Saturday, August 21, 2010

Big -- Good News and Bad News

Here's the latest on Big, the dog who refuses to die.

He was due for his rabies shot and the vet also required an exam to renew his prescription for carprofen (a NSAID). But it's so hard for him to walk around and impossible for him to get up in the Jeep, so we arranged for one of the vets to make a housecall. We scheduled the appointment for August 18. Then he seemed to be getting worse, so last Friday (the 13th) I talked to the vet and said instead of a rabies shot it might be time to euthanize him. She suggested a change in medication - a steroid and a stronger pain med. So I got the new meds that afternoon and by Sunday he was doing so much better it was unbelievable. He could actually stand up and walk and sit or lie down without his back legs going out from under him. And he seemed happier, too. He'd never yelped in pain (this is the dog who chewed through extension cords when they were plugged in and never yelped then, either), but he had obviously been in pain and with the new meds he was in much less pain. He doesn't smile the way Wolfie does, but he had a happier expression on his face and especially in his eyes.

Dr. Sue came and did the housecall Wednesday and we told her about his improvement. She said the steroids could buy us another year or so and we talked about gradually decreasing the dose (steroids have bad side effects on dogs, too, ya know) while keeping him comfortable; it's a balancing effect.

I pointed out some sores on his underbelly (near what's left of his private parts). She had noticed them, but examined them further and said they're tumors -- sarcomas, (cancer) and she said they are probably what will "do him in" in the end. Typically if they're removed surgically they always grow back and at his age, the anaesthesia would be very hard on his body.

So who knows how long he has left? Knowing Big, it could be years. Five years ago we thought he only had six months left. What's most important is his quality of life. If he's in pain and can't get around easily, it's time to let him go, which is why we'd thought about letting him go a few days ago. But the steroids and pain meds are helping, so we'll see how things go.

He has more lives than a cat. I keep saying that he'll outlive us all and we'll have to name a guardian for him in our will. Any takers? He's really turned into a sweet and mellow dog in is old age. He didn't growl at the vet until she started trimming his claws; they're gigantic and not easily trimmed. We put on his Hannibal Lecter muzzle for the vet visit, just as a precaution.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ice Cream and Memories

When we were kids, going to Baskin-Robbins was a rare treat, reserved for a birthday month (when the birthday child was entitled to a free cone) or when I got an "A" on a history test (definitely rare). Sometimes after a movie at the Jefferson Theater (another rare treat), we would go next door to Baskin-Robbins with a throng of fellow theater-goers.

I liked to try different flavors, but my sister (known to the blogosphere as Natasha) would always get Peppermint Fudge Ribbon when it was available. I had it once or twice, and is was definitely good. Every once in awhile over the years, I've looked for that flavor in the stores and on their website, but they seem to have discontinued it.

Recently I discovered something that's just as good (maybe even better): Peppermint Ice Cream topped with Hot Fudge Sauce!

One of the grocery stores here, Smith's, is "part of the Kroger family" so the store brand items are labeled Kroger. Kroger makes unbelievable delicious (and inexpensive, since it's a store brand) Peppermint Ice Cream. It even has small chunks of peppermint candy (think candy canes) mixed in. So if you're near a Kroger, Smith's, King Sooper's, or City Market, stop in and get a carton of Peppermint Ice Cream. Topped with homemade Hot Fudge Sauce, it's so good I can't believe it. It's almost addictive. Seriously. A couple of hours after I've eaten some, I find myself thinking about how good it was and about how soon I'll be home so I can have some more. By the time I've gotten home, of course, I've forgotten all about it, so I'm not really eating it as much as it sounds.

Now that I've found the perfect ice cream, I need to find the perfect hot fudge sauce. I'm not happy with the recipes I've tried so far. I'm looking for something thick and smooth and chocolatey. Something like Gifford's Ice Cream Parlor used to have.

Gifford's. Now there's a whole other set of memories. Gifford's was even more rare than Baskin-Robbins because it wasn't as close to home and because it was more expensive (after all, it was a sit-down place, not just a counter selling cones). The ice cream came in tall glasses and the hot fudge sauce came in tiny metal pitchers so you could pour in a little or as much at a time as you wanted. I remember going to Gifford's after the baptisms of my first two nephews and may a couple of other times.

Anyone have a hot fudge sauce like theirs? Elle, where are you?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's Not the Heat; It's the Humidity

That may be a cliché, but it's also true (after all, most clichés start by being truths before moving on the become clichés). In the last part of June and the first half of July, we endured blazing heat, with highs in the 90s. One day it got up to 97, which is the highest temperature we've had since we installed the weather station at our house 5½ years ago.

But the humidity was always low, often in the single digits. We reached another record, an all-time low humidty of 3%. It reached the point where 20% humidity felt muggy!

When the humidity was in the single digits and I went outside, I could practically feel the moisture being sucked from my skin. But somehow it felt invigorating, definitely not energy-sapping the way high humidity feels.

In the last two weeks of July, the temperatures went down, but the humidity went up and it really did feel muggy. Monsoon season had arrived, with brief but heavy rainstorms almost every afternoon. The air stayed humid. The sugar in the sugar bowl developed lumps and a light crust on the surface. We rarely use salt, so I don't know if the salt developed lumps, too.

The muggy days and nights felt so unfamiliar. After spending the first 32 years of my life on the muggy east coast, I've spent the past 15 in the arid west. I don't remember the past few years being so humid during monsoon season.

One weekend night it was 11:30 at night and I was at my hotel job (Night Auditor on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights 11 pm to 7 am). The air hadn't cooled off much, which is very unusual. The warm sticky air reminded me so much of the summer nights back in Falls Church, when it felt as if it would never cool down. For an instant, I was transported back to my parents' house when I was a kid, before they had air conditioning. For a second, I felt like I was really there, out on the front porch, trying to cool off a little. It was weird.

Now that it's August, monsoon season is in full swing. Every afternoon the clouds form (and build) and the breezes blow and we get an occasional rumble of thunder; rain seems imminent, but doesn't always appear. I don't even have to watch the weather portion of the news. It's the same for the next seven days (at least): highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s, chance of afternoon showers.

By the end of August, the temperatures will cool off drastically, especially at night, and it'll start to feel like Fall.