Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Introducing Torque!

There's a new puppy in the family!

Torque (8-week-old French Bulldog) and I got home yesterday evening about 5:30 p.m.

I was pretty darn tired after driving more than nine hours and stressing through the border crossing. All I really wanted to do was drag all my crap into the house and fall into bed. Not even a remote option. I had a puppy to introduce to our three resident nutjobs.

I wasn't really worried about Tango. He's always been a hostile little **** and it was a pretty safe bet his reaction would be to bark his fool head off, lunge at the puppy and try to teach him who was boss. Which sounds scarier than it is, since Tango has about half a dozen teeth in his head and no jaw strength at all. I was right - he barked, chased and growled. Torque basically laughed at him, said "you funny!" and chased after him for more.

Booker and Torque
Teddy was a concern. He's definitely my boy and there was a chance he'd get jealous, decide to hate Torque, or, if we weren't incredibly watchful, do some damage. At first, I thought my fears were coming true. Teddy was incredibly noisy, barking and trying to chase Torque. It turns out that my big boy is just pretty much socially inept. Within half an hour he was play-bowing, waving his paws at Torque, and generally being incredibly adorable and charming. We have to remind him to play nice, but they're well on their way to being best buddies.

Booker was the one who didn't meet expectations. He's an energetic, two-year-old who lives to play. And yet, he seemed a bit lost when confronted with a puppy a third his size. He didn't seem to know what to make of him at all; circling, sniffing. Intrigued, but not ready to engage. By this morning he figured it out - Torque is his new playmate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Roller coaster ride

The last two days have run the gamut - incredible joy and soul-searing loss.
On Sunday, after a very, very long, discouraging run of competition, Teddy and I qualified in an agility trial. While, admittedly, we've competed only sporadically for the past 18 months, it was nevertheless discouraging to come away with only experience. Both of our runs on Sunday were fun and fast. Teddy stayed with me and did everything I asked of him. In Jumpers With Weaves Team Teddy made a couple of mistakes, one mine, one his, but we had fun and I was happy - especially since it had been months since our last competition.
Then in our Standard run - everything clicked. It was one of those instances when everything was going right. I didn't know if we'd qualified, the judge is a bit tight on time, but I was just thrilled. As it turns out, we succeeded and came away with not only a qualifying score, but first place in our class. Sheer, unmitigated joy.

And then there was yesterday. A normal day at work. I got home to find my sister Fran cleaning up a mess little Roc had made - he couldn't help it and he wasn't happy about it. I think we both knew then that Roc was tired of fighting the pain and disability that has progressed over the past year. So I made a choice and the veterinarian who has cared for him since the day I brought him home sent him gently into that good night. Sheer, unmitigated grief.

I love them both. Tears of joy and sadness.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

He's old. We're done with him...

What will you do when your dog gets old?
Personally, I take care of him, and cuddle him, and let him do all the things he loves as long as he's happy and comfortable.
I recently learned that there are people out there who don't. When their dogs get old, they bring them to a shelter and leave them. Done. And then go out and get another dog.
And when I heard about their behavior, I rushed to judgement - deciding immediately that anyone who could do that was despicable and loathsome. Beyond contemptible. 
But I found out that there's a segment of the population that believes "it's what you do." They don't know that it's okay to cherish an animal throughout its life - however long that may be. It's what their families have always done, so it's what they do. When their pet reaches a certain age or level of infirmity, they relinquish it to a shelter.
Perhaps we need to work on educating people that they're allowed to love their old dogs forever. And stop seeing stories like this one:

Family surrenders 16-year-old Pomeranian to shelter because she's too old
Cassie used to be part of the family for more than five years, but on September 6, the 16-year-old Pomeranian found herself all alone and not feeling so great at the Carson Animal Care Center in California. Cassie's intake information indicates her family surrendered their dog because she was too old. Admittedly, 16 is a ripe old age for any dog, but isn't that the time for a soft caress, a soft bed and a familiar home? Not so for Cassie; sorry to report, and as if the family expected someone to rush right in and save the dog they dumped, here is what they stated:"...But they said that I spend most of my time indoors. I am house trained. I am learning how to walk on a leash. I should be the only pet in the house."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Allergy season

For the most part, Teddy's a pretty predictable dog. Every once in a while he'll start barking madly for no reason whatsoever, but there's usually a reason for his behavior. If I can figure it out. Yesterday I was a bad dog mom. He was acting weird, and I just got annoyed.
Sundays are pretty predictable around the house. The morning is spent on "ablutions" for four dogs. Nails, teeth, ears, face-washing, etc. As part of the routine I rinse off paws, especially Teddy's, because he has a mild grass allergy and we want to keep it under control As a matter of routine, I rub in some stuff the vet recommended to keep the ph of his skin where it should be.
In the afternoon we collapse. It's our time to do absolutely nothing. The dogs all know the routine and are all happy participants. You'd think a dog bomb went off in the tv room on a Sunday afternoon - little limp, sleepy bodies littering the floor and furniture. 
Yesterday Teddy wouldn't settle. He was making me crazy. He didn't have to go out, he didn't want to play, he didn't want to chew; not even on Booker. 
On one of our numerous trips outside, I noticed how pink his ears were. And, stupid me, thought "isn't that adorable."
It finally dawned on me that ear irritation is an allergy symptom. Sure enough, all four paws were red and angry looking. Teddy's allergic to the new goop from the vet. 
I washed his paws again, with hypoallergenic dog shampoo, dried him off. 
Simple answer. We both collapsed on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. 
Wish I'd paid more attention, sooner. It would have saved Teddy some discomfort and me some aggravation.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


Yesterday was a scary first in Roc's and my life together. When I got home from running errands, he wasn't barking. He wasn't fussing. He didn't wake up. I called his name, gently at first. Touched him, again, gently. He's at the stage when I check for breathing before I think "Roc's so cute when he's sleeping."
He finally awoke and had his normal amount of difficulty walking and moving around, not so bad. It's another indicator that our time together is getting shorter. So we'll enjoy every day that we have, little Rocky-dude.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Greener Grass

 We had a bit of a problem with our backyard. The grass died along our back fence. The new lawn service (we get a guy to mow) thought it was a feature rather than a bug. So widened it and weeded it and maintained a lovely patch of dirt. We thought it was kind of interesting when the birds in the neighborhood enjoyed taking dirt baths. It was much less fascinating when Booker discovered dirt baths. Which were followed by water baths and wiping mud off the bathroom walls.
 In an effort to do something about it (three Booker baths in two days prompted some action), we went to the home improvement store and bought the required ingredients for lawn: topsoil, fertilizer, seed, and a seed blanket.
My thumb is notoriously black - if it's green and it grows it runs screaming in the opposite direction when I approach. Imagine our surprise when, after only a week, there are signs of an impending lawn! I keep expecting failure in all things outdoors. Booker may be sad about the changes, but he probably won't miss the bathtub.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Running around - again

Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.
Just for a while, wouldn't it be nice if we could shed responsibility? If worries could go away for a while? If there weren't 80 kabillion things we had to take care of?
I'd like to hide in my bedroom, sleep 'til noon, be grumpy and not face the world.

Instead, today's agenda:
Work: actually a pleasure. I'm lucky enough to love my job and the questions/issues that come up are addressable. 
Dentist: My cracked tooth cannot be saved. Exact quote from dentist: "Catastrophic break." 
Veterinarian: Teddy is sleepy. Extraordinarily, worryingly sleepy. Weirdly sleepy.
Obedience Class: 30 miles away in rush-hour traffic. May not get there, depending on what the veterinarian says about Teddy.

The stereotype suggests that middle-aged spinsters like me should stay home with their multitudes of cats, reading in a corner. (I was going to say "rocking chair," but that's probably a bad idea with that many cats.) Not me. My current five-year-old vehicle has more miles on it than my first, 13-year-old-vehicle did. There's always something on the schedule, something to be responsible for, someplace I have to be, go, do.

And, having written about it - I'm very grateful for all of it. Getting older is better than the alternative.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Momma said there'd be days like this...

I love my dogs. A lot. I like spending time with them, doing "stuff" with them, and just hanging out.
Yesterday I didn't like either one of them at all.
Understand that most Sunday mornings without plans are devoted to "dog ablutions" - nails, teeth, ears, etc. Each dog doesn't take long, but when you take care of four (my sister's two and my two), it adds up to a couple/three hour chunk of time.
Afterwards, I just wanted to relax.
Roc was too hot, so I got the cool pack for him to lie on. He settled.
Teddy jumped off the couch and started whining. Booker jumped on Teddy and a vigorous round of "bitey-face" ensued.
Roc got paranoid about the two others jumping on and off the couch and started whining. And shaking, which usually means he has to go outside to potty.
Take Roc out - everybody goes. Booker insists on eating grass.
Come back inside - Booker throws up, Roc poops in the house (his disability means he's not always aware when he has to go).
Get everybody/everything cleaned up, attempt to relax again.
Teddy won't come in the tv room to relax - whines by the back door. Lift Roc off the couch (heaven forbid I leave the room without him), go see what Teddy wants. Mr. "I can't poop when anyone's watching" wants to go out.
Take Teddy and Roc outside.
Come in, attempt to watch tv. Roc's too cold on his ice pack, take it away. Teddy chooses a bone to gnaw on. Booker wants it. More bitey-face, more paranoia, rinse and repeat.
Not the restful Sunday afternoon I'd planned. And, something I never thought I'd say - Tango earned the "Best Dog" award of the day.

Roc and Teddy


Monday, July 07, 2014

Getting ready for prime time

Teddy and I ventured back into the realm of competitive obedience on Saturday. We went to a Correction Clinic (practice obedience trial) hosted by a local club.
I realized when I got there how much my training has changed over the last few years. Teddy was one of only a handful of dogs at the match who wasn't wearing a training (choke) or prong collar. I've become immersed in "positive reinforcement" training. I'd forgotten it was the rule, rather than the exception, to actually use "corrections" at a Correction Clinic.
You don't have to, of course. So I didn't. And Teddy did great!
We tried our hand at both Beginner Novice and Novice exercises and Teddy would have qualified in both if it had been a "real" trial.
So it's time to go for the real thing and actually enter a competition. I spent a chunk of time this morning waffling about it. I found a relatively close trial, with great judges, and sat there with my entry all filled out, thinking "I have until Wednesday, maybe I'll see how he does in class tomorrow and then decide," and "Maybe I'll just enter Beginner, instead of Novice, just to see how he does."
I'm not sure why competition has become such a bug-a-boo for me. Teddy knows what he's supposed to do, I know what I'm supposed to do. And I won't be devastated if we don't succeed. But I didn't seem able to hit "enter" for that entry.
Then my sister reminded me of my resolve. "Just put your big-girl pants on and enter Novice." So I did. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Still learning, after all these years

Last night there was some wild and woolly weather in the Chicago area. My phone kept announcing weather alerts, watches, warnings, etc. The thunder was almost continuous for a couple of hours. We've been lucky that none of our current crew of dogs cares about loud noises - thunder and fireworks don't usually bother this bunch.
So I was at my wit's end last night - Roc couldn't settle. He was panting, restless, and shaking. I didn't know what to do. I took him out for a potty break. We got a little wet in the rain, but it didn't solve his discomfort. I took away the cooling mat he usually lies on in the evening. That wasn't it. I held him close, that didn't help.
Finally, feeling like a really bad dog-mom, I put him on the floor (he can't get on or off the furniture himself any more) and basically threw my hands up.
He went over to the bed that was his favorite for years before his back problems. Climbed in and went to sleep. Napped comfortably there until bedtime.
Sorry, dude. I know you've never really been much of a lap dog/cuddler. There are times when a guy needs some "me" time.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Team for a lifetime

As Roc requires more of my time and attention I worry that Teddy isn't getting enough of either. It's a balancing act that's part of everyone's life, since we haven't found a way to stretch time.
To make sure I'm not falling behind with training and spending time with the Ted-Monster, I go to obedience or agility class even on the days I'd rather just collapse on the couch after work.
I always wind up being happy I went - one of the reasons I have dogs is that I love spending time with them, I enjoy the training process, and it's wonderful when you see your dog finally "get" the behavior you're working on. You can almost see Teddy being proud of himself.
It's also an opportunity to spend an hour - even if it's the only hour you get all week - to ignore all of the stresses and demands on your time. I can shut out everything else when I'm training my dog. Precious time, indeed.
I extend that time for a few minutes every day. Whether we work on a perfect "front" or a faster "recall," or just try to get a few, perfect heeling steps, I meet Teddy's eyes, we're working together, and we're a team.
The training and teamwork lasts a lifetime. Roc remembers all those little things, too. And when I ask him for one of them - his tail still wags.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living with a little old dog

Roc on his 12th birthday in December, 2013
I went into the vet's office this morning to pick up some medicine refills for Roc. My little old man isn't doing all that great these days - something happened to his back in December and he's losing the use of his back legs.
In all honesty, neither the vet nor I really expected him to still be here in June - if we hadn't been able to control his pain, he wouldn't be. He has trouble getting up from a sit or from lying down, his back legs don't always turn when he does, and he doesn't always realize that his right, rear paw is upside down. I fix it for him.
And because of the medication he's on, he gets really warm. So I bought a bunch of flexible cooler sheets that rotate in and out of the freezer and under his towel on the couch. So he's cool enough to enjoy watching his beloved television.
Teddy and I wanted to
go walking on vacation.
 Roc came along strapped
to my front in his Pooch Pack.
And he's lost feeling and control of his back end, he doesn't always know when he has to poop and doesn't always make it outside anymore. But he still yells for his dinner (and breakfast, and snacks), and he still likes to play with his toys (even if "fetch" is just a few inches in front of him), and he still likes it when I hold him and give him big, smacky kisses. And he still loves barking at the lawn service, the mail carrier, the UPS guy, and his brother.
Today the vet gave me "the talk." She was acting as Roc's advocate - she's known him since I brought him home as a four-month-old puppy. She wants to make sure that Roc is still here because he's happy, not because I need him to be. I was able to reassure her - according to her own rules, which she told me years ago, it's not time. It's a good way to know - think of your dog's three favorite things. When two of them are gone, it's probably time.
I've let my friends know that vacations I've planned probably won't be happening - Roc can't travel and I won't leave him now. Having a little old dog restricts the time I can be away from home - he needs his medicine twice a day, and really can't "hold it" for more than a few hours anymore.
Non-dog people might think it's not worth it. But they'd be wrong. Roc is still my best little buddy, my first obedience dog, and my responsibility. And the day I brought him home I made a promise to him that I'd always be there for him. And I will.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Securing my dogs' future

The last week has found us deeply immersed in the dog world - and wanting to share. The best way we can think of is to dust off the old blog and give it another spin. We're hoping to make it a habit - but not going to promise.

Yesterday our training club addressed an important issue for all of us who love our pets and consider them members of the family - estate planning and pet trusts. There was an article going around the internet a few weeks ago entitled "Will you be coming home to your pet." Lots of good ideas (entering an ICE number in your cell phone, hiding a key so your emergency contact has access to your home, etc.) for emergencies, but not long-term planning.

There were over 20 people at our club meeting - all of them deeply involved in dog training, dog sports, dog competition. And not one of us raised our hands when the speaker, Peter Canalia (CanaliaandClark.com) asked us if we had created a pet trust. Ooops.

According to Mr. Canalia, 10% of the pets euthanized in this country every year lose their lives because their owners made no provisions for their care. I'm not going to let that happen to my dogs.

Based on what I've learned, I think a Pet Trust is the best solution - naming a trustee to oversee the funds,
 and a caretaker to oversee the pets. And back-ups for both of them. It doesn't have to be a boat-load of money in the trust, and I can even buy a life insurance policy to fund it - just name the trust as the beneficiary. It seems like a relatively easy and painless way of making sure my pets get the care they deserve.