Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-08-10

Macy Monday: Switching to a Raw Food Diet to Address Idiopathic Hypercalcemia

In February Macy had an accident and broke her leg. It was kind of the worst moment. Macy’s fallen a few times in her 11 years, nothing major, but this time, just one foot away from the ground while we were trying to get her leash on her, she slipped out of my hands, did a weird flip and landed on her ankle.

We took her to the emergency room the next morning when we realized it was still sore and she couldn’t bear weight. I learned that we probably should have just taken her in the middle of the night when there was no waiting for a doctor, because Saturday morning at the pet ER is bananas. We waited forever, got xrays, a leg cast with hearts and instructions to return for a visit with a Veterinary bone doctor.

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The bone doctor wanted to do sedated xrays because she couldn’t tell where the fracture was. Boy was that expensive. We have pet insurance, ever since her ruptured disc, and it covered all but $400 of the cost of the fracture. That part was a relief. The part that was not a relief was that she took the splint off Macy and ultimately she was fine with no treatment whatsoever, just rest.

The chip fracture in her ankle ended up being a blessing in disguise, even though it was expensive and worrisome, because we found out by accident that she had elevated calcium levels. They came up in her pre sedation blood work before the xrays. I have no idea when or if we would have done blood tests on her, so I’m glad we caught it.

The elevated calcium levels were a cause for concern because they are an indicator of cancer or thyroid issues. We had to do soooo many rounds of testing to rule out what could be causing the elevated calcium levels. The diagnostic situation was complicated because, while Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group (VERG) was the vet who found the elevated calcium levels, they referred us back to our vet (Crown Heights/Prospect Heights Animal Hospital) for diagnostics. But then our vet uses VERG for some of their diagnostic work like ultrasounds. We were very familiar with VERG because that’s where Macy had her ruptured disc surgery.

We had a full ultrasound of her belly and chest, no cancer found. We had special hypercalcemia blood testing (that was $300 on its own) that had to be sent to a special lab in Michigan and took a week to get back to us. That found nothing abnormal, especially with her thyroid. They decided to do another ultrasound, this time of her neck.

Dara went for it with the vets about the cost of this because we had JUST paid $400 for the first ultrasound. Macy is under 14 pounds, you have to work really hard to NOT ultrasound her neck when you’re doing the abdomen. Dara reduced the cost to a recheck fee of $85, so I highly recommend you advocate for yourself with vets if they’re doing testing and retesting of things.

We got some of the money back from the testing on all of this from our insurance and the out of pocket on that was probably about $300. There’s a deductible of $250 on our policy per issue, and a cap per incident depending on the diagnosis.

Ultimately they found nothing wrong with Macy other than the hypercalcemia, so her diagnosis is Idiopathic Hypercalcemia, meaning there’s nothing wrong with her that they can tell but her calcium levels are elevated. I rolled my eyes because we had to go out of pocket over $1,000 to find out that they don’t know. A lengthy diagnostic process is so obnoxious, stressful, expensive and hard.

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This was especially emotionally taxing for us because, due to the broken leg, she fell way behind on her physical recovery from the ruptured disc surgery last summer. Also it was so triggering because her recovery from ruptured disc surgery was really difficult for Macy, she was so anxious for awhile we ended up literally attachment parenting for 2-3 months. For 2-3 months we didn’t go anywhere without her or without a dog nanny for her. I’ll talk about that in another post.

So once we knew she had Idiopathic Hypercalcemia the vet said we should just keep testing her calcium levels every 3-4 months. At the level she was she didn’t need medicine but if it raised and was left untreated the calcium would start to leave deposits in her organs. We decided independently to try changing her food to see if it helped her.

I knew from my experience radically changing my diet to address a chronic digestive issue that food is foundational and can make a big difference. We were primarily interested in trying a homemade diet for her and I did a lot of research and really wanted to try a raw diet. I had heard folks were having great experiences with their dogs having more energy and resolving issues with their allergies. Macy had been having flaky, itchy skin for about a year at that point.

We started with Primal while in the process of the diagnosis to see if a raw diet was of interest to her while we researched homemade diets. Suggested by Sequinette of Fur Majesty NYC, our in home dog groomer, as well as a few other folks on the internet, I began with a pricey bag of frozen nuggets from a boutique pet shop around the corner from VERG.

Primal works like this: You can feed your dog either frozen food that you thaw in the fridge (it’s good for up to five days) or freeze dried food to which you add a bit of water. We just went with the frozen because it seemed more natural and closer to the raw homemade diet I was hoping for.

macyturkeyneckThis is when I tried giving Macy a turkey neck to see if she would eat raw food like a regular dog I read about on the internet. I think this works for bigger dogs. She didn’t know how to deal with it.

Primal is served either in patties or nuggets, the patties are bigger and meant for bigger dogs, the nuggets are cute little bricks a little bigger than a standard ice cube. On the bag Primal suggests to maintain weight at Macy’s size she gets 5 nuggets per day, split into two meals. We used to just free-feed her wheat and corn free fancy dry dog kibble. Left to her own devices she’d eat a bunch, not eat for awhile, eat some more. She adapted very well to the meal times of Primal and seemed to really love the food and taste.

Primal is pricey. It’s $20-$40 a bag, depending on the kind of meat you get. (Duck is way more expensive at $35 a bag than $24 turkey & sardine, for example.) In general I prefer to eat humanely raised happiest possible animals, and I would prefer that for Macy. In my home cooking I’m pretty strict about it. With dog food that can be harder to find, and it seemed odd that Primal didn’t at least have free range chicken for that price and how precious it is to have to thaw out your dog’s food every day.

We would go through a bag about every 10 days, with 48 nuggets in a bag. Basically, her food expense leapt from about $20 a month to somewhere around $60-$80 depending on how spendy we were with the type of meat available at the pet stores.

She sometimes got really barky around her dog bowl. The barking concerned me. She’s always been treat motivated but is literally never a begger. (Training my dog to not associate me eating food with her getting table scraps is a lifestyle enhancement I cannot endorse enough.)

Dara and I figured out that her barking by her food bowl meant she was hungry. So sometimes we would give her a little more food, but we had heard from a friend who owns a pet store that the raw food diets like Primal don’t fill them up.

MacystaringThis face.

That kind of sucks, thinking of your beloved canine companion not getting enough food! I started adding a little brown rice to her bowl with the Primal and that seemed to help. She would do her best to painstakingly eat all the Primal but not all the rice, though I know she got some rice in spite of her efforts.

Dealing with Primal and dog sitters was hard because we had to get her food so frequently we would need to make sure the sitter had enough and it takes up some space in the freezer, etc… The freeze dried nuggets are a helpful work around for that, and for those times you forget to thaw the food. Macy would eat the freeze dried kind with no hesitation but I can’t imagine it was more delicious than the thawed meat.

Within 2 months of starting Primal it was clear Macy’s skin issues were gone and she had more energy! That was amazing. I loved how much of a difference in her quality of life we were able to make just by changing her food.

We switched to a homemade diet (more on that in a different post) at the beginning of July. Right around then we had her first blood recheck for the hypercalcemia (the recheck is $85) and her calcium levels are back to normal!!!

So switching Macy to Primal was great, because it cleared up a lot of minor and major health issues for her but possibly left her feeling hungry. I’m excited to see if the homemade diet keeps her in the same top health!

2015-08-03

Macy Monday: Our Experience with In Home Dog Grooming with Fur Majesty NYC

Welcome to Macy Monday! A new feature on my blog to share some insights about pet ownership I’ve found in my nearly 11 year tenure being a mom to my beloved Shih Tzu, Macy! I’ve been following several pets on Instagram and really enjoy the blog features that accompany them, so I thought it would be nice to join the fun!

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As a Shih Tzu, Macy has hair not fur. This means her hair will grow and grow until she becomes a total show dog style Shih Tzu with tresses that sweep the floor. If she or I were up for daily brushing, which we aren’t. One of the best characteristics of most hair not fur dogs is that they are hypo allergenic, so most folks (not all, but most) who are allergic to dogs are not allergic to them.

If you let your Shih Tzu or other groomy dog, like a Poodle, Maltese, or a Chow Chow grow out without taking care of the fur it can get matted and cause intense problems. I read rescue dog stories all the time where the dogs aren’t taken care of and need intense veterinary intervention and a super difficult grooming experience to begin their healing process.

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So if you have a hair not fur dog, part of your dog ownership journey is getting your dog groomed once every 2-4 months. If you have a long-haired cat like a Persian or a Himalayan (Bear and ALF were one of each) they also can go to the groomer. For Bear, the Himalayan, getting a haircut every 8 months made a huge difference in his quality of life. For ALF, he didn’t need cuts but getting a wash and blow out saved me from a lot of extra cat hair on my stuff, making a huge difference in my quality of life.

I tried grooming Macy myself for about a year and it was a huge hassle. I knew right away why it is that grooming costs what it costs (a bit more than a human haircut at a salon, but humans don’t bite and heads are shaped pretty simply while dog bodies are not). Also my grooming skills are pretty shitty, and actually it was my ex fiance who did most of the grooming work on Macy. The one time John tried to groom Bear, Bear thanked him by pooping in his shoe so we decided to just go back to the groomer for the cats.

1315079433_a391bf2307_zThe home haircut years were HILARIOUS. Like, by week 3 it grew out enough to just look shaggy shih tzu chic or whatever, but seriously her legs were so choppy! We had bought a dog grooming clipper kit for $30 and you really get what you pay for with those tools!

Macy is a really easy dog to groom because she’s so used to it and easy going, but I knew she hated going to the groomer. I always thought that she was not super thrilled with being groomed but I realized after beginning in home grooming how she was just reacting to being in a grooming salon!

Grooming salons are intense. They range from super posh to super NOT posh. Most salons involve a waiting period where your dog sits in a crate on a wall with other dogs in crates. Macy hates that. The other dogs are sometimes yowly and scared or obnoxious and I can tell it’s a very stressful environment for her. The last time we took her to a salon it was at the local Petsmart in Brooklyn and she was clearly freaked out when we brought her home.

2882269009_b19101bf12_zMacy at her fully grown-in look, around 4 months from having been groomed. I don’t let her go so long anymore, since she’s older Sequinette said it’s easier for them to get more frequent groomings because taking off less fur is less taxing. Having a groomer come to me makes it way easier for me to schedule them more often.

Enter Sequinette, my longtime friend, local drag performer and new dog groomer (Fur Majesty NYC). She had a burgeoning in home grooming practice and in May of 2014 I gave her a try. It was great!

First of all, Sequinette is so sweet and clearly has a deep connection with animals. I think that’s a crucial element to a dog professional in any capacity.

She has great accessories and continues to get newer and cooler stuff, much of which is pink. It does not surprise me that professional grade grooming equipment comes in pink given the gender presentation of some of the grooming professionals I’ve known.

Macygroom1In-home grooming at my partner’s place because we don’t live together.

She’s also very concerned with making sure the client gets what they want from the haircut.

By which I mean, I am a totally picky mom about how Macy’s hair looks and I love that I’ve worked with Sequinette enough times that she knows exactly how I like Macy’s cut.

She comes in, hangs with the dog, gets set up, does the shave, washes the dog, does the rest of the cut, the nails and then Macy’s done. Sequinette sweeps up when she’s done, but I usually use it as an opportunity to do a good sweep and mop afterwards to make sure there’s no white fur anywhere.

IMAG0016In the process of dying Macy purple.

It takes about 2 hours total for the groom and Macy is only about as annoyed as she is when she gets a bath from me. She’s totally happy by the time we say goodbye to Sequinette. Super ultra bonus that I don’t have to schlep anywhere to pick Macy up and drop her off, and she’s not stressed and agitated by the other dogs in the cages at a salon.

I usually work in the next room while Sequinette is grooming Macy so I am ready to answer questions and occasionally hold Macy during some difficult to reach parts. Since she’s my friend sometimes I just hang out and visit with Sequinette instead of working.

Anytime she can’t give me exactly what I want with Macy’s aesthetic there is a reason, and it usually has to do with me not brushing Macy’s hair enough between grooms and having some knots in her ears or tail. Now I’m getting specific homework from Sequinette to brush Macy twice a week and it is helping.

We started in May of 2014 and the next cut after that was her first cut post back surgery and hospitalization! Understandably, we had to wait awhile and Macy got really shaggy. I felt 100% confident getting Macy groomed in home during what was a really rough recovery from surgery and a week in the hospital. I know if I had to take her to the salon I would have FREAKED OUT about it so I’m glad I already had an in home option!

Sequinette was so good with tender post surgery Macy (Macy was super traumatized by the surgery and hospital stay) and I knew from then on that we would always do in home grooming with Sequinette.

Sequinette is working on creative grooming and I got her to come over to dye Macy’s fur lavender for Pride! It faded out in about 2 weeks. Our next project is going to be zebra stripes!

19157503416_1f4f1f4275_zThe Pride purple look.

Sequinette is also doing some pet sitting for us and is really great. She’s available to do in home grooming throughout NYC and also does grooming in the Catskills, NY when at her partner’s place in Phoenicia if you’re an upstate person.

I cannot endorse in home grooming enough if you have pets who hate the grooming salon. They just are more relaxed in their home environment. And if you’re in NYC Sequinette is truly a wonderful gift to have as a groomer!! Fur Majesty NYC has a website, an instagram and a forthcoming email list!

You can follow Macy on Instagram here, (she’s a Leo), and if you follow me on snapchat (queerfatfemme) you’ll get some daily doses of Macy cute as well!

2015-04-10

New Episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket: Downton Abbey Teas (No Spoilers)

THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS POST.

That’s important for anyone who remains a Downton Abbey virgin. My dog groomer, Sequinette, of Fur Majesty NYC grooming, recently confessed to me that she hasn’t ever watched it. I know she’ll love it, so I said it to her and I say it to any of my readers who haven’t gone there with Downton… It’s waiting for you when you’re ready.

People are so into Downton for a ton of reasons. Here are some of the reasons I love it:

1. High drama: This show, like Empire, Nashville, Alias, Dallas (I went there with an 80s nighttime soap opera), loves to make 90 degree turns with its drama. By the end of an episode out of nowhere a character’s life will be changed forever. Also, like Buffy, the show’s writers are not afraid to kill off a beloved character, which amps the drama up 10 million percent. Scientifically proven high drama factor.

2. Vintage glamour: OMG the costumes! The hair! The sets. Downton the location (it’s set in some huge castle that is a real life place) is practically a character in the series.

maggie-smith-downton-abbey-2The Dowager Countess (played by Maggie Smith) is my favorite character. Her one liners are amazing. “Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle class.”

3. Class tension: There are not a lot of shows on television that address class in any way, even the ones that are set in working class surroundings don’t always discuss it. I love that they talk about it, and especially that the show over the seasons addresses changing times in England, that exploration of the division between “upstairs and downstairs” (the upper class and the serving class that served them) is actually pretty nuanced and ongoing.

4. English people experiencing feelings: Emotions aren’t something Brittish people are known for being comfortable with and it’s so fascinating watching characters who are supposed to suppress feelings having them. The actors are really great in Downton Abbey.

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5. Shirley Maclaine! She shows up sometimes.

6. Tea passion: I literally always go make some tea while watching Downton because they remind me about tea and then I want to drink some.

So when Dara and I found a canister of GRANTHAM BLEND tea from The Republic of Tea at Bed Bath & Beyond last summer we were dumbfounded. Did we plop $12 on a caffeinated tea I probably wouldn’t like as much as PG Tips (because it is my hands-down favorite black tea why try something else). But the answer was, we love Downton Abbey and I figured it would be great to try it.

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Then on a recent trip to BB&B* I found more Downton Teas! Their English Rose tea (based on the daughters Grantham) and their Estate Blend (an Earl Gray based on the Dowager Countess). After that score I knew I needed to Lesbian Tea Basket about it.

Here are the Downton Tea Blends I tried from The Republic of Tea.

English Rose Tea (delightful hibiscus rose blend)
Grantham Breakfast Blend (a black tea basic–don’t be fooled it does not taste like ginger)
Estate Blend (an Earl Gray that is the best vanilla black tea I’ve ever had–you can only get it at Cost Plus World Market OR the CPWM in the Bed Bath and Beyond)

There are FOUR MORE varieties of Downton Teas I still need to try (and you can get them from The Republic of Tea website). Lady Cora’s Evening Tea is next on my list (chamomile lemon blend). Bates’ Brambleberry tea (another caffeinated black flavor tea) comes out on May 1st! And for $6 you can buy a sampler pack of ALL OF THE DOWNTON TEAS. I love a sampler.

You can watch all the seasons of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime here in the States! And *sob* the upcoming season is going to be the last!

20141106_153105I think I love BB&B partially because of my triple B initials and partially because of the coupons and partially because I live in the city and it is kind of the best suburban style store and partially because of all the as seen on TV merch.

*We were at Bed Bath because I had coupons! I bought a $130 slow cooker/roaster/steamer thing for $80 on a gift card! I felt like the best Cooking Identified Femme Huntress when I scored that level of discount and used a gift card. I love coupons. I’ve been posting my recipe successes with the Ninja 3-in-1 on instagram.

If you want to buy your Downton Tea with a coupon, sign up for the Bed Bath & Beyond mailing list. The most valuable one for this I think would be to get the $5 off $15 coupon from the back of the catalog or use the 20% off coupons from the mailings or that you sometimes find in People Magazine. It’s like the best ongoing easter egg hunt when you have a BB&B gift card like I do and you want to ultra maximize your savings. Do you have BB&B money saving tips to share? Please comment!!! I love this game.

If you want to watch all of the episodes of the Lesbian Tea Basket, my web series where I rate and review tea and reclaim tea parties for lesbians, clickie here!

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