My dog: I still feel his presence


I know people mourn the death of their dogs. I have felt sad for my friends when their dog died, and I have consoled them. But I never realized how much a dog becomes part of your subconscious, of your very being, until my dog King was gone.

 I never realized that when I thought of food, I thought of King at the same time. Slicing a carrot meant sharing a carrot. Slicing a peach meant sharing a peach. Any noise I made in the kitchen would bring him to my side. He may not come when called, but he was right there when the refrigerator door opened. I knew he would be there without even thinking about it. I am still expecting him.

I went to the supermarket last night and made choices based on King’s likes and dislikes, and on what is healthy for him. He loved apples but wasn’t as interested in bananas. So, I bought more apples. I bought meat for meatloaf. I imagined his doggy smile as I prepared to make it. I felt his presence on the floor next to me at the dinner table as we ate the meatloaf. In my head, he was still ready for anything that fell from the table. I felt him. Only, he wasn’t there. I found myself beginning to use my knife to create a small pile of left-overs for him.

In recent days, I began to order meals in restaurants according to what kind of left-overs I could bring King. I used to avoid fried foods or those with heavy sauces. Dried fruits are poisonous to dogs so I couldn’t order dishes with those.

I never realized how much I thought about him when I made plans for each day. I realized yesterday that I didn’t have to rush home from the airport. I didn’t have to get to the kennel before it closed.  He won’t be there. He won’t settle at the top of the stairs to keep an eye on the front door and on me, upstairs rushing around. Yet, as I climb my stairs inside my condo, I expect to see him sitting there. The landing is uncomfortably vacant and I see the strands of carpet he snagged. Today, sitting at my desk, I still expect his nose to nudge my elbow.

This morning I waited for him to wake me up so we could go on our morning walk. I had just awakened from a dream he was in. Then, I remembered he wasn’t there. I never realized how much I depended on his presence in my home, how I waited in bed at night for him to sneak into the bedroom and into his bed when he thought I was asleep. An odd noise never worried me because he would protect me. Now, I hear a noise and have to remind myself that he is not close by, that the noise isn’t him, that it might be something I have to think about, respond to.

I never realized how many of my daily routines were created around him, until he was gone. I had to walk no later than 7 in the morning. Dinner had to be somewhere around 5 p.m. If it wasn’t, I still had to schedule King’s dinner. If I had an event or meeting that kept me away from home, I had to put it in my calendar and arrange for a dog walker. My days have been broken up into five-hour increments. That’s how long I would allow him to go without a walk. Those thoughts are so part of my subconscious that it is as if I have lost the structure of my daily life. If he were here right now, he would not have let me write through lunchtime. He never forgot a meal.

I heard on the weather report this morning that there may be thunder tonight. The first thing I thought of was how frightened King will be. If there is lightning in the night, he always wakes me about 20 minutes ahead. How did he know? I had to remind myself this morning that I didn’t have to worry about him.

I never realized how much happiness it gave me when he was happy, how much I looked for that doggy smile on his face. I felt so happy when we walked on the beach and spotted a large dog ahead because I knew his favorite thing to do was to say hello to another big dog.




Could your prescription medicine be making you depressed?


Definition of depression: Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. – American Psychiatric Association.

The recent  suicides of two Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have once again brought  depression into the limelight.

Statistics  about suicide are staggering.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,  around 123 people kill themselves every day in our country. I’d rather not go into how people do it. You can look that up yourself.

About 123 people kill themselves every day in the United States

There is an undeniable link between suicide and depression, according to American Association of Suicidology.  So many of us know a family who lost a loved one to suicide. Many of us are that family. It is awful. Not only do you lose someone you love, but you suffer the guilt of not stopping it, of not recognizing the symptoms, and you imagine the pain that was so intolerable, that they could not see any reason to live.

A shocking medical study released June 12 revealed that many  common prescription medications can cause depression as a side effect.  The study was released by the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported on by NPR. I have attached links to both articles for your convenience. However, you will have to pay for the entire JAMA article, if you are interested in reading it.

I am writing about this to bring it to your attention. If you are feeling seriously depressed, or even just plain sad, check the side effects of your medications. If you find ‘depression’ is listed, please contact your doctor.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. If you are uncomfortable talking to your doctor, you can reach out to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or on an online chat at

This is a free and confidential service.




When your dog dies

King lives on the beach and rests in my heart

When your dog dies and you scream inside

 You may miss the signs that your dog is nearing the end of his life.

You take him to the vet for his annual visit and she comments that he is getting older and may need pain medicine one day. Big dogs have hip problems, she says. He is already 11.  She talks you into an x-ray. There are signs of serious arthritis in his back and both hips.

A trip back to the vet means that you buy a special HelpMeUp halter to help him when he negotiates the stairs. You also get a prescription for Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory for dogs. He only needs to take it once a day, and he seems to have more energy.

He is getting older. He doesn’t pull as hard on the leash, and if you pull him, he loses his balance. It hurts you to see he is losing his strength. Still at 87 pounds, he is a big, proud, and regal dog.

He turns 12. You start to worry that you may lose him, but you know he looks as good as ever. The two of you still walk four miles a day, two in the morning and two in evening.

Then you break your ankle and the two of you stop doing your walks He won’t walk with anyone but you, and stubbornly stays by your side as you recuperate. He sleeps on the floor next to the bed. His hips are no longer strong enough for him to jump on the bed. When did that happen?

You get better and start walking him again, but notice that he no longer can walk several miles. He turns back earlier than he used to. He walks slowly. You are determined to build his strength back, and he is now 12 ½.  A friend notices that he seems to be limping. You hadn’t noticed. You called the vet and she said to give him two Rimadyl a day.

Then, he falls down the stairs. You saw him through the window when you were unlocking the front door. You stood helpless. What did you miss? His back legs are no longer dependable. You start using the HelpMeUp halter daily. He falls on the stairs again, trips himself on the leash.

The vet gives you another medication to go along with the Rimadyl. Gabapentin – now he is taking 6 pills as day.  You notice he seems spacy and confused, but the limp disappears. His legs seem stronger.  But he’s up in the night, panting, pacing. You know there is something else wrong.

The vet diagnoses a rare heart condition, and advises you to stop the Gabapentin, and instead to use Tramadol at night.  You research it to find out that it is a narcotic. You are afraid.  He wakes up panting, licking his lips.

You wait a few days and then decide you will give him the Tramadol. But he still wakes up, and one day he looks at you with a faraway gaze, and can barely get himself up when he is lying down. You take him to the pet store and he falls again. You help him up, put him in the car, and take him to the beach, his favorite place. But he won’t get out of the car. He looks out at the scrub where he knows rabbits live, but won’t get out of the car.

You know the end is near but you don’t want to believe it. He looks at you with such trust in his eyes. He still loves food. The next morning, he is livelier, and agrees to take a walk in the neighborhood.  But when he lies down in the house, he struggles to stand up.  His back legs buckle. You have to help him.

You take him to the vet to be euthanized. He collapses on the blanket provided. He doesn’t try to get out of the room, as if he knows.  You pet him and talk to him and the vet injects him with something that kills him. You watch him die and scream inside.

Later, you ask yourself, “What if I had tried something else? Another medication?”

You doubt your decision and glaze at his beautiful photographs.   You see him in every room. You cry uncontrollably, and wish he was still beside you, lying next to your desk or on the porch. Barking for a treat.


Staying Active: Keeping Purpose in Our Lives

How do career-minded people define their lives and remain alert and engaged after retiring from a demanding, all-consuming, full-time job?

I have been thinking about that question throughout 2017 following my retirement from a writing and marketing career. I have looked around to see what people in their 60s and 70s are doing, people who have left high-powered jobs and people who have left tedious ones.  I have talked to my baby-boomer peers and discovered that this question is and has been on the minds of most of them at some point. Whether they left jobs because they wanted to, or because they were downsized, it doesn’t seem to matter.

What does a career-type do when the career is over?

I am inspired after reading an article about David Harry Stewart, known as ‘the age disrupter,’ and want to share the article with you.  The article is Disrupting the Concept of Aging 

If you did not read it yet, his message (my interpretation) is that we have to energy ourselves, find a purpose and keep ourselves healthy and active while we are doing it.   Two lines out of Stewart’s comments: “To move is to live,” and “to retire is to die.”

Retirees have to find a meaning in our lives. The first thing to do it not to describe oneself as ‘a retiree!!’

Haven’t we heard the stories about people who get sick and die within a few years of retirement? I’m sure the reasons are far more complicated than what we might find in a google search. Maybe people were already sick. Or, maybe, once they gave up a stressful job, they relaxed  and ate and/or drank too much. How often have  you seen people who have gained tons of weight after they retired?  How many of them are on a handful of pills for heart, high blood pressure and painful joints taken daily? We know that a lack of exercise and over eating can lead to all kinds of diseases.

Look out the window and see the sky.  Think about what you enjoy, what you would like to do to help others.  You can find volunteer work, or a job doing something you’d never thought you’d do. You can find your creative side with art classes. You can learn about plants and dig a garden. Those of us who live in Coastal Delaware because every activity one can think of is documented in the Cape Gazette newspaper.

No matter what, get into a regular exercise program, doing whatever you are physically able to do.

The possibilities are limitless.



Sussex County, Delaware, to get its first mental health acute care hospital in the summer of 2018

  • Primary focus is mental illness with detox and substance use services also addressed

  • Healthcare professionals are being recruited

SUN Behavioral Delaware, soon to be southern Delaware’s first mental health acute hospital, is under construction in Georgetown and on schedule to open in August, 2018.


SUN Behavioral Delaware is under construction in Georgetown

Its opening will represent the first time that Sussex County residents have a local, inpatient facility focused solely on mental health and substance abuse.  Anyone in Sussex County who has dealt with mental health or substance-abuse issues knows how important it is to have a hospital nearby, especially when a loved one needs care and has to be admitted.

“Sussex County has a population of more than 200,000, is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, and yet, has no inpatient psychiatric hospital beds,” said SUN President and CEO Steve Page.

SUN officials broke ground in November, 2016, and were flanked by several state, local, and healthcare leaders who welcome the arrival of the new hospital. The construction of the 90-bed facility is already recognizable near the intersection of routes 113 and 404 where other healthcare facilities are located. When complete, it will be two stories tall, and cover 93,000 square feet. Services will include inpatient mental health care, detoxification, and tiered outpatient services. Acute, inpatient hospitalization will be utilized to maximize patient stabilization and will include psychiatric and medical care, clinical services, group therapy, family therapy and ancillary treatment modalities. When the patient no longer needs inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient services may be utilized to assist with the need for continuum of care.

CEO Steve Page said recently that SUN is in the process of recruiting healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists and social workers, to be employed or affiliated with the new facility. It will open with a team of roughly 70 clinicians and trained individuals. Eventually, it will employ over 150 people.

SUN Behavioral Delaware will offer specialty programs for adolescents, adults and seniors. Page explained that SUN clinicians will be reaching out to local nursing homes to work with them to help their older patients who have depression and other behavioral health issues.

“We have spent some time speaking with local health providers to determine the existing need for behavioral services. Our goal is to add services that complement what exists,” he said.

SUN clinicians also will be collaborating with local hospitals. While hospital emergency departments treat patients suffering from emergency and life-threatening medical issues, SUN will provide acute behavioral and detox care once the patient’s medical situation has stabilized.  SUN will be open around the clock daily to provide mental health assessments and referral services. SUN will strive to contract with all third-party payors, including most private insurances as well as Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

SUN is a private operator of freestanding psychiatric hospitals, according to one of its investors LLR Partners.  In 2016, it opened a 148-bed behavioral health hospital in Houston, Texas.  It also operates a behavioral health hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and is building another in Erlanger, Kentucky, which is in the greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area.

Page, who had seven years of experience developing and operating psychiatric hospitals before establishing SUN, candidly explained that the mental health issues in our country today inspired him to be involved in establishing a behavioral health company that provides acute care, and outpatient services.

“Every one of us is touched by mental illness, and substance abuse,” he said. “One in five people in the United States have a diagnosable mental illness; so, I’m not unique in that people close to me also have been touched.”

Page was Chief Financial Officer for Ascend Health Corp before it was acquired by Universal Health Services in 2012. He has an MBA from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

More information can be found about SUN Behavioral by visiting the website:

More than 40 million Americans, or 1 in 5, suffer from a mental illness, and more than half have no access to mental health care, according to Mental Health America, a nonprofit established in 1909.   The nation’s opioid epidemic has exacerbated the problem.  More than 33,000 people in the United States died of an overdose in 2015, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Delaware Health and Social Services estimates that so far this year 187 people have died from drug overdose in Delaware.

The National Institute for Mental Health (part of the National Institutes of Health), provides free information to the public. Information can be accessed on the website at:

Delawareans also can learn more about mental health services in the state by contacting the Department of Health and Social Services at 800-223-9074.


It’s time to get rid of the left-over pills in your medicine cabinet

When you are done with any pills you have, please deposit them with a drug take-back program

You probably have some extra pills in your bathroom – leftovers from when you were sick, or even from when your pet was sick.

Please don’t give into the temptation to throw them into the garage or down the toilet.

Drugs contaminate our ground water.   Or, if they are lying around in your home, they could inadvertently be consumed by a pet, a child, or I hate to say it, but someone with a drug problem.

The best thing to do is to hand them in through one of the drug take-back programs.

A national, drug take-back program is coming up on Saturday, October 28.   The program is anonymous. All you have to do is have the pills in packaging, whether in a plastic bag or original containers.  No one will ask you any questions.

Collection points are conveniently located, and probably relatively near where you live.

Delaware Health and Social Services has a list posted of all the places you can drop them off.

For those of you who do not live in Delaware, the  Drug Enforcement Division of the U.S. Department of Justice also can steer you to a drop-off location. Please visit this website.;jsessionid=6A58548F36F204F13BAC829143FB3FD6?_flowExecutionKey=_c74FE92DD-AF1D-0A82-0F51-25633B6AE236_k939AE86F-4326-B272-F36C-FC7B68245ED8

I will thank you in advance for participating in this collection.

Cancer and Talcum Powder

I have seen attorney ads on TV telling me that if someone in my family died of ovarian cancer and had used talcum powder in her underwear (in the vicinity of), that I may be able to sue for a lot of money.

I have used powder after a shower or a bath. It makes me feel fresh and wonderful, especially when it is hot and humid on a summer’s day.  My mother always covered her body in powder after a shower. White fell everywhere in the bathroom.  The room smelled like flowers and I had to be careful or I tracked powder down the hallway. My mother  died of heart failure (Was there any connection between powder and heart failure?).

The ad struck me as one encouraging us to  go after deep pockets – you know, like falling at a restaurant and suing the restaurant.  With no universal health insurance, someone has to pay.  It’s the American way. My friend got a mountain cabin, paid for in cash,  thanks to a lawsuit following a car accident.  She was lucky because the car accident wasn’t her fault.  The cabin  definitely helped  how badly she felt.  Families won millions of dollars because a woman in their life died of ovarian cancer and at some point had used powder after a bath.

The ad bothered me. Maybe because I am jealous of my friend with a cabin.  It is beautiful, and worth a fortune now.  I know that jealousy is bad. Maybe because I felt  it is  a stretch to say that powder caused ovarian cancer. How did the powder get all the way up into the ovaries? Was it carried by sperm? A tampon? I know that genetic research is showing that ovarian cancer is hereditary, and that risk increases with age, obesity, diet, if and at what age the woman had children, and use of hormone therapies.

Then, in the last few days, I’ve noticed that judges are tossing out huge settlements against Johnson &Johnson for J&J talcum powder causing ovarian cancer.

The American Cancer Society  has come out with a statement on the connection between talc and cancer.  Please read it carefully.  I am not sure what it says, except that if you are worried, don’t use talcum powder in your underpants or on a menstrual pad.  I think it is still safe under your arms and on your breasts and abdomen. Or, stick to powders made of corn starch. That hasn’t been connected to cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I have received a message from Delaware Department of Health and Social Services about Breast Cancer Awareness. According to the CDC, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. And, your risk increases with age.  All women over 40 should get annual mammograms. Younger women who are at risk will need them earlier so please consult a physician.

I have copied and pasted the Delaware message below.

“Most females who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease. Some females who develop breast cancer have no apparent risk factors other than being a female and growing older. Even when a woman with one or more risk factors develops breast cancer, it is difficult to know how much these factors might have contributed to the development of the disease. [1]

The following are lifestyle risk factors, which a woman can modify to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Alcohol use (two to five drinks daily)
  • Obesity or overweight status, especially after menopause
  • Reproductive history (breast cancer risk increases among females who have never had children or who had their first child after age 30)
  • High-fat diet, low intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke.

There are also nonmodifiable risk factors (these cannot be changed). Some of these risk factors are listed below:

  • Gender
  • Increasing age – Only one out of eight invasive breast cancers is diagnosed in females under 45; two-thirds of invasive breast cancers are in females 55 and older.
  • Family history – Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer doubles a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer; having two first-degree relatives triples the risk.
  • Gene defects or mutations – Five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases may result from gene defects or mutations inherited from a parent. The most common inherited mutation is the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, found mostly in Jewish females of eastern European origin.
  • Dense breast tissue is thought to increase risk because it makes it more difficult to detect potential problems on mammograms.

To protect against breast cancer, individuals should maintain a healthy weight; consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; limit calcium intake; and engage in regular physical activity.

Get screened.
It’s no secret that screenings save lives. A mammogram can detect breast cancer early, at a more treatable stage. Become familiar with when and how often you should be screened. And encourage others to do the same.

Women 40 and older should have a mammogram annually. 
Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel, and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Females with an increased risk for breast cancer should discuss with their health care provider the benefits and limitations of beginning mammograms when they are younger, having additional tests, and/or having more frequent exams.

Schedule a screening today. 
Talk with your health care provider. Whether or not you have insurance, a nurse navigator can schedule a cancer screening for you. If you’re uninsured or underinsured, Delaware’s Screening for Life program makes it possible to get the screenings you need — when you need them. Find out if you’re eligible for a FREE screening.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re already dealing with so much. Our team of Cancer Care Coordinators can help you and your family with resources and information related to your cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. If you’re uninsured, the Delaware Cancer Treatment Program can help pay for the treatment(s) that you need.

[1] Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Delaware, 20092013.”

Dogs can suffer from heart disease

King loves the beach. On a recent beautiful day he waded and then rolled in the sand. Such a happy dog. He doesn’t know he has heart disease

My dog King is old now, heading toward 13. Over the past year he has been walking much slower, as I previously reported. An x-ray of his hips and back showed advanced arthritis. We put him on Rimadyl to help with pain.

His panting worsened, I noticed. Also, he seemed to become more tired, and then he fell down the last few steps in my stairway. So, back to the vet. Because I have written so much about heart disease, I suspected he was having some kind of Afib in the night. His symptoms reminded me of those described by patients  I had interviewed for consumer health articles.  I told the vet of my suspicion and concern that King had developed a heart problem, that is was more than painful hips.

The vet gave him several tests: a chest x-ray, which appeared normal, several blood tests, which also were normal for an old dog, and an EKG. The vet immediately warned me that King’s heart rate was concerning, so slow he almost could not hear it, and so very fast. The EKG was transmitted to an animal cardiologist in Annapolis who gave us the bad news the next day.

King has ‘Sick Sinus Syndrome,‘ a relatively rare electrical problem of the heart that human beings get too. The prognosis is not that great for dogs. The heart goes from beating way too fast to beating hardly at all.  He could go on for a while, who knows how long. Or, he could suddenly drop dead.

People visit a cardiologist and most likely would get a pacemaker and then try and figure out a drug to treat the racing heart. An electrophysiologist (specialized cardiologist) may do a  cardiac ablation to destroy problem tissues in the heart that are sending the errant electrical impulses.

It’s not that easy for King. Considering his advanced age and the serious arthritic damage in his back and both hips, trying to treat a damaged heart isn’t in the cards.  I can’t even imagine the cost. He isn’t covered by Medicare or Blue Cross.

This heart problem in dogs isn’t normally found as early as we found it. From what I understand, a dog with it often just  faints and collapses. The owner will do CPR and think it helped. It didn’t.  It is adrenaline that brings back the dog, not CPR. He either wakes up or dies, on his own. From what I understand, there is no way to prevent this disease. It’s not from eating too much or exercising too little. It’s probably genetic, and something that develops with age.

I thought I would share this story as it is so hard to know what is wrong with our dogs. They can’t tell us where it hurts, or how it feels.  They just depend upon us to make them feel better.


Symptoms of heart disease can be:

Panting for no obvious reason

Tiredness; weakness


Loss of appetite (King never loses interest in food!)


Dog and Cat Owners, Beware!

Counterfeit flea-and-tick  products are on the market.  At best, they don’t work as you expect. At worst, they can harm or poison your pet.

Please see the paper “Made in China” label stuck on the back of the can of Senesto. It’s not supposed to be there.

Since my dog King is nearly 13 years old and no longer plays with other dogs, I decided to try Bayer’s relatively new flea-and-tick collar Seresto. My vet recommended is as one of several options available to protect him from the many diseases (sometimes fatal) that insects spread.  For me, the collar means one less pill for King to absorb. He already takes six pills a day for his arthritis pain and loss of strength in  his back legs. Plus, it is easy to use.

The first Seresto collar I purchased from a local pet store cost around $84. That was last February. It is good for about eight months. Since I am an Amazon Prime member, I decided to see if I could get a discount on the second collar I purchased.

I could.

A seller called “RGALZLLC” was selling the collar, on, for $54.95.

When the canister arrived, I discovered that there was a white label pasted on the back of the canister stating “Made in China.” Otherwise, it looked like the normal Seresto canister.

Bayer is a German company and that a bonafide  Seresto collar is made in Germany, not China. I telephoned Bayer customer service regarding the Seresto product (800-255-6826) and learned that in fact that product is made in Germany and that there are counterfeit products out there and to beware. I have no proof that my product was counterfeit, other than the ‘Made in China’ sticker. I haven’t seen any investigation documents, and don’t know if there are any. I am simply a former daily newspaper reporter and editor, and a concerned, caring, and suspicious animal lover.

I also saw on an eBay chat site that a counterfeit Seresto is showing up there, too. I informed Amazon, but I haven’t heard anything back from them about my suspicion. They did give me a refund, however. And, I noticed today that “RGALZLLC” no longer seems to be a seller of the Seresto collar on Amazon.  Again, I am sharing with all pet owners what happened to me.  I have no proof that this seller was dealing in counterfeit material.

My advice here is to be careful about the products you buy, and that if a paper “Made in XXX” label is stuck on the back of any food or pesticide product, check it out with the manufacturer.  While I am not saying pesticide products are inherently safe, the ones I want to buy to protect my pet from the diseases carried by insects should have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before I purchase it.

Check out the EPA’s warning on counterfeit pesticide products. The site has lots of information and lists some things to look for when suspicious of a counterfeit product:

Check out Bayer’s own warnings on fraudulent brands:

Kings uses the Seresto flea-and-tick collar. We bought the real one at the local pet store.








Wilson, my previous dog, is pictured on Twitter. She was a ‘party’ Portuguese Water Dog.  I lost her in a divorce a few years ago.