After TPLO: the pupside and the downside

According to the calendar, Lily is 6.5 weeks into her post-TPLO confinement. According to my brain it feels more like six and a half years. This has been so hard, especially on her, but not gonna lie, no picnic for us either.

I started this TPLO chronicle because I was unable to find much information about what it would actually be like to properly care for our dog and our sanity during what seemed like an impossible task: keep a spirited golden retriever (VERY spirited – how do you think she tore that ligament in the first place!) under actual CONFINEMENT for eight weeks.

A few friends had gone through it with their dogs. The description that popped up over and over was “nightmare” and to that I can attest. Because she has to be penned up or leashed up at all times, the CE and I basically hand her off to one another the same way parents do with newborns: “Here. You take her.” (Oh, please, don’t pretend you never said that or at least felt it…)

If I could go back and change one thing from Lily’s puppyhood, it wouldn’t be to eliminate the joyous spirit that makes her leap and twist and race and spiral – that is all so much a part of who our girl is that I couldn’t wish it away. But you know what I would change?

I would have gotten pet insurance!

I was picking up medications at the vet for her yesterday and, shocked at the $60 bill for two small vials of trazodone and gabapentin, said “I have a feeling that’s more than what it would cost for humans! “Yeah,” nodded the receptionist, “it really makes a difference though if you have pet insurance. Sometimes they pay up to 90% of the costs.”

That’s anecdotal and I haven’t done any research because it’s too late for us, but if a dog is in your future, especially a breed susceptible to health issues (which seems to be all of them…) I suggest you check it out.

And while I’m catastrophizing, I’m going to confess that at this stage in Lily’s recovery, we are still not sure this surgery will end up being a success. While she isn’t exactly limping, she remains reluctant to put weight on the leg when she rises from a laying-down position. Once she gets going, she seems okay, although I wonder about that gait (surgery was on the right leg):

At our two-week check-up the vet did recommend, due to the inevitable muscle atrophy, that we should consider physical therapy after the confinement period is up. After initially eschewing the idea because of all the neon-flashing dollar signs, the CE has ultimately accepted it. What better way to spend money you don’t have than on your dog, right? So that will be the next step.

On the upside, I will say that an unexpected benefit of this saga is that Lily has become a surprisingly well behaved pup. She responds to cues and voice commands much more obediently than in the past.

On the downside, no matter how much encouragement we give her she seems a bit needy and downcast and worried, as if she is wondering what she did wrong to deserve this ongoing punishment. I hope I’m just over-anthropomorphising here. But just look at this poor girl:

At least she had a very special visitor this past weekend:

And since she is allowed to get in and out of the car (a sedan – not an SUV) she goes along on lots of errands with the CE. Sharing the back seat with the climbing rosebushes made her smile.

She gets to watch the chicken channel every day – albeit on a leash.

We’re all doing our best. Especially Lily. Keep your fingers and paws crossed that this turns out to be worth it…

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My 21st birthday! (in celsius…)

It’s all a matter of degrees, right?

But if I’m only as old as I look, oh dear.

And if I’m only as old as I feel, well, I think I might be dead.

There’s pretty much been a way to explain away every decade before this one but I am fresh out of ideas on how to see a “lucky” 7 here…

Which must be why EVERYONE I know has somehow conspired to make this possibly the best birthday of my life. Celebrations began mid-month and, I am embarrassed to say, more are scheduled as far out as July (they optimistically think I will still be around then, so that’s a good sign!). It’s all so sublime that it’s ridiculous, right?

I’ve been awash in FLOWERS! Roses, peonies, tulips, sunflowers – how lucky are those of us with spring birthdays!

And there have been surprises…

What I thought was the most divine birthday dinner ever – Jean-Georges rooftop at the Beverly Hills Waldorf-Astoria with these two

and the best salmon sushi ever

and the most festive cocktail ever…

turned out to just be the warm-up to the most special evening of all!

Surprise arrivals!

The most elegant dinner party EVER – (how did I get invited??)

Beautiful food…

Everything was perfection.

Well, except for that number…

After all that, the CE was ready to call the birthday a wrap when the actual day arrived, but I was getting used to daily celebrations, so off we went with Lily (inching along in her TPLO recovery) to the spectacularly dog-friendly Rosewood Miramar for a birthday lunch.

And oh, did someone say “birthday lunch”?

May you all be so lucky as to have friends like mine, who conspired to fashion the most fantastical f├ęte you could imagine. The table! The champagne! The cupcakes! And each one of those gathered a joyous and very special gift in my life.

Not only do they put up with me, they actually indulge me in all my peculiarities and, indeed, even reward them:

Truly a dream birthday, even if the number is a nightmare. And now you’ll have to excuse me…I have A LOT of thank you notes to write!

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After TPLO: Humans in training…

After four long weeks on high alert, we thought we’d mastered the TPLO recovery situation. This is not to say we were enjoying it. The level of vigilance required for keeping our sweet but spirited Lily under “confinement” is something we haven’t experienced since the days of tending newborns – and for us that was a long, long time ago!

We were buoyed by the idea of being almost halfway through the initial 8-week Lily Lockdown, but to be honest, a little frazzled and worn down. So I was pretty excited when Daniel and Freddy came to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with us – this mom needed a break!

I made extra sure the gate to “Lily’s Pad” was latched this time as we headed out to Mother’s Day brunch.

Two blissful mimosa hours later, we returned home – to this:

WHAT?

HOW?

All that attention to the gate latch and then overlooking the fact that one of the six sofa cushions was not double-stacked to discourage Lily from leaping from her Lily pad…

You can only imagine our horror when we realized that the only way she could have escaped was to jump up onto the couch and then OVER the back of it so she could wait by the kitchen door for our return.

A leaping Lily meant a limping Lily and we grimly awaited an emergency vet appointment for Monday morning.

Good news and bad news: the TPLO hardware was intact (huge sigh of relief) but muscles and ligaments around the knee were sprained. The vet tech kindly consoled the CE, saying that they frequently see what she termed “catastrophic” post-TPLO events even with the most vigilant and dedicated pet owners. There is just no room for error with this recovery process. Human error, that is.

The vet sent the CE home with an extra-large prescription of Trazadone for Lily and the admonishment that we needed to double the dose we were giving her and keep her CALM! Yes, ma’am!

Next day, the CE’s friend Jeff, who is a devoted friend of Lily’s, arrived to help reconfigure her Pad to prevent access to the couches.

If I were starting this process over, I would invest in a crate. Lily hasn’t been in one since she was a puppy, but it would be the surest way to guarantee her safety when we have to be away from her for a few hours.

Meanwhile, we finished out the week without additional drama. Lily limps some of the time but not all of the time. Whether it is due to her sofa surfing or not we just don’t know. The Trazadone is definitely calming her, and she has The Countess snoozing by her side in solidarity.

The Countess, who, by the way, is wondering, why is all the attention on that ridiculous dog instead of me? Will you humans ever learn?

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After #TPLO: Not quite hitting our stride

Three and a half weeks into Lily’s TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) recovery, we are all still on a short leash. The realization that we aren’t even halfway through the first phase (eight weeks confinement, then eight weeks of strengthening, then we start thinking about surgery #2 on the other leg…) definitely gives me pause. Or paws, as Lily might say.

Lily isn’t saying a lot except to bark when she’s been left too long in her pen, which can be anything over three minutes or so. And our Houdini of the four-leggers pulled another stunt – we left her in her pen when we went to church last Sunday and came home to find her waiting for us by the kitchen door. Hmmm. Did someone forget to latch the gate or did she perform an unthinkable acrobatic launch out of there? Hopefully, prayerfully, the former. She doesn’t seem worse for the wear. And she’s not telling…

We’re all a bit weary. Life yanked our chain this past week, none more than Miss Lily, who is pulling mightily to turn those ten minute walks into fifteen minutes and looking glum stuck at home day in and day out. If TPLO surgery is in your dog’s future, I can make a couple of recommendations:

DON’T have it coincide with home remodeling (this would seem like a no-brainer but some people (us!) apparently don’t have brains…

DO have back-up. I can’t imagine doing this solo, but it’s even a bit much for two dedicated owners, especially if you’re going to throw in a medical emergency or two for the humans while the dog is convalescing.

DO arrange visitors! Lily’s day is absolutely made when one of her favorite humans shows up to surprise her!

And when all else fails, take a deep breath. And reach for the trazodone – for the dog, of course!

Yours, just about reaching the end of my tether…

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After #TPLO: The good, the bad and the bunnies.

We are almost three weeks out from our Lily’s Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy surgery, also known as TPLO and perhaps the least favorite acronym we have ever encountered. Basically, Lily blew out her knee and became lame. We’re all limping along in one way or another but for Princess Lily, it’s unacceptable!

Having a dog is fun. Having a dog recovering from #TPLO surgery is the antithesis of fun. Not to mention expensive. Many people opt to temporarily re-locate to a less expensive community to have the procedure done. It wasn’t an option for us (other pets, other responsibilities) but why not spend a few months in Nevada or Idaho instead of shelling out a small fortune here in California?

But here we are, and last Monday the CE gingerly helped Lily into the car for the first time since her surgery and we headed downtown for her two-week check-up.

We were a little nervous about it, worried that her escape artist jailbreak up the stairs 48 hours after surgery might have irrevocably compromised the repair. So we were very happy to hear the vet’s cursory assessment (no x-rays yet) that everything looked good and was going well. Whew!

That was the good news. The bad news was that our “great, just six weeks to go!” comment was met with a “not so fast” response. Honestly, six weeks seems like an eternity when you have a sporty dog like Lily. But that’s just the beginning, as it turns out. At the 8-week mark, we begin ANOTHER EIGHT WEEK process of slowly building the leg strength back up to counter the atrophy that occurs while she’s been recovering.

We have a long way to go. And don’t forget, the partial tear in the other leg will have to be done down the line.

My spirits were sagging like the couch I’d been sleeping on for two weeks when the vet offered a consolation prize. Lily was now allowed to go up and down the stairs one time each day, which meant both she and I could return to our comfy beds upstairs!

She also is allowed three ten-minute leashed walks each day, and car outings as long as she is supported and not jumping up onto a seat. Her world (and ours!) is opening back up a bit! And we were allowed to remove the Lick Sleeve later in the week so now we just wait for her fur to grow back in.

A big event was a visit from her BFF Ace. They absolutely adore each other and have fond memories of wrestling together in the sand at the beach. Memories may be all they get to have of that as the rough play is what got Lily in trouble to begin with.

And then Lily got to visit her granny, which made them both very happy (Granny is very generous with the dog treats!)

But at home, it’s still planet lockdown for Lily. She’s feeling pretty chipper now and wants to go, go, go but that’s a no, no, no. The CE has cornered the market on fencing and given her several options so she can move from one place to another throughout the day.

Note that sofas are reconfigured as off-limits. No jumping up! But hey, she gets her own sign!

Early mornings on the courtyard:

A little oasis on the front lawn:

Whiling away the day out in back…

We think she’s pretty lucky but she’s thinking “don’t fence me in!” It’s spring and there are bunnies everywhere just longing to be chased!

Thus, we have to practice constant vigilance, constant constraint as well as turning deaf ears to barking and whimpering. The vet promptly prescribed extra trazodone and gabapentin, foreseeing the challenges to come. It’s definitely a daily grind, keeping Lily on the down low, but I guess you could say it’s the leash we can do…

Sign at the vet’s…

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It’s all fun and games until #TPLO

We’ve never had a dog like Lily.

Any Golden Retriever is the best dog in the world, but our Lily came with an extra helping of oomph. Little did we realize when we brought that sweet puppy home that we had unwittingly acquired a turbocharged model.

Not gonna lie, Miss Lily was a major challenge for two olds with lots of hitches in their giddy up. We were not her perfect match by any means, but oh how we love her, and oh how the CE stepped up his game so she could play hers. Daily trips to the beach became the centerpiece of every single day. See how she runs:

Or rather, how she ran. Because during a particularly vigorous play session at the beach last year with her best buddy, Ace the Aussie, Lily gave out a yelp and then headed home with a severe limp. A specialist vet visit and some pricy x-rays later, Lily was diagnosed with a partially torn CCL (cranial cruciate ligament), the ligament that joins together a dog’s femur and tibia. Surgery was recommended. Not urgent, said the vet, but you will have to do it.

We balked. Lily stopped limping and started having fun again. On and off. She’d be fine for awhile. Then she’d limp. Then she’d be fine again. We heard stories about dogs that thrived without getting the surgery. We wanted to believe in them, because the rigors of this surgery – for Lily and for us – seemed beyond anything we could manage.

In retrospect, we should have just gotten the job done then and there. Because Lily ended up with a complete tear of the ligament as well as a meniscal tear and oh, by the way, the other leg now has a partial tear, too.

Surgery was April 18. If you end up with that most dreaded item on your calendar, I suggest you clear the decks. You can have a life, or you can have a post-surgical dog. You cannot have both.

Lily came home from Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy surgery with a shaved haunch, a gnarly incision, a Lick Sleeve (this is a lifesaver – avoids the miserable cone of shame!), a boatload of meds and three pages of strict instructions for her pursuant EIGHT WEEK confinement.

Things seemed pretty grim, but our day was brightened when a bouquet of lilies for Lily arrived from thoughtful daughters Tina and Angie.

Yes, the cats have to be in on everything. They love their Lily.

We’ve had steps and missteps. So determined was I to watch over her that I’ve slept on the couch now for a week and a half. And asleep I was when, two nights into it, Lily – who heretofore had not even been able to stand up by herself – made a jailbreak from her confinement pen and somehow managed to walk all the way upstairs. Of all the things your dog is NOT supposed to do after surgery, stairs are at the top of the list.

So we won’t know where we are with all that until we have our vet check Monday morning. Meanwhile, our English Cream Patient has surprised us with her willingness to obey and adapt to all the restraints placed upon her. Other than the middle-of-the-night escape caper, that wild and crazy puppy has been a very, very good girl. Did I mention how much we love her?

Update to come, next week…

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Chilling in NYC

There’s no bad time to be in Manhattan, but, note to self, the second week of March might not exactly be the best time…

It seemed ever so slightly bleak after sunny Sedona, but still, we were grateful to finally be back in our favorite city. First order of business, put on our puffers…

and head to BG Restaurant for lunch. Our friend Corinna still remembered us after our many months away…

and surprised us with a dessert that had spring written all over it – strawberry shortcake!

It was fun to explore the 7th floor at Bergdorf, which, despite the wintry weather outside, was bursting with color and anything but bleak.

It was a model that worked for us. Terrible weather, wonderful lunch:

And then, finally, one day, some blue sky, best enjoyed with the view from Milos at Hudson Yards:

…and another great lunch, starting, as always, with the awesome “Milos Special”:

Still, it was COLD out, especially near the river, where the fierce gusts wind nearly toppled this old lady, so we headed down to the snappy new 34th Street subway station, which puts every other subway station to shame,

and popped out at Grand Central. My heart turns flip-flops for Vanderbilt Hall, every single time!

That’s the thing about NYC. It just never, ever gets old, and we never, ever fail to get that jolt of a thrill around every corner when we’re there.

We saw the new Camelot in previews:


and spent a night at the opera, beginning with an ever so civilized dinner at the Grand Tier.

Toward the end of our stay, there were signs of spring:

We even ran into the Easter Bunny in the Park!

A week or two later we heard the cherry blossoms were unfurling and the trees leafing out and I ache to have missed it. But whatever time you have in the city is the best time of all, right?

“New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.”

— Dorothy Parker
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Misfits in Sedona.

When I was mapping out our Grand Canyon trip, I spied Sedona to the southeast, conveniently not too far out of the way for returning to the Phoenix airport, and thought hey, why not tack on a few days? After all, everyone says Sedona is amazing.

And it is! As they say, there’s a 100% forecast of red rocks every single day.

It’s especially amazing for hardy hikers, trinket shoppers, New Age crystal aficionados and vortex seekers.

So what were we doing there?

The nice young gentleman who showed us to our casita at Enchantment Resort made the assumption that we were there to “experience” the vortex until he saw the blank looks on our faces. Vortex? What’s a vortex?

Well, not our thing. And hardy hiking? Sadly, and regrettably, also not our thing. Crystals? Well, we know God is in the details, but crystals are not our thing either.

What the heck were we doing in Sedona?

We had to do some workarounds.

We ate breakfast and stared at the amazing rocks.

And, while we can’t scramble around the rocks or leap across ravines, we did have lovely, manageable, memorable walks each day.

We went over to the L’Auberge de Sedona for lunch and a peek at the creek.

And we took a field trip! Just up the road a piece is Montezuma’s Castle, a fascinating former Indian dwelling and one of our country’s first national landmarks as designated by dear Teddy Roosevelt back in 1906.

Bonus was stopping in Cornville on the way back to Sedona:

And about those trinkets. While West Sedona’s shops didn’t draw us in, we discovered the charming Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village where I found “trinkets” I liked at many of the stores, including Renee Taylor Jewelry. Isn’t this one pretty?

And then, of course there were dinners. The lamb shank at The Creekside was epic,

and we had lovely meals at Enchantment’s Tii Gavo and Che Ah Chi

Oh, and by the way, while Sedona seems like the most laid-back place in the galaxy, you’d better plan ahead for restaurant reservations. The popular Elote Cafe was booked two months ahead, so we missed out on that one. Maybe next time…

We still don’t really know what a vortex is all about, but I can say that we certainly slept well while we were there, which counts for something! We don’t really fit the Sedona profile, but we loved our three days there and will remember those stunning red rocks forever. Such a fun trip!

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The Road to Enchantment: Sedona

We took one last fond close-up at the Grand Canyon

and then drove east, pleased to discover that the road spooned along the Canyon for miles, giving us many memorable last looks. Finally we began to wind south and then east on Rt. 64, back into the windswept winter high desert of Arizona.

Our ultimate destination was Sedona, but the CE hankered to make a side trip to Cameron Trading Post, an unexpectedly bustling commercial enterprise that pops up on the bleak horizon at the edge of a Navajo reservation. Was it worth the nearly 60-mile drive to see it? Well, it’s one of those eye-of-the-beholder things. One building houses the largest trinket shop I’ve ever seen yet we somehow emerged empty-handed. A smaller building is a gallery that showcases some of the finer things for which the Navajo are known: textiles, baskets, kachina dolls and jewelry. No bargains to be found, but some beautiful things there. I had my eye on a gorgeous turquoise bolo tie, but alas, left it behind. Too bad, as a return trip is unlikely.

Onward we drove to Flagstaff and then picked our way through 89-A South which would be our approach to Sedona. The first note of alarm was sounded when we saw recently posted “Road Closed” signs. The epic snowstorm earlier in the week had apparently wreaked some havoc. We forged ahead, wondering if we would be turned back.

It wasn’t long before we deeply wished to turn back! A friend I’d told about our upcoming trip had murmured that we should “be careful on the switchbacks” and wow was she right! If you want the mountains, you also get the mountain roads.

Picking our way down Oak Creek Canyon was a little bit harrowing and a lot jaw-clenching. Good thing we weren’t doing it in the dark! Finally we neared our quarry…

I’d heard so much about Sedona through the years. A must-see destination, according to every travel resource. Yet as we limped into the east approach of the town, finally exhaling from our dicey drive, I was decidedly underwhelmed. Lots of traffic, lots of tourists, lots of t-shirt shops. Yikes!

Well, I thought, good thing we picked a place to stay that was fifteen minutes west of town. Enchantment Resort is the very antidote to t-shirt shops. A little jangled from the drive and the deflating first look at Sedona, our first view of the resort grounds was the expanse of deep terra cotta hued casitas and a small herd of mule deer drinking from the creek beside the road.

The lobby is lovely and oh so Southwest:

Likewise our junior suite:

The one downside for this old lady with the bad back: everything at Enchantment is built into a hill. Walking from our room up to the lobby and restaurants was a no-go. Fortunately, a fleet of golf carts is continually dispatched to ferry guests back and forth. Problem solved!

And what a location! The resort backs up to spectacular Boynton Canyon and even has its own walk-in entrance to the trail.

Road-weary and still a bit rattled from those witchy switchbacks, we golf-carted up to the informal but excellent Tii Gavo restaurant and kicked back, reveling in the view, a margarita and a few tacos.

What a stunning place to stay! T-shirt shops aside, we became instant fans of Sedona.

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Really, Truly, So Incredibly Grand!

We’d probably gazed at it a dozen times from 33,000 feet above, each time with a firm declaration that “next year we have to go visit”. Decades later we still had not been to the Grand Canyon.

If there was a lesson to be learned from the COVID years, (well, there were many but let’s just stick with this one) it was the carpe diem imperative. Better get going and get seeing before age, infirmity or a little bit of friendly government totalitarianism shuts everything down.

And so, we departed Prescott for Grand Canyon Village. The scenery was winter bleached, and it was hard to believe anything really worth looking at was up ahead.

Unbeknownst to us, there had been a massive snow storm a few days prior. We had just missed having our trip curtailed or canceled due to closed roads:

When I’d begun contemplating the trip almost a year before, I became intrigued when I looked at the web site for the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon and saw that a particular suite was available exactly and only one night in March of 2023. Well, I thought, since we won’t be riding mules or river rafting, 24 hours should be a long enough stay to look at a giant hole in the ground, right?

So I booked the El Tovar suite, wondering what it was that made it so desirable.

Not its decor, as it turns out. I guess I would call it “early rustic” or “barely 20th century austere”. The hotel opened in 1905 and it, um, definitely looks like it. “Don’t change a thing!” said someone in charge, apparently.

However, there is definitely something about Room 6492 that should never be changed:

Yes, it was cold, bleak and windy, but just out the door of our room was that enormous patio (imagine the party you could have there on a summer’s eve!) and a private view of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Amazing! If you want to book it, you’ll have to work at least a year or eighteen months ahead.

Since the walkway below was largely iced over, we weren’t able to explore as much as we would have liked, but had no complaints about the view!

You can look at all the photos and paintings you want, but there is no substitute for actually beholding the Grand Canyon in its silent expanse. Given the recent blizzard, we were lucky to pretty much have it all to ourselves. Just us and a little snowman enjoying the view…

We had dinner in the El Tovar’s lovely dining room with a view, of course, and awoke next morning to a Grand Canyon sunrise view from our patio.

We enjoyed a cozy breakfast by the fireplace:

And said a reluctant farewell to our view, sharing it with one of the omnipresent ravens that swoop in and out of the Canyon.

Was it worth it? 1,000 per cent! I still flash back on it every single day, not just the picture perfect view but the other-worldly silence and the gift of that infinitesimal comprehension of the eternal. This amazing drop in the bucket list certainly created an awareness of what a tiny drop in the bucket of God’s creation we all really are!

Next week: since we were in the neighborhood…

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