Archive for September, 2009

The Last Requiem

September 30, 2009

Amelia, the golden retriever, is dead. As we expected, the cancer on her spleen was not the final culprit. What did for her in the end was the mass of tumors in her lungs. Her spleen caused the recent ups and downs, when internal bleeding would start and then stop. In between episodes she was a happy golden, gobbling her food and putting her feet up on the counter, looking for more.

Two days ago she went down again, and this time her gums were red and refilled fast — probably not internal bleeding. She started having mild trouble breathing. She rallied, then declined. Stopped eating (always a bad sign in goldens).

Last night was a bad night — her breathing was labored, with lots of lung sounds — and we were somewhat surprised to see her still alive in the morning. But her head was up and her ears were up and her whole attitude said she was fighting, that this wasn’t her day to go. Unfortunately, that didn’t last.

I went to school, to teach my morning class. While I was gone, she declined some more, and MJ decided we would have to take her to the vet to have her put to sleep. I skipped out on office hours, and came home early. Just as I opened the door, MJ said, Amelia coughed up some blood, and died. We are now waiting for the pet cremation people to come pick her up.

Amelia was nine years old, and a failure at being anything but a great dog. She developed some food allergies that caused continuing hot spots, and killed her confirmation career. She wasn’t enthusiastic enough for agility. She wasn’t even a good lapdog. But she was a great companion, and was happy. She will be missed.

Requiem for a dog 4

September 24, 2009

This is getting to be like the Perils of Pauline. Amelia went down yesterday morning. Not as hard as before — on her stomach, head up now and then, taking water but refusing food. The worrisome thing is, her gums are still red. See, previous events apparently were caused by something coming loose and bleeding internally (we think from the spleen), until it stopped. She’d go down, and have pale gums, that refilled slowly after pressure. A day later, she’d be OK. This time, the gums are red, indicating that it’s not internal bleeding that’s causing the down, but likely one of her other cancers.

Of course, this morning she’s back on her feet and eating. A little shaky. This roller coaster could go on for weeks. Hopefully it will at least last through the weekend, ’cause MJ is off judging dogshows.

Requiem for a dog 3

September 21, 2009

So, Amelia, the golden retriever, who was down, then up, then down again, is now up, and has been for a couple of days. It’s me that’s been down, with the pNeumonia. Based on the xrays, she is doomed. The mass on her spleen is what is probably bleeding intermittently. The real killer is her lungs, which are so full of tumors that she can’t even be sedated. We are on a day to day with her. Right now, she is still happy and bouncy and spoiled, and she could drop over at any moment. So, of course, could any of us.

Requiem for a Dog 2

September 15, 2009

Since we brought her home, Amelia has been happy and bouncy and interested in food. This morning at 6:30 was no exception. By 7:30 she was down and listless, with pale gums. So it looks like her internal bleeding has started again.

My health and healthcare 2

September 14, 2009

The pills are working. Fever is gone, my dreams are more settled, and the voices have stopped telling me to go forth and drive the English out of France. I no longer hear little bubbling/crackling noises when I lie on my left side. Wednesday I go in and the doctrix will tell me if I’m still alive.

As with all dealings with the US healthcare system, this will work out like a slo-mo train wreck. Bills will be coming in for the next three months. More anon.

Thoughts on Patriot Day, 9/11, and its aftermath

September 11, 2009

Like everyone else alive that day, and the day Kennedy was shot, and the day we landed on the Moon, I remember the morning of 9/11 quite clearly. The AQ attack was simplicity itself. The immediate results were horrific. The ultimate results unendurable. And most of it was self-inflicted.

Terrorism is a tactic of the weak, designed to turn the strength of the victim back on himself, and to cause the most damage through secondary, what the Brits would call ‘knock on’ effects. The damage from the initial attack isn’t the object, that’s just the lever that tips the target into over-reacting. Go read what Peter Senge has to say about trim tabs. Based on that criteria, AQ’s 9/11 attack succeeded beyond their wildest vision.

As the result of the loss of two buildings and ~3,000 people, the US destroyed two countries, killed somewhere north of 100K civilians, lost 5,000 American lives, tore the Constitution to shreds, created the Heimat StaatsSicherheitApparat*, and turned a record budget surplus into a record budget deficit.

To unpack this summary somewhat:

1. Initial AQ attack: 3,000 killed, $2 billion in damage and cleanup costs, outpouring of support from around the world.

2. Secondary effects (Iraq, US only): 4,300 killed, $1.6 trillion, universal condemnation, grinding down of the US military.

3. Secondary effects (Afghanistan, US only): 700 killed, $500 billion, geopolitical impact still spreading.

4. Tertiary effects (international): Iraq becomes an Iranian ally, AF patriots fighting the foreign invader (us) spills over into PK and destabilizes the whole region. Our moral standing regarding torture is completely destroyed.

5. Tertiary effects (domestic): US military continues its decline. Police powers that ten years ago would have been laughed out of Congress, or vetoed by the President, or dismissed with contempt by the Supreme Court are now common.


But didn’t we drive AQ out of AF, and don’t we have to keep them out to suppress global terrorism? Yes, AQ got driven from AF (briefly, but that’s not where the attacks were planned, they were planned in Germany, among other places). No, keeping AQ out of AF won’t help, because there’s always Somalia and half a dozen other failed states to let them in. Besides, “global terrorism” is a myth. Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology. Anyone can use it.

But if we don’t stop them there, won’t they follow us home and loll around on the couch and hog the remote? Originally, the answer would have been no, because the complaint wasn’t what we were doing here, but that we were over there, in their holy land. Now that we’ve trashed their country and killed who knows how many of their cousins, we’ve created a whole new generation of people who hate us, just because we’re us. We are far less safe than we were, but killing more people’s cousins isn’t the answer.

As far as I can see, AQ is winning on points, and winning big, and it’s mostly our fault.

What are my recommendations?
1. Well, the Iraqis don’t want us, so we pull out on schedule. This is, I think, inevitable.

2. Most Afghans don’t want us, and the war meets no national security objective worthy of the cost (see above), so we use the excuse of a Karzai-stolen election to pack up and go home. This, of course, is not likely to happen, because no-one in the chain of command is old enough to remember VietNam or understand the meaning of the term ‘quagmire’. General McChrystal should go back and read some of the statements out of MACV (or maybe he did, his certainly sound familiar).

3. Domestically the DHS is wasting most of the $40 billion or so we give it each year (see the notes below), so we put in someone to run it who understands the reality of security and the meaning of the Constitution. We cease our war on the American citizen.

4. Finally, if I had a time machine and could go back to the afternoon of 9/11, what would I recommend? Others have made the same suggestion — fill the damn hole in and ignore it.


*OK, so it’s Homeland Security, but anyone of a certain age, whose father was in the Marines at Pearl Harbor and who had uncles fought in the Army in Europe and the Navy in both oceans in WWII, will tell you that they didn’t fight the greatest war in history so that a US bureaucrat could come along and talk about the ‘homeland’. There’s no-one of that age who can hear the term ‘homeland’ and not also hear the faint echo of jackboots. The worrisome thing is that most of our civic leadership is too young to remember, to feel it.

And so far all that Heimat SS have accomplished is to create a defacto ‘Constitution free’ zone a hundred miles in from each border, exploit Congress’s fears to the American citizen like a criminal, and, incidentally, cost us tens of billions of dollars in travel delays. To justify this, they spend their time entrapping truly pitiful local yokles whose “plans are more aspirational than actual.”**

**Do I think the DHS people are evil? Not at all. Well, their original leadership, up to and including the former President certainly was, if by evil you mean someone whose underlying principles are anathema to your own, and who doesn’t care what happens to you in the pursuit of their goals. Instead, the DHS functionaries are the worst kind of bureaucrats. Now, before you get worked up, let me say that I worked in DC for years and have the greatest respect for government employees – like the wife of a successful businessman, who could have stayed home and hostessed tea-parties but instead came into the Pentagon at 5AM to analyze Soviet air operations, or the China analyst who essentially died at his desk from his third heart attack. The people who wouldn’t close the office for two hours for a Christmas party but would work at their computers with their little plates of cake in their laps. Hats off to the dedicated men and women of government. It’s not you I am speaking of.

I am speaking of those who desperately don’t want a second 9/11 to happen on their watch (and a second one is inevitable, if we continue to create enemies). Who are worried not so much that it will happen, but that it will be found to be somehow their fault. Who will inflate every threat, no matter how specious, and impose any restriction, no matter how draconian, as long as it covers their butts. Who don’t care what happens to our time, our liberties, or our protection under the law, because they’re all right, Jack, how about you?That’s not evil so much as it is predictable, and banal, and deadly to our society.

Happy Patriot Day.

My health, and healthcare

September 8, 2009

Saturday afternoon I went down hard, Fever, chills, aches, etc. Temp varying’twixt 100.4 and 103.7.  Normally, I don’t let a little fever bother me — I figure it’s my bodies way of fighting the infection — Go It, Bod! At 102 I start to have weird dreams, so that’s when I start pumping ibuprofin. The absolute worst was when I’d have chills so bad I had to sit down when I went to the bathroom, because I couldn’t hit the bowl, and still has a temp of 102.

When I wasn’t better by this morning, MJ took me by the ear and led me over to the clinic, There, I got the bad news – it was probably H1N1 flu. Our little country clinic is diagnosing up to 10 cases perday. More bad news – tamiflu only works on H1N1 in the first 48 hours. Doc scheduled me for a blood test and chest x-ray, to see if any opertunistic infections had come along for the ride. Good news – it wasn’t H1N1. Bad news – it’s something called strep pneumonia. Good news – they can cure it, given time and antibiotics.

So, they hauled my trouses down and gave me a monster shot in the hip with a horse needle and 10 days worth of pills.


So it’s three days later, and I feel, well, good is too strong a word. Better. Able to stay awake all day. Voice thin.

Don’t know what the visit and shot will cost, or how the covering agencies will fight over it, but the pills cost $185, of which, we pay $114. Surprising, since usually my heart meds fill the copay by now. Just one of the joys of dealing with the US health care system, and one of the reasons I’m tracking this in the blog.

More, anon.

Requiem for a Dog

September 5, 2009

We have been raising and breeding and showing golden retrievers since we brought our first mother/son pair back from the UK in 1973. They spent 18hrs in their crate, and were very happy to get out.

But that’s a story for another day. Since then, we have bred dozens and raised 12 or 15 of our own. As we slowed down from breeding and showing, the number of dogs dropped, and the links in the chain fell away. Last summer we lost the last dog that was descended from our UK line. Now, it looks like we are about to lose the last dog that knew our other dogs in Virginia.

Amelia is 9 years old, reddish for a golden, and getting an early set of specticals (greying around the eyes). Two days ago (Thursday), she started out the usual happy golden life. That afternoon, she refused a treat. For golden’s, that’s unheard of. That evening she became listless, refused all food, had white gums, no urine (but no bloating). She laid down, and really didn’t want to get up.

My wife is a retired licensed vet tech (rated #2 in the nation in 2000). We have seen this sort of thing before, and it’s usually end stage cancer. Our previous dog, Clara, was fine one day, standing hunchbacked the next. No abnormalities on spine xrays. Pain meds helped, then stopped helping. Two days later she started having problems breathing, so we did a chest xray — heavy duty cancer in both lungs. The vet did an exploratory surgery, and she died on the table – one week from onset of symptoms.

We weren’t sure Amelia make it through the night to Friday, but she did, and actually seemed brighter. We took her in for a sonogram, and it showed a suspicious mass on the spleen, plus numerous dark spots on the liver. We’re not sure, but it doesn’t look good. My wife has an AKC judging assignment this weekend and Monday is a holiday. Tuesday, Amelia goes on the table for exploratory surgery. The last time we did this for a dog it cost $2500, and gained her three months, and that time we had a big male to act as a blood doner.

She’s resting comfortably at home now, and seems fine this morning (meaning that whatever organ was bleeding has stopped). I’ll update this through the weekend, and close it out one way or another on Tuesday.

Tuesday Update

I am updating the entry, rather than putting in a new one, so that you, dear reader, can find everything in one place. It is 9:46 PM on 8 September.

Amelia is a happy camper. But there’s still that mass that the sonogram showed on her spleen, and a worrisome cough. We had the operation scheduled for midmorning today. MJ asked the vet to do a chest x-ray. Turns out, that Amelias lungs are full of tumors. No use pulling the spleen, or any other major operation.

So, we brought her home, and will simply keep her comfortable until the spleen or the lungs does her in.

More anon