Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Tofu the Baby Husky

Friday, April 24th, 2015

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Tofu, 7 Week Old Husky Puppy, photo by Becky

Last Friday, April 17, 2015, the Gentle Doctor team waited anxiously for Jackie Roach of Taysia Blue Siberian Husky Rescue. 

Someone had bought a husky puppy off Craig’s List, saw that he was very sick and relinguished him to the rescue group.

When Jackie arrived, Becky and I rushed in to see her and meet baby Tofu, who had been named in a vote of rescue supporters while Jackie was on the way to Gentle Doctor with him.

He was the sweetest, scrawniest, thinnest little thing we had ever seen. Jackie set him on the floor to show Becky how compromised he was, and he collaped front feet first and was unable to rise. Jackie later told us that on the ride to the hospital, she was unsure he would arrive alive.

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Tofu When He Was Rescued, photo by Jackie

Oh dear. We were, once again, totally, completely 100% in love with a pet with a questionable medical future whom we had met moments before.

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Tofu, Starting Treatment at Gentle Doctor, photo by Becky

Tofu had no ability to use his front legs. He was unable to stand, even just on his hind legs. He had a head tremor and did not have the ability to eat or drink on his own or stand to potty. Apparently, no one had noticed in a very long time, and he was emaciated, dehydrated and filthy.

We were going to do the opposite of not notice and, as far as it depended on us, bring him back to the healthy, happy seven week old puppy he should have been.

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Tofu with Becky

Fearing abuse, we x-rayed all of Tofu’s long bones, his chest and his abdomen. No broken bones! We were estatic! But perplexed. Why could he not walk? What was causing the head tremors?

Never mind that now! He had pottied on himself and was howling in frustration because he wanted to stand and could not.


Becky and Renee bathed him, and we learned he is a stunning, gorgeous, bright white puppy with brilliant blue eyes, the deepest blue eyes I have ever seen – and I have seen a lot of huskies and Siamese cats!

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Baby Blue Eyes! Photo by Shonda

For the rest of the afternoon, we held him as much as we could, and when we could not, surrounded him with pillows and blankets so he could comfortably rest.


Creating an 80 Pound Lap Dog!

You are welcome, future adoptive family!

The pain medication we had given him fearing trauma made him sleepy, which was ideal for that first night in the hospital. On IV fluids and with a tummy full of hand fed puppy food, he cuddled up to his pillow and fell fast asleep.

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Amanda met him. Jordan met him. That night my husband Russ and my daughter Abby met him.

We were recklessly breaking hearts left and right, and we were okay with it. So was everyone who was charging in with us for a chance to fall in love with Tofu and get a broken heart too.

Russ, Abby and I spent that evening with him. He had…become in need of another bath…and had a hungry puppy tummy again. He wanted desperately to play, so Abby held him in such a way he could play almost like a normal puppy. When he fell over, finally exhausted, she snuggled him for a bit and gently placed him back in his bed.

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My Daughter Abby with Tofu

Friday night, I talked with Russ on the way home. I could not wrap my head around Tofu’s symptoms. Russ was confident I would figure this out, but I had never seen anything like it. What would make him non-ambulatory? What would cause his head tremor? He seemed in every other way like a normal puppy. He was alert and sweet and wanted so badly to walk and eat on his own.

I looked up “head tremors” “non-ambulatory” “front limbs” on VIN – Veterinary Information Network. Thank goodness for the HUGE group of specialists and general practioners smarter than I! And thank goodness for the Veterinary Information Network team for having the wisdom to organize and catalog all of that smart!

The differential diagnosis that came up most often was neospora, a parasite that causes abortion in cattle and neurological disease in dogs. Weird! I remember the parasite from vet school, but had never suspected or diagnosed it before.

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Saturday was a crazy busy (good crazy busy) day, so Becky, Shonda, Jan, Renee and I made sure to schedule in important things (blood work analysis – anemia and low protein levels, fecal test – roundworms! parvo test – negative!) and very important things (holding the puppy, feeding the puppy, loving the puppy, photographing the puppy, updating Jackie!) and sent in a neospora titer test. Thank you to Angie for “creating” a lab form for it – apparrently I was not the only one who has never needed to test for it before!

It’s a long shot, but if this is the diagnosis, it is very treatable. We started treatment just in case.

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Tofu with a Teddy Bear and Homemade Pillow from Abby

I asked Jen who was on kennel duty and on call over the weekend. Every weekend, there is a team to take care of the boarding cats and dogs and a doctor on call in case one of the boarders needs medical care. Shonda and Renee were on for the weekend – the best possible case! I offered to help or do all of the care for Tofu, and they said NO – they were all in on taking on the tiny puppy and his special needs for the weekend. I went home exhausted, relieved and so very happy he was in wonderful, loving hands.



The weekend went by. I practically taped my fingers together so I would not harass Shonda and Renee about updates, and even so I got this from Renee…

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And that from Renee…

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And then while shopping at Target with Russ and Amanda and Abby, I got this from Shonda, and I sat down in the lawn department and cried.

Video of Tofu’s First Steps!

TOFU WAS WALKING! He took his first steps, and Shonda got it on video!



That was the  moment I knew for sure he was going to survive and thrive.


Jackie and Mike Roach of Taysia Blue Siberian Husky Rescue Visiting


Becky’s Daughter Hailey Disguises Physical Therapy as Play!

Jackie was allowing us to keep him for the following week. He still needed help eating and drinking, and would often tip forward into his water dish when he tried to take a drink. The foster network of Taysia Blue is amazing – the best of the best – but we did not want a little high maintenence potential water bowl drowner on their hands if we could help it.

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Tofu with Dr. Bashara

Every day he walked a little farther and a little better.

His progress was so slow that I had to ask vet tech Trey if he was actually getting better every day or if I was just seeing what I wanted to see. “He is getting better every day,” he said.

Dr. Stephanie Jones offered to do acupuncture on Tofu to help him with his mobility. Acupuncture started Wednesday (two days ago) and continued yesterday and today.


Acupuncture Therapy with Trey and Dr. Jones


Laser Therapy with Trey and Dr. Jones

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Thank You Dr. Jones!

Ashley and Renee were his “puppy railroad” out to the 153rd location and back every day. The team at the 153rd location fell as hard for Tofu as we all had.


Mary with Tofu

He walked and walked after his first acupuncture appointment with Dr. Jones! I could not believe the difference!



Becky and I played with him for an hour over lunch right after his first acupuncture appointment, and just enjoyed watching him walk around like a newborn horse. Ok, not like a puppy yet, but that is coming!


Tofu with Shonda

Now he is in the loving hands of the Gentle Doctor team at 89th and 153rd and 89th again and I am at home writing his story. Dr. Thomassen is directing his care for the end of the week – He could not be in better hands. Becky is going to be his foster Mom – He could not be in better hands.


Tofu with Jan

Sometimes I look back on a case and think, “Was the potential heartbreak worth the joy now?” First of all, that is a stupid question. We do not have a choice. Second of all, it is much too early to “look back.” Tofu is in the middle of struggling to learn to walk and recover from a still unconfirmed cause of his many severe issues. Third of all, YES. 100% absolutely YES.

Were I to go back to a week before today and decide (had we a choice) knowing what we know now (not much  more than we knew then) I – we – would charge in for a potential broken heart just as swiftly as a rescuer charging in to rush a dirty, neglected broken puppy to a vet hospital.

Tofu, thank you for not breaking our hearts. Thank you for blessing us and filling us with joy as only a beautiful, sweet, goofy, naughty lovable fluffy puppy can. We love you so very much.

To learn more about Taysia Blue Siberian Husky Rescue, click HERE.

To be continued…


Tofu with Whitney’s Daughter, Harper



Luna Elizabeth Lovegood Finch

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Meet our newest family member, Luna Elizabeth Lovegood Finch!


Luna and Her Shaved Tummy with Abby

Luna was rescued by the Nebraska Humane Society from a home with an adult West Highland White Terrier and adult Chihuahua and several litters of puppies of different ages.

She was adopted out to a family and soon became very ill with what was most likely hepatic encephalopathy – a condition in which the liver is not clearing toxins well and the toxins cause illness that can be life-threatening. She was treated at Animal Emergency Clinic, where they discovered her liver issue and saved her life with their medical care.

Because of her probable poor long term prognosis, she was relinguished back to Nebraska Humane Society with the agreement that if she had a correctable or treatable condition, the Nebraska Humane Society would finance and direct her treatment and readopt her to the same family that first adopted her.

Often when Nebraska Humane Society has a complex medical or surgical case, Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals is brought in to help. I am SO proud of that, although all I have really done is be smart enough to work for Dr. Bashara!

Luna was one of these special cases. She had sky-high liver values and bile acid values (a measure of liver function). The veterinarian who saw her with her first family worked with them and together they contributed to her becoming stabilized and surviving her medical crisis.

She came to Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals to be assessed and to have an ultrasound with Dr. Krapfl. When liver values are so far out of balance in a young, small breed puppy, what we suspect most highly is a liver shunt. A shunt was not found, and it was sadly determined that she most likely had a condition that could not be surgically fixed. The original adoptive family and the Nebraska Humane Society medical team, in an effort to spare the children of the family heartbreak and the puppy suffering, wisely decided to have the puppy euthanized.

I had done the puppy’s initial intake and medical care, and knowing at the time she had a family to be readopted to and a suspected surgically correctable condition, I figured it was “safe” to let my daughters meet the puppy, and we spent an hour playing with her that first night.

The next day, the day of the puppy’s ultrasound, was my day off.

I recieved medical updates and the final decision to have the puppy euthanized in a series of several emails from Dr. Bashara and the doctors at Nebraska Humane Society, all of which came at once in the late afternoon.

I sat on the bed and bawled.

Russ came to check on me, and I may have yelled something like, “I take one day off and puppies DIE!” Probably suspecting this was not a complete or even an accurate statement, Russ sat down on the bed next to me and gently took my phone out of my hand.

He looked up after reading through all of the emails and said, “Couldn’t we take her?”

Still in complete despair mode, I said “She’s probably DEAD!”

I called Jan. Of course she was not dead. Dr. Thomassen said she would not euthanize the puppy unless she knew it was an absolute 100% decision agreed upon by everyone. And she thought maybe Milo would like a friend…Dr. Bashara and Dr. Krapfl were getting ready to call me. I would guess they did not want to get the full on emotional collapse that Russ had to deal with, sadly, not for the first time. (Sorry, Russ!)

So guess what?

We accidentally adopted a puppy!


Luna Meeting Mom and Dad Nelson

I talked with the Mom of the first adoptive family to make sure that was okay with her. It was. I talked with Jared and Dr. Horn and Dr. Farrington of Nebraska Humane Society, and they were thrilled at such a happier outcome. I talked with Dr. Bashara and Dr. Krapfl. They – I gather – thought I was a little nuts to adopt a broken puppy, but I think they understood. We are vets. It is what we do.


Luna with My Friend Jordan and Her Dog Sandy

I talked with my daughters. Other than the pup herself, Amanda and Abby were the ones I most of all did not want to be hurt. Adopting a puppy with an unspecified liver disorder is one of the best ways that I can imagine to ensure heartbreak. I told them we were adopting a puppy we knew was sick. I said that I did not know what was wrong yet, but her lifespan may be shorter than other dogs, possibly much shorter. They had already fallen as hard as Russ and I had, and there was no doubt in their minds that this puppy was meant to be a Finch.

I wanted to name her something like Grace or Hope (because we have Joy!) or a food name to go with Noodle. The girls were not having it. They wanted to name her after some You Tube star whose name I could neither pronounce nor remember. On the way home with the puppy in my lap, I said to Russ, “She’s blond.”


“She’s really sweet.”


“She’s pretty spacy.” (To her credit, she was still recovering from a very severe case of hepatic encephalopathy, and has since proved much sharper than when we first met.)

I got out of the truck in our front yard with our new puppy in my arms and said to the girls waiting on the lawn, “Let’s name her Luna Lovegood.”

Finch - Luna LovegoodOne of My (Our) Very Favorite Harry Potter Characters

They both cheered, and we had our name.

Dr. Byers of Midwest Veterinary Specialists helped me through those first overwhelming weeks of feeding her. (How do you feed a growing puppy with liver issues the right amount of protein, not to mention every other nutrient, micronutrient and vitamin in balance?? You ask Dr. Byers!), medicating her and planning the next steps of her medical plan.

At Dr. Byer’s direction, we had her Protein C level tested. (Should I have known dogs have a protein C? Yes! Did I? No!) Results confirmed that Luna most likely did not have a shunt – good news! But…what was making her liver values so high and what had made her so sick? We still planned on a CT Scan with Dr. Byers and probable liver biopsy surgery with Dr. Thoesen.

Meanwhile, she had recovered beautifully, and no longer had signs of illness.


Soon After We Adopted Luna, Jordan Adopted Mustique, and They Are Great Friends!


Luna and Mustique – They Truely Were Playing!

Our next step of diagnostics was a simple liver blood panel. After that we would rerun bile acids then have her seen by the specialists.


The liver blood panel came back completely normal!! Normal! We all celebrated and decided together that our next step would be…nothing. Or benign neglect if you prefer. I think that sounds worse, so I will say we did nothing.

We weaned Luna off her medications. We transitioned her to completely puppy food.


The Green Spot Got Us Set Up for Everything Puppy – Thank You Green Spot Team!


We Love This Store and Everything the People of Green Spot Do for the Pets of Omaha!!

And now the veterinarian me gets to ponder what in the world happened. Here are my two guesses…

1) Knowing Luna now, it is highly probable that she ingested something she should not have, causing her extreme illness and liver issues.

2) Knowing the very first place she lived – the home from which the Nebraska Humane Society team rescued her – had more dogs and puppies than fit well in the space and that she was most likely NOT potty trained even a little, it is also probable she ingested some urine at some point in her young life.

So my two top differentials (guesses) are 1) a liver toxin from which she has recovered or 2) leptospirosis from which she has recovered.

I asked Dr. Horn, I asked Russ (several times), I asked Dr. Thomassen and my other friends at work, “Now that we know she is not broken, do we have to return her to her first adoptive family?” They have all agreed with what I know is probably true, though I am sad for the first adoptive family, Luna is truely our puppy and will remain with our family.


Abby Giving Luna a(nother) Bath! I Had Forgotten How Hard it is to Keep a White Dog White!

I will be eternally grateful to the original adoptive family for pursuing the therapy that saved her life, and for allowing us to adopt her. While I know of course, that she will one day most likely break my heart, I am so glad it is not on the second day or the second month that I have known her.


Luna on the Deck

She has been a challenging, exhausting, strange, wonderful, goofy amazing puppy.


Luna Helps Herself


Luna Hoping…

I am so happy she is a Finch.


Good Night Luna! We Love You So!


Abby’s Drawing of Luna on my Lap <3







My daughter might be straight.

Friday, April 10th, 2015

I have two wonderful, beautiful, smart and talented daughters. I fear the younger of the two may be straight. She is not interested in girls (or boys) yet, as far as I know, and has not confided in me about this subject. If she is heterosexual, she is not yet out of the closet.

Finch - Rainbow

Although this would override her wonder, her beauty, her intellegence and her talent, I will of course continue to be her Mom and to love her as best I can.

I could never celebrate her heterosexuality, but I am almost certain I could tolerate it.

I have not fit this possibility into my faith yet, and am unsure how I will do so. God Himself must be wringing his hands, because although He is a big God, and He has created my daughters and knows the past, present and future, I am quite sure He has not thought through this possibility, that my daughter may be attracted to boys, and may one day – may it never be – fall in love with and want to marry a man. How would creation, heaven and earth and salvation continue by God’s plan if this happens?

I almost hope that when the time comes, she does not share her heterosexuality with me. It would probably be more than I could handle, and if she is considerate, she will spare me the best she can. Perhaps I will not ask, and she will not tell.

Thank God my other daughter is gay!

Grandpa Saves the DayAbby and Amanda with Grandpa Nelson

And…just kidding of course. Except for the first and the last sentence. And…I love these two young women more than life itself!! I am so proud of each of them for who they are and who they are becoming.

Puppy Mills Suck

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Late last year, Hearts United for Animals put THIS billboard over Tully’s Kennels for a bit. I did not get a picture, so I was thrilled when they put it back up a half mile from Tully’s.

Hearts United for Animals is in Auburn Nebraska, and though I have no official connection with them, I am boldly saying, as a pet lover and a Nebraskan, I am so very proud of them and the work they do!

Finch - HUA

I love a good breeder as much as the next puppy lover. Good breeders, of course, do not sell their pups to pet stores.

If you have a dog from a source you are not proud of, be happy they are out of that situation and in your loving home. Our exciting challenge from this day forward I believe is to end puppy mills. A huge attitude shift will be needed in order to achieve this. We will need to consider the generation before our pets. Let’s work to make sure our pets’ parents have as wonderful a life as their offspring do. Let’s work to end puppy mills.


A Christmas Miracle

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

J.D.: Will doesn’t have cancer! What should I tell him?


buy zithromax pack best price pharmacy

Cox: Well, I’d open with that.

“Practice saying, ‘Good news!’ Practice saying, ‘It’s a miracle!'” -Greg Ogilvie, DVM, DACVIM, Oncology (veterinary cancer specialist)

Christmas Eve and all we had on the schedule for the day was checking a sweet little Shih Tzu pup’s tooth for a friend. And food. Lots of food. Being at work for the morning was not what we dreaded. We were truly with friends. And, as I mentioned, food. What we dreaded, what every vet team dreads when working a holiday I imagine, was ruining that holiday for a pet and their family with Bad News.

Finch - Christmas Eve at Work

Even so, the morning was quiet so far, and we were enjoying each other’s company (and food).

Our first call of the day was from the owner of an 11 year old Golden Retriever who suddenly started limping.

(If it were not Christmas and if I had not decided years ago to not say it online, I would say it here. In fact, we may have, In Real Life.)


Old Golden. Undoubtably sweet (soon to be confirmed). Undoubtably sweet family (soon to be confirmed). Christmas. Limping. Away from the elbow-towards the knee. The old osteosarcoma mantra we all learned and use regularly. Preferably not at Christmas time though.

Again, fudge.

Stephanie cleared the food and decorations and Christmas tablecloth off of the x-ray table. Brooke prepared for x-rays. Jen and I saw the patient. Amy, it turns out, was just waking up. Oh to be a groomer! Just kidding, Amy!

We stood and chatted around the x-ray table with Golden’s Mom. We had not told her how sad a lameness could be, but we knew she knew. We had not told Golden, but if he knew, in typical Golden fashion, he did not care. His very favorite people, including Mom and several people he had just met moments ago, were all there with him petting him!

We sent Mom up front away from the x-ray beams. We took two views. And then a third. We stared. We sighed. We teared up. And I slowly walked Golden up to Mom.

No cancer. No cancer! No radiographic lesions whatsoever! YOU my new best Golden friend, are going to need to be spoiled through the holiday! Not because it is the beginning of the end, but because, Old Man, we need your soft tissue injury, that you most likely sustained playing with the new puppy, to heal.

You can break our hearts another day. Right now it is Christmas and we need you to go home to do what your family had probably planned for you all along, take it easy and let your family spoil you rotten.

The very next night, Christmas night, I was setting up hospice care with one of my very best person friends for one of my very best cat friends.

Someday we will be saying good bye to Golden. Someday we will be saying goodbye to Cat Friend. But for that one moment, on Christmas Eve morning, we could say, against all odds, this sweet old dog is treatable, we are surrounded by love and friends (and food), and it is, indeed, a very merry Christmas.

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Lorie Huston will be dearly missed by everyone whose life she touched.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

A week ago today my friend Leslie let me know our mutual friend Lorie had passed away. The next day my friend Miranda helped me find service information, Pete let me skip out on work, and that night and the next day I was at services for Lorie, holding tightly to Russ’s hand, wide-eyed and reeling. I have not come out of that shocky fog till now.  Though this illness came on suddenly, Lorie had been successfully managing a chronic condition for several years. For all that time, as far as I know, Lorie had not let anyone but her family know she was ill. I am guessing the reason was she wanted to know how other people were doing, and it did not come up.

Lorie Huston, DVM was a beloved daughter, sister, veterinarian, cat Mom, Pet Saver and friend. Lorie practiced medicine at Hoffman Animal Hospital in Rhode Island. Lorie wrote many, many articles and content for her own websites and others’ sites. Much of her writing was centered around helping mutual pet lovers take excellent care of their pets.

Lorie passed away on September 30, 2014. Her visitation was Thursday evening, October 2, 2014. Her funeral was Friday morning, October 3, 2014.

I realized even in the midst of this past week that it was dumb luck – by that I mean the kindness of friends and the blessing of God of course – that I was able to be at Lorie’s services at all. We met online. We learned several months into our online friendship that Omaha was our mutual hometown. We realized a few years later that the “new” hospital I was working at was one where Lorie had practiced early in her career. Everyone at Gentle Doctor who was here then, including Doc the founder, remembers Lorie for her kindness and graciousness.

Lorie’s Golden Retriever nephew was at the visitation. I gravitated towards him for comfort more than anything. Well, comfort and his huge gorgeous brown Golden eyes. Lorie’s brother said that he brought him because he loved Lorie so much. I suspect he also knew what a comfort he would be to the family. Because he was there, another family member brought her new puppy too. It was the sweetest visitation I have attended. I was able to tell Lorie’s Mom how very loved and admired Lorie was by all of us who knew her as a veterinarian and writing friend. The chaplain and family had found many of the sweet memorial postings about Lorie online, and Lorie’s Mom said how very comforting it was to read everything you have written.

The funeral was beautiful. Lorie’s Mom and Dad and brother prepared a slide show and music. Rainbow Connection and Somewhere over the Rainbow and I Can Only Imagine were played.

As Lorie has streamlined and perfected her writing aimed at educating pet lovers, she has supported me all through my bumbling, random writing career. As Lorie has consistantly and compassionately provided excellent veterinary care to her many clients and patients, she has been there when I have had twists and turns and bumps in the road. I have wanted to be like Lorie since I met her.

Lorie was so young.

She was such a constant, positive long distance friend, that her loss is jarring and has not quite settled into the center of me. I suspect that is true of all of us who knew her through her writing and online presence. We need her in our lives. We do not know how to rearrange our reality to compensate for that need. We thought she would always be here.

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Lorie, I will sure miss you. We all will, Friend.

Finch - Lorie

Lorie’s Obituary in the Omaha World Herald

In Which Dr. V Wrote the Only Thing that Made Me Laugh This Week

by Pawcurious

About Lorie’s Cats Who are Being Rehomed

by Dusty Rainbolt

Losing a Friend and a Great Teacher


Memorial on PetMD

by Patrick Mahaney, DVM

Memorial to Lorie

on BlogPaws

Memorial on Cat Wisdom 101

by Layla Morgan Wilde


by Mouse Breath

Memorial on Fidose of Reality

by Carol Bryant

Lorie Huston

on Veterinary Practice News


on Cat Writers’ Association

If you have written a memorial in honor of Lorie or know of memorials that have been written, please let me know and I will add them here.

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Just a fraction of Lorie’s great writing…

Pet Health Care Gazette Website

by Lorie Huston, DVM

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This Month, August 2014

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

This has been a very busy month. This has been a very busy 3 years. I have not written as much as I would have liked.

Here is what is in my head that I will hopefully write more about soon…

My Grandpa had ALS.

I LOVE the Ice Bucket Challenge.

My good friend Allison and I did the Ice Bucket Challenge together. It was cold. And fun.

Abby turned 12.

I am just emerging from a pretty dark season of depression that lasted most of the summer.

CVC – Central Veterinary Conference – in Kansas City just ended. It was very fun.

This is the best garden we’ve ever had.

I still miss Ernie Dog.

My brother Dave’s and sister-I-love Sara’s cat Abaye passed away also, and that was very sad. He was a great cat.

dvm360 had their website redone. I will be transitioning all of my blog posts from there to here soon.

I doubt that is all, but that is what I can remember! I thought I would check in and say “hello.”

Until we meet again, here is a video that includes a section Brendan Howard and Troy Van Horn put together on my thoughts on coloring books. The REST of the video is IMPORTANT information on including pets in the Ice Bucket Challenge and pets and toxicity with Dr. Justine Lee and chicken care. My part is more coloring oriented. If you are five, you will like it.

dvm360 video

After videotaping the interview, Troy said, “Wow, that was some hard-hitting journalism, Brendan.” Haha! I love it! I had a very good time at CVC with ALL of you.

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The Biggest Dog I’ve Ever Known

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

It has been two weeks since Mom and Dad’s Poodle Ernie Nelson passed away.

Ernie 3

Ernie was Mom’s friend.

This was the beginning and end of Ernie’s Purpose in Life.

If he had been Mom’s friend and no more, he would have lived better than almost any creature on earth.

Ernie 5

Ernie was Dad’s friend too.

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Everyone who knew Ernie loved him.

Ernie was entertaining.

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Ernie 1

One year, Ernie and his friend, our lab mix Ebony dressed up as fancy Poodles for Halloween.

Ernie was  a preschool student. He had his own rug that was rolled out for him when it was time to do his work – usually chewing a chewy, while the children worked at their rugs and tables around him.

Ernie was a preschool teacher. For half of Mom’s career in Montessori education, Ernie taught alongside her, and even the now grown three, four and five year olds who shared a classroom with Ernie remember learning from him and with him. Children loved him. Their siblings loved him. Parents and teachers loved him.

Ernie believed in his family and never gave up on them. When my daughter Amanda (now 13) was an infant, Ernie started bringing her his ladybug toy in her bouncy seat. He continued bringing Amanda his ladybug toy until she was a toddler, old enough to be able to throw it for him.

Ernie was a singer. When Mom played the piano or we sang “Happy Birthday” Ernie would join in.

Ernie was the favorite Nelson kid. My brothers and I were okay with it. We loved him too.

Ernie was inspiring.

Ernie 4

Ernie was a picture book star.

Ernie was a Christmas ornament.

Ernie was my muse.

Ernie Dog is Happy on Riley and James – the story of when Ernie ran out of treats and a kind person at Hill’s Pet Nutrition came through for him

Ernie Dog on – the story of Ernie’s neurological crisis four years ago

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Ernie made everyone feel good.

Just a few days ago I received an email from Dr. McGill, veterinary pathologist. He asked to put an email I had sent him about his kindness in assisting with a case in which Ernie had a benign mass on the ARUP website. I said yes, of course. Dr. McGill said every time he reads that email, he is proud of the work they do.

Ernie made me a better veterinarian.

He needed his first dental cleaning under anesthesia at two years of age.

He developed an awful bacterial ear infection at ten years of age. It took the summer, but Ernie healed.

He had a difficult dental extraction just this year. Dr. Kanne helped me plan the extraction and even enlisted the help of a veterinary dental specialist.

Ernie 13

Ernie Recovering

Ernie needed me on his very last day, and I have never had a more difficult end of life visit ever. Later, in some years, I will be proud. Right now, I am only overwhelmingly sad.

Ernie was super cute.

Ernie 15

Ernie was sassy.

Ernie wore a black spiked collar.

Ernie loved ladybugs as much as Mom does.

Ernie 2

Ernie was at every party and gathering Mom and Dad had, including the joint party to celebrate Dad’s 70th birthday and Mom’s retirement a few weeks ago.

Ernie was a heartbreaker.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I would rather have a broken heart now than never have known you at all.

We all would buddy.

You were the biggest dog I’ve ever known.

Ernie Nelson, I am so lucky to have known you and to have called you my friend.

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Our Garden So Far 2014

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Over Memorial Day this year, I had FOUR DAYS off in a row! Sometimes I have three days off, NEVER four. We gardened all day every day.

We have had a Square Foot Garden since we started gardening about ten years ago. I LOVE it. We have seriously neglected our garden in the past few years, with being so busy and all. This year I pulled all the weeds.

do homework for money

ALL the weeds. (Some came back.) Russ mulched all the things. ALL the things.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to the awesome Metzler family of Maple 85. First for letting us be the vet team for your incredible German Shepherd Nitro (the best and most beautiful Shepherd I know) and more recently for providing compost and mulch and a trailer to haul it and technical help right at our house when the aformentioned trailer wouldn’t tip, and poor Russ thought he would have to get it all out by himself with days and days of shoveling. (He did not.) Thank you guys. You are the best.

IMG_5402Oo that’s a lot of mulch, Russ.

We had quite a few pepper and tomato seedling casualties. Sorry co-workers. Apparently this year I suck at raising baby plants. I planted the ones we had, and we planted all the herbs and all the seeds of all the things we like.

SECRET FINCH FACT: We are not huge veggie lovers, but I think vegetable plants are pretty. My favorite is okra. My friend Lu gave me an okra plant one year. It was BEAUTIFUL, like a hibiscus. I do not think I would garden without okra again. Also, I do not think I will ever eat it. My other favorite is a radish plant gone to seed – GORGEOUS! Also, I do not like radishes.

This garden is CRAZY. It is going to be a really fun season.

Our cousin Bailey Dog is staying with us, so I took as many pictures I could of her! She does not stand still for pictures, but she is super cute. She is a miniature Goldendoodle.

Here are the pictures I have so far. I will have more and better pictures as stuff grows…


Bailey rolling


Bailey peeking


Bailey sniffingIMG_5521

Bailey sittingIMG_5520

Bailey waggingIMG_5517

Bailey greeting

Lemon thyme! Another example of a crop we grow but don’t eat – Isn’t it beautiful?? Anyone who likes the smell of lemonade (everyone) should have a pot of lemon thyme!IMG_5472

Noodle contemplating – Just kidding! He is just standing :)IMG_5471

I found this volunteer dill close to where I was going to plant dill so I just left it and labelled it. I am saving leaves for my friend vet tech Allison. One of the surgical specialists we work with and my vet school teacher Dr. Merkley was SUPER excited to learn dill attracts butterflies. It does.


This is in a corner of our front yard – spinach and strawberries and a super cute cat and bird sculpture that Russ got me at Nebraska Humane Society Black Tie and Tails 2012 that we went to as guests of my boss. So fun! And I LOVE this artist! She is Sondra Gerber and she is at Blue Pomegranate in Benson.

Close up! So cute!



We found this tiny hosta in our compost pile! I hope to some day fill our yard with it…IMG_5457

Lemon basil! We are also growing a lemon basil field! (In a 4X4 foot Square Foot Garden box of course)IMG_5456

Globe basil! I discovered this last year in Wisconsin. Now I always need it.IMG_5454

Rosemary! I finally have a rosemary plant I have not killed…IMG_5453

Pineapple! So fun! Cut the top off a pineapple and put it in dirt. I know! Crazy!


Pineapple sage! I just discovered this at Indian Creek Nursery this spring! It smells SO good!IMG_5449

This is the sad group of plants I have left after our garden was complete. (Pete these are all yours if you would like them and I can keep them alive!)IMG_5445

We have gotten a lot of questions about our compost pile. Russ built two open 4X4X4 foot sections and we put ONLY yard clippings in. When we need compost, we move all the dried plants to one side, and take the dirt from the empty side. It does not make much – you would be amazed how much plants break down – which is good I guess. And it smells REALLY GOOD (which surprised me!) It smells like dead grass.

A dramatic Joy silhouette


Pete gave us Bashara mint that was brought to the United States from Lebanon DECADES ago, and though he said it could not die, and though I know mint does not die, I was afraid I had accidently killed it by keeping it in an unprotected container through this past harsh winter. It lives! Yay! I LOVE mint. Right now, I have this, another spearmint and chocolate mint. They are hardy :) but they can be invasive, so we have all three in containers. I will protect them somehow this next winter. I get attached to plants! Weird!IMG_5431

This is our original garden space, and maybe my favorite part of the garden. It is strawberry plants  in the front and garlic in the back. Garlic is super easy to plant. Put it in dirt with the pointy side up. The plant is beautiful, and by Julyish, each clove will have grown a head of garlic that you can braid to have garlic available all winter.IMG_5429

We are going to try growing rhubarb…again. I think once it is established, it is a very hardy plant. My Mom grew it when we were kids, and I remember it was really pretty. Another one I am growing because it is pretty, but do  not want to eat! You can though…it may be next year before there is enough!

Turtle parade!

I don’t usually show “before” pictures because…they are embarrassing! But a couple years ago a storm took out our teepee, which was one of my favorite things in the garden. I am showing you this now – our partial restoration, so when it is rebuilt with a giant ladybug container in the middle and covered in scarlet runner beans and morning glories, you can see how far it has come!

I love the peonies that the original owners of our house planted. We built the Square Foot Garden around the three bushes, and it looks really neat together.

Max’s cat garden! It is on the deck so he doesn’t have to go in the yard and has catnip on the ends and cat grass in the middle.IMG_5413

Onions on the deck!IMG_5411

I broke it! It already has new roots though, so it may be ok…

My friend and coworker Jan gave me this beautiful terranium for Christmas a couple years ago.

This toy Border Collie lives in the terranium. The girls took him once to play with and I made them put him back.

This does not live in my garden, but wouldn’t that be awesome if she did? This is my sister-I-love’s hedgehog Pickles.

Thank you for looking at all these pictures!! Come see our garden if you would like! I have a feeling this is going to be a fun gardening year!



The Truth About Bear Dog

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

In September 2013 I saw an American Bulldog named Bear Dog for not eating, losing weight and vomiting.

We did blood work (great results) and x-rays (no abnormal findings).

Bear Dog’s owner was told several times that if he continued to have clinical signs, he needed to return.

He called every week or so to say Bear Dog was doing just okay. Or better. Or eating some. Or seeming picky about eating.

After mid-October, he did not call again.

Mid-January, he brought him back. Bear Dog was dead. He had lost 46 pounds since we had seen him.

Necropsy showed a collar that  went through his entire GI system.

I wish I had diagnosed the partial gastrointestinal obstruction that killed Bear Dog right out of the gate. Could things have turned out differently if we knew from day one that he had a surgical foreign body – when it still seemed we were a team? Looking back over everything, I still cannot definatively diagnose Bear Dog with the information I had from that single visit. A barium study – which was discussed and declined more than once – would have most likely given us a diagnosis. If we had stayed a team…if we had continued to work together, not giving up until we had answers…We never talked again after that last phone call in October.

Letting Bear Dog eat a collar was not wrong. Things happen. It was not even eaten on his owner’s watch.

Not knowing that it was a collar in his intestinal system that was slowly killing his dog was not wrong. With everything that COULD make a dog sick, knowing that detail was connected to this detail is never as straightforward as it seems in hindsight.

Watching a pet waste away from a fat, stable dog to a vomiting, lethargic, inappetent dog with absolutely no fat or muscle stores left over three and a half months with no followup veterinary care is wrong, criminal even.

So even though we liked the owner, and even though we were heartbroken he had lost his pet, we had to, legally and in good conscious, let the authorities know what had happened.

So we did. He was arrested. He was tried. And he was let go.

Here is his side as told to WOWT news.

Here is my husband’s email in response to WOWT news:

Dear Mr. Nicely and Channel Six team,

I watched the story this morning on the animal abuse case.  I am very disappointed. The story contains factual discrepancies and misrepresents the nature of the case and the decision of the court. I watched the trial in its entirety, and as you can guess from my last name, have personal knowledge of the situation.  

Your story stated that Bear Dog went to the vet several times, when in reality,  as court testimony demonstrated, he went just once. Furthermore, the owner’s absence when the dog ingested the collar was neither relevant to the decision, nor a significant part of the case, other than that he testified that he knew the dog chewed his collar in September.  The decision was not based on that, but on the judge’s opinion that the case did not fit an exact statute under which he was tried.  His opinion that none of the witnesses  thought there was abuse is his opinion. 

I assure you that the witnesses for the prosecution (two veterinarians and the staff of NHS animal control officers) were of a different opinion. Good reporting on the case would have shown that. The body of the case was that over the course of four months, the fat, happy dog you showed in the video lost almost 50% of his body weight as he slowly starved to death and became septic from pieces of collar in his digestive tract. The owner was accused of not bringing his dog in for follow up tests or treatment that could have saved Bear.  The pictures of Bear at the time of death* would tell a completely different story than the one your news piece did. Interviewing anyone from the prosecution would have told a different story.   

The case is over, He has been acquitted, and I am not looking for any further coverage of this case, but I think you should address this issue with your court reporter and perhaps make sure that what you air is more accurate and balanced.

R. Finch

We are waiting for a response. We are waiting for the email to be accepted as a comment on the news story.

I have this blog, so really, we do not have to wait. I prefer to save this blog – and all of my online communications – for lighter, happier pet stuff.

But this one cut deep. I went to court – well because I was ordered to testify, but I went to court with the hope of learning why. Why did he not bring Bear Dog back? To us for further care or even – in the late stages of his illness – for euthanasia? To another hospital? To the humane society? How could such a seemingly pleasant and kind person allow his dog to waste completely away? I have no conclusion because I am stuck here.

I promise – *NO after pictures. You will never get them out of your head. And I promise back to lighthearted next post.

You sure were a sweet dog. I am sorry that I did not save you, and I am sorry that the case ended how it did. I am glad you are no longer suffering.