Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

August 29, 2013

It's Always Something ...

We got cleared for dog swimming and walks this week along with instructions to do core exercises on an air mattress and I am directed to pull my dog's tail.  The tail pull is like chiropractic for dogs and helps to align her spine and release pressure. She thinks that is a bit weird but does seems to feel better with it. So it was off to the lake yesterday to have a good swim which she really enjoyed.

Today, we took a walk on the tow path in the C&O Canal NHP that runs along the Potomac River. Only walked for an hour because we need to get back into exercise gradually. Somewhere along the path, my dog stuck her nose into something by the side of the path and suddenly jumped a foot and a half. All I saw was a very quick flash of white. Towards the end of our walk, she was less enthusiastic. We went down to the river and she swam some. I thought we had over done the exercise from her lethargy.

Later in the afternoon, I noticed she had a big swelling under her chin so I took her to the vet. The vet found two spots right under her chin and thinks she got a snake bite and it was possibly venomous. She also said that most of the snakes here do not pose a life threatening bite and she didn't have a really rapid swelling so that is a good sign.  The vet gave her a Benedryl shot and prescribed an anti inflammatory, antibiotic, and a pain killer. Good thing she is easy to pill. I think that I saw a quick flash of the snake's underside with the flash of white but it was gone fast. The dog refused to get a water bottle discarded a bit off the path after that. Maybe she has learned to be a bit more cautious now.

Her swelling has gone down quite a bit in the late evening so I think she will be all right. The cat continues to heal. I took a picture of his wound to show the vet. She said when the hole in his skin heals/scabs over, then he can go outside again and it is healing up as it should. That can't be too soon. He keeps chasing the other cat and is generally a pain in the neck.

The fool dog finally paid the price for sticking her nose into everything.  It is always something ...
UPDATE: The dog is much better in the morning. Her spirits are up, the swelling is much smaller altho there is a swelling on her chest between her front legs (the vet said that would happen). Her neck measurement is 6 cm less than it was yesterday. So it looks like it will be all right. I love my vet!

August 25, 2013

Life with Furry Invalids

It's been the better part of a week with my 2 furry invalids. The feisty cat with the nasty bite and the dog with newly diagnosed but early spondyloses. The cat has been wearing a lampshade on his head to keep him from licking and irritating the wound except when I feed him. The wound is looking like it is slowly healing - darker in color but no weeping fluid. He acts drunk with cone on. Odd jerky movement and postures, the poor thing. By Friday, he started trying to wash his face with his paw but only got the cone. He is constantly trying to get outside and do his regular hunting, lazing around outside, and cat fighting so I have to catch him every time I open the door. But he must convalesce inside. This morning, he started howling repeatedly for about an hour (my poor ears!) but finally settled into a nap on the floor upstairs. He has finally stopped going after the wound so I let him have some time without the cone to take a cat bath. Then the brat entertains himself by chasing the other other cat and brawling. He also spends a lot of time insisting on laying about my desk which I find rather inconvenient.
Syl wanting to go outside

Still sitting crooked which indicates she doesn't feel right.

My poor dog is bored out of her gourd. I looked up the spondyloses treatment and prognosis on the interwebs. It really is good to find out early. One good piece of news is that they recommend swimming as really good exercise for her so once she is cleared to resume that, we will take daily jaunts to lakes for her to swim. Meanwhile she wants to run and can't and she wants to play fetch. She's a good girl tho. We are also going to start carting training in the fall. The vet says that will be good exercise for her. It's the jumping and twisting actions that she loves that won't be good for her to do.  I got the long rope I use in the van for her to be leashed outside so she can keep tabs on the world but not go crazy dog. She's learned a new trick this week - to beg. It grew out of her waves when she got excited and lifted both paws up.

Meantime, I am cleaning up the living room of all the tools and supplies to ready it for floor laying. There is a lot of stuff in there to clear out.  Much of it is going into an upstairs bedroom for now that will function as a shop area. I am also clearing out the van so it can double as a trash hauler and to work on the pesky refrigerator again.  I'm putting all the cushions and things in the corner of a bedroom.

August 20, 2013

Chugging Along and Vet Merry Go Round

Since I got back from my trip in July, I've been working along on my main objective: fix up this house so I can sell it.  I just finished the ceiling and walls of the powder room with wainscot beadboard. I went ahead and installed the toilet paper holder and towel holder and new mirror. Now the front part of the house is finally ready to lay the flooring after I clean it all out to clear out the rooms. Pre-finished flooring is nice in that once it is laid, all that is left is the baseboards and the rooms are done. I have to install the new vanity after the floor goes in as well. My objective in the house refresh is so that when prospective buyers walk into the house, their first impression is what a cute cottage. Most houses are sold in the first 5 minutes so I am trying to make that initial impression a good one. 

One of my long standing personality traits is focus on an objective until it gets done. So rather than indulge in my wanderlust, I am in full on carpenter mode to get this house done.  When pulling out the old ratty vanity a couple weeks ago, I wrenched my back. Drat. So I was down a few days but I'm ok now. Research has shown that no matter what you do for back pain, whether a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapy, or nothing, in a week to 10 days 95% get better. So I opt for nothing and inside a week I was much better. Cheaper and less trouble that way with the same outcome.

I've been spending a lot of money at the Vet's lately. My dog, Dirona, had a couple of episodes of limping again before and during our trip. I took her in for more physical therapy - laser treatments. Her PT found she is sore in the rear and today, she found the dog is sore on her back and doesn't like her tail moved in one direction. We talked with the vet and decided on getting xrays to see what is going on. Now I've got a dopey dog because they sedate them for an xray. But it is a good thing we did because she is diagnosed with spondylosis in her lower spine. No arthritis yet and the vet said that they do see arthritis in dogs this young. At least we now have a reason for all this lameness and that lets us formulate a better therapy for her, including tail pulling. Yep, next week, I get taught how to do therapeutic tail pulling. Makes me wonder if missing a tail makes my back recovery longer. I need a tail to pull! Defective humans. ;-)

Dopey Dirona
The vet also said they rarely get to diagnose it this early. Usually it gets diagnosed when the dog is fairly crippled.  I blame her physical therapist. If she hadn't done such thorough examinations, we would never have been led to get the xray and find it out.  Good thing this dog is so easy to pill. We now have Deramax, an anti inflammatory for 10 days and Vetri-Disc, a chondroitin supplement to add to the Dasuquin. But no more muscle relaxer.

Sunday, Sylvester, the Evil Extra Cat, hopped up on my desk where I noticed he had blood and fluid on his arm. A little examination revealed a nasty bite on what would be the armpit on us. I could see two fang punctures on the top and a mess on the underside. It didn't look infected so I waited until Monday to bring him in. The vet said it looked like a bite and him pulling away for the tears on the underside. The fool cat acts like he is in no pain but it has to hurt. He presents himself to go out and hunt mice in the morning like usual. So, he got  an anti-inflammatory shot and an antibiotic shot that both last a couple of weeks. He is impossible to pill and even liquid meds get spit out. The vet thinks it is likely a cat bite. She said the only other animal with teeth that size is a raccoon but they usually do a lot more damage. No doubt, Syl probably started the fight and if he didn't he did in the past so the other cat was primed to fight. He is just awful to other cats. And impossible to keep inside.

When we got home, Syl was more angry than I have ever seen him. He walked thru the house spitting, hissing, and growling with no one near him. When I put him in a crate to chill, he continued to growl and hiss for 2 more hours. Usually, he just does a quick show of his displeasure and runs off when he's mad. By nighttime, he was back to normal and purring at me. He's been licking the wound vigorously so I got him the lampshade to wear, which he hates. I asked the vet if the meds affect mood but she said she had never heard of that.
I do not like this one bit!

Unhappy cat in jail and dopey dog

Lots of fur-kid issues lately. Nissa, my elderly female cat has been vomiting lately. I switched to just giving her a heaping teaspoon of food at once and so far, that seems to have stopped the vomiting. It means she has to be fed 3 times a day now.

The other day, before the bite, Syl showed up on my deck with a mouse in his mouth. He asked to come in but I refused. He meant business because he proceeded to chomp the mouse down in short order with no typical cat torture session. The hunting must be good because he's been refusing his morning meal and insisting on going outside.  Sunday night, Dirona was very interested under the deck and finally when I made her come out, she had 2 rabbit feet sticking out of her mouth, chomping away. Predators.

August 4, 2013


Some things I set up in my van have not worked out so well. So I change them and learn from the failure.

Cat litter box

My first attempt was to put the litter box under the bench but I quickly learned the hard way (a quick diversion to a laundromat) that there just wasn't enuf head room in there. My raised bench/bed made plenty of room and it seemed to work fine for one cat but the other one, who is a victim of the male's bullying, was too scared to put herself in what looked to her like a trapped position. So I got a small kennel on top of the benches and set up a little litter box for her inside there.That worked ok as long as I kept the boxes clean. But this trip, neither cat was willing to use the under-bed box. It might have just been part of the male's bullying to take over the kennel box but the end result was the female was an unhappy camper.

On the way back, I put a garbage bag on the back floor between the benches, laid a couple of pee pads over that and put the litter box in front of a couple of boxes of things. Just to see, I left the kennel box in place with a litter box liner but no litter. The floor box was used regularly by both cats but once, someone went in the bare kennel box. I put a little litter in there to absorb it but no one used it again. It really looks like I have to have the litter box in the open, more or less. I'm going to get one of those plastic carpet protector runners to put over the carpet back there. There's always something to address with 2 cats who hate each other. They are old now but are showing no signs of ailing since I started feeding them a raw diet.

Swing table

I put in a table with a swing around mounted on the side of one of the benches. It worked really well until this year.  Turns out the post that inserts into a sleeve in the swing arm just reaches the top of the arm. The sleeve has worn so that it no longer holds the post tightly and it sags badly. It would have worked better and lasted longer if the post rose higher than the arm so that the top would be held securely. My attempts at finding a new sleeve failed as the post is just a bit smaller than one inch.  I'm going to re-think the whole table design

Refrigerator Ventilation

I got an Isotherm marine refrigerator last year to replace the dead 3-way that came with the van.  I seem to have a van refrigerator curse as it decided to not work again this year. I did a fairly elaborate outside air ventilation for it using the old wall vents.  The problem is that the Danfoss compressor really should have air below 110F for ventilation. With the hot summers, the outside air is often just too hot for effective ventilation. I could feel the heat blasting in just from the vents. Plus the Reflextix insulation I used to block outside air from the inside of the van actually conducts electricity so I'm not sure but it might have shorted out some of the electrics.

The Isotherm is made to use inside air from the bottom going up the back and drawn thru the compressor by the fan which is located in the upper right side and then out into the cabin over the top. I used vinyl flashing to seal the the two wall vents and put insulation against that to seal out the hot outside air. I put two 3/4" slats under the refrigerator feet and took off the chute I made to bring the air to the top of the unit. That leaves about an inch of space behind the unit and the van wall rib for air to come up. I left the top open and used a decorative aluminum vent piece to cover up the hole. Surprisingly, the piece wedged into the top bracket and didn't really need any screws to hold it in place. While I wasn't able to test it out since the fridge doesn't work at present, it was a lot cooler inside the van by closing up the outside vents and insulating them.
New ventilation for fridge

Frustrated by the continuing problems with the new fridge, I decided to go ahead and get a chest fridge/freezer. I had planned on getting one eventually anyway so I could have a little freezer to keep a supply of frozen meat for the pets (I raw feed them). I put it right behind the passenger seat - a fairly dead area in the van. I picked up a Dometic CF35 unit at Camping World on sale. It was still more expensive than I could have gotten on the internet but I could go get it and have in place for my trip. It was a good thing I did since the repair piece the company sent me to fix the fridge did nothing and I ran out of time to mess with it.

The place where I wanted to have the chest fridge necessitated getting power there. I didn't want to have a cord draped over to the nearest 12V outlet on the upper cabinet wall next to the sliding door. That is kind of asking for an accident. As a stock thing, Sprinter installed battery cables under the passenger seat for an auxiliary battery.  Mine has the house batteries located in the rear of the van so under the seat is empty except for the cables. A quick check with my ohm meter showed that the red cable is threaded to under the driver's seat and is loose under there. Under the drivers seat is where the battery isolator is located.  All I had to do was connect the wire to the house side of the battery isolator and I would have a live wire under the passenger seat. The black wire was already grounded to the body of the van under the seat.

Of course that was more trouble than it looked.  It always is. The stud for the battery isolator connection is short. Too short to put another wire on it. I didn't want to risk under-sizing the wire or have to run a new cable so I used the 4AWG cable that was already there. I solved this problem by getting a short battery cable and connecting that to the battery isolator stud and then bolting all the wires to the other end of it. I cable tied it securely and ran a big shrink wrap over the connections to insulate them from any potential shorting to the metal. I didn't use heat to shrink wrap it; I just used cable ties to hold it in place.
Passenger seat - Outlet box and junction box that I put under the seat

Battery Isolator connections under drivers seat

That got me power to the cable under the passenger seat. Next up was to wire in a fuse to protect everything downstream. I used a small junction box for this purpose. I drilled two holes for bolts, staggered a bit to reduce any chance of wires crossing. I attached the negative wire to one and the red hot wire to the other. I ran one end of the fuse holder wire to the positive bolt and out an access hole in the junction box after crimping on a yellow hole connector. A lock washer and nut secured them to the positive bolt. The positive wire for the 12V outlet was connected to the other end of the fuse holder.  I ran the negative wire thru another access hole in the box. I screwed a box cover on the bottom to protect the bolt heads from contacting any metal and another one on top to close the box.

I got an exterior outlet box but found it was too short to hold the outlet. I got a box extender that worked. I cut a cover from aluminum flashing and cut the holes for the outlet and a switch. I crimped connectors and connected the switch in line with the outlet and connected all the negatives together. There was a screw hole in the rear of the seat pedestal so I used that to feed the wires thru.  I attached the box to the seat pedestal with rare-earth magnets. It stayed steady the whole trip.

The chest freezer worked very well. I was amazed at how much can fit in 1.1 cu. ft. I quickly learned that it could be a freezer on the bottom and a fridge for the things on top. There's a small section above the compressor that stayed at about 62F. That was good for things like butter. I had just learned that hot buttered coffee is quite good and butter is a lot easier to manage than cream is.

I haven't given up on the Isotherm refrigerator. They have a very good reputation for quality and it is under warranty for another 4 years. He says that sometimes the problem is in the wiring or contacts but when I connect up an 8 ga wire directly to the fridge, it still doesn't work. When it did work, it was really good. Got to go get my batteries tested to be sure they aren't the problem.