Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wagmore Farm: The House Part 2 - What to Do?

In a previous blog post, I shared a bit about the current state of the house.  When we bought the property our intention was to spruce things up.  Then we started to think about living in the house, and the changes we might make to tailor it more to our taste.  The more we thought about it, we realized we have 3 options:
  1. Spruce it up 
  2. Whole house remodel
  3. Scrap it and start over

Spruce It Up

This was our first thought.  New paint, new floors, voila!

Then we started to understand what sprucing up really meant for this house:
  • New roof
  • New windows (some optional, some mandatory)
  • New paint
  • New flooring
  • Update (aka gut) all bathrooms
  • Update electrical
  • Add HVAC system (has baseboard heat now)
  • Update kitchen cabinets (optional - cabinets in ok shape, but not aesthetically pleasing)
All of that and we'd still be left with a wonky floor plan:

The addition of the master bedroom, and the conversion of the garage 
mean pretty bad flow and a house that feels much smaller than it is.

Whole House Remodel

When the "spruce up" option started to look less appealing (why dump that much money in a house and still live with a weird layout?) we decided to get an idea of what it would cost to do a more drastic remodel.

First, we met with a builder who came highly recommended.  He also does design along with build, so we had him sketch out a plan - mainly using the existing footprint, that took our wants into consideration.

Here's the getting-closer plan.  
Not bad but still a few tweaks we wanted to make.

The designs were headed in a direction that The Husband and I liked, so we asked him for a realistic (though not final) estimate of what things might cost.  When we looked at the spreadsheet we almost fell over.  To get all of our "wants" into the existing house, along with having the "needs" (like the roof & HVAC) taken care of, things were going to be very expensive.

So we decided to get a second opinion.  I found an architect in Portland who has done some really nice remodels.  For a flat fee, he did a site visit to give us some idea of possibilities.

After listening to what we were looking for, and walking around the house, he said, "There's really not much here worth saving is there?"   He pointed out that the house was dark and not connected to the outside, which is a shame given the lovely views of the property (he loved the property, and said his dog-agility-loving wife would love it, too).

He went on to say that, given the condition of the house, we would at least be talking about taking it down to the studs (remember that wood paneling?), and if we were going that far, we might as well re-do the walls as well, to allow for better insulation and better placement of doors & windows.  At that point, we would just be keeping the foundation, which is weirdly T-shaped.

Sigh.  On to option 3.

Scrap It and Start Over

Now that we had an understanding of our remodel options, and approximate costs, I decided to ask around about the cost to demolish the house and build new on the site.

We visited a couple new home builders in the area to find out what a "customized" home might cost.  This would involve choosing and building from an existing plan that the builder has built many times over, and customizing the finishes to our taste.  We had already ruled out the totally custom home option, as this would be more expensive than a remodel.

The challenge with the builders was to find which of their many plans we liked.  We narrowed it down to a couple of plan options (one with each builder). As an added bonus, we were able to walk through an already-built home with each of these plans.  This allowed us to get a good idea of the the how the homes would feel.

We finally narrowed it down to one plan and got an estimate of what the plan would cost to build on our site.  This cost was quite a bit less than the whole house remodel, but quite a bit more than the spruce up.

Now we had a decision to make.

I'll post what we decided in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi - IVDD - Week 3

This week has been a bit of a depressing week for me regarding Ziggy's post-surgical progress.  I really thought (hoped) that we'd see more progress 3 weeks in.

From what I read, and what the vet shared with us, recovery can take a long time.  What constitutes a long time?  That seems to depend on what I read.  6-12 weeks seems to be a recurring theme - but I've read about longer and shorter.  In our vet's experience, bigger dogs take longer to heal than smaller dogs - and he considers Ziggy a bigger dog.

The progress I've seen this week:
  • Slightly (and I mean very slight) more resistance when he's "standing" and doing his biking PT
  • On a couple of occasions he even seems to pull his foot forward from the hip
  • The Husband has noticed some very mild "paddling" when he's walking Z in the sling sometimes

Other things I've noticed this week:
  • Ziggy gets very upset when he can't see me.  He barks and whines.  It's funny, because his bark sounds a lot different than before - much shorter & higher pitched.
  • He really likes to move around the yard in the sling - he's drug The Husband and I through the bushes more than once.
  • At times he seems a little bit "down."  Maybe I'm projecting, but he sometimes seems resigned and not very perky.

Z moving around in his sling with The Husband in tow.
When Z wants to go somewhere, we really have to hang on 
and move quickly to keep up.

I was working on the computer, 
so I took Z out of the crate to sit under me.
Rip came to lay next to him.  Very sweet. 

My goal for this week to try and get Z an appt w/ a well-regarded rehab clinic up by Chicago.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Good Christmas to Be a Cardi

We had great weather here in Iowa yesterday, so the Humans got to spend some good outdoor time with Maggie and Rip.  Unfortunately Ziggy had to stay inside - but he got to enjoy some Christmas treats.  Here are some pics form the day.

Maggie enjoyed sniffing along on our walk,
 and hung out with me in the sunshine while The Child played on the playground.

Ziggy enjoyed a rawhide candy cane.

He also got a new rope giraffe toy -
which Rip immediately tried to grab through the bars of the crate.

Rip got two outings

First, he and I went for a long, long walk.  Not many people were out so he got to be off leash in the park.  

Lots of things live in the woods.  
You can't hide, squirrels!

Rip was thirsty, so I tried to get him to come down to the stream for a drink.
He gave me the "my mom is doing strange things" look.

When the look didn't get me to climb back up, 
he tried barking his displeasure.
Note scorpion tail accompanying barking.

What's a walk on a sunny day without a good roll?

Later in the afternoon, we took The Child to the playground.  Some young men showed up with their Lab.  They said the Lab was friendly, so we let Rip off leash to play.

The Lab was a quite a bit older than Rip, so Rip had to work
hard to get it to play.  This also involved some barking
when the Lab had the audacity to stop.

But I got a good recall when the play was over!
Note tongue hanging out.

Here's what happened when we got home.
Mission accomplished!

I hope that all of you had a wonderful day, too!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wagmore Farm: The House Part 1 - Current State

When The Husband and I bought the Wagmore Farm property we did not buy it for the condition of the house.  The house was built in the early '70's, and it seemed doubtful that things had been updated since then.  But the home we live in now was in the same condition when we bought it, and we made it nice, so we figured why not try it again?

We fell in love with the property and location and figured we'd somehow make the house part of the equation work out.

Prior to the purchase, we had the home inspected, and we had a contractor who does nice remodels come out to see the house.  The home inspection revealed some things we'd need to fix - like the roof and the junction box for the electrical.  The contractor thought the house had potential for remodel.  And, since we didn't plan to move in right away, we weren't too bothered by remodel costs down the road.

Here are some pics of what's there now:

The exterior of the home is "unique" (and I don't mean that in a good way):

The house is an odd T shape.
The skinny bit on the back was added in the '80's.
It's a mystery why they didn't align  it with the existing
roof and walls.

Note the unique architectural elements.
Scalloping galore! 
Rectangular front facade!

The interior of the home is interesting, as well:

This is the entry door.  
Entering right into the dining room - perhaps not as 
practical as I'd like.

The family room.  Or is it an extra bedroom?
Used to be the garage.
Note wood paneling and faux brick feature wall.

The kitchen.  A decent size, 
but they carved out a 3/4 bath in the space behind the fridge.
Which is why the fridge is so weirdly positioned.

One of the two bedrooms w/ an en-suite bath.
Weird layout, and the bathroom sink is in the room...

The hall bath.
The other bathrooms (the home has 4)
are equally as up-to-date.

As we spent a little time in the house, we started to think about the possibilities of what the home could be become.  The house has 2500+ square feet.  Plenty of space for us.  Maybe we could turn it into our dream home?

More to come in a future post, "Wagmore Farm:  The House Part 2 - What are the Options?"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi - IVDD - Week 2

On Friday, it was two weeks since Ziggy had surgery.  Here's an update on how he's doing:

Ziggy got his staples out on Friday.  His wound has healed nicely, and the brindle hair is coming back.  I'm planning to give him a bath on Wednesday - to wash the "vet clinic" smell out of him.

Wound not looking gruesome any more.

The Husband was on his own all week, as I was on a business trip.  He deserves a TON of credit, as carrying Ziggy around, taking him to the bathroom, etc.  is quite tiring and time consuming.

Ziggy still is not going pee on his own.  The Husband is getting quite good at expressing Ziggy's bladder.  I still can't even find it.  Hopefully Z will be going on his own soon so I don't have to learn this skill :)

It was interesting being gone for a week, though, as I really noticed progress in how Z is doing.  He's still not walking, but he's much more steady on his hind end when we do the "stacking" part of his physical therapy.  We're sometimes even able to let go, or support him with just a finger, and he stays steady.

The vet says his progress is slow, but it is progress.  At this rate, the vet thinks Z might be walking around New Year's.

Ziggy with the tree Cardi Claus sent.
Not that it's already been dis-em-squeeked.
Mere back surgery won't keep Z from destroying a toy!

Ziggy is not a big fan of his pen, 
so we've been bringing him onto the sofa 
when we're around to supervise. 
To say he loves it is an understatement.

Laying in his favorite position - 
it offers a great view outside.

Ziggy really hates to be left alone.  I took Rip out for a walk on Saturday morning.  I left Maggie and Ziggy at home - each with a rawhide chew.  Ziggy was in pen when I left.  When I returned home he was waiting by the front door - 3 rooms away.  Yikes!  He'd battered his way out of the pen, and drug himself over to the door.  Not good.  Thankfully we had an appt w/ the vet later that day.  The vet didn't think any damage was done, and now we're putting Z in a crate if he's not supervised.

Here's what the pen looked like.  
I still don't really know how he got out.  
He must have gone underneath?

Ziggy also seems to missing going out.  When we have him in his sling in the back yard, he'll often walk us over to one of the gates and stand there with a hopeful look on his face.  

I did let the boys do some biting play today.  I sat right next them to make sure Rip didn't jostle Ziggy.  They both seemed to enjoy it.

Boys just want to play.

Bite play is fun.

In rehab news, we're continuing the standard exercises - bicycle for range of motion, stacking, and standing w/ light support.  I also got a referral to a local DVM who does acupuncture.  I'm hoping to get Z in for an appt this week.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

India - On the road again - part 1

My trips to India are always eye opening regarding traffic and roads. 

On this trip, I had the opportunity to walk to work one day.  My hotel was only a couple of blocks away from one of our office buildings, so I figured why have my driver come around when I could walk?

I shared this idea with The Husband and he was not so happy.  Something about wanting me to make it home in one piece.  So picky.

I had already asked the driver to pick me up in the afternoon, so I was committed to my course of action.  I decided to take it as a trust exercise.  Forget about that silly "fall back into me"  trust exercise used at way too many team building events.  Walking in India is a trust exercise in humanity.  The roads may be crazy, but I trust that people will avoid me.

And so I walked. 

Here's a picture of my commute:

Note many other people are walking on the road, too. 
On this short stretch of the road there actually are sidewalks,
but they had construction material,
piles of dirt, and various food vendors blocking the way.

The good news is that I made it to work!  And (shh - don't tell The Husband) I walked back to the hotel, too, as one of my meetings was postponed.  Humanity earned my trust two times in one day. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

India again - a Lost in Translation moment

Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know that I get to make a-just-about-twice-yearly trip to India.  Though I don't enjoy the long flights, I do generally enjoy my visits - though my digestive tract may beg to differ from time to time. 

I firmly believe that you've got to have a good sense of humor to travel internationally - particularly during those "lost in translation" moments.  Either that or you'll drive yourself and those around you crazy.

My lost in translation moment on this trip came after I spilled nearly all of my mouthwash.  For me, mouthwash is key in India.  Spicy food + not being able to use tap water for toothbrushing means I use a lot of mouthwash.  Unfortunately on my first night here I managed to spill most of the mouthwash I brought with me. 

After briefly pondering how I'd get by without it, and if I could ask my driver to take me to buy some (where does one buy mouthwash in India - and how to tell the driver to go there?), I remembered that I'm staying in a fancy hotel.  Fancy hotels have things like this on hand to help haphazard guests like myself.  So I looked in the hotel guide, and sure enough "mouthwash" was listed in the "forgotten items we can provide you" section.

When I was headed out the next morning, I stopped by the front desk and asked for some mouthwash.  The woman at the front desk looked puzzled by my request.  So I repeated it (though not more slowly and loudly):  "mouthwash, you know to rinse your mouth and help keep your breath fresh."  I told her I needed it either tonight or tomorrow - I still had some of my own left that hadn't spilled.  She nodded knowingly.

Back in my room later in the evening, the requested item arrived - proudly presented by one of the hotel staff.  "Your breath freshener, mam."  (and by the way, it's always "mam" - it sounds ok in an Indian accent)

Here's what he brought for me:

The world's smallest box of tic tacs!

I've included my normal-sized nail polish to provide some scale.

There are seriously on ly about 7-8 tic tacs in this thing.  And they're tropical cherry flavored - not what I'd consider the best breath freshener.  It really made me laugh - particularly when I thought about the conversations that must have taken place, and all of the work they went through to bring these to me.

But still, I had no mouthwash, and now my supplies were dwindling dangerously low (not to make it too dramatic, or anything).

When I went to work the next day, I unintentionally left my pathetically empty bottle of mouthwash out on the bathroom counter.  And what did I find when I arrived back?

Real mouthwash!
Thank goodness housekeeping understood.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cardi Claus arrived!

Cardi Claus and I must have passed each other in the air, as I have received news from The Husband that he showed up the day that I left.

The Cardis and I are very excited with what Cardi Claus left.  Many thanks to The Chronicles of Cardigan crew for the package.

Maggie, Ziggy, and Rip are looking forward to their treats - a crayon was even included as a bonus treat for Ziggy! 

The Humans are thankful for the very cute ornament!

Thanks, Cardi Claus and The Chronicles of Cardigan crew!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ziggy is home!

I'm happy to report that Ziggy was given the all-clear to come home yesterday evening.  We are all happy to have him here!

He seems to be inching his way in the right direction.  The vet says it will be weeks, not days, before we see some real improvement.  Today, though, Ziggy is mostly peeing on his own, is lifting his tail to poop, and seems to be trying to stand a bit in his physical therapy.

The picture is a little blurry, 
but you can see how HAPPY Ziggy is to be home!

Last night we brought him up on the sofa with us to hang out.
I started rubbing his ears and scratching his face.
It's got to be a pain, though, for Z not to be able to scratch.

Here's The Husband doing one of Z's physical therapy exercises.
Pete calls it the bicycle - he moves Z's hind legs in a cycling
motion while keeping the back & front end still.
He's supposed to do this at least 3x/day.

Here Z is getting set up to practice standing.
Basically, we stack him, and help him hold up his hind end.
Another part of his physical therapy.

The Child is VERY happy to have Ziggy home, too.
Today he told me, "Ziggy loves me mom."  
Yes, Ziggy does.  Just look at his face!

While rubbing Z's face again, he showed his appreciation by giving me a nice kiss.
All the folks at the vet loved Ziggy.
They said he was sweet, friendly, and licked them a lot.
Good boy.

The other dogs are doing pretty well with Ziggy.  They sniffed him well, and seem to be pleased that he's back with the pack.

Rip, of course, figured out a way to push in the ex-pen and pull on Ziggy's bedding to get Ziggy's toys out.  Even though I gave Rip one of the exact same nylabones, he persisted.  Rip must have all the resources.  I have since reinforced the right hand side of the ex-pen with some pieces of a heavy-duty plastic pen.  This seems to have solved the problem.  But we still won't leave Rip out of his crate unattended around Ziggy.  Naughty, naugty boy.

Rip is looking for the right approach to get the toys.
Ziggy is looking unimpressed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi - IVDD - Day 4: The Husband learns a new skill!

Thanks to all of you who have sent your thoughts, comments, and support for Ziggy.  It means a lot and I really appreciate it!

While I don't intend to turn my blog into only a Ziggy IVDD blog, I thought I'd share a quick update...

The Husband and I moved Ziggy from the emergency vet to his regular vet clinic today (where he had the surgery).  We weren't really hoping for any news, as it's still so early, but we did learn a bit.

The vet surgeon who is working with Ziggy did pinch/pain tests on his hind legs again, and there is already marked improvement compared to pre-surgery on Friday.  (whew!)

And, when his hind legs are placed under him, he is exerting some downward pressure - though not holding himself up or anything yet.  The vet says both of these are good signs - though we won't really know for a while how things will turn out.  But we'll take any progress we can get (it makes the humans feel better)!

Ziggy is still not urinating on his own (which we'd like him to do before he comes home) so The Husband got to learn a new skill today.  He went in this afternoon while I was at work and learned how to express urine from a dog's bladder!  He's a very good husband and deserves many Good Husband Bonus Points for this one.

We're hoping things will continue to head in the right direction, and that Ziggy will be home by the end of the week.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi - IVDD Days 1-3

Now that I've had time to process a bit, I wanted to provide a little more info on Ziggy.

Day 1:  Thursday night - Friday

This was a very harrowing time for me and Ziggy.  It was really hard for me not knowing what was going on with Ziggy.  The Husband was also out of town on a business trip, which meant all of this landed on my shoulders.  Due to the late night/early morning timing of it all, The Husband didn't know anything until Z was already headed into surgery.  Better that than me on a business trip and The Husband dealing with it on his own, I guess...

Since Ziggy passed the neuro tests at the emergency vet we started to look for other things. Ziggy was standing in a way that could be interpreted as having stomach pain or trouble going to the bathroom, (and we all know that Cardis are prone to eat non-food items) so we decided to do an x-ray to rule out obstruction in the stomach.  Nothing showed up on the x-rays.  The vet didn't know what was happening, but thought maybe it was a severe soft tissue injury.

I can't tell you another time I'd wished more that a dog could talk.  Ziggy was obviously in pain, but we had no idea where it was coming from.

When he started to lose use of his hind end at 3am - I called our regular vet clinic to see what time they opened.  I knew the vet who would do the surgery is at our clinic, so I decided not to take Z back to the emergency vet, but keep him quiet at home instead.

It was just awful seeing Ziggy's expression.  I've mentioned before that he has a very expressive face, and seeing that face express that much confusion and pain was just gutting.

Day 1:  Surgery and afternoon

The decision to do surgery was made much easier for me after having attended the IVDD seminar at the National Specialty in April (thanks again to those who planned it!).  Even thought I didn't remember verbatim what was said at the seminar, what I did remember helped me greatly, as my vet was saying the same things.  I was quite upset and having context for the conversation made it all much easier to understand.

When the vet inspected Ziggy he had response to moderate pain on his left side, and some response to deep pain on this right side.  Given his reactions, the vet is hopeful that we got to him in time.  If the dog can feel deep pain, they regain use of their hind end approximately 85% of the time.

The vet found the site of the ruptured disc before surgery.  While doing the surgery, he found that 4 other vertebrae needed to be "cleaned up" as well, since blood clots had formed.  This means that Ziggy has giant incision on his back.

The incision is about 10" long.
He also has a pain patch on his back (bottom right).

Days 2-3:  Saturday and Sunday

On Friday night we transported Ziggy to the Emergency Vet, where he is spending the weekend.  We put all the seats down in the mini-van, and put crate pads + a large blanket in the back.  The surgical vet helped us load Z in the back, and The Husband sat with him in the back of the van so Ziggy wouldn't move around.

Saturday we were quite keen to visit Ziggy, so The Husband, The Child, and I all went to the emergency clinic.  I brought Z's regular food, some of his favorite soft treats, and a greenie.  Ziggy ate them ALL.  Good boy.

When The Child saw Ziggy's back, his eyes got very wide and he said "OUCH!"  Indeed.

Do you think The Husband was happy to see Ziggy?

Ziggy is doing as well as can be expected.  He is eating a lot apparently - probably happy to have more than his usual "keep the Cardi lean" rations that I give him.  Today they put him on antibiotics due to blood in his urine.

Ziggy has a somewhat crazed expression thanks to the pain meds.
It's a little weird to see...

Yesterday evening I took 2 days worth of Z's regular food down to the clinic, and gave him some "goodnight" pets.  We didn't go see Ziggy today, as he got really agitated when we left yesterday evening.  Since a big goal right now is to keep him as quiet and still as possible, we thought it might not be a good idea.

Tomorrow morning we pick Ziggy up from the emergency vet, and take him back to our regular clinic.  He'll stay there a few more days, or until he's able to urinate on his own.  I plan to ask the vet all of the questions I forgot to ask on Friday.

Friday, December 2, 2011

F-ing IVDD

It's a bit of a sad day in our house.

Last night on his trip out before bedtime, Ziggy was moving slowly, with a hunched back, and his tail erect.  I carried him outside go to the bathroom, then immediately called the emergency vet and took him in.

The vet did a series of neurological tests, and took some x-rays.  Neither showed anything.  The vet was unsure what was going on and sent me home with instructions to watch Ziggy and give him some pain meds - as he was obviously still in pain.  Things worsened over the night, and this morning he could not move his hind end.

I was waiting at the door when our vet's office opened, and was seen by the surgeon who is the local expert for back surgeries, etc.  This vet clinic knows us well, as it's our regular vet, and this particular vet helped us through the back trouble with Denzil.

We were seen within 15 minutes, and it is what I suspected when I saw Z this morning.  His back went down and the diagnosis is IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease).

Ziggy was in surgery by around 10am.  The surgery went well, and we're hoping for the best.

Tonight we moved him to the emergency vet clinic where he'll spend the weekend.

I'll share a little more when I feel more up to it.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

(Rip has asked me if I'd post for him today...)

Some terrible things have been happening at my house lately.

This poor bear lost his nose.  
3 times.  
Mom kept fixing it, because the small human likes it - but the nose just kept getting torn off.

This poor bear also lost his tail.  Mom fixed that, too.

Then the small human's favorite stuffed cat lost its nose.  

He was quite upset, as this cat travels with him whenever he goes on a plane.

Here she is on a bus in London.  That stupid cat gets to go more places than I do.

But I digress.

Yes, these terrible things happened.  Stuffed animals were mutilated in my very own home.

And can you GUESS who got blamed?

Me.  Rip.

Can you believe it? 

I live in America.  Aren't we supposed to be presumed innocent until it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that we're guilty?  (Am I right, Lawyer Penni?)

So let me give you reasonable doubt...

In her eagerness to blame, my mom forgets is that my brother Ziggy has torn things up, too.  

How convenient.

Do you remember this?

This poor bunny lost his nose before I was even around.  

Just look on this very blog (click here).  See?  The blog post is dated 2009.  


This was my brother Ziggy's fault, and I say he did in the bear and the cat, too.  Exact same wounds.

And look, I'm a great, calm, well-behaved dog.  Here's photographic proof:

See - Sleeping sweetly.  Not tearing anything up.

Oh, so "it's just one photo" you say.  Well, here's MORE proof:

Fast asleep.  No stuffed toys visible anywhere.


A dog cannot be more asleep than that!

So there you have it.  
I'm innocent.  
Nobody can prove I would tear things up.

Oh that doesn't look good.  But I'm not tearing.  I'm helping.  
Yeah, that's it.  Helping my mom unpack her suitcase after a work trip.  

It proves nothing.

Yes, the shoe is torn up, and it appears that my mouth is on it.  
But look - there's a human hand there - I was framed.

Yes, I have a naughty smile on my face and I'm standing on the remains of a sponge.  
But I'm not eating it.  
I just happened upon this crime scene.  Still no proof.

Ok, well, this doesn't look good.  
I was getting ready to help my mom clean the house?

Another picture? Caught in the act? Drat!

Does anyone still believe that I'm innocent?


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