Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homemade Graham Crackers (and the Camping Trip That Didn't Happen)

Longtime readers of TIV will know that we usually go camping at least once every summer. We were slated to spend this weekend at Pinery Provincial Park with our friends and so I've spent the last few weeks stocking up on delicious vegan treats. Obviously, Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallows were the first thing I bought, because what is camping without smores?

While the marshmallow component of traditional smores is the most obviously unvegan thing, it is the graham cracker that often poses the bigger dilemma. I can name off a handful of stores in my area that carry vegan marshmallows now, but graham crackers without honey? Not one.

Some of my Twitter friends pointed out the obvious to me - why not make my own? So that's what I did, using this totally easy recipe from The PPK. Done in less than a half hour (prep time included) and so delicious, they were baked Thursday afternoon and ready to go for our Friday departure.

On Thursday night, however, we got some bad news.

Here in southern Ontario it has been unbearably hot without pause. Day after day of record-breaking temperatures; humidity pushing the mercury well into the 40Cs.

Our five-year-old cairn terrier-poodle mix, Dora, hadn't been eating much all week and was somewhat lethargic although she'd still play with us if we encouraged her and her personality generally remained unchanged. This is not entirely uncharacteristic of her in summer - she's a furry little thing that gets hot easily and a few summers ago she behaved the same way during a particularly brutal heatwave. When the weather returned to normal, so did she. We didn't think much of it until she stopped eating completely Wednesday night and by Thursday we noticed her breathing becoming a little more laboured. Again we thought it was the heat, so we cranked the AC and gave the vet a call.

It was there that we found out that she was extremely anemic, her red blood cell count dangerously low and her white blood cell count off the charts and the vet had absolutely no answers as to why it was happening. At the time it could have been any number of things. It could have been a parasite (i.e. she was bitten by a tick), she could have had internal bleeding, or ate something toxic, or it could have been a tumor or cancer or pretty much any kind of disease/ailment/injury that could explain why her immune system was essentially destroying her. The vet told us it was critical and that a blood transfusion may have to be a reality.

So instead of going camping on Friday we stayed with our pup while they ran a battery of tests - xrays, ultrasounds and bloodwork looking for some answers. And there were none. No cancer or tumours. No signs of internal bleeding or infection. No parasites of any kind. But her red blood cell count continued to drop and her anemia continued to worsen.

By Friday afternoon, they were confident in diagnosing our Dora with Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia, a doggy disease in which the immune system attacks the body for no apparent reason at all. An unfortunately not all that uncommon illness in dogs that they don't really know the origins of. It often comes straight out of nowhere. Middle-age female dogs are the most likely victims and poodles are one of the predisposed breeds. The most unfortunate part of AIHA is that it takes time to diagnose. Diagnosis is a costly and lengthy process of elimination - it occurs by confirming that there is no other diseases or infections in the body prompting the immune system. That kind of battery testing takes time that many pups don't have because by the time symptoms are severe enough to be noticeable, the anemia has progressed to irreversible stages and you cannot treat it via suppressing the immune system unless you are absolutely certain it isn't an infection or disease sending the white blood cells into overdrive.

We are very, very lucky that we trusted our instincts and took Dora in when we did. Had we chalked it up to the heat and sent her off to the kennel for the weekend like we were supposed to, it is uncertain whether she would have survived.

Because of the official diagnosis, our vet was able to prescribe an immune suppressant on Friday and on Saturday morning, Dora's red blood cell count was up two points. It is a small victory, but after being blind-sided by two emotionally exhausting days with very little certainty, we are celebrating any and all positive news. She remains in the critical stage, but her spirits have improved, as has her appetite, and we are hoping for even more gains at her next blood test tomorrow.

This is likely a disease that will have to be managed indefinitely, but we are hopeful that her quality of life won't be impaired. The next couple days are crucial and the next month or so she will have to be very carefully watched, denied interaction with other pups and be relegated to our house and backyard, until she can taper off of the immune-suppressants and resume normal functioning.

I just wanted to take a minute to thank all of you who sent well wishes via Twitter, and I apologize for the delay in responding to blog-related emails and messages this weekend. But I knew that if anyone would understand the relationship between a human and a companion animal, it would be a vegan or vegan-curious person.

So, we spent a quiet weekend at home with our Dora, watching TV and eating the junk food deliciousness we bought for our camping trip.

And so I present to you a microwave smore - obviously not of the same caliber as a campfire smore, but something that will do in a pinch.

13 comments: said...

Awww, your dog's so cute! I'm really glad she'll be okay - I was holding my breath whilst reading through your post.

I've never had a s'more, I'm hoping to have one when I go on the PPK camping trip at the beginning of August.

Adventures in Veg said...

Sending good thoughts you & Dora's way xx

Holly said...

Eating Well Organicly in Uptown Waterloo is selling Sweet & Sara graham crackers.

Kristen said...

Hope Dora gets better soon!

Niki said...

I can't imagine what the past couple of days have been like for you guys - I'm sorry you're going through this, but I'm so happy to read that things are slowly looking up for Dora. Sending good vibes to you all. xoxo

Ainsley Drew said...

Good luck. I'm rooting for you guys. Dora looks like a fighter! Sending you guys lots of caring thoughts, and thank you for those delicious at-home s'mores...

Mary said...

Brighton - Thanks so much. She's not out of the woods yet but she is showing a lot of positive gains. And yes, if you are going camping smores are an absolute must! I'd never had them as a kid (or even before I went vegan), can't believe what I was missing :)

Adventures - Thanks so much

Holly - what a great tip, thanks so much! I haven't been there in a few weeks and last time I was there I didn't see any. I'll have to go back sometime soon!

Kristen - thank you!

Niki - Thank you so much :)

Ainsley - thanks so much for your kind words! She's not out of the woods yet but is showing some great gains. :)

oldschoolsoul said...


I came across the story of your dog and I would love to share the story of my dog Leo. He was a small little 12lb Yorkie that was more closely related to a lion then a small dog. I had him for 12.5 years.

Last year I had noticed he had some small lumps behind his knees and throat. I took him in and after months of testing telling us it could have been a bunch of things it turned out to be lymphoma. They told me he only had 4-6 WEEKS to live.

I definitely wasn't ready to say good bye after having him from when I was 13 years old. The doctors offered a painful viatmin C shot to which I opted out of and went straight to my homeopathic doctor. Seeming I had such a small amount of time I didn't want to go through anything invasive/painful with him.

I did a ton of research and I found that a book called Herbs for Dogs ( I can't remember the author). Along with a TON of information on the internet regarding canine health and diet were all extremely useful.

With the help of homeopathic meds, along with my crazy herbal regimen Leo improved dramatically and I even took him off kibble and made him a special diet with chicken and veggies. My little man lived for a whole 10 MONTHS longer than what the doctors said.

I now have 2 wonderful dogs that eat purely biologically appropriate dog food. Nothing is processed and we get it all from small farms. I hope this story inspires you with your little pooch.

Sara Summers

oldschoolsoul said...

Another awesome book to look at is the Natural Dog by dr. Khalsa.

Mary said...

oldschoolsoul - thanks so much for the references. I have been researching canine alternative medicine extensively since the onset of Dora's illness and I am always looking for new resources. Currently I'm looking into ways to protect her organs while she undergoes such strong medication and I know that food is the way to do it.

So sorry to hear about Leo :(

Bliss Doubt said...

I'm so sorry little Dora is suffering. I remember when I first found your blog, ugly christmas 2009, with (not ugly) Dora in her sweater.

Songcatcher Siren said...

Going back through some of your older posts. I hope Dora is well & is recovering. She looks so cute! What a tough thing to go through - its so hard when they can't TELL you when something is wrong. Good for you for being so observant.

Christine said...

Hi Mary,

My little chi-mix Daffy had the same blood disorder earlier this year. It was so horrible to see her get so weak and be at the hospital all alone. Thankfully after one transfusion and a couple months of steroid treatment she is back to a healthy blood count. I hope the same for your little baby!

Best wishes to you and Dora.

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