Sunday, July 30, 2017

Field of my Father's Dreams

              I like to write holiday themed columns. Mother's Day gave me the opportunity to share the story of a maternally-minded ewe who adopted a family of triplets after her own lambs were born dead. Five weeks later, I also had the Father's Day gig, but had nothing fatherly to write about. So I told a tale I'd been wanting to tell for a long time about a little dog named "Spirit," and a veterinary technician with an abundance of it.

            A few days later, though, a Father's Day story began to emerge. During a rare moment of down time, I found myself in our treatment room with a collection of vet techs, assistants, and shadows. I don't even remember why, but I asked them to name their favorite movie. Other than Laura's answer of "The Lost Boys," I can't recall any of their responses. When one asked what my favorite was, I replied, "Field of Dreams."  But when another asked, "Why Dr. John?"  I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to make a speedy exit, as tears were about to overflow.

            What happened? I simply thought of a line from the movie. However, that line gets to me every time... every darn time. In the film, Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice emanating from his cornfield: "If you build it, he will come." For much of the rest of the movie, Ray tries to figure out who "he" is.

            I'm not going to write the line. Apparently, merely thinking of it makes me an emotional wreck. Let me just say, I would give anything, and by "anything" I mean everything, for the opportunity to deliver Ray's line to my own "he," just one more time.

            My dad died when I was a senior in veterinary school, five months before graduation. He was one of my professors, and he taught at Ohio State for thirty-five years. He never really wanted to be a veterinarian, though. He wanted to be a farmer like his uncle, Osborne.

            Although he was raised in Cleveland, he spent many a youthful summer on Uncle Osborne  and Aunt Minnie's farm. Osborne's sister, Aunt Blodwen, lived down the road on the farm where my wife and I now live. My dad enjoyed the country life, and he would regale me with anecdotes about threshing crews and Osborne's team of Percheron geldings, Tops and Major. He loved their farms and he loved this area.

            My dad talked often of his plans and dreams, and what he wanted to do after he retired. Raising draft horses and sheep on his family's land was included among them. Coincidentally, or genetically, his youngest son shared those same dreams. Sadly, my dad ran out of time before he ran out of dreams. That lesson did not go unlearned.

            After our movie discussion, I must admit to spending most of the afternoon in a bit of a funk.  Beyond the obvious sadness, my father's death has been the greatest disappointment in my life. Dying took away any chance for him to see what Bonnie and I would accomplish with our farm and practice. He was able to witness my brother's life, and my sister's life, but not mine. Judging from my visceral reaction to a line in a movie, that wound must still run pretty deep.

            I did everything I could to build "it," and yet "he" didn't come. Of course, I didn't really expect him to. That would be silly. But wouldn't it have been something if he had?

            That evening, as I drove past the corner of Aunt Blodwen's farm, with the wind gently blowing   the wispy regrowth on the hayfield, and the sun beginning its slow descent behind Aunt Minnie's woods, I realized I couldn't have been more wrong. My dad did come, and he's been here the whole time.

            First, he came with me to Delphos to join the practice of his old friend, Dr. Ed Laman. Then when Bonnie and I moved the practice to the historic Lincoln Highway, he was right there with us. And twenty- six years ago, after two generations of dreams, he was finally able to move to his beloved farm.

            Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and not a day goes by that he doesn't influence me in some way. Happy Father's Day, Dad. "Do you wanna have a catch?"
By Dr. John H. Jones
Dr. John H. Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with his wife and partner, Dr. Bonnie Jones. Their family includes two Border Collies, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, three spoiled house cats, several beloved barn cats, a flock of Southdown sheep and a variety of chickens, ducks and geese.

Never Trust a Quiet Puppy

I admit I brought it upon myself.  When friends asked if I would board their four-month-old Airedale puppy for a week I agreed without giving it more than a moment of thought.  There were several good reasons to take little Tucker in: 

·        He is too young to be boarded at a kennel.

·        He’s awfully cute.

·        He’s an Airedale – and I have a weakness for Airedales.

·        I’ve raised a lot of Airedales from puppyhood and survived.

When his family brought him over he was happy to see me, and overjoyed to see our dogs.  We put them all in the yard to get acquainted while we discussed his visit.  I was relieved to hear he was pretty much housebroken and I was happy to hear he could sleep through the night.  I already knew that he responded to basic commands and was nicely socialized because he had been a student in my last Puppy Kindergarten class.  What could possibly go wrong? 

His owners told me he had just come down with a bit of an intestinal problem.  They took him to the vet before bringing him to me to make sure he wasn’t harboring any cooties he could share with my pack.  He was given a clean bill of health.  Well, that little problem means he can’t sleep through the night without a couple or three potty outings.  So much for getting a good night’s sleep.  I know it’s not his fault, but the older I get the more I really value bedtime. 

My sister and I live with five dogs.  The youngest is almost five.  The oldest is fourteen.  Our home is set up for somewhat civilized older dogs and hasn’t been puppy-proofed for years.  Baby Tucker has managed to find all sorts of fun stuff to get into that isn’t on the list of Approved Puppy Toys.  In my office there’s a big wooden box full of dog toys and a couple of comfy dog beds. 
As I’m writing this, Tucker has taken all the toys out of the box and stuffed one of dog beds into it, displacing the old Shih Tzu who was napping on the bed at the time.  The toys are all Airedale-approved, but he’d much rather shred the paper he finds in my office recycling basket.  Tucker has also discovered toilet paper.  I’ve had puppies chew on the stuff but Tucker is the first I’ve had to grab the paper by the end and run around the room, unrolling the entire thing. 

He loves to harass the older dogs, especially my sister’s somewhat fragile elderly Yorkie.  Even with only a few teeth left in his mouth that Yorkie can make an impressive snarly face.  He leaves Kiri alone ever since she explained her personal set of rules to him.  He also is fairly good with the Shih Tzu Boys. 
But poor Fergus…   Airedales are breed snobs and Tucker immediately saw a kindred soul.  He follows him everywhere and is constantly trying to get him to play.  Fergus hasn’t had a moment of peace for days now.  He mostly enjoys the attention, especially because he finally found a dog he could dominate.  He even slows down while running Full-Tilt-Bozo around the yard so the puppy can keep up with him.  But even Fergus has his limits.   

Puppies are exhausting.  They’re noisy.  They have an unbelievable amount of energy. They have mouths full of little piranha teeth.  When they’re quiet while they’re awake, they’re probably into something.  They get into as much mischief as they possibly can and then, just before you stuff them into a box and mail them somewhere distant, they do something incredibly cute and sweet like that endearing doggy head-tilt thing when an animal shows up on TV.   They’re adorable when they’re sleeping. 

Mercifully, once they’ve grown up we forget just how much trouble puppies can be.  If we didn’t, we might not ever get another one.   In the middle of the night when Tucker wakes me up for the third time complaining that he absolutely HAS to go out I swear I’ll never do this again.  Will I?  Yeah, probably.  I’m a sucker for puppies.
By Dorothy Miner 

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

His Name Is Spirit

Veterinary Technician Sarah Burford & Her Canine "Family"
            He was, beyond any doubt, one of the most pathetic creatures I have ever seen. Devoid of a good bit of hair, his skin was thickened, wrinkled, and red. His eyes were white from cataracts, he wasn't eating much with teeth that had seen better days a long time ago, and he could no longer walk.
             When his owner asked what I could do for him, I hesitated a moment before answering. From the look of concern on her face, I sensed that his was not a case of neglect, but rather a case of having a caretaker who merely loved him too much, and couldn't say good-bye. Most of us who have had pets are probably guilty of that. I know I am.
            I rattled off some tests we could run- a serum profile to evaluate his organ function and see if he was diabetic, a CBC to check for infection and anemia, a thyroid test, and maybe even a test for Cushing's disease. "Realistically, though...," I said before pausing again. "There's really only one thing I can do for him."
            She looked at me first with disbelief, then with overwhelming sadness as what I said sunk in. Fortunately, her daughter was with her, and she intervened. "Mom, you've got to let him go!"

            They didn't want to be present for the euthanasia, but I let them stay with him as long as they wanted. After they left, my veterinary technician, Sarah, helped me prepare our patient. Unexpectedly, another co-worker (who is no longer at our practice) came into the room, took one look at the little dog lying on the table, and for some reason felt compelled to blurt out, "What is THAT thing?"

            I can only guess she thought she was bringing levity to a grim situation,  but this was neither the time nor the place. Comedy is always a risky endeavor, and I make no claim to being a paragon of virtue when it comes to inappropriate comments, but that seemed pretty inappropriate, even to me.   
            I felt I should say something. Before I had a chance, though, Sarah, who was leaning over the dog, suddenly stood upright and her cheeks became flushed. "Uh-oh," I thought to myself. But in a surprisingly calm, clear voice she uttered only four words: "His NAME is Spirit!"

            Needless to say, it wasn't long before the human population of the room returned to two. Sarah quickly apologized. "I'm sorry for my outburst."
            "Sorry for what?" I replied. "Don't ever stop being like that." If you happened to read the column she wrote a few months ago about being a veterinary technician, then you know she hasn't.
            Much has been written and discussed the last several years about the rights of animals. I've written a couple columns myself regarding food animal production. I am a meat eater, and I wear leather  shoes. I think it's okay to do that. I know some people will disagree with me on those topics, and that's okay, too.

            One thing I hope we can agree on is that no matter whether an animal is used for food, or clothing, or their job is simply to be a companion, their lives should always be respected. Even, and especially, those like Spirit who appear to be at their lowest point. I can't think of anything that defines that respect more perfectly than Sarah's words.

            It's been nearly a year since I spent those few minutes with Spirit, and although I don't think of him every day, I do think of him quite often. Something will take place during work that triggers the memory, and I have a feeling the same happens with Sarah, as well. It's amazing how a brief encounter with a dog we just met could leave such a lasting impression.     

            Thank you, Sarah Burford, for being a hero and advocate for one of God's most deserving. And thank you, Spirit, for your valuable lesson on compassion and respect. You were never a "thing" to Sarah and me. You were a member of a family who loved you very much, and you even had a great name. I can promise you, Spirit, we will never forget you.
By Dr. John H. Jones
 John H. Jones, DVM operates a mixed animal practice in Delphos with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones.  He is a 1985 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and he raises Southdown sheep.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Things Your Dog Trainer May Not Tell You


I get a kick out of reading the various lists people compile that show up on my computer.  You know the type of thing:  Ten Things Restaurant Staff Won’t Tell You, Things Flight Attendants Won’t Tell You, Things the Kid at the Drive-Thru Window Won’t Tell You, Things Your Beautician Won’t Tell You, and really important information like that.  I decided to make my own list – Ten Things Your Dog Trainer May Not Tell You.

1.      Most of the time the owner is the challenge, not the dog.  We can train almost any dog, at least to some extent, but sometimes we have great difficulty teaching you how to work with your dog.

2.      We don’t like every breed of dog and may groan when one is enrolled in class.  Every trainer has breeds they really don’t like.  If we’re good at what we do, you won’t know if you have one of those.  And we can usually find something to like in every dog.

3.      We can tell if you did any work with your dog during the week.  A big part of dog training is taking what you learned in class and working with your dog at home during the week.  Training is a daily process.  It needn’t be time-consuming – a couple of short sessions a day can get the job done – but training only once or twice a week just isn’t going to cut it.

4.      We can make almost any dog in class look good – at least a couple of times.  It requires talent, timing, good physical and verbal cues, and a confident demeanor. Add the fact that the dog isn’t used to working with us and will be caught a bit off-guard, and he will probably perform as well as he can. 

5.      You may be the most inept trainer in class but, if you’re really trying, we’ll keep working with you.  Not every student can master the skills of timing and consistency, but we’ll stick with you so that you can end up with a well-trained pet.

6.      You may have the dumbest dog in class, but if you’re really working hard to get through his thick skull we’ll keep working with you to get the result you want.  Not every dog is brilliant.  They all learn at different speeds, and some need quite a bit of repetition to learn new skills. 

7.      We are (or should be) familiar with several different methods to train each skill.  Sometimes a dog that is thought to be stubborn or stupid just needs the lesson presented in a different manner.  We should be open to learning everything we can on a continuing basis so that we can be the best possible trainers and teachers.

      8.      We are experts at reading canine body language. This gives us a key to finding the most
             effective method to work with each individual dog.

9.      Our own dogs may not all be perfectly trained.   At the end of the day after working with people and their dogs, we may not have the energy to do much training with our own.  Speaking for myself, my personal dogs may not be as well trained as they were years ago when I competed in Obedience Trials, but they’re all trained to a point where they are great companions that make me happy.

10.  Sadly, we don’t know everything and can’t fix everything.  Poor genetics, bad early experiences, high levels of anxiety or fear, extreme aggression, the owner’s household dynamics – these things and more can sometimes make it extremely difficult to eliminate unwanted behavior. 

Dog training isn’t just a job.  When it’s done well, it’s an art form.  Connecting with a dog by understanding how he learns and then helping him understand what we would like him to do takes patience and skill.   Teaching dog owners takes skill as well.  We often must be part psychologist, schoolteacher, magician, lion tamer, and sometimes even therapist.  It’s an interesting job!


 By Dorothy Miner

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Growing Old With Robbie

                          Veterinary medicine is a family affair in our household. My husband and I have been practicing together for 30 years now and we eat, drink and sleep with animals by our sides. We have been through generations of our own pets, and the current generation of dogs is now growing old together. Our half-sibling Border Collies, Robbie and Jimmy, are now 13 and 10 years old, respectively. Welsh Corgi Betsy Louise is riding the crest of middle age and still bossing the Border Collies around. Soon she, too, will be a senior citizen.

                        While Betsy may think she is "large and in charge," it is only because alpha dog, Robbie, lets her believe so, and pleasant boy, Jimmy, chooses to concede on the matter. (I like to think he is "too smart" to challenge one female dog, let alone two.)

                        Robbie celebrated her 13th birthday last December and little things are cropping up that remind me every day with her now is a bonus. Epilepsy has been a part of Robbie's life since she turned three. Unfortunately, her genetic epilepsy has been typical of many of her breed, as she falls into "the most difficult to manage" category. In fact, over the duration of my  career, she has been THE most difficult.

                        Robbie is on two different anticonvulsants twice daily, and high doses of them. Missing a dose is NEVER an option, and timing is of the essence. So much so, that my husband has alarms set on his phone for precise and consistent dosing. We also make use of, not one, but two daily pill boxes: one for her morning medications and a second for the evening. One of her epilepsy medications has begun to impact her liver so she now takes a geriatric multivitamin, Vitamin E and a liver supplement called "Denamarin"  to help her liver work more efficiently.

                        Because her anticonvulsants make her drink and urinate more, and because female dogs often develop estrogen-deficient urinary incontinence, Robbie also receives an estrogen-like incontinence medication called "Incurin" twice weekly. Many of my clients often lament that their dog is on more medications than they are...I feel their pain now.

                        Anyone who knows my husband also knows that he and Robbie are pretty much inseparable. But, what is frustrating to me, and most anyone else in the same room with this "man and his dog," is that Robbie does not acknowledge the existence of others when "her person" is around. That means following commands from others is simply not going to happen for her.

                        Robbie is highly intelligent. So much so that she has claimed the title of the best working dog we have ever owned. That title, however, has come at a price. Every working dog demonstrates great athleticism and Robbie is no exception. I have witnessed her scale four foot gates in one leap, straight up and over, from a standing position. She was also "lightning- fast" on her outruns to bring sheep flocks in.

                        The toll she has paid for doing her job well is the development of osteoarthritis, especially in her hips. For this problem she receives a fish oil capsule and chewable joint supplement called "Dasuquin." Occasional doses of pain medication are doled out to aid her quality of life as needed.

                        As her golden years have crept up on her, we notice that "down time" is even more precious to Robbie, and awakening her is more challenging. It's not unusual to ask her more than once if she wants to get up to go outside. Once outside, we are careful to not let her stray too far as her hearing is not great anymore. Bleating sheep during chore times and age have stolen more than a few decibels from her.  In short, her "selective deafness" was not her choice, just a casualty of her job and age.

                        So, as I'm tripping over this "love of my husband's life" that can't move fast enough to get out of my way anymore, and realizing for the 900th time that even if she could hear me well, she wouldn't listen anyhow, I think to myself "There by the grace of God go I"---in several years. The difference is I will be able to tell others what I am feeling and what troubles me. Four-legged family members cannot.

                         Please don't ignore your aging pet's non-verbal cues and cries for help. Discuss any changes in your senior pet's behaviors, appetite and attitude with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Let us help make your pet's golden period more golden, for them and for you.

By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital. Providing care for senior pets is one of her greatest passions.

Bark for Life Is "A Walk Woof Taking"

                           My brother is dying. His journey is a very sad one. Last summer he developed back pain. Everyone has back pain occasionally; some even live with it all the time. It is no surprise that anyone with this kind of discomfort would try to treat it on their own, or live with the pain. And that is what my brother did. He ignored the nagging pain, until he could no longer, then he scheduled a visit with his doctor.

                        Thus began his journey, a journey I truly wish he wasn't on. Exams were done and tests were ordered, including a PET Scan. Sadly, the lining of my brother's abdomen lit up like a Christmas tree full of neon lights as the radioactive tracers injected into his vein identified the source of his "back pain."  He was now at war with B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma ravaging  his "peritoneum," the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and  covers most of the abdominal organs.

                        Peritoneal cancer is rare and acts and looks like ovarian cancer. Obviously, this cancer should be more common in women, and it about stupid, bad luck. My brother is a true victim of just that.

                        With an attitude to beat the unlikely odds, he began his chemotherapy: four, maybe six rounds, depending on his response. Every round of treatment bounced him back in to the hospital as he developed low blood cell counts, anemia, fevers and infections. Still, he fought to hear the news after round four that his cancer had improved by 90%.

                        The very next day after receiving this joyful news in the end of January, he fell ill and was hospitalized again. Then,  late into the evening hours, lying in his hospital bed, it happened. My brother had cardiac arrest that stole 10 minutes of his life while the astute and heroic staff at the Avon Cleveland Clinic worked tirelessly and successfully to resuscitate him.

                        Little did he, or we, his loved ones, know that the next leg of his journey would prove to be even more grueling. My brother, you see, has been in a hospital bed since January 31st, and he will never go home.

                        Did I mention that I hate stupid cancer??

                        While my brother is fighting this fight some 200 miles away from me, I think about him every single day, wishing his journey with suffering would end, knowing it's a choice I cannot make for him. I can, however, turn to my loved ones, to seek comfort from my own sadness as I grieve for my brother's plight. My loved ones, by the way, are both two-legged and four.

                        Frequent phone calls and text messages with my other siblings help to acknowledge my feelings of helplessness and sorrow, as they share the same. When not communicating with them, however, I turn to my other loved ones...those with four legs.

                        I've always known that animals bring comfort to humans. As a veterinarian, I witness this phenomenon every day. But, now it is I who needs comfort, as I am a spectator on the sideline watching my brother be defeated.

                        By choice, my husband and I surround ourselves with no less than four house pets at a time. Each one of them provides us with unconditional love, joy and happiness. So, when my grief becomes overwhelming, I instantly reach for one of them and I feel my sadness abate as my blood pressure sinks and I begin to feel uplifted.

                        For me, pets ARE "the best medicine" of all, and the ultimate caregivers. I witness the power of their healing every day in my profession and that is why I promise you that the American Cancer Society's Bark for Life fundraising event is "a walk woof taking." This mini-relay honors the life-long contributions of canine caregivers and empowers people, through their canine partnerships, to contribute to cancer cures via the mission of the American Cancer Society.

                        While I am more than aware that my efforts to stop cancer will not help my brother, I can only hope that I might impact the future health and lives of his children and grandchildren.  I ask you to join me and so many others to help "Finish the Fight." The life you save may be your own.

By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Dr. Bonnie Jones has been practicing at Delphos Animal Hospital since 1987.

Monday, May 29, 2017

An Homage to a Special Mom


            Life on the farm can be tough. And sometimes, it can be downright cruel. I experienced one of those moments a few weeks ago. Less than twelve hours later, a second tragedy occurred. But just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, something wonderful happened. The result of which couldn't have been better had it been written by a Hollywood screenwriter.

            The drama began in the morning of the second Friday in March, right in the heart of- you guessed it- lambing season. One of my oldest ewes, "1114", gave birth to triplets- two girls and a boy. Everything seemed to be fine. The mom was very attentive to the lambs, and they were all nursing. In spite of their full bellies, I was a little concerned she might not have enough milk for three, but I would worry about that when I got home from work.

            Upon my return, I quickly glanced into their pen on my way to check the pregnant ewes for any new births. What I saw was the ewe resting peacefully in a back corner with her lambs nestled around her. When I passed by again, closer observation revealed she wasn't resting. She was dead!

            Raising orphan lambs is not high on my list of favorite things to do. Though feeding them the first few times is kind of fun, I guess, and the lambs always seem so grateful. "Nobody ever likes you as much as a bottle lamb," I often say.

            But to take on that task is a huge commitment in time, and milk replacer is not cheap by any means. Nevertheless, I had no other option, so I mixed up some replacer, and did what had to be done. At least they were vigorous suckers.

            The next morning I checked the pregnant ewes before feeding them, as I always do, and didn't notice any new lambs. But when all the ewes were eating with their heads forward and rear ends toward me, one ewe about halfway down the line had afterbirth hanging from her "lady parts." Two big, dead lambs were found, hidden behind a round bale feeder.

            I must have been somewhat shaken from the loss, because a few minutes passed before the obvious dawned on me. "Catch that ewe!" Fortunately, "1368" was still eating the last remnants of corn, and had enough other ewes around her, that I was able to get her caught and haltered.

            As I half led and half wrestled the ewe back to the pen of orphans, I truly didn't know what I was going to do next. My track record of grafting orphan or rejected lambs onto foster ewes isn't great. A successful graft requires time and patience, neither of which I had this busy Saturday morning. So I decided my goal would be to provide a good meal for the triplets, and like the day before, worry about the rest later.

            I tied the ewe in the pen expecting her to jump, and maybe even kick at the lambs, like many ewes do when strange babies try to nurse on them. But she didn't move, not even a little. And the lambs were really going to town on her udder, so to speak.

            After a couple of minutes, I untied the halter and all she did was munch on some hay. A moment later, I removed the halter entirely. That's when I saw the first hint of trouble- a nudge. She pushed one of the lambs away from her udder.

            "That's it," I thought to myself. "The rejection process has begun." Then she nudged him again. Only this time it was back toward the udder. It appeared the first nudge was merely misdirected, not malicious. Apparently, I caught "1368" at just the right time, a hormonal window of opportunity where she felt compelled to be a mom, and those lambs were more than willing to oblige.

            Although "1368" ultimately didn't have enough milk to support all the lambs, and they required some supplementation, that was okay with me. What she did to help ease the burden of caring for three orphan lambs was much appreciated. But what she did to provide those lambs a real family experience was a godsend.

             After all, they make a replacer for milk. They don't make a replacer for moms. And to have a mom is really the most important thing.
By Dr. John H. Jones