Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Grey Cloak

I have great admiration for writers that can completely bare their soul whilst writing.  It's something I've never felt I could do, I always needed to keep a little of me back.  If I have been brave enough to click 'publish' on this post, then I feel I have opened up a little more.

I have recently published 3 blog posts, although I have many more posts prepared and saved, but I've found it quite hard to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard should I say. I'll try and explain as best I can.

At the end of March I had an appointment with the eye consultant.  I was diagnosed a few months ago as having sarcoidosis in my eye, which presents itself as uveitis, and I also had inflamation the the retina. I was becoming rather blasé about it.  The different tests were a doddle, even the one where she injected dye into my arm, which shot into the blood vessels in my eye and made my mouth feel a little drooly. As were the steroid injections I was having regularly under my eye. I was quite aware than my sight in my right eye wasn't improving but I just thought we would trundle along for a while. Then she hit me with it! She said the treatment wasn't working and I had 2 options, an injection the eyeball or to go on steroid tablets.  The needle in the eye was my big fear. I thought she would think I was silly if I ran out the door, so I stayed put, clammy handed and trembling. I immediatly wussed out and said I wanted the steroid tablets.  I had read that the injecton of steroids into the eye is very likely to cause cataracts... and that means more injections in the eyeball.  Err no thanks!

I was pleased when Alan said he thought I had made the right decision. Lots of people in a wonderful and caring facebook group I belong to, are on the steroid Prednisone, so I thought it could help other symptoms that were going on.  This is where it gets difficult for me to talk about.

Depression, there you go, I've said it!  As a female, I have of course suffered with bursting into tears at inopportune moments,  generally feeling down and wanting to stab the odd person in the back, however this was or is very different.  I was first aware of it in 2006, I was suffering with eye problems then, and the most extreme tiredness I have ever felt. I was teaching dancing, and I would arrive home and would be asleep within 5 minutes.  I didn't look after anyone, feed anyone, to be honest I hardly remember that time in my life. We took Frankie my daughter to Paris for her 18th birthday, it was the perfect present for her, apart from I had no voice at all, and was so very tired. We also had a family holiday of a lifetime in Florida but I felt so ill.  After our evening meal we would go back to the hotel, to put me to bed and Alan would go back out with the rest of the family!

Christmas was coming up and Alan and I had a trip to Bluewater shopping  centre.  On the way home my eyes itched so much I felt I wanted to scratch my eyes out and then it happened very suddenly. It was as though someone threw a dark grey cloak over me, and it stayed there for months.

When we moved to Spain because of my illness, (that took 18 months to diagnose  after my first symptoms), it was such a relief.  I was very sad I could no longer do the job I loved as a dance teacher, but of course this bloody illness also seperated me from my family and friends.  It was the decison I made, but at that time I wasn't sure I could sit in a front row seat, and not be a part of the Lorna Roff Dance Centre anymore. It felt less painful to be distance myself.  Of course moving to Spain meant I no longer had the pressure of being a competitive dance teacher, so if I felt tired, apart from keeping the house and the multitude of weeds under control, my work load was in fact, pretty easy.

Until March this year I had never taken any medication for my sarcoidosis.  It is not a curable disease and the granulomas that cause the problems, can spring up anywhere in the body, and ideally if you can soldier on through it, it is better off that way.  I was however still suffering from boughts of depression, plus a few other problems although for me the depression was the most debilitating!

Ooops, I've digressed. OK, back to March and I was put on the prednisone, a huge dose of 80mgs every day.  I was quite  nervous about taking it. Vainly I wondered how much weight I would put on, although I had heard of a few other nasty side effects too, but my eye sight was so important, it had to be done. You take it with breakfast (so it doesn't keep you awake at night... yeah right) along with a stomach protector and a couple of hours later I already felt different, like I had more energy. Those first few weeks I felt bloody marvellous.  Better than I have for many years. I ate like a horse and everything tasted amazing! I would cook slighty more than usual (putting it  mildly) but I would have it like two dinners, and I was snacking in between with unsalted nuts and dates.  The strange thing about the steroids is that your stomach can be full, but you can find yourself shaking as though your blood sugar is low, and I would feel the need to cram food into my mouth. There are great cartoons about prednisone, I'll share some at the end.

A  month later and I returned to the ophthalmologist and she was very happy.  Already there had been a significant improvement.  We could already begin reducing the steroids, what great news!  At first I was dropping 10 mgs every 10 days.  I didn't notice any side effects for a while, until I got to around 40 mgs.  I then  had 2 or 3 days where I would feel very down and tearful, and well as other symptoms I had from my sarcoidosis. From then onwards every time my dose lowered this happened.  I knew it would only last a few days whilst my body adjusted to the new dose. 

It was around the middle of the summer when I reached 20 mgs and that was  by far the hardest for me. The feeling down and tearful turned into a major depression.  I have only spoken about it on a couple of  sarcoidosis posts before and to Alan on ocassions.  For me the depression meant the My Grey Cloak went over me and there was a thick barrier between me and the world.  Some people can talk about it when they are in that situation, but I prefer not to.  I would sit at home staring at the screen of the laptop.  I would ocasionally click 'Like' to something on facebook, but I hadn't got the energy or inclination to converse with anyone at all. Alan and I would sit for hours and I would hardly talk to him.  He never pressured me, he knows when I'm bad that's just the way it is. 

When  I feel like that, my face looks different... older, obviously miserable but it almost feels like it's being dragged down.  My posture changes too,  I become round shouldered and I feel a physical weight on my head, neck and shoulders.  Everything is such an effort. When  I was feeling particularly bad in the summer I did confide in a couple of good friends.  I also told my daughter. I had managed to keep it from her before, but I thought she ought to know. What was usually lasting just a few days stretched out for about 3 months.  I would wake up, and it was there, My Grey Cloak was already over me. There is a fantastic video on youtube called The Black Dog, it is how someone describes their depession, and it is so accurate.  Some people call their depression The  Black Dog, for me it's My Grey Cloak. The strangest thing about it is it usually switches off rather like a light switch.  It can be anytime of the day, or I guess night, and it's gone.  I usually keep rather quiet at first as I have a fear it will come back.  Rather like having a tummy bug, you don't want to eat too much as soon as you are feeling better... just in case! 

The Black Dog

When My Grey Cloak lifted, and of all the strange days for it to happen was when we lost of little Outsider. Now, how weird is that, you wouldn't expect a depression  to lift on that day!  Since talking more about it to Alan I think what happened was the sarcoidosis symptoms were stronger than the dose of steroids I was on.  Some of the old symptoms came back.  The headaches, breathlessness, the cough and the extreme tiredness. I would sometimes sleep in the morning, as well as a siesta in the afternoon AND be in bed by 10pm! Some days would also feel I had insects crawling under my skin, and one day I made  my arm bleed I scratched it so much, all on top of the depression. The last couple of weeks however I have felt on top of the world again, and life is good. I've even been kept awake in the night with the steroids, it's almost like I have just started taking them. I'm so hoping this will last... please!

So there you go, an attempt to bare my soul, and why I have not had the energy or mindset to manage  my blogposts.  If you are suffering and living with depression, can I please say surround yourself with the right person or people.  I could not have coped without the patience of Alan, and I so wish he didn't have to go through this with me!                          
In  the words of Jerry Springer "Look after yourself, and each other!"   

Monday, October 27, 2014

Our poor Outsider....It was like a horror film!

The day after we lost of dear Geri we had an invite from our lovely friends Ray and  Nikki to see their super new house in the campo and have a bite to eat with them.  We knew it would do us good, especially being around their gorgeous little children, who are always very free and easy with their cuddles.  So we took them up on  their kind invitation. Sitting round the dinner table we were chatting about the different animals that have come into our lives, and Alan stated that we hadn't had any stray animals around for a while.... hmmmm sods law or what! After a lovely relaxing time we them we set off home.  As we approached our house we often hear the dogs barking or howling, of course they recognise the car, however this was different, more urgent!

It was Carlos and  Miliko mainly, they were on our big front terrace, Blue and Arthur of course joined in with the commotion, as thats what they do, in true mastin style. Alan went out to check what was going on and called me frantically.  There was a kitten, and it wasn't one of ours.  She had obviously been out over the fence, made her way through the alpacas and somehow jumped up a high wall that led to our big terrace. Miliko can only open his  mouth 18ms due to an accident when he was just a month old. How on eath he manages to catch and suck birds, and even frogs is beyond us, but he does.  I didn't think he could harm the kitten with his mouth but he has strong paws and legs and she was only tiny.  Carlos on the other hand, is the most nervous and gentle dog you could imagine, but he is a hunter, and it's in his blood.  I'm not sure what he would do if he was able to get to our kittens when they are tiny.  I hope we never find out.

Anyway the kitten had no fear and ran towards the dogs and jumped down into their terrace.  It was so lucky Alan was there, he managed to keep them back until I could rush to help, whilst he got stung twice on the head.  Poor Alan, the wasps love the taste of him! Pure panic must have set in and she leapt onto the wall where there is a huge drop the other side.  Eventually she must have realized she needed to trust us and Alan held up a plank of wood up to her and she gingerly crept down it, onto Alan's shoulder, and into my arms.

At this time we had 3 adult cats and 9 kittens that had developed into one big happy family, with the two females feeding whoever needed feeding, and not just their own.  So we put the little kitten down beside them, and it was obvious to us she was possibly only a couple of weeks older than the rest of them. She sat on her own for a while and gingerly a couple of the kittens would get close to her, and would run back to their safety again. We knew she would be ok and safe if she stayed with the rest of the kittens.  By the following morning she was one of the family, and being allowed milk from Meeny and Mo like the rest were.

Outsider is the slighter larger, black'ish cat on the left.

Stuck well in, and in the middle

So that's how the little girl came into our lives.  I'm sorry that should have been a blog post in its own right but I've had a bit of a difficult sumer health wise, and I'm just so behind however I'm feeling so much better now, I'm going to try my very best to get you all up to date.  You'll be sick of my posts soon!

As most of you know we have holiday rentals where we live, and because we hadn't named this years kittens, for the simple reason that 4 of them were almost identical and there were NINE of them, so most of our guests would tell us the names they gave them. This little kitten  had be named 'Outsider' by one guest, as of course she was, and the name stuck.

Outsider visits the new baby alpaca

Our little Outsider was a gorgeous girl, extremely pretty as looked though someone had dabbed a little bit of orange on her black fur, and she had the loudest strangest meow I have ever heard of in a cat, let alone a kitten.  She was very tactile and was one of our cuddliest kittens. Suddenly one morning in the beginning of October, we found heartache yet again!

I was out with Carlos and  Miliko on the big terace, and I heard a noise.  I thought at first it was one of the chickens in what we call the indoor outdoor garden.  Once they are let out of their chicken room they roam where ever they like.  Apart from too close to the dogs, they're not daft! Miliko was very intersted in what or who was making the strange noise.  He stood trying to see through the window with his one leg that's shorter than  the other just dangling, bless him.  I looked and spotted Outsider lying on the table,  nothing unual there but I could see there was something not quite right about her. 

Ok now this is where it be comes rather like a horror film.  I have decided to be totally honest about what happened, so please think about if you want to read the details of our dear little Outsiders final hours, or hour!

I rushed round to see her and I could immediately see something was wrong, but I couldn't tell what. She was fine the evening before when I fed them all. My mind was racing.  Did she have a chest infection? Had she hurt herself?  She she eaten something poisonous? I called to Alan and explained something wasn't right with Outsider. He realised straight away also.  I picked her up in my arms and she slumped over to one side, so I tried laying her on the floor.  She seemed to have no strength in her legs.  We felt her all over and couldn't work out what if anything was painful.  All the time she was making an awful crying noise.  The other kittens wanted to see her but we managed to keep them away. We were nervous she may have had a disease that could possibly wipe them all out!

Alan suggested we take her into the casita in a bucket with a blanket.  We thought she was dying and it was just a matter of time.  We were gutted! Alan phoned Andres to see if we could take her to the surgery but he was out and he would be back later.  We would do what we could to keep her calm and relaxed and of course help if at all possible.  We tried her with a little water in a syringe in case she had heat stroke and was dehydrated. She took it and she began to try and be sick although nothing came up. She was clambering to get out of the bucket to we let her out and she threw herself violently at the wall, and ran around as though she was possessed by something.  I picked her up to try and calm her down but she bit me hard.  I cried out in pain and Alan managed to prise her mouth open to enable me to release my thumb.  She was so desperate and I couldn't help her, what a dreadful feeling that was. We tried a few times with the water hoping that maybe if she was sick the problem would be resolved.  All the time her breathing was becoming more and more laboured. Time was running out... fast! 

Something suddenly clicked.  Could she have something stuck in her throat?  We could not have managed to look until now, now it was near the end.  Alan prised her mouth open.  "I can see something" he said urgently.  At first he wasn't sure if it was a stick or a piece of plastic.  "Quick, get my tweezers!" I replied. He ran and came back with  my tweezers, the inevitable was getting closer, we had only seconds.  He got the tweezers in  and he pulled.  He pulled and pulled, it wasn't coming out. At the moment she stopped breathing, we were too damn late!  Why oh why hadn't I thought of that before!  Although I know we wouldn't have got her to open her mouth. She was gone, but there was still the thought if we could get out the foreign body out maybe she would begin to breath again. So I held her tightly and Alan pulled.  We then realised that there had actually been a   nasty smell around her, but we couldn't work out what it could be, then we realised .... the foreign object was in fact a dead mouse.  What Alan was pulling was the tail.  Could we still do it? Goodness knows how  big it was, but as Alan pulled as hard as he could the tail came away from the body. That was it, we could do no more.

It really was like a horror film. She was so desperate to tell us she was in distress,  crying and literally throwing herself about, whilst she was slowly suffocating.  It was one of the worst things we have had to deal with.  We realised that even if we had taken her straight to the vet, we would not have made it in time. There are those awful moments though, where you say "What if we had managed to look inside her mouth earlier?" and "what if I had heard her her crying sooner?"  We will never know.  We only know we hope we never have to go through anything like that again. 

When we told our vet what happened he was as philosophical as always and said "As a predator, her hunter spirit was stronger than her. She couldn't avoid to try swallow her prey. It's the Law of Nature. I'm sorry so much. You have done everything was in your hands." 

He always tries extremely hard to find the right words.
RIP Outsider. We loved having you in our lives,  we wish it had been for longer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Well what a beautiful little surprise!

At very long last we have some awesome news to share. Our big beautiful Bermuda the alpaca, gave birth to a stunning baby girl on the 29th September. 

Now most of our longer term holiday bookings have finished, we are still enjoying overnight and weekend breaks from families living in Spain and wanting a little getaway. That means we  can enjoy a bit of television between guests, for the first time in months. Even though the most exciting channel we can receive by far, is channel 4. The rest are strange programmes with Judge Judy doing her thing most of the day! So on Monday 29th we decided to watch some tv for an hour.  Rumour has it that alpacas give birth in the morning, or up until early afternoon, but Alan checked on Bermuda at 5.30pm ... as you do, and when we  came down at 6.30 he looked out and very calmly said “There’s a baby!”  A baby?  A baby what?  He was so calm he couldn’t possibly mean a baby alpaca? He bloody did!  He grabbed a towel and the iodine, and I grabbed the camera, and the first photo is literally the first moment I saw her.  She was already dry and sat cushed beside her mum.  Bermuda must have had her, moments after we had gone indoors, typical! She  had delivered the placenta too. As we got closer to the cria she leapt up and she walked extemely well, we couldn’t believe it.  Alan and I went inside the paddock to check her cord, and to see what sex she was.  The cord was long but not bleeding, and we were shocked to see it was a little girl.  The only females born to any of our girls have been Lily's two that have died. Once we were happy that all was good we left her with Bermuda and within 2 or 3 minutes of looking for the milk supply, she found it.  

Naming Bermuda's baby was also one of Alan's crowdfunder rewards, and he contacted Russ and told him the good news a couple of days after the baby was born, and when we were feeling positive that everything was going well. After a little while he  came back with the name Gabi.  The story behind it is that Russ is originally from  Brighton in the UK where we were from also.  The nickname of the Brighton and Hove Albion  football team is The Seagulls.  The Spanish word for seagull is 'gaviota' and in Spain you pronounce the 'v' as a 'b' , so she is our little Gabi, and we love it!   

I must admit this last week or so, we have realised that this is so different to Lily’s little fella, Milagro, which still breaks our heart, but we must try, as hard as it is to put that behind us and move on. I have to admit when Gabi was born and Alan disappeared to find the scales, I saw Lily look at Gabi, and it upset me so much, I don't mind telling you I shed some tears.  It was just all too much.  I was worried something would happen to her, plus I knew how broken hearted Lily was, and I could tell the way that she looked at her, she was missing her baby terribly!  

Gabi weighed 7 kilos the day she was born, so not very big, but she is putting on weight beautifully. We are still weighing her every other day, however she's getting stronger now and she's not so keen on  being picked up, although when we do I'm lucky enough to get a nibble on the nose from her.  We are now feeling very blessed!

Since then she has certainly been giving Bermuda the run around! At dusk we like to sit and watch her discretely as she pronks around the paddock.  Chasing kittens, kicking buckets and darting between her mum and Aunite's Lily and Cassandra. I must try and get a video of this, so please check back again in a few days to see if I have been able to add one.

She is a little beauty!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lily's Beautiful Baby Boy

This is going to be a long one ladies and gents. Pour yourself a cuppa or something stronger....

We always knew we would be paranoid when we realised Lily the alpaca was pregnant again. It was almost planned! About a year ago Alan and I had discussed getting the girls pregnant. It was going to be Lily's last attempt as she had sadly lost her last two cria. The previous two were both born a month premature. The first arrived on the day one of my granddaughters was born, and I was in England. She lived for 4 days, and poor Alan had to deal with the nightmare on his own.  The second baby lived just a matter of hours and died beside Lily and myself.  How on earth were we going to cope if this baby had problems!

The boys must have great hearing or intuition, as a matter of days after we had discussed matings, big Arf the mastin was going ballistic in the middle of the night. Arthur is very good at letting us know when something is going on that we should know about. It may be a kitten close to his lookout point, or an alpaca nibbling a tree it shouldn't, he's always first to inform us. He's a good lad! Alan dashed out in his boxers and found the boys in with the girls. The great thing about living so rural is that you can be in your underwear most of the day and not be seen! I called through the window to see if he needed help. He called back "Can you bring me a t-shirt and a torch. The bloody boys are in with the girls, and I'm having a problem seperating them!" Usually most things can be stopped with a bucket of food, yes even that, and eventually calm was restored. For anyone that doesn't know, alpacas are self induced ovulaters, the females don't have a 'season'. When they mate the egg is released. I remember having this conversation with a young Canadian man, who was delighted to think for about 10 seconds that female alpacas laid eggs!

The deeds had been done and we were doing everything we could  to keep the girls, especially Lily, stress free. Alan went back to England for a long weekend at the beginning of June and the day he came back we noticed Lily's rear end, when she was lying down was bulging, like there was a little nose there, just ready to make an appearance.  So from then our worries really started. Thankfully that bulge did not make an appearance until Friday August 15th.

We had been setting the alarm for 7am, and basically checking the girls, especially Lily about every half hour.  The longer she went, the happier we were. On  Friday 15th Alan fed the girls to enable him  to have a good look at them at 11.30am. At 12 he toddled off again, and came running back panting "She's had the baby!" Sure enough a baby was on the floor of the stable. Lily was standing over it, looking as proud as punch. The cria was flat on the floor, just trying to lift it's head, it was still very wet with the membranes from the birthing sack all over him. Alan dried the cria gently, he checked the cord wasn't bleeding and he put iodine on it. We were rather chuffed to see it was a boy, as Lily's last two cria were girls. We sat on the floor giving them some space, and whilst wondering how we could have missed the birth when we have hardly taken our eyes off her, we watched and waited in awe at the miracle of the birth we had just missed.

The minutes went by and this little boy struggled to get to his feet and we gasped and "awww'ed" as he would fall to the floor again.  He would summon up all his strength and try again, time after time. Once he was up he would be able to look for the milk supply and hopefully start feeding. Alan and I weren't moving from the floor in the barn anytime soon, although we were getting bitten to smithereens by some sort of  blasted nibbling flies that wanted our blood!  Alan was getting anxious that the little boy was taking his time standing, and that maybe he would not be able to feed.  I tried to calm Alan down reminding him it was very early afternoon, he had the rest of the day until nightfall, before we needed to worry. The last thing we wanted was Lily and her cria to feel any stress from us. Plus I really did think he would get there, eventually.

Time went on, and even I began to worry a little. The little fella was up on his feet but he was struggling to find the udders, and when he did all he seemed to do was lick them. Of course we tried to help him latch on as you would to a human baby but he  couldn't seem to get the hang of it. He was exhausted and wanted to sleep, but we knew he would be hungry too.  We made a decision to give him powdered colostrum.  We knew it wasn't perfect for him but at that stage we thought it was the best option. Like a baby with a bottle for the first time it didn't go perfectly but he did manage to take some. We were then happy for him to have a little sleep. We checked Lily's udders to see if she had milk, and she had it in all 4, although very little was coming out. We collected what we could and the most we got was 4 mls! We guessed we were having to go down the bottle feeding route and Alan did as much research as he could online with regard to which milk he should have.

If any other alpaca owners are reading this, please remember that we live in a very rural part of Spain, and I sometimes question our craziness in having these beautiful animals here. We are lucky in the fact that we have very little humidity, even though we do have very high temperatures. We don't have any goat farms near us that we know of (although in the last couple of weeks we have been informed by our vet that there is one) so we do what we can for our animals, although we know we don't always have the facilities that other alpaca owners have.

The first milestone to  cross is always the birth, the next being alive for 24 hours, which Lily's previous baby sadly did not. We were doing well!  We knew we would not relax until baby had passed 4 days, and then at a week old we would shout of our joy from the roof tops!

So this 'Little Fella' was bottle feeding, he was enjoying it immensly and made cute moans like a baby does when having milk.  We began to be aware that we hadn't seen him have a poo.  Although apparently they only do a tiny bit and it can be easy to miss, but something worried us and we discussed it with our vet. He suggested we wait until his second day and if we still hadn't seen anything to try an enema.   Alan is not an enema specialist, but it's suprising what you can do when you feel you have too. The strange thing was the tube came out as clean as it went in.  The vet suggested to give him a gentle laxative as the milk needed a bit of help moving from his tummy.

At first he enjoyed the laxative, we put it in a syringe and he lapped it up, I also thought maybe he was thirsty so we also gave him a little water too which he also enjoyed. All this time he was still trying to feed from his mum, but we didn't think he was managing to get any or much milk. The laxatives and enemas seems to be working and Alan and I began to relax. Especially when we passed day 4! On around Day 8 Alan emailed a lady that had been a part of Alan's crowd funder project last year. He had raised some funds for publicity, and one of the rewards was to name a cria. We had been in touch previously and informed the lady of the birth, but she knew we wanted a few more days before we named him.  She was delighted to hear he was doing well and her and her daughter named him 'Milagro'  It is Spanish for miracle, and we thought it was the perfect name for our little miracle boy. In fact we even went out for a drink and a bite to eat with friends on day 7. Then sadly things then changed on day 8! The swimming pool hoover had broken, and so we decided to nip into Cordoba and buy a new one as Milagro was doing ok. We would only be a couple of hours, we wouldn't hang about.

We arrived home and made up "Little fella's" bottle, plus whatever else we needed to take out to him. He was also on a general antibiotic, as well as enemas 2 or 3 times a day, plus his liquid paraffin laxative. He seemed ok apart from his little face was soaking wet where his eyes had been streaming. I bathed his eyes in pre boiled water  and hoped they would settle or we would need eye drops to add to the routine. Later on  that evening, when we went out to do the last feed we had a bit of a shock. Within seconds I could see his eyes looked different. From beautiful solid black eyeballs, they had changed to what looked like a marble. His eyes were cloudy and no longer solid black. Then the most upsetting thing happened, he walked into a wall! We were shocked and upset, and then to top things off, he began walking around in a small circle! After his bottle we watched as he settled down in a cozy cush position and closed his eyes.  As worried as we both were we left him and immediately looked online for any ideas what could be wrong! As well as his eyes looking different the skin around them were very red also,  and his little nose and mouth. The redness around his eyes could be a symptom of another huge problem called 'sepsis!' Also the fine fleecy hairs around Milagro's eyes and mouth seemed to be falling out. Bless his heart!

Alan fairly quickly found something that looked as though it maybe what was causing Milagro the problems he was having.  It was called Thiamine deficiency induced polioencephalomalacia (PEM) for short.  There are many symptoms of PEM but our little cria was showing signs of the following, which are all symptoms..

decreased appetite
staggering or unsteady gait
elevated head or stargazing
head or ear twitching

The acute stage of PEM is typically characterized by
increased severity of symptoms seen in subacute PEM

The only thing that made us feel the teeniest bit positive was if we could get some thiamine B1 into the baby he SHOULD be ok! First the hunt for it! On you can buy it for your household pets. Here in Spain it's a totally different story. We could buy it, however only a Vitamin B complex with vitamin B1, with also B6 and B12 too. We had to buy that, and get him started as soon as possivble, whilst trying to source a 'complete' thiamine in the meantime.

Little Milagro remained in this condition for a few days, apart from one of his eyes turned into a red ball! so we decided we needed to get some plasma into him as soon as possible. We hoped our friend Jane in Gaucin would have some although it would have meant a 8 hour round trip and we would need to consider the crias injections etc throughtout that day. As it happened she didn't have any but an other friend Alison in the north of Spain did, and she managed to get some sent to us. Unfortunately it took a day longer than we hoped but we had to be patient. It was delivered straight to our vet, and Andres contacted us and he came straight to us to give the little fella the transfusion. At this point he was still pretty fiesty, which of course was a great sign, but we thought it may prove difficult for a slow dripping transfusion going into his vein.

For anyone that has not had any dealings with alpacas, they are a nightmare to find their veins, especially in the crias. Their  jugular vein is hidden behind the oesophagus, therefore all of us, including Andres were hoping it would not be too difficult to find the vein , let alone get the blood plasma into him. We decided to take him into our casita so Lily wouldn't be humming whilst we were dealing with him, which would then  of course upset him too. So we gave the  ladies a little food and we managed to take him without Lily noticing. Luckily Andes hit the jackpot first time, although little Miligro did wriggle around quite a lot, and in the end the three of us were like statues.  I got lucky and managed to sit on Andres's  medical box, whilst Alan and Andres had sore knees for the following hour. We all managed to be still enough for Milagro to be calm and just after an hour the procedure was finished. After the canula was removed we took him straight back to his mum, who clucked around him like a mother hen, and he tried to drink from her, something he was still doing regularly even though there was very little, if any milk for him.

That evening, although exhausted we mentally allowed ourselves to relax, just a little. We were doing everything we could.  Little Milagro was having his thiamine, antibiotics, eye drops and he had now had his blood plasma.  I remember saying to Alan "Is that it? Does that really mean he will be ok now?" We had always thought that once he had his plasma he would no longer be susceptible to picking up infections, and once we got the PEM under control he would be ok.

We continued the treatments but the good news was  Milagro  no longer needed his enemas and we were reducing his laxatives as his digestive system seem to have kick started. He  could go to the toilet on his own now, like a big boy, but whilst grunting and groaning like a toddler! At least he could go! We were however concerned the Little Fella's eyes didn't seem to be improving and that was a worry. It did  cross my mind, would it be fair to keep him alive if he was blind? Alan had read about a  cria that was blind and followed his mum by the tinkling of a bell around her neck. Personally I wasn't sure.  He should be able to run, pronk and play and little Milagro would not even walk far, as he had no understanding of where he was in the paddock  and when we took them inside for most of the day, due to the heat, he would walk slowly and carefully as he knew there were walls all around him.

We never had to make that decision......
Day 16 of our beautiful little boys life, and in the afternoon he didn't want his bottle. In the early evening I noticed his breathing had changed, and I have since questioned myself over and over again, why I did not insist on getting the vet out that evening. We telephoned him and he suggested we take his temperature and give him a different antibiotic which would also help his respiratory system, plus another injection to help bring his temperature down. So Alan shot into town and bought them, and it was arranged for Andres to come first thing the following morning.  When we first took his temperature it was 40.4.  I bathed him with cool water to try and cool him down. During the night we took his tempeature again and it had dropped slightly to 39.6, and he would not take any milk but he took a good drink of water.  We were relieved and although his breathing was the same, we thought he had improved slightly.

At 9am Alan collected Andres our vet as arranged. The moment he looked at our  little boy he shook his head and said "No me gusta"  (I don't like) we discussed the treatment we had been doing and he suggested getting an x-ray of Milagro's lungs, at the vetinary hospital at the university in Cordoba and we would decide where we go from there. Alan and I suggested we go immediately, so we took Andres back to his surgery and he telephoned the vetirinary hospital and explained the situation, and told them we were on our way.

The drive from Montoro to Cordoba would have taken not much more than 20  minutes. Our little boy was struggling to breathe and it was becoming uncomfortable to see and to listen to.  I think in my heart I had thought he wasn't going to get through this, but I didn't say.  I stroked him gently as I sat in the back with him, but he was still fairly strong and kept his head up, as I guess it was easier from him to breathe in that position. About 2 minutes before we arrived at the hospital Milagro made a gasping sound, I didn't like it! At around this same time two tears fell. It took me a few seconds to realise they were tears! The first landed on my hand the second on the seat of the  car.  I said to Alan to go a little faster, I was frightened we were going to lose him. Alan pulled up right outside the door as he took 2 more gasps and put his head on the seat beside me. They were his last breaths!  I said quietly to Alan "We're too late" Alan didn't want to believe it, he leapt out of the car and took the baby out and rushed up the stairs. When two young vets saw the limp little baby in Alan's arms they rushed over with their stethoscopes. Alan lay the baby alpaca on  the floor, and we all knew it was too late, he had gone.

As the tears fell from my eyes Alan told me to wait outside. I sat on the stairs and sobbed for about a minute, then pulled myself together, Alan needed support too.There were other people waiting to be seen, goodness knows how they felt.  They would have no idea what this little baby was, and then for it to be lying, and not breathing on the floor, I hope it didn't upset any of them too much. The two young vets listened to his heart, they said "We are sorry!" but we knew.

There was  no mention of keeping the little baby for a necropsy  but Alan and I both  knew in our hearts we hard to take him home for Lily. So we carefully lay him in the back of the car and Alan held me tight for a few minutes before we climbed in for the long drive home. We were heartbroken once again.  I got into the back seat and stroked the little boy most of the way home.

When Lily lost her first baby, Alan took it to the veterinary hospital and he didn't bring her home.  Lily cried for 2 whole weeks every time she saw Alan, she wanted her baby back, and Alan was the one who took it away. The second baby she lost was with Lily when it died so she cried only for 2 or 3 days.  That was the day Alan, I and Andres witnessed the tear that ran from Lily's eye! It wasn't until we were both in the  car we admitted to each other that we both wanted to take the baby back to her if the worst was to happen.  We know how badly alpacas can grieve. Alan had read online about someone that had covered their baby with a towel and then after a while took the body away.  The mother and other alpacas thought the baby was still underneath the towel.  It was in  the high 30's on day 17 and we could not leave the cria outside too long.  Lily had been left inside as they would normally, due to the heat since having her cria.  As soon as we opened the gate she quickly moved towards the cria on the ground.  Bermuda also seemed quite upset and sniffed the baby for a while and Lily hummed loudly as we knew she would.  After about 15 minutes we placed a towel over him and and a little while later Alan took our 'Little Fella' to his final resting place, leaving the towel there.  We left the towel for quite a while but maybe it wasn't long enough.  At he end of the day it may have eased Lily's pain to think she had her baby with her a little longer, but he was  no longer alive, humming for her, and trying to find his milk.

We will do everything  in our power to ensure Lily  never has to feel this pain again. As for us, the pain becomes harder each time.  Losing this beautiful boy, has completely knocked me for six. and I'm not sure how many more times we can also go through this! Fences are being re constructed so no naughty boys will be able to escape!

Can I say on behalf of Alan and I how fantastic the alpaca forums have been.  We have put many posts on there and have always had helpful advice from  people that have gone through similar experiences, or simply want to offer their support to us when it was most needed.  Also very grateful thanks to our good friend Ginny Cobb who immediately telephoned us when she saw our first question on a forum, and who was there with us every step of the way.  Thank you Ginny. 

I have decided to only put what I consider  nice photos of our little cria. 

RIP Milagro, also known as 'Little Fella'  you were just too beautiful for this world!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kittens.... Somewhere!

We had a gorgeous cat here called Barb, she was here before we moved in. About a year ago sadly she disappeared. We think possibly she was ill, and she simply took herself off to pastures new. Last spring she had a litter of kittens, they all grew up beautiful and strong. We now had three female cats plus a male. Usually every year Barb would hold some kind of meeting. I imagine it to be a little like a Disney film, where they would sit around her and she would decide who should be the next to leave home. They would have a little spotted hanky on a stick, leaning on their shoulder and off they would go, on their next adventure. Gradually they would all leave and she would give birth to her next litter. This year however with no Barb, the four stayed. We could see the three females were pregnant, we were also a tad concerned we maybe over run with little kitty cats! Last years litter were named Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Mo.

One morning we noticed Eeny's tummy had gone, she had obviously given birth. We looked around as discretely as we could, but saw no signs of any kittens. Next, a couple of days later it was Meeny, again the slightly saggy, empty looking tummy, but also no signs of any kittens. Last but not least was little Mo. Miny is the only male, in case you were wondering, but he wasn't the dad. I think possibly next year he maybe tough enough to give it a go, but there were a couple of larger males that he did try and stand up to, although they won this year. Every evening after feeding the alpacas I would do a little hunt and always came back disappointed. On looking at the new mums occasionally I would suspect they had just been feeding, as their little nipples would appear larger. A couple of weeks later we still had no idea however if the new kittens were doing ok, or indeed how many there were!

We would watch the cats and try and follow them, and one day we had the shock of our lives when we heard meowing from tiny kittens. Would you believe the smallest of the mums, Mo, had brought her 2 tiny kittens to show us. They were in the indoor outdoor garden, and she had left then in a big plant holder. They were there just for 24 hours then she moved them on again. One was grey and quite a good size, the other was black which a strange stumpy tail and a little smaller. You can just make out Little grey kitten but the little black one was hiding in a corner.

It was quite a few days later that Alan noticed Meeny going in and out of a small outbuilding, the same place in fact where she was born just over a year ago. Alan did an impersonation of Bear Grylls and clambered in. Small gap for a big bloke,... sorry Alan! I'm not sure what this building would have been used for in the past, but it has holes in the walls inside it. As Alan shone his torch in, he could see some little wriggling bundles, in one of the holes. He wasn't sure how many, but they were alive and moving around, they seemed to be mainly grey and white, the same as mum. A part solved mystery there.

Another week or so went by but there was still no sign of Eeny's kittens, until one evening I spotted her going around behind the pool pump. It's a bit of a wilderness with metre high weeds and there is a small ruin too. I crept in behind her, and she was lying amongst the weeds growling to warn me off. She had her babies there. No idea how many, or if they were ok, but she was protecting something, we had to be patient.

Whilst feeding the alpacas one night we spotted in between the bales of hay in the barn, two tiny kittens, the little grey one and little black stumpy Jack, with a stump for a tail. Little Mo was spotted going in and out of the barn, so that was one mystery solved, we now knew where they lived.

Now this is where it becomes confusing... Stumpy Jack was nowhere to be seen, but what we thought was the grey kitten that was brought to us, was trying to climb out of the chicken out house, so Alan put him in with the other kittens, in the holes in the wall. Thinking of course they had been moved by their mum. Later that night our little Miliko was barking like crazy, we thought the alpacas were fighting but it turned out little grey kitten had got himself out of the chicken  out house, and possibly fallen and was on the floor, far too close for comfort to the little dogs.

I tried for about an hour to reunite grey kitten with who we thought was it's mum, Little Mo. We were sure it was her grey kitten she had brought to show us. I even had them both on my lap at one point. I fed Mo and put the kitten near her, but she was hissing and spitting at it, and clouted it really hard a couple of times. I was totally at a loss as to what to do, it was horrible to see her turn her back on her kitten. After a little while Meeny wandered into the indoor outdoor garden and she seemed to take a bit of a shine to little grey kitten. To our great relief she seemed to foster her, and fed and washed her at least 3 times that we saw.

Little Beauty

With Mo, who doesn't want to know

Foster mum, Eeny

That evening when Alan and I went to feed the animals, little black kitten (Stumpy Jack) that did belong to Mo, peeped out from the bales of hay, with a grey kitten behind it! We had thought maybe the little black one hadn't made it, he was rather tiny. So who was this grey kitten belonging to?

After the evening dog walk, Eeny whose kittens we hadn't seen, was in the indoor outdoor garden, and Alan put the baby to her. She immediatly started rubbing her head all over him as though to get her smell onto him and she was trying to pick him up. She struggled for a bit but managed to get hold of him and dragged him off, by the scruff round by the pool filter. It must have been hers all along!

Sadly I don't have a photo of Meeny with the kitten as she packed her bags and left home just a couple of days after. Little grey kitten is doing great however.  More news on them, very soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The life and times of our darling Geri

Little Geri came into my life in August 1998. The cutest little bundle of fun. An 8 week old collie cross Beagle.  We had lost our previous dog Teo a couple of months before, and we were desperately missing a dog in our house hold.

We had looked at a few rescue centres as it is where I personally prefer to obtain pets from.  We found a wonderful place near East Grinstead in the UK called Last Chance Animal Rescue, and we were actually toying between a huge English Mastiff or an 8 week old puppy. In the end the puppy had us.  I remember the day we brought her home so vividly. My dear mum had suffered a stroke about 18 months previously, and would often have mini strokes, always at such inconvenient times too!  This day was one of them.  I remember her sitting down on a chair and her face changing as I was looking at her.  I went into slight panic mode and the lovely people at the rescue centre dialled 999. Within minutes an ambulance arrived and the paramedics gave mum a good check over, but it was a slight mini stroke or TIA (transient ischaemic attack) Luckily within a matter of about half an hour she was already starting to feel better.  My dear mum loved a trawl around second hand shops,  and one time she had a TIA in the Heart Foundation Shop. Another ambulance!  Honestly what some people will do for a bit of attention!

So we brought little Geri home and oh boy was she hard work.  I'd never had a puppy before, and she would chase us around, nibbling at our heels. She probably thought she was rounding us up, or she was at least trying to. She developed eventually however into a beautiful dog, in every sense of the word.  When we moved from our house in Brighton, after we lost my mum, to Peacehaven she had regular walks to the park which was only two minutes away, and to the beach, which also was just a few minutes away.  We had 10 great years there.  It was a wonderful family home with great Christmasses, one of which Geri ate a large box of chocolates plus most of it's wrapper's that had been left under the tree. Another time my son was trying to stop smoking and Geri ate multiple packets of nicotinell chewing gum.  Luckily for us Mark's gf at the time worked in a pharmacy and insisted we telephone our vet as she was concerned it maybe poisonous to her. Good job we did, they insisted we brought her straight in and she had to stay in overnight.  They believed her heart would speed up, and then slow down to an alarming rate, and possibly stop.  They wanted to put her on a drip to try and control her heart for the night. The following day we brought her home, having been told she had enough nicotine in her to have killed her 10 times over... tough cookie, somehow she got through it!   I'm actually smiling whilst I'm typing this as I remember one day Geri came across a  partly decomposed seagull, and picked it up and carried it proudly along the seafront promenade.  It's wingspan seemed huge and were sticking out horizontally, held together by  a part of a skeleton.  I chased her to try and get her to drop it, but no way.  It was her prize possession she was so proud, I was so embarrassed!

Geri at home in Peacehaven 

The years passed by and my children were growing up fast.  When Geri was 10 years old, we made the decision to move here to Spain.  Geri had her jabs and her passport photo taken, and we were ready for the off.  Crikey did she cry when we left her at Gatwick to go into the hold.  I hated thinking about where she would be.  Would it be freezing cold? Noisy?  Would she be with the luggage?  I had no idea.  She was a terrible traveller at the best of times, and would cry continuously for the duration of any car journey.  We knew that a couple of hours on a plane would be easier than a couple of days driving.

Geri's life here in Spain was basically a lovely outdoors lifestyle.  We had a large area that she could simply live outside as much as she wanted.  As the years went on she developed arthritis, but I'm sure it would have been so much worse if we had been still living in the UK.  When we had our alpacas join us here, she enjoyed spending time with them, although she was understandably nervous at first.  Then arrived her best mate in the world, Carlos.

Carlos's first day

Carlos I found in the bushes outside our house one day, just a few months after we arrived.  Carlos and Geri got on like a house on fire. He was, and still is such a gentle soul. Then came along Arthur and Blue the mastins. At about 12 weeks old they were huge bundles of energy, that Geri would try and control but she was still the leader of the pack. Next came little Miliko, again another puppy with endless energy.  It was getting a bit too much now and Geri would watch from afar, and have a snooze unless she would feel she needed to let us know the pups were getting out of hand.

Geri's trying to be in control

With our little Miliko

The year after we arrived here, my son and his gf came for a visit.  Geri was so incredibly excited to see him, she ran around the small courtyard at top speed, then charged up a flight of stairs then suddenly yelped in pain. We immediately knew she had done something major.  She had, she had completely torn her cruciate ligament.  I was so upset when I realised she needed an operation.  The operation was done at a vetirinary surgery in Cordoba where she had excellent treatment.  Alan then spent a chilly April helping her rehabiltate in our swimming pool.

Last visit to the vet after her operation

Sadly a couple of years later, Geri suffered a cruciate ligament problem on the other leg. We think she just knocked over by one of the other dogs. This was not so bad, probably some fibres were torn, but we decided not to put her through the operation this time. She was fine, just a little slower than usual.  Having said that she would sometimes run for her dinner as fast as the others would!

Our lives were plodding along all very nicely when suddenly a couple of months ago Geri had a bit of a mishap.  I did a blog post about it.  If you need a little reminder click here......

We were well aware that Geri approaching her 16th birthday was very frail now.  She was extremely short sighted due to cataracts and totally deaf.  Although she would some how spot Miliko running around like a crazy thing if we passed through the old wooden gates into the part the little dogs lived, by our apartment (We had kept the mastins seperate for a while in case Geri got bowled over, which would occasionally happen)  To be honest when Geri had this last accident we knew the end wouldn't be to far away.  We made her as comfortable as we possibly could. She had her own sofa with the cushions taken off so she could get on and off without too much fuss.  Every morning we would wake up and she was alive, would be a bonus. Whoever was up first out of Alan and I would stroke her gently to wake her gradually, pop to the bathroom, which would give her a few minutes to come to.  She then had to be supported whilst getting off the sofa. Having said that sometimes she would be up herself, and often we would hear her up and down all night long.  Her little claws pitter pattering on the tiles as she would wander around the living room.

Last Thursday became a nightmare day for us. When we came back from a hospital check up from me, I went to check on her and she was lying on her side in the sun. Luckily it wasn’t too hot! She was trying to get up but couldn’t.  She seemed to have a problem with a front leg! We carried her in and gave her an anti-inflammatory pill, some food and water and let her sleep.  At first her breathing was very hard and fast, and to be honest I thought her heart may just have stopped at any time.  Unfortunately I had an appointment for a CT scan, that same evening, but Geri was sleeping soundly having had the pill.  We did discuss Alan staying with her, but in the end he didn't, and luckily she stayed sleeping soundly until we got back.  During the night we put cushions beside her sofa in case she tried to get up, and she was up a few times in the night. Part of the time we let her sleep on the floor, on her side where she seemed to be the most comfy. Or we would lift her back onto her sofa after we have helped her have a little toddle.

Alan emailed our vet Andres on the Thursday evening and we told him what had happened. He suggested we bring her in the following morning  for an anti-inflammatory injection.  I was very nervous of what may happen when we took her.  Deep down I thought he would say it was just a slight injury to the front leg, suggest giving her the injection and she would be ok for another few months.  There was the real worry however he would say it was indeed something major.

The devastating news was that her front leg, that we could see was injured, her shoulder was broken, and possibly dislocated too.  Andres explained we could take her to Cordoba to the vet that did her cruciate ligament operation for an x-ray and second opinion if we wished. They could operate on her, but to be honest at 16 she would probably never get through it.  Her back legs with her age were so brittle they would never stand up to having all the extra weight on them. Andres did not try and lead us one way or the other, leaving it completely up to us, but we knew she had no quality of life.  If she wanted to go anywhere we had to carry her.  What a difference a day makes!  Andres gave Geri an anti-inflammatory injection, plus he gave us 2 injections for her, for Saurday and Sunday too.  We told him we would like to take her home for the weekend and discuss things. Really what we wanted to do was hold her and cuddle her over the weekend, before making that awful desicion.  A decision I had never had to make before. When we stepped outside of the door I said to Alan, maybe we should go back and do it now.  Alan said "No, let's take her and and give her a lovely weekend at home!"  

We hoped after Geri had her anti-inflammatory injection, she would at least have a good night. Alan and I however were both up numerous times in the night.  Every movement had us leaping out of the bed to check on her. Sometimes she wanted to get up and we would have to support her tummy, as she would try desperately hard to walk.  We realised of course that she would not be feeling much pain but the broken / dislocated shoulder was not going to heal with an anti-inflammatory injection.  She was still totally unable to walk without us totally supporting her.  Alan and I understood that waiting until after the weekend was not being fair to her.  So on the Friday night we emailed Andres, and asked if he would come to our house on the Saturday morning.  Andres replied by saying "He respected our decision" and Alan was to pick him up at 9am!

Geri and I spent the time sitting on the floor together whilst Alan went to get him, and I put her on the sofa when he arrived.  The whole procedure was so kind and gentle. I've never seen it done before but I won't go into the details in case people find it upsetting, but it was over within about a minute, whilst I sat on the sofa with Geri holding her head in my hands.  Andres kept saying how sorry he was, and when the 'procedure' was finished he said "She's sleeping now" and stroked her tenderly. He continued by saying, how all we want to do is to give our pets a lovely life with us, and when they are in pain or discomfort it is good that we can help them too.  

Geri and I spent an hour together on the sofa, whilst Alan took Andres home.  It was very strange, I kept expecting to see her breathing.  Like when you look at them occasionally and they apear to stop breathing, and then they take a deep breath. Actually elderly sleeping relatives tend to do the same! Having lost alpaca cria and know how bereft the mums can become, we decided to bring Miliko and Carlos in to see Geri.  We didn't worry about Arthur and Blue as they hadn't seen her for a few weeks. The both suprised us in their own way.  Miliko is usually like a whirl wind, we lifted him onto the sofa and he extremely gently sniffed all around her head and face, very loving.  Carlos was another matter. When we lifted him up, he wouldn't look at Geri, he turned his head and he looked the other way.  We are not sure if he understood or not, but he didn't want to be there, or to see Geri like that.

One week on and we have had a busy week.  Which I'm sure was a good thing.  Alan and I have shared many cuddles (Sorry Alan ) and I have shed many tears. Arthur and Blue spend most of the day and night sleeping... nothing different there, especially this time of the year.  Little Miliko seems to have a new liking for baby bats, and seems to always have one in his mouth at the moment, bless him, and bless the poor baby bats.  Carlos is very sad, every time we walk passed him we are aware of giving him extra cuddles and more of our time.  He's been indoors this afternoon for a siesta, Miliko got thrown out as he tried to bring his bat in, but Carlos has broken into our bedroom and was curled up on our bed.  Hopefully he will be ok in a few days time.  And Geri, well she's been laid to rest inbetween two lovely olive trees.  I know that was a difficult job for Alan.

Thank you for 16 wonderful years Geri.