The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Parker update: surgery today

Parker did not have a good morning.

I woke him up early, then "forgot" to feed him, and wouldn't even let him lick the cream cheese off my knife when I had a bagel right in front of him. All he got was an unpleasant-tasting amino supplement and a pain pill.

He did get a ride in the car, though, which might have gotten his mind off his appetite.

But then he got unceremoniously carried up two flights of stairs (the elevator at the pet hospital was out of order) and handed off to someone who smelled like frightened cats.

Let's not even talk about the thunderstorms forecast for later today.

So, Parker is chilling at the hospital right now, with his surgery scheduled for this afternoon. Because he's in the late group, I won't get to visit him tonight, which is probably OK because that might just upset him. He should be ready to go home tomorrow late morning.

I'll post again when the surgeon calls after the operation.

Canine User Experience

Yesterday, the Nielsen Norman Group released groundbreaking research on user interface design for dogs:

There are several key usability guidelines that help dogs to have the most usable experience on modern websites and apps, particularly on mobile, tablet, and other touch-based interfaces:

  • Consistency is critical. While consistency in any user experience is important, with dogs, it’s even more so. Experienced dog trainers will tell you that, for dogs to learn proper behavior, consistency in enforcing routines, expectations, and commands is critical. Some common UI culprits that provide extra difficulty for dogs are swipe ambiguity, gestures without signifiers, tap uncertainty for flat UI elements like ghost buttons, and unusual placement of common elements like navigation and search.
  • Tap targets must be large. We recommend 1cm2 for human tap targets, but paws (whether belonging to cats or dogs) require larger tap sizes (of at least 3-4cm2, or even larger for Labradors and Great Danes).
  • Gestures must be ergonomic for dog physiology. While many wearable interfaces now involve gestures such as swiping left or right to dismiss notifications or switch apps, these need to be modified for more ergonomic canine movements (such as “shake”). Dogs have a greater ability to move paws with precision up and down, but dogs’ range of motion along the horizontal axis is limited and relatively imprecise, so all gestures must account for this limitation.

They also give special guidance on the risks of using hamburger menus and pie charts.

Still churning through my to-do list

On the one hand, I've been really productive on my staycation, having checked off 38 to-do items including a few that came from my need to get Parker repaired.

On the other hand, I've done none of the reading and writing I set out to do. With the A-to-Z challenge starting in two days, I really need to get on that.

But, you know, it's still a vacation. So why not vacate a bit?

Wednesday afternoon Parker update

We met with the surgeon this morning. She confirmed the initial diagnosis of a right cruciate ligament tear, and said it's likely completely detached from the bone. She also suspects additional damage to the opposing ligament and possibly to his meniscus.

Parker will have surgery next Tuesday, which unfortunately was the earliest he could get in. He'll have a right tibial leveling osteotomy, in which she will carve out a piece of bone and turn it so the damaged ligament no longer supports his weight.

After surgery, Parker will have a few really miserable weeks. For the first two weeks, he'll be confined to a bathroom, forced to wear a Cone of Shame, and only allowed short potty breaks. After his sutures come out, he'll still have restrictions on his activity for up to 6 more weeks. But by the end of May, he should be able to go on long walks again.

When the surgeon goes into his right leg to repair the damage, she'll also evaluate whether he injured the knee through an athletic over-reach or whether it resulted from deterioration of the ligament. In the latter case, there is a 50% chance of his left knee blowing out within a year. So I'm hoping that this was just the result of over-exuberant stair-climbing on his part, and not the result of age.

Updates as conditions warrant.

Parker update

I mentioned yesterday that Parker stopped putting weight on one of his legs after hurting himself running up the stairs Saturday night. Turns out, it's pretty bad.

His primary vet says my aging mutt tore his ACL and meniscus, which will require surgery. He's getting X-rays on Monday to confirm the injury but she has very high confidence in the diagnosis. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday.

He doesn't seem to be in any pain when he's lying down (which, as an old dog, he does 20 hours a day). Walking up and down stairs is not possible, however. (Did I mention he weighs 30 kg?) And he has some discomfort in his usual sitting posture. I've got him on pain meds and a joint supplement, but he's not going to be a happy dog for the next couple of months. No day care, no long walks, and definitely no running, probably until the end of May.

Poor doggie.

Staycation: Day 1

Man, I've needed this for a while.

It's 11:15 on a Monday, after doing nothing of commercial or professional value for an entire weekend, and I'm finally at Inbox Zero for the first time in months.

My to-do list currently has 30 items (plus 6 already finished) ranging in complexity or duration from "set up coffee with so-and-so" to "45,000 steps." Inbox Zero was not on the main list, but my inbox is itself a to-do list, so that counts too. In a few minutes I'll have finished with the physical items on my desk that need sorting, and then...breathe in.

Meanwhile, Parker is still not putting weight on one of his legs. We'll be stopping by the vet this afternoon. His giardia has cleared up (I think; I haven't looked that closely), and despite whatever is wrong with his leg, he's happy to walk on the three that still work properly.

Also, just a little blog housekeeping: the A-to-Z Challenge starts Sunday, so over the next week I might have fewer general posts so I can get a head start on the longer posts for April.

Quick update

Whiskyfest was Friday evening, so I spent yesterday doing quiet things around the house, including starting some projects for an upcoming staycation.

Today will be a little more running around, including possibly a vet visit since Parker has been staying off his right hind leg completely since yesterday evening. He had trouble getting up the stairs after his evening walk, but he doesn't seem to be in any active pain and the leg has full range of motion. I gave him an NSAID; we'll see if that helps.

In other news, Loyola advanced to the NCAA Final Four yesterday, and Duke plays Kansas tonight for the possibility.

As time permits today I'll have updates on Whiksyfest (i.e., which whiskies I'll be looking for), Duke, and Parker.

Lying down with dogs

The New York Times last week suggested that people who sleep with their dogs sleep just as well as those whose dogs sleep elsewhere:

The dogs wore a device called a Fitbark, an activity tracker that attaches to the collar and records whether an animal is at rest and sleeping or active and at play. The people wore an Actiwatch 2, an activity monitor that records people’s movements and whether they are sleeping soundly or not. Both monitors were set to sample movement every minute, while the humans also kept a sleep diary.

Over seven days of testing, the researchers found that with a dog in the bedroom, both the humans and the dogs slept reasonably well. Humans had a mean sleep efficiency, or the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed, of 81 percent, while dogs had a sleep efficiency of 85 percent. Levels over 80 percent are generally considered satisfactory. People slept slightly better when the dog was off the bed; dogs slept the same whether they were on the bed or in another location in the bedroom.

Dr. Carlo Siracusa, a veterinarian and the director of animal behavioral science at Penn Vet in Philadelphia, added that a dog sleeping in the same room or bed with humans won’t make Sparky think he’s top dog. “Dogs can distinguish between the relationship with its human fellows and other dogs, and the way in which they regulate their interactions with humans in the house is not trying to establish a hierarchy,” he said.

First, don't think for a moment that I haven't considered getting a Fitbark for Parker. I've always been curious what he does at day camp; I suspect he sleeps about 90% of the time.

Second, no matter how well Parker sleeps, there are sometimes days like last Thursday when he woke up with an urgent matter that he immediately discussed with the bedroom floor, even though I could have gotten him outside in seconds had he asked.

Dogs.

Tropical heat in Chicago

I exaggerate.

But officially, at 8:51am this morning O'Hare reported a temperature above -7°C, finally ending our 12 days of frigid temperatures.

Parker got a real walk this morning, and he's about to get another one. And no boots! Most of the salt has been brushed away from the sidewalks.

Of course, it's supposed to snow later today. But it's also forecast to hit -1°C today and (gasp!) 8°C on Wednesday.

Anyway, I'm happy, and Parker appears to be, that walking outside does not immediately result in bits of our faces freezing off.

Holidays, weather, and Fitbit numbers

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day cooking and eating, while outside the temperature barely got above -10°C. So despite averaging better than 15,000 steps for the entire week preceding, I only managed 7,292 steps yesterday, my 3rd poorest showing of 2017.

The problem is, when I'm working from home, I get most of my steps by taking Parker on long walks. Below about -10°C, even his two thick fur coats aren't enough to keep him warm for more than 10-15 minutes, tops. And below -18°C, forget it; even with boots, his paws get dangerously cold in just a couple of minutes.

The forecast for the rest of the week, unfortunately, calls for brutally cold temperatures every day. Parker and I just got back from his (5-minute) morning walk with -19°C showing on the thermometer. My goal today is just to get above 5,000 steps, which may involve a lot of pacing in my apartment.

That said, thanks to the long weekend and no other responsibilities, I'm actually getting enough sleep. So I have lots more focus and energy. I just can't walk it off very easily.