Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lily's Beautiful Baby Boy

This is going to be a long one ladies and gents. Pour yourself a cuppa or something stronger....

We always knew we would be paranoid when we realised Lily the alpaca was pregnant again. It was almost planned! About a year ago Alan and I had discussed getting the girls pregnant. It was going to be Lily's last attempt as she had sadly lost her last two cria. The previous two were both born a month premature. The first arrived on the day one of my granddaughters was born, and I was in England. She lived for 4 days, and poor Alan had to deal with the nightmare on his own.  The second baby lived just a matter of hours and died beside Lily and myself.  How on earth were we going to cope if this baby had problems!

The boys must have great hearing or intuition, as a matter of days after we had discussed matings, big Arf the mastin was going ballistic in the middle of the night. Arthur is very good at letting us know when something is going on that we should know about. It may be a kitten close to his lookout point, or an alpaca nibbling a tree it shouldn't, he's always first to inform us. He's a good lad! Alan dashed out in his boxers and found the boys in with the girls. The great thing about living so rural is that you can be in your underwear most of the day and not be seen! I called through the window to see if he needed help. He called back "Can you bring me a t-shirt and a torch. The bloody boys are in with the girls, and I'm having a problem seperating them!" Usually most things can be stopped with a bucket of food, yes even that, and eventually calm was restored. For anyone that doesn't know, alpacas are self induced ovulaters, the females don't have a 'season'. When they mate the egg is released. I remember having this conversation with a young Canadian man, who was delighted to think for about 10 seconds that female alpacas laid eggs!

The deeds had been done and we were doing everything we could  to keep the girls, especially Lily, stress free. Alan went back to England for a long weekend at the beginning of June and the day he came back we noticed Lily's rear end, when she was lying down was bulging, like there was a little nose there, just ready to make an appearance.  So from then our worries really started. Thankfully that bulge did not make an appearance until Friday August 15th.

We had been setting the alarm for 7am, and basically checking the girls, especially Lily about every half hour.  The longer she went, the happier we were. On  Friday 15th Alan fed the girls to enable him  to have a good look at them at 11.30am. At 12 he toddled off again, and came running back panting "She's had the baby!" Sure enough a baby was on the floor of the stable. Lily was standing over it, looking as proud as punch. The cria was flat on the floor, just trying to lift it's head, it was still very wet with the membranes from the birthing sack all over him. Alan dried the cria gently, he checked the cord wasn't bleeding and he put iodine on it. We were rather chuffed to see it was a boy, as Lily's last two cria were girls. We sat on the floor giving them some space, and whilst wondering how we could have missed the birth when we have hardly taken our eyes off her, we watched and waited in awe at the miracle of the birth we had just missed.



The minutes went by and this little boy struggled to get to his feet and we gasped and "awww'ed" as he would fall to the floor again.  He would summon up all his strength and try again, time after time. Once he was up he would be able to look for the milk supply and hopefully start feeding. Alan and I weren't moving from the floor in the barn anytime soon, although we were getting bitten to smithereens by some sort of  blasted nibbling flies that wanted our blood!  Alan was getting anxious that the little boy was taking his time standing, and that maybe he would not be able to feed.  I tried to calm Alan down reminding him it was very early afternoon, he had the rest of the day until nightfall, before we needed to worry. The last thing we wanted was Lily and her cria to feel any stress from us. Plus I really did think he would get there, eventually.



Time went on, and even I began to worry a little. The little fella was up on his feet but he was struggling to find the udders, and when he did all he seemed to do was lick them. Of course we tried to help him latch on as you would to a human baby but he  couldn't seem to get the hang of it. He was exhausted and wanted to sleep, but we knew he would be hungry too.  We made a decision to give him powdered colostrum.  We knew it wasn't perfect for him but at that stage we thought it was the best option. Like a baby with a bottle for the first time it didn't go perfectly but he did manage to take some. We were then happy for him to have a little sleep. We checked Lily's udders to see if she had milk, and she had it in all 4, although very little was coming out. We collected what we could and the most we got was 4 mls! We guessed we were having to go down the bottle feeding route and Alan did as much research as he could online with regard to which milk he should have.



If any other alpaca owners are reading this, please remember that we live in a very rural part of Spain, and I sometimes question our craziness in having these beautiful animals here. We are lucky in the fact that we have very little humidity, even though we do have very high temperatures. We don't have any goat farms near us that we know of (although in the last couple of weeks we have been informed by our vet that there is one) so we do what we can for our animals, although we know we don't always have the facilities that other alpaca owners have.

The first milestone to  cross is always the birth, the next being alive for 24 hours, which Lily's previous baby sadly did not. We were doing well!  We knew we would not relax until baby had passed 4 days, and then at a week old we would shout of our joy from the roof tops!




So this 'Little Fella' was bottle feeding, he was enjoying it immensly and made cute moans like a baby does when having milk.  We began to be aware that we hadn't seen him have a poo.  Although apparently they only do a tiny bit and it can be easy to miss, but something worried us and we discussed it with our vet. He suggested we wait until his second day and if we still hadn't seen anything to try an enema.   Alan is not an enema specialist, but it's suprising what you can do when you feel you have too. The strange thing was the tube came out as clean as it went in.  The vet suggested to give him a gentle laxative as the milk needed a bit of help moving from his tummy.

At first he enjoyed the laxative, we put it in a syringe and he lapped it up, I also thought maybe he was thirsty so we also gave him a little water too which he also enjoyed. All this time he was still trying to feed from his mum, but we didn't think he was managing to get any or much milk. The laxatives and enemas seems to be working and Alan and I began to relax. Especially when we passed day 4! On around Day 8 Alan emailed a lady that had been a part of Alan's crowd funder project last year. He had raised some funds for publicity, and one of the rewards was to name a cria. We had been in touch previously and informed the lady of the birth, but she knew we wanted a few more days before we named him.  She was delighted to hear he was doing well and her and her daughter named him 'Milagro'  It is Spanish for miracle, and we thought it was the perfect name for our little miracle boy. In fact we even went out for a drink and a bite to eat with friends on day 7. Then sadly things then changed on day 8! The swimming pool hoover had broken, and so we decided to nip into Cordoba and buy a new one as Milagro was doing ok. We would only be a couple of hours, we wouldn't hang about.




We arrived home and made up "Little fella's" bottle, plus whatever else we needed to take out to him. He was also on a general antibiotic, as well as enemas 2 or 3 times a day, plus his liquid paraffin laxative. He seemed ok apart from his little face was soaking wet where his eyes had been streaming. I bathed his eyes in pre boiled water  and hoped they would settle or we would need eye drops to add to the routine. Later on  that evening, when we went out to do the last feed we had a bit of a shock. Within seconds I could see his eyes looked different. From beautiful solid black eyeballs, they had changed to what looked like a marble. His eyes were cloudy and no longer solid black. Then the most upsetting thing happened, he walked into a wall! We were shocked and upset, and then to top things off, he began walking around in a small circle! After his bottle we watched as he settled down in a cozy cush position and closed his eyes.  As worried as we both were we left him and immediately looked online for any ideas what could be wrong! As well as his eyes looking different the skin around them were very red also,  and his little nose and mouth. The redness around his eyes could be a symptom of another huge problem called 'sepsis!' Also the fine fleecy hairs around Milagro's eyes and mouth seemed to be falling out. Bless his heart!

Alan fairly quickly found something that looked as though it maybe what was causing Milagro the problems he was having.  It was called Thiamine deficiency induced polioencephalomalacia (PEM) for short.  There are many symptoms of PEM but our little cria was showing signs of the following, which are all symptoms..

decreased appetite
staggering or unsteady gait
elevated head or stargazing
head or ear twitching

The acute stage of PEM is typically characterized by
increased severity of symptoms seen in subacute PEM
blindness

The only thing that made us feel the teeniest bit positive was if we could get some thiamine B1 into the baby he SHOULD be ok! First the hunt for it! On Amazon.com you can buy it for your household pets. Here in Spain it's a totally different story. We could buy it, however only a Vitamin B complex with vitamin B1, with also B6 and B12 too. We had to buy that, and get him started as soon as possivble, whilst trying to source a 'complete' thiamine in the meantime.

Little Milagro remained in this condition for a few days, apart from one of his eyes turned into a red ball! so we decided we needed to get some plasma into him as soon as possible. We hoped our friend Jane in Gaucin would have some although it would have meant a 8 hour round trip and we would need to consider the crias injections etc throughtout that day. As it happened she didn't have any but an other friend Alison in the north of Spain did, and she managed to get some sent to us. Unfortunately it took a day longer than we hoped but we had to be patient. It was delivered straight to our vet, and Andres contacted us and he came straight to us to give the little fella the transfusion. At this point he was still pretty fiesty, which of course was a great sign, but we thought it may prove difficult for a slow dripping transfusion going into his vein.

For anyone that has not had any dealings with alpacas, they are a nightmare to find their veins, especially in the crias. Their  jugular vein is hidden behind the oesophagus, therefore all of us, including Andres were hoping it would not be too difficult to find the vein , let alone get the blood plasma into him. We decided to take him into our casita so Lily wouldn't be humming whilst we were dealing with him, which would then  of course upset him too. So we gave the  ladies a little food and we managed to take him without Lily noticing. Luckily Andes hit the jackpot first time, although little Miligro did wriggle around quite a lot, and in the end the three of us were like statues.  I got lucky and managed to sit on Andres's  medical box, whilst Alan and Andres had sore knees for the following hour. We all managed to be still enough for Milagro to be calm and just after an hour the procedure was finished. After the canula was removed we took him straight back to his mum, who clucked around him like a mother hen, and he tried to drink from her, something he was still doing regularly even though there was very little, if any milk for him.

That evening, although exhausted we mentally allowed ourselves to relax, just a little. We were doing everything we could.  Little Milagro was having his thiamine, antibiotics, eye drops and he had now had his blood plasma.  I remember saying to Alan "Is that it? Does that really mean he will be ok now?" We had always thought that once he had his plasma he would no longer be susceptible to picking up infections, and once we got the PEM under control he would be ok.



We continued the treatments but the good news was  Milagro  no longer needed his enemas and we were reducing his laxatives as his digestive system seem to have kick started. He  could go to the toilet on his own now, like a big boy, but whilst grunting and groaning like a toddler! At least he could go! We were however concerned the Little Fella's eyes didn't seem to be improving and that was a worry. It did  cross my mind, would it be fair to keep him alive if he was blind? Alan had read about a  cria that was blind and followed his mum by the tinkling of a bell around her neck. Personally I wasn't sure.  He should be able to run, pronk and play and little Milagro would not even walk far, as he had no understanding of where he was in the paddock  and when we took them inside for most of the day, due to the heat, he would walk slowly and carefully as he knew there were walls all around him.

We never had to make that decision......
Day 16 of our beautiful little boys life, and in the afternoon he didn't want his bottle. In the early evening I noticed his breathing had changed, and I have since questioned myself over and over again, why I did not insist on getting the vet out that evening. We telephoned him and he suggested we take his temperature and give him a different antibiotic which would also help his respiratory system, plus another injection to help bring his temperature down. So Alan shot into town and bought them, and it was arranged for Andres to come first thing the following morning.  When we first took his temperature it was 40.4.  I bathed him with cool water to try and cool him down. During the night we took his tempeature again and it had dropped slightly to 39.6, and he would not take any milk but he took a good drink of water.  We were relieved and although his breathing was the same, we thought he had improved slightly.

At 9am Alan collected Andres our vet as arranged. The moment he looked at our  little boy he shook his head and said "No me gusta"  (I don't like) we discussed the treatment we had been doing and he suggested getting an x-ray of Milagro's lungs, at the vetinary hospital at the university in Cordoba and we would decide where we go from there. Alan and I suggested we go immediately, so we took Andres back to his surgery and he telephoned the vetirinary hospital and explained the situation, and told them we were on our way.

The drive from Montoro to Cordoba would have taken not much more than 20  minutes. Our little boy was struggling to breathe and it was becoming uncomfortable to see and to listen to.  I think in my heart I had thought he wasn't going to get through this, but I didn't say.  I stroked him gently as I sat in the back with him, but he was still fairly strong and kept his head up, as I guess it was easier from him to breathe in that position. About 2 minutes before we arrived at the hospital Milagro made a gasping sound, I didn't like it! At around this same time two tears fell. It took me a few seconds to realise they were tears! The first landed on my hand the second on the seat of the  car.  I said to Alan to go a little faster, I was frightened we were going to lose him. Alan pulled up right outside the door as he took 2 more gasps and put his head on the seat beside me. They were his last breaths!  I said quietly to Alan "We're too late" Alan didn't want to believe it, he leapt out of the car and took the baby out and rushed up the stairs. When two young vets saw the limp little baby in Alan's arms they rushed over with their stethoscopes. Alan lay the baby alpaca on  the floor, and we all knew it was too late, he had gone.

As the tears fell from my eyes Alan told me to wait outside. I sat on the stairs and sobbed for about a minute, then pulled myself together, Alan needed support too.There were other people waiting to be seen, goodness knows how they felt.  They would have no idea what this little baby was, and then for it to be lying, and not breathing on the floor, I hope it didn't upset any of them too much. The two young vets listened to his heart, they said "We are sorry!" but we knew.

There was  no mention of keeping the little baby for a necropsy  but Alan and I both  knew in our hearts we hard to take him home for Lily. So we carefully lay him in the back of the car and Alan held me tight for a few minutes before we climbed in for the long drive home. We were heartbroken once again.  I got into the back seat and stroked the little boy most of the way home.

When Lily lost her first baby, Alan took it to the veterinary hospital and he didn't bring her home.  Lily cried for 2 whole weeks every time she saw Alan, she wanted her baby back, and Alan was the one who took it away. The second baby she lost was with Lily when it died so she cried only for 2 or 3 days.  That was the day Alan, I and Andres witnessed the tear that ran from Lily's eye! It wasn't until we were both in the  car we admitted to each other that we both wanted to take the baby back to her if the worst was to happen.  We know how badly alpacas can grieve. Alan had read online about someone that had covered their baby with a towel and then after a while took the body away.  The mother and other alpacas thought the baby was still underneath the towel.  It was in  the high 30's on day 17 and we could not leave the cria outside too long.  Lily had been left inside as they would normally, due to the heat since having her cria.  As soon as we opened the gate she quickly moved towards the cria on the ground.  Bermuda also seemed quite upset and sniffed the baby for a while and Lily hummed loudly as we knew she would.  After about 15 minutes we placed a towel over him and and a little while later Alan took our 'Little Fella' to his final resting place, leaving the towel there.  We left the towel for quite a while but maybe it wasn't long enough.  At he end of the day it may have eased Lily's pain to think she had her baby with her a little longer, but he was  no longer alive, humming for her, and trying to find his milk.

We will do everything  in our power to ensure Lily  never has to feel this pain again. As for us, the pain becomes harder each time.  Losing this beautiful boy, has completely knocked me for six. and I'm not sure how many more times we can also go through this! Fences are being re constructed so no naughty boys will be able to escape!

Can I say on behalf of Alan and I how fantastic the alpaca forums have been.  We have put many posts on there and have always had helpful advice from  people that have gone through similar experiences, or simply want to offer their support to us when it was most needed.  Also very grateful thanks to our good friend Ginny Cobb who immediately telephoned us when she saw our first question on a forum, and who was there with us every step of the way.  Thank you Ginny. 

I have decided to only put what I consider  nice photos of our little cria. 

RIP Milagro, also known as 'Little Fella'  you were just too beautiful for this world!












Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kittens.... Somewhere!

We had a gorgeous cat here called Barb, she was here before we moved in. About a year ago sadly she disappeared. We think possibly she was ill, and she simply took herself off to pastures new. Last spring she had a litter of kittens, they all grew up beautiful and strong. We now had three female cats plus a male. Usually every year Barb would hold some kind of meeting. I imagine it to be a little like a Disney film, where they would sit around her and she would decide who should be the next to leave home. They would have a little spotted hanky on a stick, leaning on their shoulder and off they would go, on their next adventure. Gradually they would all leave and she would give birth to her next litter. This year however with no Barb, the four stayed. We could see the three females were pregnant, we were also a tad concerned we maybe over run with little kitty cats! Last years litter were named Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Mo.

One morning we noticed Eeny's tummy had gone, she had obviously given birth. We looked around as discretely as we could, but saw no signs of any kittens. Next, a couple of days later it was Meeny, again the slightly saggy, empty looking tummy, but also no signs of any kittens. Last but not least was little Mo. Miny is the only male, in case you were wondering, but he wasn't the dad. I think possibly next year he maybe tough enough to give it a go, but there were a couple of larger males that he did try and stand up to, although they won this year. Every evening after feeding the alpacas I would do a little hunt and always came back disappointed. On looking at the new mums occasionally I would suspect they had just been feeding, as their little nipples would appear larger. A couple of weeks later we still had no idea however if the new kittens were doing ok, or indeed how many there were!

We would watch the cats and try and follow them, and one day we had the shock of our lives when we heard meowing from tiny kittens. Would you believe the smallest of the mums, Mo, had brought her 2 tiny kittens to show us. They were in the indoor outdoor garden, and she had left then in a big plant holder. They were there just for 24 hours then she moved them on again. One was grey and quite a good size, the other was black which a strange stumpy tail and a little smaller. You can just make out Little grey kitten but the little black one was hiding in a corner.


It was quite a few days later that Alan noticed Meeny going in and out of a small outbuilding, the same place in fact where she was born just over a year ago. Alan did an impersonation of Bear Grylls and clambered in. Small gap for a big bloke,... sorry Alan! I'm not sure what this building would have been used for in the past, but it has holes in the walls inside it. As Alan shone his torch in, he could see some little wriggling bundles, in one of the holes. He wasn't sure how many, but they were alive and moving around, they seemed to be mainly grey and white, the same as mum. A part solved mystery there.

Another week or so went by but there was still no sign of Eeny's kittens, until one evening I spotted her going around behind the pool pump. It's a bit of a wilderness with metre high weeds and there is a small ruin too. I crept in behind her, and she was lying amongst the weeds growling to warn me off. She had her babies there. No idea how many, or if they were ok, but she was protecting something, we had to be patient.

Whilst feeding the alpacas one night we spotted in between the bales of hay in the barn, two tiny kittens, the little grey one and little black stumpy Jack, with a stump for a tail. Little Mo was spotted going in and out of the barn, so that was one mystery solved, we now knew where they lived.

Now this is where it becomes confusing... Stumpy Jack was nowhere to be seen, but what we thought was the grey kitten that was brought to us, was trying to climb out of the chicken out house, so Alan put him in with the other kittens, in the holes in the wall. Thinking of course they had been moved by their mum. Later that night our little Miliko was barking like crazy, we thought the alpacas were fighting but it turned out little grey kitten had got himself out of the chicken  out house, and possibly fallen and was on the floor, far too close for comfort to the little dogs.

I tried for about an hour to reunite grey kitten with who we thought was it's mum, Little Mo. We were sure it was her grey kitten she had brought to show us. I even had them both on my lap at one point. I fed Mo and put the kitten near her, but she was hissing and spitting at it, and clouted it really hard a couple of times. I was totally at a loss as to what to do, it was horrible to see her turn her back on her kitten. After a little while Meeny wandered into the indoor outdoor garden and she seemed to take a bit of a shine to little grey kitten. To our great relief she seemed to foster her, and fed and washed her at least 3 times that we saw.

Little Beauty

With Mo, who doesn't want to know

Foster mum, Eeny

That evening when Alan and I went to feed the animals, little black kitten (Stumpy Jack) that did belong to Mo, peeped out from the bales of hay, with a grey kitten behind it! We had thought maybe the little black one hadn't made it, he was rather tiny. So who was this grey kitten belonging to?

After the evening dog walk, Eeny whose kittens we hadn't seen, was in the indoor outdoor garden, and Alan put the baby to her. She immediatly started rubbing her head all over him as though to get her smell onto him and she was trying to pick him up. She struggled for a bit but managed to get hold of him and dragged him off, by the scruff round by the pool filter. It must have been hers all along!

Sadly I don't have a photo of Meeny with the kitten as she packed her bags and left home just a couple of days after. Little grey kitten is doing great however.  More news on them, very soon.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

The life and times of our darling Geri

Little Geri came into my life in August 1998. The cutest little bundle of fun. An 8 week old collie cross Beagle.  We had lost our previous dog Teo a couple of months before, and we were desperately missing a dog in our house hold.

We had looked at a few rescue centres as it is where I personally prefer to obtain pets from.  We found a wonderful place near East Grinstead in the UK called Last Chance Animal Rescue, and we were actually toying between a huge English Mastiff or an 8 week old puppy. In the end the puppy had us.  I remember the day we brought her home so vividly. My dear mum had suffered a stroke about 18 months previously, and would often have mini strokes, always at such inconvenient times too!  This day was one of them.  I remember her sitting down on a chair and her face changing as I was looking at her.  I went into slight panic mode and the lovely people at the rescue centre dialled 999. Within minutes an ambulance arrived and the paramedics gave mum a good check over, but it was a slight mini stroke or TIA (transient ischaemic attack) Luckily within a matter of about half an hour she was already starting to feel better.  My dear mum loved a trawl around second hand shops,  and one time she had a TIA in the Heart Foundation Shop. Another ambulance!  Honestly what some people will do for a bit of attention!

So we brought little Geri home and oh boy was she hard work.  I'd never had a puppy before, and she would chase us around, nibbling at our heels. She probably thought she was rounding us up, or she was at least trying to. She developed eventually however into a beautiful dog, in every sense of the word.  When we moved from our house in Brighton, after we lost my mum, to Peacehaven she had regular walks to the park which was only two minutes away, and to the beach, which also was just a few minutes away.  We had 10 great years there.  It was a wonderful family home with great Christmasses, one of which Geri ate a large box of chocolates plus most of it's wrapper's that had been left under the tree. Another time my son was trying to stop smoking and Geri ate multiple packets of nicotinell chewing gum.  Luckily for us Mark's gf at the time worked in a pharmacy and insisted we telephone our vet as she was concerned it maybe poisonous to her. Good job we did, they insisted we brought her straight in and she had to stay in overnight.  They believed her heart would speed up, and then slow down to an alarming rate, and possibly stop.  They wanted to put her on a drip to try and control her heart for the night. The following day we brought her home, having been told she had enough nicotine in her to have killed her 10 times over... tough cookie, somehow she got through it!   I'm actually smiling whilst I'm typing this as I remember one day Geri came across a  partly decomposed seagull, and picked it up and carried it proudly along the seafront promenade.  It's wingspan seemed huge and were sticking out horizontally, held together by  a part of a skeleton.  I chased her to try and get her to drop it, but no way.  It was her prize possession she was so proud, I was so embarrassed!

Geri at home in Peacehaven 

The years passed by and my children were growing up fast.  When Geri was 10 years old, we made the decision to move here to Spain.  Geri had her jabs and her passport photo taken, and we were ready for the off.  Crikey did she cry when we left her at Gatwick to go into the hold.  I hated thinking about where she would be.  Would it be freezing cold? Noisy?  Would she be with the luggage?  I had no idea.  She was a terrible traveller at the best of times, and would cry continuously for the duration of any car journey.  We knew that a couple of hours on a plane would be easier than a couple of days driving.



Geri's life here in Spain was basically a lovely outdoors lifestyle.  We had a large area that she could simply live outside as much as she wanted.  As the years went on she developed arthritis, but I'm sure it would have been so much worse if we had been still living in the UK.  When we had our alpacas join us here, she enjoyed spending time with them, although she was understandably nervous at first.  Then arrived her best mate in the world, Carlos.


Carlos's first day

Carlos I found in the bushes outside our house one day, just a few months after we arrived.  Carlos and Geri got on like a house on fire. He was, and still is such a gentle soul. Then came along Arthur and Blue the mastins. At about 12 weeks old they were huge bundles of energy, that Geri would try and control but she was still the leader of the pack. Next came little Miliko, again another puppy with endless energy.  It was getting a bit too much now and Geri would watch from afar, and have a snooze unless she would feel she needed to let us know the pups were getting out of hand.

Geri's trying to be in control


With our little Miliko


The year after we arrived here, my son and his gf came for a visit.  Geri was so incredibly excited to see him, she ran around the small courtyard at top speed, then charged up a flight of stairs then suddenly yelped in pain. We immediately knew she had done something major.  She had, she had completely torn her cruciate ligament.  I was so upset when I realised she needed an operation.  The operation was done at a vetirinary surgery in Cordoba where she had excellent treatment.  Alan then spent a chilly April helping her rehabiltate in our swimming pool.







Last visit to the vet after her operation

Sadly a couple of years later, Geri suffered a cruciate ligament problem on the other leg. We think she just knocked over by one of the other dogs. This was not so bad, probably some fibres were torn, but we decided not to put her through the operation this time. She was fine, just a little slower than usual.  Having said that she would sometimes run for her dinner as fast as the others would!

Our lives were plodding along all very nicely when suddenly a couple of months ago Geri had a bit of a mishap.  I did a blog post about it.  If you need a little reminder click here......

We were well aware that Geri approaching her 16th birthday was very frail now.  She was extremely short sighted due to cataracts and totally deaf.  Although she would some how spot Miliko running around like a crazy thing if we passed through the old wooden gates into the part the little dogs lived, by our apartment (We had kept the mastins seperate for a while in case Geri got bowled over, which would occasionally happen)  To be honest when Geri had this last accident we knew the end wouldn't be to far away.  We made her as comfortable as we possibly could. She had her own sofa with the cushions taken off so she could get on and off without too much fuss.  Every morning we would wake up and she was alive, would be a bonus. Whoever was up first out of Alan and I would stroke her gently to wake her gradually, pop to the bathroom, which would give her a few minutes to come to.  She then had to be supported whilst getting off the sofa. Having said that sometimes she would be up herself, and often we would hear her up and down all night long.  Her little claws pitter pattering on the tiles as she would wander around the living room.

Last Thursday became a nightmare day for us. When we came back from a hospital check up from me, I went to check on her and she was lying on her side in the sun. Luckily it wasn’t too hot! She was trying to get up but couldn’t.  She seemed to have a problem with a front leg! We carried her in and gave her an anti-inflammatory pill, some food and water and let her sleep.  At first her breathing was very hard and fast, and to be honest I thought her heart may just have stopped at any time.  Unfortunately I had an appointment for a CT scan, that same evening, but Geri was sleeping soundly having had the pill.  We did discuss Alan staying with her, but in the end he didn't, and luckily she stayed sleeping soundly until we got back.  During the night we put cushions beside her sofa in case she tried to get up, and she was up a few times in the night. Part of the time we let her sleep on the floor, on her side where she seemed to be the most comfy. Or we would lift her back onto her sofa after we have helped her have a little toddle.

Alan emailed our vet Andres on the Thursday evening and we told him what had happened. He suggested we bring her in the following morning  for an anti-inflammatory injection.  I was very nervous of what may happen when we took her.  Deep down I thought he would say it was just a slight injury to the front leg, suggest giving her the injection and she would be ok for another few months.  There was the real worry however he would say it was indeed something major.

The devastating news was that her front leg, that we could see was injured, her shoulder was broken, and possibly dislocated too.  Andres explained we could take her to Cordoba to the vet that did her cruciate ligament operation for an x-ray and second opinion if we wished. They could operate on her, but to be honest at 16 she would probably never get through it.  Her back legs with her age were so brittle they would never stand up to having all the extra weight on them. Andres did not try and lead us one way or the other, leaving it completely up to us, but we knew she had no quality of life.  If she wanted to go anywhere we had to carry her.  What a difference a day makes!  Andres gave Geri an anti-inflammatory injection, plus he gave us 2 injections for her, for Saurday and Sunday too.  We told him we would like to take her home for the weekend and discuss things. Really what we wanted to do was hold her and cuddle her over the weekend, before making that awful desicion.  A decision I had never had to make before. When we stepped outside of the door I said to Alan, maybe we should go back and do it now.  Alan said "No, let's take her and and give her a lovely weekend at home!"  

We hoped after Geri had her anti-inflammatory injection, she would at least have a good night. Alan and I however were both up numerous times in the night.  Every movement had us leaping out of the bed to check on her. Sometimes she wanted to get up and we would have to support her tummy, as she would try desperately hard to walk.  We realised of course that she would not be feeling much pain but the broken / dislocated shoulder was not going to heal with an anti-inflammatory injection.  She was still totally unable to walk without us totally supporting her.  Alan and I understood that waiting until after the weekend was not being fair to her.  So on the Friday night we emailed Andres, and asked if he would come to our house on the Saturday morning.  Andres replied by saying "He respected our decision" and Alan was to pick him up at 9am!

Geri and I spent the time sitting on the floor together whilst Alan went to get him, and I put her on the sofa when he arrived.  The whole procedure was so kind and gentle. I've never seen it done before but I won't go into the details in case people find it upsetting, but it was over within about a minute, whilst I sat on the sofa with Geri holding her head in my hands.  Andres kept saying how sorry he was, and when the 'procedure' was finished he said "She's sleeping now" and stroked her tenderly. He continued by saying, how all we want to do is to give our pets a lovely life with us, and when they are in pain or discomfort it is good that we can help them too.  

Geri and I spent an hour together on the sofa, whilst Alan took Andres home.  It was very strange, I kept expecting to see her breathing.  Like when you look at them occasionally and they apear to stop breathing, and then they take a deep breath. Actually elderly sleeping relatives tend to do the same! Having lost alpaca cria and know how bereft the mums can become, we decided to bring Miliko and Carlos in to see Geri.  We didn't worry about Arthur and Blue as they hadn't seen her for a few weeks. The both suprised us in their own way.  Miliko is usually like a whirl wind, we lifted him onto the sofa and he extremely gently sniffed all around her head and face, very loving.  Carlos was another matter. When we lifted him up, he wouldn't look at Geri, he turned his head and he looked the other way.  We are not sure if he understood or not, but he didn't want to be there, or to see Geri like that.

One week on and we have had a busy week.  Which I'm sure was a good thing.  Alan and I have shared many cuddles (Sorry Alan ) and I have shed many tears. Arthur and Blue spend most of the day and night sleeping... nothing different there, especially this time of the year.  Little Miliko seems to have a new liking for baby bats, and seems to always have one in his mouth at the moment, bless him, and bless the poor baby bats.  Carlos is very sad, every time we walk passed him we are aware of giving him extra cuddles and more of our time.  He's been indoors this afternoon for a siesta, Miliko got thrown out as he tried to bring his bat in, but Carlos has broken into our bedroom and was curled up on our bed.  Hopefully he will be ok in a few days time.  And Geri, well she's been laid to rest inbetween two lovely olive trees.  I know that was a difficult job for Alan.

Thank you for 16 wonderful years Geri.





Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's Time for some new Chickens... Yippee!

Our original girls were down to just two, Auntie Mabel and Auntie Marjorie-Jess.  Yes you've got it, we are not a hundred percent which she is, so she now has joined the prestigious double barrelled group. We decided to wait until spring, when the weather was reasonable and also when Greyhound man's dogs were not lurking.  Grehound Man works on some of the land around us and is named as he has greyhounds... you would never have guessed!  He's not our favourite person.  He leaves his dogs in the house that he uses when he's here for a few days at a time, and we know for a fact he doesn't come back and feed them every day.  To be honest if his dogs are hungry and they come looking for chickens what can we say, nothing, the poor dogs. So we hadn't see GM for a while so we thought we would do a chicken shopping trip.

Auntie Marjorie-Jess and Auntie Mabel, before their new play mates arrived

We went to the same place in Cordoba we bought our last ones from. Well when we eventually found it again. We arrived about 20 minutes before siesta, struggled to find somewhere to park the car as two dogs were sprawled across the allocated parking area. We expected to look at a 'menu' as previously, but no this time we were allowed to follow the two young men and see for ourselves.  We explained that we lived in the campo and wanted the chickens just for eggs, we wouldn't be eating them.  We 'Ooohed and ahhhed' over some pretty ones but were put firmly in our places and told we need strong campo chickens, that would be hardy.  True of course.  There was also a gorgeous little Silkie but it was a male, and we really just want females, so he was out of the equation too.  A pure white  egg was shown to us, proving some of the chickens were already laying.  That didn't matter to us, we knew it would take them a few weeks to settle in their new home before laying again.


We chose our new girls, two of each, white, brown and black, and watched whilst they were unceremoniously hauled out of their cages, and shoved into a big box.  It always looks so undignified but I'm sure upside down is maybe the way it should be done.



A hour back home in the car, and we took them straight round to there newly cleaned out chicken room. Even the boys knew something was going on!


For a few mornings we kept the new girls in, Alan would pop round and manage to let Auntie Mabel and Auntie Marjorie-Jess out, to give them some peace from these new youngsters.  Luckily they all seemed to get along just great, with no squabbles that we were aware of.  A few days later we opened the rustic old doors and let them feel the fresh air on the faces and be free for the very first time.  Wonderful! 

                            





Friday, June 6, 2014

Eye Eye!

You are up to date with my gnashers, now my other problem, my eye.  I have been going to the eye department every month at the Reina Sofia University Hospital in Cordoba, and really cannot fault any part of my treatment.  After a few months of steroid eye drops, which haven't worked, I went onto a course of four steroid injections under my eye. When I attended the next appointment I thought it was simply going to be the same again. These injections have caused me no problems at all, although it's rather a strange feeling as you can feel the steroid fluid fill the baggy bit under your eye, as the contents are being flunged in. It remains puffy for a few hours, but it's not painful.  

I had a shock when my consultant, that I see every time, informed me the treatment was not working (which of course I was aware of) but she wanted to try a different treatment. She said those words I had been dreading (in Spanish of course!!)  "We need to change the treatment.  You need a steroid injection into your eye, or we need to try some steroid tablets!" GULP!

It was something Alan and I had discussed may happen at some point, but we have been waiting for an appointment from the rheumatologist.... ok that's something to complain about, as we have been waiting a few months now.  I wussed out of the injection in the eye.  I know people say you have drops in it, and you don't see the needle coming etc, but I couldnt find the words to ask her!  When I said to Alan "Did you think I was a big baby?" He said he thought I had done the right thing. We had discussed it would be a idea to have a consultation with a rheumy consultant first, and he or she would be looking at my sarcoidosis as a whole, and not just in my eye.  That didn't make me feel so bad.  I was prescribed a huge dose of 80 mgs every day, along with a stomach protector, and a vitamin D pill also to help prevent osteoperosis.  This is a bit of a concern as it is a known fact that people with sarc should not take Vitamin D, but once again, I struggled to find the words and took the presciptions knowing that at some point I can ask another consultant. 

Of we went to our pharmacist friend, armed with pages of prescriptions and a new stage of my life as a 'pill popper' has begun.  That first month I was taking 6 tablets a day! 

The steroid pill I have been prescribed is Prednisone. Apparently has many side effects, especially when reducing the doseage.  I have purposely tried to avoid looking at these, as I don't want to be looking for what could be a side effect, if you know what I mean. One of the the main problems with them is that they make you want to eat your body weight in food. I have looked up why your appetite increases so much, and it seems to give a false adrenaline.  For me I can feel very shaky, almost like I'm low in sugar, but even when eating, this feeling doesn't always go away.  I have also had palpitations that wake me during the night, and I will be awake for a good couple of hours, plus severe hot sweats, again especially at night time.  Of course 'me age' doesn't help, but I never had that before these pills.  However..... I have felt better than I have physically for years.  I was aware after just a few days, I wasn't reaching for headache pills.  I have suffered with headaches most of my adult life.  Not migraines but severe enough to take tablets most days.  In the three months of taking the steroids so far, I had one slight headache one day, that's fantastic for me!

My consultant saw me one after a month as usual, when all the normal tests were done on my eye.  Although I could see no difference with my sight, the scan of my retina showed an improvement during that first month, which was fabulous.  We were able to already begin to reduce the Prednisone already!  I am now taking 40 mgs a day, which is still very high, and my doseage is lowered every ten days.  Until next week when I only drop 5 mgs. Off to the hospital again on Tuesday next week, so let's hope she's still happy!

I have now sadly put on about three quarters of a stone in weight.  Having said that, if I hadn't of been doing the 5 x 50 challenge, (I shall tell you more about very soon) it would have been sooo much worse.  I also now have, well I don't think it could be described as a moon face... more Sponge Lorna Square Face!

My eye after an injection under it

Strange pupil shape, after drops to dilate my eye
Sorry about the smudged mascara!

Some great jokes for people on steroids!






Saturday, May 24, 2014

Teeth Update March... All Done Wooo Hooo!

As I said in my last blog post, which was about my trip to Brighton for Maisie's birthday, I had to extend my holiday slightly... terrible shame. When I had gone back in December for Baby Jaxon's birth, I had the bite registration plus impressions done. That was all ok apart from as my old nan would have said "I'm a good 'ealer!" Whenever the posts of the implants had to be exposed for impressions to be made, the skin on my gums would grow over the posts again very quickly. This meant I would have to have lots of injections to numb my mouth (as I'm a coward with pain, but I'm fine with injections) to expose the posts again. Well this was done however the laboratory were not completely happy with the results. We considered finding an English speaking dentist here, but then thought it was better to just extend my stay in Brighton so the same procedure could be done again, and then hopefully the implants would be all sorted for my return back to Spain at the end of the week.

Just a little reminder.... For a few years I had a problem on the left top side of my mouth, with old crowns, and a chipped front tooth that was failing very quickly. I knew eventually something sensible would need to be done but I was dreading the thought of what.  

The first consultation when the decision was made, not just to do a couple of extractions but four, and I would need a partial denture was a tough one.  As a child I had a brace and hated the feeling of it on the roof of my mouth.  It made me feel sick whilst eating, and I never kept it up.  I feared I would feel the same way.  

The extraction process and drilling into the jaw bone for the implants caused me very few problems. I was sedated, although I think I remember most of what was going on, but I really couldn’t have cared less what was being done.... it’s good stuff, you know! Having to be without a partial denture for just a few days was difficult. I felt old and ugly but hey it was only a few days, then I got a phone call a day earlier than I was expecting to say it was ready.

The denture looked amazing and it was great to have teeth again, even falsies. I have to admit I felt rather down wearing them though. I couldn’t eat lots of things, even a nice salad would be too crunchy, and I really hated that feeling of the plastic in the roof of my mouth. It rather felt like a made to measure shoe horn!

Because I live in Spain, I opted for a dentist in the UK I trusted, and of course could understand. It did mean that the length of time between the first appointment with extractions to the final fitting of the implants was a year. It would probably have been around 6 months if I had lived locally, with healing time included. 

Well I now have had my new implants for a couple of months and I find it difficult to find the words to describe how they have changed my life! I feel much more confident just knowing I don’t have a denture, AND I can eat and totally enjoy my food again. I would advise anyone considering for a moment about getting implants, that ok it’s not the nicest of procedures. I wouldn’t say painful as there can always be a top up of injections to anaesthetise any pain. I did feel a little wiped out after long procedures in the dentist chair.... BUT ... Is it worth it? Totally! Would I recommend it? Absolutely! Would I go through it again? Yes I would!

Is this an advertisment for implants? Well it wasn't meant to be!




Thursday, May 22, 2014

Brighton for the Beautiful Maisie's Birthday

The beginning of March saw me budget-airline-hopping back to the UK, to celebrate my beautiful granddaughter Maisie's fourth birthday. I had been in touch with Maisie's mummy lots before the trip, and I was over the moon to be invited to watch Maisie in both her swimming and ballet lesson during the week. Getting permission to watch a ballet lesson is a pretty big deal too, so I was very grateful!

I had actually booked to travel to Brighton the week after Maisie's birthday as I knew Mark, my son was having Maisie that following weekend.  I also sneakily extended my stay as my dental procedure needed another appointment too.

I arrived on the Friday, and was very happy to hear that plans had been made for Maisie to have a sleep over at my daughter Frankie's house with Kaci.  They are so alike, they think are are total princesses, so girly, into hair and nails and all things pretty.  It was great for me to read them both a bed time story that first night.  Plus at four years old they are not yet thinking about staying up all hours chatting, they were happy to just turn over and go to sleep!



On the Saturday we celebrated Maisie's birthday.  First stop  was to meet up with Mark and Maisie, plus a good friend of Mark and Frankie's, Martin and his little boy Dillon. Dillon is two weeks younger than Maisie.  Mark and Martin were in the same year as each other at school and were mates, but he will always be remembered by me for looking after Frankie when she had too much to drink one night when she was under age, naughty girl!  Martin looked after her and brought her home... good lad! It was great they were able to share the day with us.  The Sea Life centre was the first port of call and the kids loved it.

Touch a starfish... poor starfish!

Mark with Kaci and Maisie

Martin and Dillon

Next stop the pier and chips!  It had to be done, and it didn't disappoint!  It's one of the few things I miss here, chip shop chips... yummy!  The kids had a great time on a few of the rides too.




Photo bombed by a seagull!


After a super day all together Kaci went to her daddy for the rest of the weekend, which gave me time to have lots of cuddles with my gorgeous new grandson Jaxon.  Little Jaxon was 3 months old, and had already changed so much.  Bless his heart he has had a few health problems too.  He has been suffering with reflux, and a flappy or floppy larynx.  In other words he kept bringing his milk back up, and he had terible tummy ache since he was born.  Poor little mite was always crying, and almost constantly bringing his knees up in pain.  It must have been so difficult for Frankie.  Time after time at the doctors they told Frankie there was nothing wrong.  Eventually one day Frankie, going on her mum's intuition, paid a visit to the children's accident and emergency department at the the local childrens hopsital.  A doctor diagnosed it within a couple of minutes.  At least that put her mind at rest and they are keeping an eye on him, plus he has some medication too to try and control it. 

The following day the sun was shining brightly and Mark, Laura (Mark's girlfriend) and Maisie all came over to Frankie and Jordan's flat and we had a lovely walk along the seafront.  Although I have to admit these days, I see the sunshine and expect some heat from it.  Yes I know it was only March.  So a hot chocolate was the order of the day, before heading back again.



The holiday flew by, as it always does.  I loved spending my time with my children and gorgeous grandchildren.  It was great to be able to let Frankie have that extra hour in bed some mornings. It's not easy with two little ones. As for me, I loved my early morning wake up calls. 


I watched little Maisie in her swimming lesson, although she had a few tears, I think she was tired after a busy day at nursery.  Her ballet she got totally stuck into and concentrated really hard, bless her, even though I was watching.  Good girl Maisie, Nanny was very proud of you!


As always I managed to catch up with a few special friends, not all of course... some are already on my list for next time. I, of course managed to see Uncle Charlie, who thankfully was keeping well.  It was my job, this trip, to try and organise him a free buss pass. What an ordeal!  Having tried three different offices in town, we were told "I can see your uncle is over 65, but I'm afraid if he doesn't have a passport, driving licence or birth certificate with him, we cannot issue him with a free bus pass!"  Uncle Charlie's answer to this was "Tell the lady I swam the channel, a couple of months ago... and I did it in record time!"  Bless him!  Still no free bass pass  So we went back to his pub instead!


Kaci and I had a little scoot along the seafront one morning.  Well Kaci scooted and I walked and we enjoyed an ice cream together, whist her mummy had a bit of time with Jax. She wanted to wear her Spanish flamenco dress, but it was a bit nippy so she was wearing lots of other clothes underneath it.



Two more exciting things to do before travelling back to sunny Spain, the first was the final part of my implants (yes, the teeth still)  the second was a lovely night with the family.  As I'm not the worlds best cook, Jordan (Frankie's boyfriend) who is a very good cook, offered, or maybe I even asked him, if he would cook something nice on my last evening.  We invited Mark and Laura over too.  It was a really lovely evening, and the food was lovely, thanks Jordan.  It really finished off a lovely holiday.  Thanks so much for having me!