The Danger of Disconnection

Dr. Jeff

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I am writing this a few days after my beloved pup Vanya passed away of an aggressive form of kidney dis-ease.

Her dying process was rapid and tragic, but it has helped open my eyes more in the past few days than they have been for most of my life.

One pet often brings us to a path of healing, or helps us to connect the dots, that nature has been trying to show us. Vanya did this for me.

Her death has already taught me more about the living process, and how to help pets, than any textbook has ever done.

That lesson is simple.

Have fun, connect with others, and do the things that bring you joy.

Promote playing, sniffing, and doing what they love
. The sniffing is critical as it helps pets engage with their environment.

These are the factors that Vanya did not have much of in her life.

IMHO, they are the things that kept her from getting better despite my having done everything "right" throughout her life with us.

This is just the opposite of my father-in-law with an indomitable will to live from a love of life.

Will Land (yes, that's his actual name) is Amy's dad. I have had the privilege of watching his life's journey for the past thirty years.

For the past few years he has been living with malignant cancer that started in his kidney, has metastasized around his body including to his hip, had a partial amputation, multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, and most recently had a brain metastasis treated by cyber-knife (guided radiation).

However, he will tell you that he has a great life. His love for his partner, reading, music, birding and boating are the dominant forces in his life.

Not cancer.

This is just the opposite of Vanya who could not be motivated by food, people, play, toys, etc. to do anything other than isolate in her crate or on a bed by herself.

A few months ago I asked Will what it was that has helped him continue to have a great life despite years of pain and suffering.

He replied that yes, there has been a lot of pain in the past few years, but he has not suffered because he has continued to focus on the things he loves.

I am finally beginning to understand this and see that it is the key to a happy life for our pets as well as for us.

Thank you Vanya for showing me this. I will be eternally grateful.

Vanya crate.JPG




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Carol

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Jun 26, 2018
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Oh my Dr Jeff. With tears I thank you for sharing the gifts of Will Land and Vanya.
Sometimes I find it a stretch to focus on the things I love, sometimes the days are weirdly empty,,, but thru just this covid experience and experiencing the aging of Emma, I find myself being grateful for days that are warm and sunny, a delicious tuna sandwich and possibly an old favored movie
You have been given the love of Vanya and a wise, tough father-in-law.
May Archie and you continue your loving journey with those you love and who love you. Snuffle mats are good, but love conquers all.
 

robinafolson

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Feb 20, 2018
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Our 20-yr old cat, Nora, is reaching the end of her life, too. Because I've been down this road before, so many times, I find that I finally understand while it's heart-wrenching to see your beloved friend age, they don't know that. They know this moment. They know they are loved, they have a full belly, they are comfortable. They may experience moments of pain, discomfort, and in our cat's case, probably due to cancer, but like Mr. Land, Nora is still "Nora." She still wants to live.

Nora still gets up, albeit a bit wobbly, and wants her breakfast. She eats but is losing weight. She pees on pads or on the floor some times. It is not the carefree life of a kitten, but it is LIFE. It is HER LIFE and we, who care for her, respect that. She still wants to LIVE her life.

That's why I was so disappointed in our allopathic vet. He looked at Nora last week and didn't do a single test, even though we told him she has some scant blood in her urine. He looked at her weight loss (4 lbs in a year..she is down to just under 10 lbs). He looked at her wobbly gait. He basically gave us permission to give up on her due to her challenges. Why would we give up when she wants to live?

I find that all too often we chose to euthanize because WE suffer watching our companions do what is natural for them towards the end of their life. It's not fun to know that time is running out, but we still give Nora catnip. We wash her face since she doesn't do that for herself. Our other cats lick her head. We brush her and do other things to keep her feeling as good as she can.

Last week, I learned another lesson. We decided we had to move Nora to the basement, where my partner, Sam has his office. The floor is tiled so Nora couldn't ruin the floors if she didn't make it to the pan or pee on a pad. In barely a day, Nora was going downhill quickly. She slid on the floor. She didn't eat well. She wasn't sleeping comfortably. We really thought it was the end. I took a look at her and said we had to move her back upstairs. The isolation, the confusion of a new space, took a toll on her.

Not long after we brought her back upstairs, she perked up a lot. She ate. She got energized. She was part of the family again, not sent off to die where we didn't have to watch it slowly happening.

We won't ever move her back downstairs again. As long as Nora tells us she wants to live, we will do everything in our power to keep her comfortable and happy. We can always put her down, any time, but we can never change our minds once it's happened.

Nora deserves every day we can give her even if it means we have to fuss with her, do more cleaning, watch over her more carefully. She gave us 20 + years of love. This is our way of saying "Thank You" to her for that.

Our deepest condolences to you and Amy on your loss. Vanya was a very sweet pup. She charmed me the first time I met her. What a good girl.
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Dr. Jeff

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Thanks for sharing Robin and Carol, and for your loving memory of Vanya, Robin.

Carol, I agree that it's those seemingly small things, like enjoying the beauty of the day, that can be extraordinarily powerful.

Children and pets can easily and intuitively harness it. Adults have to work harder at it, but it is worth the effort.

The river of research into positive psychology, happiness, and focusing on the good in all things, and experiencing runs deep.

Here's a fantastic white paper about the science behind positive emotions like awe from the University of CA Berkeley:


Robin, wow! Nora's story is incredible. She is so lucky to have you and Sam.

That was incredibly smart and intuitive of you both to realize that it was isolation, and not her "diagnosis" of cancer, that was making her worse.

The power of love and connection are beautiful to behold.

Keep on truckin' Nora!

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Julie W.

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Jun 30, 2018
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Thank you for sharing your story Dr. Jeff. This year has been hard on so many levels for so many of us. My mum has lung cancer and she is nasty, angry and mean, although she was that way before the cancer. It is intense trying to help her. My dog will 14 years old in a few weeks. I am grateful for all of the good times and shared experiences we have had for so many years. I realize that there are a lot of sad days ahead. These events although difficult, are part of the life experience. Having resiliency and enjoying the passage of time are important. I need to practice now more than ever the lesson of "Have fun, connect with others, and do the things that bring you joy." because it offsets the stress and anxiety of the difficult times that I find myself in.
 

Dr. Jeff

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You're welcome, Julie.

How could I forget to mention Archie??

He's the one who brought Vanya out of her shell by his utter exuberance, love, and enthusiasm for everything.

Food is his biggest motivator, but he also loves to get hugs and play, do agility, other animals, etc.

I also just found that he has a big and potentially scary internal symptom of very high Lyme C6 (antibodies).

Similar to my own scary internal symptom of a persistent 105+ fever when I had Lyme 19 years ago:


His connection to life in every way is a wonder to behold.

For now, I am supporting his body to see how much he can heal naturally by optimizing his ability to heal using homeopathy, supplements and doing everything possible can to stop his Lyme.

Hopefully, his C6 will reduce by 50% by the end of this year, and we'll stop Lyme nephritis:archie stop lyme.JPG

My next step diagnostically is a blood test called a Cornell Multiplex.
 

HannahS

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Sep 2, 2020
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Dear Robin,
This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing and the photo of your beautiful girl Nora.
My cat Mia has started peeing inside recently and has lost a lot of weight due to a possible tumour.
I started being frustrated at having to clean up the pee but then I realised it's part of caring for her right now.
She is using a litter box again after 13 years of peeing outside and I am focusing instead on the fact she is still here and wanting cuddles.
It's an honour to be with her and respect her needs right now.
Yours in pet parenthood,
Hannah x
 

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