With apologies to anyone who may have been checking on this blog over the last year plus and wondering where the heck we had gone, I should have written this post a long time ago.
I'm pleased to report that the Twosome is just fine! But after Paisley's diagnosis of congestive heart failure and heart valve disease last year, we knew we weren't going to be able to travel the way we had been, which was the main purpose of the blog, to share our adventures with friends and family. We would need to stay closer to a good veterinarian for Paisley, not out in some remote campground (sometimes without cell signal and internet), possibly miles from a vet, without a car.
Additionally, the rear tire blowout we had on I-95 in our motorhome, Pearl, took the wind of out of our sails and made us less interested in driving a large RV around. We also realized that we'd have to replace the other five tires (not a low-cost proposition in a rig of her size) to feel comfortable doing any further traveling, and we just didn't want to sink that much more money into a motorhome if we weren't going to be traveling much in the future.
So, after much discussion and soul-searching, we decided to sell Pearl back to the dealer where we bought her, right down the road from where we'd spent fourteen months while I completed my orthodontia, in Winter Garden RV Resort in Florida. We'd taken great care of her and made a lot of upgrades, so even though they didn't usually take back rigs of her age (eleven years old by then), they were happy to buy her back from us. Of course we could have made a lot more money by selling her privately, but with our time constraints, we really couldn't do that. She was our full-time home, and we needed to live in her until the a couple of days before our next move, so we needed to sell her on a tight deadline, as we donated, gave away, or sold most of our accumulated possessions in the week before the sale. We're getting pretty good at downsizing!
So, we sold Pearl, moved into a local Winter Garden hotel for a couple of days, and two days after getting my braces off (a couple of months behind schedule!) we flew down to Mexico for the winter and beyond. We had a friend in the area and knew there was a good vet there, and I'd already checked with her to make sure Paisley's medications would be available. So we felt fine taking Paisley on the plane trip and then staying put for awhile, at least until she was no longer with us. With her condition, she could last a couple more years or until tomorrow; we never know.
Fortunately, Paisley has done well here in Mexico and is still alive and kicking nearly fifteen months after her initial diagnosis, much to our surprise and delight. And we love it here as well! We are renting an oceanfront place on the Yucatan gulf coast, enjoying our bicycling (but of course!), walks, frequent outings to the wonderful city of Merida, and have reconnected with our friend Shelby, whom we met when we all lived in Belize and also had a chance to get together with when we lived in Playa del Carmen and she lived on the nearby island of Cozumel. We've also met lots of friendly new folks here. The lifestyle is laid back, the cost of living is reasonable, and the climate is warm and balmy -- admittedly often hot and humid, but being used to Florida, not that much of a change for us! We had been waiting for a chance to get back to Mexico, and it just worked out to be the perfect time.
For now, because of Paisley, we're not doing any travel other than day trips. She needs to wear a diaper indoors because of the diuretic she takes, and because of her heart condition cannot undergo anesthesia, so we have to brush her teeth daily to help keep periodontal disease at bay. And she requires several medications and special low-sodium food. Given her care requirements we feel more comfortable not leaving her with anyone or having a dog sitter. We never know how long we'll have her in our lives, so we're enjoying every day she has left -- there will be more time for traveling later.
And so, since we aren't traveling these days, there didn't seem to be much reason to keep up with this blog. For the most part, our life here, while fulfilling, is not particularly blog-worthy, except for the fact that we are based in the Yucatan state of Mexico! Someday, if we start traveling again, we may return to blogging, but for now we're enjoying the break.
Again, I apologize for waiting so long to put this post up and hope no one was worried about us!
Other than the usual interstate traffic, everything was going smoothly as we headed south in our motorhome, Pearl. Barry was driving us on I-95 on our way back to Florida from North Carolina, where we'd spent some time with my (Emily's) mother and step-father and gone to a few medical/dental appointments. We were just thirteen miles north of our campground for the night, in Eulonia, Georgia, where we expect to pull in at about 3:30 pm. Ironically I was even being silly and singing "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round" when it happened.
All of a sudden, the most sickening BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG happened.
I can't even describe how loud it was, but I can still hear it in my mind's ear, if that is a thing. I knew immediately that we'd had a rear-tire blowout. There's just nothing else that sounds quite like that.
Barry did an admirable job of handling Pearl exactly the way all the websites and manuals say to when you have a blowout. Accelerate slightly, stay straight, then very gradually pull off the road and come to a safe stop. It was the inner tire of the passenger-side rear dually pair. We were very fortunate that we were in the right lane when it happened and that there was an extremely wide shoulder on that stretch of highway. In addition to the normal shoulder, there was a wide parking area to the right of the shoulder, for trucks I presume. This area gave us even more room to pull off without being so close to the eighteen wheelers flying by at 70+ mph. It was disconcerting enough even with the space we had as every one that passed us shook our coach. Poor Pearl!
Barry immediately got on the phone to our roadside assistance, and before he even finished talking to the rep, a Georgia 511 highway assistance patrol truck had pulled up behind us to see if he could help. He couldn't, since we didn't have a spare, but it was nice that he stopped.
Minutes after Barry reported the problem, a local tire service, Triple J, pulled up. That was quick! We thought they could change the tire on the side of the highway, but that was not to be. Instead, since we still had one rear wheel on that axle, they instructed us to drive Pearl with them to their shop.
We were pretty nervous driving on the one tire on such a hot day and took it slowly with hazard lights flashing. The rear passenger side is the heaviest side of our coach, where the refrigerator, the generator, and all our food and pantry supplies reside, and tire pressures get pretty high on a long drive when the day is as hot as it was -- around 100F.
We had to drive four miles south on I-95, then five miles west on a side road, to get to the shop. Right as we pulled in, we hit the high-pressure limit on our TPMS (tire-pressure monitoring system) on the remaining rear passenger-side tire), and triggered an alarm. But we were there.
This was not a city tire shop, that's for sure. We were in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
But they had the size tire we needed in stock and wasted no time changing it.
Here's what the old tire looked like. Completely shredded. These tires were only five years old. Most RVers replace tires at the six- or seven-year point, some go even longer.
I mentioned that it was a very hot day. We couldn't run the generator (and thus the air-conditioning) while the technician was changing the tire, as it is located in a bay right near where he was working, so it got pretty warm inside Pearl while Paisley and I were waiting. I took this photo before the inside temperature got up to 91F, which it did. But the outside temperature gauge in an outer bin shows the misery that the technician was working in.
We were on our way pretty quickly, though, and our wallet was only $400 lighter. It could have been worse, I keep saying. We sure do have bad luck in Georgia, though. That's where I had my bike accident and fractured my jaw and thumb in April 2017.
We made it to the campground at 5 pm, only 90 minutes past schedule. I was more than ready for a glass of wine!
Our second day of driving was uneventful, but we were nervous the entire time. Neither of us breathed easy until we were parked up in our spot in Winter Garden.
Unfortunately, after further inspection, there is other collateral damage from the blowout. We lost the mudguard behind that tire, and the aluminum guard that protects the outside bin right above the tire is mangled. The floor of the bin was pushed up, and our inverter, which resided in that bin, seems to be toast. Some of the circuits, including the one that powers both our televisions, were tied into the inverter, so these no longer function. Barry has an extension cord temporarily in use to plug the front TV into the closest functioning AC outlet in the coach. The bedroom TV is still out of commission.
Barry is still assessing the damage, and we'll need to decide whether to make a claim with our insurance or to DIY a fix. Will depend on our deductible and how much needs to be fixed. We may just do without an inverter if he can get the TV outlets functioning again.
In the meantime, we're very thankful that it wasn't any worse than it was. For now we're relieved that we don't have to drive anywhere anytime soon, courtesy of my orthodontia keeping us in this area. While we don't want to be here indefinitely, for the moment, it feels pretty good.
While we were enjoying our week away at Grayton Beach State Park last month, Paisley started having some problems. Mid-week, she started coughing, especially at night, and breathing harder than usual, sometimes noisily. It was worrisome, but since we were away from "home" and without a car, rushing her to a local vet would not have been easy. And she still seemed happy, was eating fine, and enjoying walks around the campground, so it didn't feel quite like an emergency.
My immediate thought was that she might have picked up Kennel Cough (which can linger in places infected dogs have visited for a day or two) or Canine Influenza, both of which cause coughing.
In the back of my mind, though, I worried that it was her heart.
Paisley had her tenth birthday this past Groundhog's Day, and she had been diagnosed with a Grade 3 heart murmur (out of six grades) at her last regular vet appointment in April 2017. Never having a dog with heart issues before, we really didn't know what the implications of that were -- or that it could progress to heart failure. The vet asked if she was coughing, and at that point, she wasn't. But just knowing that she did have a murmur made me worry. Were things progressing?
I realized that unless things changed quickly for the better I would have to find a local vet when we returned to our current home RV park in Winter Garden. Since we've been RVing, we've taken her to a vet in North Carolina, and had only had one other vet emergency in Florida when she was bitten by another dog last fall in a different RV park, suffering a puncture wound in her neck area. In that case, I called a mobile vet, who did a great job patching her up and dispensing medications, and Paisley recovered quickly. But I thought this was possibly too serious for a mobile vet to handle.
I chose a local vet less than 1.5 miles from our RV park and gave them a call as soon as we returned from our trip. They were able to get Paisley in that morning. Since we didn't want her to have to walk that far, we took her in Barry's bike basket, and she did just great!
The vet, Dr. Valentine, couldn't have been nicer or more thorough. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was not what I wanted to hear, but what I feared: Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). This had caused fluid to build up in her lungs, thus the coughing. An x-ray revealed that Paisley's heart was enlarged, and her respiration and heart rate were elevated. On the positive side, the EKG showed no arrhythmia, and she is "only" ten years old, on the younger side for CHF in a small dog. Her complete blood work also revealed no abnormalities. This was excellent news since it means that her liver and kidneys are still in good shape at this point and thus could handle the medication load.
Dr. Valentine gave Paisley oxygen for a bit and administered a diuretic injection to help her rid her body of the excess fluid. She also sent us home with several medications and food. Paisley will need to be on a very low-sodium diet for the rest of her life to keep her blood pressure low. No more jerky treats she loves...sigh! We were to bring her back to the vet the following afternoon for a re-check.
When we got back to Pearl, she was already doing noticeably better. She had stopped coughing and was much calmer. It was obvious that her heart rate and respiration were lower. She was like a different dog at the next day's recheck, calm and yet full of energy. Seeing how she recovered so dramatically on the meds, we realized that she had been slowly declining for awhile,: sleeping more and needing more rest when we took her on walks. We just didn't realize it was her heart condition worsening versus simple aging since it was a gradual process, until our week at the beach.
We had a second vet re-check a week later, and she was doing very well. She really was like a new dog, and Dr. Valentine was pleased. The medications she'll have to be on for the rest of her life have been very successful in dogs with CHF and have bought many of them significant amounts of additional time -- from months to years.
Here are the "miracle meds" Paisley is taking daily:
For her first week, Paisley was only allowed to go outside to do her business, no longer walks or play, to allow her heart to rest. She wanted to walk a lot more than I was able to let her, though. At her one week re-check, Dr. Valentine said she could do modest exercise, nothing intense, and to be careful with heat. This works out fine as we've always done her longer walk or play time (ball fetching) after dinner because of living in warm places. And I stick to walking her in shady areas when she has to go out mid-day.
It was hard to keep her down during her week of prescribed inactivity. It was obvious that she was feeling a lot better! She was sleeping less and bringing us various toys to play with. Once we were allowed, we started taking her to the small dog park in the campground and throwing her ball for her a few times after dinner (and in the shade), as she loves to retrieve and always has. She is leading on walks again rather than lagging behind. What a wonderful change!
She has another vet re-check at the end of the month, and after that, assuming all is still well, she won't have to go to the vet as frequently.
We're so thankful for Dr. Valentine, who really knows her stuff and has taken such good care of Paisley. This was an unexpected and big expense, but Paisley is totally worth it to us. We don't know how long she'll be with us, but at least with appropriate treatment, we'll have her to entertain us for awhile longer -- and we'll treasure every day!
Here are some resources for canine Congestive Heart Failure I found useful while learning about this disease:
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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