Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alvin Meets the Fam

My dad lives in out of state and came for a few days to visit during Christmas.  I was eager for him to stay here because I wanted to see how Alvin would react to a male in the house, because if you have been following this blog then you know that a male in this house is a rare occurrence indeed.  Now getting a non-relative male in this house would just be slightly short of a miracle, but knowing my luck it would probably only be a repair man.   But back to the sweetest male in my life, Alvin - I wanted to see in general how he would react to someone new here.  Alvin is a friendly dog.  It is difficult to describe how an anxious dog can be a friendly dog but Alvin pulls it off quite well.  He is so curious about human beings and everything they do and so he stayed right around my dad and repeatedly put his nose on him.  Alvin confuses people because he will repeatedly come right up to the person and get as close as a dog can get without being in their lap but when the person goes to pet him, he quickly backs away, only to come right back.  I guess he just really likes to be physically close, as in his nose on the person, but it feels too vulnerable to be touched.  I had previously told my dad over the phone that I, along with others, think that Alvin is autistic and my dad scoffed at that idea because one, he had never heard of a dog having autism (it does indeed exist) and two, he couldn't imagine what a dog could do to give the impression that he/she had autism.  My father was a teacher, principal, and educational superintendent during his 40-plus years of working and so he is quite familiar with autism.  After being here for one night, I asked my dad if he was still skeptical about Alvin being autistic and he responded by spontaneously doing that kind of coughing-laughing response and said a definitive no. 

I had my dad sleep in my bed because it has the best mattress but I didn't know what Alvin would do with having the gang all in the guest bedroom.  I usually leave that door closed and so he has been in the guest bedroom less than five times, and for no more than a minute and so the room is very unfamiliar to him.  I left his bed in the room with my dad so that Alvin would have that there if he chose to sleep in there, but he would have the familiarity of the dogs and me if he chose to sleep in the guest bedroom with us.  I really thought that he would sleep with us just because my dad is a new person but he chose to sleep in the bedroom with my dad in his own little bed.  I was encouraged by that because I am learning that Alvin isn't afraid of new people, he is just afraid of them touching him.  The second night he chose to sleep with the dogs and me, which was also encouraging because more and more I am noticing that Alvin really likes to be included and does seem to feel a sense of belonging with us.  The feeling is mutual because I don't know what we did without him all the time before he circled into our lives.

Speaking of circling, my dad's arrival initially created quite a dilemma for Alvin.  My dad sat in the chair that Alvin loops around and this really threw him for a loop (pun intended).  My mom always sits in that chair when she comes over and as you all know, she is here a lot and so she is not a new person to him.  But with a new person sitting in the middle of his looping route, he just didn't know what to do and so he started to make a circle right in front of the television.  He repeatedly circled there for most of the first night and so our television viewing consisted of part of the screen blocked by Alvin's circling tail.  He must have become more comfortable with my dad because the second night he put my dad on his route and circled around the chair again.  You know Alvin is comfortable with you when he put you on his route.

Speaking of Alvin feeling more comfortable with people, while my dad was here Alvin let out his truck driver burp (no offense to truck drivers).  It really is his best trick and would be a wonderful addition to nearly any dinner party.  Well, a dinner party comprised of sumo wrestlers, but a dinner party nonetheless.  I fed Alvin and then did the count down to his after dinner burp and he let it rip.  I had warned my dad but hearing such a little dog burp like that is something one can't completely prepare for.  My reaction is probably the most inappropriate because I am strangely proud of him when he does it.  If only Alvin had come into my life when I was in college because there were many a party I would have taken him to and made money off of burping contests.  Oh, the missed opportunity there.

Tonight there was an opportunity I didn't miss, however.  I went into my bedroom and Alvin was in his little dog bed.  He goes in and goes to bed much earlier than the rest of us and when I went in he sat up in his bed.  He looked so groggy and sweet that I couldn't help myself but to kneel down and put my hands on each side of him.  I then hugged him like I would a person.  I have no idea why I felt compelled to hug him but he actually allowed me to hug him and didn't try to squirm away.  I then then kept my hands on his sides and put my face up to his and he very gently started licking my nose.  I am not a big fan of dogs licking me because I am always aware that they are capable of licking their own genitalia and at least one of the dogs in this house likes to get into the litter box in search of disgusting treats.  But Alvin giving kisses is impossible to resist and he very gently and lovingly showed my nose affection.  It just doesn't get cuter than that.

Alvin also got to meet my grandma recently.  I take Stevie and Timmie to the nursing home my grandma is in but I think that would be overwhelming for Alvin.  On Christmas day I was driving my grandma from dinner with the family back to her nursing home and I decided to make a detour to go by my house so she could meet him because I keep telling her all about him.  My grandma was the one that introduced our whole family to cocker spaniels because she and my grandpa got one for my mom and her sisters growing up and we have been a cocker family ever since.  I brought all three dogs out into the driveway and although Alvin was very curious about my grandma, he took one look at the car and didn't want anything to do with it.  The other two tried to climb in but that was one adventure that Alvin wasn't going to have any part of.  But my grandma got to see him and he has now officially met all the members of my family.  Alvin loves my mom but for an initial meeting he seemed to take most to my aunt.  Alvin seems to pick his people and I would love to know what his criteria for selection consists of.  He seems to be right on the money so far and so I just might leave it up to him to select my next boyfriend, although I will probably try to find a very old, wealthy man with a heart condition and then sneak treats into his pocket so Alvin "selects" him.  I'm not sure where one runs across elderly, single, wealthy, men with heart conditions but I think our next "walk" may be around a golf course.  A girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Everybody Loves Alvin

Please forgive me for not updating sooner.  We have all been quite busy with holiday guests, parties, and also Alvin's foster sister, Stevie's cataract surgery.  We have so much to report and I will try to fill you all in on at least some of it, with other posts to follow.

You may want to sit down for the first update because it's likely to blow your socks clean off.  I groomed Alvin, and by grooming I mean with clippers and everything.  I really didn't mean to groom him but I got clippers and a how-to video for Christmas because I figured I could learn and then start grooming my dog, Timmie and my foster dog, Stevie.  I hadn't even considered trying to do Alvin after our bathtub fiasco.  Timmie is an unusually compliant dog and although the clippers scared him, he stood as still as could be and even rolled over on his back, with his legs pointed to the sky while I shaved his belly.  While doing all of this, Alvin literally had his nose on the clipper handle and seemed mesmerized by it.  I then thought, well what the heck.  How bad could it be?  I had been talking to Cathy at Camp Cocker about getting Alvin groomed and was really at a loss because it scares him so much to be up on a table and then to be touched all over by a stranger in a closed was liable to cause him to go on doggy Prozac for the rest of his life.  Cathy wanted to pay for a groomer to come to the house so that he would be in a familiar setting with me there, but then when he was so darn interested in the clippers I decided to give it a whirl.  I can't say that he liked it but he was on the floor, in his favorite room, with me doing just a little at a time.  So far I have been able to shave his back, his ears inside and out, his face, and his head, with a top knot included.  While he was sleeping I was able to scissor his front paws.  Being able to groom his face was the major victory because his eyes are watering as much as they did before his eye surgery and he develops a yeast infection on his skin underneath his eyes.  I took him back to the eye doctor who prescribed eye drops for him twice a day.  I am still astonished that the man can keep a straight face when telling me to put eye drops into Alvin's eyes twice a day.  We have been doing it but his eyes continue to water just as much.  Being able to shave the fur on his face down helps keep the skin dry, which is a help.  Grooming Alvin is pretty funny to observe because we do it on the floor, in my bedroom and he wiggles around.  With that said, he looks pretty darn cute.  I still have to figure out a way to blend his skirt and also trim his legs and chest with scissors, which may then result in the end of him looking cute.  After the second night of grooming him, he was pretty upset with me and I finally had to go close the back door because he insisted on staying outside, with just his head peaking through and would just stare at me with the most pitiful look.  Of course, I feel horrible but he does seem to forgive me every time and I know what the alternative would be.  We are taking a couple days off to let him emotionally recoup.  After I closed the door the one night, I put him up on the bed with me when we were going to bed and he started all of that lounging, puppy teething behavior and it was the most pronounced it had ever been.  He was actually panting a bit and I have learned that when Alvin has his mouth open even a little bit it is a sign that he is stressed out. I can now look at Alvin and know how he is feeling.  For those of you who have been following from the beginning, you may recall that I was at a loss to figure out what he was communicating and how to know when he was upset, but I have learned Alvin's language pretty well and there are very few times now when I don't know what he is feeling.  With all of that said, I can't believe how good his grooming looks and it has made me wonder if one of three things:

1. Grooming is easier than I thought that it would be.

2. I am naturally gifted at grooming dogs.

3. The most likely scenario - that I am suffering from a delusional disorder that convinces me that he looks much better than he actually does.  You all are probably familiar with this particularly delusional disorder.  It's the one where you see a person that just looks hideous and you question how they looked in the mirror and decided that they looked great when in actuality they don't.  But something inside of the person allowed them to momentarily part with reality and see themselves looking far better than they actually look.  I suspect that when I look at Alvin I see him looking groomed in a way that doesn't reflect reality but whatever the case, I think he looks cute as a button.  (Notice the absence of pictures in this post)

Speaking of communication, we have the potty signal down to a science.  Alvin doesn't know how to go to the door and signal that he has to go.  He won't go potty until the very moment when he can't hold it any longer and so it doesn't matter if I put him out two minutes beforehand, Alvin only goes when he really has to go.  He does this unmistakable bug eyed look, while frantically circling and I jump up and open the back door and out he goes.  This has been extremely appreciated because it allows me to keep the back door closed and so we are all no longer freezing our butts off.  He does know how to hold it when it comes to being on the bed with me at night.  I have a plastic mattress cover just in case, but he has never gone on the bed and sleeps with my throughout the night.  I do leave the back door open at night because Stevie is an older gal and she gets up in the night to go and I don't always hear her.  This has resulted in the house being quite chilly at night and so lately Alvin has been curling up into a little ball and sleeping in the crook of my neck or against my body right underneath my underarm.  There is no cuter sight then Alvin curled up in a ball sound asleep.  I do have an electric blanket under the comforter and the other two dogs prefer to sleep on that because it radiates warmth up to them, and although Alvin is still leery of being touched during the day, at night he plasters himself against me.  I love that he does that and it's my reward for having him here.

On a less cheery note, Alvin will be having his knees surgery on January 6th.  There were people on here that donated money and between those donations and Camp Cocker selling a calender, the proceeds cover Alvin's surgery.  He very much needs the surgery but I am becoming increasingly apprehensive about it.  It's double knee surgery and it's going to hurt.  The idea of Alvin in pain upsets me.  I also have to manage to keep him off his feet as much as possible for at least the first two weeks.  That may not sound daunting but Alvin is a pacer and a big time pacer when confined.  His anxiety seems to trump anything else and so I worry very much about trying to keep him relaxed enough to lie down.  I am hoping the surgeon sends us home with an adequate amount of sedatives because I fear that without them that Alvin could circle himself to the point of harm.  Whatever the case, we are going to get through this.  Once we get through Alvin's knee surgery, my mom will be having her first knee done.  Unfortunately, there are laws against me putting her in a crate while she recuperates.

There is much more to report but I will close with this, I am realizing that Alvin is the most popular being in this house.  The cat loves him and wants to figure out how to get him to cuddle with her.  Stevie seems to like him okay but the real achievement is that Timmie really likes Alvin.  Timmie is nearly pathologically jealous of any animal getting any of my attention but he rarely seems to mind when Alvin gets my attention.  Timmie shares with Alvin and has a whole different set of rules for him then the rules he has for Stevie and Maddie.  Every once in a while Timmie gets the idea in his head that he wants to play with Alvin but because both of them are socially delayed, it comes off as a confusing mess.  Timmie is like a bull in a china closet when trying to play and he starts running and leaping in ways that look more like he is having a seizure and Alvin just tries to get the hell out of dodge.  It doesn't seem to scare Alvin as much as he just seems very confused and wants no part of that show.  But Timmie has found his little sidekick and whenever Timmie runs to explore something there is Alvin right behind him.  I am happy for Timmie because most dogs just don't take him seriously and Timmie takes himself very seriously, and now he has finally found someone gullible enough to follow him in all of his misadventures.  My mom likes Alvin and my dad recently visited and met Alvin as well (more discussion on that later), and he was also a bit smitten by him.  I realized that everybody loves Alvin because he is just too sweet and innocent not to love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Makes People so Good?

I wrote this tonight about my experience today with taking Alvin's foster sister, Stevie to get her cataract surgery.  I thought I would share it here too.  Forgive the grammatical errors.  I had to be up at 4:15 AM and drove seven hours and so my writing suffered. 

What Makes People so Good?

by Camp Cocker Rescue on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 8:30pm
I took my Camp Cocker foster dog, Stevie to get cataract surgery today. Stevie came into the rescue completely blind with cataracts that the first eye specialist said were inoperable. On a fluke, we found out that they were indeed operable but that it would be a complicated surgery. All anyone seemed to hear was that Stevie could see again. Today I learned one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned and it took over 20 people to teach me the lesson.

It is so easy to hear about mistreated, abandoned, abused animals and to feel outrage towards human beings, while asking that one question that always comes to mind, what is wrong with people? I learned today that there is a lot, not only right about people, but that most people are tremendously caring, generous, compassionate beings. It is easy to get discouraged and think you are one of the only ones who care about animals or other helpless beings, but I have found that each one of us are not alone and that there are masses of people who also care.

There must have been a person who carelessly bred Stevie's mom and I say carelessly because Stevie has the signs of a dog of very poor breeding. She is nearly deaf from chronic ear infections and up until today she has been blind due to untreated cataracts. These are both cocker traits that commonly occur in poor bred dogs. Whether it was the same person or someone else, she was let down by someone trying a rope around her neck that was left there to embedded in her skin, leaving a pronounced scar around her entire neck. Obviously she was left outside, tied to something that tore deep into her skin. Her cataracts were left untreated and she probably endured a great deal of pain from untreated ear infections. She was then found roaming the streets of LA, blind, skinny, and afraid. Reading this, one could easily ask, what is wrong with people? But I am about to tell you what is right about people and how they outnumber the one, two, or three people who let Stevie down.

Stevie came into a very over-crowded shelter where dogs simply don't live but a few days there because of the need to "make space" for the never ending revolving door of stray dogs and cats that come in, often in the hundreds. I can only imagine how hard one has to become to survive working in such an environment and yet, the people who worked there did not have the heart to put Stevie to sleep. I can't imagine how difficult it is to have to choose who lives and who dies, but I do know that they choose Stevie to live. Stevie ended up staying in the shelter for two unbelievably long time for any dog but for one that was estimated to be nine-year-old, blind, with chronic ear infections and nearly deaf? Why did they choose to save her, I often wonder? On paper it makes no sense. People started to try to save Stevie. A man by the name of Robert Cabral went to the shelter, spent time with Stevie, filmed her and made a video in hopes of getting her saved. A woman by the name of Vilma Giulia took time to contact countless people asking if someone would save her. No one came but they didn't give up. Then a woman named Carolyn who owns a boarding facility in Romoland, California told Camp Cocker that she would donate a free space in her boarding facility for a blind, older cocker. Why would she do that, I have wondered? Camp Cocker chose Stevie, knowing that she would be nearly impossible to find a home for because there just aren't too many people that will adopt an old, blind, deaf dog. And Carolyn must have known that Stevie would be at her boarding facility for a long time and yet, she made the offer. Stevie did indeed stay for quite a long time at the boarding facility. A woman by the name of Tracey Kuhlin fostered Stevie in her home even though she had three other dogs. Unfortunately, because Stevie was deaf and blind, she would wait out in the cold and the rain for Tracey when she was at work and so it was decided that she could be kept warmer and dryer at the boarding facility. This wasn't bad news for Stevie because she had a boyfriend waiting back at the boarding facility, named Black Buddy who was also a blind, old cocker spaniel that Carolyn also donated a space for at her boarding facility. Finally, Stevie came to me to foster. I can't say that there was anything particulary generous about my offer to foster Stevie because the truth is that I had already had a blind, deaf, old cocker and after losing him at the age of nearly 15, I thought that fostering Stevie would help me over my grief of losing Maury. I thought it was the best way to pay tribute to Maury, and selfishly, I knew that blind, older dogs are the easiest to care for because they like to lay around a lot, just like me.

Right after Stevie was rescued by Camp Cocker they took her to an eye specialist to see if her cataracts could be removed. Because Stevie was an older dog, there are a lot of rescues who wouldn't be willing to go to such an expense but Camp Cocker was willing to pay for an expensive surgery if she would be able to see again. When I say, pay for, this would mean fundrasing dollar by dollar and it's really hard work. The eye specialist did not recommend cataract surgery because her cataracts were hyper mature. So, Stevie came to me without hope of seeing again. It was a fluke that she was seen by a second eye specialist who said that he was willing to do the very laborious, complicated surgery to allow Stevie to see again. Not only was he willing to do it, but he was willing to comp the exams and the medicine, not to mention that he charges far less than most eye specialists. And then began the journey of finding out just how many people there are out there that were willing to help one little, old, blind, deaf dog. I started asking for money. My pride issues immediately surfaced and I didn't want to ask anyone for money but I also couldn't be another person who let Stevie down. And what happened next let me know how much is right in the world and how many people there are out there who will help one little dog whom most will never meet. Money started coming in from all over the country. Very few had ever even met Stevie, most heard about her for the first time while writing out their checks for her. Over 20 people gave money for Stevie's surgery, many I suspect stretched themselves a bit thin. I found that I was incredibly touched by the small donations, especially when they came with a note of saying that the person wished they could give more. I believed them and knew that for some, the small amount was a sacrifice. I was also very touched by the larger donations, and again, I wondered how many had sacrificed to help one little dog. I had one very generous donation come from a man trying to buy a house, while raising three kids, and paying for a wedding in a couple months. This man made it clear that he doesn't even like dogs, but he loves me (my brother) and so he gave more than I could have ever dreamed. Many people I don't know at all, while others are people who already have four, five, or six rescue dogs in their homes that they are paying for. I got donations from people who are unemployed. One woman donated a limited edition piece of artwork. And there were people who could not give but took their time to pass the word along about Stevie.

And then I got a message from a woman I had never met, who owns a jewelry store, Jeweltrain in Fremont, California and wanted to host a day at her store for Stevie to help fundraise for her surgery. This came at exactly the right time because the donations had stopped and we were still short quite a bit of money. Business hadn't been great, she explained, but she really wanted to do this for Stevie. She had once adopted a blind, deaf, old dog (Camp Cocker Benny) and she thought it would be a nice way to pay tribute to him. She enlisted the help of her family and friends. She went to considerable expense and time to make the day perfect, plus she was donating 25% of the sales to Stevie. Days before the event, her store was burglarized, meaning that quite a bit of her stock was gone at the most crucial time of the year. I really wanted to cancel the event because it didn't seem right for her to have the extra burden of giving 25% of her sales to Stevie, when she would need that money herself. She insisted that the event go on and even made her husband wear a Santa suit all day. The sales did not come in as she had hoped. I realized that the amount we had hoped to raise, simply hadn't come it and that was okay with me. I was surrounded by people who had driven considerable distances just to lend support. One woman took the entire day off of work just to help. What more could someone ask for? At the end of the day, the owner of the jewelry store approached me with a check and explained that we hadn't raised nearly the amount she hoped but that she wanted to give Camp Cocker a check for Stevie's surgery. The amount on that check made me cry on the spot. The generosity was overwhelming and it came from a woman who had just had her store burglarized.

Today when I saw Stevie get on her hind legs and look out the window for the first time, I couldn't help but ask, what makes people so good? What makes people care this much? I thought about the one, two, or three people who let Stevie down in her life but that is no longer important and not what anyone should be focusing on (Stevie sure doesn't) because those 1-3 people, were outnumbered by over 20 who cared. The sad reality is that it only takes on thoughtless breeder to produce 5-7 puppies and so it becomes easy to think that there are a countless amount of uncaring, irresponsible people out there but in reality, there are countless amounts of really good, honest, generous people . If dogs could only produce a litter of one, we would have this war won but because they often produce so many offspring, it seems as though the good people are outnumbered, but they aren't!

How I know the good people aren't outnumbered is when I think about Camp Cocker. It was started by one woman, Cathy Stanley who during Hurricane Katrina, didn't sit back watching the news and thinking, oh, how awful. She rented a van, took her own money and her own time and drove to New Orleans...... think about that for a minute. She volunteered to go into homes searching for animals and was confronted with a lot of dead, dying, and horribly ill animals. Every day she got up and spent all day and most of the night pulling dead and alive animals out of homes. She then took her own money and brought some of them back where she paid herself to heal them. Subsequently, she has rescued over 500 dogs, each and everyone of them would have either been put to sleep in really scary, crowded shelters, or another dog would have been put to sleep to "make space". I am sitting beside one of those dogs, a dog that had been hit by a car and his pelvis was crushed. It was very expensive to put him back together and because of that, other rescues had passed him by. Cathy drove three hours each way on Christmas Eve to take him to a vet hospital so that he wouldn't have to wait even another day without pain medication. Some question, why put so much money into one dog? It's ironic because these are the dogs that we see on the news and everyone cries out, oh no! Someone save that dog! But very few actually do go save that dog. Four years later, that dog goes to visit elderly people in nursing homes, adores children, is starting to volunteer to sit next to children while they read through a literacy program. He is the absolute light of my life! He's perfect! There still has not been a day that has gone by that at some point, I don't thank God for the Cathy Stanley's of the world. But how did she save 500 dogs? She saved 500 dogs because 500 people stepped up and were willing to take an often imperfect dog into their homes, only to find out that the dog is perfect for them. Beyond the 500 people who have been the champion in the lives of one dog at a time, have come the countless masses who have donated $3, $5, $20, $100, many times sacrificing in order to help a dog whom they have never met or will meet. And so I ask again, what makes people so good?

So, today I was back at the same eye specialist that I had taken my first dog to, having the same surgery and of course, missing him. It made me think back to how I got my first dog. A woman by the name of Elena Kagan was walking back to her car after a meeting and saw a sign that said that a dog would be put to sleep if the family did not find a home for him by the end of the week. She went to the address and got the dog, not knowing where she was going to put him but she had to know that she would be spending her own money for a dog that wasn't even hers. She spent hundreds of dollars on him and for five weeks endured a dog that went to the bathroom all over her carpet and chased her cats. I stumbled upon Elena and heard the desperation in her voice. I took Maury, not planning on keep him but he ended up living with me for four years, until the age of nearly 15 when he had to be put to sleep due to healthy problems that couldn't be corrected. I took him in for the cataract surgery and I encountered some people who couldn't understand why I would spend that kind of money on a 12-year-old dog. I found that to this day, it was the very best money I have ever spent on anything or anyone. Like Stevie, watching a dog see again is something that moves you to your soul. Maury ended up living another three more years and had he only lived three more months, it still would have been the best money I had ever spent. About a year before he died, Elena made the long drive to see him again. I decided to take a risk and try to show her three tricks I had taught Maury but due to the fact that he was going senile, we hadn't practiced the tricks for over a year. I just had a feeling that he had one more trick left in him. He did all three tricks for her and then lifted his head to the ceiling and let out a very loud, excited wail that was so loud it made Elena jump. It was one of the those moments that you are so glad there is someone else to witness it because no one would believe you otherwise. That is how Maury said good bye and thank you to the savior in his life.

Today watching Stevie with her nose pointed to the sky and basking in the sunshine I was overwhelmed with the question of what makes people so good? The people who carelessly breed or don't provide adequate care for their dogs didn't matter to me today because I learned that the good people far outnumber the bad ones and we get to live in a world where the question of, what is wrong with people gets resoundingly answered by the 20-plus people who gave to one blind dog just because they cared. And so tonight I smile as I wonder, what makes people so good?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alvin Does Fresno

Alvin and I brought Stevie to Fresno for her cataract surgery. If all goes as planned, Stevie will go from a completely blind dog, to one that can see again.  I brought Alvin so the doctor could check Alvin's eyes because they are still watering as much as they were before the surgery and as luck would have it, he gave me more eye drops to put in his eyes twice a day.  Good grief!  Alvin is now pacing around the waiting room and he has about four more hours to pace. 

He did so much better in the car this morning.  Within 45 minutes he was able to lay down and within an hour he fell asleep.  This is an improvement from the bugged eyed, seizure-like shaking reaction of the past.  I just don't think he has much experience riding in a car.

Alvin went with Stevie and me to her fundraiser on Saturday.  It seemed like a good idea at the time..... He looked like he was doing quite well and allowed everyone to pet him, but now that I know how he communicates fear (besides the obvious), I could see that he was stressed out.  He opens his mouth a bit when he is very stressed and I kept seeing his little mouth open.  It was good to know because everyone has commented in the past that Alvin does so well at the events but when watching his subtle cues, it was clear that he was scared.  Santa was there and everyone took turns having their dogs pose with him for a picture but I decided that I wouldn't permanently emotionally scar Alvin by making him be held by a man in a big red suit.  I can visualize the picture now, with Santa frantically trying to hold on to Alvin who would be mid-air with all four legs spinning and his eyes bulging out of his head.  That would be one of those pictures that I would look back on and think, why did I make him do that?  On the way home, he promptly fell asleep and was just exhausted. 

We are now working on trying to find a groomer that can come to the house.  He is getting very shaggy and needs a haircut.  I don't know who the unsuspecting victim will be that has to cut his hair.  I guess it would be cruel to act surprised when Alvin flips out and tell the person that he never acts this way and allude to it being the person's fault?  Yes, too mean but kind of funny.

It's going to be a long day for Alvin and me.  I keep tossing kibble on the floor hoping that Alvin will see that waiting for hours in a closed in area is fun but he clearly isn't falling for it yet.  We'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Alvin Meeting Santa

Alvin has been his usual funny, sweet self but I have been a bit busy.  An incredibly nice woman who owns the Jeweltrain - a jewelry store in Fremont, California made a very generous offer to host a day for my other dog, Stevie at her jewelery store tomorrow (the 17th).  25% of all sales are going towards Stevie's cataract surgery.  Isn't that so nice?  There is going to be a Santa, printed t-shirts, and everything.  I have decided to take Alvin too.  There is going to be a fenced area and Alvin actually does well meeting people out in the open.  I can't imagine any of you are in the area, but if by chance you are, please come on by Jeweltrain from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM Saturday, December 17th and see Stevie, Alvin and me.  What are the odds that there aren't going to be funny stories coming out of a situation that involves Alvin, people and Santa Claus.

43494 Ellsworth Street
Fremont, CA 94539

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Alvin's a Bad Influence

It is so interesting to watch dogs observe one another and start mimicking each other's behavior.  As you all know, Alvin is obsessed with food.  My dog, Timmie usually can take or leave food, to the point that if I don't feed him next to me he will ditch the food to be near me.  I have watched Timmie's behavior recently change towards food and he is no about as gone-ho for it as Alvin.  Every single time I walk towards the kitchen Alvin is right there begging for food.  If I go into the back yard and come back in, Alvin is right there begging for food.  Timmie has now started to display the same behavior and I now have two dog leaping around like lunatics in hopes for a treat and they often offer up such a compelling argument that they get one.  My cat, Maddie's food is up off on the ground in a place that the dogs have not been able to access and Alvin is forever staring dreamily at it.  That has put her food on Timmie's radar and although he has been trying, he has not been able to get it.  Tonight I went to the store and I came back to Alvin greeting me at the front door but no Timmie, which was immediately suspect.  I looked and Timmie had managed to get up where the cat's food is and was just polishing off the entire bowl of very expensive cat food.  If Alvin could have clapped his paws in shear delight he would have done just that.  He was jumping and dancing around as though "they" had just pulled off the ultimate trick.  I'm not sure what he was so excited about because he didn't get any but Timmie and Alvin have managed to form quite a team and I now call them my two hooligans.  Timmie really likes Alvin and he just loves having a side-kick that doesn't take the attention away from him.  If any of you have seen the recent Youtube videos of the little British girls singing Super Bass or seen them on Ellen then you will understand the reference of Alvin being Timmie's (Sophia Grace) Rosy.  Every time Timmie runs out in the back yard to stir up trouble, there is Alvin right next to him.  It is clear that Alvin has no idea what is going on but Timmie just loves to have someone following him around.  So, I think Alvin thought that "his team" had finally scored one against the cat and got her food.  Timmie was so encouraged by Alvin's jumping for joy that he mistook it for an invitation to play and tried to engage Alvin but Alvin decided that "the team" needed to disban immediately and headed for the safety of the bedroom. Alvin ended up on the better side of that deal because he won't be the one with a stomach ache from eating a whole bowl of cat food. 
Alvin's been busy being his cute self.  He has started to lick my nose a lot when we are in bed and it is clearly a sign of affection.  Shortly after he first got here he would sometimes like my face and although I really don't like dogs licking my face, I couldn't help but find it endearing/  It remained endearing until I realized that he only did it right after I had eaten and was only looking for food.  Now at nighttime he will often lick my nose but only when he is feeling particularly loving.

Alvin has completely forgiven me for bathing him.  He goes into the bathroom as usual and you would never know that that was the room of horrors for him just a few nights ago.  Alvin is very resilient.  Due to his habit of being literally under my feet when walking I have accidentally kicked him many times and each time I feel just horrible but he is right back in the thick of things before I can even finish the apology.  Last night my mom was over and while she was walking she warned Alvin not to walk so close and said, "If you keep doing that one of us is going to get killed and I think it's going to be me because you are so darned sturdy."  I worry that he is going to cause her to fall before her knee surgery and then I think I am going to have to keep those two completely separated during her rehab.  It is another reason why it wouldn't be a bad idea for them to have their knee surgeries at the same time because at least then Alvin will be on crate rest and can't trip her.

In the meantime, Alvin has seemed to tapper off in his progress of being touched.  He is a dog that constantly wants to be around me but he just doesn't enjoy any touch that comes over his head.  I can scratch his head and back all I want, as long as we are in bed and he is sleepy.  I don't know what has happened to cause him to be so leery but I don't think it helps him to try to force the issue.  I keep reminding myself that it's his healing on his time table.  What I can't figure out is with him being so resilient when I accidentally kick him or when I purposefully bathe him, what has happened that causes him to still be so frightened of being picked up or touched.  I was holding on to the belief that those fears were just part of his quirks but the more I am with him the more I am convinced that someone did something bad to him.  It would take a particularly disturbed individual to hurt Alvin because he is a dog without any fight or assertiveness.  He squats like a female when going to the bathroom, doesn't mark on walks, won't so much as play wrestle with other dogs, virtually never barks, and it is clear that it wouldn't even enter his mind to bite or snap at anyone.  If the Bible verse is true that the meek shall inherit the earth than little Alvin is someday going to be at the very top of this world, wearing a crown and sitting on a throne and I just hope he at least lifts his leg and pees on whomever hurt him in the past.  I am not going to allow myself to ruminate on the fact that someone hurt Alvin because it doesn't change anything.  What has happened has happened and Alvin now has a chance to have a forever home with someone who will appreciate all that is unique to Alvin and he will spend a lifetime feeling safe and nurtured.  What I am certain of is if it hadn't been for Camp Cocker Rescue that he would have died in a scary, dirty shelter because there as much as people care, there just aren't too many people or rescues that would take a skittish dog that clearly needed very expensive orthopedic surgery.  He is the kind of dog that rarely gets saved but the founder of Camp Cocker drove literally hours in a storm that was so bad that the shelter personnel had to go pick her up in a big truck because the road was flooded.  Camp Cocker took him in without conditions or stipulations and by not allowing him to end his life in a scary shelter, that rescue has helped right the wrongs of the human being who previously mistreated him.  I often look at Alvin and am so grateful that someone was willing to look past the fact that he was going to be a very expensive dog and that he was going to be hard to find a home for and only saw his value because being around Alvin makes you want to be a gentler, kinder person.  He has clearly taught me, and many others that sometimes the most valuable little beings are the ones we nearly overlook.  In the meantime, Alvin just keeps being his wonderful little self and every night he falls asleep having the space between and above his eyes scratched (his favorite) while being told what a very good boy he is.  That may sound touching but let's be honest, he'd trade that in a heartbeat for the option of a trough full of kibble that he could roll around in, inhale, and fall asleep in while eating.  He may be sweet but he still has his priorities.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Alvin's Going to be One Dirty Boy

I finally broke down and bathed Alvin and let's just say that we won't be doing that again anytime soon.  My previous predictions that it would be a challenge was the understatement of the year.  I had joked about donning flippers, a snorkel, and protective gear but I ended up wishing I had done just that because 20 seconds into it and I was climbing in with him in an effort to calm him down, while praying he wouldn't get scared and urinate in the tub.  It did help to get in with him but then he was trying to climb up me to get out and was looking at me with terrified eyes that were clearly pleading with me to save him.  Bathing a cat would have been easier. I came out of it with a pulled back muscle and the feeling like I was a legitimate contender for the worst person of the year award.  Little Alvin was terrified and freakishly strong.  I'm not sure how well he even got bathed because I quickly realized that this needed to get wrapped up in a hurry because he looked like he was a candidate for first dog ever to actually suffer a nervous breakdown over a bath.  There was some shampoo involved, water flying everywhere, whimpering, and gnashing of teeth, and then there was Alvin's reaction.  I noticed that I was saying I'm sorry so often that it sounded like a mantra.  I don't think I would have apologized that much to someone if I had accidentally run them over.  What has now come as a result of me completely terrifying him is that he runs whenever I get near him and his circling looks like he is on fast forward, although it's come in handy because he has acted as his own personal hair dryer and completely dried in record time.  His previous foster mom told me that she had a groomer come to the house and she thought that it must have gone okay.  I am assuming that she thought it went okay because she never heard the woman scream for help, abruptly run out of the house while yelling something about that there wasn't enough money in the world to bathe him, and Alvin physically lived through it.  Whoever that woman is, she needs to be canonized because she is a walking, breathing, living saint.  Well, that or she rufied him before bathing him.  Speaking of ruffies, I think Alvin deserves a sedative and a bucket of treats while being bathed next time.  During the water show I told Alvin that we were going to work together to keep him as clean as possible so that we didn't have to face his personal version of hell again anytime soon.  I think I will get him a pair of shoes and full body outfits when going outside so that he stays pristine and I can imagine how fun that will be for him!  I bathed Stevie before Alvin and then after that wild success I decided not to turn the entire house against me and refrained from bathing Timmie, who enjoys bathing only slightly more than Alvin.  I wish I could have one dog that didn't view me bathing them as a personal betrayal.  But guess who is going to get a lot of treats and a trip to the dog park today?  He has worked off a ton of calories by his hours long circling and can definitely afford a few treats.  Too bad they don't have treats like that for humans, oh wait, I think the human treats are called Valium but I'll settle for a heating pad for my pulled back muscle and someone to convince Alvin and Stevie  that I'm not the anti-christ of the canine world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

At Least Someone is Getting Bathed Around Here

Alvin has come up with a new routine at bedtime of once he has settled in next to me he has to bathe me.  He now licks my hands every night before he goes to sleep.  In theory I am not a big fan of being licked by dogs because I have seen where their mouths have been throughout the day but I am powerless to reject the kisses from Alvin or Stevie or Timmie or Maddie and so I guess I am a fan.  With that said, until Alvin decided to bathe me at bedtime, the only animals that would give me kisses were the two females.  Stevie (female) will give me kisses on request and my cat is trained so that if I put my nose by her face and say, give me a kiss, she will do it every single time.  But getting the males in this house to give me any love just hasn't been happening.  But Alvin finally had a change of heart and now finds it necessary to give me a little bath every night.  The problem is that I am not the one that needs bathing.  Alvin needs a bath.  He doesn't smell and I wipe him down with pet wipes but it is time for water to hit his skin and every day I put it off because I visualize the whole scene, which has me donning flippers, a snorkel, and protective gear and going in with Alvin while being blinded by a flurry of white water and him becoming traumatized beyond repair.  When I visualize all of this I tend to think, ummmm, maybe not today.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No he Does Not!

Although I find this hard to believe, I have it on very good authority that Alvin does indeed bark.  His former foster mom told me that she heard Alvin bark on a few occasions but considering she has a lot of other dogs I thought maybe another dog barked and she mistook it for Alvin.  The idea of Alvin barking seems nearly unfathomable to me.  But I have recently confirmed it with another eye and ear witness who has also heard him bark.  Not only did she hear him bark but he would bark when the other dogs in house started barking.  WHAT?  I have Timmie, the king of all barkers.  Timmie is such a barker that I live with all my blinds closed because if he saw everything that went on outside I would be forced to live with 24 hours of ear splitting, shrill barking that makes you wonder if you are experiencing nerve damage.  Not once in three months that Alvin has been subjected to Timmie's barking solos has he joined in.  I am told that it's a really high sounding noise, which goes with Alvin because if I heard a deep sounding bark come out of him I would be running for a water bottle to sprinkle holy water or whatever one does when suspecting devil possession because the only explanation would be that Satan overtook him and that I was hearing the Devil himself.  If Alvin only knew how many treats I would trade for just one bark.  I am subjected to his after meals burps so I deserve to get to hear his little munchkin bark. 

Speaking of burping, I am still looking for some sort of canine burping contest to put Alvin in because there's money out there for us to win.  I suspect that a canine burping contest would be more readily found in the south, maybe in Kentucky or Alabama.  Although I would be willing to go most anywhere to show off this little parlor trick of his, I suspect that flying on a plane could cause him to never walk straight again and life would become a permanent loop.  So, maybe I will have to start a contest of my own because I am oddly proud of his burping ability.  It's kind of like having a cat with two tails, weird and kind of off-putting but fascinating and unique at the same time.

As if Alvin Wasn't Talented Enough

He can now add dancing to his arsenal.  For the first time since Alvin has been here I danced in front of him.  It was the first time in years that I have attempted dancing because it just isn't pretty.  I long ago embraced the fact that my dancing is disastrous and no human being should ever have to witness what I throw down and so I wouldn't dream of dancing in public.  But apparently I thought Alvin hadn't been traumatized enough and I started to bust a move in his presence.  I grew up in in a religion that prohibited dancing and when I had to sneak to see the movie Footloose, because going to the movies was also prohibited, I couldn't figure out what the controversy was.  That movie could have been filmed in my home town, population 1,500 comprised of nearly everyone of my same religion.  This story is starting to take a down turn and sounding as though I was raised in a cult.  I was not raised in a cult but just a religion that did me a big favor because although as a teenager I was resentful that I was not allowed to dance, later as an adult when I saw myself dancing in a mirror, it was if the religion was collectively saying, you're welcome.  My dancing looks quite a bit like Alvin looks when riding in the car.  I, too look a bit like I am having a seizure and I have a similar completely panicked, dear in the headlights look about me.  But tonight I threw caution to the wind and I danced and Alvin became my unwillingly dance partner.  Alvin has to be nearly on my feet wherever I go and so when I started to dance he tried to anticipate which way I was going to go and would take a step to the left, then a step to the right, a jump to the left, a duck to the right and pretty soon he appeared to be a highly trained dog that could dance.  Now just imagine if I could fine tune that, along with getting him to burp on command and we would be a shoe in for an appearance on David Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks, or in this case it will probably be titled, David Letterman's What no one Should Ever Have to Witness Stupid Human Trick and an Unfortunate Dog Along for the Ride.  We are just full of surprises at this house and we'll keep you posted of what talent we unearth next.  I sense a hoola hoop routine in our future!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Curiosity Hasn't Killed my Cat, but it Sure Might Kill my Mom

For such a skittish dog Alvin cannot help but be the Gladys Kravitz of the house.  If my mom or I are doing anything with our hands Alvin will literally put his chin in our hands to get the closest look possible.  If I stand up Alvin is right there to see what's going on.  The dogs, cat, or I literally cannot move without Alvin jumping up and being right there.  This has proven to be dangerous because when my mom or I walk not only is Alvin directly under our feet but he his so busy looking up to see what's going on that he doesn't pay any attention to where his body is.  Every time I wear flip flops it ends of being a potential walk of death because he repeatedly steps on the back of them as I am walking and trips me over and over and when I have tripped particularly hard I have blurted out, you are going to kill someone one day.  My mom is going to be having double knee surgery (so she and Alvin can be twins) and walking is difficult at times for her and then adding Alvin to the equation has spelled near disaster many times and has resulted in my mom having a one-sided argument with him while he remains completely oblivious and keeps circling her feet. 

Alvin's curiosity at night time causes that poor boy to do more running then a dog should do because he likes to go into the bedroom and go to sleep but literally every single time I even put my foot on the floor he hears it and comes running.  It is astonishing what he is able to hear and his commitment to coming to see what is going on every time is remarkable.  But tonight the problem has escalated because it is very windy here and tree branches keep banging against the house and the outside shutters keep clanging and poor Alvin jumps up and runs in each and every time.  I wish he would clue in that he could save himself innumerable steps by just curling up in the living room but apparently the bedroom is far more appealing no matter what the cost.  I am picturing dealing with this during his post surgery rehab when putting weight on those back knees is prohibited and I envision tip toeing and army crawling around the house so he won't jump up to see what's going on.  If this dog would just start barking we could get him a job as the neighborhood watch dog because there is not a dog on earth that is more on top of everything around him.  When Alvin finally relaxes, which requires us all to be in the bedroom with him and us all lying down, he finally passes out to the point that twice I have felt for his breathing because I was worried that he was dead.  As I am writing this I am realizing that the video I was so excited about of him letting me pet him all over while he was sleeping maybe wasn't so much a sign of progress but just evidence of his sleep deprived coma.  Whatever the case could we please just get a slight break and have this wind die down so Alvin could get even 10 minutes of sleep.  I guess this rules out him living in Chicago.

Alvin's Middle Name

I tend to give my pets a middle name because I find it gratifying to use their full name when they are in trouble.  Timmie got in so much trouble when first coming here that he has two middle names and so when he hears, Timothy Thomas Mitchel White he knows he's in the dog house.  Stevie's middle name is Marie and both Alvin and Stevie's last name is Stanley for Cathy Stanley, the founder of Camp Cocker.  I have been stumped on what Alvin's middle name should be.  Usually the middle names just come to me - I'm not bragging but it is a gift I have.  But nothing is coming to me in regards to Alvin.  He was named Alvin because he looks like Alvin the Chipmunk and it fits him perfectly.  The problem is that Alvin isn't a particularly tough name and if he were a human he would probably be tormented for the name on the play ground.  Alvin is completely submissive to the point that he squats like a female when urinating, doesn't mark, doesn't bark, and the only time he tried to mount another dog (Timmie) was when Timmie had food on his back.  So, I want to give Alvin a tough sounding middle name to boost his confidence and signal to the other dogs at the dog park that he may be little but he isn't to be messed with.  I am leaning towards Alvin "The Hulk" Stanley, although Alvin Goliath Stanley has a ring to it.  Or Alvin Hercules Stanley or even Alvin Sampson Stanley but I can't seem to come up with the perfect fit.  What I want to name him is Alvin Peanut Stanley because he is just a little peanut but that's certainly not going to help him get much street cred. at the dog park and so the search continues.

Overeater's Anonymous for Dogs

Why isn't there such a thing because Alvin really needs a 12-step program for his food issues.  The problem is that very important first step of admitting one has a problem because the only problem Alvin's admits to having in regards to food is living with that idiot human being who won't give him more of it.  If it wouldn't be harmful to him I would put out a big bowl of food, not to see if he would eat it all because he would, but rather how quickly he could consume it.  He really would have a future in those odd human eating contests if they started having them for dogs.  I can't attribute his food issues to being starved because in his last foster home he got home cooked meals and I don't think he came into the shelter particularly skinny.  This boy just loves a good meal.  I suspect that Alvin would like to pack his bones and move to a house that would cater more to his culinary needs but I have finally learned how to keep males around.  Now granted the only males I have successfully kept around are ones that can't speak or drive a getaway car but that's not the point.  My dog Timmie tried to run away on his third day here and if it wasn't for that pesky neighbor he would have been able to make a break for it, but now my gates are locked and the fences fortified and there is no way out.  If only I could do this with human males but after my last attempt, according to the restraining order that is some sort of a "crime".  (I can actually hear my mom worrying from here that readers are going to think I am serious).  I don't dare try to duplicate his last foster home experience and cook for him because I was the only girl in my home ec. class not only to flunk but to have paid other girls to do the cooking and knitting home work for me.  Not to mention the small kitchen fire "incident" a few years ago.  So, he's stuck and without even a support group to attend.