Tuesday, December 30, 2008

White New Year's

To no one's surprise, I'm sure, we had a white Christmas up here. Not only was there good snow on the ground, snow was actually falling on Christmas day. SO pretty.

The snow kept up til Boxing Day, when I went back to work; fortunately my plow guy had been and gone; I'd have been surfing my truck backwards in snow up to the bumper otherwise. The truck on the left has not been shovelled out and is sitting on bare ground under all the snow (this is my "extra" truck, which I should probably find a home for, although it is almost old enough to order its own drinks if I took it to a bar.) The truck on the right is the one I drive; it's not really higher clearance than the other one, it's just sitting up on the snow pack.

Sunday the wind started; it knocked all the pretty snow off the branches and dropped the chill factor into the below-zero range. I tried to take pictures of the pine grosbeaks; it's tough to get a clear focus when the branches are swaying in the breeze. It's also tough with the wind numbing your fingers to the stiff-and-clumsy level and making you shiver so hard your whole body is shaking hard enough to clack your teeth together (hence the imperfect focus, sorry about that.)

Monday driving to work was interesting: all that beautiful snow on the ground, now being driven across the roads. Some places it becomes a low, fast-flowing river across the road, swift and opaque, obliterating all signs of the road itself. There you have to guess where the lanes are, where the shoulders are, where the pavement edges break off into the ditches. Some places it eddies in whirling snow-devil funnels, glittering and brilliant in the headlights. Some places it is flung thick and hard into the air, giant billowing sails of it, now hiding the oncoming traffic from view, now drawing aside its curtain of sparkling white to reveal the headlights in the other lane. Some places your best hope of avoiding a crash is to follow the red glow of the tail lights on the vehicle ahead of you. Some places you can't see beyond your own hood, let alone to the tail lights ahead of you.

For fun, in the places where the wind hits hard, driving the snow up to hiss and scour like sand against your windows, it also grabs your truck and bounces it around, tugging it fitfully toward the ditches and rocking it on its suspension.

Kind of makes you happy to get to work, you know?

The wind is gone now, but it's a good 25 degrees colder than normal for the time of year. One of my clients reported - as I was standing on tip-toes in the icy parking lot, trying to reach high enough up into his dog boxes to vaccinate his sled dogs - that he had 39 degrees (F) below zero at his house this morning. I feel like a piker: I had a balmy six degrees. (I even plugged my truck in last night. What a wimp.)
It looks like it will be cold and clear at the turn of the year; all the better to view the planetary conjunction that I hear will be occurring that afternoon (or night, I presume, for people in the lower 48). I'm on call New Year's Day, so I plan to have a quiet New Year's Eve at home, stuffing diazepam in to my dogs; two of them, plus the BFs' dog, have fireworks phobias, and we always have a lot of those on New Year's Eve. We kinda get screwed on the July 4th fireworks, as it isn't really dark enough to enjoy them, so people go nuts at New Year's. I live on a lake, so every last echo rolls across the ice to the waiting ears of my pooches. On the plus side, I get a great show (for free), and the one dog who isn't troubled by the noise runs from window to window looking for the best display.

All things considered, it's unlikley to be a restful night, even with a diazepam assist for the dogs; people are likely to go even crazier than usual, since it's the 50th anniversary of Alaska's Statehood. We're unlikely to get to sleep before one in the morning, if we're lucky. The next morning, we'll be trying to sleep in (calls permitting); it's likely to be a bit cold for skiing, and besides, I have to stay within striking distance of my truck for the on-call duties. We usually get to sleep in at least a little on New Year's; the people who stay in have been watching their dogs and keeping them home, for the most part and don't need me; the people who went out and partied, on the other hand, are all hung-over or tired and hence sleeping in. If all goes well - and no one needs my help - we'll be cozying up in our little house, tying to stay warm and wishing everyone all good blessings in 2009.


KansasBrendan said...

Doc, your blog is fantastic. Would you deign to post your blogs also at our Web site, dvm360.com? My name's Brendan Howard, and I'm senior editor at Veterinary Economics down in Kansas in the Lower 48. bhoward-at-advanstar.com.

AKDD said...

Thank you! That is VERY flattering, I must say, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I'll email you shortly. :)

Holly said...

right now I don't have any noise or thunder phobic dogs (have in the past tho), but I have a cyber friend who trained her phobic dogs to look forward to thunder storms (she lived in TN (?) I think....anyway. She used to break out her My Dog Can Do That game during thunder storms and play with her dogs. I thought that was pretty creative as the dog started to hear thunder and fireworks and run to find her so they could play the game.

AKDD said...

That's a good idea, actually, and one I've used to *some* effect in Finn. Kenzie was trained in puppyhood not to fear fireworks or gunshots (which sound similar), but she's a Westie and has different ideas about these things. There is a genetic predisposition in some Border collies toward noise phobias (the genetics of which are being investigated by a group in CA); Finn is (and always has been) anxious about any loud noise, to the point where he sometimes can't focus on the games. Even though he was trained in puppyhood, he was not as repsonsive as Kenzie, perhaps due to the genetics. The other two dogs I "inherited" as adults (although one is not actually mine) so while I am chipping away at this, they have established patterns I am having to undo. They're better than they used to be, but we still have work to do.

By ALL means, I encourage people to train their dogs out of phobic behavior, rather than just medicating; I chose the meds I did because it allows them to calm down enough to focus on the games instead of being so freaked out they can't think. I don't think I'll ever completely cure Pepper of this, but the others I have hopes of. IMO training about noise phobias is best started in puppyhood, when their little brains are still very plastic, but it's never too late to try to help!

FullTilt said...

Really enjoy your blog site as I am one of those people that wished they had become a veterinarian. I have bird dogs and walking horses and enjoy performance animals and veterinarian sports medicine. My son is interviewing at 5 vet schools over the coming months for a seat in the class of 2013. I'm living vicariously through him. As to performance animals, I am a huge Iditarod fan and would love to hear any of your sled dog encounters.

Holly said...

"rather than just medicating"

oops, I should have said that in the beginning it was a combo of meds and training. Her dog would injure itself if unmedicated so the meds were *essential* to treatment. She eventually did get the dog off the meds and past the phobia but the dog was young...one-ish, when she began the training so she also had a span of time to work with.

I am not surprised in the least to hear that one of the breeds prone to this is BC. I would bet due to their high level of environmental awareness that it would/could be a genetic trait. The one dog I had was a tri Corgi, poor little guy would try to get to the bathroom behind the pipes but if that didn't work a corner fenced in by my legs was a second option. Training didn't help him a lot, but he had a limited ability to learn things too.

I think too many owners reject the meds too quickly when treating things like SA, noise issues and such. I *really* think that the meds in conjunction with training and desensing is the way to go.

I think Karen Overall had a couple of good articles in the DVM mag a few years ago about how much better dogs coped when the training was in conjunction with meds.

MaskedMan said...

Fortunately, Suka appears more-or-less OK with noise - She barks at strange noises, doesn't run from loud ones. Plus, it's pretty cold here - 18(f) and a strong wind blowing; I doubt there'll be too many yahoos out tonight, though I do anticipate a few random shots from the next street over. Some idjiit over there can't seem to resist capping off a magazine.

I envy the snow, but not the near white-out conditions.

AKDD said...

Full Tilt, best of luck to your son! I'll cross my fingers for his admission. Where is he applying? And, glad you enjoy the blog! I'll see if I can sneak in a few Iditarod (or other dog racing) stories here and there.... and I'm sure if you read comments here you'll run across my brother, Masked Man, a rabid Lance Mackey fan and Idtarod commentator extrordinaire.

Holly, I have to agree that with dogs who are too stressed to learn, meds can be the best way - sometimes the ONLY way - to have a shot at solving the problem.

MM - you rat BAS#&RD! Our HIGH was sixteen below zero (F) today! I'm getting out my propane heater just in self defense!

FullTilt said...


He applied at Missouri, Kansas State, Auburn, Univ of TN, and Mississippi State. So far we have 3 interviews scheduled...Auburn and TN don't schedule until late Feb/March. Going to Missouri next week, then KState two weeks later, MSU mid Feb. Why on earth those folks in the midwest schedule interviews in the dead of winter is beyond me but it seems anyone wanting to be a vet must exhibit the ability to endure years of nonsensical routines, internships, shadowing to be really considered for school and, once accepted, be officially punished.
He was shadowing some equine vets over the Xmas break with long days of riding here and yon doing lameness evaluations. Apparently it was a big week of fox hunting.
I like the Mackey vs King Iditarod matchup...miss Doug Swingley. Can't wait till March especially with the new tracking devices they are using.

MaskedMan said...

Rat Bastich, one each - That's me! :-D

Do recall that we're not even remotely habituated to that kind of cold. Well, OK, I've got some experience with it, but generally we see sub-zero temps no more often than once ever two or three years. So mid-teens with a strong wind is enough to shut down the yahoos and idjiits. Oh, there were a few teen girls running about and shrieking at midnight, but nothing more exciting than that; Even the midnight shooter stayed in.

So, how was the display..?

AKDD said...

MM - as it was 32 below here last night and is looking unlikely to break negative ten today for a high, I will have to limit my sympathy to saying, "Gee, sorry it's so cold for you southerners right now"... as I go shivering to put on another sweater....

FT, I think the interviews go when they do becuase the selection process is so stringent and meticulous. It takes a long time to sort through all the highly-qualified applicants, and once they do, they have to get the interviews in before they make their final decision. So they typically cram them in in Jan/Feb/Mar, so that they can notify applicants of acceptance, and then (if any decline to attend and they find themselves below full class complement) they can go to their waiting list and tag in alternates.

Or else it's just sadism. :D

Barb said...

I hope you had a (reasonably) peaceful night!

I've always wanted to live in snow country, but I think an Alaskan winter would put me WAY out of my depth!! But it is beautiful, and I would imagine that there is also some satisfaction in being so - I guess resilient is the word I'm looking for? Also capable, tough and with good survival instincts :-)

I am going to bookmark this post to read again and look at all your beautiful photos next summer when it's 110. It just may help make me feel a bit cooler :-)

AKDD said...

Barb, it wasn't too bad, although Finn did suffer some drunken wobbling from his meds. It was rather dear. Poor little man. At least he wasn't having a heart attack from the noise.

Glad you like the photos! Of course, it's been 30 below zero here for several nights now, so we're getting a bit less enchanted with cold weather lately. It's been days since it's been warmer than 20below even in the daytime at my house. The plus side is that if it warms up to zero we'll all be outside in shorts and t-shirts playing golf and what have you, thinking it's a heat wave! :D