Monday, July 24, 2017

Going Topless

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley, Alabama      The neighbors beside us here in the temporary RV site have a Mustang convertible that they keep under a canvas cover when they aren't here.  Richard, the neighbor, calls it his "fun" car.

I didn't realize it but the Wayner was developing a secret desire to have a "fun" car too and seeing Richard's Mustang intensified it. He confessed to me a couple weeks ago when he saw a red Mustang convertible with a "For Sale" sign in the window out on Highway 59 in Foley. He stopped. He looked... but the red Mustang didn't meet his stringent standards......

So.... we began looking for pre-owned convertible makes and models online. I helped him with research of convertibles. We looked at everything from TrueCar to Carfax to Car Trader to dealer sites to Craigslist. He broadened, then narrowed his convertible car choices to Ford Mustang, BMW, Lexus and Mercedez Benz. He prepared a list of pre-owned convertibles for sale in the area. Last Monday we drove to Mobile to see a Benz, Lexus and Mustang. Tuesday we drove to Destin to see a BMW. Wednesday was Pensacola Day where he checked another Mustang, another Lexus another Mercedez Benz and another BMW. It was hot and tiring work, but we kept going, Lexie and Ozzie in tow every mile.

Thursday was a day of rest from the physical car search, but not from the mental one. He doubled down on his research and made more phone calls.  By Friday evening, he had decided on the BMW he saw in Destin. Of course, that would be the car.... the farthest distance but it was a good price, with low miles and in fine condition. It's a 328i hardtop convertible. He bought it from a widow from Birmingham, now living in Destin. Strike up yet another Craigslist success story for us.

Here we are, about to go topless.

A couple more pictures....

Ready for an early evening ride in Pop's new car. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A "New To Us" Golf Cart

From Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley Alabama    

We bought a golf cart last week. It's used. Craft Farms golf course was rotating their fleet. We are not members, but a local friend is and he arranged to have this one offered to us ahead of some other members for just $1,750.

The cart seems to be in good operating condition -- a 2 person, 2008 Club Car with all new 48 volt batteries, charger and tires. It's not equipped for city driving but we plan to only use it within the confines of the resort.

Our friend, Frank, and one of the golf pros at Craft Farms even delivered the cart to us here at Bella Terra! That's service, friends.

We removed the golf club cover wedge from the back and I ordered a rain enclosure, rainproof cart cover, rear view mirror and extra keys (came with just one). We gave her a good washing, waxing and wiped the black plastic with one of those rejuvinating products to bring the color back. We're feeling pretty smug now, wheeling around with the pups between us -- and it sure beats pedaling a bicycle.

A second seat can be installed for about $300 and we are giving that some thought, but for now, we'll settle for a simple, inexpensive ride for just us and the dogs. In time, Wayne might decide he wants a newer one. We will see.

Lexie and Ozzie enjoy the evening ride.
Another late thunderstorm is heading our way!
That's a laundry/shower house in the background with more available Phase III lots all around.

So now we take "after dinner" golf cart rides to check the lot's building progress and tour the neighborhood.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lucky Seven!

From Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, Alabama     July 4th marked the end of our seventh year as full-time RV'ers. Year seven RV travel totaled 4,977 miles over ten states: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida with a passenger vehicle trip through Idaho into the eastern edge of Washington State.

Major personal, non RV events of the seventh year included the many aspects of Lexie's illness, attending my 45th high school reunion, a record five month stay in Port Charlotte, learning to play pickleball and to linedance.  Of course, the purchase of our RV lot and the resulting commencement of construction is a highlight too.

It goes without saying that our RV lifestyle is changing. While we still love living in the coach, the pace is slowing, destinations are more definitive and campground selection is narrowing. With the completion of our RV lot, we expect to park ourselves for several months in spring and fall with travel to warmer places in the coldest winter months and cooler trips in summer.

So with this, we welcome the next 12 months by declaring, "Eight Isn't Enough"...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bella Terra: The Concrete Phase

From Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, Alabama     We arrived Friday, April 7th and toured Bella Terra the very next morning. We knew before we arrived that we were likely lot buyers if we liked what we saw. We selected a site during the next three days, signed a contract to purchase it on Thursday, April 13 and closed on the following Friday, April 21. The lot we chose is one of about 30 in the final phase of the development. It's what they call a "Terraced" lot that's adjacent to a heavily wooded area recently designated an Alabama Preserve. 

April 13, 2017
Lot 35-464 Portofino Loop, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores. The ground is dry. It's been weeks since rain has fallen.
Ours is one of just two remaining Phase III Terrace lots along the south side which adjoins this wooded preserve.

By the following Tuesday, I had drawn a first draft of what we wanted built. Measuring  50' x 90', our site is large enough to built any of the available coach house plans. Wayne and I decided on a small Rizzo model with full bathroom and kitchenette. A 12' porch and outside kitchen/bar area will extend from the front door of the casita. A screened gazebo will be built in front of the porch and a campfire area will be near the street with tall privacy foliage in front of it.

Several modifications would be made to this first pencil draft. 
Despite the best efforts of Courtney and the staff at Bella Terra, drawing of the architectural plans became a distasteful experience. Robby Miller, the draftsman, took six weeks to produce this small project on paper. It's a two day project at best.

Two and a half weeks would pass before any lot improvement would commence but here is a picture of the first soil scrape. An "ah ha" moment for sure. David Thompson, the builder, sensed my desperate need to see something....

The ground is broken!  May 10, 2017 
May 15, 2017
Starting the construction footprint.
May 26, 2017
But the thrill from the first scrape of dirt was short lived as something surely angered Mother Nature. In the last half of May she unleashed weeks of rain onto south Alabama. The first two weeks weren't terrible -- rain fell all around but seldom directly onto us.  In early June though, the daily rains began and wouldn't stop. Four rainy weeks came and went. Each morning we watched local weather... most days carried a 40% to 70% chance of rain.

June 2, 2017
Concrete framing begins, but then.... rain delays the progress.
The architects plans were finally completed on June 5 and the construction permit was issued Friday June 16th. David (the builder) is hopeful to get concrete poured the next week.

Yep. Flood zone. 

On Monday, June 19th, Tropical Storm Cindy developed in the Gulf of Mexico and had the Alabama coastline in her crosshairs.  Hours before the rain began, though, plumbers were on site and got the stubbing done. Within a couple hours, the first of Cindy's countless hours of rain began.

June 19th. Rough plumbing complete and ready for inspection.
Rain thwarted inspection which was now delayed until June 29th. 
The deluge Cindy dumped reminded us of our personal Murphy's Law: If it can happen, it will happen. It did happen. One five day period of dry weather followed the rain but construction stood still. I don't know why. I stopped walking and biking in the resort. Construction on our site was being watched and discussed by the summer resident/owners. I was stopped often and questioned as to why we can't move as fast as another site also under construction. I grew frustrated. I got mad. Wayne's spirits were no better and we began to rethink our plan. We gave serious though to selling the lot without going into the casita building phase. Life is too short to worry with construction. Word of a single rant to a neighbor spread quickly to management who carefully waded into my angry world. They only made matters worse with lengthy email timelines and useless lectures about the perils of construction, south Alabama weather and the importance of being a good follower. Ick. Enraged, I fired a scathing email right back and heard no more. I was satisfied but still in favor of aborting the plan.

June 30th. Casita foundation is prepared and forming continues in the mud. 

By June 29th David was finishing the concrete forms for concrete. He asked if I wanted to show him where to lay out the freestyle landscape islands I had planned. I bristled but rode my bicycle to the site to tell him we were not going to move forward beyond where we were legally bound. We would sell the lot. I told him as much. He asked why. I told him. He didn't argue but asked more questions. We talked on and on, reversing the timeline all the way back to the delay caused by the draftsman. It felt good to have someone specific to blame for my frustration. I reassigned my anger.

June 30th. Look closely to see standing muddy water halfway up the lot. It's almost a foot deep on the front slope.
On June 30, our lot was a giant mud hole. David said he would pump it out and he did. Rain came sporadically. The plumbing passed inspection. So did the soil compaction test and the foundation test. David planned to pour concrete on Monday, July 3. His talk reinvigorated my enthusiasm. I rode my bicycle home and told Wayne. Bless his heart. He's happy when I'm happy.  And when I'm unhappy.... well... he is too. Lord, how I love that man.

Our version of "Draining the swamp". Pumping nearly complete. 
Monday, July 3, concrete trucks began rolling into the resort and the beautiful grey liquid poured into the forms. David invited me to oversee placement of the landscape islands he had formed. I stayed and watched the concrete work all day. My spirits soared. The rain seemed to have subsided -- for today anyway.

First truck load of concrete.

A total of five concrete trucks

The casita, golf cart garage and slab for the gazebo are poured first.
David is in the red shirt. He's forming the landscape islands.

Two ramps were built by hand. They are needed to get the golf cart into the garage.

On concrete pouring day, Wayne came by to check on the progress but didn't stay long.
He just wants to see the end result.

Almost finished. Rumor has it these are among the best concrete crews in the county.
Landscape islands can be seen in the middle. One is kidney shape -- the other is round.
Trees will be planted to add character and shade to the concrete pad. 

The concrete crew was great. Finished by mid afternoon.The guy on the right apologetically popped a beer.

Exhausted but still smiling. 

David. Flip-flop wearing Auburn University Alum with Masters Degree with undergraduate degrees in Biology and Finance. Age 27. Unrelenting optimist.  
And that concludes the first part of construction on July 3rd.  Construction of casita comes next. Still a long way to go.... firepit area, gazebo, porch, outside kitchen, landscaping and lighting. It will last all summer and fall, I fear, though the contract completion date is Sept 28th.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Bella Terra: The Players and The Plan

A Who's Who and What's What at Bella Terra Gulf Shores

Jenny's was the smiling face that greeted me the day we arrived at Bella Terra of Gulf Shores. Seems she is always behind this desk making everyone feel welcome.

Our chats are infrequent as much of her time seems to be taken up with telephone customers. I guess it's only natural her picture includes a phone.

Denise is our Bella Terra Realtor. She toured us around the property our first morning and drew up our contract six days later.

We looked at all the lots available, including unsold lots in the first two phases, resales and newly developed sites in the final phase.

If one had been available, our first lot choice would have been a resale with construction already in place, but there were none *.

We chose one of the Phase III terrace parcels that backs up to a heavily wooded preserve.

* Not to cast a shadow on the process, I must say that Wayne and I do not, I repeat DO NOT have a stellar record when it comes to buying a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. we can't touch at the point of sale. Things ordered can go wrong will go wrong when we're involved.

Having said that...  we are optimistic that our luck can change. I kicked off our project by drawing an idea of what we wanted and shared it with Courtney Osborne, Bella Terra's Operations Manager.

Courtney. A constant smile and tremendous presence in a "4 foot something" sparkler. She's been with Bella Terra since the beginning. She knows the ropes... and the players.

She is the lighthouse in our project.

Robby Miller of Coastal Designs will eventually convert my pencil drawing to blue prints. We've never seen or spoken directly with him.

He has remained illusive and is, by far, the most unimpressive player in this game. His picture, therefore, shall be a black box.

Momma said if I can't say something good, I shouldn't say anything...

Activities are the lifeblood of every resort. Retirees and RV'ers love having fun things going on. That's where "Can Do" Katie comes in. Always smiling and open to suggestions, Katie keeps Bella Terra involved in both on-site programs and area events.

Another effervescent and happy face at Bella Terra belongs to beautiful Tara. While we don't interface with Tara in the construction process, she appears to "float" around the property during every activity and makes sure Wayne and I are introduced to everyone who happens by.

Shy about photos, Tara reluctantly allowed this photo with Courtney (who loves the camera).

Billy is another great asset to Bella Terra. As maintenance supervisor, his overwhelming and never ending responsibilities do not rattle him. Always... this. man. is. calm. and. positive.

Billy's role in our project is to be our eyes and ears in a construction world where we are novices.

He has a calming effect on my Type A temperament.

Bella Terra is the brain child of this man, Chuck Smith who, according to local folk lore, got the idea of a motorhome resort from his RV'ing parents. He's taken Bella Terra from conception to completion through good times and bad (think RV boom, oil spill, economic downturn, RV boom, bust and boom again). An impressive, friendly fellow one can't help but like.

He splits his time between south Alabama and Colorado these days.

For detail about this dream of Chucks, check out Bella Terra Gulf Shores.

Yes, that's Lexie and Ozzie in the stroller
Still another participant in our project is the all important, construction contractor. That would be David Thompson.

While he looks much like a very young Sean Penn (reminiscent of "Fast Times At Ridgemont High"), his casual, surfer look doesn't fully reflect the serious entrepreneurial sharpness he seems to possess. So far, I like his attitude and am growing accustomed to his flip-flops. He's an Auburn alum too. (Smiley face)

Our outside kitchen will be built by Kevin at Grill Island. He builds almost all the patio kitchens at Bella Terra. Kevin listened to my ideas, showed me a few kitchens he built here and put it all into a cohesive package. I don't have a picture of Kevin but will include one if and when I get it.

Brandon will be in charge of the last of our major site projects: Landscaping and outdoor lighting. He's with Kent's Landscaping.

Several weeks ago, Brandon and I rode around the resort looking at landscapes. I pointed out what I like and I pointed out what I don't like. From that, Brandon put together a beautiful landscape plan for us.

I've left out a couple of people as I don't have info and/or photos. I'll add them later.

As of this week, forming for concrete has begun and I am filled with excitement. Once underway, we are about 10-12 weeks from completion.  Weather and other factors could cause delays though.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Encephalitis! Lexie The Wonder Dog

From Bigfork Motorcoach Resort in Bigfork, Montana, Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort of Gulf Shores and points between. 

Our girl, Lexie
This is a hard to write post. I started it in August 2016... finished it in May 2017. It's long too.

As far back as March 2016, we anxiously searched to find out what was wrong with Lexie. It began when she lost enthusiasm over the raw carrot treats she gets when I make dinner salads. That evening she seemed unable to maneuver going up or down her foam rubber steps to the sofa seat. We sought veterinary services but no abnormalities could be identified from xrays or ultrasound. Her blood work showed elevated Gobulin which indicated there was some inflammation and it was determined she had an infection and was started on Clavamox. With an abnormally hard abdomen, a sign of a pain, she was also treated with prednisone and a low dose of tramadol with a suspicion that the pain was in her back. Within 24 hours, she responded to the therapies and life returned to normal. (Details of this are covered in a post dated March 24, 2016.)

Less than a month later though, Lexie's pain returned while we were in Camp Verde, Arizona. Rushing her to nearby Montezuma Vet Clinic, Dr. Jennifer Boyd prescribed more tramadol and gabapentin to reduce her pain. A longer prednisone treatment was prescribed following blood tests and another ultrasound. Discussions of her painful history, her age and a common malady of her breed, Inter vertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) was suspected but couldn't be diagnosed with certainty. I researched IVDD, spoke with friends who had experience with pets suffering from it and felt certain it was Lexie's problem. I administered prednisone like clockwork so she could rest and recover.

Crate rest
The fourteen day steroid treatment was extended (with guidance from the vet in Camp Verde) long after we left the area. Lexie's painful symptoms reappeared within 48 hours anytime we stopped the steroid. Strict crate rest was started mid May (as instructed by the Camp Verde vet) while we were in Park City, Utah. Alternating day steroid treatments, along with rest, continued until the first week of June when we reached our summer destination at Bigfork, Montana.

Our comfortable site at Big Fork Village Resort and RV Park

Eager to get a clearer diagnosis of Lexie's condition along with alternative treatments (in which I placed my hope now) I found a veterinarian who performed acupuncture at Calm Animal Care in Kila, Montana, 30 miles or so from our campground.

Calm Animal Care practices in the little brown building on the left.  Just look at this lovely rural setting and Ponderosa pines.
Owner of this Kila, Montana practice is Barbara Calm. Really, that's her name.
Early the first day at Bigfork, I called for an appointment at with Barbara Calm, DVM at Calm Animal Clinic. She is a well respected animal acupuncturist but she was out of the office for ten days. Unstable on her feet and moaning in pain, I asked if someone else could see Lexie. We went in immediately and saw Meg Gordon, DVM. That examination resulted in the removal of all steroids for 72 hours, then the introduction of Novox (an NSAID) in its place along with the tramadol, gabapentin and continued crate rest. A definite diagnosis still eluded us though.

The most humiliating part of the exam. Pop assists. "Mom, put that camera away!" 

We followed Dr. Gordon's instruction to the letter, but three days later, as Lexie's moans grew louder and her rear end grew less stable, we returned to the clinic for yet another examination. This time with Karen Hartle, DVM who called for another full compliment of blood work, xrays, urinalysis and ultrasound -- and the addition of a possible hernia and kidney stone diagnosis possibly exacerbated by luxating patella. Still the IVDD, suspected some 90 days earlier, couldn't be absolutely diagnosed upon close examination of the xrays. I scoured each picture alongside the doctor. In the end, Dr. Hartle referred Lexie to Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman, Washington -- some 300 miles, 6 hours away. Crate rest continued.

The second visit to Calm Animal Clinic.  Waiting for test results. 

Ozzie and I sit for a picture with Dr. Angela Nguyen,
She is an instructor, WSU Vet School ER and ICU Critical Care Vet. 
She also is our WSU Vet School champion.
So on Monday, June 15th, three months after Lexie's first painful symptoms, Wayne and I packed a bag, loaded our entourage into the truck and headed to Pullman, Washington. Dr. Angela Nguyen in ER., ICU and Critical Care services listened intently as we described what we observed in Lexie.   Dr. Nguyen proceeded to give Lexie another complete workup.

We took a room at the local Holiday Inn for two nights while WSU's Internal medicine, orthopaedic, radiology, rehabilitative services and theriogenology teams performed exhaustive exams of Lexie. In the end, their findings were "urinary tract infection," some "possible mild muscle atrophy" and "decreased resistance to hip extension and bilateral Grade 1 luxating patellas." Lexie was given an acupuncture treatment. No test, except MRI, were spared to pinpoint Lexie's pain. We talked about having the MRI, but decided against it given Lexie's condition and age. Everyone hoped we were onto something now.

Jessica Bunch is a Certified Canine Rehab Therapist and DVM

Mushtaq Memon, BVSc, Ph.D., Theriogentologist at WSU shares some humor with Wayne.
Wayne needed some humor by this time. 

While at WSU, Lexie received one acupuncture treatment and laser therapy with recommendations to continue these sessions with Barbara Calm, DVM in Kila and to begin administering Chinese herbs. We returned to Bigfork with new bottles of omeprezol, tramadol, gabapentin, clavamox and a new NSAID, Metacam, making a demanding "every 8 hour" regime for Wayne and me.  It wasn't easy administering all the meds... empty stomach, with food, every 8 hours and so forth. It was a challenge... and I hadn't even looked into the Chinese herb therapy yet.

Ozzie always waits with us.
Here, we're joined by Janne Lyngby, DVM, MS Small Animal Internal Medicine Resident who is charged with Lexie's case. 
On the fifth day after discharge from WSU, Lexie returned to Calm Animal Clinic, for her first acupuncture treatment from Barbara Calm who called us in 45 minutes late with an announcement that she is chronically late to appointments and is a musician. She attributed her tardiness to being such an optimist. Funny thing, I'm an optimist and I'm always on time. Dr. Calm followed the first statement by saying she was running late for a music appointment. I suggested we reschedule as Lexie's condition is the most important going in our life at this time. Dr. Calm realized our serious concern and insisted that we would not be shortchanged on acupuncture treatment visits. We visited briefly to review Lexie's history to this point in time and then Dr. Calm performed her first acupuncture treatment. She reduced Lexie's Metacam dosage by 2/3 and told me to start her on "Harominize the Qi" a Chinese dietary supplement. The acupuncture seemed to help.

Crate rest continued... now into seven weeks.

Lexie's walk was almost normal for the first few days after but 6 nights later I was awakened by the sound of panting and moaning. She was pacing all over the bed, walking across me -- something she never does, and had begun trying to bring her rear foot up to scratch her upper body every few minutes. Additionally she had begun gnawing at her groin / mammary area.

Julia, our 4th year student gives Lexie's
initial exam. 
Next morning, a consult call to Calm Clinic in Kila let to a second visit to the teaching hospital at WSU in Pullman. Lexie had a 10 a.m. appointment the next morning in the neurology department. As is customary at a University teaching hospital, we were again assigned a 4th year vet student. Julia examined Lexie and reviewed the history, comparing it to the file she had from our first visit. We shared details of Lexie's new symptoms and were in great hopes we would find answers.

Tom Jukier, WSU Neruologist
 Diagnosis: food allergy

Upon examination by WSU Vet School resident neurologist Tom Jukier, Lexie was returned to our care with his surprise diagnosis of food allergies and luxating patellas. I gasped when I heard it but we listened intently to his explanation and felt our concerns were falling on deaf ears. Perhaps they all thought we were just crazy hypochondriac dog owners. We accepted the diagnosis, bought a few cans of Hills Science Diet Z/D special food allergy food and said we would discontinue all of the medications we had been giving Lexie, per the instruction. That was June 24th -- well into the third month since Lexie first showed signs of pain.  We drove the 300 miles back to Bigfork wondering if we might have been wrong.... could this "food allergy" diagnosis be right? Wayne was beyond skeptical.

Lexie ate only the Hills Science Diet Z/D food for the next few weeks but she ate it with her usual gusto. We ordered a case of the canned bland food and we both watched to see possible changes in Lexie -- good or bad. During this time, I made notes on the margin of my calendar noting that Lexie had begun walking sideways and was terribly unstable. She stopped drinking water and began to urinate and occasionally defecate in the floor. She fell of the sofa when left unattended and seemed to wander aimlessly on the floor, carrying her head low. She no longer barked. We waited and watched, unsure what to do.The only time we saw any trace of the "Old Lexie" was when she became excited at mealtime.

Then, on on the morning of Thursday, July 7th, everything changed when Lexie froze in place with one paw extended upward, while out for a short walk.  We jumped into the truck immediately and headed to Dr. Calm's clinic in Kila. By now, these three doctors had become our strongest advocates, though I felt sure they thought we were crazy.  As Wayne raced along the country roads, Lexie had clusters of seizures, one after another. Her eyes were glazed and her little body was stiff during the seizures. As they subsided, her breathing was rapid and she panted wildly. When the seizures finally subsided, her body was lifeless except for her heavy breathing.

Dr. Calm began an iv and did blood work within minutes of our arrival. She and her staff were bewildered and told us so. We recapped the two visits to WSU. Dr. Calm suggested the seizures might never recur and could have been triggered by almost anything. She explained the difference between petitmal and grandmal seizures and she gave us her best theory as to what was happening. We discussed, in amazement, the most recent food allergy diagnosis from the second trip to WSU. We all watched and waited for another seizure but no more occurred. Wayne, Ozzie, Lexie and I stayed all day in Dr. Calm's office but nothing else happened so we went home armed with three syringes and a tiny bottle of anti-seizure medication that I was to administer if Lexie went into seizures that lasted more than three minutes. There were no more seizures all that day and we almost breathed a sign of relief hoping it was a one-time event.

An afternoon in Dr. Calm's private office. 

But that was too good to be true. That evening Lexie's seizures began again. One just before bedtime and four or five in rapid succession during the night. None lasted the full three minutes so the anti-seizure shots were not administered.  The next morning, I called Dr. Calm. I was in tears. We had to give WSU another chance. There was nowhere else to turn and we were losing Lexie. Dr. Calm agreed. Next I called Sally Anderson, in the Neurology Department at Washington State University to tell her we were on our way. Sally made sure Lexie would be seen.

The video below is Lexie in a full blown seizure. Be Warned. It is hard to watch and lasts 4+ minutes.

I pre-loaded the three syringes with the anti-seizure medication and we began our third 300 mile trip to Pullman, Washington from Bigfork, Montana.  The ride was brutal. I kept a constant eye to the back floorboard of the truck where Lexie and Ozzie were riding. By now, we knew the route so well. The first 1/3 of the trip through Montana along the rivers edge to St. Regis, Montana where the journey's second third began along Interstate 90 west to Coeur de Alene where we encountered the hardest part of the trip along the mostly 2-lane road south to Pullman, Washington.  To our dismay, Lexie did not have a single seizure during the trip and we reached WSU mid-afternoon of Friday, July 8th.

The Emergency Room physician, Angela Nguyen, whom we had met in our first visit, looked at Lexie immediately and could hardly believe she was looking at the same little girl she'd seen less than a month earlier. Another thorough examination began and we all agreed on an MRI for Lexie at the earliest opportunity. Lexie was started on Levitracetam (Keppra) an anti-seizure medication at 8 hour intervals and the MRI was scheduled for Monday morning. I hoped an MRI would be done immediately, but the doctors assured us Lexie's condition was stable and she was no real urgent danger.They explained that fresh minds and hands and a full staff on Monday would be to our advantage. Lexie was returned to us for the weekend with the understanding that we could return to the hospital ER at any hour if she went into seizures. We checked into a hotel and settled in for the nerve wracking weekend. Lexie would sleep in her stroller on my side of the bed, in case of seizure.

The video below was taken in the hotel room on Friday night after we left WSU. Note how Lexie's rear end lack of control. She still is loving that food though.

Sure enough at 11:30 we were awakened by the horrible screams of Lexie in the stroller.  I frantically administered the anti-seizure shot as Wayne held our exhausted little girl. I called WSU and we rushed her back to the waiting medical team. The tech on duty assured me Lexie was okay though she sure seemed near death as I handed her near lifeless body over. In a few minutes a very tired Dr. Angela Nguyen emerged to let us know that Lexie was okay. She reviewed a few details of having Lexie admitted through ER for observation for the rest of the weekend. Wayne, Ozzie and I returned to see her Saturday and Sunday and each time she looked worse, weighed less and had less control of her rear legs. We all were suffering. Sunday was the worst day. We held her little limp body, tried to let her walk and attempted taking her for a ride in the stroller. This was almost more than we could handle.

Pop with Lexie and Ozzie sit on the porch at WSU Vet School.
Her foot isn't bloody. It's a red bandage holding the IV in her leg.
Unable to control her back legs, we tried to assist with a walking sling
The good news is that she never lost her appetite. She can't stand but she can eat. 
Sasha Dixon, DVM
WSU Neruology
Finally Monday morning, July 11th arrived. The MRI was scheduled for 10 o'clock. Dr. Angela Nguyen (who we really liked by now) called to let us know that Lexie was fine and the MRI was on schedule. Lexie did have a seizure a few hours earlier but it was controlled quickly. We held our breath and tried to busy ourselves riding around town, stopping in at one of the department stores and eating late breakfast. By 10:45, the Neurologist, Dr. Sasha Dixon called with the encephalitis diagnosis. A spinal tap had been done. The evidence was clear and undeniable. We were thrilled that it was not a brain tumor.  The neurologist invited us to view the images and the white area of Lexie's brain was clearly visible. Now what?

My joy turned immediately to devastation as the neurologist explained that encephalitis dogs lived, on average, two years, after diagnosis.  She saw my horror I know and I think she regretted her bluntness. I concluded that the average two years could be expanded when coupled with our love, attention to medication detail and sheer determination.

The travel route -- Bigfork to Kila and to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington
Two days later, Lexie left WSU in Pullman for the last time with a half dozen prescriptions. All four legs had been shaved and showed signs of having the iv tubes inserted. A small area at the base of her skull, her tummy and a 4" square swath on her back (near her tail) were shaved too. But she was beautiful. She weighed just over 6 pounds, a loss of more than 2 pounds. Negative fungal,  bacterial and insect born test results allowed us to drop two or three prescriptions soon after but a hefty regime of meds for inflammation, pain and seizures will stay with us forever it seems.

Unable to stand easily without assistance, Lexie is clearly happy to be with Ozzie.
Fourth year vet student Serena Swan, explains the meds and gives us a happy sendoff soon after this picture was taken. 
An exhausted Lexie begins her journey to recovery with a mostly shaved body
 but I think she felt good the day this picture was taken. We were leaving Pullman for the final time.
A "onesie" will protect the pink skin on her back from getting burned by the sun.
I cut a whole in the seat for her tail. 
Lexie's recovery was quick, beautiful and without incident. She regained the pounds she lost and never missed a beat on her short walks. So much prednisone caused her hair to thin but she recovered.

We stayed in frequent touch with the folks at Calm Animal Clinic as they would monitor Lexie's progress and communicate with the Dr. Dixon at WSU for the next 60 days or so.  Finally on August 24th, we returned to Calm Animal Clinic for a final exam, including blood work, to be sure Lexie was well enough for our journey south where Auburn's Vet School would take over her care.

Dr. Barbara Calm holding Lexie while Wayne holds Ozzie. 
It was a long and frightening journey for us but in the end, Lexie and Ozzie both managed to lose their fear of the veterinarian office. This post, begun long ago, is finally finished this last day of May 2017.  Lexie is well and happy. Ozzie too. Wayne and me too.

Of particular peculiarity...  I've read that encephalitis is common in Maltese yet none of the dozen or so veterinarians, including two neurologists, mentioned it's possibility. Fascinating and bewildering.

Sleepy Pop and Happy Lexie -- two months after the diagnosis!