this poor dog out there in the world where it could end up abandoned in a shelter, in the first place? All this dog needed was a little love and understanding!

But seriously ... how is this the breeder's fault? She did everything she could, short of having the FBI check out their record of pet ownership. She had no way of knowing the new owners would be unable to manage the dog's energy or intelligence and would end up shutting it up in the back yard.

But just suppose she never bred that litter. Just suppose that pup never was born and never wound up on Craig's List.

What would stop that SAME couple from adopting a shelter dog ... and doing the exact same thing? What would stop them from taking a shelter dog home, full of good intentions, and still being overwhelmed by the dog, finally shutting it up in the back yard until they decide to get rid of it, after all?

Just because someone adopts a dog from a shelter, that does NOT create them into a better, more informed, more responsible pet owner!

And just because someone breeds a litter of dogs, that does not mean their pups are either going to end up in a shelter, or take a home that could have gone to a shelter dog. An ignorant or irresponsible pet owner *remains* an irresponsible pet owner, regardless of where their dog(s) came from.

It is a fallacy to think that only by stopping breeding will homeless dogs cease to exist. Only when the American public becomes vastly more educated than it is now will abandoned, neglected and homeless dogs cease to be a problem in this country.

And that's all I've got to say about that.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And Then There Were Four ...

A few years ago, hubby and I lived just down the road in this little rural redneck trailer park. It was a decent enough place for a couple cowboy/mule packer types, and our space had a green lawn, a beautiful big shade tree and room for all our dogs.

Anyhow, the winter of 1998/99, about this same time of year, hubby and I came back from town and as we drove towards our house, we saw this little dog frolicking in the snow, next to one of the other mobile homes. It was the cutest thing, about 3 or 4 months old and it looked like a border collie on a corgi chassis! Short legs, pointy ears, adorable fox-face, but it had a long black coat, white on the chest and a big plumy tail.

We soon found out the pup was named Scruffy, and it belonged to a single mom with 2 small children and a live-in boyfriend. They weren't real good about keeping track of him and he sometimes went strolling around the trailer park, but it was a quiet place with very little traffic. Of course he soon discovered our house with its collection of dogs, and somehow he struck up a friendship with my border collie, Rose.

So, we started letting him into our yard. Just for a little bit, mind, but he and Rose would romp and play and have a great old time! This was kind of amazing, really, because Rose was a grown lady and did not allow such familiarity with any other dog. No, sir. But she would play with Scruffy, and when they had enough, we'd let Scruffy out and he'd trundle off up the street towards home.

Well, at some point during the winter, the neighbor's boyfriend disappeared, probably kicked out, and the little dog was seen roaming the trailer park more and more. Some residents began getting annoyed at the rascal, because he got in their trash and ate the cat food on their porches. The trailer park manager didn't like him at all, and once I saw the old fart *kick* Scruffy off someone's front porch!

But as weeks turned to months, Scruffy continued his visits to our house and maintained his friendship with Rose. We could give him at least that much. From time to time, when we took our dogs somewhere in the car, Scruffy would "accidentally" get in with them and go along. But we'd send him home, after the adventure was over.

Then ... sometime in April, we got a late, heavy storm. When we looked out our front window, there was Scruffy. Curled up in a ball, sound asleep under a big spruce tree, amidst about a foot of new snow.

"Get him in here," Tye said. Which we did and we closed the gate behind him. Scruffy came in the house, licked Tye to say, "Thank you," and that settled that. Nor did we open that gate ever again.

When we went back to the mountains to pack mules that summer, Scruffy went with us. His former owner never came asking about him, even once. Maybe she cared, though. Maybe she was just glad the pup went somewhere else, when she had two babes to raise, alone.

As the years went on, Scruffy accompanied his border collie pals, Rose and Jesse, to our sheepdog training lessons. He had no interest in sheep or any other livestock, the big silly things, but he loved being the "greeter" down at the ranch. Only when I had to retire Rose due to hip dysplasia did Scruffy stop coming down to lessons with me. But he soon found a new "job" as hubby Tye's private eye dog, riding along while Tye went about his work, sharing snacks when they stopped for coffee or lunch on the road.

Oh, Scruffy had his rescue-dog issues. He was a fear-biter, he would yowl when being bathed, he was terrified of being grabbed, and for a long time, he was fearful of men he didn't know. But with time and love, those issues faded into the background. To us, he was just a happy, bouncy, buoyant personality, who trotted around with his little chest out and his tail flagged proudly behind him.I had to do some scrambling to learn the stubborn corgi mindset, and I'm forever grateful to the mail list, Corgi-L. But he was kind to our cats, got along with almost all dogs, and above all things, he loved hanging out with Tye.

That bond meant everything, when Scruffy's girls finally began passing away. Shortly after we moved to this house, he lost Rose, and then he lost Dolly and Della, all within about 18 months' time. Some of his sparkle seemed lost with them. But he was still our Scruffy, the PI dog, and he bore the coming of the new pups, Nick and Gael and Ash, with admirable patience.

Time takes its toll on us all, though. Last fall he took sick and lost all appetite - unheard of, for a corgi! - and we got him in to the vet. A bazillion tests ($$$!) later, the vet found that his kidney values were a bit off, but mainly, Scruffy had a raging bladder infection! She prescribed a heavy dose of two strong antibiotics (can't recall what they were) and Scruffy rebounded with notable speed. Soon he was his old self, and life was good.

But ... last month he took another bad turn and this time, the antibiotics had no effect. This time, the vet said his kidneys were indeed failing. There wasn't a lot we could do, but we tried all we could. Scruffy was a fighter, and though his body weakened and grew more frail by the day, that stubborn light refused to go out. However, by this past Monday, we could see he was weary and tired and done. He had stopped eating days ago, and now he could no longer seem to drink water. Today we made the appointment to say goodbye.

I had to work, so Tye had to handle it alone. I felt horrible for him. Yet it seemed to go as well as these things can. Tye took Scruffy for one last ride in the car, one last stop at Starbucks, one last offered bite of scone (or some other sweet,) even if Scruffy would not take it. When they got to the vet, Tye just sat in the car with his little partner and talked and petted. The vet came out to the car to administer the sedative, and Tye stayed with him until Scruffy passed beyond knowing. We'll get him back as we did Della and Dolly, a box of ashes which we'll one day scatter in the mountains.

Tonight, the dogs seem to know something is changed. Tye said that when he got home, Nick, Gael, Ash and Jesse all clung close around him. Now that I'm home from work, they are just ... quiet. Very quiet. And although Scruffy removed himself from interaction with them days if not weeks ago, I think they feel the silence of that missing heartbeat.

I know I do. Tye and I both do.

But Scruffy is past sickness or weakness or pain, now. I want to believe he is once again that sprightly little dog of years past, and that he gambols once again with his dear sister, Rose, racing through the green grass as fast as ever his funny short legs can go.

Run fast, run free, little Scruffy No-Legs. We will be along in a while.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Round-up of Nick's Vet Visit Today


Alrighty, then!  I'm reiterating everything I posted here on FB in more scattered form, earlier today, so if you're tired of hearing from me, move along, nothing to see, here. ;)

In a nutshell, Nick may *still* need a 4 or 5 thousand dollar back surgery. But honestly, it's not as scary as it was, and it's not immediate.

I took Nick in to see Dr. D.W. Griffin of Loomis Basin Veterinary Hospital, in Loomis, CA. Just as with Dr. Richardson at Campus Commons in Sacramento, he was given an extremely thorough physical exam, which returned Nick's neurological responses as wholly normal. His musculature, stance and weight-bearing were also balanced and correct. However, Dr. Griffin did think Nick showed some discomfort when pressed firmly at the lumbo-sacral area. Not a lot, just Nick tilting his head to shoot a dour glance back at the doc.  ;)

Then - oh, happy day! - they took not one, not two, but three beautiful *digital* X-rays. Those things are so COOL!   :-p

Ultimately, Dr. Griffin's findings did not differ drastically from Dr. Richardson's. Nick has a form of Cauda Equina, with spondylosis-y stuff going on at the juncture of L7 and his sacrum. There's an instability there that's been pinching and causing the pain he was experiencing. I do not know the *cause* of that, but it seems to be something that just ... happens. Wear and tear in a hard-driving dog. I'm not sure if Nick's accident back in October (whatever it was) caused it, or just triggered its manifestation. I belatedly realized I need to ask Dr. G some more questions. (Hey, my brain was full!)

However, he said that it's a very *mild* form of the condition. If Nick were just a house dog, he'd have told me to just take Nick home, keep him fit, watch his weight and feed him glucosamine. But given that Nick's a working sheepdog, an athlete, it may not be so simple. What we have at the moment is "wait and see."

What IS notably different is that Dr. Griffin looked at our shiny, nifty, awesome new digital X-rays (all 3 views) and he did NOT see the Transitional Vertebral Segmentation that Dr. R. thought he saw in the previous, single-film X-ray. People, this is SUCH a relief! This means that Nick doesn't have something congenitally wrong with him. He's just damaged himself while storming around being a border collie.

He could still, (maybe, possibly, someday?) sire healthy Nick-babies and leave a legacy behind. It's a dream, anyhow.  :)

Meanwhile, though, I can bring him carefully back to work, focus on his fitness, monitor how he's doing and let time tell. Dr, Richardson said lots of long walks and swimming if possible would be good for his overall fitness. Also, the doc approved of my regimen of MSM, Synovi G3 and Cetyl-M supplements for Nick. Then, if going back to work means that Nick does regress to pain and lameness ... I'll know that surgery will come sooner than later. Next fall maybe. Or not.

But it's such a relief to have a clear picture of what's going on, clear knowledge of what to do and what to watch for, and so good to escape the pressure of, "OMG, need surgery, need surgery, MUST DO SURGERY, OMG, SURGERY!" that I had begun to feel from Dr. R.

I have room to breathe. I have things to do, to help Nick. I still have a dog I can work, in the meanwhile. And the potential of *needing* surgery no longer feels like the end of the world. Nick's not on the brink of shattering like a twig.

*whew* I needed that. I'll have the X-ray images PLUS an impartial evaluation from their radiologist by next week, so I'll share all that, when I get 'em.  :)

Thank you, everyone, for sticking with me, putting up with me, and offering your support. And special thanks to T and WolfTown ( and everyone who has contributed to them! They cut today's vet bill nearly in half.   :D

Just had some pie. Now going to have some wine. Yes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nick's Diagnosis, the Official Version


I got the report from Dr. Richardson, detailing his opinion of Nick to my vet. Here's what he said:

"He does appear to have some mild expression of Transitional Vertebral Segmentation as evidenced by what I believe is a small vestige of soft tissue at the juncture of S1 and S2. The LS (lumbosacral) Spondylosis is also evident and I would correlate that early development to this transitional aspect of the L-S anatomy. Consequently, ruling out the hips as you have his radiographs and my evaluating his knees by physical exam, we are left with a clinical diagnosis of Cauda Equina, with episodic expression by his bursts of activity.

I have informed Ms Atwater that this will likely worsen in time and thereby prepared her for possible surgical intervention when deemed necessary. I have had more success than not in helping such patients by dorsal decompression, guided by an in house CT scanning immediately before entering the OR. Many of our law enforcement dogs have returned to work, and I would expect an athletic outcome for Nick, providing neurologic damage does not ensue before decompression."

So ... it looks like he's saying that the early onset of the spondylosis is due to the TVS in his sacrum, and that Nick's physical exertions (he uses himself like an Abrams tank!) trigger his painful physical symptoms. And apparently he feels surgery will halt the whole nasty mess.

It's going to take time to get money set aside for any operation, and in the meanwhile ... I guess I'm just going to keep an eye on Nick. He's still laid off of work for at least 2 more weeks, so he'll have had a minimum of 1 month off at home. I'm kind of curious to see if the lay-off will make any difference in the recurrences of his symptoms, or not. Sounds like I should expect "not," though.

Here's an article that makes me feel a little better about Nick's situation:

It's kind of hard to tell, from reading Dr. Richardson's note, if I should expect Nick to collapse or ruin himself at any moment, or if this is a vague sort of condition that could manifest over months or years. Anyhow, I'm going to get another set of x-rays and another opinion, just for my peace of mind.

Speaking of which, think I'll have a glass of wine to chase my cookies. I want to SLEEP, tonight. :-/

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vet's diagnosis for Nick

Well, guys ... I've had a good cry, now I'm trying to shake my brains into some useful order. Dr. Richardson called this evening with a diagnosis for Nick, having received and viewed the X-rays. (Which I forgot to bring with me on my visit, last week!)

He's saying Cauda Equina. He's saying surgery. What he saw in the X-rays *did* show the sacrum pressing on places it should not.

Guys, I'm devastated. Nick is everything to me, my first open-quality border collie and the vehicle for so many dreams. More, he's my best friend, my partner and my pal. He is my heart dog, in every sense of the term. I look in those big golden eyes and see so much love. He gives me everything, every ounce of his strength and every beat of his sweet, gallant heart.

But my Nick is not sound. He's not even 4 years old, his trialing career has barely begun, and he faces a debilitating problem.

Oh, there WILL be surgery. At some point in the fairly near future. He's not in dire shape - heck, right now, you'd never know there was a thing wrong with him! I've been able to work him and trial him with never a mis-step. But if he overdoes it, there's pain.

So ... now we manage our finances and plan for that surgery within the year. Meanwhile, I try to wrap my mind around the fact that my beloved Nick will have to go under the knife. :(

Dr. Richardson did seem to think Nick's prognosis would be good, with surgery. (He mentioned Spondylosis, but then went to the Cauda Equina thing. Not sure how that relates...?)

What he would do, Dr. Richardson said, is go in and remove just a wee bit of bone, no more than a thumbnail, to remove pressure on those nerves. He said he's done this same surgery for this same condition on working K-9s, particularly Malinois police dogs, and they are able to return to service. And ... that's encouraging.

But I'm not easy about this. My first border collie turned out to have severe hip dysplasia and a vet advised a Femoral Head Ostectomy. This was done, but she was never really sound, again. By age 6, she was pretty much retired. Thus, the idea of someone whittling on my dog's *spine* scares me to death!

I'm hoping that Nick's youth and the apparent intermittent nature of his condition means it's not as dire a case - (yet!) - as it could be, and that his outlook will thus be good. But it's still scary. And I still wish it wasn't so.

Now I'm gonna go hug Nick and then eat some chocolate chip cookies. I already cleaned the house today, so baking is the only stress relief I've got ....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thanks, Wolftown! :)


I have been so blessed throughout this scare with Nick, and one of those special entities was the non-profit called WOLF TOWN. Directed by my friend, T Martino Yamamoto, they are an active force in both wildlife rehab and sustainable agriculture.

Wolftown stood ready to assist me with finances, if Nick needed an MRI, and thankfully, it turns out he doesn't, at least not at this time. However, my gratitude for them is boundless, and so I would ask that, if you can spare a few bucks, please consider donating to their emergency fund. Just click into the site and look for the Donate button.

Today they stood prepared to help a good sheepdog. Tomorrow they may save an injured falcon or wounded fox or baby seal. Whatever the need, your small donation will be a big help. Please think about it. I'm going to go hug Nick again, and I'll be saying some pretty heart-felt prayers, tonight. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nick - Back Injury!


First, I apologize in advance for what is going to be probably the longest, most rambling post I've ever made. But I'm struggling with panic, here, and I posted this very same post on the border collie forum, so don't feel obliged to read it twice. ;)

Here is Nick's story. In the latter part of October, I was doing yard work while the dogs were free to play around the place. At one point, Nick ran down to the bottom of the property with his sister, as they often did. He came back up a while later, walking like a 90 year old man. He was visibly in pain, and it appeared to be in his hips or lower back.

Scared to death, I got him in to the vet the very next day. As best my vet could figure, he'd suffered an injury to the base of his tail, right at the bottom of his spine. My vet's guess was that he'd either tried to jump up somewhere and missed and fell back on his rump, or someone ran into him.

I'm inclined to think his little sister, Gael, probably collided with him from behind.

For whatever reason, the vet didn't prescribe X-rays, but we laid Nick up for about 3 weeks, and put him on some Rimadyl. With that rest time, he seemed to recover and his movement looked normal, including leaping lightly into the truck.

But then I ran him at Dunnigan Hills and at the end of the day, (after two good runs on those big hills) I went to put him in the truck ... and he didn't want to jump up. He was hurting again. When I got him home about 4 hours later, he was kind of hitching on one hip.

Of course, I laid him off again. During that time, I got him to a local holistic vet who does chiropractic. She adjusted him and while doing so, she showed me how an off-kilter tilt to his hips revealed that his back was out. When she had done the adjustment, it really seemed to help him.

A couple weeks later, I put him back to work and tried to go easy on him. There was one day of practice when we got home and he again got out of the truck seeming a bit ouchy and stiff. But some more time off, and he seemed good as gold. I finally put him back on the work roster and he seemed sound.

Well, last weekend, I spent 2 days at a friend's house, building fence and working on her arena, and the dogs just ran around and played. When I got done on the 2nd day (this past Monday) ... once more, Nick couldn't jump in the truck. There had been no wreck, no collisions, no wild leaps, just ordinary running around on a flat field, but two days of that was clearly too much.

I got him in to the vet for X-rays today.

We still have no real answers. What I do have is a whole lot of fear.

The X-ray was indeterminate. What it seems to show is that the disk-space between the last vertebra and the base of the tail (I can't remember what L this is) may be a little bit wider than the others, which may indicate there is swelling pressing the bones apart. But my vet said she did not think the disk was herniated or ruptured. (He can walk and trot normally, it just hurts him to perform any upward lifting movement, and his lope looks a bit tucked-under at the rump.)

Another odd thing, on the X-ray, there seems to be a ghostly image of what could be some calcification, a "flaring" at the bottom of the last vertebra and also the first bone of the tail. My vet said this could be Nick's body's attempt to compensate for an injury, by creating this calcification. But she said that if so, that bone would not be smooth, it would be rough, like granite, and that could cause him pain.

However, she's unable to diagnose any further, so she's referring me to a vet in Sacramento, Dr. Bob Richardson. She's sending me with Nick's X-rays, both the "before" image from when we OFA'd his hips and the "after" image of his lower back that we took today. And she said I might want to get an MRI done, but anyhow, to consult with Dr. Richardson, because he's handled this sort of thing for years and has more expertise than her.

This ... is where I start to panic. Since my vet can't pinpoint just what is going on, all we have are maybes. And those maybes range from Spondylitis to Spondylosis to arthritis to surgery to ... we don't know what.

People, I am scared. to. death. I made the appointment to see Dr. Richardson next Thursday, but his office said the visit and consultation will be $130, and an MRI runs from $1,000 to $2,000 !!!

I don't HAVE that kind of money! I just don't. God help me, I work part time in a liquor store and make $93 a week. My husband is self-employed, so he gets paid for when he works, but this time of year ... things can get slow. Plus his old corgi boy is sick and we need to get HIM in to the vet, because it looks like he's either suffering a return of his bladder infection or maybe something worse.

So ... I'm panicking. I'm terrified. I'm looking at this beautiful dog who isn't even 4 years old, yet, and who carries all my hopes and dreams in his gallant and loving heart, and I'm scared. The unknown scares me. The uncertainties scare me. And the financial aspect simply devastates me. An MRI will wipe out my bank account - and that's if it falls on the lower end of the quote range. There will be nothing left if this vet recommends further treatment.

But I'm trying to be useful and think how to help, in at least some small way. I've got rimadyl for Nick. He's already on MSN, and I've got a big tub of Synovi G3 that I've started him on. He'll be laid off for at least the next 2 months, no running, no playing, no nothin'.

And I'll pray. A lot. Fervently.

 My world is wrapped up in this dog. It's probably pretty pathetic, but that's how it is. So the complete lack of financial resources is more frightening than words can express.

Thanks for listening, anyhow. Some prayers would be welcome, too.

I realize I'm guilty of perpetuating this injury, by not laying him off long enough, in the first place. Belatedly, I know this. I just hope I haven't ruined Nick for life.