Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Alvin Broke New Ground

When I first started fostering Alvin and he made his first sign of progress in the receiving physical affection department, someone made a joke saying, next thing 'ya know Alvin will be rolling over and letting you scratch his belly.  It was entirely a joke and we all laughed because the idea was absurd.  Now before I knock you all over with a feather, Alvin did not roll over and let me scratch his belly but what did actually occur was equally as charming.

Early this morning while Alvin was sound asleep on the bed, he was in a position where his belly was exposed.  I couldn't help it and reached over and started scratching his belly.  Alvin is a very sound sleeper but he eventually woke up and I fully expected him to jump up like he has done all the other times I have attempted this maneuver.  Instead, Alvin was able to lie there and let me scratch his belly to the point that his little back leg got thumping.  I quit after a couple of minutes and after he had fallen back to sleep I tried it again and he let me continue to scratch his belly again.  I honestly couldn't believe it and was so happy.

My mom is spending the night at my house tonight because she has had some issues with her legs and I prefer to have her here where I can keep an eye on her.  Alvin is devoted to her like none other and faithfully remains in the room with her, lying on the floor and keeping watch over her.  I went in a few minutes ago to check on my mom and Alvin looked so cute that I could resist but to sit on the floor with him and start scratching him on his favorite spots.  I try to go out every day to his favorite place outside and when I sit there with him, his demeanor changes and he is much bolder and is able to receive physical affection and also give it.  He will often put his head in my lap and let me scratch him for quite a while.  For those of you who have followed from the beginning, you may recall that during the first couple of months Alvin was here we did all of our connecting on the bedroom floor.  I even slept on the floor with him because he was so fearful.  Once he progressed to a certain level I stopped that routine but tonight I felt compelled sit down.  Wow!  I have really missed out on some quality time with that little guy because once again, he was an entirely different dog.  He gave me little kisses on my nose, laid his face against my chest, and just about climbed into my pajama top.  He is so gentle and innocent in his movements and I had forgotten about our special times initially connecting and trusting on the bedroom floor.  Clearly Alvin had not.  I alternated between sitting and lying on the floor and when I laid down, Alvin placed his head and neck across my hip in a way that is difficult to describe.  If he wasn't so innocent and submissive it would have almost been a dominance pose but there is nothing about Alvin that is dominant.  It was as though he was trying his best to be as physically close to me as possible and it's clear that he feels safest when he is able to be "taller" than the human being.  He had to do a couple of loops and I didn't call him or try to convince him to come back to me because I wanted to see what he wanted and sure enough, not only did he come back but he pressed against me, with that tail wagging away.  After spending about 20 minutes of this bonding time I decided to really up the ante. I didn't think it would actually work but I'm always up for a new adventure with Alvin.  I reached under his chest while he was standing up and began to scratch his belly and I will be darned if the boy didn't stand there and let me do it.  It clearly felt good to him and most importantly, he wasn't scared.  If I tried to reach his belly from the side it felt too vulnerable to him but when I reached under his chest it felt safe enough for him.

I realize that with any other dog this wouldn't even be a passing thought, much less an entire blog entry and even with Alvin, some of you may be questioning while this is even worthy of being read. If you have followed Alvin's story from the beginning when he wouldn't even enter the same room as me and would stand for hours, 20 feet away from me while staring, then you realize that getting to the point of scratching his belly feels like winning the gold medal in the canine Olympics.

Alvin has gone through a change very recently.  I went to see my best friend in Arizona for five nights and my mom stayed with the dogs.  My mom is Alvin's very favorite person but when I got home I realized how much he missed me.  He was brave enough to stay with the pack when they first greeted me and tried very hard to compete for my affection.  He was more animated than I had ever seen him and once I could get the other two dogs, and even the cat to settle down, I was able to spend some time petting Alvin and assuring him that it would be a very long time before I was gone that long again.  While I was gone I realized that in the nearly two years that I have had Alvin I don't think I have ever been away more than one night.  I could be mistaken but I know that I have never been away for anything close to five nights.  Alvin is always my little shadow but since coming home Alvin has stuck to me like glue and is partially why I have been trying to go out every day to his favorite spot to spend some alone time with him.  Another big change for him came about in the past two nights.  I have made my mom spend the past two nights at my house due to her leg difficulties and we have to share a bed.  Gracie would scream her lungs out if I didn't let her on the bed with me and it wouldn't even dawn on Maddie that she would have to sleep somewhere else.  With four of us in the bed there just isn't room for Alvin.  I tried to give him his bedtime snack on the floor right before I got in bed but he didn't understand the change in routine and sat on the floor, while staring at us and muttering.  It was so sad that my mom told me that I just had to make room for him and she does not like to have animals on the bed with her.  I didn't put him on the bed because he gets nervous if there is confined space and he has subsequently fallen off the bed in the past.  He was able to finally settle down and the second night went much more smoothly with me giving me a few extra treats.  I don't think he was crying over being excluded because he doesn't mind sleeping on the floor but the change in routine and the thought that maybe he was missing out on a treat just about rocked his socks right off of him.

In the past I created a facebook page for my then foster dog, Gracie in hopes of finding her an adoptive home.  As you all know, Gracie became mine and she now has 525 facebook friends.  Yes, you read that correctly, a dog has far more fb friends than most human beings.  Gracie is loved and adored by people across the globe and not only gets a lot of attention, but people actually send her gifts in the mail.  She is a tremendously charismatic, well behaved, loving dog and apparently people can even spot that over the internet.  The natural conclusion for most people would be that Gracie must be my favorite, but for me, my favorite is Mr. Alvin Stanley.  I have an infinite amount of love for all three of my dogs but there's just something about Alvin!  It works out well because Gracie is my cuddler which I love, and needs far more physical attention than the other two.  She gets more of my time and attention than the other two combined.  When I lost my cuddler, Timmie I tried too hard to turn Alvin into my cuddly dog and the attention was too much.  Stevie doesn't want to be cuddled and what is most important to her is to always sleep at my feet and to have me home a lot, which I do.  Gracie is very good to Alvin and so he has a dog friend and she helps him be braver.  Gracie doesn't get jealous or interfere when I am spending time with Alvin and so it seems like everyone's emotional needs get met.  I don't feel guilty naming Alvin as my favorite because Alvin so deserves to be the favorite of someone and he is the type of dog who could easily get lost in the pack.  Gracie is adored by the world and gets a ton of my love and affection and so it's okay for Alvin to get to be the favorite.

This is terribly long and possibly quite boring.  I had set out to write one paragraph about the belly scratches and got carried away.  Until the next breakthrough when we will meet again......

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Wish I Was Making This Story Up

Alvin did not get groomed tonight because I accidentally drugged the wrong dog.  Charming!  I gave Alvin the sedative in a hot dog and you all know how he has difficulty chewing soft food.  He did his usual, trying to chew, spitting it out, and then trying again.  After several goes at it, it appeared as though he had finally been successful and I checked the floor and didn't see anything left.  It takes 2-3 hours for a sedative to kick in for Alvin and so about an hour after I gave him the sedative I decided to take the three dogs to the dog park.  I leashed up Alvin and Gracie and went to leash up Stevie, who was sleeping.  Stevie wouldn't respond at all.  I picked her up and placed her on all four legs and she slid back down to the ground.  I tried to lure her with a hog dog and she wouldn't even eat it.  I placed her back in her bed and took her temperature and it was normal.  She didn't appear to be in any pain but I got a Tramadol down her throat just in case.  I suspected she might have yet another UTI and so I also got an antibiotic down her throat.  She was clearly going to stay put and because Alvin and Gracie were nearly jumping up and down with excitement, I decided to take them to the dog park really fast. 

As you probably all remember, Alvin is afraid of riding in the car and he did his usual muttering the whole way there, which is less than one mile.  When we got there, Alvin was initially in his own little autistic world, wandering around and not interacting with any of the dogs.  It always kind of hurts my heart when I see how different he is in those types of environments.  Meanwhile, three-legged Gracie turned into a Grey Hound and was racing around, but only to the humans.  She would have much preferred a human park with everyone in a fenced in, condensed area.  She went to each person, flopped onto her back to invite people to scratch her belly and once she had gone to each person, she then started her rounds again.  She paid very little attention to the other dogs.  After Alvin wandered around for a while he became more interested in the dogs and seemed happy that they were all taller than he was because it allowed him to have his nose firmly planted in their butts as he followed them around.  He seemed to need a bit more reassurance than usual but because he can't determine the direction of sound, I had to yell his name and then repeatedly wave my arms over my head until he spotted me.  He would then come running and would want to stay close to me.  Each time I crouched down, while cradling his head in my hands and told him what a brave boy he was being.  I am always so proud of him when he can step out of his little autistic world and try to be one of the gang.  Goodness knows what the other dog owners thought, with my three-legged dog and me waving frantically at the perpetually wandering dog and the proceeding to give him little pep talks.  We only stayed 10 minutes because I was anxious to get back to Stevie.

When I got back, Stevie was in the exact same position and was nearly unresponsive.  I was trying to decide whether I should take her to ER.  My hesitancy was that she didn't appear to be in any pain, in any distress, and had a normal temperature.  I honestly thought that she was dying and I knew that if it was something serious that I wasn't going to put her through a hard recovery.  I kind of didn't want to be faced with having to decide whether to put her through a certain treatment or not.  Stevie is also afraid of vets offices and I figured that if she was dying that it would be better for her to die with me at home.  I also knew it would cost me at least $1,000 and I wasn't going to put her through any lengthy or difficult procedures.  Because Stevie can't hear or see, she panics if you put her in a crate and I couldn't bear to put her through having to be in a medical cage and not understand.  I put her on my bed and laid down while holding her.  She wasn't responding to me at all.  I ran over to my mom's house to basically tell her that Stevie was dying and came back home.  I will be darned if that dog didn't lift her head and totally respond to my mom the first time my mom pet her.......and Stevie is the only one that I was convinced liked me better than my mom.  Alvin and Gracie have made it abundantly clear who they prefer and it ain't me.  Stevie started to respond more and it was only a little later that I started to notice that Alvin wasn't the least bit sedated.  It was then that I realized that the hot dog containing the sedative must have rolled under the cupboard and I didn't see it.  Since Stevie is deaf and blind, she can sniff out anything.  I kid you not that I can place one piece of kibble on the other side of the room and Stevie will sniff it out within minutes.  I have spent many an entertaining hour playing this game with Stevie. 

The lesson in this story is, there should clearly be a test that a person has to take before owning a dog and I would clearly flunk it.  Who drugs the wrong dog?  Alvin has rubbed salt in the wounds all evening by bounding around like he has the energy of two dogs. 

We will give it another try on another day, because Alvin looks like a stray dog at this point.  But I will make sure to drug the right dog and take Stevie to the dog park to try and atone for the recent medical travesty.  Truth be told, Stevie could get anything and everything she wants from me right now because I feel terrible.  She already got part of my salad and I would take the food right out of my mouth and give it to her if I thought that it would help. 

It's just short of a miracle that these poor souls survive me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

For Alvin's Bestest Friend, Sally Wolk

This entry is dedicated to Sally Wolk, who has always been Alvin's biggest fan and the only person I would still give Alvin to, because no one could love him like she does.  She always politely reminds me when it's been far too long since I have posted.

We have experienced a lot of changes since I last wrote.  My mom had knee replacement surgery, then a second recent surgery due to her knee getting infected and now I am taking her for daily antibiotic infusions. 

Maddie had a big health scare and I was certain that I was going to have to put her to sleep.  She is now doing well with me giving her daily fluids through an IV. 

I have also adopted Gracie.

Alvin has done very well with all the changes.  We went through a period of him needing more attention than usual and I was very happy to give it.  Speaking of extra attention, I am grooming him tonight.  I have been telling him for two weeks that he is looking like a stray but I put off grooming him because of how much it scares him.  I think I dread it more than he does.  I just gave him his sedative so that we can prepare for battle.

Alvin had a couple mishaps on the bed recently.  Due to his spatial issues, I don't let him sleep near the end of the bed because chances are he will end up unintentionally on the floor.  A few nights ago I didn't move him and as I was reading in bed, I saw his four paws go up in the air and watched as his eyes got big as saucers, and then he disappeared.  I jumped up while screaming, "don't worry Alvin, I'm coming to save you."  Luckily, there was one of those mesh laundry containers full of clothing that broke his fall and once I rounded the corner, I found him standing in place while clearly dazed and confused.  His bad luck on the bed didn't end there, however.  A couple of night's ago, I was giving Alvin his bedtime snack when he got greedy.  He convinced himself that there must be a snack by Maddie and because he becomes completely oblivious as to what is around him, he stepped on Maddie.  She responded by giving him a smack in the face and it scared him so bad that he fell off the bed.  Poor little Alvin, but I couldn't blame Maddie because she was just lying there when Alvin put his two big paws on her stomach. 

Alvin continues to improve in the area of accepting physical attention.  I swear that someone told him that humans have cooties because every single time I pet his back he has to physically shake it off.  I have finally concluded that Alvin is just never going to be a dog that is comfortable being randomly pet but I have been practicing giving him long strokes across his back and he is much better at not turning and running like a bat out of hell.  He often comes to me to ask for affection and it melts my heart.  I love all three of my dogs but the one who makes my heart swell is my dear Alvin.

What has been of most interest to me lately is how much he observes and duplicates the behavior of other dogs.  Alvin and Gracie often sleep together on the bed at night.  It is usually Gracie who walks over and initiates the cuddling between the two, but every once in a while Alvin will approach Gracie and lie next to her.  He always looks so proud of himself.  Gracie and Alvin are pretty good buddies and Gracie is very patient when Alvin walks on her.  We recently went over to my mom's house and before Gracie came to our house, Alvin would pace through the house and never lie down, no matter how long we were there.  This time, Gracie laid down first and Alvin was also able to lie down near her.  I thought maybe it was a fluke so we tried it again and sure enough, Alvin was able to lie down and relax again.  I am certain that if Gracie wasn't there to model it for him that he would spend the time pacing and circling.

Alvin continues NOT to lose weight.  We are really going to have to get on it because this summer is the Camp Cocker reunion and it's going to be very embarrassing to bring pudgy Alvin.  We all know that it's the owners fault if a dog is overweight and so even if the owner is met with a dog who literally licks his lip every single time he see his owner, it doesn't cut it when one is at the reunion surrounded by a bunch of non-pudgy dogs.  If I get desperate, I will find an outfit that makes him look thinner and no matter what the temperature, I am going to make him wear it.  It will be punishment for him giving me that face and pitifully licking his lips every time I so much as enter the room.

So, that's it for now.  I hope you all are well.  I will let you know how the hair cut goes and hopefully, no one gets hurt (meaning me).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gracie's Back Home

I am posting a video of Gracie and I first seeing each other again after six weeks.  I lost it.  The pent up worry and her nearly having to be put to sleep twice, I just lost it when I saw her.  Also, my cat, Maddie isn't doing well.  I have an appointment on Monday with the vet and I am suspecting that I am going to have to put her to sleep.  I had just realized this a couple of hours before seeing Gracie.  I was so grateful that Gracie would be back in time to spend some time with Maddie because Maddie adores Gracie.  When Gracie broke her femur on Christmas Eve and they sent her back with me for another three days, Maddie held vigil and literally slept on top of Gracie.  It's only right that Gracie is now here for Maddie.  Maddie isn't well enough to get up and cuddle with Gracie but her purring motor revved up when she saw Gracie.

Alvin has responded to Gracie being back by being very affectionate towards my mom and I and needing a lot of extra scratches and petting.  Who would have predicted that even a few months ago?  Gracie is very good to Alvin and it's good for Alvin to have a dog around that will interact with him a bit but not scare him.  That's a good thing because Gracie is here to stay and if you have any doubt, you won't when you see the video.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Slow Down Alvin!

Alvin has made progress in so many areas that I am having a hard time keeping track.  The one that impacts me the most is that Alvin has definitely learned to wait to go potty until I open the door.  It's not a 100% foolproof plan but far more often than not, he can wait.  This has prevented me from freezing to death by keeping the back door open this winter.  It's taken a year-and-a-half but who is counting?

The second new development is that after much thought and consideration, Alvin has decided that it's safe to walk on the grass in the backyard.  Until last week he was afraid of the grass and never once walked on it.  He has started to prance around the backyard and I can't describe how cute he looks out there.  Another thing that took a year-and-a-half but again, who is counting?

It has also recently dawned on him that anyone coming into the house is going to appear at the front door.  Until about a week ago, anytime he heard someone knocking or coming through the door he ran to the garage door.  No one has ever, ever entered or exited through the garage door and so that was has always been a mystery to me.  All of a sudden it clicked and he now faithfully shows up at the front door.  A couple of times while watching TV there has been the sound of knocking on the TV and Alvin runs to the front door and tilts his head back and forth, thoroughly confused as to why I don't answer it and why no one appears.  This one has also taken a year get the point.

Speaking of TV, twice I have had the TV on playing in the background and not paying attention until I noticed Alvin right in front of it, looking up and tilting his head back and forth and the common denominator?  Snooki from The Jersey Shore.  I couldn't make this stuff up.  Apparently the sound of her voice is intoxicating to him and even though he can't figure out the direction of sound, he has managed to track her down and sits mesmerized in front of the TV.  I recorded it today so I could see if he would do it again and sure enough, he sat there for 15 minutes straight while utterly captivated.  I could only take so much and so I figured we both had had enough of Snooki and turned it off.

Alvin continues to crouch or back away when I try to pet his back and I keep forgetting about the large scar on his side, near his back.  When he was first rescued by Camp Cocker he had a large area where the skin was darker, some of the hair was white, and the hair was thinner.  It was clearly from an injury.  When he first came to my house he still had some white hair but as time has progressed, the white hair is gone and I forget that he had an injury.  I can't figure out what happened to him but it's clear that it was a large, bad injury.  The position of it makes me think that maybe he leaned against an open oven door or something.  I wonder if his reaction to being touched anywhere but his head and neck comes from trauma?  He does well when I pet his back when he is lying on the bed but when I do it any other time he tries to scoot away and then shakes it off. 

Alvin has lost three pounds but is kind of stalling out.  He needs to lose another 3-4 to be quite lean, which due to his knees he really needs to stay lean.  He is still completely obsessed with food.  I have never seen a dog with his obsession and it's clear he thinks about food ALL THE TIME.  Every time I get up, he follows me around literally licking his lips and sniffing for food, every single time.  One would think he would be skinny from running after me all the time but his chubbiness indicates how infrequently I get up off the couch.  His obsession with food has resulted in a new quirk.  I used to give him a treat when he came in from going potty and so now when I open the door he frequently goes out, does one twirl and then comes back in while licking his lips, and he will do it over and over again.  I have had to go out there more times than I want to admit and stood there shivering while convincing him that there are no treats inside and it really is time to get down to business and go potty.

Alvin remains the most innocent being I have ever known.  He reminds me of a puppy when they are completely innocent and discovering new things around them.  He is like a puppy in an adult body and is all things good, kind, and pure.

His little sister, Gracie will be coming back home on Saturday and I am so excited!  She is managing well with the three legs.  She is good for Alvin because she provides canine companionship and she is patient with Alvin. 

Thank you all for still being interested in Alvin.  I have no doubt that you would adore him even more if you all could meet him.  He is truly one of a kind!  I will keep you all updated as he continues to progress.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Fear Even Putting this Out Into the Universe

for fear I might jinx it.  I think Alvin is learning to hold his urine......and only here would that be a news story.  Quite a few times I have randomly opened the back door and he has gone out and gone potty.  We went through a winter of him refusing to go out in the rain and instead going potty in the house and so this new development is more than welcomed.  We (well, I) have enjoyed a week of no accidents in the house.

I have not updated for quite some time and there have been a lot of developments.  A couple of nights ago Alvin was in a very playful mood when we went to bed and so once again I tried that hand play game we used to enjoy until I wreck it by traumatizing him when I yelled in pain when he bit down on my finger.  After him refusing to play the hand game for nearly six months, he finally did it again.  It was not full force and he did bite down on my finger twice but I was able to keep my mouth shut and not yelp again.  We played for a long time but I got tired and he was not even close to finish playing.  I always try to encourage his playing because it's so darn cute and because he isn't playful very often.  I got one of Gracie's bones but I had to hold it for him because he is unable to figure out how to hold it with his paws and chew.  I kept falling asleep while holding a bone but he finally outlasted me and I had to call it a night.  He then resorted to playing with the down comforter, which was comprised of him lunging his head at the comforter and then mouthing it.

Last night I couldn't sleep and I got bored.  Alvin was sound asleep on the bed and I decided I would try to "spoon" him.  When Alvin finally goes to sleep he is dead to the world and so I thought I would give it a try.  Gracie isn't here right now and so I don't have a dog that will cuddle with me and I miss it.  I gave it a try and it was successful.  He started to jump up a couple of times but I was really nonchalant about it and he was able to settle back down and I got my cuddle fix.  I find it particularly endearing to get to cuddle with Alvin.

Speaking of cuddling, I recently sedated Alvin before shaving his face and he got so doped up that I was able to pick him up, place him on my lap and hold him like a baby for nearly an hour.  I am hoping that when he is sober that he will remember it and not think it was so bad.  It was so nice to get to hold him like a regular dog.

I mentioned Gracie not being here and it's been quite an ordeal.  Gracie had third knee surgery in mid December and all was going well until Christmas Eve.  I went to my car and was gone less than 20 seconds when I heard the most gut-wrenching screaming.  I ran inside to find Gracie screaming and in a frenzy.  She bit me when I tried to pick her up because she was in so much pain.  Eventually I was able to get a sedative and a painkiller down her and then drove her 30 minutes to the vet after it had kicked in.  She had broken her femur.  She was sent home with me for three days until they could operate.  They then operated and she was transported to the founder of the rescue for recovery.  After about a week, a horrible infection set in and she had to have the leg amputated.  Due to how little she is and how built up the muscles in her upper body are, she will get around fine.  She won't live as long as most dogs because eventually arthritis will set in that is too painful to live with.  When she comes back here I am going to take her back to the physical therapy place to learn how to give her nightly massages and she will go for periodic chiropractic sessions.  She will also be placed on a joint supplement.  Due to the curvature of her pelvis, she is not a candidate for a cart but I did buy a doggie stroller so when she gets tired of walking she can ride in the stroller and still see the world.

Now here is where Alvin comes in.  You all know about Alvin's propensity for looping when we are out on walks and I can't leave him behind when I take Gracie out because Alvin needs to walk as often as possible due to his pudginess.  So Alvin and I are going to have to practice walking with the stroller before Gracie comes here so he can get comfortable with it and not run around in circles because I can already picture the scene of Alvin looping, his leash getting underneath the stroller wheels and causing the stroller to fall over with poor Gracie in it.

Speaking of Alvin's pudginess, he has lost two pounds.  It has taken forever but at least we're two pounds down.  He has more to lose but at least the scale is going down and not up. 

And now for the cutest part of this update.  Alvin has learned a new trick, which is to kiss on command.  He really is smart because it only took two, 10 minute sessions for him to get the hang of it and now, even when a week has gone by he is able to do it on command the first time.  The trick requires him to put his nose on my lips every time I say kiss and he's so smart that he knows when he has not made contact to try again.  It was very difficult to come up with a new trick after sit because goodness knows he is never going to lie down or roll over but I finally thought of one that required minimal touch.  You can imagine how cute it looks when Alvin gives kisses!

So, I will leave you with that visualization. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just Like a Big Boy!

Alvin made my night tonight!  It's interesting how accomplishments are measured differently with Alvin.  I was out back tonight and had shut the door.  I heard one little paw scrape the glass door which immediately caught my attention because none of the three dogs here paw at doors.  I was wondering who it was and before I turned around I had already concluded that it must be Stevie.  I turned around to see Alvin's cute little face pressed against the glass.  I immediately opened the door because I wanted to reward the behavior and he came right out and went potty.  The icing on the cake was that it was wet and raining outside and he still came out to potty.  As you all know, Alvin can't signal when he has to go out and hasn't demonstrated an ability to hold it until the door is open.  He also tends to go potty inside when it's raining and so this was a triple accomplishment. Boy, oh boy, did I praise him and of course gave him a little treat.  He may have demonstrated an increasing amount of intelligence but he still hasn't figured out that his "treat" is just a kibble of his regular food.  He deserved more because that was just plain smart!

Gracie finally growled at Alvin a couple of nights ago.  She periodically growls at Stevie and has even snapped at her but she has shown nothing but patience towards Alvin.  We were having our bedtime snack on the bed and Gracie wanted some, which she usually does not.  I made her a little bowl and Alvin finished his sooner than she did.  He then kept insisting on trying to get some out of her bowl and she gave him a growl.  Alvin seemed oblivious to it and I don't know if it was because he can't determine the direction of sound or that he just didn't get it.  He kept stressing me out by trying to go back to the bowl so I closely supervised in an effort to help him keep both of his ears.  The number one rule in this house is that NO ONE can be mean to Alvin but he pushed the envelope with that one. 

He remains just as cute as he can be!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Alvin Gave me the Scare of my Life!

Last night I carried my foster dog home from my mom's house.  She recently had surgery and has to be carried.  I brought her into the house and settled down to watch TV.  About 15 minutes later I got up to feed Stevie and I noticed that Alvin didn't come running.  I knew something was off and so I began searching for him and because the house is less than 900 square feet I quickly realized that he wasn't in the house.  I opened the back door and called for him but I knew that was futile because if Alvin had somehow gotten stuck outside he would be plastered against the back door.  It was then that I felt shear panic because I knew that he had somehow gotten out the front door.  Alvin can't determine the source of sound and is skittish and so I have always known that if he got out that it would potentially be a disaster.  I ran to the front door and started yelling his name as I was opening it.  It was then that I saw Alvin nearly fall through the door because he had been leaning so hard against it trying to get in.  I have never been so relieved to see him and quickly told him that he could potty anywhere he wanted in the house just as long as he never sneaked out the door again.  I have always feared Alvin getting out because I assumed that he would trot off, and have no idea how to get back home.  I can't believe how lucky I am that he stayed next to the door.  He looked very afraid when he came in and I think he got scared being locked out and stayed put.  I started to praise and pet him but quickly realized that he didn't want to be touched, he wanted food, and food he got!  I keep looking at him and feeling so grateful that he is here.  I would never get over it if Alvin got lost and I couldn't find him.  I do wonder if he first went to grandma's house and when her door didn't open whether he came back or if he stayed put the whole time.  He doesn't bark or scratch at the door and so had I not decided to feed Stevie, who knows how long he would have been out there.  Poor baby, as you may recall he is afraid of the dark (I don't even know how that is possible in dogs) and I think he was scared and cold out there all by himself.  Lately he has started trying to bolt out the front door and I am hoping this scared him and he won't try it anymore.  You can imagine how careful I am going to be from now on because my heart simply couldn't take it if I lost him.  I really, really love this little guy!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Play Time is Over!

Some of you may recall that Alvin used to have a near nightly ritual of playing an odd game with me where he would kind of mouth my hand.  It was very cute!  I wrote about an incident that occurred about three months ago when Alvin accidentally clamped down on my finger quite hard, which caused me to pull away and yell.  At the time Alvin responded by looking very concerned and dejected.  It was so pitiful and I tried to reassure him but he seemed quite concerned.  Since that time he has never played his little teething game again.  I have tried and tried to entice him into playing again but he just won't do it.  Isn't that sad?  I miss it very much because he always looked like a puppy when he did it and it was the only thing he did that resembled playing.  He also did a little lunging thing, which was about as aggressive as he could ever muster.  The boy can't remember to go outside to go to the bathroom half the time but he remembers one time, three months ago when I yelped at him.....ugh!  The guilt!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Alvin and Gracie Show

Oh, that Alvin!  It is raining here again, which you all know means that my house is perpetually one big urine puddle.  A couple of nights ago I made him go outside when he started to do his little pee-pee dance.  I went out with him so that he wouldn't feel alone and then the wait began.  It was freezing out there and the cold made me feel like I had to go potty and so I was standing there doing my own pee-pee dance while Alvin refused to go.  He kept forgetting I was out there with him and would press his nose against the glass while desperately popping his head and searching for me inside.  10 agonizingly long minutes later he finally went and he got more praise than a dog can probably stand, which just served to confuse him more.  He doesn't seem to understand praise.  We then RAN inside so that I wouldn't go pee-pee outside with him.

I tried it again tonight but the rain was coming down pretty hard, which made a lot of noise on the roof, which was just too much for his little nerves to take.  First, I had to drag him out there and you would have thought I was leading him into a lion's den.  After standing out there with him for about five minutes, I just couldn't put him through it anymore and we went back in.  He didn't go potty and so far he hasn't gone potty inside either but it's just a matter of time.

Now for Gracie.....what a nightmare!  Her leg ended up swelling up huge from ankle to thigh, turned red/purple, and had places in it that were hard.  It was hot to the touch and she literally tried to attack me when I tried to look at it.  Luckily, she had the cone on her head or else she would have surely really hurt me.  Then all of a sudden her skin broke open in two places and fluid started oozing everywhere.  I took her back in and they hospitalized her.  It turns out that the surgical pin came off of the bone and ended up coming through the skin.  I can't imagine the pain she was in.  So, now we are having to up the ante.  They went in today and took the pins out and she is having to have another kind of surgery next week if we can raise the funds.  Her bone around her knee is just too damaged and so she is going to get a cadaver knee.  I can't help but feel so very grateful to the wonderful dog that has passed away and is giving Gracie his/her knee.  The surgeon is confident that this will hold and will allow her to be able to finally run, play, and jump like all the other doggies.  Most importantly, it will help prevent several painful conditions that would arise from how her knees are now.  It has become such an ordeal and quite discouraging and so I wrote a funny letter from her and put it on the Camp Cocker facebook page, which I am going cutting and pasting here in case any of you want to read it. 

Before I do that, it was fun to watch Alvin's reaction to her coming home again.  Last night with her gone, Alvin was back on the bed with me, which was really nice for me.  With the surgeon having pulled everything out again and Gracie clearly being far more comfortable, Alvin is going to sleep on the bed with us again until she has her next surgery.  I think Alvin is really fine on the floor in his dog bed and although he initially reacted by going to the bathroom all over the house, he doesn't act like he particularly wants up with us.  He just wants the bedtime snack.  But I really miss him when he's not next to me and so I am very happy to hoist him back up, give him his bedtime snack and have that little Alvin breath in my ear.  When Gracie came home Alvin didn't have any response to the cone on her head and his little tail just wiggled and wiggled.  I have mentioned it before but Gracie is really good to Alvin.  He is a very difficult dog for most other dogs to understand but because Gracie can't play due to how her legs were formed and Alvin doesn't know how to play, they seem to relate well to each other.  Alvin often bumbles into or around her and she is so patient with him.  I know it is patience because Gracie has a whole other attitude with Stevie and she has shown her ability to be very inpatient and naughty with Stevie. 

I am trying very hard to help Camp Cocker raise money for Gracie.  They have been willing to try so hard on her behalf and I really think she is worth it.  She loves harder and stronger than most other dogs and humans light up when around her.  I think she has a lot to offer human beings.  If any of you feel so inclined, I have put a link to donate at the bottom of "her" letter.  I hate even mentioning money, I mean I really hate it, but it's a selfish reaction on my part and she does need me to swallow my money shyness and ask on her behalf.  What has been interesting is that for the most part it has been a lot of little donations that have made her care possible.  So if you are thinking that you can only give $5.00 or $10.00 so why bother, please know that it was all of those kinds of donations that have got us this far.  I have become a ridiculous sap in regards to the donations and every single time I see another donation I get teary because there is something so touching about human willing to give their hard-earned money for a little dog they have never met.  Aren't people grand?  Really, we often hear stories on the news and think, what's wrong with people but in actuality, most people are very kind.  If you can't donate, please keep us all in your thoughts and/or prayers.

Here is "Gracie's" letter:

Hi Fans!
Camp Cocker Gracie here and I am so glad that you are out there because I really need to tell you some things. I am back home and my foster mom thinks that I am looking and feeling so much better. I heard the doctor say that my surgical pins came loose, which is why my leg swelled up like I had Elephantiasis, my skin broke open and fluid went everywhere. Now my foster mom knows why I was acting like Cujo when she tried to look at my leg. Helllooo! She isn't the brightest human around. The doctor went back in today and took everything out and I feel so much better!
Why I am writing all of you is because the whole way home from the hospital, I tried to communicate my thoughts to my foster mom by engaging in non-stop chattering and screeching and I had to do it really loud because clearly she doesn't catch on very quickly. I did my best, extremely high pitched screech, which I have heard humans describe as a noise only dogs can hear but when looking over at my foster mom who was driving with her finger in her ear and holding her head, it was clear she could hear it too. What she isn't understanding is my description of what goes on in that house of horrors, aka the animal hospital so hopefully you all will get it.
My foster mom keeps getting on the phone with Cathy and the next thing I know I end up back at that "hospital". They clearly don't know what goes on behind closed doors but I thought since all of you are giving money for it, you should definitely be informed pronto! First, they stick me in a cage. HELLLOO! Do I look like a zoo animal? Then they put a big needle in my arm and smile sweetly at me as they purposefully roofie me, which I am certain is a felony in most states. Here's the worst part of it, they PURPOSEFULLY cut dogs open there! The next thing I know is that I wake up feeling like I partied too hard the night before and I have a lamp shade tied to my head. It makes me wonder if in my drugged up state I was forced to lead a canine Conga line. Then I'm back in the cage with stupid humans pressing their faces up to gawk at me and then I look down to see that those same humans purposefully cut me open again. While sitting there waiting for my foster mom, who is clearly as dumb as a box of rocks by the way, I was able to talk to the other "victims" in there and we agreed that we need to get the place shut down. We just help making a petition and then we will all be happy to stamp our paws on it. Then my foster mom shows up looking as guilty as the parent who forgot to pick up her kid from summer camp and she doesn't even bring me flowers and chocolates because something about chocolates killing me, as if chocolates is my biggest worry. I not only let my feelings known the whole way home but as soon as I got in the door, I squatted and went pee pee all over the floor. HAHA! I'm saving the poop for later tonight after she goes to bed in hopes that she will get up in the middle of the night and step in it.
Now get this one, my foster mom said that I have to go back there and have another surgery but here is where you all come in. She said we have to raise money for it and I suggest that we take any money you give for me and we all go take a trip to the zoo and free all those poor animals. Then we can use the rest of the donations to bail you all out of jail.
My foster mom said that during the next surgery I will get a brand new knee that will come from a wonderful dog that passed away and is giving me his/her knee. She said something about me being able to run and play and not be in pain. She even mentioned me being able to jump up on humans like I always unsuccessfully try to do. Before my surgery, I always tried to jump up on humans to convince them to pick me up and hold me like a baby because I just can't get close enough to humans and I have so much love in my heart that it is constantly overflowing. My back legs don't hold me so I always fell over onto my back but I just got right back up and tried it again. I would like back legs that let me show humans how much I love them. I have never ever been able to run and play like other dogs. I would like to try that, but couldn't we just try a faith healer instead?
My foster mom gets on facebook and keep crying when she sees that people keep donating for me. It kind of makes me giggle when she cries because I'm a little bit mad at her and so maybe you could give again so I can keep laughing at her. It should also be pointed out that she is only the foster mom because I suspect that Camp Cocker has figured out that she ain't too bright and they can't trust her to take on the responsibility of actually owning a dog like me. So, I guess I need three things, two new knees and a real mom. I would also like my own cat. I came home tonight and my cat, Maddie was the first to greet me and I was so happy to see her that I even let her into the lamp shade on my head so that she could wash my face. She then got into my dog bed with me to let me know that at least she understood my plight.
So please consider giving for me so that I can go back in, get roofied, get a dead dog's knee, and then heal so I can get out of this house and find myself a much smarter human to call my own. If nothing else, maybe when I get my new knees I can then back up my bones and run away. Please be sure to send your address so I can come find you.
In solidarity,
Gracie Stanely

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Alvin Might be Getting His Own Fancy New Dog House!

That he is going to be stuck in outside if he doesn't stop using our house as his personal toilet!  He is on my very last nerve.  I haven't been allowing him sleep on the bed at night lately because he is so oblivious with where his paws are and I worry he will accidentally step on Gracie.  With this change, combined with the rain, Alvin has decided, why go outside when you can just squat and go within the comforts of your own house?  I would feel sorry for him with the rain but I have a very large covered patio and it's the only place Alvin potties anyway.  For whatever reason, Alvin has never been willing to step on the lawn or on the dirt and so he insists on walking, resting, and going potty on the concrete.  Apparently a dry, covered area just doesn't cut it when there is rain, the threat of rain, or rain in the past 48 hours.  I am waking up in the morning to at least three large puddles of urine and poop spread throughout the living room/dining room because Alvin has to go in small amounts and then walk and do more.  The worst part about it is that there has been several times when I have stepped in it with bare feet in the middle of the night.  It is just gross and for the first time ever, I have looked at Alvin and don't find him cute right now.  The crazy part is that we nearly freeze to death because Alvin is unable to signal when he needs to go out and so I leave the sliding glass door open 24 hours a day.  I should just shut it when it's raining and admit defeat but I hold out hope while hunkered down underneath two down comforters.

Before the rain even got here I ended up busting Alvin big time!  I often wake up to some poop in the living room and I have assumed it was Gracie because I have had a very difficult time potty training her.  It is because she always walks in a crouched position and so it is nearly impossible to catch her going and take her outside.  Gracie left for 36 hours for her surgery and I'll be darned if "Gracie" was able to keep pooping in absentia.......that was what the look on Alvin's face was trying to tell me.  It turns out that Alvin has been joining in on Gracie's poop party. 

I forgot to mention in the previous post that Alvin has learned how to take treats out of my hand.  You may remember that in the past, Alvin would nearly take off my fingers trying to get the treat.  We were able to get beyond that with all my fingers attached, but because of Alvin's neurological issues he couldn't figure out how to get his mouth open the right way to get the treat in his mouth.  I don't know what changed but all of a sudden he was able to take the treats just like a real dog.  Too bad it came right in the middle of his diet and although he is more than willing to keep practicing, I have to put the breaks on treat time.  It's always something for poor Alvin!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Alvin's Large and In Charge!

Time sure flies and I can't believe it's been a month since I last updated.  Alvin is doing so well!  About three weeks ago it was like the affection switch was turned on and his ability to receive affection skyrocketed.  I can easily pet him all over his body and it no longer has to be in a certain room, or me sitting down, or only when I use my right hand, or all the other constrictions that we were previously under.  He can still get a bit skittish at times but for the most part, he not only willingly receives affection but regularly comes to me and solicits it.  At bedtime he is an affection monster and one would never know that touching had been an issue for him. 

He has been cracking me up lately.  I often bring my laptop to bed with me and it is usually between Alvin and me.  Alvin gets very curious as to what I am doing and so his head is usually right above my computer screen while he stares at me.  Because the screen covers the rest of his body he looks like a floating head and every time I look up I can't help but start laughing, which makes him cock his head back and forth, which only makes me laugh harder.

His looping had nearly gone by the wayside until my mom was gone for a few days and Alvin reacted by continually looping around the chair she sits in.  One night he did it for three hours straight and although I tried to redirect him, I eventually gave up and decided that at least he was burning off calories, which is helpful because he's still big as a house.

I recently took him to the vet because he had been on a diet for over a month and hadn't lost a pound.  I began to comfort myself with the idea that it was his thyroid.  It wouldn't be good if he had an under active thyroid but selfishly I found the idea very comforting because it is embarrassing to have a fat dog.  There is no way to blame anyone but the owner for a fat dog because it's not like the dog goes into the kitchen and cooks himself up a meal.  I know some people find fat dogs to be cute but I am one that finds it upsetting because of the health issues and the fact that the human is the one putting the food in front of the poor thing.  Well, my bubble was burst when the vet was so sure it wasn't his thyroid that he didn't even want me to waste the money to test for it.  He was convinced that the problem is ME!  Alvin got fat in the first place because he so stealthily was able to swoop in and get the food that Stevie left behind.  Stevie used to eat all of her food and it took me far longer than any normally observant person to realize that she was bailing on her food and Alvin served as the canine garbage disposal.  I now try to be very vigilant about this but at times that little devil has managed to fake me out and I end up running across the room while yelling, STOP ALVIN, while trying to get to the bowl as he is equally as intent in gulping it down.  That is better than the alternative, which is that when he is the first to finish his food he walks around muttering while the other two dogs are eating. It is so pitiful and always makes me feel so bad because he is just heartbroken that the other dogs are still eating.  I have never met a dog so food obsessed before.  Literally every single time I get up he is licking his lips and tripping over my feet hoping for food.  I made the mistake of getting sucked into his campaign for cookies and have obviously provided far more snacks than he should have had.  His treats consist of his own dog food so who would have guessed that between stealing Stevie's food and the treats that he would gain so much weight?  The one thing we have not cut out is his bedtime snack.  I started it when I was trying to get him used to being picked up and placed on a bed.  Well, that has turned into mandatory treat time and I am sure there would be a special place in doggy hell if I were to ever take that away from him.  The problem is that every time I get out of bed, I come back into the room with Alvin at the edge of his bed while frantically licking his lips.  He is so hard to say no to!  A unexpected and overlooked factor in Alvin's weight gain has been his significant decrease in activity.  As you all recall, for months he was constantly on the move due to his anxiety and now that he is relaxed, the boy can snooze with the best of them.  It never dawned on me to cut back his food as he cut back his looping.  It's difficult for me to remember that he is between 6-8 years old because he looks like a puppy.  He is now middle aged and he spends a lot of time lounging around like he is Paris Hilton.  He has been on his newest, new diet for about two weeks and it seems as though he has lost about a pound.  It's slow going but hopefully it is working.

The best news is that Alvin's friendship with my newest foster dog, Gracie has continued to flourish.  Gracie is very patient with Alvin and at times I have found them huddled up together at night on the bed, which is always initiated by Gracie.  Gracie recently had knee surgery and was gone for one night and Alvin looped for hours and was clearly looking for her. 

Speaking of Gracie, oh my!  Gracie came to me shortly after double knee surgery so that she could get the much-needed physical therapy.  For six weeks we were driving 20 miles each way, through the lovely California bay area traffic to go to physical therapy three times a week.  Camp Cocker was graciously paying $225.00 a week for her therapy because without it she would end up with painful arthritis later in life.  That all sounded great until recently when we took her for a recheck with a local orthopedic surgeon only to find out that the original surgery was done incorrectly and she needed the surgery redone.  To add to the bad news, we found out that the quad muscles in both of her legs had come disconnected from the bone and all that physical therapy was for nothing!  I have felt so bad for Camp Cocker Rescue! 

She had surgery on her first knee last Tuesday.  It was such a complicated surgery that it took two orthopedic surgeons to do it and the recovery is so delicate that they don't want her to walk but a couple of steps at a time and to be carried in and out to go potty for the next.......wait for it.......FOUR WEEKS!  After four weeks then she can start walking outside on her own to go potty but no more than that for another FOUR WEEKS!  They sent her home with sedatives to be used if she starts to get agitated and wants to actually walk.  The two orthopedic surgeons had never seen anything like her condition and none of the vets or physical therapists at the therapy center have seen anything like her condition.  At about 12 weeks we will then go through the same thing with her second knee.  She will start physical therapy on her first knee in about four weeks and then will have prolonged physical therapy after her second knee surgery.  The icing on the cake is that Gracie has separation anxiety and she can't get herself worked up and undo the surgery when I am gone.  Before this surgery she managed to get a big contusion on her inner back thigh when I was gone by apparently putting her entire back leg through the wires of the crate.  Luckily, I have a job where I am home a lot and I have cleared my schedule to be home nearly all the time.  I am only leaving the house to go teach classes two night a week and other than that I am home. 

We were able to leave the house in the middle of the night last night when Gracie spiked a fever of 104.4 and hadn't urinated or defecated for 24 hours.  We ended up back at the hospital where they hydrated her and gave her much stronger pain meds.  They think her fever was a result of being in severe pain and also due to the inflammation that was caused by the scar tissue of the first surgery, combined with the new trauma to the tissue due to having to be cut into a second time.  Yesterday she seemed to be in a lot of pain and was shivering and we spent the entire day and until 9:00 PM last night with her wrapped in my down comforter curled up against me.  This has been very concerning to Alvin but the one most concerned has been Maddie, the cat.  Maddie thinks she finally owns a dog and I haven't had the heart to tell her that Gracie is her temporary dog.  She finally found a dog that will allow her to groom it and every single night I find Gracie and Maddie curled up, fast asleep all night on my bed.  I think Gracie could take or leave Maddie but Maddie won't allow it and is nearly always found curled up with Gracie.  In the evenings they even share the same couch cushion.  Maddie became very concerned about Gracie yesterday and absolutely insisted on laying between Gracie and me.  I knew Gracie didn't feel good when Maddie was busy grooming her and Gracie gave no protest. 

Gracie is costing an arm and a leg, pun intended but she's the kind of dog that you are compelled to give every chance available.  I was talking to a friend about all the costs and future costs to help Gracie be whole and she asked if euthanasia would be a better idea.  I told her I would go get Gracie and after meeting her if she still thought euthanasia was a good idea then we would discuss it.  Within 30 seconds of meeting Gracie she said, never mind.  Everywhere we go people talk about her "spirit".  I have never heard so many people refer to a dog's spirit and everyone talks about her having such a good, kind, loving spirit.  She was the very obvious favorite at the physical therapy place and the employees that weren't working with her that day would often come and sit down and visit with her during her sessions.  She lets people hold her like a baby for as long as they want.  I had several employees approach me during the two times we were at the vet hospital to tell me how special they think she is.  She reminds me a great deal of my beloved, Timmie so much so that my mom calls her Timita.  She is joyful, kind, loving, and a often very funny.

With all that said, I AM NOT KEEPING HER!  Are you reading this Maddie?  We are NOT keeping her!  Well, we are going to be keeping her for the next six months while she goes through the surgeries and rehab but then she's out of here........please don't tell me this is the path towards being the proud owner of three dogs, one that is sight impaired and deaf, one that is autistic, and one that walks like she is about to go potty.  I wonder if I will ever own a "normal" dog again?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pawsitively Great Update

And it has everything to do with Alvin's paw.  Since Gracie came into the house Alvin has been in need of more of my attention.  I try to be very conscious of petting him regularly and in the past two weeks he has started to sleep right next to me on the bed, to the point that we look like we are connected at the hip.  We have started a ritual at bedtime of me scratching, petting him, and praising him for about 20 minutes before I turn out the light.  About a week ago, I had just put Gracie and Alvin on the bed and Gracie butted in and demanded my attention.  She is usually really good about allowing Alvin to have his time and doesn't interfere but that one night, she got up in my lap and put her face next to mine.  I was distracted and began petting her until I felt a little nudge and looked over to find Alvin right next to me and he was pawing me to get my attention back.  For those of you who have followed Alvin's story, I don't think any of us would have guessed that he would get the point of not only being able to accept physical touching, but to actually physically reach out to get it. 

It seems like the finally frontier was penetrated because I can pretty much scratch and pet his back, top of his head, his chin and chest, even when we are inside the house.  He is more leery when I am standing up but the improvement is very noticeable.  He comes to me multiple times a day when I am sitting on the couch and places his head in my hand so that I can pet him.  What a turn around from having to practically chase him down and try to convince him to let me pet him to now seeking me out and wanting to be touched.

He has always been more receptive to strangers and he has become quite comfortable with strangers petting him over his head and on his back.  Last weekend Cathy, the founder of Camp Cocker was in town and we went to meet her, along with a bunch of other people.  Alvin sought everyone out and let them pet him whenever they wanted.  He honed in one woman and was fixated on her.  He was dreamily gazing up at her and was nearly standing on her feet.  He was clearly in love.  I was so proud of him for being so approachable and affectionate. 

When I have to leave the house I place Gracie in a kennel because she has some separation anxiety and she had one tiff with Stevie.  She repeatedly growled at Stevie and then bit her.  I think Gracie was in pain after a physical therapy session and Stevie kept bumbling into her and she finally lashed out.  Stevie is the wrong dog to pick a fit with because she is a scrapper.  It may take her a minute to find the offending dog but when she does, she will win any street fight.  Gracie got a scolding and she changed the error of her way.  Anyway, so I put her in a kennel when I am gone.  I place kibble throughout the kennel so she will have something to occupy her.  She isn't a big eater and so it is common that she leaves some of it in the kennel.  As you can imagine, Alvin is all over that little situation.  He will repeatedly get in the kennel and them go back to check just to make sure there isn't something he missed.  The other night I heard him muttering and looked to find him in the kennel and him thinking he was trapped.  The door was ajar by about eight inches and any other dog would know to just push it the rest of the way open with their nose but with Alvin's spacial difficulties he was convinced he was trapped.  I started to go "rescue" him but then decided to let him figure it out.  I was talking to him like a person telling him to push the door open, and I'll be darned if he didn't take his paw, place it with the pads against the door and pushed it open, just like a human would do if you were to push a door open with the palm of your hand.  It was such a human move and quite interesting to see.

Tonight I decided that "we" would all walk my mom home because she had taken one-quarter of a 5 mg. Vicodin because she inexplicably broke both of her feet and 1.25 mgs. of Vicodin knocked her for a loop.  I gathered all three dogs and thought we could pull it off because Alvin rarely loops anymore.  I forgot that Alvin is afraid of the dark and he started looping around us like he was in a rodeo.  I then had seeing impaired/deaf Stevie and Gracie who basically walks on two legs.  It was a fiasco!  Not only did we all end up in a tangled mess but Alvin managed to circle my poor mom in his loop and we ended up being a huddled mass of two humans, two dogs, and Alvin about strangling himself outside of the circle.  I was frazzled and found myself saying in a disgusted, parental tone, "you know Alvin, I did this because I thought it would be a nice family outing."  Who is crazier?  Obviously me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No One Died

Although I sure that Alvin thought it was touch and go for a while.  I gave Alvin his fancy new hair cut this past weekend.  It took HOURS and a couple doses of sedatives but we got through it.  It is so unfortunate that his fur grows at a particularly fast rate and it is naturally curly so it mats up easily.  It gets more problematic due to his complete freak out at being brushed.  I have concluded that I am going to have to keep his fur short, which means us both biting the bullet and enduring the grooming horrors more frequently.  I could tell that getting all that fur off of him made him feel better.  Due to the thickness of his fur, I convinced myself that he had to weigh less when it was all gone, to the point that I actually weighed him but, nope, he's still fat. 

We started our "walks" with Gracie in a harness and Alvin looping into oblivion.  It would make a lot more sense and be far easier to take Gracie out by herself but I just can't keep leaving Alvin out.  He sees us leave three times a week to physical therapy and that in itself is enough to break my heart. The option of taking one at a time is kind of out because Gracie cries like I have shot her when I leave her out of something.  So off we go and we have outdone ourselves in the village idiot category.  Gracie wants to go faster than she should and so when I pull back on her she turns around and starts biting on the harness and/or starts walking sideways.  Meanwhile, Alvin doesn't know what in the world to make of the harness and so he reacts by looping us all down the road.  Honestly, we look like idiots.  Well, actually I look like an idiot and they look like my victims.  My mom recently managed to break both of her feet but she hobbles out on her porch to watch the whole show because it's a must-see.  I am only trying to figure out how to put her in a harness and "walk" her as well.  I will eventually get my mom to video it so you can all laugh and claim to have no idea who the crazy youtube lady is.

We all went over to my mom's house because she has stairs leading up to her front door and the physical therapist wants me to do an exercise with Gracie on stairs.  All by darned if Gracie didn't make it up the stairs just fine while poor Alvin managed to fall off and land in a bush.  I had to rescue him while he sat there dazed and terribly confused.  I was confused too because they are the same stairs he has walked up hundreds of times, but apparently climbing them next to a girl in a harness can really throw a guy for a loop.

For the past couple nights, Alvin and Gracie have spent periods of time sleeping next to each other on the bed.  Alvin gets a very obvious look about him, which is comprised of confidence and contentment.  He genuinely looks more confident and he is never the one to move away. 

He is continuing to adjust to life with Gracie in the house.  Like I mentioned before, I have extended his bedtime routine so that he gets more one-on-one attention.  I am grateful to Gracie who allows us to have the time without getting jealous and butting in.  I have also started making it a point several times a day to sit on the floor with him while scratching and praising him.  He has responded by being much more affectionate and often reaching up to lick my nose.  I think he realizes he has competition and has started to up his game.  Whatever works because it just makes my day when those huge Alvin eyes look up at me and he gives me a little kiss.  It's not all bliss because as you all know, Alvin gets his tongue mixed up and so sometimes I get a kiss from the underneath part of his tongue and sometimes he misses and licks my eye.  I just keep saying, progress not perfection.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More on Alvin

This weekend Camp Cocker is having their first annual reunion and everybody who is anybody in the Camp Cocker world will be there.  After a good portion of my heart died with the passing of Timmie I had originally decided not to go because I thought it would be too difficult.  With the passage of time, I had decided I would attend but now with Gracie here a four hour car ride each way would be too much.  She is just learning that car rides aren't going to kill her.  I suspect that her only care ride had been to be dumped off at the shelter.  During her first few car rides she made a screaming, crying noise as though I had shot her.  Even though her only car rides are to physical therapy and some of the exercises hurt her, she loves it so much there and so she is just starting to have a positive association with car rides.  But it would be too much and we would miss a physical therapy appointment if we went.  Let me tell you that Gracie is a much needed excuse.  Having to take Alvin back to all of us fans when he is currently Mr. Chub would be humiliating for me.  It would be like showing up to your high school reunion after suddenly gaining 40 pounds.  Out of desperation, I couldn't even dress him in a tutu to try to hide the chub because we all know how well that Thundershirt experiment went and so imagine him in a tutu.  We would only bring more attention to his overwhelming desire to eat and me ridiculously buying into his well practiced, I'm starving look. 

The biggest contributor to his weight gain has been Stevie.  Yep, I'm actually shameless enough to blame the deaf, seeing impaired, geriatric dog.  Stevie has become a very light eater and we have had to change foods a few times because of her flat out refusal to keep eating food once she has grown accustomed to it.  She has lost weight and is too little.  I offer her food and she often will eat a little bit and then quietly walks away.  Alvin goes into stealth mode and magically appears the second she has left the food.  I would love to keep food out for her all the time but Alvin wouldn't fit through the door if I tried that one.  She is so finicky about when and where she will eat and so trying to put her behind a closed door has only resulted in her initiating a hunger strike.  It's been just a mess and because I have the attention span of a gnat, I often get distracted and the next thing I know, Alvin has eaten enough for the two of them.  We started his diet over a week ago and so far he has maybe lost a couple of ounces.  He isn't a fan of vegetables and I feel like I have an overindulged two-year-old who only wants to eat french fries.  Just keep in mind, it's all Stevie's fault, but you won't get a chance to see Alvin's chubbiness to then blame her because he's currently in the fatty witness protection plan because I am too embarrassed for him to be seen.  It's also my mom's fault because when I first noticed he had put on a little weight, my mom said that he looked far better and that he was too skinny before.  Clearly, I took that way too far but between my mom and Stevie, they are huge chubbiness enablers.  Plus, Alvin literally walks around the house muttering like an old man.  He gets very uptight if he isn't grazing like a cow and walks around on a permanent guilt trip that is all directed towards me.  Do you see what I have to deal with?

We are continuing to have our bedtime snack because to take that away from him would probably cause a canine psychotic break.  I started to give him a little treat at night on the bed as a way to get him used to being picked up because he used to panic when I tried to pick him up.  I wanted him to get comfortable enough that if there was an emergency or he was hurt that I could pick him up without him struggling and hurting himself.  Also, it started back in the day when I was trying to get him used to being on the bed.  With his deep need for predictability, when I get ready for bed he actually starts licking his lips.  The muttering would never stop and he would loop himself straight off the bed if I put him up there without a treat waiting for him.  The quantity of the treat has been greatly reduced and I swear he knows it because he starts rooting around and then the muttering starts back up.  His "treat" is just a few pieces of his regular dog food but the boy likes to eat.  We then go into our new reassurance routine to remind him that he's still my number one man.  We got into a habit long ago of me saying, you're a good boy Alvin, and I would say it with a certain voice inflection.  It started when I was trying to convince him that being touched was safe.  Now when I say it, he puts his chin in the palm of my hand and lets me pet and scratch him.  I kid you not when I tell you that if I don't do the voice inflection he doesn't put his chin in my hand.  He has learned to associate the sentence and my voice inflection with affection to the point that I use the sentence to call him over to me during the day.  When I say, you're a good boy Alvin, he will come from wherever he has been and place his chubby little double chin in the palm of my hand. 

With the newest changes, he has responded by becoming more affectionate and every night while I am telling him that he is a good boy, he reaches up and repeatedly licks my nose.  There is something so incredibly endearing about him at bedtime when he becomes relaxed and shows affection.  He's come a long way.  He still sleeps right next to me and Gracie is very good about not crowding in on that sacred space.  Gracie sleeps curled up in a ball next to my head and Alvin is usually found plastered to my side and I can't help but feel like a very fortunate person when surrounded by two of the gentlest, most unassuming little souls on earth. 

Gracie should be Alvin's ideal little buddy.  Alvin likes dogs in general and she is so submissive that she acquiesces to him.  When else ever in his whole life will he meet a dog that lets him be the boss?  She never tries to eat his food and doesn't do anything that would cause him distress, but Alvin watches Gracie gimp around and looks at me like, "Mom, this one's broken.  Can we exchange her for one that works?"  Instead, he should appreciate that I searched the world over to find a dog that makes him look like the "normal" one. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Alvin is a Big Brother

Hopefully only a temporary big brother but I get the sinking feeling it might be otherwise.  We got a shiny new foster dog, Gracie.  Gracie was an owner turn in after clearly having been left in someones backyard for the first year of her life and was born with horrible knees.  Unfortunately, the owner let her live like this for a year, which has led to all kinds of complications because she was growing and it has caused significant damage to tendons, ligaments, and muscles.  Camp Cocker (God bless them) got her out of the shelter and she had double knee surgery but she now requires extensive physical therapy if there is any hope of correcting some of the damage.  How did I get her?  There is no physical therapy place in San Luis Obispo, which is where Camp Cocker is located and I took one look at the videos below and knew that someone had to help her.  Initially, she was only going to stay here during the 4-6 weeks of physical therapy but now we know that her condition is far more complicated and will take longer to help correct.  Also, she is very people oriented and there's no way I can send her back to boarding after her physical therapy is completed and so she will stay with us until she gets adopted.........adopted by someone other than me. 

I provided a link to when she was first rescued from the shelter, a video of her right after her knee surgery, and a few seconds of video of her first session of physical therapy.  She is currently going to physical therapy three times a week.  The therapy place, Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland is comprised of all kinds of specialists and not only are they just wonderful people but they are giving Camp Cocker a 20% discount.  Of course it's still costing a ton of money but without it, Gracie's muscles and tendons would continue to constrict and she would face a lifetime of pain.  She is a particularly sweet, gentle, joyful girl and is worth all the effort and money.  She is the easiest dog I have ever fostered.........fostered being the key word.  I am already seeing that it's going to be a challenge to find her an adoptive home but boy, is she a sweet, affectionate, easy dog!

I thought Alvin would have responded better to a new addition than he has.  I should have taken his not so subtle cue when the night before she arrived I told him he was going to get to be a big brother and he stomped both of his paws and bit at the air.......I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.  Gracie is even more submissive than Alvin, which I had to see to believe because I didn't know that was possible.  Unfortunately, this resulted in Gracie trying to follow Alvin around but because Alvin is so submissive (and autistic) he needs to be the one to follow.  When she tries to follow him, he gets scared and runs away.  I was hoping he would just go into his tight circles and then he wouldn't know who was the follower and who was the leader. 

I had to slightly rearrange the furniture at first and that threw poor Alvin nearly into a permanent loop.  He communicated his displeasure by going to the bathroom in the house for a few days and then walking around muttering most of the day.  We were able to put the furniture back but he continues to be off.  We have lengthened our bedtime ritual and so I spend about 20 minutes at night in bed with me praising him and scratching him.  He started going to grandma's house today for some one on one time but it resulted in him refusing to leave the kitchen and just staring at where the meat had been for nearly an hour.  We have had to greatly reduce his treats at grandma's, as well as here, because when Gracie arrived, I was struck with how much bigger Alvin is than her.  Gracie is a cocker spaniel and only weighs 14 pounds and Alvin looked big as a house next to her.  I realized that I have been in nearly pathological denial that my little boy has become a big chub.  I realized that I was like that mother who has an obviously overweight kid and just keeps saying, oh, he's just a little husky.  I haven't groomed him for quite some time and had it in my mind that he was just fluffy.  I weighed him and let's just say that I would be more inclined to type my weight here than Alvin's.  It is so embarrassing when a pet is overweight because it's entirely the owners fault.  We are starting on his little diet, which has resulted in disgusted muttering on his part.

I realized I probably traumatized Alvin to no end last night.  I have always preferred male dogs because I find that they often come with far less drama.  I was looking around the house last night and realized that between Stevie, Maddie, Gracie, and me that Alvin's the only male in the house.  I told him that he was now the man of the house but later realized that not only does it border on crazy that I am talking to a dog and terming him the man of the house, but had Alvin been able to understand me, he must think everything is going to hell in a hand basket if he's in charge. 

I am certain there is much more to report but I will close for now.  If you know of anyone who is dying to donate to a very worthy charity, please refer them to because I can almost hear the ching chings every time we arrive at physical therapy.  God bless Camp Cocker because if it weren't for them, dogs as special as Alvin and Gracie would have been put to sleep in a scary shelter and instead, one is now the head of the household and the other is the absolute bell of the therapy Ball.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

There's a New Top Dog in Town

If I had bet my entire bank account (which isn't impressive) on what just occurred, I would be bankrupt because I could have never predicted this one.  I am sitting here still stunned and yet, thrilled. 

I took Alvin and Stevie on their walk and we came across Moses at the park near my house.  Moses is a large, male, black lab who is dog and person friendly.  Moses and Alvin have had many interactions, with Moses getting quickly bored and Alvin and Stevie trying desperately to get his attention.  Tonight, Alvin tried harder than usual to interact with him and chased after him.  This in itself was remarkable and I was thrilled.  I keep both dogs on leashes and ended up dragging poor Stevie along so we could keep up with Alvin's advances.  I didn't want to discourage Alvin from trying to play.  Like many things for Alvin, it kind of backfired because Moses then kept trying to hump Alvin.  It became a scene with a lot of leash tangles.  Alvin looked a bit afraid a couple of times because Moses just kept chasing and chasing him, but I didn't intervene because it's good for Alvin to run around and he seemed okay.  But then the jaw dropping event occurred.  Alvin turned and made a deep growl.  You could have knocked me over.  I crouched down to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing and sure enough, it was Alvin because he made several, very convincing growls and even some snarls.  It was convincing enough that Moses kind of backed off.  I was so proud of Alvin that I praised and praised him, but kept looking at him because I still couldn't comprehend what I just heard.  Meanwhile, here came Stevie who LOVES Moses and promptly tried to hump him, and so we had a humping train going on. 

We then walked home and I ran into some neighbors and I promptly told them all about it.  The entire neighborhood is stunned.  We are home now and Alvin and Stevie are revved up.  It was terribly exciting for all three of us.  Alvin needed a lot of reassurance from me.  I am not sure if it was due to him being proud of himself or insecure, but I have been praising and petting him.  I am like the mother of the child that gets beat up on the playground and finally wallops and knocks the bully flat.  Moses isn't much of a bully but it still was quite a feat by Alvin.  He is still huffing and puffing and should be very proud of himself.  Who knew?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Alvin's New Toy Closet

I recently discovered that Alvin has found many new toys and there is a whole closet of them.  While wearing my little Barbie heel type shoes, I looked down to discover several little Alvin teeth marks in them.  I then discovered two other pairs that had his little calling card all over them.  His main chew toy (the odd belt thing) wasn't exactly where it should be and so he resorted to finding new chew toys.  Lovely!

Alvin finally barked for the first time.  I was putting Stevie's pill in the hot dog and apparently I was taking too long and Alvin became worried he wouldn't get his share.  My back was to him when I heard the oddest, high pitched yelp and turned around to realize that Alvin had "barked".  It sounded like the yelp a woman makes if you were to jump out and scare her.  I don't know who was more shocked by the noise, him and me.  After all this waiting, I was not disappointed because it sounded very much like I would expect a bark from Alvin to sound like.  It in no way resembled any noise from a dog and certainly wasn't masculine.  I was so excited that I instantly praised him and gave him some hot dog, in hopes that he would grace me with the sound again.

Yesterday I had to take Stevie to the eye doctor and I thought I could put the leash on her and scurry out of the house, without causing Alvin distress that he wasn't going too.  That instantly backfired when Alvin tried twice to go out with us and it was clear that he didn't understand that he wouldn't be included.  I put a leash on him and planned to take him to grandma's, but grandma ended up being right outside my door.  I handed her his leash and asked her to walk Alvin around until we could leave.  Poor little Alvin got so worried about me leaving without him that he put his bottom on the ground and refused to leave with her.  Alvin is terribly fearful of riding in the car but when he saw me putting Stevie in, he tried to get in too.  It is often difficult to assess how much Alvin has bonded with me, but yesterday it was very clear that he has indeed bonded, to the point that he was willing to risk life and limb to be with me.  Grandma called later to inform me that Alvin was at her house, eating a cheese burger patty and so I think he forgot all about me.

A few nights ago Alvin was in bed with me doing that odd mouthing thing he does with my fingers.  I willingly gave him my fingers because it distracted him from partaking in his new hobby, which is to lick the sheets.  Lovely!  While mouthing my fingers, he ended up biting down with his back teeth and it hurt!  I jerked my finger back and yelled, ouch!  Alvin responded by trying to sniff my finger and clearly realized he had hurt me, and he then laid down with his head resting between his paws and was very sad.  He is now back to chewing on this gait belt.

Alvin managed to scare another dog but sadly, he wasn't aware that his presence had been intimidating.  It was his one chance at being scary and he missed it.  A little Chihuahua ran out and was immediately frightened by the big dog, Alvin.  Because Alvin can't locate the direction of sound, he never spotted the dog and he missed his big chance to feel big.

Alvin is doing well.  He is improving on allowing me to pet him.  It is clear that being pet on his back, causes some type of irritation because he has to do a full body shake after each petting session. 

We're gearing up for another bath and grooming session.  I tend to sit and think about it for a couple of weeks because it just isn't a bit of fun for either of us.

I apologize for the lack of posts.  I don't have an excuse and just got distracted by the sun and fun. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Alvin Finally Has a Toy!

I have wanted to find a toy for Alvin to play with because there are videos of him playing with toys in his former foster home.  In the videos he clearly observed and imitated the other dogs in the home but because I don't have any dogs here that play with toys, Alvin hasn't shown an interest in anything I offer him, other than my hand.  But my wish has finally come true and Alvin has a toy!!!  Okay, so the toy turns out to be a gait belt.  If you don't know what that is, don't feel bad.  It's the cloth belt that is used in physical therapy and nursing homes that is wrapped around the waist of the patient and used to help hold up their weight.  I have the one that we used to use for my grandma and Alvin recently discovered it.  Why would a dog use a cloth belt as a toy?  Beats me!  I now leave it on the floor in his favorite place to rest and he loves to do that odd, light chewing thing he used to do on my hand.  He then does his odd neck lunge and then again lightly bites the belt.  This keeps him busy for quite some time every day.  I want very much to video him doing this, as well as many other things, but the minute I get the camera out, he stops what he is doing and runs to examine the camera.  Unfortunately, his curiosity doesn't go away after a few minutes, but instead he will doing a staring stand off with me until I give up.  So, when considering a new toy for your dog, consider stopping by your local nursing home and requesting a gait belt because it seems to provide hours and hours of entertainment for at least one dog.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Can You Touch Your Face With Your Own Butt?

After having great success on our regular walks, I decided that we should all hit the trail.  I have a lovely walking trail near my house and so Alvin, Stevie, and I all went for our newest adventure.  It went quite well and Alvin was very interested in all the new sights.  I can't say that he was interested in the new smells because to add to his mystery, Alvin is the only dog, not to mention cocker, that doesn't stop to smell everything.  Although he can't be dragged away from wanting to sniff my mom's legs and feet, when we are out on walks, Alvin never tries to smell anything. 

A few people were taken aback because when Alvin spots a new person he beelines towards them while doing that spooky stare of his.  People tend to look a bit concerned as though he might be aggressive and I don't have the words to explain that not only is he not aggressive but in actuality, he is afraid of people. 

We were plodding along just fine until a man on a bike came up from behind and passed us.  Due to the fact that Alvin can't locate the direction of sound, he had no warning and he reacted by shoving his bottom so far forward that it just about met his face.  I have never seen a dog be able to touch his face with his own butt.  He was a bit shaken up by it but recovered within seconds and wanted to keep going.  We will be using the trail much more because it's good for him to get more accustomed to all different people, noises, and bicycles.  Stevie thought it was just grand but it was a bit challenging because she is the number one cocker sniffer of the world and so trying to drag her along, while Alvin was making beelines for frightened people left me looking as though I was trying to land surf, with my legs and arms spread in opposing directions.  But all of this is just part of our little family now.

I am only sorry that we can't take Maddie, the cat.  I used to live in an area where there was a contained walking trail and every time I took my dog for walks (about four times a day), she would come running when she saw the leash and then follow us the whole way and turn back with us as we headed for home.  My favorite part was that inevitably when my dog would go up on the grassy section to urinate, Maddie would follow, squat, go potty, and then come back down to resume the walk.  She had a genuine fan club of other walkers who had never seen anything like it and just couldn't get enough of watching her.  I am sad that where I live now deprives us all of her dog walks but she got a big, fenced back yard in the deal and so I think she has forgiven me.  Maddie recently turned 16 and I guilted my mom into throwing her a Sweet 16 party.  I wasn't going to do it because it's crazy to throw a cat a party but I suckered my mom into it.  Maddie got a Hello Kitty balloon and numerous treats.  The party was two weeks ago and she still goes to the special spot where we gave her the treats and begs for them......she is such a dog in a cat's body!

Alvin, the Bucking Dog

My computer has been on the blink and so I have been unable to update, but oh boy, have there been happenings around here.  I will try to post them all in the next week or two but for starters, Camp Cocker was kind enough to send Alvin a Thunder shirt.  For those of you that don't know what that is, basically, it's a shirt that gets velcroed on and is supposed to help anxious dogs feel contained and safe.  The philosophy behind it made sense to me because when I worked in foster care and we had newborns that were going through drug withdrawal and cried continuously, there was a specific way to tightly wrap them (very much like a burrito) that seemed to give them instant relief.  It was always a marvel to see because if you did it wrong, the baby kept screaming but if you undid it and got it right, the baby almost instantly stopped.  There are similar methods used for autistic children and when they receive constant pressure to certain parts of their bodies, they tend to be very soothed.  The Thunder shirt idea comes from Temple Grandin, who is the autistic woman who was able to write about what it feels like to be autistic and came up with specific techniques for anxiety ridden animals.  There is a belief that autistic humans have a much broader, better understanding of animals and from the reading I have done, I suspect that is very true.  So, the idea seemed like a good one but it kept nagging in my head that Alvin doesn't like being touched and so how was that going to work?  Well, it didn't!  Let's just say that putting Alvin in a thunder shirt resulted in a lot of crying, running, and tripping, and that was just me.  Alvin responded by turning into a bucking bronco and ran around the house bucking his back legs out from him.  He then resorted to his circus pony routine and ran in tight circles while still bucking like a maniac.  I wonder if I should have left it on longer but the two times I put it on, he seemed so wigged out that after a few minutes I took it off.  I have a feeling that a thunder shirt could be helpful for many dogs and according to the manufacturer, 80% of owners report a decrease in anxiety when they put it on their dog, but I read nothing about a bucking, circling, pony routine. 

Speaking of touch, Alvin has responded very well to going out on walks more often.  He thrives on the additional stimuli and he seems the happiest he has ever been when out walking.  What recently occurred is that when we are on our walks I can reach down and pet his back and head as much as I want without him shying away.  We have a routine of going for our walk, going to the "park" (grassy area in the middle of my neighborhood? and us both sitting down facing each other while I just pet and pet him.  I have had my mom come out with us and she gets so tickled at being able to pet his head and back.  She always shows him her hand so that he knows it's her, in the hopes that the behavior will transfer when we get in the house.  As soon as we come back in the house and my mom inevitably tries to pet him, he runs away and won't let either of us near his head or back.  My mom tries to shame him into complying by telling him that he is being just plain weird but he won't conform to her expectations.  It is odd and mystifying to have just pet a dog on his head and back with absolute ease and then walk 20 feet into the house and have such a different response.  With that said, he has started to be more receptive to allowing me to pet his head and back inside the house.  I have posted in the past about him being an utterly different dog on the bed and allowing me to pet him all over but he gets far more skittish on the floor, particularly when I am standing.  We have experienced a bit more progress in that area but it's just too much to ask him to let me pet his back right after coming in from having done it outside. 

What I have found particularly interesting is that whenever I pet his back or head when inside, he immediately has to shake his whole body, much like a dog does when they get wet.  It is as if the touch itself is irritating or itchy to him, but when I touch him outside he does not shake it off.  Who could even guess why?

There is much more to report, particularly our first try at taking a walk on the walking trail but I will leave it for another time.  In the meantime, it is bedtime and Alvin is going to need to get his cute little self up on my bed so he can be my cuddle partner.........does anyone else see the insanity of all the contradictions?