Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

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?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You All Saw This One Coming

I know, I know, you all knew this post was eventually coming and I was the only one that was clueless.  After reading a lot more about autistic type behavior in dogs, I have decided that it would be cruel to make Alvin go to a new home, with a new person.  All of the literature kept emphasizing the importance of not changing the dog's home and/or owner.  It all said to try to keep everything in the house in the same place and that just isn't ever going to happen here but I realized that I could prevent him from having to go through something as scary and confusing as a new house and a stranger as an owner.  So, I wrote to Camp Cocker and said that I would like to keep him..........I can hear your cheers from here.

When he first came here, he ran in a large circle all night long and cried like a puppy all night.  He didn't sleep for three days and was just a mess.  His former foster mom and I had no way of knowing what his issues were and how he would react to leaving her home, but it wasn't good.  I can't bear to make him go through that again.  He had no way of knowing that his time here was supposed to be temporary and making him leave here feels like I would be betraying all the trust he has put in me.  He wouldn't understand and with his world already being confusing, for me of all people to add to that would break my heart. 

I was very hesitant to consider keeping him because he wasn't my idea of the dog that I wanted.  I wanted a dog that would let me hold him/her like a baby and cuddle on the couch with me.  Alvin is never going to be that dog but I realized that I deeply love Alvin and he makes me laugh all the time.  He is also the most gentle and purest soul I have ever known.  I said at the beginning of this journey that I was certain that Alvin would teach me far more than I could teach him and he certainly has.  He has taught me a great deal about courage, not giving up, and that trust has to be earned.  He has also taught me that sometimes it's a blessing when you don't get what you thought you wanted.  This morning when I woke up to hot breath on my neck and looked down to see a sleeping Alvin lying across my chest with his face nuzzled in my neck, I realized that he is perfectly imperfect and he's perfect for me.  I am blessed.

I will write an update soon about how Alvin is doing.  I am convinced that Victoria Stilwell is magic and that just writing to her results in her waving a magic wand and heals dogs from afar.  Either that, or it helped for me to go back to the basics and by incorporating a couple new things, Alvin appears to be responding very well!  There have been no miracles because just tonight I called him, he ran right passed me, headed away from me, and started looking outside for me.  We're emphasizing progress, not perfection.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Bit Discouraged

I have been a bit discouraged lately in regards to Alvin because it seems as though much of his progress has already taken place and I don't know what else to do to help him.  I went back and re-read my first five blog entries to remind myself of how far he has come and read about some of his behaviors and issues that I had completely forgotten.  Although he is doing far better than when first arriving, I get the sense that this may be about as good as it gets.  I worry that I am missing ways to help him and that I am missing important communication cues.  I actually wrote Victoria Stilwell about him.  She hosts the show on Animal Planet called, It's Me or the Dog.  If you haven't seen the show, it's a must see!  She is simply amazing and I adore her training techniques and her ability to understand dogs.  It was her technique of the sit command that I used to teach Alvin how to sit on command.  She is terribly busy but I gave it a try anyway because I think if anyone could give me insight or tips, it would be her. 

There is more literature out on canine autism and I spent much of the day reading about it.  Alvin clearly seems to fit the criteria, which makes me sad because there is no medication or cure.  I am secretly, and unrealistically hoping Victoria will write to say that she doesn't think Alvin's autistic and that there are numerous interventions.  Although he has improved, his world is still a scary, confusing place far too often.  I have no desire to change Alvin but I do have a strong desire to understand and help him, if I am missing anything.  There was some literature about giving autistic dogs a grain-free, meat only diet.  He has been on a grain-free diet since arriving in rescue, but that meat only part would require me cooking and I fear that could kill him.  I was the only female to flunk home ec. twice and resorted to paying a girl to complete my "projects".  Camp Cocker is sending me a Thundershirt.  I tried just a tight tee-shirt because some people suggested it but it resulted him him bucking and hopping throughout the house.  Wouldn't 'ya know it, all the literature speaks to the importance of not moving an autistic dog from their home or owner........great! 

Alvin has another behavior I haven't previously written about.  When I put him on the bed, he sits down and wherever he is seated, he remains.  I try to strategically place him but sometimes he moves and then sits down again.  When I go to get into bed, he simply won't move and a couple of nights ago, I tested it and ended up lightly laying on his front paws and he still wouldn't budge.  He then laid on my head and went to sleep.  It couldn't have been comfortable for him, but for whatever reason, he just won't move.  If I move him, it freaks him out but after trying to endure an Alvin hat, I finally had to move him.

It is the 4th of July and Alvin is afraid of the noises.  I am actually comforted by the fact that he is having a normal reaction to loud noises.  I did not anticipate it because of his unusual reactions to noises and didn't give him a sedative until about 9:00 PM, after I saw him pacing, circling, and the ever-telling stress signal of his mouth half open.  He doesn't jump or startle at the noises but he is now lying down asleep but panting in his sleep.  It takes so long, and so much, for the sedative to kick in and so we are going to be in for a bumpy ride for another couple of hours.  At least I will know for next year, because Lord knows he will probably be here. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Definite Progress!

Just last night my mom was talking about what it would be like if Alvin got over his fear of being touched and she thought that he would then be a Velcro dog.  I looked at her like she was an alien and asked her what was the probability of Alvin ever getting over his issues to that extent.

Then just today, Alvin showed two signs of progress.  I have to remind myself that Alvin can't ever be counted out and his possibilities remain endless. 

First, I was over at my mom's house and I had shut the back door at my house because it was just too hot outside.  I knew that if Alvin had to go potty that he wouldn't be able to wait and he would go inside.  When I got home there was no puddle and I opened the back door and sat in a chair outside.  Alvin came right out and went potty.  I am assuming he was holding it earlier and it's the second time I have seen him be able to hold it when the door was previously closed.  I realize that most people wouldn't find that to be a big event but I was so darn proud of him!  While still sitting in the chair, I praised him and he came over to me and let me repeatedly pet his back.  He is more receptive to being pet when I am sitting, but considering I was seated up off the ground, it was definitely progress!  I am always so pleased for him in those moments because it has to feel good to be touched and it's nice when his fear doesn't get in the way and deprive him (or me) of those moments. 

I am editing this to add that after I wrote this entry, I came back again from being at my mom's house and when I opened the back door, Alvin again went right out and went potty again.  Goodness gracious, if he keeps this up I am going to have to get him his own dog to play with as a present.......just kidding, mom!

So Alvin gets a big gold star for the day!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


While Alvin was still sedated from his hair cut, he was much braver and I was able to hug and pet him.  I had to go out to the garage to change laundry and for the first time, Alvin went out with me.  He bounded to the far side of the garage and then I heard an odd cry coming from him.  He became very afraid of something and started crying his little eyes out.  I have no idea what it was but I doubt he will be going out there again any time soon. 

Later in the day he was brave enough to bound out the front door when I was coming in.  My worst nightmare would be for Alvin to get out because I don't know how easy it would be to catch him, with all his fears and his inability to be able to process the direction of sound.  He bounded out about four feet, and much to my relief, he came right back in when I called him.  We went through this two more times and each time he came right back in.  When he is not sedated, he is good about staying inside but I have learned my lesson about the new and improved brave Alvin when sedated.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Smell

A couple of days ago when I got out of the shower, Alvin could not get enough of me and insisted on gliding his nose up and down my arms, legs and back.  I started to question what was different and realized that I had just opened up a new bar of soap that was in a scent I had never used before.  The difference in smell caused Alvin to go on a nasal tour up and down my limbs.  I really threw him for a loop when the next day, I used a new shampoo and coupled with the recent change in soap, it was nearly too much for him.  He finally stopped smelling when he was convinced it was still me.  I don't dare change my toothpaste or lotion too, because I don't think his nose is built for as much sniffing as another change in smell would require.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Not His Best Look

I bit the bullet and shaved Stevie and Alvin down on the same night.  Alvin knew it was coming because I did Stevie first and Alvin responded by refusing to come inside and just had his head in the door while staring at me the whole time.  He ended up doing pretty well.  Of course, I sedated him.  He is shaved way down, which will definitely help for the next three weeks, until his fur grows back at lightening speed.  Unfortunately, I had to cut a lot of the fur off of his ears because he won't let me brush them and one of them was a tangled mess.  He has such beautiful ears and I hate when cockers have their ears shaved, but I had to cut them way down so we can start over again.  It isn't his best look.  He has responded to the whole thing by going outside and refusing to come back in.  He is boycotting me but I can abruptly end it by offering a treat.  Poor little guy, I wish it could be easier for him.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Red Rover, Red Rover, Alvin Won't Come Over

As you all have read in exhausting detail, Alvin doesn't do well with change.  He is getting far better at accepting change and just last night my mom was commenting on how much less he circles in response to a change in his environment.  On the whole, his circling has reduced by about 80%. 

With the heat and the need to pull out all the electrical fans from the garage, Alvin is now facing a new challenge.  Before he came to me I was warned by his former foster mom that he had chewed on two cords, both being expensive computer cords.  I made certain that there were no cords in sight before he came.  Alvin hasn't tried to chew anything since being here.  So, I pulled out the fans and there was a cord on the ground that was blocking the route he would take to get to me when I am sitting on the couch.  I use the term, blocking because it might as well as been a brick wall based on Alvin's reaction to it.  He refused to cross over the cord and it didn't matter how many times I called him, he just couldn't muster up the courage to walk over it.  There are times when I don't even venture a guess as to why, and this would be one of them.  It's just part of what makes Alvin a very memorable little boy!

Below is a video taken of Alvin at his former foster home when he chewed up his foster mom's quilt.  Make sure and watch to the very end because the last five seconds are priceless!  I find it cute because Alvin hasn't tried to chew anything of mine, heck, he can barely chew his food half the time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ice Cubes and Heatstroke

Due to it being so hot here and the unfortunate fact that I don't have air conditioning, I have been putting ice cubes in the dogs water bowl several times a day.  Stevie loves it and immediately starts drinking each time.  Alvin, it turns out, is afraid of ice cubes in the water bowl and finds them both scary and mystifying.  The good news is that they melt fast and he does seem to enjoy drinking cool water on our very hot days. 

With the heat, I am going to have to shave Alvin down again.  As you all probably recall, it was just two or three weeks ago that I shaved him.  It's terribly unfortunate that of all the dogs I have ever known, Alvin's fur grows the fastest.  I am going to shave him as far down as I can so that we will hopefully get at least a four week reprieve.  This is particularly necessary because Alvin tries to go out to the side of the house and lie directly in the sun when it's over 100 degrees outside.  I have written about that area being his favorite place to sleep, but in the past he knew not to be out there on really hot days.  That area is where the sun beats down the hardest and the concrete is like a stove top.  I have the door shut during the day to keep the heat out but when I have opened it, he tries to go out there and sleep.  I am thankful that I don't have a doggy door because it would be harder to control.  I don't know how long he would actually stay out there because I am always aware when he is outside on hot days and I don't give him the option to stay.  On the occasions when he has gone out there, I peak around the corner and he is lying there asleep already.  Why would he do that?  I would think that he could get heatstroke very easily.  I realize that he has his oddities but wouldn't he know it's too hot and not want to lie directly in the sun?  When I am gone, I keep the door closed because I am not going to run the risk of coming home to a cooked up Alvin.  He continues to mystify me at times, and although I usually let him freely partake in all his glorious oddities, his attempt to become a canine biscuit is one that I can't allow. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Alvin was Trapped

It has been extremely hot here and I decided to turn on the sprinkles last night to give the lawn more water.  I didn't think it through because when I turned them on, Alvin was on the side of the house and because of where the side lawn is, he would get a very slight mist if he passed them.  He repeatedly tried to pass them but would get halfway through, stand in the only place he could get sprayed, and then retreat back to the side of the house.  After trying to coax him through it several times, I gave up and picked him up to bring him in the house.  Alvin looks so funny when he is picked up because he cranes his neck up as high as it will go and he looks like either a baby bird begging for food or a bobblehead.  Speaking of bobbleheads, wouldn't a bobblehead of Alvin be cute? 

What I didn't realize is that the experience would cause Alvin to be too afraid to go outside again.  About two hours later Alvin started to do the pee-pee dance and I could tell that he really needed to go out, but I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't go.  It dawned on me that it was due to the sprinklers having been on earlier and I had to go outside, repeatedly call him to come out, and then sit in the chair outside and wait for him to go.  The reason I had to sit in the chair is that he usually won't go unless I am seated because he gets so afraid he is going to miss out on something otherwise.  I didn't have to wait long because he really had to go and I think we narrowly missed him going in the house.  Poor Alvin, if it's not one thing, it's the sprinklers, his own shadow, electrical cords (future post), or ice cubes (another future post). 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Disappearing Act

When I use my bathroom I leave the door open because it's only me and because Alvin likes to follow me in there.  He always comes in, does a circle and goes back out.  I can count on him to come in again and do the same thing.  He then tends to wait out in the hallway.  What is interesting is that even after he has come in twice and clearly sees where I am, when he is out in the hallway and I call him, he isn't able to figure out where I am.  I am able to spy on his through the space between the door and the frame.  My bathroom is unusually small and when entering, you can either go straight for less than eight feet or you can make a very small turn to the left, which is where the toilet is.  There are no other options, and yet, when I call him, and on the times that he eventually walks into the bathroom, he will keep looking straight ahead or even look to the right, which is where the bathtub is.  It usually takes me waving my arms for him to look left and "find" me.  What is particularly interesting is that he always looks terribly surprised and relieved to find me there, even though he just saw me there less than one minute before.  All I can say is, thank goodness I live alone because I look like an idiot sitting on the toilet, calling a dog, and waving both hands wildly in front of me to get his much you want to bet I continue living alone for all of eternity, because one night of our antics in this house would be sure to scare any roommate or suitor away.  I'm not sad about it because when I put Alvin in bed with me and he rests his little chin on me and I feel his hot breath getting slower and deeper as he falls fast to sleep, I am reassured that as long as we have each other, we'll be just fine.  And yes, I realize that I sound like the crazy dog lady.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Safe Spot

Alvin has a place on the side of the house where he likes to bask in the sunshine will sprawled out on the concrete.  On a nice day I can usually find him sound asleep, without a care in the world.  I have discovered that if I go to the spot and sit down that Alvin will allow me to scratch and pet him all over his back, head, and neck.  He has recently started to even place his head in my lap, with his chin resting on my leg.  If someone who didn't know Alvin were to view the scene they wouldn't know that he has any anxiety over being touched.  I so enjoy the moments when Alvin is able to seem totally normal.  I feel like a mother of a special needs child because I get so excited over very small things that other people would take for granted.  He is particularly receptive to me petting him if I go out there after having been gone from the house.  This afternoon I went out there twice after having just come home and he was just a little love bug!  I am finding that although Alvin always wags his tail whenever I praise him, if I look away and don't speak that it takes the pressure off of him and he is able to let me pet him more. 

My hope is that this will help him become more relaxed with being touched on his back and head and that over time we can do this in the house.  I especially want to be able to move it in the house because on a couple of occasions I have gone outside and sat down only to discover that Alvin didn't follow me out.  I look entirely pathetic as I am sitting at the side of my house and calling, "Alvin, honey come see mommy."  Both times my calling was in vain because of Alvin's inability to be able to locate the direction of sound and I was left begging and dogless, while Alvin was circling himself dizzy in the house trying to figure out where my voice was coming from.  I am grateful that he chose the side of the house nearest my mom's house because if she spots me sitting out there alone calling Alvin, she won't bat an eye.  She has seen far weirder things when it comes to Alvin and me.  I wouldn't want to have to explain it to my neighbor on the other side because where does one even start when trying to explain Alvin? 

On another note, thank you for your very kind notes of condolence.  I deeply appreciate them.  I will miss my grandma for the rest of my life, but I love that because of her, I have cocker spaniels in my life and I will continue to help as many of them as I can in her honor.........this sentence is going to freak my mom out because she will immediately start worrying that "honoring grandma" will result in cockers galore running through the house.  I can already picture myself saying, "well, grandma would want me to have him/her," when trying to explain why another cocker magically appeared in the house.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A question for you all

I am noticing more and more that Alvin has a lot of processing issues, many that I have written about here.  I don't know if they are getting worse, or if I am just noticing them more, as I continue to get to know him.  I suspect it's the later.

One thing I have noticed and been alarmed by, is that when I am getting something out of the oven, Alvin tries repeatedly to approach the open oven and we have had a few close calls.  Luckily, I rarely use the oven.  He is not repelled or hesitant when feeling heat.  I have never encountered this with another dog and I am wondering if this is a common behavior in dogs, or if your dogs have felt the heat and known to keep a distance?  I am trying to ascertain whether this is another processing problem for him or if it's just what dogs do.  Please leave me a comment if you have had any experience with this issue.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I don't know what's going on but clearly there was a family meeting consisting of all three of my pets and I wasn't invited. There have been several incidents of mutiny and I am outnumbered. It started with Stevie refusing breakfast before 1:00 in the afternoon. She is a girl that really enjoys sleeping in, to the point that if I dare wake her before 1:00 in the afternoon she refuses breakfast and goes back to sleep. I feel like I am raising a teenager in canine form. I have to feed the dogs at the same time because if I feed Alvin earlier and then try to feed Stevie later, Alvin panics that he is missing out and I can only see so many of his whirly twirls until I start to get dizzy. I changed their feeding schedule to accommodate Princess Stevie and so they eat very late at night and then have what can't even be characterized as brunch because it's too late in the day.

Then there is Mister Alvin who made me almost fall down today because of his rebellion. We went over to grandma's house and Alvin was terribly excited because he hasn't been over there for nearly a week. I was so proud of him because on the way over he didn't so much as break out even one loop, pranced by my side, and knew the way to grandma's house. Once we got there, we had a grand time, complete with hot dog bites. My mom decided she would come back over to my house with us and I was proud of Alvin because he was able to go out the door and didn't attempt to run back in at the last minute. This was obviously due to the fact that my mom was coming with us. Due to my mom's fairly recent knee surgery, she walks quite a bit slower and I tend to walk ahead of her. I was walking Alvin when all of a sudden I got pulled back so hard that I started to stumble backwards. Alvin is a little thing but he managed to plant his butt and pull against me so hard that it caused me to nearly fall. I turned around to find him sitting, eyes wild, and his neck extended. He flat out refused to go further until his grandma caught up. He lovingly trotted next to her and it was clear that he was running the show.

My cat, Maddie is getting pretty old and will be 16 next month. She has always been the ideal cat, not too needy, fearless, yet cuddly. She has recently taken to meowing loudly early in the morning while demanding one of two things, a treat or affection. When she wants a treat she stands beside my bed and meows repeatedly. She actually expects me to get out of bed, go into the kitchen and get her a treat. Keep in mind that her "treat" is her own cat food, of which she has a whole bowl full, but she wants me to serve it to her on the floor in small amounts. I made the huge mistake of getting up a few times to give it to her just so she would shut up. This has led to a terribly persistent, very verbal cat. She has started a new move of now sitting on my back and meowing repeatedly when she wants me to wake up and pet her. If I give in and pet her, she will then go back to her dog bed, but then apparently gets bored because 15 minutes later she is standing on my back meowing. For a cat that has never given me one ounce of trouble, she is certainly making up for it.

They have also taken to all standing near the food container and Maddie has taken on the roll of town crier and strongly advocates for me to get up and give them each a treat. Alvin stands there literally licking his lips. They look so darn cute as a trio that I usually give in.

There are many more incidents of obstinacy, rebellion, and being terribly demanding. When reflecting on their recent behavior, I could only conclude that I had created this entire mess. I have spoiled those three to the point that I find myself actually begging them to behave, or in Maddie's case to let me sleep. I concluded that it is such a blessing that I never procreated because if I had a child, I would be the mother getting the phone calls from school and when they told me that my child was once again suspended, I would just be relieved that the little darling hadn't managed to get expelled. I have the gift of taking a lovely, undemanding animal and making them a spoiled rotten mess within hours. And so to society as a whole, when reflecting on the fact that I didn't procreate, all I can say is, you're welcome!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alvin, the Comforter

I haven't written anything for a few days because I kept getting an error message and couldn't access my page and also because my family suffered a significant loss recently. First, I want to thank the poster who took the time and effort to give me so many ideas of how to fund raise for Camp Cocker. It was frustrating because I could read the comment but I couldn't post an acknowledgment of it before now. They were all such great ideas and once I am more back on my feet I am going to try to use some of the suggestions. Thank you so much!
On Sunday night, my beloved grandma died. She was the one that I used to take my dog, Timmie and also Stevie to visit at the nursing home. She had a stroke on Friday and I was able to be with her nearly 24 hours a day until she died. On Saturday night and most of Sunday I laid next to her in bed and held her. I kept my hand or head on her chest most of the time so that I could feel her heart beat because I knew that soon I would begin missing that sound and wishing that more than anything it would return. I had my head on her chest and was able to hear her last, delicate heart beat. Earlier in the day I had curled her hair and put makeup on her because she would have been very upset had she looked sick while she was dying. After she died, I redid her makeup because it has to last for all eternity. I also knew that she would not be one bit happy if she went to meet Jesus with her hair undone or with no makeup. My grandma and I were always very close and shared a very special, red head, always in trouble bond. I spent most of my childhood saying, "well, grandma would say it's okay," when trying to get out of trouble for whatever lame brained stunt I had managed to pull.
I am writing about my grandma because something very interesting happened with Alvin. As some of you might recall, when Timmie died and I brought him home in the container, I couldn't bury him because it was in the middle of the night. Alvin responded to it by repeatedly making a guttural groans and cries. I noticed at the time how much he responded to me crying. Granted, it was more like loud wailing and was hard to miss, but Alvin had the most concerned look on his face and kept his eyes on me the entire time. Last Sunday afternoon I came home from the hospital to feed them dinner and to spend a few minutes with them. I sat on the floor because I needed the comfort of a dog and knew that Alvin is much more receptive to being touched when I am sitting down. Alvin responded by standing as close to me as he ever has, putting his head in my lap, and letting me pet him all over without backing away even once. He then leaned in and gave me one little kiss on my nose.  It was a marked difference to how he has ever been before, even in his most affectionate moments.
After my grandma died Sunday night, I came home and Alvin was very tuned into me. His eyes never left me. My mom came over a little while later and as you all know, I just don't exist in Alvin's world when she arrives. My mom pointed out that Alvin didn't even look her way and continued to circle around me, while staring at me. Later that night, I started crying again and saw Alvin with such a concerned look again. I put him in bed with me and he rested his chin on me all night long.
Alvin has since gotten over it and is back to "normal". Stevie was oblivious to the whole thing, which was fine. I found it appropriate that a cocker spaniel would be the one to comfort me through my grandma's death because my grandma was the one that started our now three generations of cocker spaniel lovers. She and my grandpa got a cocker named Maggie for my mom and aunts when they were little and the love of cocker spaniels started there.
So, to my grandma! I will love her always!
My grandma dancing at my brother's wedding just two months ago.  She's fist pumping with the best of them!
                      My brother having a chat with one of the most important women in his life.
                                              Our last picture as four generations.

My brother having the last dance with his grandma and me bawling my eyes out in the background.