Rescue Dogs of the Oso, WA Landslide – Part 2

In the past few days Seattle’s KUOW 94.9 and KCTS 9 have featured interviews with those most affected by the Oso, WA landslide, which just six months ago (March 29, 2014) devastated an entire community 60 miles northeast of Seattle. I remember hearing descriptions on the news of rescue workers searching for victims in the huge debris field–conditions were extremely dangerous and the going was rough.

FEMA search dog onsite to help find victims of the Oso, WA Landslide.

FEMA search dog onsite to help find victims of the Oso, WA Landslide.

Highly trained search dogs from across WA and the country were flown in to help guide the search for victims.

Governor Jay Inslee acknowledges a tired search dog with a scratch behind the ears.

WA Governor Jay Inslee acknowledges a tired search dog with a scratch behind the ears.

Soon news reports about the dogs and their skill began to pour out of the area. Not only were the search dogs helping in the disaster zone, but “trauma dogs” were onsite in shelters to provide support to worried, grieving survivors as well as exhausted workers.

 

 

 

Fire fighters were critical to the search and recovery mission.

Fire fighters were critically important to the search and recovery mission.

I collected photos of the dogs featured in news stories and saved them on my desktop. I found comfort in knowing they were in Oso helping on so many levels. I post them now with respect for their meaningful contributions and to acknowledge their key role in the recovery mission.

Spending a moment with an understanding friend.

Spending a moment with an understanding friend.

Helping to keep spirits up at the command center.

Helping to keep spirits up at the command center.

Rescue Dogs of the Oso Landslide – Part 1

Just six months ago, bucolic Steelhead Drive in Oso, WA was destroyed in a matter of seconds by a landslide of mud, trees, rock, and water. A cliffy area above the town liquified and roared like a freight train toward the river below taking everything in its path, including forty three souls. In the past few days KUOW 94.9 and KCTS 9 have featured interviews with those most affected by the disaster, including “a woman rescued from the mud, a couple who lost their home, a first responder struggling with post-traumatic stress, and leaders, municipal and spiritual, still working tirelessly for their community.”

I remember hearing the first reports on the radio about the slide, which occurred 60 miles northeast of Seattle. People at the scene plunged into the jumble of rock, downed power lines, pulverized houses and broken trees hoping to reach victims calling out for help. The muck was dangerous and the going slow. Some of the voices faded and disappeared.

Returning from the search, a four-legged rescue worker.

Returning from the search, a four-legged rescue worker at the Oso landslide.

Then reports emerged of sniffer dogs arriving on the scene. Four-legged trained searchers were soon guiding the rescue teams to the living and the dead. And, comfort dogs were brought in to nurture the worried survivors staying in shelters and also the workers, who searched and searched despite exhaustion and terrible danger.

A rescuer doing the work. Sincere. Determined. Undaunted.

A rescuer doing the work. Sincere. Determined. Undaunted.

I found myself collecting screenshots of the dogs that appeared in the news accounts that I read over the days and weeks. The dogs seemed to be a bright light of hope shining through the fog of loss. It comforted me to know they were on the ground in Oso.

Rescue team at the Oso landslide. Trained sniffer dogs helped speed-up the search.

Rescue team at the Oso landslide. Trained sniffer dogs helped speed-up the search.

Helping out at the shelter: comfort and care delivered to worried souls.

Helping out at the shelter: comfort and care delivered to worried souls.

On the job -- tracking scents undetectable to humans. Dogs were key to Oso Landslide rescue efforts.

On the job — tracking scents undetectable to humans. Dogs were key to Oso Landslide rescue efforts.

I did not save information about the dogs’ names or owners, the photographers who took the pictures, or the news channels that published the photos. Because this is my blog that few read and from which I earn nothing, I am taking the liberty of posting some of these photos now.

I do this in memory of those who lost their lives and those still in the process of recovering.

And, I do this in honor of the dogs who did so much to help.

Our canine friends make the world a better place simply by their being in it.

"I am here to help. How you are doing? You can tell me everything and you don't have to use words."

“I am here to help. How you are doing? You can tell me everything and you don’t have to use words.”

“The Dog Song” by Nellie McKay “…find yourself a hound and make that doggie proud”

THE DOG SONG
by Nellie McKay

I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song, strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog, catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong

My life was lonely and blue
Yeah I was sad as a sailor
I was an angry ‘un too then there was you
Appeared, when I was entangled

With youth, and fear, and nerves
Jingle jangled vermouth and beer
Were gettin’ me mangled up

But then I looked in your eyes
And I was no more a failure
You looked so wacky and wise
And I said, Lord I’m happy

‘Cause I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song, strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog, catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong

‘Cause I don’t care ’bout your
Hatin’ and your doubt and I don’t care
What the politicians spout

If you need a companion
Well just go right to the pound
And find yourself a hound
And make that doggie proud
‘Cause that’s what it’s all about

My life was tragic and sad
I was the archetypal loser
I was a pageant gone bad

Then there was you on time
And wagging your tail
In the cutest mime
And you was in jail

I said woof, be mine
And you gave a wail
And then I was no longer alone
And I was no more a boozer

We’ll make the happiest home
And I said Lord I’m happy
‘Cause I’m just a walkin’ my dog

I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song, strollin’ along
It’s just me and my dog, catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong

‘Cause I don’t care ’bout your
Hatin’ and your doubt and I don’t care
What the politicians spout

If you need a companion
Why just go on by the pound
And find yourself a hound
And make that doggie proud

‘Cause that’s what it’s all about
That’s what it’s all about
That’s what it’s all about

That’s what it’s all abow, wow, wow
That’s what it’s all about
(Pant, pant, pant, pant, pant)
Good dog

Nellie McKay – The Dog Song Lyrics | MetroLyrics

…a falcon, or a storm, or a great song

768px-Falcon_Grey_BG_Crop_A

I Live My Life

by Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in growing orbits,
Which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps, I can never achieve the last,
But that will be my attempt.

 

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
And I have been circling for a thousand years,
And I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
Or a great song.

translated by Robert Bly

Prepping for the TPLO

TPLO instruction sheet provided by the vet.

The vet provided informative background information.

So, back to the subject of my dog Luna and her TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery performed on July 26, 2012. I hoped the procedure would return function to her right rear leg, which had a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament.  Luna had become a three-legged dog, holding her injured leg in the air as she hobbled about.  Hopefully the surgery would render her a four-legged once again.

Deciding to do the surgery was a step-by-step process of my finding answers to basic questions such as, “Can I afford this? (The estimated cost for the procedure: $3700 to $4100. Follow-up x-rays: $275 to $325. Perhaps rehabilitation fees, too.) How will I pay? Will this surgery truly help my 10 year-old doggie? How much will she suffer afterward? Do I have the ‘bandwidth’ to nurture her during her recovery immediately after the surgery and for the next six to eight weeks of healing? Can I find a top-notch, experienced surgeon and first-rate surgical facility?” And, the “the clincher”: “What does Luna want to do?”

I spent a few weeks working through these questions. I dragged my feet a bit, hoping against all the odds that Luna’s leg would heal on its own. It did not.

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Menu from the vet’s excellent website.

I set up an appointment for a surgical consultation, which included the surgeon reviewing Luna’s x-rays on a light box, observing her walk, and covering all of the details related to the surgery, including preparing my house for her recovery,  “prep-ing” her for the surgery, picking her up after the surgery, and then managing her recovery.  He said that Luna was an excellent candidate for a TPLO and that it could improve her quality of life. (The links are to the vet’s website, which I studied carefully.)

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Luna tries out a rug.

He also mentioned that she needed to lose weight. He was correct, of course. But I had no idea at the time exactly how serious her weight problem was and just how it would impact her recovery.

As suggested, I bought area rugs and laid them on the kitchen and dining room floors, the rooms that she would be confined to for weeks during recovery.  The rugs would prevent her from slipping on bare floors. I bought “baby gates” at GoodWill to limit her travels about the house. I arranged to take a few days off work so that I could be with her during the days immediately after the surgery.

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Luna seemed “tuned in” and aware that something big was going to happen.

And, my final step in the process was to search the web for and to check out books from the library about communicating with animals.  I talked out loud with Luna and also tried my version of telepathy with her.  I’m not sure how successful I was… All I can say is that despite her painful leg and her limited mobility, Luna seemed energetic, alert, engaged, and connected with me. She seemed “up for it.”

So, no food after midnight the night before the surgery. Allow her to pee and poop in the morning. Deliver her to the clinic between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. And then start envisioning a smooth procedure and a good outcome. (The last being my idea, not the vet’s suggestion.)

Thus began what would become a completely absorbing experience.

Clean bill of health! TPLO repair completed!

Luna the WonderDog waits outside the veterinary clinic.

Luna rests in a familiar place. Her friends are waiting inside to see her!

The Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle, where Luna’s TPLO surgery was performed on her right rear knee just over three months ago, has become a familiar place to us.  We have been here more than a dozen times, counting the pre-surgery consultation, the surgery, post-surgery check-ups, and rehab in the dog-sized aquarium.

Have you ever had the feeling that you have stumbled upon a business or organization that right now, at this particular moment, is operating ”at the top of its game”—that things “click into place” with an almost audible “snap” there? That’s how I feel about this clinic.

Luna the WonderDog sits in front of the veterinary clinic sign looking regal.

A place we have grown to know and love: A super-great clinic with wonderful providers.

Staff at the front desk, including the ancient lab gazing serenely from his pillow, is “dialed-in” to the needs of patients and their owners.  The veterinary surgeon, Russell Patterson VMD, in our case, and the rehabilitation veterinary, Kari Johnson DVM, are spectacular care providers—efficient, effective, emotionally intelligent, and clearly “animal people” if not full-blown “animal whisperers.”

Luna waits in the exam room, smiling, wondering when the vet will appear.

In the exam room now. Waiting with pleasant anticipation for the vet to arrive.

We have been in good, perhaps the best, hands.  Which turned out to be important. Luna’s post-surgery recovery was difficult. More about that in a future post.

About this visit on November 1, 2012, the final post-TPLO check-in: Dr. Patterson observed Luna walk, asked me some questions, and pronounced Luna now free to run, play, do whatever activity she would like to do.

He recommended longer walks and losing more weight: “Little changes make a difference: a
mounded cup of dog food versus a flat cup can quickly lead to weight gain.” (So true.)

A lovely photo of a yellow lab dog hangs on the wall of the exam room.

A yellow lab observes all from a photo on the wall of the exam room: A reassuring presence.

Next Dr. Johnson arrived: “Luna! You are doing great! Look at you standing so well!” Followed by, “Oh! I should greet the owner first,” extending her hand with a big smile. Distracting Luna with a biscuit,. Dr. Johnson injected, seemingly painlessly, Adequan into Luna’s scruff. (Adequan is a kind of a super glucosamine-chondroitin supplement to “support” her joint function.)

In February, 2013, we will check back with Dr. Johnson, just to make sure Luna has continued to grow stronger and thinner. (We’ve got to increase the exercise and reduce the calorie intake, girlfriend.)  Until then, we will visit once a month for an Adequan injection and to step on the scale in the lobby.

Great job, Luna! 

My questions:  What makes some vets (and other people) better at “talking” to their patients?  Do they do something different? Are they themselves, at their core, somehow “different”

What do you think?