Adventures in National Harbor and Washington, D.C.

Last week, I had the the pleasure of attending WordCamp US, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Photo of Gaylord National Convention Center sign with red flowers in front.

WordCamp US was held at the Gaylord National Convention Center.

This was an enormous venue, and I found myself disoriented quite a few times. However, there was plenty of space and lots of offerings like coffee shops and cocktail bars.

Since I’ll be writing up my experience at WordCamp for work, I won’t be repeating that here.

Around National Harbor

I didn’t spend much too much time exploring National Harbor, mostly walking to and from the convention center to my hotel, which was at the other end of the harbor. I did enjoy my meals at Rosa Mexicano, Bombay Street Food, and some passed appetizers at Succotash.

The WordCamp Social (aka After Party) was at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was pretty cool to have the whole place to ourselves!

Photo of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History featuring a globe.

On my last day, I had several hours of free time before my flight home, so I used this time to a take a walking tour around Washington, D.C.

I started my adventure at the Art Museum of the Americas.

I sat and stared at the red painting on the right for quite some time. It was captivating.

My next stop was a tour around the National Mall and some of the monuments.

I decided to head towards the National Gallery of Art, stopping at interesting places on the way.

The next stop was the National Museum of Asian Art, which I really enjoyed.

These are all from an exhibit on Ay-o’s art, called “happy rainbow hell”.

These are part of the Buddhism Meditation Room.

I got a little lost in the National Museum of Asian Art. I ended up on a subfloor that didn’t have any exhibits, and seems to exist to connect various museums. It seems I could have popped over to the National Museum of African Art if I had turned the other way.

Photo of the Smithsonian Castle

Alas, I came out near the Smithsonian Castle, which is temporarily closed.

From here, I made my way to the International Spy Museum.

Photo of the exterior of the International Spy Museum.

This was the only place that wasn’t free. And unfortunately, I didn’t have time to really experience the whole thing, as I only had a hour before I needed to get on my way to the hotel and then to the airport.

This place has a high production value, and reminds me of a well done escape room or even a theme park ride. There’s even an optional a spy mission that you can do as you progress through the museum. It’s worth the price if you’re interested in spy stuff and you have at least 2 hours.

In the end, I ran out of time before making it to the National Gallery of Art. I guess this means I’ll have to go back?

All in all, I had a lovely time in National Harbor and Washington, D.C.

Uplifting Dog Movies

When Indy returned from the hospital a few weeks ago, we decided our cinema theme of the week would be Uplifting Dog Movies.

We kicked off the series with Lady and the Tramp. I don’t know if I ever saw this as a kid. It did not age well. It’s pretty demeaning with its depictions of everyone at the Italian restaurant.

Next, we watched Turner & Hooch.

Another movie I probably saw as a kid.

It’s not as funny as I expected.

Tom Hanks is half-dressed for about half the movie. There are a lot of underwear scenes and scenes with his shirt off. Was this supposed to make the movie more appealing to certain audiences?

Hooch is obvi the best part of the movie. The kitchen scene reminded me how thankful I am that my troublemaker is only 10 lbs and limited in her destructive capabilities.

my Letterboxd review

I’ll add here that I felt deeply betrayed by this movie. I specifically picked movies where the dog doesn’t die. I was wrong about this one, and I’m still upset by this.

To round out the selection, we finished with Oh My Dog. Oh My Dog is an Indian family comedy-drama, about a boy who raises a blind dog. This movie has it all–a cute dog, an evil villain with weird henchmen, and a feel-good ending. Oh, and it even features some dog agility!

Roxy running across the dog walk during agility practice
Roxy, during an agility fun match.

Syncope vs. Seizures

Let me start by saying I’m not a veterinarian or any sort of medical professional. This is not medical advice; please, always talk to your vet if you think your dog has had a syncope or seizure event!

Indy recently had several episodes where he lost consciousness, and I mistakenly assumed they were seizures. However, since he definitely has congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension, syncope is way more likely.

Roxy, my other dog, has had seizures intermittently since 2015. You would think I’d be good at identifying them by now, but it’s not that simple.

Roxy’s seizures are—I think—partial seizures. She doesn’t entirely lose consciousness, but her body goes rigid. Typically one of her front legs contorts and is raised by her face while her head twists and pulls back. There’s not really any convulsing, she doesn’t seem to have any pre-seizure warning behaviors, and post-seizure, she seems completely normal within minutes. Her first seizure was after a head trauma during dog agility, and she has one or two per year since then. As much as she loved agility, we retired after her injury.

What happened with Indy was very different. In the first two recent incidents, he was sleeping on the sofa while I watched tv. I heard a strange-sounding bark from Indy, and when I looked over, he was limp and twitching (maybe?). The twitching stopped quickly, and he seemed a bit out of it for 10-30 minutes. The third was very similar, except it was just as we were waking up one morning.

Indy with his head on a blue stuffed toy.

The most recent two were unlike the others. These are the ones that I think are more obviously identifiable as syncope events. In both cases, we were getting ready for a walk. This is usually one of Indy’s most favorite things, so he gets very excited. In both incidents, he was wobbly and had trouble walking/standing. Before I could reach him, he fell over. I picked him up, and it seemed like he was twitching, but I now think he was just limp and flopping about a bit. Both times he urinated just after I picked him up, then let out a strange bark. Shortly after, he was back but dazed.

Seizures or syncope, either way, are pretty scary to witness!

And, in retrospect, Indy has fainted before! Once when he was a puppy and another dog pounced on him, and again about seven months ago while we were on a walk.

How Can You Tell?

Syncope is not a common term, at least outside of medical use. I wasn’t even sure what the vet meant when she asked if I was sure it was a seizure and not syncope. A syncope event means fainting or a sudden temporary loss of consciousness., often due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Seizures, on the other hand, result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain and often present as a loss of consciousness accompanied by convulsions.

Here’s where it gets tricky – not all seizures cause convulsions, and some syncope events can present with jerking movements that mimic convulsions. A fainted fallen dog might also paddle their legs while trying to get back up, which can look very much like convulsions. When Indy fainted on a walk, the leg paddling made me think it might have been a seizure, but it’s more likely he was trying to get back up after fainting.

Vocalizations, urinary incontinence, and other symptoms can accompany seizures or syncope events. Seizures can also be partial seizures without a total loss of consciousness, and these can be a lot different from full (tonic-clonic or grand mal) seizures. What this means is that it’s really hard to be sure what’s happening if your dog has any or all of these symptoms.

What About Indy?

So, why do I think Indy’s episodes are syncope? Well, he has CHF and pulmonary hypertension. Comet had CHF, and one of the first symptoms was that he fainted one morning while pooping. (This may sound funny, but again, seriously scary when your dog falls over suddenly for no apparent reason.)

Indy on the way home from the hospital.

Also, in the last two events, Indy was clearly wobbly, lost control of his legs, and then went completely limp and fell over. This is not consistent with seizures where a primary identifying characteristic is a stiff or rigid body.

The confusing bits were the barking, twitching, urination, and how long he was dazed after. However, none of this rules out syncope.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me was the thought that, clinically, we should default to assuming syncope over seizures (especially for intermittent episodes) until proven otherwise. Syncopes usually indicate an underlying disease that needs immediate treatment. Epileptical seizures, however, won’t cause much harm if a diagnosis is delayed.

I found these articles very useful in my research:

For now, Indy is waiting on a follow-up with his cardiologist, taking some heart medications. And, until we rule out seizures, he has an upcoming consult with a neurologist.

Indy is happy to be out of the hospital!