Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gone to DPS

Yep, it is November and we have flown the coop and left winter behind at Dogpound North. Last week I loaded Blue and Wink and pointed the truck south. We had found a weather window that gave us a good shot at getting down to Dogpound South (DPS) without hitting to much weather along the way. Late season trips to the south place mean your travel plans need to be flexible and as we slid across Montana we started hearing reports of an incoming storm in Southern Idaho, mostly high winds but some snow and that led us to change our first overnight stop from Dillon, Montana to down near Idaho Fall, Idaho. And to ensure that we beat the winds out of Idaho we made an early (2:30AM early) departure from Idaho Falls and headed for Utah. The early start got us out of Idaho and into Utah so that we were through the Salt Lake City rat race before most of those folks got out of bed. As we rolled south across Utah the roads were good, at least until we hit the junction of I-15 and I-70, at that point they went downhill in a hurry. Although the temps were up around 45F we came over a hill in the middle of a pack of transport trucks to find a State Trooper jumping up and down in the middle of the highway. Sure wish he had gone a mile or so farther north as that might have given us a chance of getting slowed down a little before we hit the packed snow and ice covered highway ahead. Now anyone who has driven the ice roads in the Arctic knows how much fun it is to be on solid ice when the temperature gets above freezing. Hard enough to stand up let alone skid our big LQ down the highway while trying to get down to a more reasonable speed as well as not cause any issues for the surrounding transport trucks. Eventually the truckers and I managed to slip our way between the ditches, which were full of four wheelers, and get our speed down to a still too fast 15-20 mph. The ice and snow only lasted for about 3 miles, but they were an exciting three miles.

We called it a day once we wound our way down the Virgin River gorge and through Mesquite towards Logandale. Logandale and the Clark County Fairgrounds have a great spot to stop with horses. Brand new box stalls, pens, and even a place to plug in the LQ for the night. Even with all the excitement we were all settled in by mid-day and probably could have made DPS if we had been so inclined, but the horses had two long days in the trailer and it was better to let them get out and move around a little and get an early start the next day.

Day three we were up and on the road again early and through Las Vegas before rush hour and well into Arizona when the sun rose. One stop for fuel and it was all downhill in the Valley of the Sun. We were at DPS around noon and got unloaded and stretch our legs, all 18 of them. I never mentioned the dogs but they are great travelers and slept most of the way down.

Things here at DPS are pretty well setup so it was just a matter of hanging a water bucket on the rack and turning the tap and we are ready to go.

Thursday, Brenda was up early back in Canada and onto an airplane headed down to join us here at DPS. We gathered her up and stopped to pick up a few supplies on the way back out of the city. The last few days have been spent getting settled in here and restocking the larder.

We've spent the last few days getting settled in and trying to get Brenda not to do to much. When it comes to the former we have been relatively successful, but the latter has not been that great a success. She has raked and swept and cleaned both inside and out, so DPS is looking pretty nice.

And back at Dogpound North it is looking like "we are glad we beat it."

Friday, October 30, 2015

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD)

Well it has been awhile again and I am giving you "fair warning", if you stopped in to read about trailrides or RV'ing or see if I had been out with the camera lately you will be disappointed and probably should just move on to the next blog.

Over the years we have tried to keep our journal a relatively happy place and I think for the most part have succeeded. This time we are going to go a little more "real world" on our readers and give you an insight into what has been happening behind the scenes in our life.

Long time readers will remember that Brenda, a few years back, started to have more and more pain in her knee. They tried a little physio, a little arthroscopic surgery, a lot of pain pills, and eventually came to the conclusion that she was probably going to need a knee replacement to relieve the pain. Because of her relatively young age they were really pretty hesitant to do the knee replacement as they were concerned that she would wear this replacement out and the next one wouldn't be so easy.

Her knee really bothered her when she was riding and as we did a lot of that it was becoming a bigger and bigger issue. As the knee got worse and the pain got more intensive eventually the decision was made to go ahead and get it done. A date was set and we headed north from Dogpound South a little early last spring (March 2014) so as to have everything in order for her surgery in mid-March. The surgery went well and the prognosis was great, a few weeks or couple of months of physio and God willing she would be back running around like her old self. Brenda worked hard at the physio and although lots of folks stop at about 100 degrees of flexion on the new knee she had hers up to around 130 degrees. Getting back on that horse takes a little more than normal and that is what she was focused on. The pain was still pretty intense but that is normal for knee surgeries and after her 6 week checkup the doc said you should be able to get back on your horse in a couple more weeks if you are feeling up to it.

That is really where this story begins though. The pain never lessened and there just seemed to be something not right about the replacement. To make a long story short eventually the doc decided that maybe there were some small fractures above the knee and he immobilized the joint for a month, there went all that hard work to get the flexion going good.

Jump ahead to the middle of August 2014, and once again Brenda is heading into the surgical suite for some exploratory surgery to get this knee replacement back on track. The doc says they found a little scar tissue where it shouldn't be and he replaced the pad under the knee cap while he was in there, but nothing major and it seems like those small fractures that they had seen on the CAT scan were not really there and were probably just artifacts caused by the artificial knee prosthesis.  That was a bummer as we were hoping they were the cause of the pain and could be fixed up somehow. All that flexibility that she worked so hard to get back was gone now and the physio began again. Just like before she worked hard to get it back to good flexion and was pretty successful but the pain just wouldn't go away. Back and forth to the or-tho doc and no relief was in site so we loaded up and headed for Dogpound South while we waited for the next steps. At this point there was still a lot of hope that the pain would get less and less as the days went by. We had Brenda's horse along with us and the folks we bought her from agreed to put a few rides on her so that she would be ready to go when Brenda was ready to go.

Pretty soon we were into January and instead of getting less and less the pain was getting greater and greater. At this point this active young woman was relegated to spending most of her day inside and flat on her back. 

Midway through February we headed to Jamaica where our daughter Lacey was getting married. We had a great week with Rebecca, Lacey and their families but this issue Brenda was having sure put a damper on her fun. The resort was so big that we rented a wheel chair so she could get from place to place without wearing herself out, but nevertheless there was a lot of walking and walking isn't a great activity when you are having leg problems.

Once we returned from Jamaica Brenda headed back to Canada to consult with her GP and I took that cue to call the or-tho folks and tell/ask them my opinion and managed to get her an appointment there as well. After a look at her knee and some thought they decided that the knee was actually working as advertised and the pain was caused by some other issue.

Now I have characterized this issue as one of mainly pain, but there was still an inordinate amount of swelling and pressure that is pretty hard to describe, but the or-tho folks thought it would be worth consulting a Neurologist and managed to get Brenda right in to see that fellow. He ordered a series of tests, scans, and blood work and she had all of those things done before heading back to Dogpound South 5 weeks later.

She really just came back to travel north with me. Since this problem has manifested itself she usually fly's as driving for more than an hour at a time causes considerable distress. We had made plans to stop and visit our friends the Modahls along the way and do some riding (me) around the Grand Canyon with the Pohl's. All the years we had been going south we had never managed to get to the Grand Canyon and thought it was about time. Then we had planned to spend some time riding our way up through Utah before heading home. However the pain written all over Brenda's face led me to suggest once we saw the Grand Canyon to load our ponies and head north, and that is what we did, racing towards the border.

The follow-up appointment with Brenda's neurologist gave us some answers, not the ones we wanted, but answers nevertheless. It appears that the cause of all this agony is a rare condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Something like a million folks are affected by this horrid condition which is caused by some sort of trauma to the body. Whether that trauma be something as simple as hitting your hand with a hammer or in Brenda's situation a major joint replacement it seems to tell those pain receptors that send a signal to your brain that we have a problem down here, get stuck in the full on position.

When your body is in pain a whole serious of processes start to take place to help you deal with whatever is causing that pain. The affected part swells to protect the injury, blood flow is increased to that region to assist with the healing. But remember there really is no injury the receptors are just stuck in the on position, so all that swelling and blood flow doesn't help the situation any and just cause more issues.

Now as I can only relate what I see and can't imagine the pain levels, my account of this journey is lot more clinical than it really is for its sufferers.

Brenda tells me that she has a lot of nerve pain, as well she feels a crushing pain in her leg and a cold burning sensation in her leg and foot. Sounds simple eh! Well after only watching this brave woman go through this for over a year now I have racked my brain to find a way to describe what she is feeling that will relay just a little bit of the agony that is her day.

Imagine you have that crushing sensation in your leg, doesn't seem so bad eh! Well maybe imagine you are laying on the pavement outside your house and one of those rollers they use to pack that pavement is slowly, very slowly, starting at your toes running up your leg, over and over and over again.

The lightest touch is painful, the brush of your clothes, the bump from your grandchildren rushing to hug you. Even the thought of someone getting close to the affected area is painful. You become hyper-vigilant and very protective of your personal space.

As for the cold burning sensation, that was easier, I have had frostbitten limbs, and know the sensation of burning that the cold brings. For those who haven't imagine standing in a tub full of dry ice and not being able to jump out. Just stand there, forever. The difference in frostbite you actually go number with this you are not so lucky.

All these things of course precipitate other things to happen, your body no longer regulates your temperature properly, you get the sweats, I mean water running down your back sweats, your feet freeze, you get overheated on a cold fall day. I think I am missing a bunch of things here but it is a syndrome I, or Brenda, wouldn't wish on our worst enemy.

If you have ever been to a hospital with a painful condition they usually ask you to describe your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. This scale is actually called the McGill Pain Scale. All the graphics I can find with this scale put this CRPS/RSD stuff right at the top. How can I make it relatable, well for you mothers it might be a little simpler, imagine childbirth with the drugs, they tell me this is 25% worse. for us guys it is not so easy, imagine you broke your leg well that is something like 40% as painful as CRPS. Seeing the numbers does not do it for me, does not really tell the story but the one thing that stands out is no matter what the pain number is this is the most painful form of Chronic Pain that exists. It ranks far and away at the top of the many scales I have looked at. And that ain't the worst part, besides the fact that it is invisible,



So why after dealing with this CRPS monster for over a year I have chose today to dump these agonizing stories on you guys, well November 2nd is the first National CRPS awareness day and I wanted to do my part to share some knowledge of this invisible monster that stalks amongst us.

Orange is the colour that has been chosen as a symbol of this disease because orange is the color of fire and this syndrome is sometimes called the burning disease. and on November 2nd I will be wearing my orange garb. For you, and to a certain extent me, we get to take the orange stuff and put it back in closet when the day is over, but for the sufferers of this syndrome they NEVER get to forget that crushing, burning sensation.

Thanks to Janna for her blog dealing with this issue also

For more information just search CRPS on the web and you will be inundated with links like this one

#CRPS, #CRPSawareness

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Just in the Nick of Time

I was reminded this morning that I still have a blog out there in the ethernet and that Brenda checks it daily to see if it has been changed. The last time I updated this journal it was the summer solstice and here it is about to be fall so I guess it is time. We have had an eventful summer, not much riding, but a lot of other things going on.

Beginning back where I left off oh so many months ago, we had a couple of our favourite visitors for a weekend at the end of June.

Alle and Grandpa

Lounging by the poolside

Alle Kitten

The girls telling Grandma a bedtime story?

 Then it was off to Crimson Lake in July for Ella's 6th Birthday party, 6 where has the time gone, it seems like this was just yesterday.
Now she is a grown up little lady. Her birthday celebration was a beach party and the kids and I had a great time swimming at the lake and then eating her ice cream cake.

The next weekend was a celebration of Cheryl Brydens birthday her girls and our girls all came for a campout at Dogpound North. We ate well and stay up late around the campfire telling stories.

 And of course it wouldn't be July in Alberta without a little snow on the ground. Well really I guess if was hail, but frozen water is frozen water.
 But it does make for dramatic skies and some great photo opportunities
We finished up July with a visit from Mark and Jolene on their annual western swing. Always great to see Jolene and sure was nice to meet Mark this year. We did manage to spirit them away for a little drive in the mountains also.

The Bow River in the Stoney Indian Reservation near Morley

That takes us into early August and then we were off on an adventure in Upper Canada or Ontario as the natives call it. We were going down to Brenda's nephews wedding and decided to include a few other stops along the way.
Niagara Falls looking across the American Falls to the Horseshoe Falls in the background

The locks on the Rideau Canal between our Hotel and the Parliament buildings

Our digs in Ottawa on the left

Ashley, Madeline, Adam and Lukus, well the top of his head anyway.

Granny Doak, Donna and Danny Doak, Adams Dad

Mr. and Mrs. Doak and their kids, Madeline and Lukus

Aunty Brenda and Adam

The Doak clan, L to R Danny, Lukus, Ashley, Granny, Adam, Madeline
 After the wedding we headed off to meet some RV friends who have settled down in Smith Falls. Gordon and Sandra are also Facebook friends who capture some pretty nice photographs. Gordon, in his former life, was a graphic designer and is quite the Photoshop expert. I asked him to do his magic on this photo I stole off their page. To my eyes it appears that he did a great job on Brenda and Sandra but has managed to add a few wrinkles and a lot of gray hair on himself and I. So for those who don't really know us all that well, be advised that we both look much younger in person.

Those who have been to DPS before know that there used to be a patio roof running all along this side. It was blown off in a windstorm this summer and now currently resides in our neighbours yard about 300 yards away.

Once we got back to Dogpound North from our Ontario swing I headed south the Dogpound South to review the damage with our insurance folks and some contractors and initiated the process to get it repaired. That took about 10 days then it was time to come home for a couple of more birthdays. Our granddaughter Everly turned 1 and her brother Kashton turned 4 so they had a little soiree for their friends and family at Becky and Ved's place.

1 year cute

Kashton in the centre supervising his Dad's pinata installation
 While we have been fluttering back and forth across the continent Bob has managed to get all the hay put up here at Dogpound North and a portion of it sold. Seeing as how I didn't have any part of that I thought I had better get working on some other things around here. 30 some odd years ago when my Dad bought this place we needed to replace the fence along the road on the west side and lo and behold it is time to do it again. I spent a couple of days removing wire and with Matt's help got all the old posts hauled away. Another neighbour of ours is pounding posts and stringing new wire so soon it will be a nice shiny new fence instead of a tumbled down eyesore.

And the construction at DPS has begun so Brenda headed south to supervise that process. She has a much better sense of colour than I do, or so she says, so I agreed that she was the right person for that job. The patio roof is back up and from my daily report the painting is completed today. Now just to repair the door and the wall damage inside from an botched burglary and she should be able to come home. That could take another couple of weeks though so if you are in the Phoenix area give her a shout.

The dogs and I are looking after ourselves up here at DPN and although the cooking is not up to our usual fare we will probably survive. I have managed to get out a couple of days and take some photographs of both landscapes and some night scenes so will include a sampling of those shots to end this long, looooong update.

Some Northern Light dancing over Dogpound North

Looking back at the LaFarge plant at Exshaw

The Milky way from our deck at DPN

Mt. Kidd looking across Wedge Pond
The Kananaskis River running past Canoe Meadows

And finally a shot of Venus rising on the eastern boundary of DPN

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Still Kicking

It has been the best part of a month since I updated the journal, so I thought I would let you all know we are still alive and kicking here at Dogpound North. There haven't been a lot of exciting things happening here other than fence building and the seemingly never ending task of hauling away broken tree branches from our late summer snow storm last year.

Not to sure but I think I have moved about 100 loads like this so far.

And as you can see it isn't done yet.
Way back in May Mom and I took a trip up to our friends the Pohl's place near Ponoka where they had a Farming with Horses day going on, coincidentally on Mothers Day. They were plowing, disking, and harrowing in preparation for seeding about 5 acres with oats. There were a bunch of teams there and it didn't take long till it was looking pretty good.

Nope Ben and Beauty didn't fall into the Lady Clairol, Ken borrowed this team for a bit.

Doing a little plowing   
We did get out and visit some little people in the last month though.
Hmmm, not getting in the house like that though!

But Grandpa I am still pretty cute.

 And Max and Maya are enjoying the summer here and all the green grass to roll on.

Mid June Rebecca and her cousin Leighanne took off on a little bike ride to raise some money for MS. They rode about 178 km's over two days along with about 800 other riders and managed to raise about $650,000 total. Good for you girls.

It has been a pretty nice spring here in the north country and just the last few days we have been getting a little moisture which makes digging those fence post holes a whole lot easier.

Once again we have resumed our monthly lunches with our eldest granddaughter Claire and yesterday we tracked down the Perogy Boys food truck and gave them a whirl. There are a bunch of different trucks rolling around Calgary and if it weren't for the fact that we need to try out some of the others we certainly would be back at this one pretty soon.

Two of my favourite girls.
Today was Father's Day here on the farm and I celebrated by getting a few more fence posts dug in and mowing all that nice green grass. That made it a great day in my books and Brenda cooked me up one of my all time favourite dishes, Fetticcini Gigi so that made it even better.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Where Did They Go?

So when I last wrote a blog we were still in Jamaica celebrating Lacey and Clayton's marriage, and now that they are old married folks it is probably time for me to get this journal updated. We did manage to get out of Jamaica, but I had a tough time explaining to the US Customs and Border agent why my passport wasn't stamped each and every time I had been in and out of the States over the last year. She told me I needed it stamped and I told her that I made it a practice not to tell Border Crossing folks how to do their job and that policy has served me well over the last 60 odd years of crossing the Medicine Line. Usually when you fly you get a stamp, but as I drive, can't fit the horses on a plane, you don't usually get a stamp. They just scan your passport and we all have heard how the computers are working now and they are keeping track of our movements much better. Well, maybe you guys, but apparently not me. I finally convinced the nice lady that I had no intention of becoming an illegal alien and had kept a good record of my comings and goings just in case the government needed them and she let me on through.

The last year has been an interesting experiment, what with Brenda's knee replacement not going so well, but we have discovered one, maybe the only, benefit of her plight. When we travel we usually get a wheelchair to get from the check-in to the gate and back. Most airlines also supply a driver for that conveyance. And those folks know how to get around those big places in a hurry. It means no waiting at the Security Check and priority boarding. Big benefit entering Jamaica, our lady driver knew the ropes and we were through Immigration and Customs quicker than you can blink. And coming back out of Montego Bay there was at least a thousand people in the line and we scooted right to the front. And nobody even gives a lady in a wheelchair and her bodyguard a second look.

It was an interesting winter from a horsepersons point of view. Arizona had an early outbreak of a critter disease called Vesticular Stomatitis which meant all our horses were going to have to be out of Arizona for 21 days before they were allowed to cross the border back into Canada. So we made a plan to wander our way home slowly after sprinting for the Arizona/Utah border to get the clock ticking.

As it turned out the outbreak took a break and the Canadian government allowed horses that had not been in the county in southern Arizona with the problem to head for home without the 21 day condition. But we had some plans made and decided at least part of them needed to be acted on.

Hard to believe but in all the miles we have driven around the United States and the many years we have been to Arizona, we had never gotten to see the Grand Canyon, except from 35,000 feet as we flew by it. This time we combined it with a trip to Dave and Linda Modahl's ranch in Northern Arizona.
Ben and Beauty were enthralled by Dave and Linda's gate guards

Ken enjoys the riding and seeing new country.

Ken, Verna, Linda, Dave and Penny in the foreground

Not sure what kind of snake that is but it is a sign that we are not far enough north.

 After enjoying Dave and Linda's "Lazy D Ranch" for four days we headed for the big ditch.

Words really can not describe this place, it is truly a wondrous place, and I will let the pictures do the talking.

 Through the wonders of the internet we knew folks who knew folks who had scouted out a site we could camp with our horses and and still be within riding distance of the Canyon.

Ken, Verna and Penny

Blue and I, Blue was happy the Canyon was behind us and not ahead on the trail.

Ken and Beauty

We finally made it

You can see the bridge across the Colorado down there.

At the bottom of the photo is a roof at Phantom Ranch a way station on the ride across the canyon

This fellow was looking at me like, "I ain't hauling your big ass down into Canyon, not to mention back up"
It was a great place and we will be back. But once I got done riding over and having another look down from horseback Brenda and I loaded up and headed north. The next night we were in Dillon, Montana and heading for the border the next day. All our worry over the border crossing was for naught, the fellow just took copies our horse papers and sent us on our way. Not much excitement there but a little farther along in our journey our Pressure Pro sent us a message telling us that things were going to get a little more exciting if we didn't find a tire shop pronto. As luck would have it we were a block from a great little tire shop in Nanton and they quickly pulled off the flat and put the spare on for us. They checked out the tire and discovered that the wheel had a crack in it. After talking to my tire expert and favourite tire selling cousin I decided to change all the wheels on the trailer from the cast aluminum mags to plain jane, but strong, steel. While we were at it we also switched the tires to a set of Goodyear G114's.

Since we got back here down the road from Dogpound we have been to a couple of birthday parties and visited a few folks but have been sticking pretty close to the ranch otherwise.

I always tell folks that wondering what to do to keep busy is a non-issue if you have a farm and Brenda and I have been busy cleaning up after our early snow last September, fixing a water leak in our outside system that developed over the winter and general yard maintenance, including replacing our crumbling retaining wall. Just another century or two and we'll have that "to do" list whipped.

Now in a blast of information you are caught up and maybe, just maybe I can keep a little more abreast of things in the future.