Miss Lee Celebrates Her 11th Year

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Today we’re celebrating sweet Miss Harper Lee’s 11th birthday. Seven years ago (with a little help from her human mommy/blogging assistant), Harper Lee posted her first ever birthday blog. More birthday blogs followed in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Life got busy, as it sometimes does, and Harper Lee’s blogging assistant failed to share our celebration of Miss Lee’s 10th birthday in 2019. Rest assured, we had a fabulous time . . . including a weekend in the New Orleans French Quarter complete with a stay at the Ritz Carlton, where Miss Lee was quite the sensation.

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While most ladies of a certain age might choose to slow down a bit, Harper Lee hit the road to her 11th birthday with a busy Visiting Pet Program (VPP) assisted therapy dog schedule. As a member of the MSY K9 KREWE, she brought smiles to travelers, employees, and flight crews at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

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Through VPP’s Reading to Rover program, Harper Lee helped children at a local library learn to love books and reading and Golden Retrievers.

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And once a month she shared her love with residents and staff at an area nursing home and patients, families, and staff at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. In June 2019, Harper Lee earned her AKC Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen titles and officially became Denham’s Harper Lee THD CGC.

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Miss Lee even made an appearance on the Smoothie King Center big screen (lower right) before a New Orleans Pelicans basketball game. It was a busy year for our girl, so on December 31, 2019, she officially retired from therapy dog life. She’s spent the last few months enjoying her Golden years with leisurely neighborhood strolls, long naps on the lovely bed that the airport gave her as a retirement gift, and basically doing what she wants to so when she wants to do it.

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With all of the ups, Harper Lee’s road to her 11th birthday also came with a few bumps. She’s battled some skin allergies and, much to her disgust, has had to endure fairly routine baths. On the bright side, she now gets to eat alligator kibble. Miss Lee highly recommends alligator kibble. She’s also had some pretty challenging UTI and bladder issues, but a battery of tests at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine indicates that little Miss Harper Lee is, overall, in fairly tremendous shape.

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So today we celebrate the past 11 years of life with Harper Lee and we set out on the road to her 12th birthday celebration. The events around the world over the last few months have reinforced one certainty: Nothing is ever certain. We’ll cherish each and every moment along the way, and we will be forever grateful to all of you for joining.

Miss Harper Lee’s Family


Doggy Herpes: Even Good Girls Get It

I have something kind of super embarrassing to share with you. If it were up to me, I would totally keep this a deep, dark secret. But what I’m about to tell you was a learning experience for my human mommy. She’s lived a long time. In fact, she’s 378 years old in dog years (hey, if I have to be completely embarrassed, she does too). She’s had a lot of dogs, but she’d never been through this with one of her dogs. So she thought this terribly embarrassing thing I’m about to tell you might be new to you, too, and that I should let you know about it. “Sharing is caring, Miss Lee,” she said. Sure, easy for her to say. Anyway . . . deep breath . . . here goes.

Several months ago, Mommy noticed this teeny tiny growth on my lip. We happened to be going to the LSU vet school in Baton Rouge a few days later, so Mommy asked the lady who does my hip and elbow dysplasia therapy if she thought we should see our local vet. (Mommy knew good and well what the answer would be, but sometimes humans just have to hear it from another human.) Miss Jennifer said she thought it would be a good idea. She said it probably wasn’t anything; but if it was something (and when human ears hear “something” their brains immediately think “cancer”), the vet would want to remove it when it was still small and before it had a chance to go into the bone. The minute we returned to New Orleans, Mommy made an appointment to see our vet the next day.

The next morning on our daily walk, Mommy and I passed by our neighborhood groomer, Hair of the Dog. We stopped to visit with Miss Morgan and Mommy told her about my little growth and our planned visit to the vet. And that’s when Miss Morgan said this: “It could be herpes.” WHAT!?! She said that one of her clients had just canceled a grooming appointment because his dog had herpes and that it was going around some of the doggy day care facilities. WHAT!?! Mommy found herself in a bit of a state of shock and braced for what the vet would diagnose later that afternoon: nothing (I mean probably not; how often is anything ever nothing?); cancer (every dog parent’s worst nightmare); or herpes (totally new to her and completely mortifying).

Later that afternoon, the vet took one look at my lip and said, “She has a little viral papilloma.” After Mommy’s brain processed not cancer, she looked at Dr. Kevin and timidly asked, “Is that herpes?” I’m pretty sure he felt that question coming. “Well, people sometimes call it that,” he said, “but not exactly.” So he carefully explained viral papilloma and gave Mommy a printout from a VeterinaryPartner.com article. (Click here for the full article. I highly encourage you to read it.) Here are a few highlights:

  • The virus can only be spread among dogs. It is not contagious to humans or to other pets.
  • The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the papillomas on an infected dog or with the virus in the pet’s environment (toys, bedding, food and water bowls, etc.).
  • The incubation period is generally one to two months.
  • Viral papillomas generally go away on their own after one to two months.
  • Recovered dogs cannot be infected with the same strain of virus, but there are several viral strains.

The three picture above show the progression of my viral papilloma. (The final photo was taken about four weeks after the first photo, when my outbreak was at its height. Please pardon the quality of the photos. They were not taken with a blog post in mind.) My papilloma’s appearance was classic:

Viral papillomas are classically fimbriated, meaning they are round but often have a rough, almost jagged surface reminiscent of a sea anemone or a cauliflower. They occur usually on the lips and muzzle of a young dog (usually less than 2 years of age). Less commonly, papillomas can occur on the eyelids and even the surface of the eye or between the toes. Usually they occur in groups rather than as solitary growths so if one growth is noted, check inside the mouth and lips for more.

My case was unusual in that I only had one papilloma (for which my human mommy will be eternally grateful) and my infection happened when I was significantly past two years of age (I am now eight years old). We really have no idea where I came into contact with the virus. I hadn’t been boarded or visited doggy day care in the one to two months before it appeared. But I do like to drink from the community water bowls that we encounter on our daily walks, and I can be quite a kisser when I see another dog on the sidewalk.

It’s interesting that my little sister, Tallulah, never came down with the virus. Mommy decided that it would be impossible to keep us separate while I was infectious. Plus, if Tallulah did catch viral papilloma from me, it’s not really dangerous and she would develop an immunity . . . kind of like exposing all the children in one family to chickenpox. We were considerate of other families’ dogs. While I was contagious, I didn’t drink out of public water bowls and I did not make contact with other dogs when I saw them on my walks. Just for the record, that part was really hard for me.

One day, after about a month and a half, my viral papilloma disappeared . . . and I was back to my gorgeous Golden self. So now you know: This good girl had doggy herpes, which wasn’t actually herpes at all. It was viral papilloma. It wasn’t really dangerous; it didn’t last that long; and now I’ve developed an immunity. Wow. Sharing that with you wasn’t super embarrassing after all . . . but Mommy still owes me a treat. 🙂

 


My Special Day with Bashful

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Late last week, my human mommy helped my rockin’ friend Bashful pack his bags and head home after an eventful stay in my hometown of New Orleans. He had quite a visit. Between a Pelicans basketball game, gumbo and brass bands, and laundry and red beans and rice, it seems Bashful was always on the go with my humans . . . and he was always eating. He may need some new clothes (one size up) when he gets home. Before Bashful traveled back to Bacon and the Hotel Thompson, I got to spend a very special day with my new little friend.

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We were up bright and early last Wednesday and in the car for a road trip. Bashful called shotgun.

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Before I knew it (maybe because I slept for most of the trip), Bashful and I had arrived at our destination: the Small Animal Clinic of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine where I do rehab for my hip and elbow dysplasia. (You can click here to read more about my special joints and the rehab I do.)

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I sent Bashful off with Mommy to run a few errands while I did my workout. The pre-Christmas Baton Rouge traffic was even more horrific than usual. I want to apologize to Bashful for any words he might have heard as he and my human mommy attempted to traverse the city as quickly as possible.

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I sensed some slight traffic-related tension when Bashful and Mommy returned to the vet school to pick me up, so we all spent some chill time in the Serenity Garden with its beautiful fountain before heading back to New Orleans.

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When we returned home, my little sister Tallulah Bee was still at Camp Bow Wow, which meant that the fabulous piggy toy that arrived with Bashful could come out to play. (Tallulah is a bit rough with toys, so they tend to run off and hide in a special cabinet when she’s around. When Tallulah goes to camp, the toys know that it’s safe to come out and play with me.) Bashful and I had had a pretty eventful day already, so after just a very short play time we were fast asleep.

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We had a message from the Hotel Thompson that Bashful arrived safely at home Sunday afternoon . . . and he didn’t arrive alone. Seems Bashful is quite the ladies man and he brought his new friend Lola from Nola back to Georgia. At this point, I’m going to leave you in suspense so that Bacon can introduce you to Lola when he’s ready. Patience, my friends. 😉


Rerun: Wall Art, Literally

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That’s right. My human mommy/blogging assistant is still away. I wonder if she’s forgotten about me. Never! She’ll be back, but until then I think we should revisit some of the beautiful public art in my hometown. I sure wish we could revisit the beautiful winter day when we went to these sites. It’s getting a little hot in South Louisiana. Anyway, Mommy says that a lot of new wall art has popped up since this blog post first appeared and that we’re going to show it to you soon. I think a cool autumn day will be soon enough . . .

Last weekend my humans and I set out in search of Baton Rouge wall art–literally, murals that have been created on exterior walls. Boy did we find a lot of it. My human mommy was inspired by a news story about one of our newest BREC parks, Convention Street Park, which was dedicated late last year. The downtown park includes a 90-foot mural (technically, it is a mobile mural because it’s on canvas and attached to a wall).

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The mural was painted by artists Alex Harvie and T.J. Black as part of the BR Walls Project. This section depicts a downtown neighborhood called Spanish Town, the oldest neighborhood in Baton Rouge, which is famous for its Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade and ball . . . and pink flamingos. It’s a long story. I don’t know about you, but I think I look pretty good flanked by two pink flamingos.

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We stopped at two other BR Walls Project murals while we were downtown. The one above was painted by Joseph Konert on the outside of Harrington’s Cafe. It blends the grace of a swarm of butterflies and the expansive calm of the aurora borealis (you just have to trust me on that, or you can click here for a link to the BR Walls Project to see close-up photographs).

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This one was painted by artists Saliha Staib and Clark Derbes on an exterior wall of a building that houses the McGlynn, Glisson & Mouton, LLP law firm. It’s called “Cinq Umbre” and consists of multi-colored quadrangles. I think it even manages to make a dull parking lot look interesting.

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Our next stop was in Old South Baton Rouge, just outside of the downtown area. This mural is on an exterior wall of the old Habitat Imports building about a block off of a fairly main street in my hometown. My mommy and I pass it every other week on our way to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, where I do physical therapy for my hip and elbow dysplasia. We’ve admired this very large mural from afar, but we were completely blown away when we saw it up close. This was the first mural completed by the Museum of Public Art. I absolutely insist (as only a Golden Retriever can) that you click here so that you can see the entire mural.

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This mural is called “Tribute to the Old School New York Graffiti Artists” and it’s another collaboration. New York City graffiti writers James Top, King Bee, and Part One tagged the top of the wall, which depicts the side of a subway train. Dr. Kevin Harris, who created the Museum of Public Art, painted the bottom portion, which depicts the train trestles and graffiti on the walls of the station. It really is an amazing work of art that is accessible to thousands and thousands of people every day, day after day.

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As we continued to travel away from downtown Baton Rouge, we passed through an area known as Mid City. Mid City has its own share of wall art. The photo above is of a section of a mural painted on the side of a vacant building. It was so realistic, I thought I could smell the cheese in the little shop behind me.

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The mural above is on the side of the Jambalaya Shoppe. Do you feel like you’re in the South Louisiana swamp? I wonder if those ‘gators are having any luck with those fishing poles.

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These last two murals are on either side of the building that houses Denicola’s Furniture & Upholstery.

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I am so glad that my mommy decided that my human daddy and I should join her in a quest to find wall art throughout Baton Rouge. I have no doubt that we have only touched the surface of our city’s public art offerings . . . and that you and I will be seeing more in the future.


“Celebrating” the Fifth Season

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Where I live, we’re preparing for our fifth season. We have spring and summer and fall and winter just like the rest of you. But here in South Louisiana, we also have a “bonus” season. It’s called Hurricane Season. It started June 1, and we don’t like it one little bit.

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A hurricane named Gustav did this to my back yard in 2008. Fortunately, that was before my time, but my humans still talk about (or should I say complain about) clearing this 75-foot pine tree and living without electricity in stifling heat for two weeks. I was around in 2012 for another storm named Isaac. By the time Isaac knocked on our door, he was just a strong tropical storm, but we still lost power for almost a week. Let me tell you, being a Golden Retriever in hot and humid South Louisiana without air conditioning is not fun.

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That’s why I’m so happy that my humans found this battery-operated fan for me. Of all the hurricane supplies we have in our hurricane-supply storage bin, I think this is the single most important.

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It’s crucial for humans living in areas affected by hurricanes to plan and prepare. You can click here for some valuable tips from the National Hurricane Center. And please don’t forget about your pets. Click here for disaster preparation plans from my friends at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. As for me, I have my plan all set. I’m keeping my paws crossed that we make it through November 30–the final day of the fifth season–without having to pull out my battery-operated fan. But if the fan does have to come out, I plan on plopping myself right in front of it, enjoying the refreshing breeze, and channeling my inner Beyoncé.


Harper Lee from A to Z: X is for X-RAYS

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For the first time in her life, my human mommy is happy that I have x-rays . . . otherwise, what in the world would we have done for the letter X in today’s installment of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge?

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I now present to you x-rays of me. I am not a veterinarian, so I have absolutely no idea what specific parts of me these x-rays show. Here’s what I do know: A little more than three months before my first birthday, my humans thought that my hips might be a little “funny.” So off we went to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine where I received a very thorough examination, which included these x-rays. The x-rays showed that I have hip and elbow dysplasia. (I already told you about my hips and elbows in J is for JOINTS, so I won’t go on and on about that again, but you can click here if you want to refresh your memory.) That was more than four years ago. Maybe one day I’ll get a new set of x-rays, but for now I am doing well. I’m just happy that I have these to share with you, and now you’ve had an x-ray vision of me!

Cover of the book showing title in white letters against a black background in a banner above a painting of a portion of a tree against a red background

Photo from Wikipedia

Today I would like to wish the real Miss Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, a very happy 88th birthday. It is a true honor to be named after such a talented lady.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. See you tomorrow!

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Harper Lee from A to Z: C is for CHARIOT

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I know exactly what you’re thinking right now: Miss Harper Lee, that’s just a car. I must respectfully disagree. This is my chariot, and it takes me to the most fabulous places: weekends in New Orleans and St. Francisville, walks around beautiful parks, visits with my human grandparents in Texas, trips to the LSU Vet School for rehab (the kind I do for my hips and elbows, not the Lindsay Lohan kind). Once I even traveled in my chariot to visit Santa Claus. Tomorrow you’ll get to see another place my chariot takes me. But do you want to know the best thing about my chariot? It comes with another C word: chauffeurs!

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. See you tomorrow!

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

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You probably already know that I am a huge fan of Louisiana State University, not only Tiger athletics but also the academics and the school’s history and traditions. I have taken you on a tour of the lovely LSU campus and I have told you all about the treatment that I receive for my elbow and hip dysplasia at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. And I dedicated my second blog post ever (almost one year ago now) to LSU Tiger football.

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Well, friends, it’s been a very long time since last New Year’s Eve when I watched in horror as my Fighting Tigers fell in defeat to the wanna-be-Tigers of Clemson at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Not the happiest way to end a season. But all that misery ends tonight and hope once again springs eternal when the LSU Tigers take on the TCU Horned Frogs in the House that Jerry Built. My humans have been preparing for the game for two days–and by “preparing” I mean indulging in adult beverages, eating special gameday food, raising the new LSU flag, and selecting the perfect (and hopefully luckiest) clothes to wear.

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All of this game prep has been nothing short of exhausting, and the game doesn’t even start until 8 o’clock tonight. So I think I’ll just put my head down on this pillow and take a little nap. Because in a few hours when the clock strikes eight and the LSU Fighting Tigers rush the field behind Head Coach Les Miles and the Golden Band from Tigerland strikes the most famous four notes in all of college football, a new season begins. The slight disappointments of last year will fade away, and all things will be possible. I am more than ready for some football. Geaux Tigers!


My Happy Hips and Elbows

No, this is not an endorsement of another favorite treat (although I am a huge fan of Happy Hips). This is a story about my very special hips and elbows.

A few months before my first birthday, my humans noticed that I wasn’t quite “right.” When I ran across my yard, I did a little bunny hop. Sometimes when I tried to stand up, I had a bit of a struggle. And when I sat, I tended to lean over on my hip. The picture above was taken that winter, during one of our rare South Louisiana snows.

My veterinarian at the time referred me to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. At the vet school, I received a full (and I do mean full) examination by one of the professors, a resident, an intern, and a senior student. Through their examinations and radiographs, they determined that I have dysplasia of my elbows and hips. Their report included this sentence: “While we know that Harper Lee’s hip arthritis will progress with time, we cannot predict if her clinical signs will worsen.”

This was all very hard for my humans to hear as they held a Golden Retriever puppy who had not yet celebrated her first birthday. But they were encouraged. Rather than recommending immediate surgery, the report suggested a conservative therapy: non-steroidal anti-inflamatory medication, controlled activity, and weight control. The veterinarians and future veterinarians said that I should receive regular exercise, including walks and swimming (I am still waiting for my humans to put that pool in the back yard!). They said that running, jumping, and rough playing should be avoided to prevent excess strain on my joints. I think my human daddy was a little disappointed that I would not be joining him on his marathon training runs, but my human mommy was happy that she would have a daily walking companion.

They also suggested that I should receive physical therapy through the vet school’s Companion Animal Rehabilitation Center. I started aquatherapy almost immediately. That’s me on the underwater treadmill, which allows me to build muscle and increase range of motion while decreasing stress on my joints. Our local public radio station did a story about my therapy. You can click here to listen to the story or read more. There’s even a YouTube video of me on the treadmill (don’t blink or you’ll miss it!). When I first started rehab (my human mommy always points out that it’s not like Lindsay Lohan’s rehab), I went twice a week. I improved so much that my visits were cut to once a week, and now I only go every other week.

So you can imagine that my humans were a bit alarmed (to say the least) when they noticed me favoring my right front leg earlier this week. They immediately got me in to see my “primary care veterinarian” at Jefferson Animal Hospital. (My late sister, Lexi, and I started going there shortly after my first visit to the LSU vet school, and I’m so happy we did.) My veterinarian characterized my limp as a flare-up of a chronic condition. His recommended treatment included laser therapy, which I started immediately at the clinic.

I had my second laser treatment yesterday, and I’m responding extremely well. It’s really quite enjoyable (probably more so when my human mommy isn’t there with that camera in my face). I go into a nice, quiet room with a big, fluffy dog bed. While one lady holds me (I like that) another shines a warm light (that’s the laser) all around my elbow. In about 15 minutes, I’m finished. You can click here to read more about Companion Therapy Laser.

That’s the current story of my happy hips and elbows. As I approach my fourth birthday in March, I am doing quite well. I enjoy my morning walks, and now that the weather is getting cooler here I’ll probably start working in an afternoon walk each day. To lessen the stress on my joints, I have been advised to control my weight, but that’s not a problem for me (don’t you just hate blondes who say that?). I take a daily dose of Dasuquin (a joint health supplement) with fish oil tablets (which studies have shown may increase the effects of the Dasuquin; if nothing else, it keeps my golden coat beautiful). Every other week, I do my aquatherapy at the LSU vet school, and now I know that the laser therapy at Jefferson Animal Hospital will also help to keep my joints healthy . . . hopefully for a long, long time.

This has been a long and somewhat serious post for me, but I thought it was important to share this information. I know that I am very, very fortunate to have the brillaint minds, cutting-edge resources, and caring people at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and Jefferson Animal Hospital. Those are certianly two of my favorite places. My humans and I realize that my special joints will be a lifelong challenge, but when they see me sitting in happy hips position (like in the photo above), they feel very good about my future.