THE RIGHT PEDIGREE – Marilyn Armstrong


When we talk about pedigree, it’s usually about dogs or horses … or even cows and goats. In this case, I want to spend time talking about doctors.

When it comes time to for surgery, you need the right doctor. Not just whatever or whoever happens to be the one your primary has in his circle, but one who has the kind of skills and background who will make you feel secure and safe — and most important, repaired.

The right medical insurance — a PPO which lets you go to any hospital and see any doctor.

When I went in with cancer in both breasts, I was already dubious about our local hospital in Milford. After a conversation with the surgeon, I knew that I would not use her under any circumstances. She told me that there was ONLY one way to deal with the surgery (wrong) and that it would be impossible to create implants. Wrong again.

With some help from a friend who was a doctor, I found the right hospital (Faulkner in Boston) and two doctors — the cancer specialist and a plastic surgeon — who told me full bilateral mastectomies were a better option than partials AND and they would give me implants so I would come out of surgery still looking like a woman. The two women worked together on me and when they were done, I had breasts.

Not “real ones.” No nipples. Lumpy, as post surgery implants tend to be, but I didn’t feel like an alien from another planet, either.

A few years later, it was my heart. My “local” cardio guy told me (on the phone — he never found the time to actually see me in person) — to not worry. When my heart began to fail, they’d deal with it. I didn’t like the doctor and how could he be diagnosing me when he never had time to see me? He sent me to his young practitioner who never really gave me the results of the tests (such as they were) and the doctor said he had no time to see me for at least six months.

Six months?

I went online and I found a brilliant heart surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston. I went to him. He spent over an hour explaining options. That repair might be possible, but if it wasn’t, I had to be prepared for a full replacement. There were a lot more tests that needed to be run — none of which had been so much as suggested. We made a date.

The date got pushed back for months. Heart surgeons have a lot of emergencies. It comes with the territory … and then, I got pneumonia and had to wait until I could breathe again. It took probably 7 or 8 months to finally get me and the doctor in the same place (Beth Israel) at the same time. April 30, 2014.

I still had some serious tests to be done … almost a week of testing before surgery and when they did the surgery, it was much more complicated than it was supposed to be. It eventually involved two valves and a redesign of the left ventricle. Also an unexpected bypass including replacing of an artery (taken from my right leg). Finally, a permanent pacemaker since my heart has refused to restart without assistance.

If I had followed the instructions of the original heart surgeon, I would be long dead. Not merely was he wrong, but he was terribly, horribly wrong. I have had a hard time forgiving him for his callous disregard for me. He didn’t care and he made it obvious he didn’t care.

Mass Eye & Ear Hospital

Now, it’s Garry’s turn. He is up for a cochlear implant and the only hospital that does it in this area is UMass Memorial. Which, while I’m sure has perfectly fine surgeons, but it also has massive issues with communications and organization. Worse, it has a very limited facility for this work and limited ideas of how to do it.


Like many other surgeries, there are choices. One ear or both? Some do both, some only one and it depends on the patient. New techniques exist and these are only available at Mass Eye & Ear in Boston.

Cochlear Implant

Whether or not insurance will pay for new versions of the surgery is a different question, but at least there are choices. In the year since we started checking this out, Garry has spoken with the surgeons at UMass Memorial for a bare five minutes and he never got to ask a question.

We know nothing about them — not even their names. There are two of them, one as primary, the other his secondary. Garry is — understandably — nervous and worried about the process. Boston is a long drive from here. He will need to go for the surgery, then come and go from Uxbridge to Boston pretty regularly until they get the adjustments made and he can really hear as he should. Time is slipping away far too fast and we can’t keep just waiting.

The other day, Garry discovered he has a connection to Mass Eye and Ear and has been in touch with them. I think, despite the inconvenience, we will go with the place where they have the worldwide best reputation in the world for cochlear implants.

Although we are still in waiting mode, I hope we will have the chance for Garry to work with the doctors who have “best in show” pedigrees for his procedure. Because this is important and life changing.

Pedigree is important and not just for shaggy canine pals.

The right doctor is the difference between a successful procedure and something which never works quite right.



 SKEWED – Judy Dykstra-Brown

Everything is tilted. Slightly unaligned.
The constitution set askew. Liberty maligned.
Some of the well-heeled citizens think that this is fine.
They cannot see that everything is slightly out of line.
All the pretty Philistines queue up at their tees
while their flunky lawyers determine what to seize.
Contracts with the Russians. Schemes to sell off national land.
Cronies helping cronies. Off-shore drilling by demand.

Rivers being sullied and oceans compromised
while insuring rights to bear arms are exercised.
Certain pious preachers line up behind the svelte,
proclaiming to the masses that they know what Jesus felt.
Indeed, the smallest sparrow  no longer matters much
so long as all the mighty increase their greedy clutch––
all the money-changers, corrupt to the core,
filling all their pockets with the money of the poor.

Surely it is clear that at ruling they’re inept,
and if he was watching, surely Jesus wept
as all the pearls of liberty were cast before the swine
with each self-serving libertine declaring  what is “mine.”
What is true no longer matters. What “they” say is now what now counts.
They say it’s holy scripture as they settle their accounts.
People, take off your blinders. Consider what is real.
One nation, under God, was not set up for them to steal!


I haven’t written about our dogs in a while. That’s unusual for me because they are such a big part of our lives.

Our two rescue dogs are my constant companions, or nearly constant. More often than not, wherever I am, they are too. But, they each have favorite spots around the house that they like to go to hang out on their own. So sometimes Tom and I will realize that we humans are the only living beings in the room. When that happens, we usually get up and go looking for our furry pals. I’m embarrassed to admit that we often try to cajole them to come back and hang out with us again.


Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. I like that independent streak in our pets. Especially with Lexi, our eight year old. She is generally too attached and dependent on me and has separation issues. She is usually my shadow so I’m thrilled when she goes into another room on her own. It has taken years to get her to this point.


Our two-year old, Remy, is much more independent. But she is such a lover and a cuddler! She is one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever known. She greets us each morning with sheer joy! She is so thrilled to see us again after a long night. It almost feels like she is excited and grateful to see that we’re still here and so is she. I believe that most rescue dogs have a deep sense of gratitude for being rescued. And also a great appreciation for being part of a family. I see that clearly in Remy, who was eight months old when we got her.

Remy playing cards with one of our friends

Remy exudes doggie charisma. Everyone loves her instantly. People sense her sweetness and take to her like bees to honey. She sits next to our friends and cuddles with them. She paws them gently to get them to pet her. She rests her head on their arm or thigh. She sniffs and occasionally licks their faces and hands. She just charms the pants off of everyone she meets.

Sometimes I feel bad for Lexi. She is a shyer and more obviously neurotic dog. So people don’t realize right away how special she is. But once she warms up to you, she is truly awesome. She is very interactive with people. And she is the most verbally communicative dog I’ve ever had. She ‘talks’ – not just barks. She has a wide vocabulary of distinctive sounds and she responds verbally when you talk to her. It’s delightful to have ‘conversations’ with her.

Lexi, like Remy, as also very affectionate. She elicits attention from people with her paws and her voice. She drapes herself over people she’s comfortable with. Sometimes Remy is sitting next to me so there’s no room for Lexi at my side. But that doesn’t stop Lexi! If she wants to cuddle with me, she’ll just climb over Remy and onto my lap. Or she will climb onto the sofa cushion BEHIND me and wrap herself around my neck. Very creative cuddling!

Remy’s favored modes of verbalization are whining as well as barking. I’ve never had a whiner before. Apparently it’s a breed trait of the Red Boned Coon Hound, which seems to be part of Remy’s DNA. (She also looks similar to dogs of that breed and shares their unique and beautiful color).

Her whining can get really high-pitched and shrill, not her best feature. We’re much happier when she just barks at us. But to get Tom to play with her, she whines. She starts softly and then escalates into shrieks if Tom dares to ignore her. This tactic usually works to motivate Tom to get up and take the dogs into the backyard. Or to run around the house with both dogs frantically chasing him and barking with glee.

Both dogs are still skittish, as are many rescue dogs. They startle at sudden noises or movements. They bark frantically when people come into the house and it takes them a while to calm down. Even when we come home after being out for a while, they greet us with frenzied squealing and barking and crazed jumping and running around. They’re a bit over the top, but we enjoy our enthusiastic greetings whenever we walk into the house. It’s a family ritual.

Our dogs sleep in bed with us. All our dogs have. Like most dogs, Lexi and Remy have nighttime rituals they follow religiously. When we first go to bed, Remy lies between Tom and me and cuddles with both of us, in turn. Lexi curls up against my legs or feet. Then at some point towards morning, the dogs switch places. Lexi ends up cuddling with me and Remy takes up her place at my feet or up against Tom.

Sometimes when we get up to go to the bathroom during the night, we get back to find little or no room for us on the bed. We have to push and prod the dogs to get them to move over and create a viable, albeit small, space for us.

Remy sleeping with Tom

In the morning, when the dogs sense we’re getting ready to get up, they pounce on us. Lots of licks and nuzzles. They climb all over Tom and lick him until he finally gets out of bed. What a great wake up call. We start the day with a big dose of love and enthusiasm! Lots of joyful wiggles and wags!

We get out of bed smiling and laughing – which says a lot. We DO NOT like getting out of bed in the mornings!

Dogs playing

We don’t have grandchildren, so maybe that’s a factor in our obsession with our dogs. But, whatever the reason, we love our human/canine family. They fill our days with laughter and love. They provide entertainment and affection. They make us happy. And we can’t imagine living any other way!

COWS ON A DAIRY FARM – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Livestock

Nancy only photographs livestock on vacation. I only photograph them in the neighborhood, probably because this area is full of farms. Dairy farms and horse farms. A few llamas here and there and lots of chickens.

The cows are my favorite. They are friendly and I think they like having their pictures taken. They always give me their best side!