I haven't done much writing here lately, mainly due to the past couple of months being complete chaos. Between the porch build, Roscoe's brush with death, truck repairs, and my job...not a whole lot of moments to spare. Let's get caught up.
Most importantly, Roscoe is doing good. Maybe even better than he was before his liver stopped working for a few days and the vets felt like that was the end of the road. He's been on zero medications or supplements of any sort since his stay at the animal hospital, he's been fed a diet of mostly "people food" (grilled chicken thighs, ground beef, steak, fish, scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt, mashed sweet potatoes, and spinach when I can sneak it in), and somehow...it's like he was never sick and never had Cushing's Syndrome. He's still an old dog without a whole lot of gas left in the tank, but still...he's eating good, he's put some weight back on, he does the stairs at the house all on his own, he barks and growls when he thinks he needs to guard the house, and I've even been able to coax him into a couple short hikes with Freckles and I.
Yesterday he even came out in the yard to run around with Freckles and the neighbor's puppy, which was about a 7,000% surprise.
In all the chaos of the past couple months, Freckles hasn't been forgotten about. She still goes everywhere I go, "helps" with the porch, and has now become my primary hikin' buddy. She's getting better about being out and about without a leash although it's still a bit of a work in progress. Roscoe was the same way, and some day, Freckles will be as good without a leash as Roscoe's been for the past 10 years. There's a lot of 2-steps-forward-1-step-backwards with her; a couple nights ago on a walk I let her go about a block and a half leash-free and she did great, and then the following night on a walk she decided to poop right in the middle of the sidewalk. That's Freckles: plenty smart, wildly athletic, and very willing to let me know that she's going to do some things her way whether I like it or not. I wouldn't have it any other way.
As much as I wish I could spend my non-dog-related free time working on the porch, sometimes other things have to be dealt with. Like, a truck with brake pads waaaaay past their useful life. I don't have a real great setup for dealing with that kind of thing but I can usually get by with what I do have. In this particular case I thought I could get away with changing just the front pads, but after doing so I quickly realized that it was the rear pads that were the REALLY bad ones, so...I had to spend a couple evenings after work swapping out pads for all 4 tires. I like doing that kind of work, although I don't do it very often anymore and I don't need any more hobbies than the ones I currently have.
And then there's the porch. I'm a little bit burnt out on it but the finish line is in sight. I haven't taken a lot of pics lately - too much scaffolding in the way, and I never think to take any until the end of the day when I'm shooting straight into the sun - but this is about how she looks right now:
Framing is done. Roof is 95% complete, and I'm currently waiting out some rain - story of this project - to finish flashing the roof/house joint. 2 of 3 railing posts are up. The flooring, railing, and soffit materials are in the basement waiting for primer. The little fascia trim pieces are ready to be picked up from Burkart's. She's close.
I'm taking off Thursday and Friday of this coming week and before I go back to work on Tuesday following the holiday I hope to have the thing pretty much fully assembled and ready for paint.
Probably won't happen, but that's the goal.
Roscoe spent last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night in the animal hospital ICU.
During my Friday evening update call, the vet told me that his fever broke (thanks to some steroid pills), but the lab results they were waiting for still weren't back. He hadn't eaten or drank water in forever. Couldn't potty. Couldn't walk, or even stand up.
The vet said he was in bad shape, scared, and stressed, and then she started in with "I don't know if you have plans tonight or how far away you live...", like it was going to take some coercion to get me to come see him.
She continued "...but if you want to come see him, we can disregard the no-visitor rule for you", and I hopped in the truck and away I went.
When I got to see him, he looked awful. He looked dead.
They wheeled him out on a gurney; he was laying on his back, sort of comatose, with his legs hanging limp and drool cascading out of his mouth. His eyes were enlarged and jaundiced yellow. His belly hair had been shaved so they could do an ultrasound, and some hair had been shaved off his legs where various needles and IVs had been inserted. Zero energy. Zero ability to stand on his own or even really understand that I was with him. Zero life.
The vet techs laid him on the floor and I just sat next to him for an hour and half. No person or animal should ever have to live in that type of condition.
I made the decision then and there that one way or another, Roscoe was coming home on Saturday. Nature could run its course. He'd only gotten worse at the animal hospital, lab results that were supposed to show up within 1 day had take 2+, and I didn't particularly care for the difficulty I had in trying to get a simple daily update on his condition. Also, the animal hospital hadn't found a single thing that was causing his liver to stop working. If he was going to die, he was going to do so at home with Freckles and I at his side.
On Saturday, I called around 10:00am for an update. I was told to call back at 11:30.
I called at 11:30, I was told to call back at 1:00pm. By that point I was pretty angry.
I finally got a chance to talk to a vet a little after 1:00pm. They'd gotten the lab results back. No cancer. The vet didn't see any way his condition would improve and while there was a very remote chance that they could cut him open, cut out a chunk of his liver, and send it off for examination, in his condition the odds of him even surviving that procedure were slim. Plus, the steroid pills might have temporarily killed off any harmful cells the liver scan would pick up.
I was told that in his condition, euthanizing him wasn't an incorrect decision.
I told the vet that I wanted to bring him home and whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen. The vet OK'd the discharge. On my way out the door to get Roscoe I emailed his primary vet to see if they could euthanize him, if it came to that. I also texted my mom, who'd asked about visiting Roscoe. I told her that if she and my dad wanted to see Roscoe, this would likely be their last chance.
I went to the animal hospital, picked up Roscoe, put his almost entirely lifeless body in the back seat of my truck and drove home. Before leaving the animal hospital they tried giving me some pads for the seat of the truck in case he urinated on the way home.
When we got home I picked him up out of the truck, carried him into the house, and set him on his big pillow in the front room. I did all this while trying to keep Freckles from bouncing off the walls with excitement, which was pretty cool to see.
Almost instantly, Roscoe struggled to his feet - and it was a serious struggle - and started walking, staggering really, towards the back door. He walked, on his own, all the way there. From there I picked him up, carried him down the deck stairs, and set him down. He walked about 3 inches out into the yard and let loose with some bright orange urine for close to 45 seconds.
To recap so far, at the animal hospital he was legitimately near death although he showed no signs of cancer, his blood pressure and other measurable were decent, and while there was some thought that he could no longer control his bodily functions, he proved otherwise on the ride home. When we got home he was able to walk on his own, sort of, and he was sipping water every now and then.
We stayed out in the yard the rest of the day. Roscoe was wiped out and in pretty poor health, but I thought some sunshine and fresh air might not be the worst thing. Also, Freckles would stay outside 24/7 if I let her so being outside was the only way for all 3 of us to be in the same place.
I tried giving him some food on Saturday, no luck. We went to bed that night and I crossed my fingers.
Roscoe was still with us on Sunday, which was great, although Sunday was mostly the same in terms of Roscoe's condition. He perked up a little bit but I wasn't expecting a big bounce-back given what he'd been through.
I tried working on the porch a little just to get a mental break from everything, but that was a dumb idea; I went inside to check on Roscoe every 3 minutes and when I did manage to build something it was mistake city. Around 3pm I called it quits and decided to go sit next to Roscoe on his big pillow for the rest of the day.
Roscoe didn't eat anything Saturday or Sunday (or the preceding 4 days), despite my best efforts. He's always gotten to eat a large amount of people food - chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, sweet potatoes, yogurt, etc. - and I was concerned when he refused to eat any of that stuff. We went to bed Sunday night and I again crossed my fingers.
Monday morning, Roscoe was still with us. I stayed home from work and just sat with him and Freckles all day. I tried feeding him some chicken, no dice. Even if I stuffed it in his mouth, he spit it right out. He's stubborn, for sure.
But so am I.
I went to the refrigerator and got out some Greek yogurt, strawberry flavor, something he always liked. I put a giant glob on my finger and stuffed it in his mouth, knowing he wouldn't be able to spit that out so easily. Surprisingly, he didn't try to. Roscoe decided maybe he'd like some more.
He ended up eating some yogurt and I've never been so happy to see something eat food in my life. I ran and grabbed some chicken out of the refrigerator and he ate a little of that as well. That was about all he ate for the day, but he was drinking water, walking a little better on his own, and he started to look a little more normal all the way around.
Fast forward a few days, with no meds, no supplements, no anything...Roscoe is now eating a decent amount of chicken, fish, and/or beef every day. He can walk on his own just fine, and goes up and down the deck stairs all by himself, like normal. Freckles stays close by his side and has done an impossibly phenomenal job of watching out for him. She'd have been a great mama dog.
Now, Roscoe is attentive, alert, and his scalp is 1,000 times better than it's been -- I think the Cushing's Syndrome meds really dried it out. No more dandruff, or at least until, if I decide to, I start him on those pills again. He's sleeping good, and while he's still not eating as much food as I'd like...baby steps. It's sort of amazing how much of an impact environment has on one's condition; all the meds and veterinary science - with euthanizing being mentioned more than once - didn't do shit for Roscoe over the course of 3 full days, but bringing him home, spending a lot of time with him, feeding him real, whole food...I dunno, it kind of worked?
I think, cautiously, Roscoe isn't done living just yet.
I took this picture on Wednesday afternoon through the filthy glass in the back door. I did not know, at the time, that it might be the last opportunity to get a picture of Roscoe.
Roscoe threw up a little bit late Tuesday evening, which was the third time in the past couple weeks that he's thrown up. One or twice, given his age, ailments, and meds, not a big deal. The third time, coupled with him acting entirely abnormally, that got me concerned. He wanted to stay outside all night, which he NEVER does. I stayed outside with him for an hour, just sitting there in the dark, petting him and letting him know that Freckles and I were going to take care of him. He was drooling and slobbering all over himself, and shaking, and laying in little puddles of his own vomit which again, he never does. Eventually, I had to carry him back into the house so we could all go to sleep.
I emailed the vet Tuesday night before bed to let them know what was going on. I can't say enough great things about Dr. Brittney at Hillside Animal Hospital.
Wednesday I woke up at 4:15am to get ready for work, like usual, and let the dogs out. Roscoe was the first one out the door, which NEVER happens. Then, I couldn't get him to come back in - he wanted to lay in the grass again - I told work it'd be a work from home day for me so I could keep an eye on him in case things got worse, left Roscoe outside, and went back to sleep. At 6am I woke up again, got dressed, went outside to find Roscoe, and couldn't. That was alarming.
I eventually found him curled up in an obscure, random part of the yard he NEVER hangs out in, and that's when I knew something was significantly wrong. The vet responded to my email and told me to bring him in, which I did at 1:30pm on Wednesday. By that point, Roscoe was refusing food and barely drinking any water.
At the vet, they drew some blood, took his temperature (it was crazy high) and asked about doing some lab work. I guess some people make pet healthcare choices based on the dollars involved, so the vet started giving me the rundown of lab work pricing, not knowing that I couldn't have possibly cared less, and I told her to do all the lab work she wanted or needed to do. She told me it'd take about 25 minutes, so she got some helpers and they carried Roscoe into a back room.
She came out about 3 minutes later, looked a little distraught, and, long story short, told me that his liver wasn't functioning. He was suffering through liver failure.
She explained that there were a couple options. Because the situation would not fix itself nor was it really treatable through medication, I could do nothing, Roscoe would suffer through painful organ failure, and he'd pass away after a few days (if I didn't elect to have him put down first). The other option was to take him to a more specialized animal hospital for an ultrasound and emergency surgery, although with surgery there were no guarantees that the surgery would work, and there was a decently high chance that he'd either pass away during surgery or shortly thereafter.
She called the recommended animal hospital, got some pricing on the surgery, and we talked it over for a few seconds, although there wasn't much to talk about -- I simply wanted to make sure I understood what was going on. Without any real hesitation I elected for the surgery option and started to figure out the logistics of carrying Roscoe out to the truck while also stopping at the front desk to settle up for the work Dr. Brittney had done. She told me not to worry about it.
I got Roscoe in the truck, pulled out of the parking lot, turned north on Macklind and by the time I got to Oakland a couple blocks away, the information I'd just received from the vet started hitting me. Hard.
There have been times, recently, when I've thought about what Roscoe's last days, or last day, would be like. It's hard not to, given how much his quality of life has deteriorated relative to his first 10 or 11 years. And I've been really, really pissed at myself for having those thoughts and not getting upset. Like, how dead inside does a person have to be to think about life without their best buddy, their hiking companion, their meal partner, the house guard dog and personal caretaker, their sidekick for 13+ years, and whatever suffering he may be going through and not get upset?
Turns out, there's a difference between sort of envisioning a scenario that hasn't happened, and then actually living through it when it does.
The drive down Oakland was rough. By the time I got to the highway, I was a mess. The entire trip down 40, then 270, then Manchester, I was a wreck. An absolute, fucking, wreck.
We got to the second vet around 3pm. They poked around for a bit, tried to learn a few things about Roscoe, and then the vet guy - a classmate of Dr. Brittney, both Mizzou grads I believe - came in. He wanted an hour or so to run some tests and do the ultrasound; the techs came back in with a gurney and they wheeled Roscoe into a back room. I waited in the lobby.
After 75 minutes passed I was called back to talk with the vet. He had news.
On the one hand, he didn't think surgery was necessary but that was only because they really couldn't figure out what was causing Roscoe's current condition. Roscoe's been like that for the past year...stuff goes wrong, and it's sort of a medical mystery as to why. Like, the cause-and-effect things don't line up like they do in most other dogs. What's not working should be, and what is working shouldn't be, stuff like that. No reason to do surgery if they can't figure out what surgery is needed to make Roscoe any better, and because they couldn't detect anything noticeable, the vet couldn't rule out that the underlying issue might be a simple virus or infection.
The other chunk of news was that while they did detect some problems (that Dr. Brittney had already discovered in previous vet trips) with his insides, they saw signs or indicators of him having cancer and thought that might be the issue. But because they weren't initially looking for any cancer, they didn't do all the tests and whatnot to find any.
The end result is that I wound up leaving Roscoe at the animal hospital for an overnight stay. They're going to do more tests, get him an IV to rehydrate him, give him some antibiotics, and see what happens. I was told that he may not make it through the night and even if he does, given his condition, he may not live more than another couple days. And they'd be painful days.
We didn't even talk about what might happen if they find any cancer.
I don't like Roscoe not being at home, or being separated from him knowing that I may never again see him alive. But I had to make a decision, and going this route seemed to give him the best, albeit slim, chance of survival. It's a roll of the dice but once the options that led to certain death were eliminated from consideration, it was really the only choice I had left.
I left the vet and drove home, eager to see what Freckles, who's not at all used to being home by herself, had chewed up. I should have known better; she was laying on the couch when I pulled up to the house, the same spot she was in when I left. She did good.
And that's why I took the picture. Earlier in the day, when Roscoe was struggling with anything and everything, I told Freckles she had to help me take care of Roscoe. When I left them both outside, I told her to watch out for brother and that's exactly what she did: everywhere he wandered off to, she followed. Where he laid down, she laid down. They're so far apart in age they don't really spend much time together, but it's pretty neat to see them circle the wagons when one of them is in any kind of distress. The picture won't win any awards, but it'll always make me smile to have that reminder of Freckles, who's still growing into the dog I'd like for her to become, watching out for her big brother.
Tonight, when I got home from the vet, my neighbor was outside and I told him about Roscoe. He went through the same thing with his dog Oscar not too long ago. Both Freckles and his little puppy Molly were outside, so he brought Molly over to run around with Freckles. Like any good neighbor would do, he also came armed with beers and whiskey and we spent a few hours bullshitting about old dogs, young dogs, dogs no longer with us, and how wild of a ride it can all be.
I don't know what will happen from here. I'll go to work in the morning, and the vet is supposed to call with an update sometime before lunch. I guess I'll have a whole new round of decisions to make, but right now there isn't much I can do or even think about. There is no part of me that's ready to say goodbye to Roscoe but if this is it, what an amazing 13 year journey it's been.
Haven't written one of these bad boys in a while, which is usually a sign that:
Right now, it's all 3. But let's start with some fun stuff...Freckles' DNA test results.
For Christmas (not sure if it was a present for her or me) I ponied up for the same DNA test I got for Roscoe a few years back. Here are the results:
When I adopted her she was about 8 weeks old and the story was that she was a pointer/lab mix. As is usually the case, that was relatively inaccurate. I was excited to find out her ancestry nonetheless, and just like with Roscoe it makes some sense; she's a strong, fearless little girl who LOVES to run - she's plenty fast - and while her feistiness sometimes gets in the way of it, she's a smartypants like her big brother. Given the DNA test results, that sounds about right for her genetic makeup.
And then there's Roscoe. Things have reached a point where I can't really tell if he's got 1 more week or 3 more years. He threw up a TON overnight on Monday and then last night the puking was even worse, which had me a little concerned. It's weird...the one knock on Roscoe is that he's a barker. Always has been. It's not incessant, but any noise outside, he barks. Truthfully, at times it can be super annoying. This week however, no barking. And I really, really missed it.
But he ate some chicken and rice for dinner tonight, which was a good sign, and he even barked a little bit, so maybe he's getting over whatever made him puke so much. Maybe. On the bright side, the meds he's on has made his hair grow back with no noticeable side effects, so there's that. If the weather's right this weekend and the porch build goes the way I want it to, I may see if he's up for a hike.
On to the house news -- the past couple months have been SUPER busy on that front.
I had a tree service come out and clean up the sugar maple tree in the front yard.
I cleaned up the rest of the busted up sidewalk by the porch, and much to my surprise, found a stupid amount of "clinker" underneath it. What's clinker? It's the byproduct of burning stuff, basically, and it looks kinda like the lava rock people sometimes use in landscaping beds. I think the sidewalk location was always the path from the front of the house around to the back, and way back when, somebody used the clinker to make that path. I hauled a stupid amount of it to a dumpster I'd rented, but there was so much I still have a giant pile I need to get rid of.
I did a little landscaping, planted some flowers, and relocated a whole lot of existing plants in an effort to get out in front of the lawn care stuff because this porch is gonna eat up alllllll my time for the foreseeable future.
While I was working in the yard, my neighbor happened to come outside and I asked if I could go over to his yard - my house sits along the line between our properties - and pull the ivy that'd been growing on the side of the house. That stuff had been growing for a long time and if it doesn't get pulled, it starts to tear up the mortar between the bricks.
It was late in the day and I was really only concerned with giving 'er about a "B" level effort; what's left on the walls are the little fuzzies from the ivy stalks that would take hours to scrape off.
I ordered framing lumber for the porch. It's ridiculous how lumber prices have returned to peak crazy pandemic prices; I didn't order it yet - because it's borderline impossible to find unless one lives in the Pacific Northwest - but the flooring (5/4 x 4 cvg t&g Douglas Fir) will be another painful chunk of money. Then there's the ceiling, and the roofing material, and the trim boards...so, so painful.
That stuff got unloaded in the street and I had to lug it all to the back yard. It was mostly mindless work, but those 6x6x16s...no fun. They'll look good when they're milled, painted, and standing up, but maaaaaan...I was sore for a couple days after that little chore.
And then there's the porch. Got the floor ledgers on the house. Mocked up the porch footprint so I could locate the footings. Got the footings poured (1 turned out better than the other but that's a story for another day), which required 13 80lb bags of concrete. Set the scaffolding back up. Got 1 of 2 roof ledgers on the house. Tomorrow, if the weather cooperates, I'll get the other ledger up and then start working on the posts.
Last weekend it was WINDY, which made things a little extra challenging. The primary challenge to date has been getting things cut to fit properly given that the brick walls aren't real plumb or flat; it's not a technical challenge, but one of logistics...lots of test fits, shaving something here or there, climbing up and down the scaffolding, etc. but the better job I do of getting the first few sticks level, square, and plumb, the easier the rest of the framing will go.
I haven't been able to get much porch work done during the past week due to rain, but I did go (finally) pick out some paint colors.
I do NOT get excited about paint, or paint colors. 30,000 ft view, the 3 primary stages of any build process are design, build, finish, and I definitely love the build portion more than the other two. But this porch has to get painted, and the house will eventually have to get painted some day as well, so I had to give the color scheme a little thought. I didn't enjoy agonizing over color swatches, but having picked out some colors...it's kind of a relief. And I'm happy with what I chose.
I won't give away what will be what color, but the general color scheme of the house and porch will involve these colors:
That's where everything stands for now. Took a couple days off next week and if things kinda break my way a little bit, I hope to have something that resembles a porch halfway constructed by the end of the following weekend.
There's this thing on Instagram, started by @amyleigh_1902victorian, called #52weeksofhome. It's a photo challenge of sorts, encouraging people to share pics of their house per the weekly theme. Long story short, this week I posted a pic of the dining room fireplace.
Truth be told, before taking a pic of the dining room fireplace I'd never removed the summer cover. Didn't even know how to remove it.
Let's back up a minute.
The house is sometimes a little tricky to figure out. Some things are clearly original. Some things are clearly not. And then there are some items, like the marble fireplace hearths, surrounds, and mantels, that are head-scratchers. The fireplaces in general, I don't really know their story (yet).
Inside the house, there are 2 fireplaces, both with identical marble treatment. Up on the roof, there are 3 definite chimneys and, like, 1 course of bricks that are the remnants of a 4th. Dumbest thing ever, leaving 1 course of bricks like that, because it left a big hump in the roof at the low end and all it does is serve as a dam for all the acorns and twigs and leaves trying to make their way off the roof.
That 4th/demo'd chimney, it's at the back of the house in what's now the kitchen and at one time it served a fireplace. The firebox is buried behind drywall and cabinets, but I poked enough investigative holes to know that it's there. No mantel surround or mantel, though. Maybe it was more like something that was used for cooking.
I know the home had 3 fireplaces originally, based on the floor framing that's visible in the basement. Regardless of whether or not the marble hearths are original, the floor was framed to accommodate a very heavy hearth material in the fireplace locations.
Then there's the issue of the marble. Is it original? I have a really, really hard time believing that it is. In alllllll the old houses I've been in, which includes a lot of big, ornate homes, most of the original mantels and surrounds were made of wood. My house is relatively small and doesn't scream "fancy".
Then again, my house is older than most of the old homes I've been in. And it was a one-off, not one of several homes built speculatively or constructed by a builder who was building 10+ homes at a time. It may be small in area, but it's got tall ceilings and a lot of detail - some of it subtle - that means I can't rule out the possibility that maybe the original owners spent their money more on details than square footage.
Anyhow, the summer cover is a head-scratcher too. And there's only one; the living room fireplace has a more modern set of glass fireplace doors.
When I decided to get a pic of the fireplace for the 'gram, I figured I'd clean the summer cover up as best I could. The vacuum and little brush attachment weren't cutting it so I took the cover off to wash it in the bathtub. The mess in the firebox was way past the point of a standard residential vacuum, so I painstakingly drug the shop-vac up from the basement (the basement stairs - original to the house - are all of .0000001" wider than the shop-vac).
Or course before doing any cleaning, I inspected the summer cover for anything that might give away its age. I found lots of clues on the inside face...but no answer.
By all appearances, the side that faces the dining room is in pristine condition. A little too pristine, ya know? That makes it easy to lean towards the summer over being a reproduction of a more vintage piece.
Then again, the inside face is a little rough and if a company were gonna to go to the trouble of make reproductions, unless they were using the exact, original cover to form the mold for casting, would they go to the trouble of including those little details? I say "not a chance". This makes me think maybe it's more 1889 than 1989.
And then there's the firebox itself, which is a whole 'nother can of unknown worms. I'll get into that next time.