Lessons learned from our sick dog on the road

Lessons learned from our sick dog on the road

One of the hardest trials we have had while living full-time in our RV to date has been our sick dog. Being in a strange place with unknown vets and not understanding what is wrong with your dog is super scary. Our worst nightmare came true in April 2018 during our visit to Savannah. I hope to shed some light on our situation and share lessons learned from our sick dog.

During our visit in Savannah (which we loved by the way) one of our dogs struggled with diarrhea. We tried withholding food for a day. Then we tried boiled chicken and rice. Nothing made a difference.

At the vet his blood work was totally off. He was extremely lethargic and he had tremors.

He was kept there for 4 days with IV fluid and monitoring. After 4 days, we get a call from the vet that they can’t help him. It was literally an emergency call from the lead vet on staff telling us to come get our dog and take him to the nearest emergency facility in Charleston, SC. She believed him to be in kidney failure which she is not equipped to deal with. Remember we are in Savannah, GA! Charleston is about 120 miles away!

The move to Charleston

First, we cry (ok just Heather cried). Then we put our heads together. We don’t want to separate because we really don’t know what is going on with our dog, Suji. Is he in crisis and near death? Are we going to Charleston to put him down? We agree that we CANNOT separate. We are a family and we need to stick together. Remember this is about lessons learned from our sick dog on the road.

This is lesson #1… Stick together. Support each other in any way you can.

Well, in less than 4 hours we find ourselves checked into a RV park in Charleston and heading to the veterinary hospital nearby. We had to pick up the dog from the vet, pack up the RV to move, call the RV park to make sure they could fit us in early (we were scheduled to head there in a week) and then drive in the pouring rain while avoiding I-95 because of terrible accidents making it bumper to bumper. It was seriously our most stressful day ever while in the RV. It felt like nothing went right and we were unsure our dog would even make it to Charleston.

While we went over 12 hours without eating and were seriously stressed to the max, we didn’t fight once. We didn’t even argue. We worked like a well oiled machine to make it all come together and for that I am grateful!

Lesson #2…don’t fight. Work together like a well-oiled machine. It will make a stressful day a tiny bit less stressful.

The let down

We get to Charleston. The ER is empty and Suji is taken right in. They take his blood pressure and tell us he’s fine. We can take him home. Seriously?!?!!!??! We just drove 4 hours and moved our house to be there and that’s all they have to say?!!?! Why did the vet in Savannah freak us out???

We don’t really know any better, so we listen to the vet and take Suji home. His diarrhea seems to have cleared and he seems ok to us except he has the shakes and is still really lethargic. He literally shakes more often than not. We record the shaking and send it along to the ER vet. She prescribes anti-seizure medicine and says they are minor seizures. Seizures?!? Really???

Thing seems to calm down and he seems like he is recovering. Then just as quickly the diarrhea is back.

Take two at the vet

This time I waste no time and bring him to the vet the next day. We’re now in Myrtle Beach and seeing a new vet. Well, this vet asks lots of questions, wants to understand his full life story (good sign right away) and runs some basic tests. He keeps Suji overnight to run further tests and get him hydrated. He also consults with a specialist.

Then, we hit a wall.

This vet is concerned and believes he needs to run a test for Addison’s, but is worried that he cannot get an IV to stay in Suji. He is so dehydrated, has low blood pressure, is lethargic and won’t really eat.

To the next ER Veterinary Hospital we go…

He wants to send us back to Charleston. Seriously? We ask about moving inland since that is the way we were planning to go. Charleston is simply too expensive with too few RV parks (none of which can accommodate us for even a week) and traffic is terrible! This vet calls around and finds a good vet hospital in Columbia, SC.

Columbia, SC

After moving our home again (scrambling to find a place to stay and driving from Myrtle Beach on edge once again), we arrive at the vet hospital to a terribly long wait.  Didn’t we just go through this? Why are we here again?!?!?

We are tired, frazzled and frustrated. After a short discussion with the tech on staff, we decide to take him home for the night. We feel totally lost and don’t understand what is happening with our dog.

Then we get help from an old high school friend, now a vet. She takes the time to look over blood results and asks us questions about his health. Thank you (you know who you are!)! Her advice makes it clear that an Addison’s test is required and he needs to be under care until that test is completed. Addison’s disease can cause a crisis in which the dog actually dies! Yes. Our dog could die from this disease, if left untreated.

Lesson #3… Use your network. Friends, family, colleagues. Seriously don’t be afraid to accept help from people when offered.

4 more days in the hospital

Over the next four days we get twice daily updates and calls from the vet on staff. Plus, we can visit whenever we like (which we do daily).

While there he refuses to eat and really shows major signs of lethargy and depression. He howls one whole day.

Poor guy is not happy and to be honest, neither are we. In the meantime our other dog is missing his brother. He is not eating well, so he gets extra love and extra play time in the dog park. There is no doubt he can sense the stress in the house.

It is sad that we have to INSIST that nothing gets done beyond IV fluids and monitoring him until the Addison’s test can be completed. The lab isn’t open on the weekends so it must wait until Monday. No problem. Wait until Monday then. I mean they want to do ultrasounds, x-rays, antibiotics.. You name it, they want to try it. We literally have to tell them no tests until the Addison’s test is completed.

Lesson #4… Be in control of your dog’s treatment. You are his voice! You must stand up for him and do what you think is best.

Monday comes and the test is administered. Now we wait for the results.

Tuesday morning comes and I’m on pins and needles. Why hasn’t the vet called yet?!??! What’s going on? Is our dog ok??

Finally, the phone rings and the vet confirms, Suji has Addison’s disease. We both breath a sigh of relief to have an answer, but it’s not over yet.

We now must face this disease which means daily medicine and monthly injections of another drug. He’ll need regular blood work and all while living on the road.

It feels like a huge hurdle to get over and the initial relief is replaced by fear, concern and worry. In the meantime it takes Suji about 2 weeks before he starts to show signs he is healthy again. This is concerning as well since the vet tells us nothing about his recovery time.

After diagnosis

We make phone calls. We research. Heather finds a non-profit for Canine Addison’s disease, CARE (Canine Addison’s Resources and Education) which offers up support, treatment plans and advice. This is the best thing that happened during the whole ordeal.

The support is exactly what we need. It is amazing how hearing from other pet owners who went through something similar makes us feel more at ease. Now we must navigate the medicine.

After learning more about treatment, we immediately start reducing the high dose the emergency vet started him on. It is WAY too high according to all our research and he is drinking gallons of water and peeing hourly. No good at all!

Thankful for our vet back in Denver who agrees to help us with treatment. He checks over Suji’s blood work and also takes the time to call and explain everything from treatment plans to the biology of the disease on the phone with us. How amazing is that??!? The internal medicine vet at the specialty hospital didn’t bother explaining any of it. She simply sent us home with instructions for the medicine she prescribed (at a too high dose) and said to seek medical care again in 30 days when he would need another injection.

The struggle is real

Throughout this whole ordeal, we struggled. I’m not going to lie. We thought Suji was telling us it was his time and we would be putting our 7 year old dog down.

We cried. A lot. We snuggled with him when we could. We insisted on the best care for him and advocated for what we thought was right. Remember you are in control of your dog. You decide how he gets treated and what tests are run. You are his voice! Never forget that. If we hadn’t stood up for him and started realizing something is really wrong here, then he may not have made it through this crisis.

We must continue to stick up for him as we navigate this illness and visit more new vets for updated blood tests.

More lessons to come as we navigate the treatment of Addison’s disease on the road.

Visit the Tampa Bay area: St. Petersburg

Visit the Tampa Bay area: St. Petersburg

While staying in the Tampa Bay area for about 2 months, we enjoyed quite a bit of time in the city of St. Pete. There is so much to do there – from arts & culture to outdoors to restaurants and more! You decide what fits your hobbies and tastes, but it’s definitely worth a visit to St. Pete!

Saturday Morning Market – This market is held on Saturday mornings from October to May from 9-2 in the Al Lang Field Parking Lot. While it boasts itself as a one of the best markets in the country, we didn’t wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.

It is mostly prepared food vendors with a few crafts people scattered about and a handful of farms selling fresh, local vegetables and other items like honey. It was super crowded and hard to enjoy. We did buy a few fresh veggies from the farms.

Since we’ve traveled the county and particularly enjoy local markets this one did seem anything special to us. Maybe if we knew all the neighbors and wanted to socialize with friends, it would be a fun place. However, we found it lacked in real, local take home food options like fresh veggies and fruits. If you go to grab a bite to eat and socialize with friends, you might enjoy it more than we did.

Dali Museum – A museum devoted to Salvador Dali. We suggest you go on Thursday after 5pm because entry is only $10. Since it’s the cheaper admission evening, expect it to be a crowded. We enjoyed the oddities of his work and then followed it up with a stroll down the main street of St. Pete, Central Ave., for some dinner. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, so pick what looks good to you.

Fort de Soto – This is a county park which offers camping, biking, beach, kayaking and picnic areas. We enjoyed spending a day here and launched our kayaks right into the water. It was awesome exploring the islands surrounding the park which was covered in huge shells, some the size of my hand! There is also an historic fort to explore and learn a little about the history of the area. We did not camp here, but from what we hear it is tough to get a spot. Book early!

Sunken Gardens – This is a 4 acre botanical garden in the historic area of St. Pete. It has beautiful plants as well as flamingos, parrots and other wildlife. Go on groupon or other coupon sites to find cheaper entrance to the park. We did and enjoyed a nice picnic followed by a stroll through the gardens. It’s a nice place for an afternoon stroll and some relaxing.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays play at Tropicana Stadium right in the heart of St. Pete.

Museum of Fine Arts – We didn’t visit the museum, but we hear it’s great. You decide if it’s your thing.

Coffeepot Bayou – Located in the northeast history area this bayou offers a park and a path alongside it to walk, bike, run or simply relax. It is also a good place to look for manatee. We did spot several and enjoyed walking down this beautiful street. The park has playground equipment for any children in your group. No charge for parking on the streets surrounding the bayou.

Haslam’s Book Store –

Florida’s largest used and new book store will not disappoint. We literally could have spent hours in here. The employees are friendly and helpful, there are stacks and stacks of books to look through and lastly, a friendly, cute cat to pet and even feed a treat. An employee saw us enjoying the cat, so he gave us a treat to give her. We definitely had a special time at this great book store and we think you will too!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like our post about visiting Tampa Bay. There is so much to do in the area, we had to break up the two areas. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the area since it offers so much!

 

What to do on a visit to the Tampa Bay area

What to do on a visit to the Tampa Bay area

posted in: Travel Locations | 0

When we decided to spend 2 months in Tampa, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was we wanted to experience a new place, attend the Tampa RV Show and go on a cruise without flying anywhere; the area met those goals and surpassed our expectations. Read on to see how we enjoyed our time (and you can too) during your visit to the Tampa Bay area.

Visit the Tampa Bay area

Parks and nature

Nature is plentiful in the metro area. There are lots of parks, ocean activities, wildlife viewing, kayaking opportunities and more! We tend to enjoy nature and being outside more than other activities.

Alderman’s Ford Park This place, for me, was a hidden gem. This is a county park which was quiet, had a wonderful loop trail and an extended boardwalk area along with a great canoe/kayak launch. There is a small fee of $2 to park here which I found totally worth it for the solitude. There is also a nice playground should you be traveling with kids. You can also have your dog on leash throughout the trails.

Lithia Springs Park – This is a county park which offers a natural spring that continuously discharges 72-degree water and serves as a nice place for swimmers to cool off on hot summer days. It also has a first-come, first-served campground which looked nice. You could visit both this park and Alderman’s Ford together as they are only about 20 minutes apart and your entrance fee to one will be accepted at the other.

Lettuce Lake Regional Park – A great park for wildlife watching and exploring the boardwalks. This park also has a small fee, $2, to park and explore. Get out and see the wildlife. Bring a camera, picnic lunch and enjoy nature.

TECO manatee viewing center – This is a boardwalk viewing area to see manatee. The local power plant uses the bay water to cool the plant and then releases the warm water back into the bay. Well, the manatee discovered the warm waters and enjoy floating about. They built a totally free boardwalk to observe the mammals. There are also a few short hiking trails which should not be ignored. They are quiet and peaceful. Be aware since this is free that it gets crowded! I found taking the trails a nice break from the crowds of the boardwalk area and parking lots.

Museums and inside activities

Ybor City – This is the history of Tampa! We learned a lot by walking around, visiting the little museum and visitor’s center and soaking in the vibes of this historic district. You can do everything from ride the historic street car, smoke a hand rolled cigar and watch them being made, learn about the history of the city of Tampa, partake in the nightlife and visit the historical buildings and museum. There are also free roaming chickens which added to the old city charm. This is an area of the city that is being revitalized, so we’re sure it will be different when you visit. However, we think it’s worth a stop. There are many restaurants to choose from and nightlife seems to be abundant.

Florida Aquarium – From everything I heard about this place, it should be a good time. However, we did not visit it during our visit. Pair it with a walk on the Riverwalk.

Henry B. Plant Museum – This place is a historic hotel which looks amazing from the outside. It has the oddest architecture and you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it for yourself. We didn’t tour it, but we think we would if we had more time to explore.

Take your pick from the following: Children’s Museum, Tampa Bay History Center, Museum of Science and Industry. As you can see, Tampa has no shortage of museums to fit different likes. If you have a rainy day or it’s simply too hot to be outside for extended periods, pick one and go explore.

Food and drink

Breweries – Over 80 breweries are scattered throughout the Tampa Bay area and probably more are opening each year. Take your pick. Some of them offer food, while others have a food truck parked outside and the rest usually allow you to bring food into the establishment to consume with your beer. We enjoyed Coppertail Brewing (great food here too!), Bootleggers (bring your own food), Cigar City (food truck), Ybor City Mead and Cider (food in the area) and more! Seriously, there are too many to list.

Columbia Restaurant – The oldest Spanish restaurant in Florida serving up what we hear is delicious food. Visit this famous establishment in Ybor City and possibly even enjoy some flamenco dancing along with your dinner.

There is everything from seafood to Italian to Mexican to vegan restaurants. We won’t listing them all because there’s always yelp for those reviews. Plus, they are always new places opening which might be worth a stop. Find one that suits your taste buds.

Festivals and special events

Strawberry Festival in Plant City (about 30-45 minutes away) – I wish we had one more week in the area, so we could attend this 11-day festival. Held in the beginning of March every year, I’m thinking it would be a blast to attend. I wish I could tell you more, but I’ll leave it to you to explore further.

Gasparilla – A festival lasting 6 weeks where pirates invade the city of Tampa. It starts with a 4.5 mile parade where 500,000 people watch as pirates float down Bayshore Blvd tossing beads at a rowdy, mostly drunk crowd. The festivities are land and water based. Watch out for the boats lined up on the water because they throw water balloons at you!

The weeks following hold all kinds of events with pirate themes including a half marathon, 5k, and more! Don’t miss this very local tradition.

Take a Cruise – Tampa is home to a cruise port which the following cruise lines depart from – Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. We really enjoyed a week away to the western Caribbean and it was really great to take a Lyft from our RV park to the port.

Tampa RV Show – This is one of the largest, if not the largest, RV show in the country and it runs every year at the Florida State Fairgrounds in January. It is huge! There are tons of RVs to walk through, 2 exhibit halls, a workshop arena, food vendors and more! You can also pay to park in the parking lot for $20/night. Your $10 admission is good for two days, if that tells you anything. You can walk for miles and spend hours walking through so many different RVs from class As to Bs to Cs to travel trailers and more.

Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival – We happened to be in the area during this fun little festival held Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Actually, we found out about this festival on LivingSocial where we purchased discount tickets. This company produces festivals all year long, so keep an eye out for one that fits your schedule and tastes.

It was really a fun-filled afternoon with tastings galore from so many breweries and distilleries. The tastings are included with your entry, but you have to buy any BBQ or other food. The weather was perfect for 2018 and we enjoyed listening to the music alongside all the tasty beverages.

We coupled this activity with a stroll down the Riverwalk, which we thought made for a perfect day. Parking downtown is free on the weekends which was an added bonus!

Amusement

Tampa Riverwalk – a nice path to stroll the river in downtown Tampa. You can pair a walk here with a meal at one of the nearby restaurants or a visit to the Aquarium. There is also a water taxi, if you get tired or want to experience the water. This is dog friendly and they even have doggie stations.

Busch Gardens – Who doesn’t know about this place? We didn’t visit, but know that some people would enjoy a day or two here.

Disney, etc. – Disney and the attractions of Orlando are only an hour plus away. Take your pick to explore the parks and tourist attractions around the area. You could even spend a night or two there as Disney has its own RV park, Fort Wilderness. If you’re a Florida resident, search around for the resident discounts.

If you’re in the area and looking for more to do, read our post about St. Pete. There’s even more fun activities and places to explore.

Travel takes us away from familiarity: how we adjusted

Travel takes us away from familiarity: how we adjusted

posted in: Full-time RV Tips | 0

During our recent cruise vacation, we met lots of new people. The first question usually asked was of course, where are you from? Our answer never wavered from we live in an RV and travel all over, so we don’t really have a from. Some people loved this idea, but then it came up of what do we miss from our “old” life. Isn’t it hard living on the road away from familiarity?

Well, yes and no. There isn’t a one word answer here. All things have their ups and downs, right? You definitely give up familiarity with travel, but you get so much more. We’re ok with the trade-off.

How we turn the downs of travel into ups

Family and Friends

Yes. It can be hard being away from family and friends; we miss family at times. However, traveling has allowed us to see more family. We travel to them. Travel allowed us to be near Paul’s family for a whole winter and we celebrated birthdays, Christmas and even met up for breakfasts with the family.

While we miss having a friend nearby for a last minute dinner, happy hour, hike, etc., we have met so many new friends on the road. It’s been awesome meeting amazing new people and finding them again later in a new place. Social media has allowed us to keep in touch with both friends and family and to know when our paths cross. We have had some great times meeting people all over the country. We can also travel to cities and towns to visit with old friends, so it’s all good.

Heck, we can even meet up with friends and family in new places which allows them to travel as well.

Laundry

a beautiful, clean laundromat visit

So many people ask us why we don’t have a washer and dryer in our RV. Our answer is why would we? It’s not only heavy, but takes up valuable storage space. We honestly enjoy going to laundromats as it takes so much less time to get multiple loads of laundry done. In 2 hours or less we can wash and dry 3-4 loads! If we have a washer and dryer, that would take all day to get done.

Plus, we can wash blankets and the dog bedding easily. Win win in our eyes.

Food Shopping

It’s a basic need that everyone must do. It is also a constant struggle to find the brands and things we like in new places across the country.

How have we adjusted?

Well, grocery trips are an adventure most of the time. It takes us a little longer to find things and we’ve had to search for natural or health food stores for some of our needs. We’ve never gone hungry though and we’ve always adjusted to whatever is available in a given area.

If possible, we find it helpful to go to familiar brands of stores. For example, Kroger stores are all over, especially the west, but they have different names. It’s not hard to find the local Kroger store and then it’s actually quite a familiar feeling inside.

We also love Trader Joe’s and will almost always stop at one if it happens to be in the area. It’s familiar and has some of our favorites. Plus, there are always seasonal items which are fun to discover.

It’s all part of the fun of travel. Seeing new cultures even within the USA and experiencing different food. Worst case scenario is buying dried goods off of Amazon, if we can’t find it in a store. Problem solved.

Exercise

hiking among the redwoods

We have always enjoyed getting outside for exercise. Traveling hasn’t changed that one bit. It has actually made it more fun and exciting since we’re always exploring new trails, waterways and neighborhoods. We can hike in amazing places to see beautiful new scenery. We can run new neighborhoods and trails. Trust us when we say we saw many new trails as we trained for our half marathon in December.

So travel has allowed us to expand our exercise routines and certainly not made them boring. This wouldn’t be the case if we always enjoyed working out at the gym.

Heather has also discovered the App, Down Dog, which has allowed her to continue to practice yoga in our home on wheels. The only challenge with yoga is keeping the dogs off her mat while she’s down on the floor. However, with a little training they seem to have learned that the mat doesn’t mean a new dog bed and know to leave her alone during this quiet time.

What we miss during our travels, but don’t NEED to live?

Baths

Heather enjoyed taking baths when we had a large bathroom. It was her relaxing time with a book.

How have we dealt with that?

Well, it’s not a necessity. It’s a want or need. To fill that void we enjoy hot tubs or hot springs whenever we can.

Heather also enjoys a bath whenever we have one available to us like a hotel, friends house or even on the cruise. Yes, we had a bathtub in our stateroom on the cruise! How awesome is that?!?!?

Book Club

It sounds like a strange thing to miss, but Heather really enjoyed her monthly book club with friends. It not only made her read books she might not have otherwise picked up, but it was so much fun. Sharing a meal (potluck style) and chatting always made for a fun evening and there is definitely a void there.

She still hasn’t found something to fill that void, but again it’s a want not a need.

Coupons and rewards programs

When living stationary, we enjoyed coupons from the local grocery stores and even frequent buyers programs, if, for example, we went to the same coffee shop. We find our grocery bills are a little higher on the road without those coupons and little extras from retail stores.

We also earned a gas discount by shopping at the local grocery store and filling up at their gas stations. We got around this by joining a national gas rewards program and using our camping memberships to get some discounts as we travel.

It’s certainly not a deal breaker for us, but it is a new normal and adjustment.

Our Vet

This might seem like a simple thing to miss, but it’s not easy finding a good vet who knows our dogs. One of our dogs has a lifetime illness that’s not widely known about outside the southwest US and it’s not always easy to get him care outside of our old vet. He requires annual blood work and daily meds due to the illness. As he starts to age, the medicine is also taking its toll on him.

Thankfully, we were able to visit with our familiar vet when we were back in Colorado which was really nice. Our vet has also been very understanding and helps us out over the phone at times. It’s been a blessing having such a great animal hospital who supports our travels and our dogs.

Keeping them up to date on vaccines has been easy enough. It’s the records that are driving us crazy. We have a paper folder for all their records because they have received vaccines all across the USA including Texas, California, Colorado and Florida. These vaccine records are needed anytime you see a new vet or need pet sitting services. This is where being away from familiarity is hard, but not a deal breaker. Just another adjustment. We can handle it.

We’ve adjusted and we make it work, but it’s not easy and we miss the familiarity of our old vet clinic.

Volunteer Work

Heather had a few regular volunteering opportunities that she really enjoyed. It was not only fun, but fulfilling giving back to a community. It’s a little harder to do that on the road, so for now we’ve forgone volunteer opportunities.

Maybe down the road we can do a volunteer vacation or find some way to give back that doesn’t require a weekly or monthly commitment. Again, this isn’t something we need to live, but something that adds value to our lives.

See what I’m getting at? It’s all about making new normals and adjusting to what’s available. What are some of your new normals after living on the road?

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