Sunday, October 28, 2012

Goodbye to Abner


Today is October 28th 2012. Yesterday marked one month since I lost Abner to metastatic Osteosarcoma and while it has been a very hard month to get through, I did get through it. I think it will be a long time before I can think or talk about Abner without getting a little choked up but I wanted to publish what I wrote the day he died and sent to friends so they would know.

Abner was not just an extraordinary dog. He was my truly constant companion. Having spent most of my adult life living without live-in human companions the importance of my relationships with my three dogs has been inestimable. This has been even more than case with Abner because for most of his life I have been retired and we have literally done almost everything together.

What follows is a brief tribute to this amazing loving animal.

The attached photos were taken an hour before Abner left us for the last time. He looked happy.

Abner July 24, 2002-September 27, 2012

On July 17th of 2002 I suffered what I thought would be the greatest loss of my lifetime when I had to witness the death of my companion Harvey who was only 8-1/2 years old but had suffered degenerative problems in his spine for a couple of years. When that happened a number of my closest friends in Sacramento gathered around me for the ensuing days and weeks in an effort to support me when I was in a pit of grief. Many good things happened in that period but not much had a lasting impact.

As a consequence, in October of that year, out of a sense of desperation that I was not getting over the loneliness that set in after losing Harvey, I called a few Pyrenees breeders I knew of and began inquiring about perhaps finding a puppy. That series of calls led to a quick trip to the San Diego area to see a breeder there who had bred Harvey’s father and who had a litter of 12-week-old puppies, most of whom were spoken for.

When I got to her home and kennel and met the two male puppies that were still available, one was calm, attentive, playful, and most importantly forgiving. I had some fears of getting a new puppy so soon after Harvey’s death and in particular had misgivings about the possibility that somehow if I did, the new puppy would sense that he was supposed to replace someone who was irreplaceable.

I went home empty handed but for digital photos and a promise that the puppy that had snagged my interest would not be offered to anyone else for a few days so I could decide whether or not to commit in a setting that wasn’t as emotional as the one that is always there in a group of puppies.

I agonized for several days about this decision and pestered friends for help in deciding but in the end I opted to go for it. I couldn’t take the puppy home right away since I had to go to Mexico on business that month but made arrangements to receive him from the breeder shortly after my return in late October.

Another monkey wrench was thrown into the works when I returned and called the breeder to make arrangements to get my new companion. It seemed that he had contracted Parvo in the interim. She assured me that it was a mild case, that he was fine, and that he had only been at the vet hospital for one night in dealing with the disease but it still created misgivings for me. Most of the vets who had dealt with Harvey’s illnesses that had brought about his relatively early death felt that his problems all probably stemmed from a case of Parvo that afflicted his entire litter when they were 6 weeks old.

I found myself consulting every vet I could think of for advice and in spite of a recommendation from at least one of them to not take the risk, by then, without even having the puppy in my possession I knew I didn’t want to give him up. So, I went ahead and took the leap.

Abner was born on July 24th, 7 days exactly after Harvey had died, so he was about 14 weeks or so old when he was delivered to my house on a warm sunny fall day. He had already started to enter the awkward looking phase many Pyrenees puppies go through when their legs are too long and ears too big and floppy to go with the rest of their bodies. He was also stubborn and had a challenging, almost suspicious look in his eyes at first. For the first week I truly wondered if I had made a mistake and was fearful that I would never bond as strongly with Abner as I had with Harvey.

As most, if not all of you know, that was a ridiculously unfounded fear. All puppies have a way of forcing you to deal with them on their terms even if you did get them as a substitute for someone you had lost. Abner immediately demanded all my attention and efforts and in doing so, quickly erased the possibility that I would put demands on him that were unfair.

As it turned out he was a happy healthy wonderful puppy who, like most Pyrs, got into trouble occasionally and expensively in the first 6 months and then after that, never really did anything wrong for the rest of his life.

For the two years that I continued my architectural practice we were rarely separated for more than a couple of hours. I took him with me everywhere I could including job sites as long as they were safe for him to visit.

Then, on August 1st of 2004 I officially closed up shop and began the process of packing up our lives in preparation for the move to Asheville. None of the disruption even caused Abner to think twice. He just assumed that everything would go fine because for him, it always did. He was so incredibly beautiful, calm and gentle, that even people who generally didn’t like dogs were attracted to him so his only experience with humans was positive.

In January of 2005 we got into my Audi and hit the road for the 4 day drive to Asheville with a few of our possessions and the majority on a truck that followed a day later. Even though Abner had never been on a road trip longer than about 7 hours, he treated the cross-country trip as no big deal. He politely stayed in the back of the car for the very long days of driving and was quite comfortable sleeping in a different motel room every night.

We arrived in Asheville on January 17th, 2005 at about 7:30 on the coldest night since the weather service started keeping records for this area. When I opened the front door to my house I was shocked to find it bitterly cold inside due to several windows being wide open. The only furniture there was a bed I had ordered from Design Within Ready that was unassembled. I turned on the furnace and closed all the open windows but the house couldn’t really heat up very quickly. It had an old boiler and radiator system that were in pretty sorry shape, and I didn’t know that I needed to open a valve to let more water into the system so a few hours after it started, it shut off for lack of water.

I managed to get the memory foam mattress out of its shipping tube and got it to expand in spite of the cold. That night Abner and I spent in the master bedroom of this strange house. I slept in a sleeping bag I had fortunately left there when I had visited in December and for the only time in his life, Abner got on a piece of furniture and slept curled up next to me. He knew immediately that this was our home. . .not just another strange motel, and he acted accordingly. He peed and pooped in the frozen back yard and acted completely like he belonged in the house. . .which of course he did.

In the first few years of my being in Asheville almost all the people I met and with whom I ended up in friendships were because of this remarkable dog people simply couldn’t resist. Abner could and did charm everyone. Total strangers would drive by on the street and shout to him by name. The transition from living in a place for 33 years and having that amount of time to form relationships to a place where I knew no one was facilitated by having the companionship of this remarkable dog.

Things generally went well for Abner all these years from the early ones here until last winter. In December of 2011 shortly after I had come home from a very painful shoulder surgery, I noticed Abner avoiding putting weight on his right hind leg. I took him to see our vet and since there was nothing conspicuously wrong he suggested using an NSAID called Deramax. After a few days on that med he was fine and we went on with our lives, mostly involving my recovery and physical therapy.

Then about a month later the lameness recurred and the vet suggested over the phone that I just try the Deramax again and see how he does. Again, he was fine in a few days. The problem was that in early February he had the third episode and I decided the time had come to get to the bottom of what was going on.

We had some x-rays done that showed an odd halo of something around his right femur that the vet was not sure about. There ensued a whole series of blood tests, other x-rays, consultation with a close friend who is a veterinary oncologist, and ultimately a bone biopsy at a specialty clinic in Greenville, SC to try to find out what was going on. In the end, after a month of nothing conclusive, my oncologist friend told me that his gut feeling was that even without a positive diagnosis from the biopsy he was pretty sure that Abner had Osteosarcoma and that the only way to save his life was to amputate the leg and to do it quickly.

On March 5th, I drove Abner to the group in Greenville where they removed his entire right hind leg and sent the femur off to a pathology lab to determine whether or not the cancer was what we were dealing with. After a couple days I brought Abner home and began the long and sometimes difficult process of adapting to life on three legs. In less than two weeks we had a confirmation from the pathologist that indeed Abner had suffered from Osteosarcoma, a particularly aggressive bone cancer that for some reason tends to afflict larger breeds of dogs.

The odds of long term survival are much improved by following amputation with multiple sessions of chemotherapy so on March 20th of this year Abner had his one and only dose of chemo. It was devastating. Within hours he was completely exhausted. He once again couldn’t walk and in pretty short order developed three bacterial infections probably due to his immune system being compromised by the chemotherapy. It took a long time to recover from that one session so I elected to take our chances and not do any more. I didn’t think it was fair to him to make him sick for long periods of time in the hope that it would lengthen his life.

Things generally went pretty well through the summer until two weeks ago. I had been advised to have a 6 month checkup done on him just to see how he was doing, and one of the standard items in that checkup was a chest x-ray since the most common location of metastases from this cancer was the lungs. Sadly the x-ray showed three small growths. We didn’t really have a sense of how long they had been there but upon consultation with all the vets, I had reason to expect a few months before these would become a problem.

It was not to be. I got the x-ray results on the 15th and by the 18th he was limping noticeably and there was swelling on his right front leg. On the 19th we were once again at the vets, this time having his leg x-rayed and to my horror it showed the same halo type development that we had seen back in February.

At that point I just started looking into how to keep Abner comfortable for as long as we had. His disease progressed rapidly and by yesterday he had stopped eating and by last night was unable to stand or walk at all, even with help from me.

So, today, at 11:30 in the morning, I took Abner back to the vet hospital for the last time. We sat in the back of my car together for a while. I talked to him and he kissed me on the face as he had done a thousand times before. The vet injected him with an anesthetic so he would just drift off to sleep, which he did with his head in my lap. Then they took him inside to give him the IV that would end his suffering. Unfortunately it didn’t end mine.

I came home and have tried to keep myself busy this afternoon but decided to write this all down while it was fresh in my mind.

At some level I know that the raw and acute sense of loss I am suffering right now will someday pass. I can’t imagine how. I have never felt the closeness or affection for anyone that I have felt for Abner. When Harvey died I thought that I would never again feel the pain of loss I felt that day but this is worse. I think having spent almost his entire 10 years together every day has made this even a stronger bond.

Abner was magic. Everyone who knew him well knew it. I don’t imagine I will every feel this way about anyone again. I hope I do but I can’t imagine it. I miss him so much already and probably will for every day for the rest of my life.

All of you who had the good fortune to know him well were blessed. He lived for 10 years, 2 months and 3 days and for that period of time the world was a better place.

The last year and a half have been filled with difficult times for me marked not only by the loss of Abner but health issues that resulted in a shoulder surgery last December and a complex and lengthy neck surgery just over two weeks ago that involved, among other things, fusing 4 of the cervical vertebrae. Since, as a rule, I seem motivated to share the good stories in this blog I have had little to talk about for this period of time, and truthfully, doubt that I will be posting much soon since I am recovering both from my surgery and my recent loss. When things start to take a more positive turn I suspect you will all hear from me again.

Asheville is constantly changing, and I guess I am too, as are the people who matter to me. When I am up to it I will start posting stories again. Until then I hope whoever feels like reading any or all of this blog won't be disappointed in my silence.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

For the comparatively few old Sacramento friends who still read this blog I decided to post some news that is troubling but that everyone still should know about.

In early February I took Abner to our vet here because for the third time in less than three months he was not putting weight on his right hind leg whenever possible. Over the course of the next few weeks he had a multitude of x-rays, blood tests, fungal and tick titers, an abdominal ultrasound, and finally a bone biopsy but no conclusive diagnosis could be reached. After a month we were at the point where I had three vets all of whom feared deep down that this was Osteosarcoma. This is a very nasty, aggressive, fast-moving bone cancer that for some reason is attacking the giant breeds ferociously. I personally have known three Pyrs that have died of this horrible disease and was crushed to hear that it was likely that Abner had it.

Nonetheless, I was encouraged to have the offending leg amputated and if the pathology on the removed leg confirmed that the problem was Osteosarcoma as predicted, to follow up with chemotherapy.

So, on March 5th Abner has his right hind leg amputated at Upstate Veterinary Specialists. This procedure as well as the bone biopsy a couple weeks earlier were performed by a surgeon by the name of Matt Ritter about whom i cannot say enough good things.

It has now been 9 days since his surgery and Abner is doing incredibly well. He walks all over the house unassisted on three legs pretty much as he pleases. I won't let him try stairs without support yet and when we walk outside I use a nylon sling to take some of the load, particularly after he gets tired. Still, to be this few days post surgery and to see him doing so well is quite gratifying. It was a hard decision to allow this to be done to him but it is a huge relief to see him adapt so quickly.

Yesterday the pathology report came back confirming the tentative diagnosis of OSA so the plan now is to have his condition evaluated on Monday, have his staples removed, and assuming things look good regarding his recovery from the surgery, we will start chemotherapy on Tuesday. If anyone is interested in more detail about what is going on or what has happened to this point, send me an email. Otherwise I will post updates from time to time. In general though, I am amazed and consequently encouraged by Abner's rapid adaptation to life with three legs. He continues to be a very remarkable dog.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I feel compelled tonight to alert anyone who reads this blog to a very ambitious fund raising run a friend of mine and a running buddy of his are doing on February 27th. Rob Rives and his friend John Roscoe Harrison are running from the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border to the Block Island Sound. This is a 78 mile run which is impressive enough but these two are doing the run to raise money for the National Psoriasis Foundation. If any of you has an interest in following what these guys are up to you can check out these links. The first is their blog, the second a page set up to take donations in support of their effort, and the third is a link to a map of Rhode Island that shows the remarkably ambitious route they will follow. Any support of this great effort no matter how large or small will be greatly appreciated by these guys.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


These photos are mostly ass backwards as far as sequence, but taken together they will get you through at least the rest of my summer trips. These first few are of various views around Prince Edward County Ontario where we stayed for a few weeks. The amazingly smooth lake is called Lake of the Mountain because it sits pretty much at the highest point on the island. No one seems to have figured out what keeps it from draining since water continually flows out but there is no apparent source to replenish it.




This next group are all photos I took from a helicopter tour I was treated to by two total strangers I met at Oeno Gallery, a truly spectacular art gallery on the grounds of the Huff Winery.





The boat above, the Zephyr III belongs to my friends John and Signy Cowle and Abner and I got to stay on it for a few nights during our visit to Toronto. It was like being Jay Gatsby. The brick house below is John and Signy's place in Picton where we stayed for a couple of weeks. In the driveway next to the house is my trailer.



The upper photo here is one of a zillion beach shots I took and the two photos below are from the Mariner's Memorial park where an 1828 vintage lighthouse was rebuilt. The big wooden rudder was retrieved from an old shipwreck in Lake Ontario. Abner cooperated nicely posing as a scale figure so you could see the size of this thing.





These shots are a few of the photos I took at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY toward the end of our stay in the area. Clayton is a really appealing little town at the beginning of the Thousand Islands and the museum is nothing short of amazing.




Prince Edward County is completely surrounded by Lake Ontario and assorted bays and coves and there are dozens of beaches that range from rocky to nice sand.



On our last night in Canada we experienced a truly amazing violent thunderstorm that seemed to come out of nowhere. The wind blew like crazy, there was lightning thunder and rain, and the whole thing was over in about 20 minutes.

Posted by Picasa
It has been more than a half-year since I last posted to this blog and, perhaps equally importantly, it has been 7 years since I arrived in Asheville to live here. Those of you who know me are aware of my penchant for recognizing mileposts and this is one that seems worthy, so I have decided to post a bit of what has transpired over the last 6 months or so and perhaps share some of my thoughts on what appears to be coming.

When I last posted I was nearing the end of a very pleasant stay in the home of my friends John and Signy Cowle in Picton Ontario where Abner and I had decamped for a couple of weeks. We stayed there until July 1st and then drove to a campground near the Michigan border to spend our last night in Canada. As it happened, it was the weekend of both Canada Day and Independence Day in the US so space wasn’t easy to come by. Nonetheless we checked into a campground that was filled with holiday celebrants and made no plans for the evening, as it was just a stopping point. The plan was to drive to Fort Wayne on the 3rd of July and spend the 4th through the 6th visiting my parents. Since I had already made arrangements to leave the trailer at Earthbound for the day of the 7th in order for them to try to figure out what had caused the wheel well damage this timing seemed to work.

The visit to Fort Wayne was relatively uneventful. The only real difficulty was the distance from the campground in which I was parked to my parents’ house. In cities the size of Ft Wayne and larger, there aren’t a lot of campgrounds in close proximity to the city centers and I faced a drive of close to 30 minutes each way but the campground was lovely and the people were nice. I got to watch 4th of July fireworks from my father’s office on the 18th floor of a downtown high rise overlooking the ball park from which they were sent up. Great view. It was particularly interesting though to see fireworks shows going off all along the horizon irrespective of what direction I looked. When I was growing up there were two or three fireworks shows in the whole city. This July it looked like there could have been a hundred.

The last night there I spent the night at my parents’ house with the trailer in the driveway so I could get an early start and be at the Earthbound factory around 8:30. Bill Hughes, who made the appointment with me, had said that the earlier I could get the trailer there the more they would be able to get done so I was eager to drop it off, drive into Indianapolis to spend the day with my youngest sister, and then drive back to Marion to pick it up for the rest of the trip back to Asheville, via Cincinnati where I would see my other sister for a couple of days.

Unfortunately, none of this went as planned. At this point I will not go into the details because I probably will end up in litigation with Earthbound over the trailer and I have been advised by counsel not to go public at this point with the story of the trailer and what has happened with it.

As a result, all I can tell you is that I left the Earthbound factory by mid-morning and headed for the Cincinnati area where I had booked three nights in a suburban campground right on the Ohio/Indiana border. This too was a substantial distance from where my sister and her husband live in Ft Thomas, KY but it was an easy freeway drive almost door to door so it really wasn’t as time consuming as the commute had been in Ft Wayne. I had a really nice visit with Jan and Chuck and got to see a few sights in Cincinnati I had not seen before. I enjoyed a downtown modern art museum immensely but the biggest surprise is the old Deco train station that has been converted to a huge and spectacular multi-discipline cultural and event center. The building is one of the most impressive train stations I have ever seen and while we were there we saw a show about Egypt and specifically about Cleopatra and her family. The exhibit was great fun but seeing the building was the highlight of the visit here.

After three nights, I packed up the trailer, got Abner into the car, and headed south for the final leg of the trip back to Asheville. The plan had been all along to have a couple of days overlap between my return and Josh’s departure. Since he was staying at my house for the whole summer except for his family’s vacation in Costa Rica, it seemed to make sense that I should be there for a couple days to take over before he left and have a few days after his return before my planned second trip of the summer to California.

Things have a way of changing though when you don’t expect them to. Again I cannot discuss the details of what happened with the trailer but suffice it to say conditions were not such that I could head out on a cross-country trip of an intended 6-7 weeks duration. Making matters worse, on Bastille Day (July 14th) Peter and I went climbing at the gym. It was the first time I had climbed since before I had left and I probably was unrealistically ambitious but I was doing pretty well and toward the end of our session I decided to try a new route that had gone up since I had last been in the gym. As it turned out it was harder than it looked and I took a fall, hyper-extending my right arm in the process and hurting my shoulder pretty badly. It hurt enough that I stopped immediately but I was hopeful that a short period of recovery would allow it to heal.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks though it didn’t improve so I went to see my primary care doc because I feared I had torn my rotator cuff. Many of you know that I had rotator cuff repair surgery 13 years ago so I had a pretty good idea of what this injury feels like and unfortunately what I felt in July was quite reminiscent of the previous experience. My doc agreed with me and said I would have to be referred to a surgeon.

This too didn’t go well. He gave me several names of people he was comfortable with my seeing but a friend here who is a pediatric surgeon suggested a guy he knew at a local sports medicine practice whom he believed was the top shoulder guy around. I made an appointment to see him as soon as he could get me in on August 2nd.

He did the standard range of motion tests and a few x-rays but concluded that it could be several different injuries and he wanted me to take a month to let it rest and prescribed Naprosyn to cover the pain. I told him in the first couple of minutes of our conversation that I was in something of a hurry to have this diagnosed because if it was a rotator cuff tear I wanted to have it fixed before it got bad enough that an arthroscopic procedure wouldn’t be possible. He insisted on waiting 4-6 weeks and then seeing me again so I left.

After two weeks I stopped taking the Naprosyn since I realized that while it was effective at covering up the pain it also eliminated my ability to distinguish when I was aggravating the injury with movement. Besides, I really don’t like being on medication.

With my plans for the remainder of the summer scuttled I had to book a trip to California by plane for about a week around Winesong, the annual fundraiser I have attended for 20 or so years. I had thought Josh would be able to stay with Abner since the plan had been for him to be at my house through the end of September, but even that didn’t turn out as planned. He had decided that he wanted to start school in New Jersey in the fall semester and would have to leave on the same day I would be flying out to California. Fortunately my last remaining dog sitter, Ben Fowler, was available so I was still able to go.

So on September 3rd, in the early morning, Josh backed out of my driveway with his dog Layla looking forlorn in the back seat and I went back into the house to prepare for my departure later in the day. By that time Josh and I had lived together for 6 weeks even though it had not been planned that way, and to my amazement, when he and Layla left that day I realized that I would miss them. The significance of this is that I haven’t had another human being living with me since I moved into my own apartment in early 1973. I was pretty sure the days of my being flexible enough to share living space with another person had passed so this was a real revelation. I am sure part of it was that Josh worked most days so I still had a lot of time to myself, and he occupied the downstairs of the house so our paths didn’t necessarily cross unless we wanted them to. It also didn’t hurt that in the 6 weeks of sharing my house I fell completely in love with Layla. When Josh would go to work, she usually came into my office and lay on the floor as close to my feet as she could manage. She is a very sweet dog whom I missed the second she left.

This isn’t to take anything away from Josh. He is an easy person to get along with and deserves some of the credit for things working as well.

The California trip was much like others I have done under similar circumstances. For 8 days I raced around like a mad man trying to see a lot of people and do a lot. I didn’t make myself quite as crazed as in previous years by limiting the number of people I visited to a lot fewer than in previous visits, but it is still a rough way to go back to a place where one has lived for 33 years. I had a good time and returned to Asheville exhausted on September 12th.

Since I didn’t want to waste any more time I had booked an appointment with the Dr. Thompson, the sports medicine doc for the 15th. At this point he said that since there was no discernable improvement I would have to have an MRI with an arthrogram to accurately determine what was damaged. It was at this point, a month and a half after I had told him that I wanted arthroscopy for any procedure I would have to have if at all possible, that he told me that he doesn’t do arthroscopic procedures and he would have to refer me to another partner in his practice.

So, I went for the MRI and had a third appointment with Thompson at which he told me what I had suspected all along. I had another rotator cuff tear as well as a labral tear and some osteophytes. He said that a surgical correction was appropriate and suggested that I see the younger guy he had mentioned previously. The problem was that this new doc wanted to do another whole workup on my injury and me and charge me for it again. It was at this point that I decided Dr Thompson had treated me unethically and that I was not going to be charged still more by another partner in his office when I felt cheated already. This had been a very costly venture which, had he been open with me in the first place and said that he didn’t do arthroscopy I could have gone to another surgeon and saved a lot of time and money.

In the end I saw an orthopedic surgeon my primary care doc had recommended in the first place. His name is Chris Elder and I have felt like I have had excellent care since I switch to him. It just took a lot of extra time and money to get there.

Because my friend Jonathan Boynton and his long time love Shaghig Kodbashian were getting married the weekend before Thanksgiving and I had committed to attending the event in San Luis Obispo, CA, the earliest reasonable day for my surgery was December 1st so that was the day we chose. Some arrangements had to be made for some help for several days after the procedure since I had good reason to believe I would not be able to fend for myself.

My friend Ben committed to the first 24 hour shift which consisted of driving me to the surgery center, waiting while the surgery took place, and then scooping up my remains to take me home and tend to my pathetic drugged up self for the first night. As it turned out, Ben got the easy part. As part of the procedure, I was given a nerve block that completely deadened all feeling in my right arm and shoulder and it didn’t wear off until just about when Ben had to leave for work on the Friday following the operation. There was about an hour between when he left and my sister Jan and her husband Chuck arrived to take over for a couple of days. This unfortunately, was also when the pain became quite intense and I discovered that the Percoset they had prescribed for pain management just wasn’t helping. I was groggy and disoriented but still in really serious pain.

Of course since it was relatively late in the day on Friday, by the time I called Elder’s office to get some help on finding alternative pain management the office was closed and I was referred to one of his partners who, to put it succinctly, refused to help in any way. What I realized was that I needed dilaudid, a narcotic I had used before with some success and a small amount of which I still had. It requires a written prescription and the doc on call obdurately refused to write me a prescription in spite of my offer to meet him at the location of his choice. Fortunately I have other resources and was able to get enough to manage my pain through the weekend until the office opened on Monday.

There was a repeat of this situation on Saturday when an itching and burning rash appeared under my right armpit and down that side almost to the waist and to the elbow. It was spreading rapidly and was frighteningly reminiscent of a bad rash I had developed the first time I had rotator cuff surgery. The last time I had ended up in a dermatologist’s office with a rash covering my whole trunk from crotch to neck. He gave me a shot of some strong steroid, some prednisone pills, and an ointment called Clobetasol all of which stopped the spread and slowly got rid of the rash. Fortunately for me, I had a small amount of prednisone and a couple of ancient but apparently still effective tubes of Clobetasol so I was able to self treat the rash and get it partially under control over the weekend as well. The advice from the doc on call was to wash the rash with soap and water and to take a benadryl. Suffice it to say, a week later when I went back to Dr. Elder’s office for my first post operative checkup I let him know in detail of my displeasure with the utter lack of care offered by his partner the previous weekend.

It seems to me that the duties of a doctor in the time period immediately post surgery are to manage pain and to deal with any complications. This guy refused to do either. I will not mention his name because I think he has already been told of my serious displeasure over this episode.

On Sunday my sister and brother in law had to drive back to Ft Thomas so a couple hours after their departure my friend Rob, who was visiting during a break between his two jobs in New Hampshire, mercifully arrived to take over. In some respects Rob had the hardest tasks since by the time he came I was treating the rash with two ointments about every 8 hours and with my inability to move much this soon after surgery, he had to slather the stuff on me. I felt like a piece of pork being basted but Rob was a good sport about it. He was soon to head off to Nantahala for a certification course to be a Wilderness First Responder so he said that rubbing these various goos into my bruised and swollen old body was nothing compared to what he was going to be preparing for.

Rob had to leave after 3 days so at day 6 I was left to my own devices. As it turned out, this was a little early. I was on pain meds for a total of 11 days and they do make you groggy. Driving to and from physical therapy and doctors’ appointments, not to mention picking up groceries was quite a challenge at the beginning. Still, after the first two weeks were over I was feeling semi-human and aside from a big honking brace I had to wear, was beginning to be able to take care of my own needs again. I don’t know what I would have done without the help that I got from Ben, Jan and Chuck, and Rob in that first week.

It has now been almost 7 weeks and while I still am dealing with some pains and lack of range of motion, I am doing a lot better. I am told by the PT people and Dr. Elder that realistically I shouldn’t expect to feel great until about 4 months out, and that to completely heal will take a year. As it turned out, I had not only badly torn one of the tendons of the rotator cuff complex, but it was also detached. I had two tears in my labrum, bad osteophytes on my collarbone that had to be cut off, and a badly torn bicep tendon that was removed resulting in the disconnection of the long head of my right bicep. I am told that when I have recovered I won’t feel any difference in what I can do with that arm but that it might look a little weird. I guess I now have a monocep on that side.

After all of this though I am glad I had the work done. It was in much worse condition than I realized and probably would have only gotten worse if I had put off this procedure. Now I just have to get through another 10 plus months of recovery and then will have to decide whether or not I should start climbing again. Not an easy decision. Climbing has brought me great joy and has allowed me to meet some amazing people but it has now been the source of three injuries, two of which required surgery. I am not sure this is a wise activity for me to continue.

In other news, Ben’s mother Kristen moved to Asheville in August and is finding her way in this new town remarkably well. She lives very close to Bruce and Nora in a rental for now and is starting to think in terms of something more permanent. In spite of the fact that I was hoping she would only work part time so she would be available to me as a hiking companion, Kristen was pleased to get a full time job almost immediately upon her arrival here. How inconsiderate.

Bruce and Nora said goodbye to their beloved Pyr Madeline a few weeks after Abner and I left on our summer trip but decided relatively quickly that they would not want to be without a dog in their lives and so, after a trip to Portugal in the early autumn, the returned to Ashville via Athens Ohio with a new female Pyrenees puppy named Beckley. She is a wonderful sweet dog who at 6 months, is getting over puppy like behavior (typical pyr) and is turning into a total charmer. Her photos will, no doubt, appear on this blog one of these days.

So we are all settled into the quiet winter in Asheville. Most of the tourists desert us from New Years Day to about mid-March so the town is quiet and manageable. The weather has been mostly mild and as my mobility improves I am doing more and more hiking. Life does go on.

So that is a seriously abbreviated version of the last 6 months. There has actually been a lot more but much of it involves my dispute with Earthbound and as I said, I am not at liberty to go public with the details at this time. Still, Abner and I are both okay and just on cruise control through these next months. In the spring I should be feeling pretty well healed and will, no doubt, be a little stir crazy and aching for an adventure. Rob is supposed to go to work teaching climbing at a school in the mountains in West Virginia and Peter still goes up there about every other week so I am thinking that when the weather is good perhaps I will take a drive up there to see them both in their element.

So it goes. I trust my regular readers are well. Write an email if you have a chance.