Monday, July 2, 2018

CNS Staff Appreciation Day at UT

The Pit Crew was invited to be in the "relaxation room" at the second annual CNS Staff Appreciation Day. For those who don't know I work for CNS (College of Natural Science at UT), so this was a busy (but very fun) day for me.

Wichita got to come to work with me and get a puppuccino on the way to the office. He and Roo both love puppuccinos, they start licking their lips (or noses) when they see me walk out the door with the cup in my hand.

Since I was being appreciated too, I got to go do an origami class. Wichita was super good and waited patiently while I folded paper.

Then it was Pit Crew time. Wichita loves attention and couldn't have been happier with new people coming to pet him every few minutes for 2 hours. He was a hit on the instagram page too #cnsstaffday18 

OWL summer reading program

Roo did this program last year and Wichita did it this year. This is a really cool program, most of the kids who attend the OWL Reading Camp are immigrants who are learning English, I'm not sure about this year, but last year, I know a few of them were refugees from Syria. 
Some of the kids are a little bit afraid of dogs, so I would sit between Wichita and the kids who were nervous. Some of them wanted to pet Wichita by the time they were finished reading, others were still a little too nervous to pet him.

The first week, most of the kids read Wichita's story to him. A few times when the kid got to the part where "Wichita met a volunteer named Heather...she took him home to meet her family" the kid would look at Wichita, look at me, smile, and say, "wait...are you Heather?"

We had an interesting encounter the second week. We were waiting for the kids and three women in the lobby area were saying hi to Wichita (2 of the women met him the first week). After petting Wichita, making kissy noises to him, and telling him how sweet he is, the new woman said, "there are still breeds I would never have, like pit bulls" I responded politely "Wichita is a pit bull" She was shocked and said "REALLY?" I replied, "yep, he's a rescue, but his genetic test says he's 100% American Pit Bull Terrier" The third woman said to Wichita, "you're just breaking down stereotypes right and left, aren't you". Later, I overheard the first woman telling the new woman that pit bulls are usually very sweet & cuddly, and the new woman said "I had no idea"
The first week this little girl was afraid to pet Wichita, but by week two, she was totally up for giving him some post reading love.

 I'm not sure Wichita was impressed with Spiderman
 Ms. Bridget gives great ear rubs!
 This little boy was absolutely in love with Wichita
And Wichita took full advantage, flopping over on his side for better ear rubbing access while reading.
The boy even gave him a kiss goodbye

I hope we can do the OWL reading camp again next year. It's an assignment that caters to some of the higher need kids, so it's really rewarding and the staff is great too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Andy Roddick Summer Learning Program

At the Andy Roddick Summer Learning Program, Tuesdays after lunch is "reading with a dog" time. The kids partner up and then each group takes turns reading to Wichita. The timing is great for me, because I can volunteer during my lunch break. The kids really love Wichita, we've gone 3 weeks now and have been in a different classroom each time. The first week the kids met Wichita and immediately asked "is he a red-nosed pit bull?" I didn't know that until I read everything I could find about his on Earth did a few 9 year old know that? The second week one of the teachers called Wichita an "angel baby sent from heaven". The third week, a kid asked "is he trained?" I said yes and gave a few examples. The kids asked "can we see?" I had Wichita sit, down, come, stay, and when I walked back to him, I threw him a treat which he caught in mid air. The kids (and teachers) applauded. Wichita loves the attention from all the kids. 

Oak Springs Elementary aka Roo's school

Roo's second on-going therapy dog assignment is at Oak Springs Elementary. At Oak Springs the reading program is targeted toward kids who have been diagnosed with dyslexia. Reading to Roo motivates them to reach their reading goals and helps them see that reading is fun. Roo loves going to Oak Springs and since he has a specific group of kids there, he's gotten to know them really well. Roo is very popular and well loved at Oak Springs, so much that we got our picture on the wall with the staff!
Roo and me on the wall at Oak Springs
Roo also knows the Oak Springs principal Ms. Woods really well.

Roo with Principal Woods
A few pictures from reading at Oak Springs:

I think Roo misses Oak Springs this summer and I know he'll be so happy to go back when school starts again.

Little Walnut Creek Library

A few of the coloring pages of Roo kids have colored while waiting to read.
The Little Walnut Creek Library was Roo's first on-going therapy dog assignment, we began going in Sept. 2017. We go every Wednesday from 4:30-5:30. Roo loves his library and he's developed quite a crew of regular readers. Since the library isn't a targeted program with goals for each individual reader, we keep it pretty flexible. Sometimes, if the child is too young, I read to him/her instead of him/her reading to Roo. We also have a lot of Spanish speaking kids (and parents) so I get to practice my first grade level Spanish, and frequently have to ask parents or older siblings for help.
The managing librarian made publicity for Roo's reading days
Roo with his sign at the libary
A few of our favorite pictures from "Roo's library"

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wichita Chronicles Part 3

Wichita has been doing great!  He passed his Canine Good Citizen test in November and he'll begin therapy dog classes in January.

But a little before Thanksgiving, I saw a little bump on Wichita's side. It was small, about the size of a pencil eraser, but sometimes it would shrink and be almost too small to find. Other times it would get bigger again. I tried to take pictures of the bump, but it was so little, it wasn't really visible in any of the pictures. So off to the vet we went (again). Dr. Weisz did a find needle aspiration and looked at the cells from the lump under the microscope. It was a mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors are pretty unpredictable and they can be benign or they can be malignant and extremely aggressive. I have a friend whose dog had a mast cell tumor when he was a year old and never had an issue again. I also have a friend whose dog had a mast cell tumor and she died of mast cell cancer just a couple of months later. Yikes!

First step for Wichita was to remove the tumor. But it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when I took him in, so Dr. Weisz scheduled surgery for the next Thursday and said we'd need to give Wichita Benedryl and Pepcid until the surgery. Mast cell tumors are made of mast cells which are part of the immune system and they can release histamine (hence the size change). If a mast cell tumor is big enough or aggressive enough, it can release so much histamine, that it can cause anaphylactic shock! Dr. Weisz also warned me that although the tumor was small, mast cell tumors are often locally aggressive, so when removing them, they always take wide margins to have a better chance of getting all of the abnormal cells. So she planned to take 3 cm on each side of the tumor, that would mean about a 5 inch incision!

Big incision
I took Wichita in for surgery on Thursday and everything went well. He got lots of love from the Allandale staff and they made sure to stitch up the big incision really well. I tried not to think about the histopathlogy report since it would be 5-10 business days before we'd get the results. We needed to keep Wichita fairly calm for about 10 days to avoid putting stress on the stitches and incision. That's not easy with a young, active dog! He never seemed to feel any pain even though the incision was so big.

I took Wichita to work with me the day after his surgery, clearly he wasn't feeling too bad. Lots of students came by to see him. This is one of my TAs, Ka'ohi, doing one of Wichita's favorite tricks with him. 

They gave us carprofen for pain, and we gave it to him for a few days, but I'm not sure he needed it. Wichita did not have to wear a cone, but he did have to wear a t-shirt to keep him from scratching at the incision. He didn't mind wearing t-shirts at all. I did catch him trying to scratch at the incision a couple of times, so when he was home alone, I put a bootie on his back foot so he couldn't scratch much.
Wichita scratched one of his stitches loose, luckily the incision was already healing well so it wasn't a big deal.
On Friday, 8 days after surgery, we got the histopathlogy report. All of the abnormal cells were removed with good margins!  And the mitotic index was a 2 which is very good! Mitotic index is a scale from 1 to 10 that measures how quickly cells are dividing. Cancer cells divide really quickly and very aggressive cancer cells divide crazy fast. A mitotic index of 5 or below is considered good for a mast cell tumor and no further treatment is generally recommended. So Wichita's mitotic index of 2, was great news!

Yesterday Wichita got his stitches taken out and Dr. Weisz said everything looks good and he's cleared for all activity (even swimming)! He does have a pretty huge scar that one friend said looks like "an alien worm coming out of his side" But his hair will grow back soon and hopefully the big scar won't be super noticeable...and even if it is, oh well, at least he's healthy!
hopefully when his fur grows back the scar won't be so noticeable
alien worm scar
We will always have to watch for lumps and bumps and get them checked out quickly because often (but not always) dogs who get one mast cell tumor will get more. But with his super short fur, bumps are very easy to see & feel on Wichita.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Wichita Chronicles Part 2

I left off on the first part of Wichita's story on Sept 26th, with him just beginning to feel better. After that point, he began to improve much more quickly. He started eating much better, gaining weight, and wanting to play with Roo more.

We went back to Allandale Vet Clinic for more x-rays to see if the pneumonia was gone on Oct 13th. Everyone at the office was impressed with how much better Wichita looked and how much happier and more confident he seemed. I really expected the pneumonia to be gone and for him to get a clean bill of health. Instead, Dr. Bello found a small spot of fluid (pneumonia) still left in one lung and he found that Wichita's bronchii are "thickened" or inflamed. He said that would be normal for an older dog, but since Wichita is only 2-3, that was concerning. We sent a sample off to Texas A&M to test for lung worms, which are very uncommon in Austin. But they live in extremely humid environments...Houston flooding anyone?? The lung worm test came back negative, so Dr. Bello said we'd revisit & decide what, if anything, to do when we came back again for more x-rays after 2 more weeks of antibiotics. He said in the mean time not to worry about it and to let Wichita be active if he wanted to, but not to take him running much yet.

So we did everything except running :)

Wichita loves to play with Roo now

and he loves to cuddle with Roo (and us) too. He'll even sit in my lap when I watch tv on the couch.
We went to the Love-A- Bull pub walk.
Roo & Wichita at the Love-A-Bull pub walk. Credit: Dogs of ATX
We went to Poochini's & Peticures at Lofty Dog .
Zoe's new dog Louie looks so much like Wichita!!
We took a day trip to College Station for a big tailgating party

We went out to eat.
at Fuzzy's Tacos
Wichita tested out of Obedience 1 and 2 at the Zoom Room, and began Obedience 3 classes. He learns very quickly. He's well on his way to earning his Canine Good Citizen certification.

We went hiking with Debbi, Greg, and Allie and found out Wichita can swim! He had so much fun!

I made Halloween costumes for Roo & Wichita
Wichita the SCUBA Dog
On October 27th, Wichita went back to the vet for more x-rays. Dr. Bello was out that day, so we saw Dr. Weisz. Roo usually sees Dr. Weisz, so I know her well too. She showed me the x-rays, we saw that the spot of pneumonia was gone, but Wichita still had the thickened bronchii. We talked about it. She said it may be due to a previous heart worm infection, a previous bout of pneumonia or other respiratory stress, but we can't know for sure. She said we should watch him for any respiratory symptoms, but as long as he's "acting healthy, like he is now" he is free to do anything- no restrictions. She did say to build his running mileage very slowly and watch for any issues.

Wichita's "sort of clean" bill of health came just in time for Canine Camp! You can read about our Canine Camp fun here. And he's now run up to 1.5 miles.

We finally got to have fun with Wichita and learn what a cool dog he is! He's smart, playful, sweet, and like Roo, he's calm in the house, but full of energy in the yard or at the park. He's still not super excited about toys, but he will grab a toy, and run outside with it to entice Roo to chase him. He loves to go for walks and runs. It's been 8 weeks since I brought Wichita home, and now that he's healthy, he's fitting into our family perfectly.