Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Saturday, February 25, 2012

It Must be Nice

It is currently 10:00 AM here and I realized that I didn't see either dog in the living room with me, which was odd.  I went into the bedroom to find that both of them are sound asleep in separate dog beds.  Apparently it's still too early in the day.  With that said, if I even thought about a piece of kibble Alvin would sense it and come trucking around the corner. 

Speaking about Alvin taking corners.  A couple of days ago something in particular excited him and he was making a mad dash while trying to go around a corner and ended up skidding past the corner and into the wall.  Ya' just can't win 'em all. 

I have taken to insisting that Alvin sleep every night in bed with me.  He seems to be fine either way but I have increasingly missed having a little doggy in my bed.  Stevie goes in stages and for the past month or so she has been very independent and not very cuddly.  At bedtime I often put her on the bed with us but she tends to jump back down within a few minutes.  The timing is unfortunate because I am quite lonely without my expert cuddler, Timmie and so Alvin's the next on deck.  Last night I put him on the bed and he immediately got in the dog bed that is on my bed.  I decided to see if he would get out of it and come lie next to me, which was less than two feet away.  I was so happy when he did choose to get out of his dog bed and he ended up snuggling right next to me and didn't move the whole night.  I woke up several times to a snuggly dog plastered against me and it was really nice.  This may be an unfortunate development for him because whether or not he was aware at the time, that was his interview for the position of official snuggler of this household and he got the job!  I think it's better for him in the long run and I know it's better for me.

I realize that Alvin is still supposed to be off his feet as much as possible but I feel bad having him always cooped up in the house and so I have started to take him on short walks in the neighborhood or taking him over to my mom's house next door.  My mom has pretty much transitioned back to her house and Alvin has responded better than I thought that he would.  Yesterday when I took him to her house, she was in bed resting and Alvin looked so perplexed as to why that lady who is usually next door with us was now in this other house in somebody else's bed.  He does get plenty of notice when my mom is walking over because she couldn't sneak up on a raging house party right now because of the rattling her walker makes on the street.  At night there isn't a funnier sight and sound than hearing her rattle down the street while watching her with a miniature flashlight in her hand lighting the way.   But I digressed considerably.  Back to Alvin's walks.  Yesterday while walking him in the neighborhood, which consists of a walk of less than 100 yards, out bounded the neighbor's very big black lab, Moses.  Alvin really likes meeting dogs and his initial greeting is deceiving because it's so normal but once he has sniffed a bit he drifts back into his own little world again.  Alvin has met Moses a few times but for whatever reason Moses took a big interest in Alvin and just wouldn't leave him alone.  He started to try to hump Alvin, which is absolutely not allowed because of his surgery.  Alvin ended up getting pretty nervous about the fact that he was not only getting molested in broad daylight but in his own neighborhood.  I removed him from the situation and that poor boy whirled, twirled and circled himself home, while managing to bind my legs together three times in 100 yards or less.   As usual, he was not paying ant attention to his surroundings and just broad sided poor Stevie who didn't even see it coming because it was out of her peripheral vision.  She stood there stunned and then started shaking her head.  I think you all need to start placing your bets as to who Alvin is going to take out first.  I think it would be a good bet to predict on any one of us, including Alvin himself, with the exception of Maddie who is seven pounds of sweet, adorable toughness.

I have come up with another idea for Alvin.  I spend a lot of time talking to him and the first observation I ever made about him was how favorably he responds to high pitched voices.  Last night while talking to him in my high pitched, animated voice I realized that I sound very much like Mickey Mouse and so I am going to find some Mickey Mouse cartoons on TV for "us" to watch to see if Mickey Mouse turns out to be Alvin's long lost soul mate.  How cute would that be?  His favorite show continues to be Dog the Bounty Hunter because of all the action and yelling but who knows?  Maybe Alvin will dump Dog for Mickey.  Stay tuned....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Alvin's First Slumber Party

These pictures kind of say it all.  My 10-year-old niece, Maisy spent the night last night.  Her heart is still healing over the loss of Timmie because she loved him so much!  She bought a necklace with her own money that has a heart shaped locket and a pendant that says, Best Friends.  I gave her one of Timmie's ID's from his collar that is shaped like a dog bone and she put it on the necklace.  She had previously gone over and planted flowers on Timmie's grave.  Timmie loved her at least as much as she loved him.  Alvin has been a good source of healing for her and last night was her first night back since we all lost Timmie.  As you can see from the pictures, Maisy and Alvin have their own little world, with their own communication.  It's not a world for us grown ups to understand but always seems unique to kids and dogs.  Originally, Alvin was supposed to sleep in the dog bed because it is his bed but Maddie, the cat is the boss of everyone and took it over.  There is no arguing with Maddie but Alvin would give up his dog bed to a mouse.  Alvin stayed all night with Maisy and only got his bed back when Maddie decided to sleep on Maisy's pillow next to her head.  All my pets just love Maisy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Don't ya Hate it When You Yawn and Get Toes In Your Mouth?

Only Alvin could manage this one.  My neighbor was here visiting and Alvin was busy sniffing her toes.  He then managed to yawn and when he went to close his mouth, he had her toes in his mouth.  I will leave you all with that thought.

And we Both Lived to Tell About it

Operation Bath Time or Bust was successfully completed and no one required emergency medical or psychological assistance.  What I am about to report is 100% true and because it was so funny and could possibly seem as though I embellished the story for additional entertainment value, I grabbed my phone in the middle of it to take a couple of quick pictures so that I could prove it really happened.  I don't have a phone that lets me post the picture directly and so I am going to see if I can text the pictures to someone who can then e-mail them to me and I will then post them here at a later date.

Backing up, I gave Alvin half of his last sedative, got the peanut butter ready, put in a slip resistant bath mat and got ready for battle.  A while ago I read a suggestion from one of our reader's to smear peanut butter on the bathtub ledge and I became extremely hopeful that it would help Alvin from chattering his teeth off while trying to survive bath time.  So, in we both went and I found that he was too nervous to pay attention to the peanut butter, which was surprising because I finally found the one situation where he would turn down food.  I honestly didn't think such an occasion existed.  With the sedative, as well as the non-slip bath mat, we were able to get through the bath without him flailing, panicking, and nearly drowning both of us.  He was able to stand and sit still the whole time and although his little body shook and his teeth chattered in fear, he remained still.  Now for the funny part, while bathing Alvin, Stevie came in and her nose immediately detected the presence of peanut butter.  She got up on her back legs, was half in the bath tub and half out, and was stretching and contorting in an effort to lick every bit of the peanut butter off.  I have never encountered a situation where I have had to repeatedly push a dog out of trying to get in the bath tub when in the past she wanted nothing to do with taking baths.  Alvin was utterly perplexed by Stevie's reaction but I imagine he started to suspect that the little pink pill I gave him was actually a hallucinogenic and that he was seeing things that weren't really occurring.  I did notice that when Stevie kept trying to climb in that Alvin appeared to become more relaxed.  So, there I was trying to keep the dog that was supposed to be in the bath tub calm, while also trying to keep the other dog out. 

The non-slip bath mat that was in the tub was already there due to my mom's knee surgery and that seemed to be a great help because Alvin's legs weren't going out from under him.  While realizing this, I couldn't figure out how it never dawned on me to put one in there for him because it all of a sudden seemed so obvious.  It was further validation as to why it was a gift to society as a whole that I never procreated and became responsible for raising and care taking of an actual human being.  You're welcome world!  The end result was that Alvin was successfully bathed and now smells like a little rose garden.  The first few days after a bath, he has the softest, down-like fur that is nearly as soft as a bunny. 

After getting Alvin out of the tub I still had peanut butter on the inside ledge that Stevie hadn't been able to reach and I figured that one of us had to clean it up and it might as well be her because she would find it far more enjoyable than I would.  I ended up putting her in an empty bath tub while she licked herself into peanut butter induced bliss.  It was then that I got my camera and took a couple pictures of a dog in an empty bathtub.  Once again it was crazy around here because the food obsessed dog refused peanut butter and the dog that I didn't intend to bathe was standing in an empty bath tub with no desire to get out.  I decided then that I might as well bathe Stevie too and allow me to say that life as I knew it in regards to bathing dogs, changed dramatically for the better last night.  Stevie isn't the worst dog in the world to bathe but she does not enjoy it and like a lot of dogs, she repeatedly tries to jump out.  I think in the past that part of her anxiety stemmed from being nearly deaf and before her surgery she was blind and so bathing had to be a bit scary.  She was enough of a challenge that in the past it was easier to get in there with her, semi straddle her back and hold on to her collar with one hand while trying to shampoo, lather, and rinse with the other hand.  I always came away from those episodes with a pulled muscle or two, frustrated, and vowing that Stevie and I could both live with her being a bit stinky and dirty.  To top it off, not only did Stevie get a bath but afterwords, I  had to shower from being in there with her, which resulted in quite a lengthy endeavor.  The real frustration came when the tub would completely drain and I would attempt to towel dry her off while trying to keep her in the bathtub so that she didn't create a running river from the bathroom through the living room.  Even though she was nearly deaf and was blind, she, like every other dog I know, knew exactly when that tub was drained and then we started what I referred to as the steer-wrestling portion of the experience, with me trying to keep her in the tub with one hand while futilely trying to towel dry her off with the other.  But last night was completely different due to that one reader being kind enough to post the peanut butter suggestion for Alvin.  I can't remember who posted the suggestion and so I will refer to that person by his/her Christian name of St. Poster, and indeed you are just that!  The experience was nearly a spiritual one and it was my personal version of the parting of the Red Sea.  Stevie would have been perfectly content to stay in the bathtub all night long if the peanut butter supply had kept being replenished.  I kept the jar next to the tub and when she would lick it all off the ledge I smeared more and strategically smeared it where I needed her head to point.  Not only did we get through the bathing without a hitch but I was able to dry her off to the point that she hardly even left wet paw prints on the floor.  I am sharing this much detail because it was a game changer and I have no doubt that many of you out there have had the similar bathing hardships with dogs and so I wanted to spread the word far and wide.  If I ever ran for political office I would choose to run on the peanut butter bathtub platform because it is that valuable.  I tended to put off bathing the dogs too long because it was just such a pain, with me literally breaking into a sweat and feeling sore afterwords, but now thanks to St. Poster for Stevie  and a little bit of a sedative for Alvin, they will become regular bathing beauties.

Once Alvin was dry I tried to capitalize on the last bit of remaining sedative in his system and attempted to groom him.  That did not go very well but I was able to shave some of the hair on his face off, which helps him not build up as much moisture from his eyes watering so much.  With that said, there will be no picture taking of him right now because he doesn't look so great.  My mom only sees him through Oxycontin tinted glasses and told him that he looked beautiful.  She was telling him this while he was standing in what she now refers to him as his play house aka her walker.  Last time, grooming him took about four days and was not ever completed before his surgery.  This time I am going to request a refill on his sedative prescription and see if we can knock it out in one or two sittings.  He isn't mad at me for grooming him because he seems to have such a good, innocent soul that I suspect that anger isn't something he feels, but he did seem disappointed in me, which is a blow to one's self esteem.

I meant to mention in my last post when writing about Alvin's food issues that he has developed a new odd behavior in the past couple of months.  Imagine Alvin acquiring an odd behavior.....shocking, I know.  His newest, quirky behavior is that when I feed him he takes one mouthful and then gets so excited that he starts twirling around and can't locate his food.  He focuses on me and seems to worry that he might be missing out on something, while appearing to have no idea where his food went.  I can stand right next to his food bowl, while pointing at the food and calling his name and he just keeps going in circles and frantically looking at me.  It doesn't matter how long I stand there, he cannot find it again until I put my hand in the bowl.  Once he locates it again, he will eat it without getting distracted.  It's so odd and has to be seen to fully realize how weird it is.

Cathy at Camp Cocker sent me an e-mail saying that if I thought it would be too difficult for Alvin to adjust to another home that one option to consider would be to have Alvin stay here, come off the adoption list, and become kind of a lifer with Camp Cocker, with them helping with any future medical costs.  At this point I declined because I think that Alvin could do just fine transitioning into an adoptive home.  Up until now, I have assumed that it has been more of a challenge to find an adopter for him because of his pending double knee surgery but now that the surgery has been completed, I am going to start getting offended on his behalf if applications don't start coming in.  He is ready and able to get his forever home so spread the word if you know of anyone that is extra, extra special and lives in California.  I will probably develop my own questionnaire to accompany the Camp Cocker application and I imagine mine will come in at about 10 pages in an essay format, as well as a harmless lie detector test, criminal background check, random drug tests, and a note from the perspective adopter's mother, but other than that, it will be a breeze.  Alvin is officially on the search for his forever home and somebody is going to be very lucky to get this one in a million dog!  As for you my dear Sally, you better start moving (literally) because this little gem of a dog is yours for the taking but I fear that someone is going to swoop in and get your dog if you don't get to moving soon. 

And one more hearty thank you to St. Poster from Stevie and me!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We're Gearing Up

to give Alvin another bath.  For the long-time readers, you will recall that the last attempt was a complete disaster, with me having to jump in the tub and Alvin being drenched and a complete quivering, panicked mess of a dog.  One reader was kind enough to suggest that I smear peanut butter on the sides of the tub in an effort to distract him and appeal to his obsession with food even when faced with danger.  I am going to try it, along with giving him part of his last sedative in hopes of him relaxing enough not to hurt himself or me.  I have not tried a bath sooner because of his surgery but he really needs to bathe.  I plan to also put pieces of kibble in the water in hopes of creating a bobbing for apples effect, but in this case, it will be bobbing for kibble.  Chances are that all these ideas will be shot to hell the minute "we" get in the water but I will get out my wet suit, flippers, and snorkel and go for it.

After recently talking to my mom about what a cute, loving little being Alvin is, I determined that Alvin is nearly perfect just the way he is and there is virtually nothing that needs to be changed about him.  Alvin is a unique, wonderful little creature and any adopter will be very lucky to have him.  I kind of feel sorry for all the people that pass him up because he has a quality about him that makes people around him be more patient and gentle.  He has an ability to remind humans what is important in life and he models bravery, kindness, and being able to let others shine.  In a world where often things are far too much geared towards, getting ahead and a me, me, me mentality, Alvin models the beauty in sharing and trying one's hardest to face adversity.  He truly teaches humans important lessons in ways that other dogs have not figured out how to convey yet.  With that said, the only thing I hope we can continue to change is figuring out a way for him to be more relaxed.  He seemed happier when he was sedated.  It wasn't just that he was more relaxed but he literally seemed happier. I finally bit the bullet and called my vet to inquire about something like Prozac, which is a non-sedating, non-narcotic.  I have been putting it off because I haven't had to talk to my vet since Timmie died and I know my vet will bring it up and I am going to burst into the ugly cry.  The night that Timmie died, the emergency vet said he would call Timmie's regular vet to tell him and I was so relieved because Timmie's vet adored him.  Even when one of the other dogs had an appointment, I brought Timmie too because he just loved going to the vet.  His vet left me a voicemail after Timmie died and got choked up on the message and for whatever reason, I find that I am most emotional when thinking about making contact with him.  The point of this story is that I very well may have to start taking Alvin's Prozac with him.

The only other issue I wish Alvin could overcome is his issue with food.  I don't know if Alvin wasn't fed enough at some point in his life but when he came in to the shelter he was not particularly thin.  Alvin is obsessed with food and it hasn't decreased a bit since being here.  If given the opportunity, I am convinced that he would eat himself to death.  Every single time I pass his food container, which is probably 30 times a day, he stands there, licking his lips and looking so hopeful for a little piece of kibble.  I have taken to giving him small amounts of food throughout the day, on top of his two regular meals in hopes that his obsession would dissipate but he is as obsessed as ever.  With his propensity to loop and circle, he burns a lot of calories and so I am not worried about him gaining weight.   I used to teach a three hour class to human foster parents about food issues in many children in foster care.  It was my favorite class to teach because so many kids that come from neglectful backgrounds have food issues, such as binge and hoarding.  We had all kinds of interventions and techniques and most were quite successful but they don't translate well to dogs.  Because he tends to eat so fast, he has that very charming, loud burping issue and the other night my mom and I were watching a show about a family where the kids would burp really loud at the table.  As we were watching the show, one of the boys burped and at that very moment so did Alvin.  On the program, the mother scolded the boy and the timing was perfection.  This little guy is good for so many laughs throughout each and every day.   

It is clear that Alvin is ready and able to move on to an adoptive home soon.  He thinks it should be my mom's home but she thinks otherwise.  I think Alvin is ready to start his real life and I hope that someone very special will come forward soon so that he can meet his forever mom and/or dad.  Someone out there is going to be very lucky!  In the meantime, if you don't hear from us, you will know that we are both lost in the bathtub trying to get this boy clean.  Wish us luck because we are both going to need it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Don't Know How I am Going to Break it to Alvin

that my mom is going to eventually have to go back to her own house.  He has developed quite a love affair with her and they are very sweet together.  He just loves her and she seems to have fallen for him as well.  She has determined that he has an extremely high IQ.  Granted, she made this determination while high as a kite on Oxycontin but she is absolutely convinced that he is actually brilliant.  He very well may be and maybe only the drugged up people can see this in him.  He has been great with her walker.  I did come into the kitchen to find her standing beside the walker and Alvin standing in the walker.  When my mom is not standing or walking with the walker, Alvin enjoys standing in it and seems to view it as a little house.  When my mom is sitting or in bed, the walker is usually in front of her and Alvin enjoys standing in it and spending hour upon hour gazing at her adoringly.  Last night while my mom was in the bathroom, I put Alvin's bed in my mom's bed and put him in it.  He was sitting in it and eagerly waiting for her to join him for a slumber party but she turned him down.  He couldn't have looked cuter but she just does not enjoy the fur that comes along with the animal in bed and so we had to move the slumber party to my bed. 

Alvin continues to enjoy all the people coming in and out of here because it creates so many circling and looping opportunities.  Tomorrow we have the phlebotomist to look forward to. 

It is already clear that Alvin is going to go into depression when my mom finally leaves.  I would just send him over there where his heart clearly belongs but my mom says, no way.  She is smart because she clearly enjoys him a great deal but just like kids, they are cuter and more enjoyable when one can visit them and then leave them with the parents. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ode to Maury

It was a year yesterday that I had to put my first dog to sleep.  I am including him here because had a chosen to keep him alive longer neither Alvin nor Stevie would be here.  Maury required a lot of care near the end of his life and I couldn't start fostering until he died. 

Over four years ago, my dad and his wife brought their cocker spaniel to my house and their dog played with Maury.  Maury was in heaven and played and played.  This encouraged me to get a dog for my dog.  I am a sucker for the older dogs for many reasons and had originally requested an older dog to foster and possibly adopt, with the hope that he could be a playmate for Maury.  The dog had modeled lovely behavior in his original foster home and had lived easily with many other dogs.  He wasn't here for more than a half an hour when he began to growl at Maury.  Maury was deaf and blind so he couldn't hear the warning signals and it was clear that the match wasn't a good one. This turned out to be a bit of a relief for me because in the meantime I had seen a video of Timmie and had instantly fallen in love.  I kept showing everyone the pictures of Timmie and I thought he was the prettiest dog I had ever seen.  Cathy at Camp Cocker agreed to bring Timmie the next time and two weeks later that bundle of love arrived at my house.  Timmie nearly lost his home here over how he treated Maury.  He was very, very jealous of Maury and began to growl at him and when Maury kept coming he lunged and attacked him.  I had no choice but  to keep him for the weekend because Cathy was about four hours away.  In the meantime, Timmie marked 16 times in my house the first night and went after the cat.  I tried to put Timmie in a kennel at night, which proved to be very unsuccessful.  Because he was marking like a mad man I didn't want us to sleep in my carpeted room so I ended up sleeping on the sleeper sofa in the living room with one dog on each side of me.  I awakened several times throughout the night to the sound of growling by Timmie because Maury was trying to walk to the other side.  I ended up sleeping on that sofa bed, with the same sleeping arrangement for nearly a month.  At the end of the weekend, I was supposed to meet Cathy in San Jose to give Timmie back.  Thank goodness there was a very bad storm and I didn't want to drive the hour distance to give Timmie back.  Plus, although Timmie was incessantly barking, marking, had no concept of potty training, was walking on three legs because of recent surgery to fix his previously crushed pelvis, had separation anxiety, and was aggressive with my dog and cat, I just couldn't bear to hand him off because he was going to have to go back into boarding and he loved people with a tremendous amount of intensity and I couldn't imagine how sad he would be to go back into boarding.  He had a little girlfriend at the boarding place and she had come with him on the drive because she had a home waiting for her in northern California.  Imagine having to go back into boarding and losing your girlfriend at the same time.  I also had a strong feeling about Timmie and initially agreed to keep him for the two weeks until Cathy came back through town, with the hope that it would give us time to find another home for him.  Well, everyone knows how that story turned out and the truth was that Timmie went from all of that into an ideal, very well-behaved dog, with the exception of wanting to kill the mail carrier.  But this is an entry more about Maury.  So, four years ago we became a family of four with Maury, Maddie, Timmie, and me.

I got Maury when he was 10-years-old and unbeknownst to me he was nearly completely blind and deaf.  I got him from a different rescue that is now no longer in existence, which is a good thing considering I got him without them having done a home check, I completed the application after getting Maury and the rescue had never even met Maury.  I was not intending to adopt him and just wanted to try fostering because I had only had one previous dog that died when I was 14 years old.  The rescue ended up abandoning both of us when they took his information off an adoption website and would not return my phone calls or e-mails.  So, by default Maury became mine.  Maury was just a good, old dog.  When riding in the car, he would sit in the passenger seat and take his right paw and bang on the side door, which was the sign that he wanted the window rolled down.  On a few occasions he managed to hit the button that rolled down the window and the first time he did it, I nearly drove off the road because it was a shock to have a dog roll down his own window, and because he was blind I was worried he might jump out of the car.  We ended up worked out the system of when he banged, I rolled down the window just far enough for him to feel the breeze.  When Maury was 12-years-old I found out that he could get cataract surgery on one eye and for about a year he had some sight in it before losing it again.  I never regretted having spent the money because getting to watch him see again  remains one of my favorite memories.  Right after his surgery, I was brought back and be with him because he was causing quite a ruckus wanting out of the cage.  He was so upset that I ended up crawling in the cage with him and then accidentally locked myself in.  When the vet tech rounded the corner and found us both in the cage, he burst out laughing because it was quite a sight (pardon the pun).  They were merciful enough to move us to a dog run, which was kind because I have no doubt that it was entertaining to watch us both crammed in a dog cage together.  Once Maury had enough space to be able to step back and see me, he responded by hurling himself at my face with such speed and force that one of his bottom teeth jabbed me in the cheek, leaving a mark.  He went eye ball to eye ball with me and was so excited to see me.  He was overjoyed with his sight and it was a far more dramatic reaction than I could have anticipated. 

Maury was my faithful friend who wasn't much of a cuddler but could always be found right next to me.  Before he had the cataract surgery and then after he lost his sight again, we used to play hide-and-seek and I would run upstairs and hide, usually behind a door so I could watch him through the crack in the door.  He could only was depend on his sense of smell and would stand in the doorway of each room, put his nose in the air, and would know that I wasn't in the room without even needing to enter.  This was particularly impressive because I had even showered beforehand.  When he would find me, he would get so excited and there were times when we could fill a good part of an afternoon playing.  His sense of smell was so good that when a squirrel was in the vicinity, he was able to put his nose to the ground and track every small movement the squirrel had just made until we inevitably got to the tree that squirrel had just run up.

Because of Maury being deaf, I had trained him to do three tricks with me using hand signals that I had to do right next to his face because of his dimming, and then gone eye sight.  He learned to sit, lay down, and then roll over like he was dead, which in retrospect wasn't the most appropriate trick to teach an elderly dog.  My signal for rolling over and playing dead was that I would point my index finger and make my hand look like a gun, while saying, bang-bang, which he clearly couldn't hear but it added to the effect of the trick.  Once he completely lost his eye sight again, I would do the hand signals actually on his face and he would perform the tricks. 

I originally found out about Maury when a wonderful private citizen named Elena Kogan saw a poster on a street corner that said that Maury was going to be put to sleep in three days by his family because they couldn't keep him.  Elena took Maury without knowing what she was going to do with him and paid quite a bit of money for vet care.  It was after that the now defunct rescue organization agreed to take him and when I inquired about fostering for them, they connected me with Elena and told me to go get him.  Elena stayed in contact with me and asked if she could visit him about a year before he died.  At that point, I hadn't tried to do Maury's tricks with him for about a year because he had developed dementia and had very weak back legs.  During Elena's visit I remembered his tricks and decided I would at least give it a shot because she had never seen them.  I will be darned if he didn't remember them and performed them like a champ.  What brought the house was what happened next.  When Maury would get especially excited, he would point his nose to the ceiling and let out a big howl.  He did this maybe once a month but before this particular day, I had not heard him do it for at least six months.  After performing his tricks that day, he raised his head to the ceiling and let out a loud, excited howl.  We were all so taken aback that Elena jumped.  Maury died 14 months later and the day of Elena's visit was the last time I ever heard him howl.  I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed thinking back to that day and that he did his last howl in the presence of Elena.

Maury was just a kind, quiet, faithful boy.  Once I realized that Maury would be staying for the remainder of his life, I came to terms that I wouldn't have a great deal of time with him because he was already 10.  Little did I know that he would live to be nearly 15 and I had to choose to have him put to sleep because he was never going to give up the fight to live.  I put off putting him to sleep longer than I should have because I had never had to put a dog to sleep and I was so hoping he could die at home in his sleep.  He was afraid of the going to the vet and I didn't want him to end his life at a vet but my vet didn't do house euthanization.  I able to give him a sedative before we went and I had a bunch of beef jerky to feed him in my lap while my mom drove us there.  He was very relaxed and ate so much beef jerky that we had to stop at 7-11 to buy more.  My vet gave him a sedative injection when he first got there and he ended up falling asleep in my lap with a mouthful of beef jerky, which was exactly what I was hoping for.  We put him to sleep with the vet crying as hard as I was. 

I had decided that the best way I could honor Maury was to foster dogs like him.  In the past year, I have had five foster dogs, including Alvin and Stevie.  I picked out Stevie because she reminded me so much of Maury.  She is very hard of hearing, was blind but recently had cataract surgery, and is another older, sweet, faithful dog.  Wherever I go, she goes and when I come home she insists on getting on her back legs, with her front paws on my lap and wants me to get right in her face so she can see me better.  It doesn't matter if I leave the house just to go to the car and come right back, Stevie is excited to see me every time.  Stevie, just like Maury, is the kind of dog that makes you feel better about yourself.  One day I noticed that Stevie was standing directly over Maury's grave and was sniffing all around the area.  I got a bit misty thinking that I was witnessing a particularly touching moment as Maury kind of handed over the torch to Stevie.  I was so into it and was thinking how I would tell my mom about this profound, touching moment and then I realized what she was actually doing.  Apparently the cat liked to go potty on Maury's grave because the dirt was softer and it was back when she still buried her waste.  Stevie had found the spot and was sniffing around for the poop, which he promptly started eating.  I wish someone had been there to get a picture of the look on my face because I did a 180 from being deeply moved to be repulsed and nauseous.  It was another lesson that at times in life, it just doesn't matter how wonderful you are, there will be those people (or cats in this case) who will still insist on crapping on you. 

When I think about that fact that if there hadn't been a Maury, there wouldn't have been an Alvin, Stevie, or Timmie, I am particularly grateful for a little old, blind, deaf dog who taught me that often some of the most precious gifts come in packages that from the outside look a bit damaged.  If you think about it today, roll your window down a bit in honor of a dog that always appreciated the small delights in life.  To Maury!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alvin's Taking the Medical Community by Storm

I want to thank you all again for the heart-felt, lovely comments.  They have been greatly appreciated!  I can't find out a way to post individual comments in response to your comments and so I thank you all very much for each comment.  I think things are getting a bit easier but it is just always going to hurt on some level because he was the dog of a life time.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I don't think there was even a single day that my mom and I didn't talk about what a perfect dog Timmie was.  Every day we marvelled at the fact that he was the perfect combination of everything you could hope for in a dog.  I think sometimes after a person has lost a loved one that they reflect back and either inflate the attributes of the loved one or only learn to fully appreciate the loved one once they are gone.  With Timmie, my mom and I were always aware that he was that one in a million little being and I lost count of how many e-mails I sent to Camp Cocker thanking the founder, Cathy Stanley for saving Timmie and telling her how perfect he was.  There was not even one day that I didn't tell him how wonderful he was and far more often than not, I told him multiple times a day how perfect he was and how grateful I was to have him.  All of that joy and happiness then is part of the pain now but that is just part of the deal and there's no avoiding it.  Some day I am going to write a long post of how and why he was so perfect because he really was quite extraordinary but it's too soon and would be too painful at this point.  So, your comments are particularly helpful and appreciated right now.

My mom is home from the hospital after her knee replacement surgery.  Alvin about busted a gut when he saw her.  I had put him outside when getting her in the house for the first time and when I let him in he ran to her but because her walker was blocking the front of the chair she was sitting in, he leaped up on the side of the chair, got on his back legs, and hung on with his front legs while appearing to be nearly beside himself with happiness.  We have been very fortunate that he is a bit afraid of her walker and manages to stay just far enough away so that he can't trip her.  I told her to try to bump him with it so hopefully he would continue to stay back but when she tried, he panicked and ended up circling himself into the wall, jumped around, got thoroughly confused as to where he was or where to go and finally managed to get the heck out of dodge.  I told her that if he got used to the walker that we put an air horn on the walker that she can use to blast him into submission.  The problem with that idea is that Alvin is not particularly afraid of loud noises.  The dog is nearly afraid of his own shadow but leave it to him to be fairly unfazed by loud noises like most other dogs.  He has had a couple mishaps with the walker, in that he gets so fixated on sniffing it that he becomes oblivious to everything else and he has raised up and bumped his head pretty hard on the bar of the walker......he manages to do this when the walker is stationary. 

When my mom was still in the hospital a physical therapist came in and told us that the number one reason people fall after knee surgery is due to tripping over animals.  Really?  You can imagine the looks on our faces because the guy hadn't even met Alvin and had no idea what were are up against.  Ideally, we would have found a temporary home for Alvin while my mom is here recovering but I could picture him whimpering and circling himself into oblivion and there was no way I could do that to him.  Plus, they sent my mom home with a truck load of very heavy narcotics and I recently watched an episode of the show, Intervention and learned that those types of pills sell on the street for $40.00 a pill.  I figure if he trips her and she injures herself that the doctor will give her even more pills and right now we have about $5,000 worth of pills and so if Alvin trips her, it could potentially be quite a big money maker for us.  Call me Pollyanna because I just keep looking for the bright side of every situation.

Alvin has been very pleased with all of the new people coming in and out of the house.  He always enjoys meeting new people because it provides all kinds of opportunities for him to sniff and circle.  He is a particularly cute dog and so everyone makes a big deal over him and he enjoys playing his approaching/retreated game over and over again.  Of course, he wants to repeatedly put his nose on everything that is brought into the house and between rehab equipment, bags, books, and forms, I am surprised that his nose hasn't developed a callous yet.  On a few occasions I have tried to put him outside when people are coming in and out because he is particularly adept at squeezing through small spaces and trying to make a run for it.  When "trying" to put him out, he sees me coming and I have ended up looking like an idiot while chasing him all around the house as he tried his best to get away from me.  Usually when I have to chase him, he is easily caught because he has to run in the same pattern and I can just cut him off at the pass but his newest trick is that he has learned to run away like a real dog and it has been a challenge to catch him.  This has resulted in me doing that uncomfortable fake smile and laugh while excusing myself for having to jump over their equipment and bags to try to catch the little devil.  When I do catch him, he manages to put on the breaks like no other dog I have known.  Usually dogs just brace their back legs and because I have a tile floor, I can just slide them across the floor if necessary.  But Alvin has developed his own resistance and manages to plant all four legs, with most of his weight on his front legs.  This results in a much sturdier stance and when trying to slide him, he keeps those front legs planted and starts tipping forward as though he is going to face plant into the floor if I keep pulling.  It is clearly a game of chicken and I always flinch first because I think he would possibly keep planted until he landed on his nose.  I don't want to have to call Camp Cocker and try to explain why their dog has a broken nose and busted out teeth.  Alvin just so enjoys being a part of the rehab show that goes on in the house.  Meanwhile, Stevie who has recently located the areas that my cat tends to go outside to poop.  Maddie, the cat doesn't help matters because of strong desire to be just like the dogs and squats, goes potty and then walks away from it without bothering to bury it.  I have a large back yard with a fair amount of plants and shrubbery and so more often than not, Stevie manages to sniff it out before I can find it.  Stevie has taken to going out, eating the poop, and coming back in to lie next to the physical therapist every time she gets on the floor to work with my mom, while trying to suck the poop out of her teeth. She also tends to be a bit of a gassy dog and tends to leave frequent parting gifts before walking away as though she wasn't the one to do it. It's a ridiculous circus and I imagine that all these people are going back to work to draw straws to determine who has to be the unlucky worker to come out to Canine Toon Town. My mom just keeps reminding everyone that they are foster dogs because I don't think she wants people to think that we were responsible for creating such "unique" dogs.  I was encouraged when the physical therapist today said that if she wanted a dog she would want Stevie because if someone is interested in her with her cat poop breath and her gassy parting gifts then there is hope yet. I did silently question the physical therapist's sense of smell though.  I thought maybe she should take Alvin instead because when (not if) he trips her she can administer the necessary physical therapy on herself.....always thinking.

Like every other animal I have been around, Alvin has always been particularly drawn to my mom but now that she is back from the hospital, he spends a great deal of time staying close and just staring at her.  I caught myself spending far too much time staring at him while he stared at her because I am amazed at how he can sit and stare and I was trying to figure out what was so darn interesting about my mom sitting in a chair watching TV.  I don't know what it is but he literally stares at her for hours and looks to be so very happy to do so.  I took my mom on two walks outside today, which consists of her walking slowly with the assistance of her walker and me staying right next to her.  Alvin so wants to go with us but because he tends to make circles around me to the point of binding my legs together with his leash, I figured that he should stay put in the house and we will only take him with us if we need an excuse to get more of those fancy pills.  Keep in mind, that dear Alvin is supposed to be not even half way through his cage rest, which was abandoned long ago because of that whole cage fiasco I had previously written at length about.  The good news is that he seems to be staying in one of his beds and sleeping far more than in the past.  I try to keep the house as boring as possible so there is nothing else to do but sleep and with the exception of the people coming in and out of the house, that has been pretty successful.  You know your life could use more spice in it when a high anxiety dog gets bored enough to sleep due to there nothing being more exciting to observe.  I fool myself into believing that I could be so much more exciting if I wanted to and I am sacrificing my excitement for a dog but in reality, I am very easily able to bore dogs to the point of sleep. 

I think all of the activity yesterday wore Alvin out because he ended up going into the bedroom at 7:30 last night and put himself to bed.  He is so cute when he puts himself to bed for the night because once he's committed to it, he usually stays asleep for long periods of time.  He did manage to pull himself away from his slumber at one point to come out and watch my mom watching TV.  I can't seem to interest him like that but apparently I am no competition against a 60-something, nearly immobile woman with a walker.  There has to be a support group out there to help with one's self esteem when coming to the discouraging realization that you are far less appealing than the lady with a walker.  My mom must have an unusually high pain tolerance because the medical personnel had all told her that she would have quite a bit of pain once she got home and off the IV pain meds.  They had told her that she would probably need to take a fair amount of the narcotic pain pills.  In actuality, she has taken very few but when she does take them she gets loopy and she and Alvin seem to really understand each other on a whole other, deeper level.  She tends to giggle at him and talk to him while he keeps coming up and putting his front paws on her chair or her bed while gazing at her.  This is a big no-no because he shouldn't be putting that amount of weight on his back legs but it's difficult to interfere in what appears to be the only time that a human totally understands Alvin.  Just imagine if they were both on the meds because they would probably be barking at each other, while solving the world's problems.  I am realizing that I am merely a supporting actress in the story of my life.  Clearly the true stars have four legs and one of them lives for eating poop. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Much Gratitude

Thank you all for your very kind comments about the loss of Timmie.  Timmie was that extra special dog that I knew would only come around once.  I loved him more than any animal I have ever known and I am very saddened that he is gone.  I used to tell him all the time that he had to live forever because my heart couldn't take losing him.  He was only five. 

I find that I can barely stand to write about it but I will write about Alvin's response to losing Timmie.  Timmie died shortly after midnight and I brought him home to bury him in my mom's back yard.  We chose her back yard because she owns her house and I rent.  I couldn't imagine ever moving and having to leave him behind.  Since it was night, we couldn't bury him until the next day and so I brought him home.  It seemed only right to bring him home one last time.  I had him in a container and I brought him in the living room.  My mom wanted me to put him in the garage but I couldn't bear to have him out in a cold garage.  When I brought in the container Alvin was immediately very interested and stayed close to it.  I opened it up and Alvin immediately stuck his head inside and sniffed and sniffed.  He then began to whimper over and over again.  My mom was in my bedroom and I asked her if she could hear him too, which she could.  Alvin stayed close to the container and just kept sniffing and whimpering in a deep, guttural voice.  I lifted Timmie out and held him in a blanket for a long time.  I was agonizingly aware that it would be my last time being able to hold him.  Alvin was very interested but only whimpered when I would put him back into the container.  When I put the lid back on he became distressed and so I kept lifting it off so he could see Timmie again. 

Timmie was Alvin's only friend.  As you can imagine, Alvin has a hard time making friends but somehow Alvin and Timmie had a friendship.  Timmie would at times try to play with Alvin, which resulted in completely confusing and freaking Alvin out and I would have to put a stop to it.  Timmie was a jealous dog and didn't like other dogs to be with me.  It was so pronounced that he would throw his body in front of any dog and scramble to get all of my attention, including pawing at me and laying his head on my chest like a baby.  Somehow with Alvin, he didn't have that jealousy and allowed Alvin and I to do our thing.  He didn't even mind Alvin being closest to me on the bed.  I valued this so much in Timmie because in Alvin's former foster home there were two dogs that kind of ganged up on Alvin and scared him.  They probably didn't mean much harm but they would chase him and he would cry and run.  Timmie was known for growling at dogs if they were in his house and getting my attention but he was very gentle with Alvin.  Alvin and I cried a lot together that night.  I lost my very best friend and Alvin lost him only friend.  I know there won't be another Timmie for me but I do so very much hope that there is another dog out there that can see the good things in Alvin and be willing to take him under his/her wing.  I hope there is another doggy friendship in his future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Alvin Update

I have received a lot of requests for an update on Alvin.  I have avoided updating because then I have to write that my dog Timmie did not make it through the pneumonia and he died.  The loss is huge for me and the grief is nearly smothering.  I will write sometime about Alvin's reaction to the whole ordeal but for now I will leave it.

Alvin has gone back to a lot of circling behavior and we are considering whether a medication like Prozac might be helpful for him.  There are numerous psychotropics that are non-narcotic, non-addictive and it would be nice if we could find one that may help decrease his anxiety.  That little mind is going a mile a minute and I think he needs some relief.  He was such a different dog when sedated and was so much more relaxed.  Obviously he can't be sedated but the hope is that maybe one of the psychotropics could bring his anxiety down a bit.

I don't know how but the potty training magically kicked back in again but he is back to going potty outside.  I don't know how it clicked back in but I am certainly grateful. 

Alvin continues to sleep on the bed with me at night and lets me pet him all over and wrap my arms around him.  There seems to be no threat if I am lying down.  He is better about letting me pet his back when not on the bed but it remains a challenge for him. 

My cat, Maddie is doing her best to be cuddle buddies with Alvin.  She continues so much to want her own dog to cuddle and groom and it seems as though Alvin is as close as she is going to get.  When Alvin is lying on the bed she tends to come and try to get close to him but clearly not as close as she wants to.  Maddie is a dog in a cat's body.  She used to go for walks with us (I moved where I don't want her walking on the street with us), she drinks out of the garden hose, has no fear of any dog, and long ago started to go potty like a dog.  She just squats and goes with no attempt to cover it.  When we used to go on walks she would go up on the lawn when my dog did and would squat on the lawn, go, and then come back to the sidewalk when the dog did. 

My mom's knee surgery was today.  I came home for a few minutes because she is still in recovery.  They did a spinal block and her legs haven't woken up yet and so they are keeping her in recovery longer.  She will be coming to my house on Friday.  Due to the fear of Alvin tripping her, I taught her to hold an arm out extended.  Alvin trips people because he constantly looks up at their faces and doesn't pay any attention to their feet.  So, if she holds her arm out he get so busy looking at it that he stays about a foot away from her feet.  Of course, they both look ridiculous but I very much enjoy the show.