Friday, April 30, 2010

The forgotten dog.

For three days last week Wilf slumped around the house like a canine version of a difficult adolescent - he didn't want to play, he didn't want to be tickled, he didn't really want to do much of anything other than eat , pretend to chase squirrels and be near his little brother. Over the last couple of days there has been a marked change in his outlook on life. With Digby slowly on the mend Wilf is once again back to being the 24/7 household jester. He is absolutely everywhere. Yesterday morning Yves, Ross the wild haired Irishman, and the morose lad in the blue bib overalls were presented with a ball within seconds of their arrival at the front door. While Ross sat in the van smiling angelically in his morphine induced haze, Yves and the lad were earning their keep by racing round the garden throwing the ball with a pouncing, yelping Wilf in hot pursuit.

The day soon got even better. As the mayor and the committee members arrived Wilf was there carefully sniffing each hand to see if they had remembered to bring sausages. Satisfied that there was nothing good to be had he settled himself down under the table where he snored manfully away while the minutes of the last meeting were read out loud. It proved to be an entertaining and useful distraction from the mordacious disagreements among the village folk over who had agreed to be responsible for what. Vol au vents remain a contentious issue. The latest rancour revolves around who will take telephone reservations for seats - the flower folk or the roads and byeways people? 'The font' displaying an unerring sense of diplomacy suggested that as everyone in the village was so busy doing so many important things perhaps the reservations could be handled by the local tourist office who have the phones and the staff. This ( to me at least ) practical suggestion will be the subject of discussion at next weeks steering committee. The gathering came to an early end when Wilf started to pass wind - an offshoot of the liver,beef and vegetable soup that was made for Digby but which Wilf wolfishly devours . Wilf, I shall be ever greatful to you for your exquisite sense of timing.

Digby is still sleeping twenty three hours a day but the gradual improvement continues. His temperature is back up to 37. Your comments about cottage cheese, scrambled eggs and other cures and treats are all duly noted and experimented with. Sourcing pumpkin for the pumpkin treats is proving to be a bit more difficult in this part of rural France. Thank you all so much.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The slurping zebra.

Having spent the last week worrying about high temperatures we now have a new twist to the tale - low temperatures. Digby is reacting badly to the cortisone and his temperature has fallen sharply to just 36.5 degrees.He's also started to drink manically, slurping down a bowl of water every hour on the hour - day and night.The sound he makes as he hoovers up the liquid would do justice to a large herd of zebra at a watering hole. What goes in must of course come out and this morning he and his nursing staff were out in the garden for a 'pit stop' at 1.34 and again at 3.50. If the standard of posting starts to decline put it down to sleep deprivation.

Despite this latest setback we are both becoming much more confident that Digby's on the right track . What a horrible, horrible disease this is - jaundice, liver damage, anaemia and who knows what else all roled into one. He had his seventh set of blood tests yesterday and there is no sign of kidney problems - that is a huge relief. After the daily trip to the vets 'the font' spent much of yesterday making a healthy soup of beef, liver and vegetables to try to get iron and nutrients into his system. Digby, the intended recipient, wasn't sure about it but Wilf loved his - and his brothers.

The joiners came unexpectedly yesterday morning to continue with the installation of the library. Yves, Ross ( the wild haired Irishman) and the morose lad all showed up at eight. Ross has somehow hurt his back and is on morphine. He sat on a chair watching the other two work, his neck in a brace, and a pharmaceutically enhanced smile beatifically etched on his lips. He looked for all the world like one of those ninth century Irish saints in the midst of a vision. The morose lad has had his head totally shaved by his girlfriend ( badly) and was doing his adolescent best to look menacingly cool, a gauloise dangling unlit from his bottom lip. Something in me wanted to tell him that the light blue bib overalls detracted from the studied froideur. Digby spent much of his day positioned on a pile of blankets in the hallway to observe the comings and goings of our inept , glacially paced, woodworking trio.

Today is the day for the next committee meeting . On the agenda approval of the poster for the June concert in the village church. The two mutually loathing groups are due in half an hour. What's the betting the mayor starts off by saying there's no politics in this village?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Green at the gills

Madame Bay arrived bright an early. Digby was singled out for special attention and had his hair tousled and his chin tickled. This unexpected greeting was not well received and she got a stern ' for heavens sake woman don't you know I'm sick ?' look in return.

As Madame Bay hoovered noisily away in the house , windows flung open and radios turned en masse to the nostalgia channel and the sound of the Beach Boys, Wilf and Digby decamped to the peace and quiet of the courtyard. Such is Digbys loathing of the vacuum cleaner that he even made it down the stairs under his own steam . While Wilf raced around in search of squirrels and other excitement Digby was content to sit gently soaking up the sunshine. As you can maybe see from the photos he is still decidedly green at the gills but the new antibiotics seem to be having a beneficial effect - he again recognizes us and his brother.

The wee tike had another visit to the vets for tests and for the first time in nearly a week managed a weak grrrrr... of disapproval when the blood test was taken. Another sign if one was needed that some gradual return to his usual 'don't mess with me' self is underway.

Thank you so much for all your comments of support I'll slowly try to get round to thanking each of you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One step forward, two steps back

A marvellous start to yesterday, Digby's temperature fell and everyone was feeling upbeat. Then in the afternoon it began to rise again and it was off to the vet for another cortisone shot and a change of antibiotics as a blood test showed he still had too many white cells.

On waking this morning we thought he had vanished in the night but a quick search revealed he was hiding behind the bedroom curtain. His appetite has still not recovered and he's very sleepy. Will update later.

A hint of mischief ?

Another restless night, but not as troubled as Friday and Saturday. His eyes and gums are very yellow from the jaundice, he's finding it painful to move but his temperature is now set below 40. At the risk of tempting fate it looks as though the cortisone is kicking in. This morning he's had some tiny slivers of roast chicken and liver and he is sitting at the front door on a plumped up pillow keeping an eye on Wilf. There is a hint of mischief in his attitude.

Thank you again for all your comments of support and advice - they have certainly cheered us up. For the first time in four days we are looking on the bright side.

Off to the vets for a check up and a hydration drip as some of you suggested. Will post later.

Not without a fight.

Despite being a gruff Calvinist I'm enough of a modern man to admit to having one or two moments of 'heightened' emotion yesterday when it looked as if Digby was on the home straight. The lovely vet in town told us in the nicest possible way that everything that could be done, had been done. With the red blood cell count collapsing a blood transfusion was simply out of the question and there is a limit to how much cortisone can be prescribed. At lunchtime and again at eleven last night his temperature had soared back to 40 +, his breathing was shallow and raspy, and his little body was being racked by spasms. All we could do was hold him close and let him feel our love.

Yet, here we are on Sunday morning and he's still with us. It was ,to put it mildly, a difficult night but in the wee hours of the morning I caught him looking at me with a feisty glare that seemed to say ' I'm not going without a fight'. He can't keep anything down, jaundice has set in, his temperature seems to remain determinedly elevated, and he's clearly distraught but boy he's tenacious. This morning we've carried him downstairs and laid him out by the front door on a warm bed . That way he's near his big brother. Who knows where the next few hours or days will take us but I know he's going to give it everything he's got and then some.

Thank you so much for all your comments - they mean so much. What great tenderness and care exists among people.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Update on Digby.

With Digbys temperature hovering obdurately close to 41 yet another visit to the vet - the third in 24 hours. More cortisone injections. The tests show that his kidneys are continuing to function normally. However,sadly the blood tests also show that his auto immune system is still destroying red blood cells and causing liver damage. This happens in only about 5% of cases.

After another troubled night this morning we've carried him downstairs and placed him on a soft rug by the front door where he can watch his big brother and breathe fresh air. That way he's where he'd want to be - at the centre of everything that's going on. He's sleeping more and more and becoming less and less interested in what's happening around him. We'll go back to the vet later this morning to see if there is anything else that can be done.

Thank you so much for all your kind thoughts and prayers. They have been heartwarming . Doubly so as they come from folks we've never met and yet who still take the time to care.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Digby dozes, plays and then dozes.

The good news is that the infection seems to have responded to the treatment Digby received on Wednesday. The uncertainty remains over what damage has been done to his organs. The wee fellow is still running a high temperature and is very anaemic and weak. He'll play with his big brother for a few minutes but then gets quickly tired out. His gums and the inside of his eyelids are almost white. He has no appetite but a chronic thirst - he drank two bowls of water first thing . 'The font' thinks this manic drinking might be a sign of liver problems. In addition to the antibiotics the vet has prescribed a supplement to help his kidney functions. He's also on a strange gel like food substitute which provides him with all the basic nutrients and vitamins. The supplement has to be syringed into the extremely unwilling patients mouth while the gel is wrapped in a sliver of enticing ham to get him to swallow it.

Thanks for all your comments yesterday. I too had thought that Frontline and the tick collar together with the finger tip checks would be a good defence. Apparently not. The infection from these brown ticks is passed on when the tick first bites the animal. Frontline will kill the tick but by then its too late. The only solution is to keep your dog in the garden . No more morning and afternoon walks for Wilf through the village until the peak of the tick season passes.

Do any of you have any tips on dealing with anaemia ? Any tips would be very welcome.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Digby gets sick.

At seven yesterday evening Digby refused to eat his dinner. Loss of appetite happens from time to time so we weren't too worried. Ten minutes later he then studiously ignored his favourite treat disdainfully throwing it on the ground as if he couldn't stand the sight of it. Refusing goodies is less usual but happens when he has an upset stomach from eating something 'suspect' on one of his daily walks. We should have known something was wrong when he then settled down at the foot of the stairs oblivious to what was going on around him - his lack of curiosity unusual in a dog who thinks he both owns and runs the house.

We checked to see that his gums were red and his eyes clear. Everything seemed fine but agreed to take him to the vet if there was no improvement in his listlesness by morning. Right on queue the poor wee thing then started to tremble all over and within five minutes fell into a trance like stupor. A quick call to the angel of a vet who was just closing up for the night and we were off with him to the surgery. Within two minutes of taking a blood test she came back with the diagnosis - tick disease. The fifth case she had diagnosed that day. A dose of steroids and then an anaesthetic before administering the large and painful anti-parasite injection in a vinegar solution. Despite Frontline, a tick collar, and finger tip checks Digby had been bitten by a brown tick which had infected him with the haemorrhagic disease.

Digby finally fell asleep at four this morning after a sleepless night ( both for him and for his nursing team ).The question now is whether we've caught it before the organs start to haemorrage. We'll know later on today . I'm off for a nap now while he's still out of it and will post later. Wilf with the processionary caterpillars and now Digby with the brown ticks. Children are much easier patients.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mutual loathing and the chintz turban.

The meeting of the mutually loathing village associations - the village floral society and the beautiful roads and byeways group - passed without descending into outright physical violence. Madame Bay , adorned in what appeared to be a chintz turban and matching house coat, ushered the attendees into the dining room with either a scowl ( roads and byeways) or a beam ( floral) . No doubting where her loyalties rest.

After discussing the operation on the mayors hand ( succesful but the food in the hospital was execrable ) the quality of the croissants at the various local bakers,the price of pork , and the medications the mayor was taking for post-operative pain, the meeting proper began. The deputy mayors suggestion that we have a light snack and a glass of wine after the concert , rather than a four course meal, was unanimously agreed. The fact that it was 'the font' and not the deputy mayor who manipulatively slipped this little ' oh, how sophisticated, refined and correct' rewriting of history into the conversation went unnoticed in the general rancour. Amid much trilling about the stylishness of these modern Parisian ideas all thoughts of minced beef and anchovy pizza disappeared. The culinary battleground has now switched to which association can create the best vol au vents. A strong rearguard action was fought by those who thought that armagnac should be added to the list of refreshments on offer . Thankfully, armagnac and pastis ( clearly a favourite of the little lady in the lilac hat ) were ruled out on cost grounds.

Progress was also made on the proposed post-concert tour of the villages pride and joy - the recently restored sixteenth century pottery kiln ( see bottom photo). Signs will be erected from the village hall and attendees will be encouraged to go and see the display of pottery making. The village floral society will be responsible for firing the thing up while Oustric, head of the roads and byeways group, will prepare the pottery to go into the kiln . It was at this point that I moved into a state of complete boredom induced torpor - my body was present but my thoughts were far,far away. 'The font' informs me that next weeks meeting will be about publicity and making reservations.

Wilf and Digby had a wonderful day. They were delighted to greet everyone whether they came from the floral society or the roads and byeways group. Sadly, no one took them up on their offer to spend the morning throwing a ball. Better luck next time.

Flights to London from Toulouse were cancelled so I'm at home to oversee the plumber and his team as they attempt to deal with last weeks tiny accident with the fosse septique.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eyjafjallajokull problems continue.

Walking with Wilf and Digby at dusk we saw the unusual sight of two planes flying over, contrails streaming behind them in the clear air. Both of us stopped in our tracks and stared skywards in awe. Let it not be said that country living has dented our street cred - we remain as sophisticated as ever.

Should I stay or should I go ? We've cancelled most of our travel plans for the next couple of weeks but I'm supposed to be in London for a meeting tomorrow night. In the papers this morning the headlines talk of another cloud of dense ash winging its way towards UK airspace. Londons airports remain closed today so it's anyones guess how the airlines will get their schedules up and running again overnight. I'll pack just in case British Airways manages somehow to get airborne . I'd put my chances of going at 60-40 against.

'The font' was the only one to show up for the exam. The invigilator was there, the papers were there, but the twenty or so Airbus engineers who had also been taking the course were scattered in different spots across the globe. Eyjafjallajokull has a lot to answer for.

Through all of this Wilf and Digby continue to be a source of hilarity. Wilf , who does not like to be away from the kitchen for long, has taken to sleeping scrunched up on the doorstep. This is textbook Polish Lowland behaviour. He has us all herded exactly where he wants us. More importantly if anyone should try to leave the flock he will be the first to know about it.

Today we have the next meeting of the village associations to discuss the concert. The programme has been finalised with the orchestra . Now all we have to do is temper the villagers over enthusiasm. A full report tomorrow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dreaming of the finer things in life.

The area around our little village was the hottest place in France yesterday - the thermometer by the front door showed 35 degrees - 100 or thereabouts for you Fahrenheiters. Definitely a day for Wilf and Digby to settle down on the lawn under the shade of the cherry trees and cogitate on the finer things in life - sausages, chicken and apple pie. In Digby's case his day dreams probably also involved the literally ravishing Claudette. For the rest of us it was a day to cut the grass, see whether the irrigation system works ( it doesn't) and try to rearrange our lives in a world without air travel.

'The font' headed off in the car last night to take an exam on the riveting topic 'New developments in Mathematics'. There is a stultifying numbness creeping slowly up my fingers as I type the words. Of all the possible subjects that one could choose to study only 'the font' could find one with headline grabbing topics like Conics, Matrix transformations and Polynomials . Ideal topics to discuss with the two nuclear physicists who live in the village but a conversational desert as far as yours truly is concerned. 'The font' has headed off for the exam but as there has been no postal delivery we have no idea whether the examiner or the exam papers have made it across the channel.

A plane flew over yesterday afternoon - like eighteenth century Polynesian islanders we both rushed out onto the terrace to look at the strange thundering apparition in the sky . Air France were making a test flight from Paris to Toulouse to check for ash particles. German and UK air space looks as though it will remain closed for another 24 hours but on the basis of their test flight the French are hinting that the airports in the south may open up later today. The latest lunatic idea is to fly all the Europeans stranded in the US or Asia to Madrid and then put them on boats or coaches back home. 200,000 Brits alone fall into this category. I'll have to ask the font what the correct term is for chaos multiplied by chaos. Chaos squared?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What's all the fuss about ?

Roses were on sale in the market square at €2 for a bunch of 20. The local grower simply can't get them shipped by air to Amsterdam. Instead of having his flowers sit idly in storage he's sensibly getting rid of them at knock down prices. I felt sorry for him and bought five bunches.With the benefit of hindsight this was beyond rose overkill - more like rose addictive disorder. To make matters worse he generously threw in two bunches of paeonias for free. Every vase in the rickety old farmhouse is now brimming over with blooms and the place is beginning to smell like a West Hollywood florists.

The local supermarket was chaotic. People have woken up to the fact that the closure of much of Europe's air transport system will go on for much longer than expected. Staples were being diligently stocked up on. It wasn't exactly panic buying but the check out lines were longer than they were at Christmas.

Yesterday was spent rearranging travel plans. Trips to London and Warsaw were cancelled as it dawned on us that travel will be suspended for just as long as the volcano continues to erupt. 'The font' is supposed to be taking an exam tomorrow and we don't know if the papers have arrived or if the test has been cancelled. The great and the good are in the same boat. The Norwegian Prime Minister had to fly from Washington to Madrid and then arrange to drive all the way to Oslo. That's kind of like flying to Seattle to get to Brooklyn. The German Chancellor somehow made it to Lisbon and after driving to the north of Italy was about to get on a bus to Berlin.

While we worry about American friends who are stuck in London - " yes of course you can stay in the flat, the only problem is how do we get the keys to you ? " - Wilf and Digby are enjoying themselves. Their checklist is easy - lunch, dinner, treats,games, toys and tickles.