Posts filed under Beethoven

Merry Christmas (2010)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, General, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), WorkTags: ,

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, spending time with family and friends.

For us, it wasn't a merry Christmas, having lost Beethoven only less than three weeks ago. Having just lost someone special, the joyfulness of the season only accentuates the sorrow. Between Beethoven and a busy rehearsal schedule for the new The Empress of China play, there were no decorations at home, no Christmas tree, and strangely no gifts either. (Sadly, my sister in Australia is mourning the recent loss of two of their 'kids'; one to kidney failure, the other to insect sting complications. I feel for her.)

But it wasn't a total loss. For the first time in a month, I had two and a half days free to spend with my family and we made the most of it. Today, we even took nine of our kids up the (smallish) mountain beside our village here in Clear Water Bay which we haven't done in three or four years. One or two of the kids will be in arthritic discomfort tomorrow, but with pain relief and exercise management, they'll be fine. They loved the walk and that's what counts.

Beethoven's departure reminded us that the kids' time with us is a limited luxury, something that needs to be treasured. His departure also reminded us that we need to take more photos and movies, and that's what we did today; at least until the camera battery ran out of juice!

For most people here in Hong Kong, tomorrow is a public holiday. For me however, it's back to work. With only three weeks until our play goes live at City Hall in Central, we have to make the most of the time we have, to be the best we can.

Once again, Merry Christmas everyone.

Goodbye dear friend

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags: ,

My best friend has left us.

Yesterday while working in China, my wife called from the hospital to say that Beethoven was in a very bad way, and that he might not last much longer. Fortunately, our work in China had to stop earlier than planned, and I rushed back to Hong Kong to the hospital in Mong Kok.

Beethoven looked restful and relatively calm when I saw him. The hospital had increased his pain relief and he was feeling better. My wife had stayed with him all day and was extremely exhausted. I suggested that she return home while I stayed with Beethoven through the night. At the time, I felt he still had a chance of recovery.

For almost two hours, I lied on the floor next to him, looking into his eyes and reassuring him. His breathing was calm and relatively normal. It was a companionship, an experience that I'll treasure. But then at around 2:30 in the morning, he became restless and began complaining about pain again. The pain became so intolerable that without regard for his weak state, he stood up and vocalised his fear and distress, understanding that his condition was very very dire. I held him and tried to calm him while asking the doctor to increase his pain relief, but while the doctor was injecting more pain relief and a sedative to relax him, he suddenly had a heart attack and was no longer with us. The pain had simply been too much for him. He died at 3am.

I now know a lot about pancreatitis. I wish I didn't, but I do. Reflecting in the early hours this morning after saying our goodbyes, my wife and I came to realise that Beethoven may have been suffering from mild chronic pancreatitis for several months. But if vets find it difficult to spot and diagnose acute pancreatitis, how could normal people like ourselves diagnose mild chronic pancreatitis? It's an unfortunate calamity and I keep wishing that I could roll back time and make things right.

When Beethoven was a pup, he belonged to a neighbour. For whatever reason though, he chose to visit us daily and be with us. He chose us, and for that, I'll be eternally grateful. He was a wonderful friend and I'll never forget him.

R.I.P. 貝多芬.


(A very big 'thank you' to the doctors and staff at the Pets Central clinic in Mong Kok. You people were absolutely wonderful.)

Babysitting Beethoven

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags:

I'm feeling very tired.

Monday night, I took Beethoven to the 24-hour vet clinic in Mong Kok at one in the morning. I didn't get much sleep that night.

Yesterday before lunch, I was able to bring Beethoven home. He hadn't recovered fully but he seemed chirpier than the night before. The saline drip had definitely helped him. Unfortunately, he was still weak and refused to eat or drink. Last night, I watched him carefully, considering every minute whether to take him back to the hospital. His breathing was heavy and a little quick. I didn't get much sleep last night either.

Around midday today, I recorded Beethoven's breathing at home and showed the video to our friendly vet in Sai Kung. He indicated that the laboured breathing was not a good sign, and we rushed home to take Beethoven back to the hospital.

He's there now. We spent a few hours with him there after the drip had been reattached, and watched him perk up quite a bit as his breathing slowly improved. Unfortunately, he's not out of the woods yet. We need to find out why he's sick before it kills him. Tonight, the hospital will be doing an ultrasound on his lower body to check his organs. They'll call me to tell me whether they find anything. I'm hoping that they find something that can be fixed. That'd be nice, but we have to wait and see.

To complicate things, I begin full-day rehearsals tomorrow morning for the upcoming bi-lingual play 「中國皇后號」 performed by the H.K.R.E.P. Since my wife and I won't be home during the day for the rest of the week, we've decided that Beethoven is going to stay on a drip in the hospital to keep him stable until we know more about his condition, or until he begins to eat again.

But his condition worries me a lot. When dogs get sick, they can leave us very very quickly. I'll be visiting Beethoven at the hospital tomorrow morning before I head off to rehearsals in Sheung Wan. Hopefully, he'll look better. We can only hope...

Beethoven Hospitalised

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, GeneralTags:

One of our 'kids' is in hospital.

Beethoven follows me everywhere when I'm at home. At night before I go to bed, if I get up from my computer desk and move toward the bathroom, he notices and gets up to follow me within seconds. Except for last night.

Last night, I moved toward the bathroom and Beethoven didn't move. It wasn't until I came out of the bathroom that I noticed he hadn't followed me. I snapped by fingers which is usually enough to indicate to him that I'm going to bed, and he still didn't budge, so I examined him closer.

His body was colder than normal. His eyes were a little dull and drooping. His body posture was unusual, and his breathing was rapid. His tail wagged very slowly. If I asked more demandingly that he get up and come over to me, he would but it was a difficult and slow walk. Everything indicated a severe decrease in energy. One of the kids had thrown up their dinner moments before, but I couldn't be sure if it was Beethoven or someone else.

Our kids are normally very resilient. They get bodily injuries and they recover. They get the occasional sneeze but it never lasts long. They eat something that doesn't agree with them and they'll either throw it up, or eat some of the vegetation around the yard to force themselves to throw up. But I've almost never seen them in the state that I now saw Beethoven, and it worried me.

So at 1am this morning, Beethoven and I were in the car heading to the Pets Central 24-hr clinic in Mong Kok. The vet examined him and agreed that he didn't look well. They took xrays to see if something had lodged in his digestive tract but it was clear. They then took blood samples and found that his red blood cell count was way above the normal range; i.e., his blood volume was low. He was subsequently put on a drip and placed in a cage to rest. His condition worried me considerably. If any of our eleven kids were to leave us, it would hurt me greatly. I am not looking forward to the coming years.

My wife and I visited him this morning just before lunch. Fortunately, Beethoven looked much better and I was very relieved.

I suspect that they won't find a cause for the problem, but that doesn't worry me much because I have actually seen this condition once before. Before we adopted our first kid Dallas, he was a free ranging pup in our village who would come up to the car park to greet us every evening when we returned from work. We became great friends. And then one night, he disappeared. We scoured around looking for him and eventually found him in a store room lying on the floor, wagging his tail but unable to get up or move. We took him to the RSPCA (there was an 'R' in the name at the time), and he was placed on a drip for 3 days with a condition very similar to Beethoven's. Dallas recovered and never suffered from the same condition again. I hope the same is true for Beethoven.

In some ways, the condition is actually the reason we have pets today. If not for the condition, we would not have taken Dallas to the RSPCA. If we hadn't have taken him there, the young people in the village who casually looked after him wouldn't have given him to us, and we wouldn't have started to adopt.

Beethoven is still in the hospital. Hopefully, I'll be able to bring him home tomorrow.

The Cost of Companionship

Filed in Dogs of our LivesTags: , ,

People sometimes ask me if looking after 11 dogs is expensive. Well, it is and it isn't. On average, we go through one 15kg bag of dog food each week which isn't too bad. The food cost doesn't scare us. The potential medical cost does.

Over the last month, all of our kids have had all of their shots including one for Heart Worm, a combo 5-in-1 shot, and yesterday the mandatory Rabies shot. Because we have 11 kids, we don't go to the vet. The vet comes to us. The home visit costs extra but everything gets done quickly and smoothly. Fortunately, the vet (and other vets in the past) is good to us; we don't usually have to pay full fee because they're aware that our kids are rescues, and that we have 11 of them.

But medical costs include more than just the shots. One of our kids, Batty, has a back problem that nobody has been able to diagnose despite expensive examinations, x-rays and MRIs. In the early stages of the problem, he would go for a run and be in pain the next day. For a while, we thought it might be something called 'Tying Ups' but that proved to be wrong. He was also tested for hip dysplasia because he's part German Shepherd but that too was incorrect. We have had muscle biopsies sent to the U.S., and they've shown that he has muscle atrophy so it's quite possibly a spinal nerve problem. All of these examinations cost money, and since there's only one company in Hong Kong that provides MRI services, they can charge a lot for it.

Unfortunately, Batty's condition is worsening. He was doing ok until a couple of weeks ago, two of the other kids on two separate occasions accidentally landed on his back in their excitement at seeing us return home. Since then, Batty has been in more pain and is very uncomfortable even while taking daily pain killers.

We're reaching for straws now. I've ordered copies of the MRIs and x-rays. Our vet yesterday said that he has a few friends who can read the MRIs. I'll give the copies to him and see if they can recognise anything. If nothing comes of that, I'll send the copies over to L.A. to a renowned chiropractic vet there recommended by a nice couple I met while staying in Studio City. And if all that fails, I'll arrange to take Batty to a 'Chirovetpractic' in Florida who claims that Batty is a typical mis-aligned sacrum patient, and that he can fix Batty with a simple examination and realignment of his spine and sacrum. To most vets, he sounds like a snake-oil salesman, a seller of hopes, a 'cowboy' as one of my friends calls them, but it might be worth a try anyway, especially since the fees for his services are not unreasonable. It's the air travel to and fro that will cost big pennies!

Occasionally, the kids get into a scrap and they'll get a hole or a rip. Most of these simply need antiseptic cream and time to heal. Beethoven once had a severe rip in his ear, so severe that you could see the soft bone (軟骨 Chinese terminology ;-) within, but even that healed up on its own. In fact, after a week or two, we were advised to stop applying antiseptic cream to the wound because it was interfering with the healing process!

Most of our kids are between eight and nine years old now. As they get older, there will no doubt be more sickness and illnesses to deal with. That's a little scary, but they're truly wonderful companions, and keeping them well is worth every cent!

Living in an Old People’s Home

Filed in Dogs of our LivesTags: ,

I feel like I'm living in an old people's home.


Beethoven is kid #3. He chose us rather than us choosing him.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Four of our kids are on medication twice a day. We wrap the medication up in small strips of cheese so that we don't need to shove the medication down their throats and nobody gets defensive although the healthy guys do tend to look on despondently; "where's my treat?".

Him Him has mild arthritis in one of her front knees and gets anti-inflammatories twice a day.

Charlie has a skin ailment on his front left leg which he incessantly licks hence a secondary bacterial infection. He's now on antibiotics and something else (a blue tablet) twice a day to fight the infection from inside, in addition to cleaning with hibiscrub and the application of a cream to fight the infection from the outside.

Beethoven has a slight skin infection so he's on antibiotics twice a day and getting a medicated bath twice a week. In addition, he sprained a joint during a scuffle on the weekend and is on anti-inflammatories for a few days to keep the swelling and pain down.

And then there's Batty. A few weeks ago, we thought he had hip-dysplasia but the xrays didn't show it. We were referred to another vet on Peace Avenue who suspected Cauda Equina. The subsequent MRI seemed to show narrowing of the spinal tunnel but the analysis of the MRI by an overseas professional, and a further hands-on investigation of Batty's joints and muscles seemed to contradict this. We are once again left with the suspicion that he has Tying Up. To put our suspicions to rest once and for all, Batty was put under full anesthesia and samples were taken from several of his hind section muscles to be sent to a lab in Canada. He is now recovering from that ordeal, and getting pain relief tablets, anti-inflammatories and something else.


Batty is kid #4, rescued as a pup the size of my palm from the R.S.P.C.A. (now the S.P.C.A.) who were going to put him to sleep because he was so young that he would need to be hand-fed. Lucky for both of us, I just happened to be there when the Caucasian lady who had discovered him brought him in.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

I insist on being with our kids whenever they need to go under full anesthesia. I want them to be as comfortable as possible. 45 minutes before they go under, they are given a relaxant. Yesterday after getting the relaxant injection, Batty and I walked around the block at a very casual pace. Ten minutes later, we were in the car and Batty was totally out of it. I carried him into the vet's surgical area at 2.30pm and watched as they gave him the full anesthesia injection.

I hate watching them go under because it so closely resembles dying. It reminds me that one day, they will leave us and that's not something I want to dwell on. Nonetheless, I insist on being there whenever they need to be sedated.

Upon returning home yesterday, Batty cried as I tried to lift him out of the car. He was in too much pain. I had to sit down beside him for a few seconds and then coach him out of the car. Once on the ground, he was able to walk for a little but the pain of the biopsy cuts and the drowsy effect of the anesthesia was too much for him. As he stood there unable to move, I bent down, picked him up in my arms and brought him home. He's feeling better now but is still in pain. It will probably be a few days before the pain subsides. If we can find the source of his problem, the pain and cost will be worth it.

Batty's muscle biopsy reports should be available in two weeks. Hopefully, they'll find something, and hopefully, it'll be something treatable. Today, the Typing Up problem evident in horses and dogs is not well understood and no one knows how to treat it, only how to lessen it's affects on the animal.

Batty loves to run. I hope his problem is treatable.