Another Day, Another Dollar at the Vet (part two)

We finally have answers albeit not necessarily ones we would have wanted to hear. At 11.5 years old, Heather has been diagnosed with Cushing's disease. Her ACTH stimulation test results showed her post-cortisol level was 27 (a result of 19 or less would have ruled Cushing's out). This means her body is making too much steroids and definitely explains the hair loss down her back - her thinning hair barely covers her skin now. It also explains why she's constantly thirsty and hungry. 

At first, hearing the words Cushing's disease was frightening but it seems there have been improvements in treating this condition over the years and I've heard from many Scottie Moms and Dads that they had years with their fur babies after they were diagnosed. This gives me hope. We started Heather on trilostane yesterday. She will take two pills each morning and in two weeks, we will visit the V-E-T again to redo the ACTH stimulation test. If results look good, Heather will continue taking two pills per day. If test results show there's still room for improvement, we will up the dosage and retest again in another two weeks. 

Only two days into our new routine and I'm feeling optimistic. It was a little daunting to hear you have to wear protective gloves when handling the medication and need to wash your hands immediately afterwards but I'm committed to doing whatever makes Heather feel more comfortable. So far, she hasn't had any kind of reaction to the medication whatsoever. The V-E-T mentioned she could feel weak or even get diarrhea but we've been fortunate thus far. My hope is that, in time, she'll be feeling good again and we'll enjoy many more nights with sweet Heather.

Assuming Heather can maintain the current dosage, the cost of her medication per month will be approximately $175. That number will increase, of course, if her next test results show that she needs higher dosages of trilostane. And with every adjustment we make to the medication, we'll need another ACTH stimulation test, which costs roughly $165. My point? Save now, Scottie Moms and Dads, you never know when you might need that "rainy day" fund!

We will, of course, be chronicling Heather's journey with Cushing's disease here on the blog but I urge those of you who have gone through this to lend your support by sharing your stories in the comments section below so that all those reading this can learn from your experience. We greatly appreciate your individual emails to us but feel strongly that any knowledge on this subject should be shared. And so, I ask: what treatment did you select for your Scottie? Any side effects or words of caution? What signs and symptoms did your Scottie display before he or she was diagnosed? For more information on Cushing's disease, check out our friends at

An Open Letter to the Parent of a Senior Pet

I never thought watching a pet grow old would be easy but the reality is so much more bittersweet than I ever imagined. On the one hand, I am grateful for each day knowing there are too many pets - especially Scottish Terriers - who don't live long enough to experience the golden years. I celebrate this feat and honor those who couldn't stay with us longer by doing my best to make the most of every day I have with my senior pets so when that inevitable day comes, they truly can rest in peace and I might find some small consolation in the fact that I helped them live a life well-lived. 

While a part of me rejoices over the good fortune that has allowed me years of companionship, there's another part of me that frets about what is coming next and when. I'm sure you've felt this, too. Though our senior pets slow down with age, it is as if time speeds up during the golden years. Some days, I feel as though I'm looking at an hourglass - only the grains of sand remaining are invisible and only can be seen once they pass through to the bottom half. It takes effort to put these thoughts aside and refocus on what matters most: the senior pets right in front of us.  

In some ways, the learning curve of caring for a senior pet is steep (new routines and schedules, medications, more frequent vet visits, etc.) but in other ways, it remains exactly the same. After all, it boils down to what most pet parents do best: love and care. You get the hang of your senior pet's lifestyle soon enough and though I can't promise things will be fun and games always, I can assure you there will be ample opportunity to laugh, create new memories and add some color to those years that otherwise might not have looked so golden.

Yes, things can get hairy and even a little scary at times. I tell you this not to discourage you but to keep you strong for the sake of your senior pets. It is an honor and a privilege to be there for them in ways they have been and will be for you and others whose lives they've touched throughout the years. At times, you may question your strength or think it is simply too hard to care for a senior pet - to which I say: think again. Giving up on a senior pet is all too common and has devastating effects, as evidenced by the thousands of overcrowded shelters across the country.

To know the love of a senior pet is to know the love of an old friend, one that sweetens with age. You can see it in the way they soak up the last bits of sun at the end of a summer day, how they savor all things that taste good and when their eyes brighten the moment they see you. These are the imprints a senior pet will leave on your heart long after he or she is gone. And you'll find yourself a more complete person as a result of having loved and cared for a senior pet who taught you to practice gratitude, enjoy the little things, show each other a little grace and live every day as if it was your last. 

5 Reasons to Foster Dogs

What does it take to open both heart and home to a dog that needs a place to stay until he or she is lucky enough to find a forever home? To earn the prestigious title of Foster Mom (or Dad!), one must be strong enough to love the dog as if he or she is your own and then say goodbye when the time has come. Unless, of course, you decide that foster failure is totally cool. We think so, too!

I owe the happiness I experience with three of my dogs to foster families. Without them, who knows where they would be today? They were fortunate to find a safe and loving home while they waited for one they could call their very own. For that, I'm eternally grateful. Fostering one dog may not change the world but for that one dog, life will have changed quite literally forever.

Still not convinced? Here are five additional reasons you should become a Foster Mom or Dad:

5. You're saving two dogs by opening up your home to one. By providing one foster dog a safe place in your home, you are opening up another spot within the rescue or shelter for another pup to stay while he or she awaits a foster or forever home of their own.

4. You will restore a dog's faith in humanity and life itself. When you foster a dog, you're not just providing a much-needed roof over his or her head. By socializing with your foster dog and giving him or her someone to believe in, you are opening your foster dog's heart and teaching him or her to love again, regardless of what life before you might have been like.

3. You will learn a little something, too. No two foster dogs are alike. Each have very distinct personalities and, more than likely, the dog you foster may come with some traits, habits or health/behavioral quirks you may not have encountered before. Some will teach you a thing or two about patience - if you don't already have it - and others will remind you of the importance of expressing gratitude for the simple things in life daily.

2. You're giving back in a very big way. Most people want to make a difference in life, no matter how big or small the gesture, whenever possible. Some donate funds, others donate time and talent. Still others, open their hearts and homes for foster dogs in need. The bottom line: they give. And to quote some famous person (not Winston Churchill, apparently), "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

1. Your world (and the dog's) would be a happier place. Let's face it: it doesn't take much more than a safe and loving home to keep a dog happy. Where there's a happy dog, there's an even happier Foster Mom or Dad. Even research tells us that pets can improve overall well-being. Knowing you're making a difference is rewarding in and of itself. Knowing that your foster will never forget you for what you did makes the whole experience priceless. Just ask my three and their foster families. 

So...have I convinced you to open up your home to a foster dog yet? If so, be sure to check out our friends listed below. Know of another great Scottie rescue that may be in need of foster Scottie Moms and Dads? Let us know in the comment box below. Can't adopt or foster right now? Consider making a donation to help cover the costs of caring for Scotties in need. Together, we can save the (Scottie) dog at a time!

Dinner for Two + Two

The Scottie Mom family doubled in size one week ago today with the additions of Nibbles and Pudley, two wheaten Scottish Terriers ages 5-6 years old from Scottish Terrier Rescue of Tennessee.

To celebrate the one-week anniversary of being in their forever home, we surprised the Scottie quartet with a special meal by adding Natural Balance Delectable Delights® Wet Cups to their main course.

Pudley chowed down on Woof'eroleTM, Mr. K had Fish 'N ChicksTM, Nibbles enjoyed Duck'en-itasTM and Heather savored Surf 'N TurfTM.

Nibbles and Pudley, so fresh and clean after their first trip to the groomer, licked their bowls clean.

Heather barely came up for air until her Natural Balance Delectable Delights® Surf 'N Turf TM dinner was gone.

Mr. K pushed his bowl around the entire kitchen and finished his meal so fast, he didn't realize he left enough for dessert in his beard!

Time flies when you're having fun and welcoming two more rescue Scotties into your home. The Scottie House feels much more like a full house these days and we are loving every minute of it! Nibbles and Pudley have so much energy and share Mr. K's love of toys (note to self: stock up on squeaky tennis balls). They love to keep you company, smile constantly and are curious about everything...especially their new, older Scottie siblings.

Heather and Mr. K already have adjusted to life with Nibbles and Pudley. I was prepared for some resistance at first but truth be told, they've accepted their younger siblings readily. It is as if they remember what it was like to be a Scottie in need of a good home and want to give Nibbles and Pudley that same experience of feeling rest assured you'll be taken care of from this point forward.

So, it is safe to say Nibbles and Pudley are here to stay (although I was sure of it when Nibbles hopped into the Scottie Mobile without invitation just minutes after meeting everyone). To celebrate, I wanted to whip up something special for the Scottie quartet to enjoy but sadly, I'm no use in the kitchen. And I wasn't interested in handing over any treats, mostly because I knew The Overtreater would be visiting the same day. That's when we discovered Natural Balance Delectable Delights® Wet Cups, which are cooked to perfection and can be added to their regular food to spice things up or given as a meal on the go. Great for the Scottie Mom (or Dad!) that can't cook. Ready to try some?

This Scottie Mom is pretty choosy when it comes to what I feed my dogs. For years, I've had Mr. K on a limited ingredient diet because of allergies. Heather, on the other hand, eats anything but we'll soon explore food items that will help keep those liver values in check. Now with Nibbles and Pudley, who also seem to have allergies, it is even more important to stick to grain-free, wholesome ingredients. All requirements met by Natural Balance Delectable Delights® Wet Cups

With four flavors from which to choose, we were able to give Heather, Mr. K, Nibbles and Pudley their own custom dishes. Something tells me we'll be surprising them with Natural Balance Delectable Delights® Wet Cups again soon and switching up the flavors to see which they love most. (Who likes eating the same thing every day anyway?) To learn more, visit Natural Balance Delectable Delights® Wet Cups on Facebook or check out Instagram to take in all the cuteness happening there.

Many thanks to Natural Balance for sponsoring today's story and inspiring me to try their product!

Another Day, Another Dollar at the Vet

For years, we've been very good patrons of the V-E-T. First, with Heather and Mr. K's bouts of mysterious illnesses (for which we still don't have answers four years later). Then, we discovered Heather had liposarcoma. Still yet, there were visits to control high liver values, remove benign growths and even a few cases where it turned out I was just a worried Scottie Mom and everything was fine. In all, I've spent thousands on Heather and Mr. K's veterinary care over the years.

Recently, we returned once more to the V-E-T. This time, we were going for annual vaccines, well visits and to consult with a V-E-T about why Heather constantly gnaws at her bottom these days. At a previous visit, we learned there was a small growth and we've kept an eye on it but the problem persists. We've tested for urinary tract infections among other things but have yet to relieve Heather of this issue. So, I turn to you, fellow Scottie Moms and Dads: have your Scotties experienced this?

This latest examination was something of a reality check. As I detailed recent behaviors and small changes I had noticed, it dawned on me that I had an aging gal on my hands. We've known she has a bit of arthritis for a while but haven't had to do anything until now. Heather doesn't enjoy long walks anymore, preferring slow, short steps outside to take care of business and hurry back into the house. She has had trouble with the stairs so we've moved bedrooms to allow easier access to the backyard. I've even invested in a stroller so she can still experience things alongside Mr. K.

I was nervous what the blood test results might uncover. Was it cancer again? A thyroid issue? Something new, different and not so exciting to add to the laundry list of health issues we've overcome? Fortunately, most everything came back beautifully. The thyroid levels were on the higher end of what is considered normal and her liver values are creeping up again. Scottish Terrier ALP values will worsen with age, according to one of the many V-E-T-S we've seen through the years. What was different this time? Her ALT liver value is up...which happens when Cushing's is present.

Years ago, Heather was tested for Cushing's after she recovered from that mysterious illness. Fortunately, test results were negative. This time, I don't have much confidence she'll test negative once more. In fact, even the V-E-T told us that she was certain Heather has developed Cushing's and that she would be very surprised if Heather tests negative once more. Still, I try to remain cautiously optimistic as we wait for the test next week as well as remind myself that Heather has been through so many health issues and has proven time and again that she is a fighter.