July 31, 2015

Heidi Is On Medical Leave From Blogging and Traveling

As you can see, Heidi is as thin as the picture. As I mentioned before she was down 13 pounds from last September and 7 of those 13 pounds were lost since late March. A few posts back I wrote about taking her to the vet after we returned from our June trip to Utah. Her stools were too soft for too long, she was skin and bones ... although she had escaped any seasonal allergies for the first time that I can remember.

After a week of the vet recommended dose of Pepsin AC, then few a few days of pumpkin added to her kibble, I did not see any positive changes. The vet had ruled out parasites as the reason for her weight loss. He had no answers on why she had lost so much weight. She still had and has a huge appetite, normal basset hound energy but wasn't showing the normal amount of irritated skin this summer due to her allergies.

I had almost decided it was the food that I had changed to a couple of months ago, feeding it to her a month before our June 8 trip. She never had car sickness on that 3,000 mile trip. She seemed normal the week we were gone. She likes to rid in the car, always has. Still the vet and a few friends thought it might be stress from traveling based on her past history before I bought her through a rescue service.

I thought time would take care of itself plus a change in food would help her digestion problem. Since it was hot outside, I stayed inside and continued to look at our next trip possibilities. I was looking for places that were cooler than the Midwest temps and high humidity, and wasn't on fire. There were not many places west of the Mississippi River that fit that criteria.

Like always, things in life can change in an instant, even with the best plans sketched out. I had l just let the hounds out on a Sunday morning, the 19th, (correction ... it was the 12th) before I was heading up to REI in Indianapolis to pick up a Yakima Roof Top Storage Box. Both Winston and Sadie like to dump their tanks in the field but never Heidi. Since day one it's always been on the gravel driveway or a small corner in the front yard.

That requires me to operate a pooper scooper in quick fashion right after she is done. Only on this morning it was different. Bright red blood was showing up in her stool. Out of my 3 local vets in the area of this small town, only one was open for office visits on a Sunday. She happened to be Heidi's original vet from the time I bought her years ago until last October, when I went looking for other opinions on her skin issues.

For some reason this vet also did not want to see a stool sample to check for parasites. Both vets in the past few weeks had squeezed her stomach and intestinal areas and found no issues. Both said she did not have parasites. I thought it was strange they wouldn't check the stool but I'm not a vet.

By the time we arrived at the vet office and the vet had checked her out, it had been over 24 hours since Heidi had eaten anything so a blood sample was taken and sent off for analysis. I would get the results back the following week. I was pretty sure that blood work would answer all the questions we have had for the past few months.

That put our travel plans on hold. Yes, I was close to leaving for another trip. My house to-do list was complete and the urge to travel was too much ... so we were heading out.

Heidi's blood work results came back the following Thursday and everything was normal !!! How can that be after losing 28% of her weight when she wasn't overweight to begin with at 46 pounds? Why the digestive problems that had flared up in the past month of so? What about the UTI she had in May? But yes, the results of the blood work showed her red cell count was within the normal range, no liver or kidney issues as they seemed to be working normal. The tests did not show anything out of the ordinary. I still find that hard to believe.

The vet asked about her past activity, what food was she eating, basically a past history since last October, when I wanted to move away from steroid shots for her allergies. She suggested that stress might be an issue and yes, she may have been stressed out from traveling. You can tell by the photos I took of those trips, she never looked stressed out when traveling ... so I really didn't think that was the issue.

She suggested we go back to a no grain food, although from the photos I showed her on my iPhone, she could see the improvement in her skin after I had changed from a no grain food to a chicken and rice formula. She recommended something different on the no grain food.

She wanted me to make sure there was no chicken or chicken meal in the ingredients and also no potatoes. She did not recommend a brand. She also recommended keeping her at home for the next 30 days to see if she would start gaining weight with a different food high in protein and high in fat. During that time I could also watch for any other changes in Heidi. We set up a followup appointment for August 19.

I spent the rest of the day and night looking at different no grain dog food again. Something I had done in the past but I wanted the latest news of any changes. Only a day later did I find out that Merrick, a food we had used in January, had been bought by Nestle-Purina. It will be interesting to see if any of Merrick's dog food blends change due to the take over. As it were, Merrick was no longer an option ... no matter what.

I asked some friends for suggestions. There is a lot of no grain food but a large percentage of those foods have potato, or sweet potato as a carbohydrate source. I also found that even if Bison, lamb or fish  might be the first ingredient, further down the list you would find chicken meal in some of the different brands.

I also emailed Fromm Pet Food customer service asking about what they would recommend, since I was feeding their chicken and rice formula at the time. They replied with two interesting comments about what they have found in dog allergies. I'll not go into detail but essentially they found that chicken and grains were the first and second culprits of dog allergies.

A friend suggested a no grain food made right here in Indiana. It was rated not only 5-stars by Dog Food Advisor but was also listed as 1 of only 125 blends of dog food after a thorough analysis by an independent reviewer.

This food is Earthborn Holistic. After looking  at a list of no grain foods I had made at one of the local stores I buy dog food, I found that this food was about $10-$15 cheaper with it's competitors. The store owner thought the price difference was due to shipping, since we were only 75 miles from Earthborn's Plant.

I must say that just after a week, I could see a change in Heidi's skin. She had some places where she was chewing again before changing the food.  It only took two days to see a normal firm stool. The first serving I cut her old and new food 50/50 but noticed the next morning of a much different stool. That afternoon I fed her 100% of the new food on her 2nd day. From that day forward she has had nothing but normal stools.

Her hair continues to grow back in all the leg, stomach and neck areas that looked destroyed back in February and March. Her skin condition was so bad at the time the vet said in March there was no chance of hair coming back to those areas. He was surprised when he saw new hair growing in the June.

I did take some "before" photos of her at the time I changed her food. I will take weekly photos of those same areas to track the results and post them in future posts.

She must be feeling better on this new food Earthborn Holistic Great Plains Feast. She now is barking daily at the time she wants to eat, huge difference. Plus for the first time in many many months she has gone on the daily dog walks in the early evenings. Over the 7 months she never went on walks when I asked. Yes, the hay field has been baled for the summer, so we are back to walking early in the morning or early evening when the sun is setting behind the trees.

Sadie and Winston making sure it's cut right
Monday morning

Otherwise nothing that is blog notable is going on. We are beating the heat, drinking lots of water, reading, and doing a lot of what Winston and Sadie do during the day ... photo below.

Winston on the couch ... Sadie under the table

July 13, 2015

It's Good To Have Options

I know I keep photographing the corn field across the highway and posting it here ... but it's just amazing how tall that corn is ten days into July.

An old friend of mine that was raised in flat northern Indiana was amazed when she saw the photo and how green everything is ... as she begs me for water via email and texts from Sacramento California.

So that farmer had options whether to work or take a day off (they never do). He decided not only to put fertilizer on his field before planting this year, he got it all in about an hour before it started raining.

Where a different farmer that bales the hay field behind my house, has not had the chance to cut and bale anything ... it's more than hay ... I'd say its mostly weeds now. Still, when the weather was nice and dry, it was not tall enough to cut. Once it was tall enough to cut, it doesn't stop raining long enough to dry the ground out where he can get his tractor and baler in the field. So his options are few.

Sometime after my blog post on Saturday I went full speed ahead on planning our next trip by looking at maps, roads, weather, camping spots, campgrounds and found about 100 different ways to get to my destination.

It's been mentioned here before by some readers, maybe the "planning" is the high I get instead of arriving. Or the driving, since I love to drive long miles without stopping. Of course with the warning of the local tv weatherman on Saturday night, that summer temps will finally arrive any hour in "the tropics", my thought was to get north as fast as possible, to cooler weather.

It didn't really matter.

When I plugged a town name, that was 988 miles north of me, into Wunderground weather for a current and 10 day forecast, I found out it is hot everywhere. Now for those that have a RV in any class and those with trailers that have generators, 30/50 amp systems, or solar panels ... hot weather may not be that much of a factor since you can run the AC at your leisure.

When you don't have an RV or a trailer ... a Toyota FJ and a tent, it makes hot weather a little different factor. Add in the built in "drooling" of a basset or bloodhound breed, especially in hot weather as they pant to cool off ... at times those strings of drool get longer and more dangerous.

So ... the hot weather is a factor in my trip planning. Not only for me but for the hounds as well. High temps definitely affect my hounds ... otherwise in the currently hot and muggy weather here in "the tropics" of southern Indiana (@10:28pm it "feels" like 98°) ... they would stay outside longer than just to use the bathroom. They sprint for the house and don't stay a second longer than needed to dump their tanks.

"that has to be a mole"

"is that a mole"

It does bring up an interesting question. At what temperature would it be too hot to travel with hounds in the car?

Sure the AC would be on when driving ... but while buying gas, making a run to the restroom, or going inside for a cup of needed coffee would leave them in the FJ with the windows down just enough where they couldn't jump out or couldn't get stolen and still get some kind of fresh air.

The more I looked at different routes and different towns on Wunderground, it was amazing just how hot it is all over the country. I have a few of these towns always loaded into my iPhone weather app that comes with the phone and it's easy to see at one glance what is taking place, temperature wise.

Some other factors I have while planning ... as we all know boondocking on BLM land is few and far between in the Midwest. So it's campgrounds or a Walmart parking lot unless I find a motel without bedbugs that allows drooling hounds .. for sleeping.

No ... I'm not miserable ... I just look that way
When I thought of sleeping in my FJ with the windows down in hot and muggy Midwest, I remembered our trip to pick up the Lil Snoozy trailer in Arkansas in September 2013 ... it was in the 90's that day. I had an H3 Hummer then and sometime around 2am, with two hounds panting and hanging drool from their jowls because it was too hot to sleep in the H3 ... we had no choice but to turn the H3 on and flip the AC switch to "on".

The third hound, Heidi, was sound asleep because that is what she does well ... she sleeps ... anywhere ... anytime.

I remembered what I thought of that hot and muggy night after midnight when I was trying to sleep without any success. I remembered feeling miserable. So basically it could be either a campground in a tent or a motel room with no bedbugs ... or drive straight through to the destination to bypass the heat.

Remember I said in my last post that I would not be driving straight through anywhere, so sleeping, setting up camp is going to be taking place a lot more than my last trip. I found a lot of good highways, with towns few and far between ... so the sleep question came up ... where?

I found plenty of camping and campground symbols on my McNally ... then I'd cross that information with a DeLorme map of that state. Throw in some Mapquest analysis and the options were tenfold ... hundreds to choose from.

But that one word ... HOT ... was still a factor.

After spending a lot of hours going over possible routes ... stuff that I love to do, I decided to research stuff after I would get to my destination. My friend that is a blogger and traveler with dogs, offered an itinerary ... I took my friend up on that offer and soon after I received a one page email of where to go. It was detailed enough to tell me where to camp, where to park, what to see and how many days to stay in each spot.

It was great information.

Along with that came even more options ... a lot of them. Now when it comes to options, I like them, at times I like a lot of them. Even though I have downsized a lot over the past few years .. I still like having three different browsers to choose from to move around the internet, two different cars to drive, different t-shirts to wear ... even three different hounds to talk to and pet.

So options are good for me.

I was so enthused about all of this research I couldn't stop. Why? Well one reason it's pretty obvious I get a thrill or a "rush" from analyzing ... always have. I like planning a route and possible places to stay but I don't put a day and time to it. It happens when it happens. The last trip I wanted to get to Moab before it rained, I did, but that meant I had gone against my normal planning and basically drove straight to Rifle Colorado before getting a night of sleep.

When I glanced at the clock on my monitor in the upper right corner, it was way after midnight by this time, and I was still wide awake from adrenaline and basically I had to force myself to turn off the computer, put the maps away, the highlighter, the red pens and try to get some sleep.

Only after one more thing. ... that one page email had a ton of places to see and I was curious enough to stay up a little longer. I had an idea that I had to try out just for my own curiosity otherwise I would not be able to sleep.

How long was it going to take in days, how many hours of driving time and how many miles .... all minimum numbers

So it was a matter of plugging in all the routes, even the short ones that got me from Point A to Point B, into Mapquest for time and distance. I listed all of those on my spiral 5x8 notebook. After that I read through the one page email from my friend, adding the days that were suggested to stay, and added the day(s) based on driving time.

So if I were to arrive at a campground and stay two nights .. that equated to three days.

When I finished, it's going to be a 27 day trip, give or take a few days ... 79 hours and 35 minutes of driving time, covering 4,550 miles. With the knowledge that a change in weather could be a factor in moving from one place to another sooner than listed .. such as smoke from forest fires.

After 5-6 hours of analysis ... a list of destinations ... and almost a month of travel ... there was still one word that was a factor ...


July 11, 2015

A New Trip Is Being Planned

As the title says, something is being planned and before long the hounds and I will be heading west again with plans to stay longer than we did in June. Cutting that trip short turned out to be a good thing. I was able to make some adjustments to my storage area so Winston and Sadie will have more "leg room" on the next trip. Heidi has recovered from her indigestion.

The biggest thing that was accomplished so it will not be lingering in the back of my mind on this next trip ... I finished all but one thing on my house "to do" list. That list bugged the heck out of me during our 3,000 mile trip. As I kept marking off more and more things on the "to do" list as being completed these past few weeks since being back, I was coming up to a point of making a decision.

The urge to travel was taking over again, as I planned when I returned. Also the thought of packing up and moving west did occur to me enough for me to make a list of things to do in case I did decide to leave the area for good. As my adviser has suggested over the years, I need to get more "road miles" under me and the hounds before deciding whether to make a life altering change, such has selling my house and moving. I agree with that ... even though at times I have problems being patient when my brain locks onto some idea, such as having the urge to sell everything and move west.

So plans for the next trip are being made or kinda being made. Since retirement I've never had a schedule, nothing planned like from point A to point B ... so I find it hard to plan out a trip with scheduled stops. I was in such of a hurry on my June trip to see Colorado again, where I had lived in 1993-1994 and Utah ... that we drove straight through from Indiana to get to those two states as soon as possible. In previous years I had always sped through Utah when driving from Washington to Indiana, so it would be a first for me to see some of Utah up close.

That won't happen again.

This next trip I have an idea where I want to go but I'm not sure I want to take the shortest route. In fact I am not sure I want to start heading out in the direction toward that destination, but I am pretty sure what highway (no freeway/interstate) I want to begin with. I'll get into those plans in a later post.

Currently I am writing this in the middle of the day because I am waiting for the grass to dry enough to where I can mow the lawn before the next rain this afternoon. As you can see in the photo at the top ... from the green and taller than normal corn for this time of year, the rain in the "tropics" of southern Indiana has made everything green. My lawn has never looked better near the second week of July. Yet, that means a weekly mow in and around the rain.

The field behind my house is still not mowed and baled simply because there has not been enough time between rains to dry it out enough to have heavy farm equipment mowing the field ... so Sadie has decided it is a place she can hide from me. She thinks she is hiding not knowing or wishing I can't see her. She will stand still at different parts of the field and act like she cannot hear me call her name .. while looking right at me.

This morning Winston is relaxing on "his patio", enjoying the cool temps and preparing for his afternoon nap as I mow the lawn. Heidi is MIA for the photo op ... of course ... because she is inside sleeping in her big leather chair. She gets outside but never stays long ... she is not curious about the yard or field.

Daily dog walks through the field have been put on hold due to the problem with ticks. Walks through the field will commence once the field is cut, if we are here for that. I am guessing our departure time will be fairly soon for another trip west.

As far as blogging on the trip ... internet wifi connections will determine if and when I blog. I don't see the need to pay for internet service while traveling if my trip is going to be only for a couple of weeks to a month. So photos and blogs may be few and far between during our travel time. I found last trip I had little urge to blog. By the time camp was set up, the hounds were fed, walked and I could just sit in a chair enjoying the scenery ... computers were the last thing on my mind.

To give Winston and Sadie more "leg room" in the back of the FJ, most everything packed in the back last trip will be moved to the roof. I'll be picking up my roof storage tomorrow at REI and having it installed.


And This (Except Water Jug)

Will Move to This

Yakima Website Photo

So as the July temps finally arrive in "the tropics" of Indiana ... we hope to miss them as the hounds and I start our next journey west.

I've never thought of taking photos of every barn in my rural area ... but Al over at the Bayfield Bunch has put up a new Flicker album of photos he has taken in his neighborhood ... you can see a great collection of barn photos clicking here.

Time for me to go out and check the grass again to see if it is dry.

July 07, 2015

Where Did All This Motivation Come From?

I believe you can see from the picture on the left that my camera has been fixed and returned in record time. If not, look closer at the center of the photo.

The Geek Squad at Best Buy, where I bought the camera, shipped the camera to the Nikon service the following morning and it arrived at the repair facility two days later. Along the way the notified me by email where the camera was.

While I was sitting at the kitchen table yesterday on July 6 I noticed the UPS truck stopping in front of the drive. With the long July 4th weekend, my camera shows up a week after I turned it in. Until I used it, I forgot how nice it was to see an automatic focus at any distance and with either lens. More photos to follow in the days ahead.

For one reason for more photos, I'll have more time again during the day to go out and take photos. During the last 8 days I've been working most days outside on my "to do" list. Plus the lawn mowing around the days of rain. It's been nonstop and on occasion I've done things I didn't have listed but noticed as I worked. It's just the way my brain works at times.

I believe in my last post over a week ago I mentioned a list of "to do's" for my house. Some of the things listed were things I've been wanting/needing to do for YEARS!! A lot of these things are not an annual thing. It was amazing to find out that when I actually started the repair just how little time it took. I've completed 11 of 13 items that were listed. I am down to my last two tasks and one I have no urge to do.

I have a crawl space that looks like a moon crater. I am able to walk around and will have to bend over at most of the time but it's not like I have to crawl on the ground under my house. So it should be ok and the hardest part might be getting to the entry window, which is now hidden behind the Yews I planted a few years ago.

You may be asking what kind of things am I talking about. Is it things that all homeowners have to go through? I'm not sure but I think I had a couple or a few things unique to my house. It ranged from washing windows inside and out around the 1970's style storm windows. (time consuming). Or with the RV washing brush with the extended handle, I was able to wash my house's siding, plus the overhang in less than one hour.

I missed a small spot that I didn't see until everything had dried, but it was good to see just how clean my house siding was after the siding was washed. When you live 80' from a busy highway and surrounded by fields of corn, soybeans, or hay ... dust/dirt tends to accumulate. Also in this area there tends to be more cobwebs attaching to different parts of the house, plus a couple of wasp nests.

It's common from the severe winter temps, but I had a few places on the overhang and the trim around my old windows, where paint had peeled. Those spots were scrapped, sanded, painted with primer and then trim paint. After a few days and the paint had completely dried, you could not tell where those spots were. The paint's color blended well even after 5 years.

I still had time on Sunday, forgetting what day of the week it was, to mow the lawn and trim the hedges. Since the Yews have grown into the desired height, it will be pretty easy to keep them trimmed from now on. I thought the traffic pattern on the highway was different but thought it might be from the holiday weekend. It wasn't until later that night when looking at my iPhone where I noticed it was Sunday ... LOL.

On the day it rained during the week, I worked inside and hand washed every inch of every wall inside the house. I won't go into details but the results showed it was time to do that task. It was shocking to say the least.

Of course as I have stated before, as I am doing things I find other stuff to do and in some cases will do them immediately. That's never a good thing. For example, while I was walking around painting the trim color over the spots I had repaired, I noticed the insides of the two doors on my shed were still white from the original paint job 15 years ago. So I end up painting both doors the same color as my current trim color.

That right there added a couple of hours to my day and away from something else ... but at least it looks good. There are also "hazards" of getting things done and looking good. I pressure washed my carport concrete floor Sunday morning after washing the house siding. Today it rained so much and so hard all day, that water that had flooded into the carport and flooded a lot of that clean concrete floor ... add in the number of times that Sadie ran back and forth through the standing water, it's back to a normal concrete floor.

As I was working inside I realized that at least one room needs to be painted. I like painting so it should not be much of a problem. It will take longer to move computers, bicycles, and desks out of the room or to the center of the room so I can walk around and paint the walls.

Heidi continues to improve. It's a slow process but hair is growing back to those spots that were raw months ago. Her stomach and armpits are back to normal skin texture. She would eat non-stop of I would keep giving her food, so hopefully that will lead to an increase in weight.

Winston is just Winston ... everyday is a laidback holiday to him. I have noticed a little stiffness in his back legs, lower back ... so I have started giving him buffered aspirin.

Sadie was doing some surprising things this past week. She wanted to stay outside while I worked. So I let her roam off leash, as I worked outside. Unlike a bloodhound breed, where some say they always need to be on a leash, there were different times where Sadie laid down in the grass and watched whatever I was doing. Since Winston kept wandering off, he had to go back inside the house.

I may have found out why I never got anything done in past years in the month of July. The Tour de France started July 4 and is on tv live every morning at 8am. Some of those races are 3-4 hours long, so that would take up most mornings. Three weeks later it would be too hot to work outside which leads into football season. Therefore a lot of the thing on that house list were never started.

Now, I check the internet while I drink my cup of coffee, shut off the computer, work outside during the day then watched the TOF at night at 8pm. That seems to work pretty well. It keeps me under my internet data for the month, I complete things that need to be done and I still see the day's race at night.

There is only one photo above that was taken with my repaired Nikon D3200, the others were taken with my iPhone 5S.

After my crawl space task ... the only things left to do on my list are things as if I were moving.

We'll see.