Archive | July 2014

The Little Cat Who Thought He Was A Dog — A BIG Dog

Muriel from BlogDaughter Susan never met an animal she didn’t love. Her pets have included snakes, lizards, birds, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, horses, a donkey, plus…. I’ve probably missed a few. I learned to live with some of these when she was a child even though her beloved creatures were at times pretty weird.
After Susan grew up and was sharing a house, she had a large Alaskan Malamute named Kodi. Kodi intimidated me. He was BIG! However, he didn’t seem to intimidate the little white kitten Susan brought home from the SPCA one day. Maybe the 10-week old little thing didn’t know he was supposed to be afraid of dogs. But then, he was an innocent. Susan named him Myshkin, after the character in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot”. She must have immediately recognized that part of his nature.

Little Myshkin with a toy

Little Myshkin with a toy

Kodi, big as he was, spent his nights sleeping on the sofa. Myshkin, perhaps missing his family, climbed up onto Kodi’s back and slept there too. Was it the warmth of Kodi’s big body? Was it the sound of Kodi’s heartbeat? I have no idea, but it was amusing to see that little bundle of white fur climb up onto the large dog, dig around to make his bed more comfortable, and then curl up, purring contentedly, for the night.

Myshkin and Kodi, pals

Myshkin and Kodi, pals

Myshkin was pretty and a charmer. He was as white as can be, with one blue and one green eye, a beautiful little pink nose, pink ears and small pink paws — and a penchant for getting into mischief. Each time this happened, perhaps by knocking over a flower pot on a window sill or exploring a space too narrow for any creature to fit into, Kodi would announce it loudly.

Myshkin in warpaint. He always managed to get into mischief

Myshkin in warpaint. He always managed to get into mischief

“It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!” he seemed to be telling us. Kodi also tried to teach Myshkin manners by gently taking the kitten’s head into his mouth when the little one misbehaved, which was often enough. However, Kodi was unusually patient with his little friend….
Where you found one, you would find the other. If at first it looked strange to the neighbours to see little Myshkin trotting behind Susan and Kodi on their regular neighbourhood jaunts, folks soon became accustomed to seeing the trio walking by. On the way, Kodi had some stops to make at favorite shops where he received treats. Myshkin would just sit quietly beside him until Kodi got his due. Don’t we do that for friends?

In return, Kodi was protective of little Myshkin. Any dog that threatened his small companion was in for a surprise standoff.

“No one messes with my pal,” his growl seemed to say in no uncertain terms. The bond grew stronger.

Myshkin's first snow experience

Myshkin’s first snow experience

As parents age, relationships with offspring often reverse. So it happened with Kodi and Myshkin. When Kodi was stricken with cancer at the end of his life, Myshkin seemed to instinctively know.
Since Kodi was too weak to walk, Susan, with help from her roommate, would carry him out to the lawn, where he could sit on a pad. At least he could be outdoors and Myshkin was never far from Kodi’s side. That seemed natural enough, after all they were pals.
But one day Susan witnessed something extraordinary. A large black dog approached to sniff at Kodi — no owner in sight. In the past, Myshkin would count on Kodi to protect him from strange dogs. This time, however, the little cat gathered his courage, hair raised, growling as ferociously as he could. He stood up to block the strange dog with his own little body every which way that dog tried to bypass him.

He risked his own life to protect his helpless friend! The interloper gave up and left. Is there anything else to say?

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To Family/Friends of Those with Balance and Dizziness (vestibular) Disorders

Muriel from BlogSince Dr. Graham Bryce and I started the B C Balance & Dizziness Disorders Society (BADD) 15 years ago, I’ve talked with hundreds and hundreds of members dealing with vestibular disorders. When our first Board met around my kitchen table, we discussed a name for our fledgling support group. I noted that “Balance and Dizziness Disorders” which was chosen, would probably have the acronym BADD, which might not look good. The response? “Well, it IS bad.” So “BADD” we became.

Balance and Dizziness Disorders ARE bad

Balance and Dizziness Disorders ARE bad

Through the years, members complain that nobody gets it. Not only do family and friends not understand how debilitating these conditions are, too many medical practitioners have no idea how difficult it is, at times, to function at all. These disorders are unpleasant enough to live with, but the lack of empathy from those around us can be devastating. With a broken arm, you sport a cast; if you are blind, you use a white cane; but stagger in the street (As I have from time to time) and people will look askance, consider you to be drunk and refuse to help you even if you request it. And, yes, that has happened to me!

Image used on BADD's brochure. We are always aware of trying to stay upright

Image used on BADD’s brochure. We are always aware of trying to stay upright

Not only do we deal with a scary, unstable world which moves in ways others don’t experience, with a balance system others take for granted which won’t work properly for us, but also the anxiety and fear of knowing that at any moment, often without warning, everything may begin to spin. When that happens, panic ensues, we find it impossible to keep our bodies upright. The feeling is terrifying.

I have desperately clung to street poles, mailboxes, garbage cans and strangers when suddenly hit by one of these episodes. I have courageously fought my way out of my apartment in stages after sieges. I’ve had to stop my car enroute to work in busy Los Angeles traffic, my heart pounding while my whole body trembled with fear. Not pleasant……

At any time, things can begin to spin

At any time, things can begin to spin

I have arthritis. It hurts. Unfortunately, after so many falls, a knee replacement didn’t work miracles. I deal with pain every day. I have, however, repeatedly said I can cope with the pain — as long as I’m not dizzy. Any day in which I don’t experience dizziness is a terrific day!

A father of a member I spoke with insisted his son was not being diligent. He missed a business appointment when he was experiencing an episode. (The son’s attacks were so violent, he was unable to get up from the floor and would have to be taken to hospital by ambulance.)

Keep Going? I can't even get up!

Keep Going? I can’t even get up!

“I’ve had a heart attack. I’ve had cancer,” the father insisted, “You just keep going.”

When I tried to explain that I, myself, ordinarily very reliable, self-sufficient and hard-working, was unable to “just keep going” even though I was not financially ready to retire. He didn’t hear or understand.

“He had a friend fill in for him,” the dad continued, “Maybe his client will like his friend better and he’ll lose the client. You just have to……”

I failed to reach him. What can I say when members tell me their family or even their doctors don’t take their conditions seriously. Too many family doctors seem to know nothing about vestibular disorders. At times I despair.

Yes, we make dates and appointments we sometimes can’t keep. I was to be interviewed on television for my job when I became so dizzy on my way to work, I had to call in to say I had no choice but to take a cab home. They were not pleased. I was the only one working there comfortable with that kind of assignment. The cab driver, seeing how ill I was (did he think I was already drunk at 8 a.m.?) didn’t offer me any change. He took much more money from me than he should have. I was too sick to argue — but I still resent it.

I often feel like this, but I'm sure he's better at it than I am

I often feel like this, but I’m sure he’s better at it than I am

One of the most common causes of dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), often easily treated by a manoeuvre. Many of us with other vestibular disorders end up with BPPV as well. Sometimes a manoeuvre will work. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it makes you feel even worse. There are no easy, simple answers.

I plead with family and friends of people who experience balance and dizziness disorders to try to understand and forgive when we’ve made promises we can’t keep or a date we have to cancel.

I've gotta get out of here! Too many colours! Too many lights!

I’ve gotta get out of here! Too many colours! Too many lights!

We may feel a desperate need to immediately escape from a shopping centre because the bright colors are making things impossible. We’ll suddenly grab your arm to hang on to because the world has decided to play nasty tricks on us. We’ll ask you to walk farther to avoid walking on the grass because if there is a slight indentation hidden by it we may fall. It may seem unreasonable to you, but I am familiar with it all.

Yes, we do love you. Yes, we do want to see you. And, yes, please do not misread our distress — it has nothing to do with you and it is not a rejection of you. We need you in our lives even more than other people do.

For information about BADD, see http://www.balanceanddizziness.org